Happiness At Work #123 ~ Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Take the next step…

This post collects together some different ideas about why pausing and making time for quietness and simply to breathe is essential to our happiness at work, along with some practical approaches and techniques for doing this.

When did you last think about your breathing?

For as long as we are alive, we are guaranteed to keep breathing whether we think about it much or not: no matter what we do or do not do, think or do not think, we will keep right on breathing. But just as with any other aspect related to our normal body function, most of us are likely to only really think about what is happening to us when we notice a problem or difficulty: we are out of breath or having to breathe extra hard or feel our breath racing away on us or need to stop and catch our breath or to get our breath back.

Perhaps normal breathing is a bit like the way we tend to think about silence and not talking, a kind of nothing, or, at best, a neutral state that is primarily inactive and passive. But, just as silence and not saying anything can be one of the most potent, active and consciously vital actions we can bring to our encounters and the people we engage with, so, too, can breathing be one of the most enlivening, empowering, sustaining, and rebalancing actions we can take.

Rather than an absence of action, our ability to be silent effectively and productively demands that we learn how to be skilled, alert and attentive listeners.

We also need to learn how to become expert at breathing.

And If we become more conscious, deliberate, flexible and skilled at breathing we will get from this to . . .

  •  …feel more confident and more truly ourselves;
  • …grow and continually renew our sense of capability and influence over the world we inhabit;
  • …quiet, calm and control feelings of anxiety, stress or terror in times of panic or unsureness;
  • …fire our inspiration into life and trust our unconscious minds to bring us the ideas and solutions we need;
  • …radiate an animated, dynamic and receptive presence and come across to people as bright, charismatic and attractive;
  • …and take us across a creative leap from our personal breathing practices into something more profound and collective that can affect the vibrations and creative possibilities of our encounters in groups.

Simply by becoming better at breathing opens up for us a myriad of fresh possibilities around us. If we practice even very simple breathing exercises over time, we will build a stronger, more resilient sense of confidence, ease and energy that can lead us to feel more intensely open, enlivened by and connected into the world and its people.

And better breathing not only makes us feel more alive and vital, it significantly adds to our overall and long-term health and well-being.

As the mainstream scientific community begins to assimilate the growing body of research that points to our ability to re-wire our brains, breath practices are emerging as one important methodological family from which we can draw in order to actively co-create ourselves and influence the flavour of our life experience.  So breathe, breathe, breathe!  Whether it’s a slow change in a habitual thinking pattern or an ecstatic experience of divine union that you are seeking, the breath can take you there.  (Rev. James Reho)

As well as the articles that follow, you can also find practical ways to develop your breathing awareness and expertsie in our toolkit: Six Ways Of Breathing, which link breathing practice to:

  • Breathing to Feel More Alive, Whole & Connected ~ Everyday Breathing Exercises
  • Breathing for Renewal ~ Exercises for Taking Time Out to Breathe
  • Breathing for Recovery ~ Building Resilience and Regaining Balance
  • Breathing Ideas Into Life ~ Exercises to Ignite New Ideas and Trust Unconscious Thinking
  • Breathing for Presence ~ Exercises to help Build Confidence and Presence
  • Breathing for Creative Collaborations ~ Exercises to Help Unleash and Harness your Creativity in Groups

10 Places To Find Time To Think

by Time Management Ninja

Once your day gets going, it never seems to stop.

Busyness. Interruptions. Noise.

You feel like you can’t get a moment to think, time to plan, or even a moment to collect your thoughts.

If only you could find a place to stop and think about your day.

Finding Time to Think

It’s just run, run, run… all day long.

In the hurried pace of your day, you find it difficult to stop and think.

Wouldn’t things be easier if you could stop for a moment to plan what you are doing? Prioritise your work? And even decide what you shouldn’t be doing?

With noise and interruptions in the workplace, it can be hard to get time to think. Even harder to find a place to get some peace and quiet.

You need to ask, “Where can I find a place to think?”

Even in the busiest environments there are locations to get away and plan for a few minutes.

Here are 10 Places to Find Time to Think:

  1. In Your Car – The next time you are driving in your car, try the following experiment: Turn off your radio. Put your cellphone out of reach. (You shouldn’t be using it in the car anyway.) Then, listen to the silence. I bet you won’t be able to drive more than a quarter of a mile before you start to hear the thoughts in your head.
  2. Before Everyone Wakes Up – OK, this is a time, not a place, but the early morning before the world gets up is a great time to think for yourself. Whether it is just you, or you are getting up before the morning kid chaos, find time for yourself before the day begins.
  3. In Your Office – If you are fortunate enough to have an office for your job, shut the door and get some planning done. (Yes, you can shut the door.) Then when you are done, you can open the door and re-engage your team.
  4. Go Outdoors – Going for a walk outside is a great way to get some peace. You don’t have to go deep into nature. (Although that can be great, too). Many workplaces have walking paths or simply sidewalks where you can go for a quick walk and recoup your thoughts.
  5. At the Coffee Shop – Personally, I am not the Starbucks type. However, many people find isolation in the public noise of coffee shops. Find a table in a secluded corner and get some work done. (Or bring the coffee shop to you with an app like Coffitivity.)
  6. In Your HeadphonesUse your headphones to create your own privacy. Shut out the noise. Play your favourite music. Even silent headphones can bring privacy and the expectation that you are not to be disturbed.
  7. In the Library – There is a reason why libraries have a “quiet rule.” Go there to find a silent place to think and plan. And if someone is making noise, you are justified in saying, “Shhhhh!”
  8. The Unused Conference Room – If your workplace has unused meeting space, make a meeting with yourself. Take advantage of empty meeting space to get work done.
  9. At Lunch – It’s nice to go out to lunch with the gang, but sometimes it’s helpful to book lunch with yourself.  Feed your body and your mind with a lunch date alone to think and plan the rest of your day or week.
  10. The Secret Place – Every workplace has one. The secret room, hidden nook, or unknown alcove that only a few people know. Find your own secret corner to hide away and get some quiet time

A Place for Your Thoughts

You can find a place to take the time to think about and plan your day.

Depending on your circumstances or work place, you might need to get creative. However, getting some “think time” for even a few minutes can boost your productivity in a big way.

Today, go find your quiet place and take time to gather your thoughts and ideas.

read the original article here

12 Totally Unexpected Ways to De-stress

by Aja Frost for The Muse

Have you ever heard exercise helps you de-stress? What about meditation or deep breathing? We don’t know about you, but we’re a little tired of being told the same de-stressing techniques over and over. So here you go: 12 relaxation suggestions that (we hope) you haven’t seen before.

  1. Go on: Drop an F-bomb or 10. Just not where your boss can hear.(Scientific American)
  2. Make a beeline to the office kitchen and sniff an apple. Not only will the scent ward off headaches, it can make you less stressed. (Eating Well)
  3. Massage your ears. No, seriously: The action releases endorphins! (Zen Habits)
  4. Start pacing. That’s what one super successful entrepreneur does when he’s deep in thought. (Tech Co.)
  5. If you’re at your computer, try shutting it down and working on a task that doesn’t involve a screen. (Psych Central)
  6. There are actually foods that calm you down. We suggest eating them.(NPR)
  7. Green is the new black! Turns out having a plant on your desk relaxes you.(Forbes)
  8. You might want to close your office door for this one, but listening to head-banging music and rocking out will help you release all that nervous energy.(Inc.)
  9. If you’ve got 20 minutes to spare, looking at fractals (like a picture of snowflakes or ocean waves) will make your brain happy. (Everyday Health)
  10. What have you accomplished today? Whether it’s big or small, tell yourself—out loud—what an awesome job you did. (Reader’s Digest)
  11. Blowing up a balloon forces you to practice deep breathing, so make a run to the drug store. Or just take a deep breath. (U.S. News & World Report)
  12. conceptualise stress as a good thing. It’s your body’s way of preparing your for a challenge. (The Muse)

read the original article here

Letting Your Mind Wander Can Make You More Productive

It’s estimated that we spend nearly 50 percent of our waking lives in a state of daydreaming.

