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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1. Communicate with your boss

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

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

2. Create a morning and a bedtime routine

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

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

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

3. Move your body (even a little)

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

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

4. Set Aside Quiet Time

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

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

5. Make Room for Creativity

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

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

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

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

 

Read the original article here

 

 How To Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

by Preston Ni

Here are six keys to increasing your emotional intelligence:

1.  The Ability to Reduce Negative Emotions

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.  The Ability to Stay Cool and Manage Stress

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

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

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

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

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

― Harriet Lerner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.  The Ability to Bounce Back from Adversity

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

— Michael Jordan

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

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

— Wall Street Journal

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

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

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

— Pearl Buck

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

 

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

by Dr Kelly Neff

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

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

WHAT DOES FLOW FEEL LIKE?

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

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

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

WHAT DOES FLOW LOOK LIKE IN THE BRAIN?

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

  • Brain Wave Transitions:

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

  • Pre-Frontal Cortex Deactivation:

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

  • Neuro-chemistry:

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

EIGHT STEPS FOR ENHANCING YOUR STATE OF FLOW

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

  1. Do something that interests you.

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

  1. Set Clear Goals.

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

  1. Find A Quiet and Productive Time.

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

  1. Avoid Interruptions and Distractions

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

  1. Focus as Long as you Can:

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

  1. Match Your Skills to the Task

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

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

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

  1. Emphasize Process, Not Outcome

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

Link to read the original article

Meditation Techniques for People Who Hate Meditation

by Stephanie Vozza

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. WALKING MEDITATION

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

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

2. RED LIGHT MEDITATION

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

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

3. RUNNING/CYCLING MEDITATION

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

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

4. EATING/DRINKING MEDITATION

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

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

5. WAITING MEDITATION

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

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

6. TASK-RELATED MEDITATION

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

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

Link to read the full original Fast Company article

Five steps to jumpstarting worker happiness at your company

by Amy Westervelt

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

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

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

Step one: consider your culture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step two: rethink hiring

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step three: increase performance reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step four: be transparent

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

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

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

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

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

Step five: empower employees

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

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

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

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

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

 Link to read the original Guardian article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jolanta Burke believes resilience can be encouraged in three ways:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the original article in full here

Happiness At Work edition #113

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

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Happiness At Work #110 – self-mastery, learning & success

This week’s headline theme considers self-mastery:  what is it, how is it integral to our learning and our success, and how might we strengthen and develop greater self-mastery?

It is said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything.  That’s the the equivalent to the hours spent over five years in a full-time job.  And although this number as an absolute is hotly debated, as you will read in the stories below, the fact remains that the more time we spend practising anything the better we get at it, and the better at something we want to become the more time we better be prepared to put into it.

This is good news for those of us who are are not-so-very-young anymore and have plenty of hours doing what we do already on the meter.  But what does it mean for learning something new…?

Well, certainly practice, if not making us perfect, is needed to progress us closer towards our ideal state. And practice demands great amounts of self-discipline, determination, willpower, self-belief, perseverance, self-regulation, stamina, optimism, self-reliance and resilience – perhaps summed up best by Charles Handy in his book The New Alchemists as the three essential qualities of successful entrepreneurs: Drive, Doggedness and Difference.

Notice the repeated emphasis on the self in these essential capabilities.  More and more self-mastery is becoming one of the essentials for our 21st century work and lives.

Nice word but what is it and how can we develop it?

I first encountered the notion of self-mastery as Personal Mastery twenty-something years ago when I discovered Peter Senge’s Five Discipline for Organisational Learning.

He titled his ideas The Fifth Discipline  to underscore the necessity of Systems Thinking, and if, for Senge, Personal Mastery was not the most important, he made it the his first and arguably the one upon which all the others then depend upon and build out from.  

We have developed his ideas to extend into individual capabilities with resonance for everyone one of us, and here then is what we can learn about self-mastery from Senge’s model for deliberate continuous learning and adaptation:

It is also worth looking at the other four of Senge’s disciplines for some of the consequences and outcomes that can follow from having high Personal Mastery.

  1. Personal Mastery ~ learning to expand our personal capacity to create the results we most desire; continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision and focusing our energies; developing resilience and searching out a wider reality; knowing what ‘playing to our strengths’ means and being willing and able to act differently from our natural style and preferences to better match the demands of the situations we face.
  2. Mental Models ~ learning to expose our internal assumptions and beliefs about the world,  to bring them to the surface and hold them rigorously to scrutiny; being able to unveil and communicate the assumptions inside our thinking, making our thinking open and porous to influence from others.  This discipline enables us to recognise our different mindsets and change them to more helpful when we need to.
  3. Shared Vision ~ building a sense of shared purpose and commitment with the rest of our group by unearthing the collective pictures of the ideal future we hope to create, and the principles, values and practices by which we hope to get there.  Knowing why what we want is necessary and compelling and has worth and meaning outside our own self-interests.
  4. Team Learning ~ discovering and expanding what we know through the act of listening to each other, using dialogue to suspend assumptions and genuinely ‘think together’ and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to transform our conversations into collective learning so that our group can reliably create intelligence and capability greater than the sum of its individual parts.
  5. Systems Thinking ~ a way of thinking about the forces and interrelationships that shape the behaviour of our system, and a language for describing this to each other.  This discipline enables us to look out for the consequences of our choices and actions, to see how to change systems more effectively, and to use all of the disciplines together as an ensemble in order to act in tune with the larger processes of our natural, social, and economic ecosystems.

Linked closely to these ideas and amplifying their importance for both ourselves and the people and organisations we work with is the idea of Achieving Potential, also the top-line outcome from having high level happiness at work.  And our thinking about what this means is inherited from Maslow’s hierarchical model of different level needs, and places Self- Actualisation – achieving our fullest potential – at the pinnacle of his pyramid.

What follows is a number of articles that have been collected in this week’s new Happiness At Work #edition 110 that add different ideas, insights, and guidance for building this increasingly crucial capability of self-mastery.

 

 

Self-Mastery: Learning Personal Leadership

“Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life.” 

– Theodore Roosevelt, former US president.

What do you think when you hear the term “self-mastery”? You might picture someone like a martial arts master – calm, focused, and in control at all times. Or, maybe you imagine people who have their lives planned, and are in control of their own future.

Do you show these traits on a regular basis? Do you feel in control of your career and your goals? Or, like many people, do you feel that you should take more control of your actions and emotions?

In this article, we’ll examine what self-mastery is – and we’ll look at what you can do to develop it within yourself.

What is Self-Mastery?

When you have developed self-mastery, you have the ability to control yourself in all situations, and you move forward consciously and steadily towards your goals. You know your purpose, and you have the self-discipline needed to do things in a deliberate, focused, and honorable way.

Think about people you know who don’t have any self-mastery. They’re probably impulsive and rash. They might let their emotions control them, yelling at colleagues when they’re angry, and then being overly polite to make up for this later. They’re unpredictable and, as a result, people see them as untrustworthy.

When you demonstrate self-mastery at work, you prove to your colleagues that you have the inner strength and steadiness needed for effective leadership. So it’s well worth the effort to invest time developing self-mastery. You’ll likely become a happier, more balanced person – and you’ll find that opportunities arise because of this.

Developing Self-Mastery

Self-mastery is a broad term that covers many aspects of your personal and professional life. Developing self-mastery can mean working on many of these areas. (If so, it may be best to focus on one or two areas at a time, so you don’t become overwhelmed.)

Look at the following areas of your life to develop self-mastery:

1. Goals

Self-mastery starts with a vision of how you want your life to be.

Think about people you know who have incredible self-discipline . Chances are that they know exactly where they want to go in life, and this vision gives them the strength to get there.

This is why it’s so important to start with a clear vision of your short-term and long-term objectives. Learn how to set personal goals , and get into the habit of moving towards these goals every day. The clearer you are about what you want to achieve in life, the easier it is to move forwards calmly and confidently.

2. Attitude and Emotion

Your attitude and emotions play a major role in self-mastery. Those who show strong self-mastery don’t let their emotions control them – they control their own emotions.

Focus on something positive every day. Be grateful for things, even if these are just things like that fact that you do a job you enjoy, or that the weather is beautiful on your drive to work. Having gratitude and a positive outlook will set the tone for the rest of your day.

Resist the temptation to blame yourself when things go wrong.Self-sabotage  is a quick and cruel way of stopping yourself from reaching your true potential. If you find that you’re undermining yourself, consciously make yourself stop. Instead, think of something positive and encouraging.

You can also change negative thinking with cognitive restructuring . Write down the situation that is causing your negative thoughts. Next, write down the emotions you feel, and list the “automatic thoughts” you have while experiencing these emotions. Then, list the evidence that supports these negative thoughts, and the evidence that refutes them. Finally, list some fair, balanced, objective thoughts about the situation.

Being able to manage and control your emotions helps you buildemotional intelligence . This is your awareness of others people’s needs and emotions, and your knowledge of how your own emotions affect those around you. Those who have good self-mastery are always aware of others, and they work hard to make sure that their emotions don’t negatively impact other people.

3. Willpower

Think about how many times you’ve set a goal and, for one reason or another, never followed it through because of lack of willpower or self-control. It’s happened to all of us, and we probably felt ashamed or disappointed that we didn’t achieve what we wanted.

Willpower is an essential part of self-mastery. It’s what pushes you forward to take action, even if you’re feeling scared or hesitant. Willpower is also what keeps you moving towards your goals in the weeks or months ahead.

To boost your willpower, make sure you have both rational and emotional motives for what you want to achieve. For example, if your goal is to stop surfing the web in work time, a rational motive could be that it’s against company rules, while an emotional motive could be that other people will lose respect for you when they see that you are not working hard.

For many of us, willpower comes in short bursts and is often strongest when we first decide to make a change. So, use your initial burst of willpower to change your environment, so that it supports your efforts to reach your goal.

For instance, imagine that your goal is to improve your self-confidence  at work. At the beginning, when your willpower is strong, you could focus on changing the environment in your workplace by making a list of everything that hurts your self-confidence. You could also create a plan for overcoming those obstacles, and post items and affirmations  in your office that provide reminders about your goal.

After a week or so, you might find that your willpower is not as strong. But, because you changed your environment, you’re better prepared to continue working towards your goal, because you have a foundation already in place.

4. Focus

Improving focus is also key to self-mastery. For instance, how much time do you waste during your work day? How much time do you spend on the Internet, talking casually with colleagues, or getting coffee? What could you accomplish if you fully used the hours available to you?

Start by working on your concentration . Focus on one task at a time, and slowly increase your level of focus.

At first you may find that you can’t concentrate on a task for more than one hour at a time, before you get tired anddistracted . Try to increase this to two hours by adding 15 minutes of focused work every day. This will allow you to strengthen your focus to two-hour stretches – and then even more, if that’s what you need to get things done.

