Ever pressed click and send and wished you hadn’t? We’ve all been there. If you can’t leave your inbox alone and you’re constantly connected, bringing mindfulness to your work and your email may prevent you from becoming an E – hostage. Here are our 6 top tips to stop email consuming your waking (and sleeping) hours. [Read more…]
At Positive Change Guru we’re sometimes asked whether mindfulness is harmful. It’s a sensible question and one which we’ll attempt to shed some light upon here.
Resilience: from the Latin word resilo – to jump back. The capacity to bounce back from adversity, adapt and succeed.
Embracing difficulty is key to resilience. But what is it? Resilience describes our ability to manage difficulties effectively rather than be overwhelmed when confronted by adversity. Perhaps one of the most profound definitions is from Viktor Frankl, concentration camp survivor and author of ‘Man’s search for Meaning”. ‘When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.’ It comes as no surprise that Frankl’s work has been modified and applied in a workplace setting. An increasing body of research suggests that resilience is also a valuable predictor of success. Penn Professor, Angela Lee-Duckworth’s research suggests that resilience is an even more accurate predictor of success than IQ. A heady claim for something we’re not taught in school. So what’s is it about resilience that makes it such an important differentiator? Lets find out.
Glenn Richardson, Professor and chair, Department of Health Promotion and Education, University of Utah describes resilience as mental toughness and encourages employees to think differently about how they view difficulty. When met by challenge, Richardson suggests that we develop the mindful habit of taking a moment of calm to support ourselves in developing resilience, by making a choice to work with our emotions to accept failure and examine what we can learn from it. This presents a very different approach to turning away from difficulty to get the job done which employees are sometimes forced into doing by workplace pressures. Dr Gregg Steinberg suggests that challenge and adversity can develop emotional intelligence and grit, enabling people to bounce back to an even higher level of resilience than before. For Steinberg, adversity creates and shines a light upon what is missing in life, highlighting what we need to be more successful and happier. Watch Gregg talking about ‘Falling Up’ in our ’10 Best Resilience Videos’ blog. You might be asking yourself how you can turn towards difficulty or failure when your natural response is to turn away, run for the hills and avoid it. Resilience is a skill that can be learned and you can begin to work out your resiliency muscles right now. The next time you face adversity, try the following;
Embed calm checkpoints into your day.
Take a moment to notice what’s happening. Breathe and sit with what is there for you in that moment.
Known as ‘Affect Labelling’ this is where you identify the emotion. Try saying to yourself “Hello anxiety” if that’s what you’re feeling. Recognising and naming the emotion makes a distinction; you are experiencing anxiety rather than labeling yourself as an anxious person.
Work with what shows up.
As human beings we typically move towards what feels good and avoid what doesn’t, frequently missing what we feel neutral towards. Instead of moving toward the positive or trying to push difficult emotions away, bring a gentle curiosity to both. Notice your reaction without judging it. Reflect on the nuances of perceptions of positive, negative and neutral. Is there an associated response in the body? Tension or lightness? Bring mindful awareness to whatever arises.
It’s not Forever.
Recognising the impermanence of all emotions is key. Mindfulness teaches us that emotions are just mental events with a short life span. Ask yourself what you need in order to manage that emotion in this moment.
Reflect on what is really going on for you. Is there historical stuff or emotional baggage that has led to this emotion? Your response might be appropriate, now you’ve investigated you’re in a better position to choose how to respond effectively and skillfully.
Practice on a regular basis.
When you develop the capacity to face difficulty you are able to make more skillful choices. Mindful awareness of challenging situations gives us the opportunity to defuse difficult thoughts and emotions and create distance. With that distance we can choose our response rather than falling into habitual knee – jerk reactions.
Difficulty is part of life, it isn’t going anywhere soon but the good new is that resilience isn’t an absolute. Changing over time it can grow, be learned and developed. For more information on how to build your resilience check out our other blogs, our free ‘Build Your Resilience’ webinar or come to one of our resilience training courses, we’d love to see you there!
To find out more about building resilience or resilience training contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The world of work is changing at a pace that is unprecedented. We live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world where organisations and individuals are struggling to keep up and maintain resilience. This constant pressure is impacting performance in many organisations. The attention economy is big news. But how do we maintain focus and optimise performance at work when we are bombarded with information, constantly available courtesy of multi source technology and distracted by overload?
Mindfulness offers us a method to regain equilibrium and train our brain to focus on the task at hand. When we are distracted on average every 3 seconds in the workplace it provides an opportunity to bring us back to the moment and focus, optimising our performance away from the constant hum of organisational busyness.
The results speak for themselves. Research by Paul Condon and Dave Desero of Northeastern University and Gaelle Desbordes of Massachusetts General Hospital found that mindful training improved focus, decreasing stress levels at the same time. The researchers watched as resilience soared. Mindfulness training didn’t stop at that. Dessero and Condon observed greater compassion and empathy amongst employees, improving engagement, team work and corporate culture. Put simply, those workplaces became kinder (and more productive) organisations to be in.
The constant pressures of complex change resonate with many of the leaders we work with at Positive Change Guru. We’re often asked how mindfulness can optimise workplace performance so we’ve put together four ways to maintain your organisational agility in a VUCA world.
1.Create space to reflect.
It might seem counterintuitive to carve out space in your diary for what seems like a luxury but thinking time pays dividends especially in VUCA cultures. Make time weekly, fortnightly or monthly to plan and prepare. Reflect upon what’s working alongside what isn’t. Are you able to identify areas for development in systems, procedures, finances or time management? Consider what you do and how you do it, looking for ways to create a bump in organisational performance.