For something we do so often, mind-wandering sure has a bad reputation. It’s often described as a mindless activity – one that makes us more lazy, unproductive and dissatisfied with our lives. A Harvard study even concluded, “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind.”

But why would we so readily spend half of our lives engaged in a fundamentally purposeless activity? The answer is that we don’t – a wealth of new research in psychology and neuroscience suggests that daydreaming is anything but purposeless.

In fact, these self-generated thoughts might make us more creative and productive, and may even bring meaning to our lives.

“We (and others) have been arguing that daydreaming serves a function — evolution would have not let so much metabolic energy go to waste,” Dr. Moshe Bar, cognitive neuroscientist and author of a new, surprising study on the subject, told The Huffington Post. “It helps us prepare for the future, plan, think about self and others, and generally engage in mental simulations that facilitate our interaction with the environment.”

But in addition to staving off boredom and giving us the opportunity to reflect, Bar’s research suggests that daydreaming might make us more productive at the task at hand – even as it offers us an opportunity to allow our minds to run wild.

Bar and his colleagues were able, for the first time, to induce mind-wandering in study participants… Participants reported daydreaming most when stimulation was focused on the frontal lobe of the brain. While daydreaming and control might seem antithetical – mind-wandering seems to involve a lack of attention, while executive function plays a role in regulating attention — the researchers hypothesised that there might be a connection between the two. Both brain regions are involved in organising and planning for the future, for example.

But the researchers made another, more surprising finding: Rather than distracting the participants from the task at hand, when researchers induced mind-wandering in the participants, it actually improved performance on the number-tracking task. Mind-wandering seems to enhance the participants’ cognitive ability, helping them to succeed at the task while also allowing them to enjoy some pleasurable mental diversions.

Bar suggested that this improvement is due to the fact that mind-wandering combines the thought-controlling activity of the executive network, and the thought-freeing activity of spontaneous daydreaming, which occurs across the brain’s broad default mode network. The activation of multiple brain regions during mind-wandering, Bar says, “may… contribute to the ability to stay successfully on-task while the mind goes off on its merry mental way.”

“What I think is cool about this study is that it’s possible that the stimulation simultaneously increased activation of working memory (allowing for greater focused attention) and increased mind-wandering,” psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, who specialises in daydreaming and creativity but was not involved in this study, told The Huffington Post. “If true, this would suggest that attention and mind-wandering need not be at odds with each other and can even facilitate each other.”

As Kaufman suggested, the study points to a harmony between mind-wandering and mindful mental states, which we tend to think of as being at odds with each other. In fact, mind-wandering may not be defined by the inability to pay attention so much as the ability to draw attention inward – to our own thoughts, reflections and dreams.

read the original article

What Mindfulness and Daydreaming Have to Do with Getting Things Done

“You can only feel good about what you’re not doing when you know what you’re not doing.” (David Allen, author of Getting Things Done.)

This podcast on productivity tips for the 21st century conditions we are now working in includes:

  • Why it’s increasingly important to find ways to keep your head clear and stay productive
  • The addictions that constant updates via smartphones are causing
  • The myth of multi-tasking (it doesn’t work when trying to be productive)
  • The 2 Minute Rule – any email you can answer in 2 minutes or less, you should reply to right away
  • How to focus on only what you are doing instead of being distracted by all your other to-dos
  • The importance of day dreaming after doing something productive
  • How to have a “mind like water” and how that helps you react properly to situations
  • The difference between having direction and having discipline

read the original article here

Making happiness count at the workplace

An organisation that proactively creates and spreads happiness at work is better off

adapted from an article by Carole SpiersBBC Guest-Broadcaster and CEO of a business management consultancy based in London.
March 20 is the International Day of Happiness, now celebrated throughout the world and confirmed as such by the UN in 2012. The day recognises that ‘happiness is a fundamental human goal’ and calls upon countries ‘to approach public policies in ways that improve the well-being of all people’.

Being happy at work is one of the keys to being truly happy in life as most people spend 20 to 30 years working, which is about 30 per cent of the average human lifespan.

There are, of course, many factors that impact professional happiness, including business relationships, professional development, work-life balance, environment and organisational culture. Obviously, you have no control over whether your employees are happy at home, but you do have some control as to how happy they are at work.

And if you don’t know if your employees are happy, then why not ask them? If your team is working in a positive atmosphere, this will be reflected in their performance levels, and while the additional cost to you is zero, gains can be substantial.

So let’s look at small actions that can make big differences:

Value and Appreciate

This is top of my list. Make sure that the company’s culture values its human resource and that employees don’t feel as if they are just an insignificant part of an impersonal system. Bosses and team leaders should tell their team that they are appreciated. A simple ‘thank you’ Post-It note left on someone’s computer will probably be kept for many years.

Celebrate

Strengths-based leadership is proven to bring huge increases in productivity, creativity, engagement, commitment, confidence and risk-taking.  Focus on what is already working especially well – successes and achievements – at least three and even five times as much as any negatives and performance weaknesses.  Celebrate team triumphs, employee of the month, as well as birthdays, births, etc. There are always reasons for a celebration … so why not share in someone else’s joy? And doing with this something special to eat helps to make it even more of a shared experience.

Quiet room

Sometimes people need to speak in confidence with someone else. A small room with comfortable chairs and a coffee table could provide this staff amenity.  But even more than this, a lovely space where it is legitimate and valued for people to go and ‘just think’ for a bit can add miracles to what people then go on to do.

Smiling co-workers

A smile costs nothing but has immense value. Any day seems to go better when you are surrounded by colleagues who smile and are willing to help you.  All emotions are contagious and spread from person to person – so you may as well increase the spread of happiness across your team.

Welcome

Care about people’s experience in activities you lead as much you care about the results they need to achieve.  Be a friendly host. Welcome visitors or staff members to your department with a smile. It is sometimes difficult to summon up the courage to go and see someone in a large department, but if each office had a list of names of people and their pictures on the wall outside, then this could encourage people to come in.

Getting to know you

You may have worked with your colleague for many years but I wonder if you know what they do when they go home? Once a month, individuals could give a talk, at lunchtime, about their favourite hobby or interest.

Brainstorming sessions

Set time aside each week to get your team together to have brainstorming sessions. You will be amazed by the mountain of ideas of hidden creativity, just waiting to be unleashed. Have a suggestion board where employees’ ideas would be considered and constructive feedback given. Appoint an ‘ideas champion’ to follow through accepted ideas.

Meet the Management

Maybe once a month, managers could attend a lunch arranged by different members of their team. One month it could be Asian style, another month Indian or Iranian, etc. Whoever is responsible for the meal could give a few minutes of presentation on their individual culture and the food that has been prepared.

A unique benefits package

This could include staff discounts or free gym membership, or free parking.