Key Points

Achieving self-mastery takes time and hard work, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

It’s best to work on one or two areas at a time. Start by identifying your life and career goals. Then, focus on maintaining a positive attitude during the day. Also, try not to let negative emotions impact anyone else.

Other strategies, like building your willpower and strengthening your focus, will help ensure that you keep moving forward toward your goals – while further building self-mastery.

 

Why Only 20% Of Teams and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential

by Vanessa Loder

Research shows that only 20% of people achieve anything close to their true potential. I recently sat down with Shirzad Chamine, who believes he has identified exactly why most of us do not reach out true potential, and what we can do about it. In his New York Times Bestseller Positive Intelligence, Shirzad distills his groundbreaking research on the ten well-disguised mental Saboteurs that hold people back, and how you can overcome them. He shares the key to improving your performance at work and feeling happier and less stressed in as little as 21 days. Does this sound too good to be true?  Ironically, that may be one of your Saboteurs talking right now!

Shirzad believes it is critical that leaders become aware of the duel perspectives “raging inside their minds.” The constant battle is “between the ‘Sage’ voice that serves them versus the ‘Saboteur’ voices that undermine them.” According to Shirzad, while this conflict between Sage and Saboteur happens inside every mind, it intensifies with most entrepreneurs.

For many entrepreneurs, your identity becomes very wrapped up in your business, which is why it can feel so personal when things don’t go well . This leads to additional stress, which is what fuels the Saboteurs. Shirzad says that the reason only 20% of people achieve anything close to their true potential is due to the destructive power of their Saboteurs.

There are a total of ten Saboteurs, “internal enemies” as Shirzad calls them; however, most people are undermined by only a couple of them, depending on personality and background. The ten Saboteurs are: Judge, Controller, Victim, Restless, Stickler, Pleaser, Avoider, Hyper-Rational , Hyper-Achiever, and Hyper-Vigilant.

There is a specific subset of Saboteurs that tend to afflict entrepreneurs:

Judge:
The Judge causes the greatest damage. It beats you down constantly over your flaws and mistakes. The lie the Judge tells is that by beating you up over your imperfections, you stay driven.

Controller:
The Controller runs on an anxiety-based need to take charge, control situations, and bend people’s actions to your own will. By overdoing this, it causes resentment in others and prevents them from developing themselves, because they have to do things your way.

Hyper-Rational:
The Hyper-Rational involves an intense and exclusive focus on the rational processing of everything, including relationships. It causes you to be impatient with people’s emotions, regarding them as unworthy of your time and attention.

The key to overcoming these Saboteurs and reaching your full potential involves three strategies:

1.   Weaken Your Saboteurs

To weaken your Saboteurs, you need to observe and label the Saboteur thoughts and feelings when they arise. Start off by exposing which of the ten Saboteurs are your primary internal enemies. Then create a “mug shot” of each one, profiling key beliefs, assumptions, and feelings. This helps you intercept the Saboteur when it shows up in your head and switch to the Sage alternative. It takes a little practice, but the results are game changing for the company, and life changing for the leader.

For example, if you are feeling stressed out at work and notice yourself saying “I’m such an idiot for saying xx in that meeting”, you might say to yourself “Oh, the Judge is back again, saying I’m going to fail”. It is a powerful act of mindfulness to notice and label your Saboteurs, realize they are not serving you and choose to move into Sage mode instead.

2.   Strengthen Sage

The Sage perspective is always available, and Shirzad outlines five specific Sage powers in his book that you can use to meet any challenge. One of the most powerful tools Shirzad gives to switch from Saboteur to Sage involves asking yourself, “What is the gift or opportunity in this situation?”

The next time you are faced with a challenge, try taking a few deep breaths and then ask yourself  “Hmmm……What is the gift or opportunity in this situation?”  Force yourself to come up with a list of at least threegifts or opportunities. By simply asking this question, you will start to shift into Sage mode and open yourself to a better outcome.

3.   Strengthen Your PQ Brain

In addition to identifying and labeling your primary Saboteurs and strengthening your Sage, the final tool to achieve your potential involves improving your Positive Intelligence (PQ) brain muscles through repetitive exercises.

Positive Intelligence measures how well you are able to control your own mind and how well your mind acts in your best interest. One example Shirzad uses in his book to illustrate this is when your mind tells you that you should do your best to prepare for a big meeting, it is acting as your friend. When your mind wakes you up at 3:00am anxious about the meeting and racing in a loop over and over again about potential problems, it is acting as your enemy. The key to reaching your potential lies in your ability to use your own mind as your biggest alley rather than your biggest saboteur.

Practicing mindfulness is one of the best ways to strengthen your PQ Brain. Shirzad suggests doing at least one hundred PQ reps each day for twenty one days and he provides examples of how to do this in the book. Meditation is a great way to strengthen your PQ brain muscles.

To determine your current PQ Score and learn tools to strengthen your PQ brain, click here. According to Shirzad, a PQ score of 75 is the tipping point for a net-positive PQ Vortex, which results in an exponential boost in productivity.

Shirzad believes the reason many management trainings are ineffective is that there is too much focus on “insight,” and too little on building and maintaining new mental habits or muscles. He says “Transformation is 20% insight, 80% muscle”. 

And he has found that if you commit to the three tools above for a period of twenty one days, you will build new PQ muscles to create lasting change.

Link to read the original Forbes magazine article

 

 

Can 10,000 hours of practice make you an expert?

People at the very peak of there fields have been shown to have put in 10,000 hours getting to that level.  How does this translate for the rest of us…?

A much-touted theory suggests that practising any skill for 10,000 hours is sufficient to make you an expert. No innate talent? Not a problem. You just practice. But is it true?

The 10,000-hours concept can be traced back to a 1993 paper written by Anders Ericsson, a Professor at the University of Colorado, called The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.

It highlighted the work of a group of psychologists in Berlin, who had studied the practice habits of violin students in childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

All had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age 20, the elite performers had averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only done 4,000 hours of practice.

The psychologists didn’t see any naturally gifted performers emerge and this surprised them. If natural talent had played a role it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect gifted performers to emerge after, say, 5,000 hours.

Anders Ericsson concluded that “many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years”.

It is Malcolm Gladwell’s hugely popular book, Outliers, that is largely responsible for introducing “the 10,000-hour rule” to a mass audience – it’s the name of one of the chapters.

But Ericsson was not pleased. He wrote a rebuttal paper in 2012, called The Danger of Delegating Education to Journalists.

“The 10,000-hour rule was invented by Malcolm Gladwell who stated that, ‘Researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.’ Gladwell cited our research on expert musicians as a stimulus for his provocative generalisation to a magical number,” Ericsson writes.

Ericsson then pointed out that 10,000 was an average, and that many of the best musicians in his study had accumulated “substantially fewer” hours of practice. He underlined, also, that the quality of the practice was important.

“In contrast, Gladwell does not even mention the concept of deliberate practice,” Ericsson writes.

Gladwell counters that Ericsson doesn’t really think that talent exists.

“I think that being very, very good at something requires a big healthy dose of natural talent. And when I talk about the Beatles – they had masses of natural talent. They were born geniuses. Ericsson wouldn’t say that.

“Ericsson, if you read some of his writings, is… saying the right kind of practice is sufficient.”

Gladwell places himself roughly in the middle of a sliding scale with Ericsson at one end, placing little emphasis on the role of natural talent, and at the other end a writer such as David Epstein, author of the The Sports Gene. Epstein is “a bit more of a talent person than me” Gladwell suggests.

One of the difficulties with assessing whether expert-level performance can be obtained just through practice is that most studies are done after the subjects have reached that level.

It would be better to follow the progress of someone with no innate talent in a particular discipline who chooses to complete 10,000 hours of deliberate practice in it.

And we can, thanks to our wannabe professional golfer, Dan McLaughlin.

“I began the plan in April 2010 and I basically putted from one foot and slowly worked away from the hole,” he says.

“Eighteen months into it I hit my first driver and now it’s approaching four years and I’m about half way. So I’m 5,000 hours into the project. My current handicap is right at a 4.1 and the goal is to get down to a plus handicap [below zero] where I have the skill set to compete in a legitimate PGA tour event.”

David Epstein hopes that McLaughlin can reach his goal, but he has some doubts. In the sporting world innate ability is mandatory, he believes.

A recent study of baseball players, Epstein points out, found that the average player had 20/13 vision as opposed to normal 20/20 vision. What this means is that they can see at 20 feet what a normal person would need to be at 13 feet to see clearly. That gives a hitter an enormous advantage when it comes to striking a ball being thrown towards them at 95mph from 60 feet (or 153km/h from 18m).

Using an analogy from computing, Epstein says the hardware is someone’s visual acuity – or the physiology of their eye that they cannot change – while the software is the set of skills they learn by many, many hours of practice.

“No matter how good their vision is, it’s like a laptop with only the hardware – with no programmes on it, it’s useless. But once they’ve downloaded that software, once they have learned those sports-specific skills, the better the hardware is the better the total machine is going to be.”

But is there a simpler way to think about all this? Maybe talented people just practise more and try harder at the thing they’re already good at – because they enjoy it?

“Imagine being in calculus class on your first day and the teacher being at the board writing an equation, and you look at it and think ‘Wow, that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,’ which some people do,” says Gladwell.

“For those people to go home and do two hours of calculus homework is thrilling, whereas for the rest of us it’s beyond a chore and more like a nightmare.

“Those that have done the two hours’ practice come in the following day and everything is easier than it is for those who didn’t enjoy it in the first place and didn’t do the two hours’ homework.”

What Dan McLaughlin is hoping is that what he lacks in innate talent he more than makes up for with his 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.

If Dan’s plan goes well he could be mixing it with the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in 2018. If not, he will just be a very good golfer.

Link to read the original BBC News article

 

The significance of 10,000 hours was popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers: The Story of Success which included The 10,000 Rule as a chapter.  But, Josh Kaufman in his TEDxCSU Talk, The First 20 hours: How To Learn Anything has some helpful guidelines to give us to become very good at something, anything, in just 2o hours…

The centrepiece of Gladwell’s book was practice well, practice well and you’ll reach the top of your field.

What Dr Ericsson was actually saying [in his 1993 paper] was “It takes 10,000 hours to get the top of an ultra-competitive filed in a very narrow subject.”

But here’s what happened.  Ever since Outliers came out, reached the top of the bestseller list and stayed there for three solid months, all of a sudden the 10,000 Rule was everywhere.  And a society-wide game of Telephone started to be played.  So this message ‘It takes 10,000 hours to get to the top of an ultra-competitive field’ became ‘It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something’ which became ‘It takes 10,000 hours to become good at something’ which became ‘It takes 10,000 hours to learn something.’  But that last statement is not true…

And the story of the Learning Curve is when you start you are grossly incompetent and you know it.  With a little bit of practice you get really good really quick.  That early level of improvement is real fast.  Then, at a certain point, you reach a plateau, and the subsequent gains become much harder to get.