Flexible schedule/hours

Being able to leave the office by arrangement when you have personal business to take care of, is something that makes any company position, extra special.

In the current economic climate, many companies struggle to gain market share. Fortunately, leaders are beginning to realise that the smartest way to gain competitive advantage is through employee engagement — that means ensuring an environment where it is pleasurable to work.

read the original article here

3 Reasons Why Today’s Leader Needs Mindfulness Meditation

Marketing and business development expert, Deborah Holstein, highlights just three of the benefits of mindfulness for business…

Many people hear the term mindfulness meditation and instantly their eyes narrow with alarm or roll back into their heads. I think I can see the thought bubble over their head flashing “Yes, I know, I know…but I’m trying to build a career here! I don’t have the time!” Because in the busy life of today’s leader (or rising leader) there never seems to be enough time for anything, much less 15 minutes a day for mindfulness meditation. That’s a mistake.

If you do not practice mindfulness, you may be short shrifting your career because you are neglecting to develop critical skills you need to grow and thrive in your career — and in the rest of your life.

Here are 3 reasons why cultivating mindfulness through meditation is necessary for your success.

Mindfulness changes your brain – for the better

You may already be aware of the many health benefits of meditation: lower blood pressure, less inflammation, pain management, to name a few. You may not yet have heard that research has also shown that mindfulness meditation also benefits your brain.

In fact, with a regular meditation practice, the source of your “lizard brain” (the amygdala) actually begins to shrink. And as this primal region of your brain shrinks, the area of your brain associated with higher order thinking (the prefrontal cortex) — awareness, concentration and decision making — becomes thicker. These brain benefits were visible within just 8 weeks and correlate with the amount of time devoted to meditation.

Leaders need take on bigger and ever more complex business challenges, so you need every edge. Starting your regular mindfulness meditation practice now — whether you’re already an executive or plan to be one someday — is like money in bank because the brain benefits will be there when you need it.

Your stress hurts your team

A leader’s stress is contagious. Your team members who see you under stress – tired, frazzled and unfocused – will experience empathic stress responses including increased cortisol. And if you allow your stress to progress into full fledged burnout your team is far more likely to mirror your negative attitudes. This is especially dangerous in today’s open workspace environments because there isn’t an office door to shut to prevent your team from “catching” your stress or burnout.

For all leaders, a big portion of your day-to-day is about motivating and inspiring your team. You don’t want to increase your team’s stress or hurt their health or productivity so you need to be in control of your emotions and proactively managing your stress – all things that stem from a practice of mindful meditation.

Leaders need more soft skills

As a leader, your role – and your value to the organisation – changes from being the one “doing” the work, to being the one ensuring the “right” work gets done. And all the work gets done by and with other people. This means that as you rise in an organisation more and more of your success depends upon your ability to effectively communicate, motivate and mediate.

A mindfulness meditation practice teaches you to be present and more aware of the meta messages inherent in any interpersonal exchange. Truly listening to your team and colleagues and staying aware of their emotional responses — both expressed and not — will help you to most effectively adapt your communications and responses for the best result.

read the original article here

Work hard, work harder: How we’re screwing up the pursuit of happiness.

by GLAIN for The Executive Roundtable

Once upon a time, in a work galaxy far, far away, there was a mantra that companies used to use. It went like this: work hard, play hard. Over the past decade (or possibly more), the mantra has changed to work hard, work harder as companies move their focus from why they do what they do, to a single minded drive to make money and increase shareholder value. Sure, there are a few bright sparks on the horizon. A handful of companies are bringing back the drive for purpose – Zappos, G Adventures, Whole Foods to name a few – but they are overwhelmingly few and far between. In my observation, this quest for the almighty dollar is wreaking a boatload of misery into our work lives… and our homelives…

If you’re feeling like you’re in a never ending numbers grind at work, try changing the focus. Here are a few very simple ways I do this at The Executive Roundtable:

  1. I open our weekly team meetings asking people to share something great that happened to them the week before – personal or work related. Whatever makes you feel good.
  2. We celebrate progress… even when we’re behind on budget. We look at what we’ve accomplished.
  3. We take time to appreciate each other’s contributions by sharing peer feedback.
  4. I make a list of 5 of our members that I haven’t spoken to in a while and reach out to see how they’re doing and share a laugh.
  5. I get inspired by reading an inspiring book, watching a TED Talk or writing a blog post like this one that I think might help others.

As many of you head into the March Break week with your families, think about how you can bring more happiness and balance into your life by taking the emphasis off money and material objects and putting it onto the things that ultimately matter most: love, relationships and community.

read the original article here

Nine Steps To Work-Place Happiness

To achieve greater happiness at work, you don’t need your boss to stop calling you at night. You don’t need to make more money. You don’t need to follow your dream of being a sommelier, or running a B&B in the Cotswolds. The biggest obstacle to happiness is simply your belief that you’re the prisoner of circumstance, powerless before the things that happen to you. We create our own experience. Here are nine steps to happiness at work:

1. Avoid “good” and “bad” labels: When something bad happens, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, when you make an error, be aware of it without passing judgment. Do what you have to do, but don’t surrender your calmness and sense of peace.

2. Practice “extreme resilience: Extreme resilience is the ability to recover fast from adversity. You spend too much time in needless, fruitless self-recrimination and blaming others. You go on pointless guilt trips and make excuses that you know are fatuous. If you’re resilient, you recover and go on to do great things.

3. Let go of grudges: A key to being happy at work is to let go of grudges. Consciously drop the past. It’s hard, but with practice you will get the hang of it.

4. Don’t waste time being jealous: When you’re jealous you’re saying that the universe is limited and there’s not enough success in it for me. Instead, be happy, because whatever happened to him will happen to you in your current job or at another company.

5. Find passion in you, not in your job: Sure, you can fantasise about a dream job that pays you well and allows you to do some kind of social good, work with brilliant and likable colleagues and still be home in time for dinner. But be warned against searching for that perfect position, or even believing that it exists. Instead, change how you think about your current situation. For example, instead of thinking of yourself as a human resources manager at , identify yourself as someone who helps other bank employees provide for their families, take advantage of their benefits and save for the future.

6. Picture yourself 10 years ago and 10 years from now: Most problems that kept you awake ten years ago have disappeared. Much of what troubles you today will also vanish. Realising this truth will help you gain perspective.

7. Banish the “if/then” model of happiness: Many of us rely on a flawed “if/then” model for happiness. If we become CEO, then we’ll be happy. If we make a six-figure salary, then we’ll be happy. There is nothing that you have to get, do or be in order to be happy.

8. Invest in the process, not the outcome: Outcomes are totally beyond your control. You’ll set yourself up for disappointment if you focus too much on what you hope to achieve rather than how you plan to get there.

9. Think about other people: Even in Britain, where so much of work is every man for him or herself, it’s better to inhabit an centred universe. If the nice guy gets passed over for a promotion, he may still succeed in less tangible ways. He may rise later, and stronger. Challenge the assumption that you need to be a dog-eat-dog person to survive in a corporate environment.

read the original article here

Riding the Breath: Breath As A Spiritual Praxis

by The Rev. James Reho

Breathing is never really simple.  Our breath bears our emotional history and is a playing field for our flirtations with both Eros and Thanatos.  While our relationship with our breath is often barely conscious, the quality and form of our breathing enhances and communicates much about our emotional state.  As children, we hold our breath to get what we want; breath steels and expresses our will.  When we are frightened, we gasp for breath sharply with the upper chest; breath influences and expresses our anxiety level.  When we sleep, exercise, concentrate, make love, or meditate, our breath takes on again other patterns to support our activities…

Tradition as well as experience and research indicates that conscious work with the breath can help heal emotional and even physical pain and disease, and can vitalize our body/mind complex in ways that are so extraordinary that I hesitate to describe them… you simply wouldn’t be likely to believe me…

The words for “breath” and “spirit” in several scriptural languages are related:  ruach in Hebrew, ruh in Arabic, pneuma in Greek, and spiritus in Latin.  From this last, we have in English words like “inspire/inspiration” and “expire/expiration” that carry dual meanings relating both to breath and to spirit in various forms (creativity, vitality)…

Why breathe?

In the fifth chapter of the Chandogya Upanishad (8th – 7th century BCE) the faculties of speech, hearing, seeing, thinking, and breathing have an argument concerning which of them is primary for the human person.  These bodily functions[xvii] ask Father Prajapati (the uber-person) which of them is the finest.  He answers that the one whose departure leaves the body in the worst case is the primary function.  Speech, hearing, seeing, and thinking each in their turn leave; upon their return, they all discover together that the body can still function, albeit with some deficit.  When breath determines to leave, however, all the other faculties find they are dragged along with it; indeed, breath is the most important of these.

Aside from its obvious necessity for physical life, the breath expresses and influences our emotional and mental states.   The various techniques of working with breath—from traditional pranayama and hesychastic breathing to more modern practices such as breathwalk[xviii] and holotropic breathwork—we can utilise this often-unconscious process to affect our lives physically, mentally, and energetically:

“Life is not under your control and the mind is not obedient, but there is something the mind does obey.  That is the rate of the breath…” [xix]

Yoga and the Transformational Power of Prānāyāma

Prānāyāma, the control of the breath (really, of the life essence which is carried upon the breath) is one of the eight traditional limbs of yoga.  There are hundreds of methods of prānāyāma, devised to enhance very particular aspects of one’s being and/or address very particular weaknesses in the physical, emotional, intellectual, or psychological being of the yogi.  Practitioners claim that directing the breath in particular ways can build and enhance cross-hemispheric functionality of the brain as well as optimise the function of glandular systems and mental and physical performance…

Mastery of various forms of prānāyāma is an endeavour requiring years of practice and study.  One learns to exercise precise control over inhalation (puraka), exhalation (rechaka), and breath retention (kumbhaka): through building stamina and extremely sensitive muscular control, one can “move” the breath with precision into various areas of the lung, retain the breath for extended periods with fine control over air pressure, and also finely tune the nature, rate, and form of the exhalation, creating a nearly infinite array of possible breath patterns.

The benefits and effects of prānāyāma are nearly unbelievable to those who have not experienced them. Directing the breath into various bodily energy centres can bring about experiences of expanded consciousness or incredible bliss; slow alternate nostril breathing can calm and balance the mind and emotional self; and strong, mouth-based prānāyāma such as is done in breathwork can open levels of experience and consciousness typically thought accessible only through hallucinogens or years in a snowy cave in the Himalayas or upon Mt. Athos.  Sound interesting?  Here are some starting points to begin gathering your own data on the power of breath…

Getting Started: Jumping into the Experience of Breath 

Here then are three entry-level prānāyāma exercises that can give you a first taste of what is eventually possible through the control of breath.  I am a certified yoga instructor, but am not a healthcare professional: please check in with your doctor or healthcare professional before beginning any of these practices, and if you become dizzy or ill… stop and rest.

Deergha Swasam (Three-part Yogic Breath):

Sit in a comfortable position with a straight spine, either cross-legged on a cushion (making sure knees are lower than the hips) or in a chair with feet on the floor.  Rest the hands in the lap.  Eyes are closed. Begin by inhaling slowly through the nose into the diaphragm/abdomen.  Once the abdomen is full, allow more breath to come into the chest, expanding it forward and outward (i.e., both the front and sides of the chest expand).  Finally, bring in even more breath so that the collarbones slightly rise.  Let this long inhalation be smooth and gentle-but-firm.  Now exhale the same way: let the air come out from the collarbones, from the thoracic cavity, and finally from the abdominal cavity.  Fully empty the lungs by bringing the navel in toward the spine.  Repeat for ten minutes.

This breath builds lung capacity in a pleasant way (there are really tough prānāyāmas that do so in a less-than-pleasant way!).  Our typical, unconscious breaths usually involve inhaling about 500 cubic centimeters of air; through a full deergha swasam breath, you will inhale (and expel) about 3000 cubic centerimeters of air.  Six times the air means offers six times the oxygen.  Aside from fuller oxygenation and removal of toxins, deergha swasam helps steady the emotional state and create a peaceful, alert focus of the mind.

Kapalabhati (Skull-shining Breath, or Breath of Fire):

Sit as above.  Here you focus on the exhale, which is sharp and brought about by quickly “snapping” the navel in toward the spine.  The inhalation will occur naturally as the abdomen relaxes.  Build this up so that you can accomplish two or three cycles per second.  Both exhalation and inhalation occur through the nose.  This breath can be practiced with arms raised to the side at 60 degrees, elbows straight, palms up.  Bring the focus of the closed eyes to the point between the eyebrows.  Practice for three minutes, then inhale and hold the breath.  Finally, exhale and rest for two minutes with hands sweeping down at the sides and coming to rest in the lap.  Let the breath return to normal.

According to practitioners of kundalini yoga, this breath builds the aura and cleanses the blood and the lungs.  It invigorates the whole body and is great to do as part of your wake-up routine.  Although in the early stages of learning this breath we focus our energy and concentration on the exhale, there should be a balance between the exhalation and inhalation so that you do not become breathless.

Nadi Sodhana (alternate nostril breathing):

Nadi sodhana is really a family of prānāyāma techniques that focus upon balance and opening of the nadis, energetic channels that are said to exist in the subtle (pranic) body.

To perform nadi sodhana, sit again as outlined above.  Allow the left hand to rest on the left thigh or lap.  The right hand forms a two-pronged pincer, with the index and middle fingers bent into the palm.  The extended thumb forms one end of the pincer and the ring finger and pinky, kept together as one finger, form the other.  Take a few preparatory deergha swasam breaths, and then after an inhalation, use the thumb to close off the right nostril.  Exhale.  Inhale.  Now use the ring finger-plus-pinky to close off the left nostril and remove the thumb to allow the exhalation to pass through the right nostril.  Inhale.  Now again block the right nostril and open the left.  Exhale and inhale.  Continue, gradually working to lengthen the inhalations and exhalations.  Once you are comfortable, you can work on having the exhalations last for twice as long as the inhalations.  To complete a cycle (let’s say, ten minutes to start), let the right hand return to the lap and the breath return to normal after an exhalation through the right nostril.

This nadi sodhana practice calms the mind and the heart and balances the hemispheres of the brain.  It builds strength in the lungs as well, especially when one pauses to retain the inhaled breath and then pauses again when the lungs are fully evacuated as part of the practice.  Yoga teaches that we alternate which nostril is dominant roughly every 90 minutes (experiment with this; you’ll see it’s about right), corresponding to our natural “switching” between hemispheric brain dominance.  Through the practice of nadi sodhana, we simultaneously active both hemispheres of the brain, bringing both balance and deeper connectivity between the hemispheres.

read the original article here

Happiness At Work #123

All of these articles are gathered together in the new Happiness At Work collection along with many more more that give ideas, tools and techniques for increasing greater leadership, balance, productivity, creativity, learning, resilience and flourishing at work and in our lives….

see the full collection here

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

We are more and more recognising that the ‘soft people skills’ are neither unimportant nor inevitable, and we fail to give them our best attention and expertise at our peril.