How long does it take to get from being grossly incompetent to being reasonably good at something?  My research says 20 hours.

You can go from know nothing about any subject – learn a language or learn how to draw or how to juggle flaming chainsaws – if you put 20 hours of deliberate focused practice into learning that thing, you will be astounded at how good you are.  And 20 hours isn’t that hard to accumulate – it’s just 20minutes a day for two months.

But this demands more than just fiddling around for about 20hours.  There’s a way to practice intelligently and efficiently that will make sure you invest those 20hours in the most effective way that you can.  And here’s the method…

4 Simple Steps To Rapid Skill Acquisition

  1. Deconstruct the skill.  Decide exactly what you want to be able to do when you’re done, and then look into the skill and break it down into smaller and smaller pieces… The more you’re able to break apart the skill, the more you’re able to decide what are the parts of the skill that will actually help me to get to what I want.  And then you can practice those most important parts first, and this get to what you want to be able to do in the least amount of time possible.
  2. Learn enough to self-correct.  Get 3-5 resources on what it is you’re trying to learn – books, dvdd, course, anything – but don’t use those as a way to procrastinate.  What you want to do is learn just enough to self-correct as you’re  doing.  The learning needs to enable you to know when you’re making a mistake and then do something helpful to correct it.
  3. Remove practice barriers.  Remove dust rations – television, internet, social media – all of the things that limit you actually sitting down and doing the work.  The more you are able to use just a little bit of willpower to remove the things that get in the way of your practice, the more likely you are to actually do the practice.
  4. Practice at least 20 hours.  Most learning has a deeply frustrating part.  We don’t like to feel stupid, and feeling stupid is a barrier to us actually sitting down and doing the work.  So by pre committing to practicing whatever it is that you want to do for at least 2o hours you will be able to overcome that frustration barrier and stick with it long enough to reap the rewards.

The major barrier to learning anything is emotional.  What do you want to do?  Go out and spend 20 hours on it.

Have fun.

Here is Josh Kaufman’s full TEDTalk, including his demonstration of how well he has learned to play dozens of songs on the ukelele, practicing his own 2o hour guidelines:

Josh Kaufman is the author of the #1 international bestseller, ‘The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business’, as well as the upcoming book ‘The First 20 Hours: Mastering the Toughest Part of Learning Anything.’ Josh specializes in teaching people from all walks of life how to master practical knowledge and skills. In his talk, he shares how having his first child inspired him to approach learning in a whole new way.

 

Forget About Willpower: How to Install New Habits and Achieve Great Things

by 

As we learn new things, we often feel inspired to change.

We discover the possibility of achieving something greater and fall in love with that future idea.

You’ll agree with me in that doing things just once or twice won’t do the trick, right?

To achieve the end result, you need to repeat the same positive action, over and over again, until at one point it becomes automatic. And then, you’ll have a habit that you can’t live without. It becomes part of your routine.

New habits can give your brain pleasure

Installing a new positive habit has the power to bring you closer to your ideal self. But this is just a small part of the story.

Most people tend to perceive the notion of new habits as a ‘bore’ or as a painful thing to do, and feel discouraged to even try. This is because nobody told them about the additional benefits of a habit that has been successfully installed:

  1. It feels effortless. You don’t have to think about it much. You just go on autopilot – like when you brush your teeth.
  2. You don’t need willpower because your behaviour is automatically triggered by a contextual cue (rather than self-control).
  3. There’s a promise of reward from completing the action. And your brain gets pleasure from a completed task.
  4. The automation of common actions frees mental resources for other tasks or thought processes.
  5. We perform thousands of actions a day, 95% of which are automatic: a new habit is part of this group.

This is how you can create freedom and space for other things in your life. Who doesn’t want to create health habits that are sticky and that make us feel great?

Now you may think: “But don’t we need to go through a phase of pure willpower in order to create a new health habit?”

Stay tuned, that’s what we’re here to explore – how to create a health habit that will stick, without having to employ pure willpower.

Can you rely solely on willpower to change?

If we’re talking about long-term change, then the answer isno.

Willpower is the ability to ‘mindfully’ control oneself. Controlling oneself in order to change a behaviour isn’t that easy. It’s an effort.

In contrast, a habit is an almost ‘mindless’ behaviour pattern acquired by frequent repetition that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance. Unlike willpower, a habit feels easy.

Willpower alone will not get you to long-term success. It’s the birthing of a new habit that will.

As Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habitwe create a habit through a cue which leads to a routine, that ends in a habit. It is the routine or habit that allows us to access a part of our brain that runs on relatively little gas.

How do you go from self-control to easy habit?

When you feel good internally after completing what you set out to do, you build into your own self accountability. You want to do more of it because you received positive feedback from the task and you felt good doing it.

You completed the new task and you added to your habit strength. It’s almost as if you perpetuate the new behaviour through letting it build its own muscle, if you will.

What’s more, installing a good action in your routine can trigger a positive ripple effect on many other health behaviours.

Australian researchers Oaten and Cheng conducted a study that concluded how one repeated action (in this case exercise) can trigger a variety of positive behaviours and faciliate the improvement of self-regulation.

Is habit automation all you really need to do?

Research led by USC Professor Wendy Wood shows that lack of control – or willpower – doesn’t automatically mean success or failure.

When you don’t have self-control, what really matters is the underlying routine, or the habit groove you’ve already installed – good or bad.

Dr. Wood, who is a leading researcher on habits, goes on to tell us this:

Habits persist even when we’re tired and don’t have the energy to exert self-control.

Is this also true for your eating habits?

Yes.

The same principle applies to our eating behaviours.

Willpower – or self-control – is a limited resource and can become depleted as the day goes by.

If you’ve been juggling difficult clients or stressful situations at work to the point of mental exhaustion, there will be none or very little willpower left at the end of your day. That means a reduced ability to change what and how you eat.

This is because when we’re exhausted, our brain defaults to previously installed automatic behaviours – such as the late-night snacking habit.

So in the long run, developing a habit or an automatic reaction is more effective than self-control: you’ll perform it anyway, even when your mental energy runs out.

Can automation be used for athletic performance?

Absolutely. Here’s an example.

When an athlete is in ‘the zone’ and goes for the gold at the Olympics, it isn’t about self-control; it’s about automation. It’s about relying on that 95% of their (subconscious) machinery that they worked so hard to optimise.

For this reason, most aspiring gold-medalists are already training for 2016. Because, when it comes to star performance on the competition day, relying on automatic actions and intuitive skills is more powerful than having a ‘mental debate’ on how to control an outcome.

So how do you set up a habit?

Start simple and start small.

When you choose an action to push yourself towards your goal, plan specifically when and where you will do this action. Be consistent; choose a time and place that you encounter every day of the week. This will help with the adherence, or stickiness.

Surround yourself with new habit-forming contextual cues. These are the subconscious triggers for your new action, which can be, for instance, a time of the day, a certain place, a sound, a particular smell, foods that you keep in the kitchen, or a pre-installed behaviour – typically small things.

The less overwhelming the cues, the better your chances of grooving a habit.

Your goal here is to pay attention to the cues (or to plant new cues) around you, which act as reminders. As your brain reacts to the cue, completing the subsequent action feels like a reward.

It’s this feeling of accomplishment or reward that will cause your brain to want to do it again. When it comes to perpetuating the behaviour, repetition is king!

The bottom line

Remember, it’s about automation. This means that we remove any debates inside your head about whether to perform the action or not. Even when you don’t have the energy to exert self-control (willpower), a habit can keep you on track and in line.

Now it’s over to you! Join in the conversation and tell us in the comments below:

  1. Which new habit can you install this week?
  2. What triggers do you need to plant or remove to make this happen?

This is a supportive and safe place to share and learn from each other!

Link to read original article

 

 

4 Odd Yet Effective Ways The Smartest People Prioritize Their Days

I think perhaps I would suggest looking at these and selecting the one or two that you believe could have the greatest positive impact of how you do things, rather than take them all – with particular caution around Tip 2…

The hardest part is getting started.

When there’s a long list that needs tackling every day, the hardest part is tackling what needs to be done first. You may feel intimidated to start your next big project or pull your colleague aside for an awkward, but much-needed confrontation.

And prioritizing isn’t getting any easier. In his book Present Shock, Douglas Rushkoff blames this modern-day condition on our “continuous, always-on ‘now’“ world which has made us lose our sense of direction.

Successful people know that planning, organizing, and protecting your time is no easy feat, but if you don’t have your priorities straight, who will? Below are four unconventional methods that keep the brightest minds focus on exactly what they need to:

1. Think About Death

Reflecting on death might not be what comes to mind when you want to tackle your to-do list, but studies find it helps you re-prioritize your goals and values. Buddhist teachings encourage reflections of death with the idea that a better understanding of mortality also helps us better understand our purpose in life.

2. Wear The Same Clothes Every Day

When you downsize your closet, you also cut down on the number of choices you have to make every day, which means you can now focus on what’s most important: your priorities.

Plenty of CEOs adopt this “uniform” strategy. Steve Jobs wore the same jeans and black turtleneck day in and day out. Oracle’s Larry Ellison also preferred black turtlenecks, but often wore them underneath fashionable slim jackets. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos sticks to khakis, blue shirts, and sometimes a dark jacket. Aspokesperson for the company once said: “[Bezos would] rather spend his time figuring out how to cut prices for customers than figuring out what to wear each day.”

Leo Widrich, cofounder of Buffer, despises these daily decisions so much, he wears the same clothes every day (he owns five white T-shirts and two pairs of pants) and also eats the same dinner six times a week. Widrich believes that the fewer decisions he has to make, the better his decisions will be.

In an interview with Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair, President Barack Obama agrees with Widrich’s way of life: “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus yourdecision-making energy. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

I notice though that every one of these examples is a man.  What would we think of a woman who came to work constantly wearing the same outfit?

3. Know The Difference Between Urgent And Important

Like Rushkoff, Dwight D. Eisenhower knew how easy it is to lose track of goals if the importance of tasks are confusing. To differentiate between “urgent” and “important” tasks, the 34th President of the United States broke the two into very basic distinctions:

  1. An urgent task requires immediate attention and is often performed in a hurried, reactive mode. An example of an urgent task is calming the baby or attending a meeting.
  2. An important task contributes to long-term values and goals and is performed in a responsive mode that leads to new opportunities. An example of an important task is planning the company’s next relationship-building mixer. Important tasks can sometimes also be urgent, but often are not.

Author Stephen Covey popularized Eisenhower’s Decision Principle in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

4. Make An “Avoid At All Cost” List

Warren Buffett knows that you can’t be amazing if you focus on everything you’re interested in at once. This is exactly why, to keep his focus laser sharp, Buffett advises making a list of the top 25 things you want to accomplish in the next few years. From this list, pick the top five that are most important to you.

Now you have two lists and Buffett suggests you “avoid at all cost” the longer one. According to the business magnate, adding your second most important items into your focus only prevents big things from happening.

Whether it’s reflecting on mortality or getting rid of your wardrobe, the smartest people know that there’s never more time in the day–only better ways to manage your time through prioritizing. And if you’ve tried it all and still get sidetracked from what’s really important, it’s time to learn the most simple, yet effective way you can prioritize: Start saying no.

Link to read the original Fast Company article

6 Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before Making a Change

Creating success in work and life, on our own terms

Understanding the process of change — why we are the way we are, and how to change when we really want to—is incredibly important. The attribute of driving effective change can give you the keys to the kingdom of success and happiness. However, , if you don’t learn how to use it, you can stay mired in a dark hole of frustration that can lead to self-defeat and low self-esteem.

So let’s start with what we typically know: Changing behaviors is hard. (Change is hard, period.) You get wired to certain behavior patterns, and your brain gets stuck in a groove that takes concerted, conscious, and consistent effort to change. And even when you do manage to change for a few days, weeks or months, it is all too easy to slip back into old patterns.

The good news is that we know, through the latest neuroscience, that our brains are “plastic.” This means they can create new neural pathways, which allows you to create change and form new patterns of behavior that can stick over time. You find a new groove, so to speak. But it takes work—sometimes, a lot of work. And it takes time. The popular myth that you can quickly and easily change a deeply-ingrained habit in 21 days has been largely disproven by brain and behavioral scientists. They now think it actually takes anywhere from six to nine months to create the new neural pathways that support changing behavior.

Sorry.

There are three things you need to make any change, whether mental, emotional or physical: desire, intent, and persistence.Our culture is filled with magazine covers that say you can meet your dream partner by the weekend, land your dream job in five days, or lose 10 pounds in two weeks. This can leave mere mortals feeling completely inadequate when they fail to achieve such results, which are completely unrealistic, if not downright impossible, in the first place.

When you consider that only 8% of people actually follow through on intentions to change a habit, you can see why it’s so critical to understand enough about the change process, and yourself, to smooth a path to success.

So what are the steps and considerations? Here are some questions to think about, as you begin to create positive change in a lasting way:

Do you really want it?

There is no point in saying you are going to stop working so much, so you can get some semblance of balance in your life, if in reality you really don’t care that much about balance, and you really love to work. Who are you doing it for? Don’t kid yourself. You must be serious and care about the change you decide to make, so you’ll be willing to work for it and follow through.

What need is being served by what you are doing now?

Your current behavior is there for a reason, or you wouldn’t be doing it. Hard to swallow, but true. Whether you’re a workaholic, 20 pounds overweight, have anger management issues, or are unhappily single—your current situation is serving you somehow. So take some time to think about this. Whether the need is relaxation but the behavior is binge drinking, or the need is recognition but the behavior is overwork, you first need to identify what need is being served by your current behavior. Once you have the answer, you can work out how to meet this need in another way, smoothing the path to change.

How else can you meet your needs?

So, you have identified the current behavior and how it is serving you. Now think about how else you could get this same need met. You may relate to this example. For some people, eating foods they know are not only bad for them, and in fact likely to leave them feeling tired, grumpy, and full of self-loathing, is less about the foods, and more about the nurturing, comfort, or distraction they provide. How else could you get your need met? Perhaps retreating to your meditation cushion, your yoga mat, the bath tub, or even your bed, would give you an even greater sense of the nurturing you need, without the guilt, the self-esteem crash from not following through on your intention, and, of course, the pounds. So when you think about the needs you have, how elsecan they be met?

What’s the price of not changing?

You will experience ambivalence on the change path, no question about it. And that’s okay. But to progress down the road, you have to ask yourself: What is the price of not changing? If you really want a promotion, but are too fearful to ask for the management training you need, the price is staying in the same role. Is overcoming your fear worth the goal? Or if you really want to get healthy, lose weight and get fit, but you don’t want to have to cut the sugar and get out walking, what is the price of that behavior? Putting on yet another 10 kilos? Think about and write down any negative effects your current behaviors are creating in your life—self‑loathing, boredom, career stagnation, frustration. Once you have hit this wall of realization, you are in the perfect place to turn around and move forward.

What positive image can pull you forward?

It is known, from research in positive psychology and neuroscience, that you’ll have more success when you move towards something positive rather than away from something negative. It is also known that positive images pull you forward. (Think vision boards, athletes visualizing their performance success, or thinking through the positive outcome of a business presentation before it takes place.) It works, and science proves it. So what positive image of the outcome you want can you visualize to pull you toward success? Come up with one; have it firmly in your mind; place it on a wall, in your computer, in your journal, or anywhere you will reference it; and look at it frequently. It can be especially helpful when your resolve is slipping, to remind you what you are working so hard for.

Are you acknowledging success?

When you have made progress on your efforts, it is important to acknowledge that achievement. When you celebrate your efforts, you create upward spirals of momentum that help reinforce the positive change and make it stick. Recognizing your efforts also helps to reinforce the direction in which you are moving, and motivates you further toward your goals. Recognizing, acknowledging, and celebrating progress, however small, is a key to success on your change path.

Change can be challenging. Anyone who has tried to change a habit knows this is true. But it is possible. And you can smooth the path to success by being aware of the cycle of change, being prepared, and being consistent. The result is worth the effort, if you want it badly enough to work for it.

Link to read the original article in full

 

 

The Science of Happiness

Here is a brand new MOOC from Berkeley starting next week which I thought you might like to know about…

Starts September 9, 2014 – Register Now!

An unprecedented free online course exploring the roots of a happy, meaningful life. Co-taught by the GGSC’s Dacher Keltner andEmiliana Simon-Thomas. Up to 16 CE credit hours available.

We all want to be happy, and there are countless ideas about what happiness is and how we can get some. But not many of those ideas are based on science. That’s where this course comes in.

“The Science of Happiness” is a free, eight-week online course that explores the roots of a happy and meaningful life. Students will engage with some of the most provocative and practical lessons from this science, discovering how cutting-edge research can be applied to their own lives.

Created by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, the course zeroes in on a fundamental finding from positive psychology: that happiness is inextricably linked to having strong social ties and contributing to something bigger than yourself—the greater good. Students will learn about the cross-disciplinary research supporting this view, spanning the fields of psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and beyond.

What’s more, “The Science of Happiness” will offer students practical strategies for nurturing their own happiness. Research suggests that up to 40 percent of happiness depends on our habits and activities. So each week, students will learn a new research-tested practice that fosters social and emotional well-being—and the course will help them track their progress along the way.

The course will include:

  • Short videos featuring the co-instructors and guest lectures from top experts on the science of happiness;
  • Articles and other readings that make the science accessible and understandable to non-academics;
  • Weekly “happiness practices”—real-world exercises that students can try on their own, all based on research linking these practices to greater happiness;
  • Tests, quizzes, polls, and a weekly “emotion check-in” that help students gauge their happiness and track their progress over time;
  • Discussion boards where students can share ideas with one another and submit questions to their instructors.

Link to register for this free online course

Happiness At Work edition #110

All of these articles and more are collected in the latest edition of Happiness At Work, the weekly free online paper from BridgeBuilders STG of the best stories, research news and articles about learning and leadership, happiness and employee engagement, creativity and resilience from across the web over the previous week.

I hope you find much here to enjoy and profit from.

And do feel welcome to bring your ideas, challenges, insights and experiences to our Facebook page

Happiness At Work #101 ~ how to make your own success story great

Pyramid of Success - John R. Wooden, Basketball Coach

Pyramid of Success – John R. Wooden, Basketball Coach

This week we highlight the power of our minds to create what happens to us.

What we choose to tell ourselves dramatically affects the story we make for our own life.  And the stories we choose to tell and make in our communications give us the power to affect and influence the lives of the people we work.

Ultimately stories give us the ability to create and enact not just our own hero’s success story of greatness, but the power to change the world and people’s lives.

Here is a great set of brain exercises by way of a warmup.

The right answers, when you find them, just see so obviously right you’ll know when you’ve found them.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did…

Brain teaser to exercise your cognitive skills: Where do words go?

Here is a brain teaser whose aim is to stim­u­late the con­nec­tions or asso­ci­a­tions between words in your tem­po­ral lobe. You will see pairs of words, and your goal is to find a third word that is con­nected or asso­ci­ated with both of these two words.

For exam­ple, the first pair is PIANO and LOCK. The answer is KEY. The word key is con­nected with both the word piano and the word lock: there are KEYS on a piano and you use a KEY to lock doors. Key is what is called a homo­graph: a word that has more than one mean­ing but is always spelled the same.

Ready to stim­u­late con­nec­tions in your tem­po­ral lobe(s)? Enjoy! (Solu­tions are below. Please don’t check them until you have tried to solve all the pairs!)

1. LOCK — PIANO

2. SHIP — CARD

3. TREE — CAR

4. SCHOOL — EYE

5. PILLOW — COURT

6. RIVER — MONEY

7. BED — PAPER

8. ARMY — WATER

9. TENNIS — NOISE

10. EGYPTIAN — MOTHER

Link to read the original article and to get the answers

What follows in this post are some different ideas about how we can do this.

Cristiano Ronaldo — Greatness Awaits (World Cup)

The journey of a hero at its earliest, most humble beginnings is nothing more than a desire for greatness…

And legends aren’t born from mediocrity. They are born from excellence. They are born from being the best. From being the hardest working. Legends are born from failure. They are born from falling down time and time again and having the grit to get back up again. Legends are born from adversity. They are forged in the crucible of struggle. Heroes come and go. But legends, legends live forever…

Story Pyramid or arc

Story Pyramid or arc

Nancy Duarte on Failure, Bootstrapping, and the Power of Better Presentations

How to use the hero’s story to present better, the tension of creative work and commerce, learning to let go, and the power of turning failure into your life’s work…

Most believe great presenters are born and not made. Nancy Duarte would argue against this. After all, she received a C- in Speech Communication class in college. Since then she’s gone on to become a world-renowned author and expert on the art and science of delivering compelling presentations.

Today her firm works with the world’s top brands like Cisco, General Electric, The Food Network, and Twitter to help their employees evolve their presentation skills into messages that shift beliefs and behaviors. In addition, her books Slide:ologyResonate, and HBR’s Guide to Persuasive Presentations do much to fill in the knowledge gaps of how to make presenting easier and more engaging for your audience.

Presenters tend to quickly go to tools like PowerPoint, which is used second only to email, to communicate. But strong communicators are able to visualize their ideas…

Your vision needs to be clear and if people can see what you’re saying, they will understand you. Practice sketching what you see.  There is tremendous power in being able to sketch out an idea so others can see it…

“You have the power to change the world…”

If you put slides between you and another person, you cheat yourself out of an opportunity to create a personal connection. In one-on-one situations, you have the chance to make a really rich human connection yet so many times that opportunity is lost due to putting technology between you and them.

Instead of looking at each other, people end up looking at technology. When you’re on-on-one, try using a piece of paper between you instead.  You can have some concepts on the paper, or it could be a printout of your slides that you both build on, or even start with a blank sheet of paper.