“…given the chance, brilliant people want to do brilliant things for and with their own community, because our greatest resource is now, and always has been, people.”  Stella Duffy

Our headline post for this new Happiness At Work collection takes its words from Stella Duffy, writing about the real power of brilliant everyday people to make brilliant things happen – and yes, that would be all of us.

What last year’s very first Fun Palaces experiment discovered, heightened and celebrated was the huge talent, enthusiasm, energy and abilities of people to make something together when there is the right mix of invitation, belief, openness, trust, and recognition.

A Fun Palace is a 2hour or 2day (or somewhere in between) event that is Free, Local, Innovative, Transformative and Engaging.

80% of the 3,000+ people who made them and 80% of the 40,000+ people who took part in last year’s Fun Palaces across the UK and in other countries were experiencing arts activity for the first time.  And 90% of makers believed their Fun Palace made people very happy or happy.

And there is much we might learn from this to take into our organisations, teams and work relationships, as the article about relationships at work collected here all suggest.

Fun Palaces 2015: realising the excellence of local people

Try reading this imagining that Stella Duffy is talking about your organisation, even if you are not a professional working in the arts, science or community engagement…

The 3,183 people across the UK who signed up to make local Fun Palaces last year did so for many reasons…

For most, whatever their initial reason for getting involved, it was the local aspect that proved crucial: working with neighbours (many of them not already friends), local councillors and public buildings, often for the first time, to make great, inclusive work – and making it locally.

One of the things we’re proudest of with Fun Palaces is that it’s not about outside experts. Contrary to many subsidised engagement programmes, this project doesn’t fly in experts to make a difference. It does not look for experts to tell a group how best to function, nor does it believe that experts are best-placed to inspire communities to create their own arts and sciences events. We do not bring in world-class orchestras or top-ranking scientists to work with Fun Palaces; we couldn’t afford to, even if we wanted to – and we don’t want to.

The local person – perhaps not well-known or known at all, but expertly and compellingly enthusiastic – is a role-model who says: “I am from here, I am like you and that means you can do this too.” The local enthusiast, rather than the flown-in expert, underlines the possibility that we can all be creative.

Joan Littlewood said she believed in the “genius in every person” – and we do too. We believe that everyone can make great work, in every field, and that what is lacking is not willing, hard work – nor the brilliance necessary for ordinary people to become expert – but opportunity and encouragement…

What we learned from our Fun Palaces pilot in 2014 was that the experts are already in communities, that excellence of engagement is far more valuable than a subjective excellence of artistic quality.

We also learned that, given the chance, brilliant people want to do brilliant things for and with their own community, because our greatest resource is now, and always has been, people.

Real people, ordinary people, the people: the ones who know their own community’s needs and wants, because they live in it, offering engagement and participation far from Westminster, from the grassroots up.

Maybe you can make something brilliant during this year’s Fun Palaces where you are?  Fun Palaces, 3–4 October 2015, is now open for registration.

Read the full article here

7 workplace myths disproven by research [infographic]

Admittedly this is a real potpourri of seemingly random bits and pieces of research, but it has been made up into an intriguing provocation to some of the assumptions and beliefs that w might need to let go of in the new world of work we are making for ourselves.

Read the full article here

Where To Start On Empathy? 5 Essential Reads

Nathan Wiltshire writes

During the course of my work and life, many people ask me for advice on where to begin their own explorations into empathy. Having personally consumed hundreds of articles, books, blogs, and video content, I thought I would help de-clutter and put on a platter some of the best sources to not only get started, but to challenge your thinking. Happy reading!

1. Empathy: A handbook for revolution by Roman Krznaric

Out of all high-level discussions on empathy, this is by far the most ideal introduction to the topic. As an inspirational yet very accessible read, I suggest this as the ideal stepping-stone into empathy. By approaching the exploration from a philosophical lens, the author provides a high level overview of empathy, interwoven with many excellent historical illustrations and practical real-world examples. Also, there is a great TED talk previewing the book.

2. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

I like this book as the strongest practical demonstration empathy, in which Orwell immerses himself in a homeless life. For me its impact comes as much from the descriptions of lived experience on the street, as it is for knowing that this was a transformational period for the writer. The reader really gets a strong sense for how this experience provided Orwell with the deepest of insights into humanity, which he would use as the basis for later seminal works that remain relevant today – 1984 and Animal Farm. This might even inspire you to seek immersion in your own life, to intensify your own empathic exploration beyond your usual comfort zone. It is suggested second on this list deliberately as you will find it easier to make the connection between the author’s empathic journey if you start the book with an understanding of empathy basics provided by Roman Krznaric.

3. Zero Degrees of Empathy by Simon Baron-Cohen

This was the first book I ever read by a neuroscientist. I chose this because it seemed logical that in order to really understand empathy, it is necessary to get to the very source – the human brain. Zero Degrees turned out to be an easy to read and fascinating account of the conditions that leave some people without the neurological capacity for empathy. For anyone interested in empathy, this is a key insight as it demonstrates that the vast majority of us can be empathic.

4. Empathy: A motivated account by Jamil Zaki

After reading the first three, this will be a slightly more testing read as the author provides a more technical account of empathy. This has been added to the list mainly because it will make you consider what brings people to empathy (or not). It discusses the selectiveness of empathy, that it is dependent on several personal and situational factors, and that we even avoid empathy under certain conditions. Why do we act when a family member is in need of help, or even a fellow countryman, but not the millions living in poverty in far away places? These are fundamental questions we all need to ask ourselves. It may seem overly technical for some – however, those who can stick with it will gain new levels of insight.

5. Well Designed: How to use empathy to create products people love by Jon Kolko

Having read the first four on this list, you’re probably thinking, ‘Great, I now have some understanding of empathy… but what the heck am I supposed to do with it?’ One of the great challenges I see at the moment is the rapidly developing thought leadership in the clinic sphere, coupled with a relative dearth of advice on applied empathy. Well Designed takes steps towards a practical framework for applying aspects of empathy in product design. The author combines his background in design thinking and develops it to address the need for robust empathic insights. To do this he leverages ethnographic techniques and an immersive account of empathy, which indicates that observation is an essential starting point. The steps contained with this book are simple enough for anyone to try – not only in product development, but also in service or process design.

Read the original article here

10 Ways to Make Employees Happier in 2015

Derek Irvine, employee recognition expert and co-author of The Power of Thanks, suggest his top ten tips to reinvigorate employees, and build and foster a more dynamic company culture…

One simple way to breathe new life into your workforce and culture is by focusing on “thanks” and social recognition.

According to Globoforce’s Spring 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey, 73% of employees who are recognised at work feel happier in their jobs. Thanking your employees daily and, in turn, encouraging them to consistently thank each other, will go a long way; as will implementing a recognition program that can help streamline and track moments of “thanks” in your company.

By saying “thank you,” you will not only have happier employees, but employees who are more engaged, motivated and loyal to you as their employer.

Here are 10 ways to create a culture of recognition, and make your employees happier in 2015:

1. Thank your employees every day

While “thank you” is instinctual, it’s most powerful when it occurs repeatedly, and in a timely manner. Focus on recognizing employees on a consistent basis throughout the year.

2. Foster friendships at work

According to Globoforce’s Fall 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey, 89% of employees say work relationships matter to their quality of life.

Work friendships inspire and motivate employees, make employees feel more loyal and connected to their company, and provide the foundations for building trust among colleagues.  By encouraging friendships at work, you create a happier employee and also an employee who’s more productive and committed in the workplace.

3. Pay attention to employees’ needs

Some managers are more task-focused than people-focused. Instead of looking at their employees and their needs, they’re looking at their to-do lists.

By keeping your head up, you’re not only in a better position to see and acknowledge your employees’ needs, but also their contributions, which puts you in a much better position to reward their work.

4. Nurture your company’s culture

Choose the values that define your company, and then encourage your employees to express those values in their everyday behaviour.

Instituting a recognition program can help breathe life into these values and make them actionable for employees every day.

5. Encourage employees to celebrate each other

Every company is a collection of communities and of human beings, bonded by their connection to each other through their work.

By giving employees the opportunity to congratulate and thank each other for their work, a culture of recognition naturally emerges through associative behavior.

6. Create better leaders

There’s an old adage that people don’t leave companies, they leave their bosses.

By encouraging people to thank their teams often and, in turn, encourage the same behaviour among employees, a palpable rise in employee happiness will occur.

7. Show employees empathy

The importance of humanity in the workplace cannot be overstated. It’s one of the critical components of developing and retaining employees because, as humans, we have an incredible need for acknowledgement and compassion.

Listen, support and protect your employees, and encourage the same behavior among all teams by celebrating instances where great connections occur.

8. Prolong the honeymoon

New hires love their jobs, are more engaged and feel appreciated and acknowledged at work. However, after passing the one-year mark, these feelings tend to wane.

In order to keep employees happy, make every year feel like the first year. Recognise and appreciate your employees as often as possible so their enjoyment and engagement in the job starts high and stays high.

9. Unite your team

Today’s multigenerational workforce calls for an adaptable culture that is functional for a variety of different styles and approaches.

Understanding people’s motivations and work styles, and being sure to make room for all of them in a united workplace, will help you make great strides in energizing your team.

10. Give “thank-you” gifts

Everyone loves receiving gifts. So why wouldn’t the same apply in the workplace?

Consider giving employees a gift with tangible value, such as a choice of merchandise or gift card, which will in turn improve their engagement, motivation and happiness.

Read the full article here

What Does Your Communication Say About Your Culture?

Are you aware of how your communication style impacts your culture?

Is it the impact you want?

What one change in communication style would make if it returned a better outcome?

Leadership expert 

There are several ways we, as a society, currently communicate:

  • Verbal: Face-to-face, words, tone;
  • Written: Email, text, tweet;
  • Non-Verbal: Body language;
  • Interpretation of environment: Atmosphere, cultural styles.

Your current and future leaders need to be able to communicate in all these ways because today is different from yesterday and it will be different tomorrow. It is a continual change.

However, no matter what method you communicate through, there are some things that will not change.

Perception is reality

How others hear you and how they see you is reality to them, not your interpretation of the situation.

Perception is reality, and whether or not you are listening intently while staring off into the distance during a conversation, the individual you are engaged with will interpret you as disinterested, rude, and disengage quickly.

Organisations must invest in their people to improve self-awareness, understand that perception is reality, and proactively deal with impact of communication on their overall culture.

Don’t kill the messenger

First impressions represent 80% of what people think of you – period. This occurs within the first 90 seconds or less.

To change an impression requires a lot of work over many hours, sometimes even days. You have heard that one “Oh, S***” will replace 50 “Atta boys!” in five seconds! This is the same with first impressions.

In today’s world of speed, your words or letters and their delivery will either capture their attention or eliminate it.

Body language tells its own story. Awareness of your facial expressions, your stance, and your eye contact (to name a few) can create a perception that is very negative or very positive and inviting.

In addition, behaviours are interpreted as actions, whether they are verbal or not. What is your organisational culture telling you if during a manager’s meeting everyone is sitting around the table with their arms folded and checking their phones?

Learning more about non-verbal communication may actually help you reach your return on investment (ROI)!

Big Bang explosions create lasting scars

We mentioned earlier that change is constant. If an organisation wants to meet their revenue targets, they must be able to live through constant change and reduce any type of chaos associated with how work gets done differently.

Some company cultures that experience continual change have often felt that the Big Bang style is the best; as everyone is an adult, they need to get over the past, live with the modification, and get on with it. They proceed to toss all modifications on the table at once and basically tell their people accept it or move on.

But experts say this causes people to wish for the past and how things use to be, blocking them from moving forward and slowing down your team and productivity. Leaders of tomorrow must learn the techniques to eliminate the scaring effects of a Big Bang explosion.

These are just a few examples of how communication can impact your organisational culture.  For companies that are truly serious about their future, it becomes part of their leadership development as they grow leaders for the changing needs of their company’s future.

Read the full article here

Life as a Gymnasium, Trading and Investment as Workouts

When Positive Psychology starts being applied to finance you know it’s being taken seriously!

Although written specifically for finance professionals, especially traders, Brett N. Steenbarger’s ideas here lift easily across and into many of our professional lives, and offer some strengths-based ways to treat ourselves with greater humanity, recognition and appreciation…

My initial post introduced positive psychology as a bridge between the real and the ideal–between who we are and who we aspire to be. The radical paradigm shift of positive psychology is that we don’t cross that bridge simply by solving problems and resolving conflicts. We evolve by building upon our strengths: by becoming more of who we are when we are at our best.

Imagine that life is a gymnasium filled with exercise machines and equipment. One station provides us with a workout for joy and happiness. Another station exercises our capacity for life satisfaction, fulfilment, and gratitude. Still another station pushes us to higher levels of energy and vitality. Creativity, mental toughness, love and friendship,mindfulness – all have their workout spaces in life’s gym.

The notion of life as a gymnasium suggests that how–and whether–we develop hinges on the quality of our workouts. In life, as in the weight room, it’s use it or lose it. We either exercise and develop our strengths or we allow them to fall into disuse. That perspective yields a very different way of looking at our daily calendars and weekly planners: What have I exercised this day, this week? What strengths have I strengthened and which have I neglected? Am I working out, exercising the best within me? Or am I merely coping, keeping head above water in status quo mode?

Development requires expansion, not shrinking. In any gym it is only when we push our boundaries that we expand, becoming stronger, faster–more fit.

Work As Gymnasiums

Because of the need for continuous adaptation, [21st century work] requires ongoing workouts of our psychological capacities. Successful [professionals] must maintain a steady discipline of risk control, a self-confident capacity for decisive action, and also an unusual open-mindedness and flexibility when change occurs. Opportunities are ever-changing, which means that successful [professionals] must be analytical and creative, optimistic and cautious. On top of it all, skilled [professionals] must manage themselves as well as they manage risk and reward. If we fail to maintain focus/concentration, emotional balance, and self-control, our decision making suffers and we can fail to profit from even the best ideas.

Making Your Workouts Work For You

Positive psychology suggests one powerful strategy: dissect, analyse, and study your most successful decisions and actions. Reverse engineer your successes and you will discover your principles for peak performance.