What this type of setup says is, “Let’s both create something.”

Link to read the original 99u article

 standing over the clouds

How can I cope better with setbacks?

by Jan Hills, adapted from the content in her new book, Brain-Savvy HR

You and a colleague have been working on a new project proposal which gets rejected by the board. You’re gutted, and finding it hard to get past the sense of disappointment, the feeling that your career has stalled. But your colleague seems to be much more philosophical about the decision. She’s shrugged it off and seems to be getting on with things. Didn’t she have as much invested in getting the project off the ground – didn’t it matter as much to her? Or is she just coping better?

The difference is resilience.

It’s the art of adapting well in the face of adversity: when a proposal is rejected, when a valued colleague moves to another company, or if you lose your job in a downsizing. Some people describe it as the ability to bend without breaking.

Biologically, resilience is the ability to manage the physical and neurological impact of the stress response. Stress can have a significant impact on the immune system, and make us physically ill, but the effects are entirely dependent on how we, individually, react to it. (Read more about that in the chapter in this section “I can’t avoid stress in my job.”

What makes us resilient?

Studies of twins suggest that at least some of our response to stress, and our ability to cope with it, is inherited. Having a sociable personality that embraces novel tasks and interests, and being accepting of yourself and your faults makes someone more resilient.

But our environment also comes into play: the patterns of behaviour we’ve learned, our education, support from our family, our income and security. But research also shows that we can build resilience with some discipline and consistent practice.

Resilience in the brain develops through repeated experience. Any experience, whether positive or negative, causes neurons in the brain to activate. The strengthened connections between them create neural circuits and pathways that make it likely we will respond to the same or a similar situation in the same way that we reacted before.

This is the brain’s natural way of encoding patterns that become the automatic, unconscious habits that drive our behaviours. It relies upon the neuroplasticity of the brain: its capacity to grow new neurons and, more importantly, new connections among the neurons. When we choose to act in particular ways, repeatedly, to the extent we form new habits and ways of behaving, we are engaging in self-directed neuroplasticity.

How can we become more resilient?

Some of the effective strategies that are well-supported by scientific evidence for developing resilience include:

Learn “emotional regulation”

Two approaches to self-regulation that have been extensively studied are reappraisal and mindfulness meditation…

Reappraisal is a technique for reinterpreting the cause of a negative emotion or stress. So instead of seeing your rejection for promotion as a failure, you reappraise it as an opportunity to build mastery and deepen expertise in your current role

Columbia University’s Kevin Ochsner has found that reappraisal results in changes in the brain, particularly in the prefrontal cortex: the centre for planning, directing and inhibiting. It also decreases the activity of the amygdala, responsible for emotion. The result is that an experience is less emotionally charged and it’s possible for the person to interpret it more positively. People who practise this technique report greater psychological wellbeing than those who suppress their emotions.

So when you’re faced with a negative experience you may find it useful to ask yourself: “Is there a different way to look at this?” Be like the optimistic friend who would put a different spin on it for you.

Our experience of using this strategy with clients, especially in very tough circumstances, is that it can be challenging and it takes practice. Ochsner has found that training in reappraisal, especially using the technique of distancing from the problem, is successful.

Another method for increasing resilience and managing emotions is mindfulness meditation, which has been found to improve focus and wellbeing, and encourage more flexible thinking. Brain scans have shown increases in activity in the left prefrontal cortex (which is associated with emotional control), a boost in positive emotions, and faster recovery from feelings of disgust, anger and fear.

Adopt a positive outlook on life

Optimism is associated with good mental and physical health, which probably stems from a better ability to regulate the stress response. Psychologist Barbara Frederickson has found that negative emotions tend to increase physiological arousal, narrow focus and restrict behaviours to those which are essential for survival, like just getting your report done in the usual way, and avoiding social interaction and helping anyone else.

Positive emotions, by contrast, reduce stress and broaden focus, leading to more creative and flexible responses. In this frame of mind you’d be more likely to come up with a new report format which works better, get input from colleagues, or help your junior by coaching them to do the data analysis.

Do you believe you’re in control?

Psychologist Julian Rotter has developed the concept of “locus of control.” Some people, he says, view themselves as essentially in control of the good and bad things they experience: they have an internal locus of control. Others believe that things are done to them by outside forces, or happen by chance (an external locus).

These viewpoints are not absolutes, says Laurence Gonzales, author ofSurviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience. “Most people combine the two,” he says, “But research shows that those with a strong internal locus are better off. In general, they’re less likely to find everyday activities distressing. They don’t often complain, whine, or blame. And they take compliments and criticism in their stride.”

Developing an internal locus takes discipline and self-awareness, but it enables you to envisage options and scenarios based on intuition and foresight, which means you can create plans in anticipation, or in the midst of a challenge.

And what about optimism?

Resilience is associated with a type of realistic optimism. If you’re too optimistic you may miss negative information or ignore it rather than deal with it. Over-optimism results in taking or ignoring risks, which may actually increase stress. The most resilient people seem to be able to tune out negative words and events and develop the habit of interpreting situations in a more positive manner. Oxford psychologist Elaine Fox says we can train ourselves to do this.

What this means for us in business is that we should take a positive outlook whilst carefully assessing and acknowledging risks using techniques like pre-mortems and appreciative enquiry.

Get fit

Aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve attention, planning, decision-making and memory. And exercise appears to aid resilience by boosting levels of endorphins as well as the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin which may elevate mood. It also suppresses the release of the stress hormone cortisol.

Develop your resilience muscle

Researchers recommend “workouts,” or tasks that get gradually more challenging. This idea of “stress inoculation” is based on the theory that increasing the degree of difficulty teaches us to handle higher levels of challenge and stress.

If you dread giving presentations then offering to give the after-dinner toast at an annual dinner, and signing-up for a speaking club, can be part of a process gradually training yourself out of the fear.

The same approach as training for a marathon also works for mental challenges, according to the authors of Resilience: the science of mastering life’s greatest challenges. However, just as with an athlete’s training and competition programme, it’s important to build-in recovery time: extended periods of stress without a recovery period can be damaging. One of the skills of resilient people, according to performance psychologist Jim Loehr, is knowing when they need a break.

Maintain your support networks

Developing your network of supportive friends, family and colleagues is another important way to enhance your resilience. Don’t be too busy to do lunch, help someone or stop and talk to a colleague: it reduces your stress response and bolsters your courage and self-confidence, and creates a safety net.

Social ties make us feel good about ourselves: they activate the reward response in our brain. Objectively evaluate your network and analyse its strengths. You may have support in your home life, but do you also have it at work? Who do you know who could help you with different types of challenges? Who understands you, and has the skills you could call on in a crisis?

Follow good role models

We’re familiar with the idea of role models in business and leadership development. But thinking about who your models are for resilience may be a new idea for you. Consider who you know who has been through tough times in the business and has come through. What are the characteristics of their strength and how did they manage the challenge?

Psychologist Albert Bandura believes modelling is most effective when the observer analyses what they want to imitate by dissecting different aspects and creating rules that can guide their own action.

It’s all about belief

Psychologist Edith Grotberg believes that everyone needs to remind themselves regularly of their strengths. She suggests we cultivate resilience by thinking about three areas:

  • Strong relationships, structure, rules at home, role models: these are external supports.
  • Self-belief, caring about other people, being proud of ourselves: these are inner strengths that can be developed.
  • Communicating, solving problems, gauging the temperament of others, seeking out good relationships: these are the interpersonal and problem-solving skills that can be acquired.

At the heart of resilience is a belief in ourselves. Resilient people don’t let adversity define them: they move towards a goal beyond themselves and see tough times as just a temporary state of affairs.

Link to read the original HRZone article

100223_confidence

Instinct Can Beat Analytical Thinking

Researchers have confronted us in recent years with example after example of how we humans get things wrong when it comes to making decisions. We misunderstand probability, we’re myopic, we pay attentionto the wrong things, and we just generally mess up. This popular triumphof the “heuristics and biases” literature pioneered by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky has made us aware of flaws that economics long glossed over, and led to interesting innovations in retirement planning and government policy.

It is not, however, the only lens through which to view decision-making. Psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer has spent his career focusing on the ways in which we get things right, or could at least learn to. In Gigerenzer’s view, using heuristics, rules of thumb, and other shortcuts often leads to better decisions than the models of “rational” decision-making developed by mathematicians and statisticians.

Gerd Gigerenzer:

I always wonder why people want to hear how bad their own decisions are, or at least, how dumb everyone else is. That’s not my direction. I’m interested to help people to make better decisions, not to state that they have these cognitive illusions and are basically hopeless when it comes to risk…

Assume you are a turkey and it’s the first day of your life. A man comes in and you believe, “He kills me.” But he feeds you. Next day, he comes again and you fear, “He kills me,” but he feeds you. Third day, the same thing. By any standard model, the probability that he will feed you and not kill you increases day by day, and on day 100, it is higher than any before. And it’s the day before Thanksgiving, and you are dead meat. So the turkey confused the world of uncertainty with one of calculated risk. And the turkey illusion is probably not so often in turkeys, but mostly in people…

Gut feelings are tools for an uncertain world. They’re not caprice. They are not a sixth sense or God’s voice. They are based on lots of experience, an unconscious form of intelligence.

I’ve worked with large companies and asked decision makers how often they base an important professional decision on that gut feeling. In the companies I’ve worked with, which are large international companies, about 50% of all decisions are at the end a gut decision.

But the same managers would never admit this in public. There’s fear of being made responsible if something goes wrong, so they have developed a few strategies to deal with this fear. One is to find reasons after the fact….

Using data more intelligently is a good strategy if you have a business in a very stable world. Big data has a long tradition in astronomy. For thousands of years, people have collected amazing data, and the heavenly bodies up there are fairly stable, relative to our short time of lives. But if you deal with an uncertain world, big data will provide an illusion of certainty. For instance, in Risk Savvy I’ve analyzed the predictions of the top investment banks worldwide on exchange rates. If you look at that, then you know that big data fails.

In an uncertain world you need something else. Good intuitions, smart heuristics.

Link to read the original Harvard Business Review article

moerakiboulders

Rethinking the Placebo Effect: How Our Minds Actually Affect Our Bodies

by 

Among the most intensely interesting pieces in the Nothing: Surprising Insights Everywhere from Zero to Oblivion collection is one by science journalist Jo Marchant, who penned the fascinating story of the world’s oldest analog computer. Titled “Heal Thyself,” the piece explores how the way we think about medical treatments shapes their very real, very physical effects on our bodies — an almost Gandhi-like proposition, except rooted in science rather than philosophy. Specifically, Marchant brings to light a striking new dimension of the placebo effect that runs counter to how the phenomenon has been conventionally explained. She writes:

It has always been assumed that the placebo effect only works if people are conned into believing that they are getting an actual active drug. But now it seems this may not be true. Belief in the placebo effect itself — rather than a particular drug — might be enough to encourage our bodies to heal.

Recent research confirms what Helen Keller fervently believed putting some serious science behind the value of optimism. Marchant sums up the findings:

Realism can be bad for your health. Optimists recover better from medical procedures such as coronary bypass surgery, have healthier immune systems and live longer, both in general and when suffering from conditions such as cancer, heart disease and kidney failure.

It is well accepted that negative thoughts and anxiety can make us ill. Stress — the belief that we are at risk — triggers physiological pathways such as the “fight-or-flight” response, mediated by the sympathetic nervous system. These have evolved to protect us from danger, but if switched on long-term they increase the risk of conditions such as diabetes and dementia.

What researchers are now realizing is that positive beliefs don’t just work by quelling stress. They have a positive effect too — feeling safe and secure, or believing things will turn out fine, seems to help the body maintain and repair itself…

Optimism seems to reduce stress-induced inflammation and levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. It may also reduce susceptibility to disease by dampening sympathetic nervous system activity and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter governs what’s called the “rest-and-digest” response — the opposite of fight-or-flight.

Just as helpful as taking a rosy view of the future is having a rosy view of yourself. High “self-enhancers” — people who see themselves in a more positive light than others see them — have lower cardiovascular responses to stress and recover faster, as well as lower baseline cortisol levels.

Marchant notes that it’s as beneficial to amplify the world’s perceived positivity as it is to amplify our own — something known as our “self-enhancement bias,” a type of self-delusion that helps keep us sane. But the same applies to our attitudes toward others as well — they too can impact our physical health.

Link to read the original Brain Pickings article

7 Life-Learnings from 7 Years of Brain Pickings, Illustrated

by 

“Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.”

See also this beautifully drawn reworking of the seven things Maria Popova learned from the first seven years of making her eclectic and wonderful blog

Happiness At Work edition #101

You can also see these drawings and find all of of these stories and more in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection.

 

Happiness At Work #99 ~ how to make greater communications & greater relationships

This week I have highlighted stories collected in the new Happiness At Work edition #99 that can help us to make our relationships at work work better, with particular emphasis on how to make great communications.

In our work as learning specialists, when we ask people in organisations what problems they are facing, they nearly always tell us the number one difficulty they face is communication problems.  The fine and deceptively difficult art of human communications has always been complex and much more likely to go wrong than right, despite our expectations that all is fine unless we get clear signs of a breakdown.  And our increasingly digitalised communications are not always making things any better for us.

How many of us feel that we are as fully heard, understand and believed as we would ideally wish to be – and feel that we deserve to be?

I hope you will find something amongst the following articles to add to your own communication success and effectiveness – whether you want to power up your own communicative power and persuasiveness, or to strengthen the connections and synergies in the relationships you work in, or to harness the potential of strong, appreciative, empathetic communications to increase the happiness at work for yourself and the people you work with.

agreement shaking hands

Boost Your Happiness By Saying Thank You – the Right Way

by Geil Browning

Saying Thank You expertly isn’t just a nice thing to do, it is a powerful boost to your own happiness at work, and the happiness of the people you work with.  This involves being specific and matching what you say to what the recipient cares about and pays most attention to.  Here’s how…

Brain studies suggest that the capacity to experience positive emotions may be fundamental to human flourishing.

Shawn Achor, a leading speaker on positive psychology, focuses on the idea of positivity in the present. Forget about delaying happiness until some lofty goal is reached, he says. Happiness is achievable today and every day. That means connecting it into your daily work.

One thing Achor recommends is to write at least one message of gratitude each day. He says this simple gesture has the potential to boost your own happiness, and that the act itself can flood your system with dopamine, the happiness hormone. What a win-win! Writing a note or email of gratitude is as much a boon to your own happiness as it is to that of the person you’re sending it to.

Saying It Right

This might sound overwhelming at first, but if you put it into the context of what you’re working on, it can be both beneficial and highly productive.

Thanking people is important, both for our mutual happiness quotient as well as to deliver gratitude for hard work. But to really help either me or my team, these notes have to be genuine and appeal to what each person values and what drives him or her.

We’ve identified four ways that people think and three ways that people behave. By tailoring your message around those attributes, you can ensure it will appeal to your recipient.

Take a look below and remember, these are all different thank-yous coming from the same meeting!

Greeting: Even the opening can be specified.

  • Dear Ann. More formalised greetings probably work for leaders like Ann, who may exhibit analytical thinking or prefer a more structured environment.
  • Hi, Mike! Informal greetings using a name appeal to those with a Social preference. Exclamation points convey warmth to those on the gregarious side.
  • Hey! Those with a more driving behavioral preference or Conceptual thinking preferences don’t even need their name–you aren’t hurting their feelings.

Body: This is your main thank-you.

  • Analytical. “Your ability quantify the value in this strategy is much appreciated.”
  • Structural. “Thanks to your methodical approach, we were able to meet the deadline on Phase 1. The fact that you’re taking the lead on the planning for Phase 2 signifies strong leadership growth.”
  • Social. I am so glad that you were able to connect us with that new vendor partner. Your ability to continue this relationship will be really helpful moving forward. I really appreciate it!”
  • Conceptual. Your ability to rattle off one good idea after another in the meeting was amazing–your imagination and creativity are assets to our company.”

Ending: I like concluding notes with next steps related to behavior.

  • Assertiveness. “Looking forward to next steps and doing this the right way.” Or, “Now it’s time to hit the ground running. Talk soon!”
  • Flexibility. “We’ve got our plan and we’re moving forward on it.” Or, “We’ll keep you posted and let you know how things change and shake out.”
  • Expressiveness. “Sincerely.” Or, “Thanks so much!”

Sending notes of gratitude not only confirms your appreciation of someone, but it also makes you happier. Doubt it? Give it a try. You can thank me later.

Link to read the original Inc. article

Break Time Conversation

The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations

by Judith E. Glaser and Richard D. Glaser

In conversational communications, more encouraging, more asking great open questions and more listening will get far greater results than you telling ever will – no matter how forceful and dynamic and articulate you want to make it – and here’s some of the reasons why…

When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet – the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact.

Positive comments and conversations produce a chemical reaction too. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolizes more quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.

This “chemistry of conversations” is why it’s so critical for all of us –especially managers – to be more mindful about our interactions. Behaviors that increase cortisol levels reduce what I call “Conversational Intelligence” or “C-IQ,” or a person’s ability to connect and think innovatively, empathetically, creatively and strategically with others. Behaviors that spark oxytocin, by contrast, raise C-IQ.

For example:

Observing Rob’s conversational patterns for a few weeks, I saw clearly that the negative (cortisol-producing) behaviors easily outweighed the positive (oxytocin-producing) behaviors. Instead of asking questions to stimulate discussion, showing concern for others, and painting a compelling picture of shared success, his tendency was to tell and sell his ideas, entering most discussions with a fixed opinion, determined to convince others he was right. He was not open to others’ influence; he failed to listen to connect.

When I explained this to Rob, and told him about the chemical impact his behavior was having on his employees, he vowed to change, and it worked. A few weeks later, a member of his team even asked me: “What did you give my boss to drink?”

I’m not suggesting that you can’t ever demand results or deliver difficult feedback. But it’s important to do so in a way that is perceived as inclusive and supportive, thereby limiting cortisol production and hopefully stimulating oxytocin instead. Be mindful of the behaviors that open us up, and those that close us down, in our relationships. Harness the chemistry of conversations.

Link to read the original  Harvard Business Review article

collaboration collaborative thinking

Being Seen and Heard at Work

Nick Morgan is a communication coach and the author, most recently, of “Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact.” Morgan spoke about how federal leaders can improve their communication skills with Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.

The first power cue is how you show up when you walk into a room. Some people walk into a room with confidence, while others enter with shyness, reluctance or other negative attributes.

The second cue is the emotions you convey when you are going into an important meeting, conversation or presentation. We leak emotions to the other people in the room unconsciously, so you need to first become aware of and then take charge of those emotions.

The third and fourth cues center on the unconscious messages that you receive from other people and the effect that your voice has on others.

The fifth cue comes into play in key work and social situations: What are the signals you send out that indicate success or failure? There are a series of unconscious body language signals that we naturally emit when in stressful, important situations, and they either add up to failure or success.

The sixth cue focuses on how well you manage your unconscious hopes and fears. Do they help you in times of stress or undercut your performance?

The final power cue is the stories that we tell. A great deal has been written about the importance of storytelling, but the research shows that it’s even more important than we realize. Through powerful storytelling, you can control the minds of your listeners.

…We live in an anonymous age. People today want to be seen and heard for who they are, so the first thing is to listen to your employees. Leaders are so pressed for time that they tend not to listen.

Second, find a way to be authentic. If you are not authentic, people sense it right away. That doesn’t mean that you must bare your whole soul to everybody — people don’t want that much information. Instead, you want to reveal a real piece of yourself, one that will resonate with your employees.

…Most of the time, we walk around with a to-do list in our heads — a mixture of the immediate issues we’re facing, a few thoughts about tonight and tomorrow, and perhaps a passing nod to a vacation coming up this winter. If you enter a room with that mish-mash in your head, your body language will reflect that conscious confusion, and you will not be present or charismatic. That’s why people find so many meetings in business so boring. Most of the attendees are not participating completely.

If instead you can focus your attention and emotions on a particular moment and be fully present, then you can be charismatic.

…Common leadership communication mistakes are they talk before they listen. They speak from insecurity rather than security. They are afraid to say, “I don’t know.” They make things more complicated than they need to be, in order to sound knowledgeable.  If you are a young leader, you should be saying “I don’t know” at least three times a day!

You should listen first, and speak second. And you should keep it simple. By the way, our elders make all the same mistakes, too. These are equal-opportunity communications errors.

…The power of storytelling is frequently misunderstood. People have been told that they should tell stories, so they attempt them, but what they end up relating are anecdotes, not stories. What’s the difference? An anecdote says, “This happened.”

A story has a hero, a conflict, a villain, a crisis and a resolution. It’s a quest, or a revenge story, or a love story.

Most of the stories people tell lack those key elements. In our fast-paced, confusing, information-overloaded world, we really need stories to help us make sense of our lives. That’s the essence of it.

Find one of those powerful stories to tell, and start telling it. Then you can lead people in the way you want because you’re providing your followers with the meaning they seek.

Link to read full interview in the ordinal Washington Post article

Communication

How To Listen

…As Burton suggests, listening can sometimes be hard. It doesn’t matter what degree of hearing loss people have, or how long they’ve had it, every single one of them says the same thing: it’s tiring. When your ears and your brain are having to work much harder both to get the sounds in and then to turn them into a comfortable and comprehensible form, then you’re using up a lot of energy. If your listening is as skilled and nuanced as a musician’s, it can be exhausting.