This is what is known in psychology as a solution-focus. To bridge real and ideal, immerse yourself in what you do when you most closely approximate your ideals. If you unearth a great idea and manage it well, break down how you generated the idea, how you turned the idea into an successful strategy, how you managed the risk and reward, and how you managed yourself to sustain good decision making.  If you study your own work over time, patterns emerge. You’ll see errors you need to correct, but you’ll also observe strengths you can build upon. In studying your successes, you will realise that, at times, you already are well along that bridge toward your ideals.

You can’t sustain great workouts if you don’t know your best practices. Exercising your strengths requires that you know what your strengths are. If you begin to catalogue your best work, you will observe your patterns of success: the ways in which you leverage your strengths.

Read the original article here

Also on this theme…

Science Proves That Hugs Can Boost Your Immune System

We know that hugs make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. And this feeling, it turns out, could actually ward off stress and protect the immune system, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University

Why Managers Need To Focus On Employee Happiness

If managers were smart, they would focus on employee happiness, and allow employees to naturally come up with great ideas and provide great service.

Happy employees are more productive. If an employee is happy, they’ll be more likely to be engaged, and go above and beyond to perform well.

And this has now been proven by research…

Happiness At Work edition #122

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These 2 Keys To Happiness At Work May Surprise You

by Alexander Kjerulf

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

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

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

One Key to Work Happiness: Results

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

Three great ways to get that feeling of results:

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

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

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

Another Key to Work Happiness: Relationships

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

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

by William Craig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

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

5 Ways to Be Happier at Work

by 

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

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

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

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

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

Choose happiness

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

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

Define your values

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

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

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

Flow

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

Connection

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

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

Explore

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

Read the original article here

3 New Scientific Findings About Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

1. Happiness activates your body from head to toe.

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

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

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

2. Being nice to others increases happiness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the original article here

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

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

Striking the Right Balance At Work

by Rene Lynch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does that transfer to the office setting?

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article

by Henrik Edberg

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

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

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

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

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

1. Don’t get bogged down in details.

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

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

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

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

2. Be proactive. Take the lead.

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

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

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

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

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

3. Keep conversations simple and positive.

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

What do people want in a conversations and relationships?

Long-winded negative babbling?

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

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

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

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

4. Do nothing once in a while.

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

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

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

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

5. Appreciate the little things.

“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They found that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And to turn them up, flick the switch on!

Link to read the original article

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

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

How start-of-day mood impacts work performance

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

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

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

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

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

3 Simple Ways to Make Exercise a Habit

by James Clear

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

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

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

Here are 3 simple ways to make exercise a habit.

1. Develop a ritual to make starting easier.

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

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

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

2. Start with an exercise that is ridiculously small.

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full article here

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

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

by 

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

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

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

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

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

How workers view good managers

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

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

The Three Keys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Michelle Angier and Beth Axelrod

Changing the culture—for everyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link to read the original article in full

Happiness At Work edition #111

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

This Is How Bureaucracy Dies – rethinking our organisations

 

This post draws together a handful of articles published in the same week between the 16th – 24th April 2014 that all challenge our existing organisation practices, and point the way to an already-here future.

In this post you will find ideas about how we might need to keep ideas, learning and communications in a much more open, free and constant flow into and out from our organisations;

the eleven qualities Google look for in recruiting their employees;

why the smartest organisations and their people are increasingly taking time off and unplugging from being always working;

a better way to think about motivating and energsing employees who appear to be lazy and incompetent;

and five steps for aligning your organizational culture to drive strategic development and change.

And I have taken its title from an article published in CNN Money by Gary Hamel, co-founder of the MIX (Management Innovation eXchange) and author of “The Future of Management” and “What Matters Now.” He’s a visiting professor at London Business School.

This Is How Bureaucracy Dies

By Gary Hamel

Eventually, every firm will discover that it’s quite possible to manage without managers.

The web has delivered a dramatic shift in bargaining power from producers to consumers. What’s coming next is an equally dramatic and irreversible shift in power from institutions to individuals. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) is just the beginning. If your organization is going to attract and engage the most creative individuals in the world, then you have to think about how you might help facilitate SYOG—Set Your Own Goals, DYOJ—Design Your Own Job, PYOC—Pick Your Own Colleagues, AYOE—Approve Your Own Expenses, or CYOB—Chose Your Own Boss.

More generally, you should ask yourself, “What sort of value could I create for my organization if I were as committed to reinventing my firm’s management model as I am to further optimizing the operating model or the business model? What would happen if my team fully exploited the revolutionary potential of big data, cloud services, mobile technology, and the social web to dismantle formal hierarchy and empower every associate and team member? And where would I start?”

Inevitably, more and more of the work of managing and leading – the work of setting priorities, devising strategy, reviewing performance, divvying up work and allocating rewards – is going to be distributed to the edges of the organization. Every firm will discover, as some already have, that it’s quite possible to manage without managers

Human beings are resilient, inventive, and passionate, but our organizations mostly aren’t. Our bureaucracy-infused management models have left us with organizations that are less capable than the people who work within them. Therein lies the imperative and the opportunity: creating organizations that are fit for the future, by creating organizations that are fit for human beings.

Link to read Gary Hamel’s article in full

puzzle pieces What if our thinking is wrong?

puzzle pieces
What if our thinking is wrong?

What If We’re Thinking About Organisations All Wrong?

 

11 Qualities Google Looks for in Job Candidates

Drake Baer writes in Business Insider:

Google receives between 2.5 and 3.5 million job applications a year.

It only hires about 4,000 people.

Senior vice president of People Operations, Laszlo Bock presides over the ultra-selective process.

In interviews with The New York Times, the Economist, and students on Google+, the hiring boss sheds light on how the search giant evaluates candidates.

We sifted through those interviews for the most surprising takeaways.

Google doesn’t look for experts. 

“We would rather hire smart, curious people than people who are deep, deep experts in one area or another,” he says, noting that people with strong learning ability can generally find the right answers to unfamiliar questions. “But somebody who’s been doing the same thing forever will typically just replicate what they’ve seen before.”

Google does want people with high “cognitive ability.”  

“If you hire someone who is bright, and curious, and can learn, they’re more likely to come up with a new solution that the world hasn’t seen before,” Bock explained in a Google+ Q&A. “This looking for cognitive ability stems from wanting people who are going to reinvent the way their jobs are going to work rather than somebody who’s going to come in and do what everybody else does.”

Google seeks out people with “grit.”

As breakthrough research in education shows, grit — the ability to keep slogging through difficult work — is more important for success than raw IQ.

Google wants to know whether candidates can tackle difficult projects.

The company used to be famous for asking cranium-crashing brainteasers, like “what is the probability of breaking a stick into three pieces and forming a triangle?” But it found they weren’t that helpful, and have since moved on.

Now, Google’s interviews include questions about the candidate’s concrete experiences, starting with queries like “give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.”

By asking people to speak of their own experiences, Bock says, you get two kinds of information: “You get to see how they actually interacted in a real-world situation, and the valuable ‘meta’ information you get about the candidate is a sense of what they consider to be difficult.”

Google wants candidates with analytical skills. 

“Analytical training gives you a skill set that differentiates you from most people in the labor market,” he says.

Google expects people to meet ridiculously high standards. 

“We don’t compromise our hiring bar, ever,” Bock says. Because of this, job listings stay open longer at Google than you’d expect, he says — they have to kiss a lot of frogs before finding The One.