In fact, those who have trouble hearing are often highly skilled listeners, fluent in acoustic variation and the power of sound in a way that few fully hearing people ever are. Most of them also have a different relationship to silence. All silences have their own personalities — contented or meditative, empty or replete. If there’s a whole force-field of difference between a couple unspeaking in anger and a couple unspeaking in love, then there’s also a huge variation in the silence generated both by lots of people silent in a space such as a Quaker meeting or a Buddhist meditation practice, and the silence of space itself.

True silence outdoors is as rare as it is inside, especially in a place like Britain, fizzing with people and movement. Even if there is no road or aircraft noise, then there are the susurrations of trees, leaves, grasses, birds, insects — the sounds of life in the process of living. These are the sounds that are probably most endangered and least listened to. It isn’t that we can’t hear them; it’s just that, so often, they’re hidden by the white noise of our own thoughts. More than anything, more than planes or drills, it is that soft blanketing snowfall of our own intelligence that blocks our ears. Go for a walk in the country and what you hear is not the clank of geese or the cows on their way to milking; it’s your own head.

…But if sound is a thousand times more powerful than we give it credit for, then so too is the power of being heard. Most people are used to the idea of using music to alter their own mood. Less common is the idea that just being listened to is itself a harmony, and a balm. The last time I took a London cab, the driver told me that many of his fares are so desperate to have someone hear them that they actually get down on their knees and confess into the little slit in the window between the driver and the back.

Almost everyone has things they don’t want to hear: their son’s fights, their partner’s rants, the high-stakes stuff about debt or divorce or mortality. But there’s a difference between offering someone a better connection and knowingly taking another man’s poison. And sometimes it takes a lot more energy not to listen to someone than it does to hear them out. If you completely listen, then you completely open yourself.

And that, in the end, is probably the scariest and the most exhilarating thing you’ll ever hear.

Link to read the full article about loss of hearing and listening with the acute expertise of a musician or sound artist

welcome and be happy

Become a Master Communicator with these 5 tips

by Arthur Joseph, communication strategist and voice coach

Peter Brooks, one of my hero theatre makers, famously wrote in his opening lines of The Empty Space: “A man walks across any empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.”  The only requirement for a performance is an audience of at least one person, and recognising this, Arthur Joseph provides these excellent tips from the actor’s toolkit for making our own any-moment everyday performances connect with the people want to reach, excite and persuade to do something, including crafting your message; practice; pacing yourself, and breathing…

We live in a society where perception is reality and an opinion is formed in three seconds. We never get a second chance to make a first impression. The most effective way we have to control how we are known by others is through how we communicate.

Practice the following tips to be more deliberate and intentional in your communication with others:

1. Craft your personal statement. We have a choice in how we want to be known. Identify and write down strategic elements that reflect your positive character traits and best attributes. Begin by completing the following sentence: I want to be known as

2. Every public encounter is a performance, not a presentation. It is a performance because someone is watching – not because it is false. The root of the word presentation means to introduce formally – to bring before the public.

Performance means to begin and carry through to completion – to carry out, fulfil. In other words, performing is an opportunity to embody who we are, not merely superficially, or formally presenting who we are.

Practice 15 seconds of an opening statement, a PowerPoint presentation or a conference call. Do this in front of a mirror and observe yourself or record it on a video camera, audio recorder or smart phone and play it back. The goal is to begin to recognise what others might hear or see. You may notice that your pitch is higher than you thought it was or that you speak too quickly or look tense.

3. Breathe. Breath is fuel. If we don’t put gas in the tank of our car, we do not get to our destination.

If it is important enough to say, breathe before you say it. Practice slowly inhaling to a count of five and say the following sentence at the apex of your inhalation, “I am an extraordinary person, and I do extraordinary things.” As you practice this phrase with this breathing technique, you are not only embedding a new communication tool, you are also learning to claim who you are — without flinching. Practice this daily until you not only believe it but you become it.

4. Speed is only speed. Communication mastery is not about being fast, it is about being effective. Nothing is gained by going too fast, but potentially, everything could be lost. The best way to slow down is to integrate this tip with the previous one. The single most important way to control the flow of information is to control the flow of breath. Breathing more slowly and deeply will slow down your communication and also create more time to think, thus more communication control.

5. No white noise. Eradicate “um,” “uh,” “like” and “you know” from your vocabulary. In place of these fillers, deliberately take your time and breathe. Space has value. Embrace it.

Many years ago, my former student Tony Robbins referred to my techniques as “pattern interrupts.” Vocal Awareness shifts our communication behavior and by extension, how we are perceived, from unconscious behaviors to strategic actions. These pattern interrupts help us discard negative or less effective habits and create more positive empowering habits. This will enhance not only your professional relationships but your personal ones as well.

Communication mastery is not about making us into someone we are not, but rather helping us discover who we truly are and embody what is possible. As you develop these new techniques, you may initially feel awkward or unnatural, but that is the nature of learning. In time, these skills will enable you to reflect authenticity, strength, warmth and compassion — not just in what you do but through who you are. The goal is for the same person to show up everywhere.

It is never just the message, but the messenger that matters.

Link to read the original Entrepreneur article

open arms communication

5 Presentation Lessons from Apple’s New Rock Star

by Carmine Gallo,

Communications expert and author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs watches this star performance and distils what makes it successful into these top tips for the rest of us: claiming the space and bringing a heightened performance energy; using humour; being physically fully open and connected with your audience; making your visuals visual; and keeping your audience’s attention in 10minute chunks…

Since I wrote a book titled The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I’ve been searching for a presenter — at Apple or any other company — who comes close to sharing Jobs’ presence on stage. It hasn’t been easy. Jobs was charismatic, inspiring, humorous, dramatic, engaging and polished, and his slides were beautifully designed.

Apple is giving one vice president more time on stage and he’s the most compelling business presenter I’ve seen in a long time. His name is Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering.

Here are five very specific presentation techniques that Federighi does very effectively, techniques that you can – and should – use in your next presentation.

1. Raise the energy level. Federighi doesn’t just walk on stage. He leaps, strides and exudes passion and enthusiasm in his voice and gestures. He has a smile on his face. He laughs easily. His energy level is high – much higher than the average presenter.

Most people deliver a presentation in the same tone of voice and use the same energy as though they were speaking in hushed tones to a colleague in the hallway. A mission-critical presentation is not a casual conversation. It’s a performance. A performer such as Federighi brings up the energy in the room as soon as he walks in.

2. Make people laugh. Most business presentations are dry, boring and stuffy. Federighi didn’t get the memo. Right out of the gate he injects humor in his presentation…

Throughout the presentation he poked good-natured fun at himself, especially his mane of white hair, which he jokingly refers to as “hair force one.”

When Federighi was demonstrating new phone features, he was interrupted by a call from his mother (all of this is planned and rehearsed, of course).

3. Keep your body language ‘open.’ Federighi has commanding presence. He doesn’t cross his arms or slouch. He has a constant smile and maintains an open posture, which means his palms are up and his arms are kept above the waist. Your body language speaks volumes before you say a word.

4. Design simple, visual slides. The average presentation slide has 40 words. It’s nearly impossible to find 40 words in 10 of Federighi’s slides. His slides were photographs, images and animations that complemented his message. This is called picture superiority, which means that information is more easily retained when it is presented as pictures instead of text.

I’m not suggesting that you avoid text completely. There were plenty of words in Apple’s WWDC 14 presentation, but images and simple numbers made up the preponderance of the slides.

5. Stick to the 10-minute rule. John Medina, a University of Washington brain researcher, came up with the “10-minute rule.” He says that no matter how engaging a speaker is, the audience will naturally tune out after approximately 10 minutes. The cure is to build in soft-breaks to re-engage the audience. Federighi doesn’t break the 10-minute rule.

By building in soft breaks every few minutes, Federighi can do what very few presenters can accomplish – he can keep the attention of the audience for an hour.

You may never speak in front of an audience of 6,000 developers or customers as Federighi does, but the techniques that made him the most talked-about presenter at the Apple developer conference are the same techniques that will help you win over any audience.

Link to read the original Entrepreneur article

prsentation with screen or whiteboard

4 Scientific Principles Behind a Killer Presentation

by Toke Kruse

The “why” behind the do’s of public speaking

Why an audience’s attention declines and how to combat it

At first, most people are all ears, listening closely to what a speaker says, but their attention gradually drops to around 10 to 20 percent of its original level. The audience’s attention peaks again toward the speech’s conclusion.

This attention curve suggests that speakers should state their main points near the beginning of their presentations and summarize them at the end. It’s also a good idea to divide a presentation into several sections, each one with an intermediate conclusion.

Why storytelling works better than facts alone

Renowned speakers use stories because stories keep the audience members’ brains entertained and active.

When a speaker presents just facts, only the language-processing portion of the brain is activated. However, when a story is shared to reinforce key points, all the other parts of the brain are engaged in experiencing the story’s events. It encourages the audience to imagine, associate, and feel.

As such, a story evokes cognition as well as emotion. When both the mind and heart are engaged, people are more attentive and receptive to information.

Why practice really does make perfect

If you’re an inexperienced presentation speaker, don’t let your mind and emotional being get the best of you. Minimize your fear of public speaking by conducting a series of mock presentations.

When you start worrying about your communication skills, you worry about the audience’s possible negative reaction to your speech. This manner of thinking causes your body to display indicators of anxiety such as palpitations, excessive sweating, and restlessness. When your body is on high alert with those symptoms, it becomes difficult to convey any message—let alone a well-organized presentation.

One good way of combating anxiety is with practice. After preparing your materials, invite some of your friends to be your audience and do an actual presentation. When you expose yourself to an undesirable stimulus over and over again, you become less sensitive to fear. In psychology, this is considered a desensitization strategy and it works wonders for public speaking.

Why non-verbal communication matters

Your audience will absorb more than just what you say during your presentation. They will also grasp the messages conveyed byyour body movements, tone of voice, gestures, attire, and choice of materials. According to the studies of James Borg and Albert Mehrabian, more than 60 percent of the message you convey can be attributed to your body language.

When you have relaxed facial muscles, good eye contact, and moderate tone of voice, the audience will assume you are confident and experienced. But when you cross your arms in front of you, for example, you are putting up a barrier to trust. When you have a sloppy or typo-prone PowerPoint presentation, the audience will stop listening to the content you’ve been deliveringand start critiquing the mistakes they see. You lose credibility in the audience’s eyes.

Because nonverbal communication matters, don’t just focus on what to present, but also on how you deliver your topic. Your presentation is a package of knowledge, delivery style and audiovisual materials. Maximize all your resources; don’t take any for granted, or concentrate on one at the expense of the others.

Link to read the original article

“You need to constantly curate your talent pool so that you get from good to better and better to something exceptional…”  Faisal Hoque

team work with wheel cogs

Book Review: Everything Connects

Everything Connects by Faisal Hoque and Drake Baer is a book about how to create an innovative, sustainable organisation. But it is much more. It’s about being intentional about relationships to create the space to do something great.