But Google doesn’t care about test scores.

While in school, people are trained to give specific answers. “It’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer,” Bock says. “You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”

Google wants to know how much candidates have accomplished compared to their peers.

When Bock was explaining how to write resumes to Thomas Friedman at The Times, he said that most people miss that the formula for writing quality resumes is simple: “I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z.”

For example, Bock explained that a lot of people would just write, “I wrote editorials for The New York Times.”

But a stand-out resume would be more specific about their accomplishments and how they compared to others. Bock gives a better example: “Had 50 op-eds published compared to average of 6 by most op-ed [writers] as a result of providing deep insight into the following area for three years.”

Google looks for employees who know when to step up and take a leadership role. 

“What we care about is, when faced with a problem and you’re a member of a team, do you, at the appropriate time, step in and lead. And just as critically, do you step back and stop leading, do you let someone else? Because what’s critical to be an effective leader in this environment is you have to be willing to relinquish power.”

Google wants to see people who take ownership of projects. 

With that sense of ownership, you’ll feel responsible for the fate of a project, making you ready to solve any problem. But you also need to defer when other people have better ideas: “Your end goal,” explained Bock, “is what can we do together to problem-solve. I’ve contributed my piece, and then I step back.”

Google wants to see humility, too. 

You need “intellectual humility” to succeed at Google, he says. “Without humility, you are unable to learn.”

Success can become an obstacle, Bock says, since successful, Google-bound folks don’t often experience failure. So they don’t know how to learn from failure.

Instead of having an opportunity to learn, they blame others. Bock explains:

“They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved. …

What we’ve seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’

Link to read this article in full

 

jigsaw2 metaphor for organisations and their people

jigsaw2
metaphor for organisations and their people

Don’t Miss Out On The Well-Being Revolution

by Kim Farbota

The idea that working less could actually advance our careers is gaining traction.

In her recent New York Times No. 1 best-seller, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, The Huffington Post President and Editor-in-Chief, Arianna Huffington, describes a definition of success that goes beyond money and power to include a “Third Metric” that embraces self-nurturing, connectedness and attention to the elements of our lives we most value. The book points out the importance of sleeping more, setting technology limits and taking time to step back and reflect.

These things don’t just make people happier, they are associated with longer, more fulfilling careers and more profitable companies.

But there is a sense of fierce competition in the current market, and an antiquated cultural ethos suggests true success is reserved for those willing to sacrifice the most. Furthermore, there is a fear that young pioneers of a Third Metric approach will be penalized in the workplace. One “Strive Meets Thrive” attendee described it as a prisoner’s dilemma: If we all agree to take Sundays off and not check our email after 8 p.m., the promotion will go to whomever cheats.

This might be true if the only difference between two employees is a willingness to stay plugged in 24/7. But this is flawed logic; regularly unplugging to get a restful night’s sleep is correlated with improved decision-makingbetter focus and higher quality work product. Over time, the employee respecting the limits will likely outshine her always-on-call counterpart.

Being a top performer without sacrificing wellness requires discipline.

After a long day of work, it’s hard to go straight to bed without taking time to unwind. But journaling or meditating for 30 minutes before going to sleep at a reasonable hour will make for a better next day than binge watching House of Cards. Even staying up to work more hampers efficiencyemotional intelligence and constructive thinking skills.

There is a lingering and mistaken acceptance that tough choices must be made between success and happiness. Yet the science is here, and the revolution of well-being is already underway. Leaders across the world in the public and private sector alike are implementing email limitsreducing hours and promoting employee health.

We as individuals can invest in our careers by investing in ourselves. By identifying and prioritizing the things that keep us healthy, grounded and fulfilled we ensure consistent, long-term achievement and a life of success.

Link to read this article in full

 

A Better Way To Think About Lazy and Incompetent Employees

by Sam McNerney

In Switch, Dan and Chip Health discuss the research of James March, a professor of political science at Stanford University. According to March, we rely on one of two models when we decide: the consequences model and the identity model. The consequences model is what you use at the grocery story. It’s analytical. As we stroll down the aisle we weigh the costs and benefits of each item. The identity model is more existential. It revolves around three questions: Who am I? What kind of situation is this? What would someone like me do in this situation?

Generally, the identity model runs the show, which explains why we gravitate towards certain brands even when they are not cost-effective.

March’s distinction could be a helpful tool in terms of motivating employees…

Motivation is usually an identity problem.

We underperform not necessarily because we’re lazy or incompetent but because we don’t feel a tight connection between work and identity.

If turnover (or performance) is a problem, try showing people that their work matters and that it affects other people. Threats and pressure might be ineffective because they don’t connect the dots.

We’re at our best when we’re shown that what we do aligns with who we are…

Link to read this article in full

Jigsaw 4 metaphor for organisations and people fitting in

Jigsaw 4
metaphor for organisations and people fitting in

5 Steps to Align Culture to Get Your Employee’s Strategic Buy-In

by 

Culture eats strategy… strategy trumps culture… on which side of the culture/strategy divide do you fall?

I tend to side with culture – primarily because culture drives the behaviors of individuals who are the one that achieve your strategy (or not). But culture is the driving force.

Regardless of where you stand, it’s undeniable culture and strategy are deeply intertwined in organizations large and small, global or local, public or private, for-profit or non-profit.

Towers Watson defines culture as “the shared beliefs (either explicit or implicit) that exist within a company and drive behaviors. They write, ”The real question we should be asking is: “How do we understand, manipulate, redirect or recreate the shared beliefs in such a way to drive the real behaviors we need to succeed?”

5 steps to a strategy/culture connection

I recommend a five-step process (using the “Customer Service” strategy as an example):

  1. Redefine the culture attributes into actionable core values. (Information Sharing, Teamwork, Customer Focus, Leadership, Decision Making, Taking Action)
  2. Define behaviors associated with each of those core values. (Teamwork behaviors: Committed to common goals, active participation and leadership, open communication up and down the chain, willing sharing of resources)
  3. Frequently and very specifically recognize any and all employees who demonstrate those behaviors by calling out clearly the core value demonstrated and explaining how those behaviors impacted you, the team, the customer or the company for the better. (Sam, you really lived our value of Teamwork when you went out of your way to locate the necessary research materials needed to move the Juno project forward. You didn’t have the information yourself, but you knew who did and how to get that information in the right hands. By doing so quickly and without prompting or direction, you helped us beat project deadlines, thrilling our client and making them a partner for years to come.)
  4. Share that recognition across the organization so it can serve as training for otherson what desirable “Teamwork” behaviors look like in the daily work, encouraging others to demonstrate similar actions.
  5. Closely monitor, measure and report on areas where values are being more or less recognized to intervene where necessary with additional training or resources to ensure all employees both understand and are committed to achieving the company’s strategy – in their own work, every day.

What is the primary strategic goal for your organization?

How are you aligning your culture (and the associated daily behaviors of employees) to achieve your strategy?

Link to read this article in full

jigsaw3 metaphor for organisations and people working together

jigsaw3
metaphor for organisations and people working together

Happiness At Work edition #93

You will find all of these stories in this weeks new Happiness At Work edition £93 collection, along with several more that explore ideas from whether procrastination is genetically inherited, to a report that single parented children and just as happy as their two parented peers, to the new science that explains why chocolate and being by the the ocean is very good for us.

I hope you find things here to use and enjoy…

n