From their ongoing work they have concluded that organizations with a focus on long-term value creation share three principles:

1. Converged Disciplines. Ideas from one discipline aren’t isolated from another. The disciplines in a sustainably innovative organisation form a single entity. An ongoing part of identity building—both in our individual working lives and as part of a team—is to practice inviting a breadth of experiences, a pool of experiences from which we can draw on later in life.

2. Cross-Boundary Collaboration. No one operates in a vacuum. The more we can connect the people within an organisation, the more we can increase our overall potential. Relationships are the bandwidth within an organization, which means we need to be deliberate in forming them. You have to quash any sense of a zero-sum game.

3. Sustainably Innovative Structures. If you are not careful of the culture that’s being created, it will merge thoughtlessly rather than by design. Organisational structures can wreck your organisation if you rigidly cling to the product that they’re built to deliver rather than the value they attempt to create. “They couldn’t change because all they could think about was how to improve the thing they did, not the value they offered.”

All of this leads to setting up a system that continuously discovers. In other words, Hoque says, “we’re responsible for our long term growth in each short-term situation.” A long-term mindset that we manifest every day. Wedding the long-term to the short-term requires “mindfulness and authenticity, for mindfulness allows us to directly perceive our experiences in the moment, while authenticity acts as a star in the night sky, orienting us toward the future we wish to arrive at.”

Link to read the original article

work together jigsaw

What To Tell Your Manager In Your Employee Performance Review

By 

Employee performance reviews shouldn’t be a one-way conversation.

It’s clear that professional development at work will lead to a more engaged, more productive employee.

Here are some things that you should consider telling your manager on your employee performance review.

1. What You Want Your Boss To Stop (Or Start) Doing

The atmosphere that you’re in is conducive to feedback, so it will be better received.

Since your boss is potentially telling you about things that they want you to start or stop doing, you can feel free to tell them the same.

2. What Your Goals Are

The smart leaders understand that an employee that is growing personally and professionally will be more engaged and more productive, which is obviously a win-win for the company.

It’s also important for an employee to set personal goals and work hard to achieve them.

It’s also a good way to set a benchmark, and you can see where you stand with your goals at the following review session.

3. How Happy You Are

This is probably the most important thing to tell your boss, in case he or she doesn’t ask you about this already in the review.

Employee happiness is directly related to employee engagement, and a smart leader will ask you several questions around this subject during the review.

If they don’t though, make sure to tell them if you’re happy, why or why not, and what you think would make you happier.

4. Things You Want To Learn

Tell your boss about new skills you want to have or new things you want to learn.

It’s very possible that the company can help you learn, through subsidised courses, to giving you time at work to pursue these things.

Coaching is another great way to develop and stretch your self out towards your fullest potential

5. The Future Of The Company (And What Role You Play)

If your manager doesn’t ask you this, tell them anyways, because it will show that you’re thinking about the long term, and that you see yourself in that vision.

It’s also important to really explain what role you see yourself playing in that future, because it shows that you want to grow professionally, and you have a long term vision for yourself as well as the company.

6. Things You’d Like To Try

The review is a great opportunity to reflect on certain processes that you currently have, and how they can be optimized.

If there’s a new tool, or new process that you want to try that you think will improve the way you work, feel free to mention it.

7. Collect Feedback

If you’re smart, then you’ll use this opportunity to collect as much feedback from your manager as possible.

If you want to really grow as a person, you need to be willing to take criticism, no matter how hard it might be.

Ask what you want to know.  For example: “what am I doing that you think is working especially well?”

“What do you see are my strengths?”

“What is just one thing that you would really like to see me doing better or differently?”

Link to the original article

assured standing on exclamation mark

How To Be More Assertive for Better Communication

Andrea Ayres outlines what assertiveness is, how it benefits us and how we can make our communications more assertive and effective…

Assertiveness isn’t going to solve all your problems and it’s not appropriate for every situation—context is key. What it will do, is help you feel more confident and communicate more effectively when you need to. Expressing your true self and sticking up for your rights is empowering and it’s something that the majority of us, should do a lot more.

Link to read the full original article

11 Things You Should Never Say At Work

by Emmie Martin

In the new book “Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success,” Sylvia Ann Hewlett says three things signal whether a professional is leadership material: how they act, how they look, and how they speak.

Speaking eloquently not only improves your daily communications, it builds up your overall persona and executive presence. “Every verbal encounter is a vital opportunity to create and nurture a positive impression,” Hewlett writes.

Some phrases instantly undermine your authority and professionalism, and should be banned from the office. Here are 11 things you should never say at work:

1. “Does that make sense?”

Instead of making sure you’re understood, asking this tells the listener that you don’t fully understand the idea yourself, career coach Tara Sophia Mohr told Refinery 29.

Instead, she suggests asking, “What are your thoughts?”

2. “It’s not fair.” 

Simply complaining about an injustice isn’t going to change the situation. “Whether it’s a troubling issue at work or a serious problem for the planet, the point in avoiding this phrase is to be proactive about the issues versus complaining, or worse, passively whining,” Darlene Price, author of “Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results” told Forbes.

3. “I haven’t had time.”

“More often than not, this is simply not true,” said Atle Skalleberg in a LinkedIn post.

Whether you didn’t make time for the task or forgot about it, Skalleberg suggests giving a time when it will be done instead of explaining why it’s late.

4. “Just”

Adding “just” as a filler word in sentences, such as saying “I just want to check if…” or “I just think that…” may seem harmless, but it can detract from what you’re saying. “We insert justs because we’re worried about coming on too strong,” says Mohr, “but they make the speaker sound defensive, a little whiny, and tentative.”

Leave them out, and you’ll speak with more authority.

5. “But I sent it in an email a week ago.”

If someone doesn’t get back to you, it’s your job to follow up, says Skalleberg.

Be proactive when communicating instead of letting the other person take the blame.

6. “I hate…” or “It’s so annoying when…”

Insults have no place in the office, especially when directed at a specific person or company practice. “Not only does it reveal juvenile school-yard immaturity, it’s language that is liable and fire-able,” says Price.

7. “That’s not my responsibility.”

Even if it’s not your specific duty, stepping up to help shows that you’re a team player and willing to go the extra mile. “At the end of the day, we’re all responsible,” Skalleberg says.

8. “You should have…”

“Chances are, these fault-finding words inflict feelings of blame and finger-pointing,” Price says.

She suggests using a positive approach instead, such as saying, “In the future, I recommend…”

9. “I may be wrong, but…”

Price calls this kind of language “discounting,” meaning that it immediately reduces the impact of whatever you’re about to say.

“Eliminate any prefacing phrase that demeans the importance of who you are or lessens the significance of what you contribute,” she says.

10. “Sorry, but…”

This implies that you’re automatically being annoying. “Don’t apologize for taking up space, or for having something to say,” says Mohr.

11. “Actually…”

Prefacing sentences with this word, as in, “Actually, it’s right over there,” or “Actually, you can do it this way,” puts distance between you and the listener by hinting that they were somehow wrong, according to Carolyn Kopprasch, chief happiness officer at Buffer.

Rephrase to create a more positive sentiment.

What is on your list?

Link to read the original Business Insider article

team thinking heads together

All of these articles are collected together with many others in the new edition of Happiness At Work #99.

BridgeBuilders STG offer bespoke training across the UK in communications including high impact presentations, voice and performance coaching, assertiveness and confidence and speaking with greater authority and persuasion, leadership communications and solving relationship and communication problems.

Do contact me if you would like to explore what programme we might be able to make for you: info@bridgebuilders.co.uk

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

fairheadricky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

trapeze artists fully-committed

Mindfulness, purpose and the quest for productive employees

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

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

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

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

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

A growing – and diverging – discipline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The quantified self, qualified

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to listen to this BBC Radio 4 podcast

time keeping

Gallup: The 10 Qualities of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original Forbes article

stick-figures-working-300

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

by Bhushan Sethi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

working together

Asian Leaders Value Creativity and Intuition More than Europeans Do

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

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

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

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

Many believe so…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

rat racing across the wheels of work

Fixing the ‘I Hate Work’ Blues

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

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

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

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

Message not being heard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Required: leaders who inspire

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

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

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

Link to read the original Harvard Business School article

change curve

The Two Transformative Influences on Employee Engagement

by Andre Lavoie, CEO of ClearCompany

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

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

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

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

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

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

Improve Transparency

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

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

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

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

Make Real-Time Adjustments

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

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

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

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

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

by leadership coach Alan Williams

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

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

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

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

Practice and reflection: The missing links

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

How does this translate to organizations?

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

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

What does practice do for you? 

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

The result of all this practice?

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

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

The power of purposeful practice

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

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

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

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

Failure comes with the territory

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 31 Practices approach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Sadness can improve your memory.

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

2. Sadness can improve judgment.

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

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

3. Sadness can increase your motivation.

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

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

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

4. Sadness can improve interactions, in some cases.

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

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

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

Sadness is not depression

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

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

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

happy face

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you doing to help fix it?

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

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

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

What can others do to help fix it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happiness At Work edition #98

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

child learning

Happiness At Work edition #97

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

Organisational Learning in the Network Era

by Harold Jarche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the full unedited article

Julia Middleton: Cultural Intelligence (CQ)

CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE:

The ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures.

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

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

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

Check out her book Cultural Intelligence here

Strategy Is No Longer a Game of Chess

by Greg Satell

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

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

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

Continue reading this article

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5 neglected behaviors that make dreams happen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading this article

The Price of Happiness? £478 per employee

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

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

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

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

Continue reading this article

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

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

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

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

Read the full list

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

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

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

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

Continue reading and watch the video clip

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

by Lydia Dishman

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

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

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

But why?

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

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

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

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

Continue reading the full article

Over communication: 7 reasons to learn “Mench”

by Dorothy Dalton

…is over communication strictly a gender issue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the full unedited article

Dads Who Do Dishes Raise Ambitious Daughters

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

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

Continue reading this story

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

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

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

Why saying thank you matters

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

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

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

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

Read the full article

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12 Unusual Ways To Spur Creativity During Meetings

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

Ask Your Team to Think Fast!

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

Show Gratitude

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

Ask for the Worst Idea in the Room

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

Know Your Team

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

Make It a Team Effort

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

Incorporate Humour

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

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

Know When to Stop

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

Take a Walk

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

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

Provide Special Incentives

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

Showcase Your Ideas

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

Don’t Brainstorm

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

Bring Wine—And Demand Results

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

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

Read the full unedited article

Happiness At Work edition #97

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

I hope you find things here to use and enjoy.

Happiness 2014 – from Aristotle to mindfulness & neuroscience

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

How Has Happiness Become A Modern Cultural Obsession?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

memories of spring by mylifethroughthelens-d6hxz7g

spring

Happiness Through The Ages

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Modern Science Of Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running On The Hedonic Treadmill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Disease Of Western Societies

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

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

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

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

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

The Mindful Happiness Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

Happiness At Work edition #92

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