2. Start the day with a pause.
We’ve all been there, beginning the day with caffeine, diving straight
into emails and our workload. It’s automatic daily behaviour for many of us. Instead, set an
intention to start the day with a moment of calm. Before you launch into the day, sit for a
moment, focusing fully on your breath. Move from doing to being. Noticing how it feels to be
fully present. Feel the breath enter your body from the tip of your nose, into the nasal cavaties,
down your throat and into your lungs. Now pause before you feel the breath leave your body as
you exhale.It’s a small commitment that the leaders we work with tell us can make a big difference.
3. Take one thing at a time.
In attention deficit cultures multi tasking is a myth. Being pulled in
different directions at the same time doesn’t make you super efficient, it makes you stressed.
Emailing whilst on a call or attempting to multi task during meetings will burn you out and leave
you less productive, not more. We know from the field of neuroscience that it isn’t possible to
perform at our optimal level without focus, so take things one step at a time and create an
environment that will enable you to get into flow by minimising distractions. Divert calls and turn
off your email alert. If you are working on a task that needs complete focus, minimise peripheral
distractions to optimise your performance.
4. Leave the past behind.
It’s tempting to cling on to what we know and remain in the apparent
safety of organisational comfort zones. ‘We’ve always done it this way” is not a philosophy that
will serve you well in changing times. Remaining agile in a VUCA world requires flexibility. When
you recognise that old systems aren’t working or procedures are outmoded, move to change
things. Innovate, try new ways of working, look at the leaders in your field and investigate
alternative strategies. Ask yourself what is possible. Remaining agile is about thinking ahead,
daring to step outside of the box, not remaining in your comfort zone.
Want to find out more? Contact us to talk about how you can optimise your organisation’s performance in a VUCA world at email@example.com
It’s all too familiar, with a seemingly endless ‘To do’ list it’s hard to focus on the task at hand. The overwhelming phenomenon of cognitive gridlock, feeling stressed at work pushes us to plough on when we should be taking a break. Greenspace doesn’t even enter into our day, we’re fast becoming factory farmed humans. Just a few minutes of time outdoors, chilling out with Mother Nature could be exactly what we need.
A recent Lexis Nexis survey of 1700 workers found that employees spend over 50% of their day processing information rather than concentrating on their designated role. When we’re spending our time sorting and sifting through information before we even get down to the real work, there’s no wonder we’re stressed.
A University of California Irvine study revealed that being exposed to constant emails throughout the day increased the heart rate of those studied. Michael Posner, Professor Emeritus at the University of Oregan states that when we are in such states of continued focus, our brains become fatigued and less effective. As the pressure mounts it seems counter intuitive to take a break. Instead we labour under the misconception that the harder we work, the more effective we’ll be. Not so. The longer our brains are switched to ‘on’ mode, the slower we get. Downtime replenishes both our bodies and our minds. But not just any old break will do. Greenspace, it seems, could be the answer.
Dr Marc Berman at the University of Michigan found that after a twenty minute walk, memory and attention improved by 20%. A twenty minute walk in a busy street resulted in no improvement. It seems not all downtime is created equally. Berman’s research also found that just sitting for ten minutes in a quiet room, looking at pictures of nature had a calming effect producing an increase in cognitive activity and performance.
And if you’re feeling cranky at work as a result of all that information overload, it seems that nature can also improve your mood. A study from the University of Rochester by Richard Ryan discovered that viewing nature had social benefits. Ryan’s research found that 370 test subjects exposed to natural as opposed to man-made environments encouraged people to “Value community and close relationships and to be more generous with money.” Making it worth taking your boss along for a walk if you’re considering asking for a raise.
Dr Ian Frampton at Exeter University found that when research participants were shown pictures of rural scenery the regions of the brain associated with calm were activated. Pictures depicting urban scenes did not produce the same response. Suggesting that when you can’t escape to your favourite greenspace there’s still a viable alternative to increase your ROI for downtime.
Not sure how to inject more nature inspired downtime into your working day?
Here are our top tips.
1. Recognise that you deserve and need a break. If you’re feeling overwhelmed remind yourself it will improve your performance (it won’t slow you down). Prioritise at least one time slot for natural downtime each day.
2. Go off grid. Switch off your electronic devices for the duration of your downtime for maximum impact.
3. Instead of eating lunch at your desk, find a green space nearby and take a quick walk or find a seat to take in the view.
4. Go green. Consider adding nature to your workspace. Think plants, pictures, photos or saved recordings for those times that you can’t physically get out into a natural environment, it’s the next best thing.
5. Unwind by journaling in nature. Find a balcony, garden or park and reflect. Jot down one or two lines about your day.
6. Shelve your mental ‘To do’ list and breathe. Sit in your greenspace, focus on the present moment listening to the sounds around you as you begin the relax. Spend time taking in the natural environment around you, really be in the moment as you sit and enjoy your green ‘me’ time.
At Positive Change Guru we work with individuals and organisations to build resilience and optimise performance. Check out our courses on the events page or contact us to talk about your training, consultancy or coaching needs.
What’s fuelling your burnout? Feeling exhausted? Perhaps even a little cynical where work is concerned? You could be suffering from burnout syndrome. A common response to stress, burnout is characterised by a variety of dimensions from fatigue, demotivation, frustration, cynicism and ultimately, reduced efficacy. So what, exactly, is fuelling your burnout?
The Beginnings Of Burnout
It isn’t a new phenomenon, Graham Greene wrote about it during the 60s in ‘A Burnout Case’ as a result the term was later coined in the context of employee burnout by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. It’s firmly part and parcel of corporate landscape now with employees increasingly being asked to do more with less.
Montero Marin at the University of Zaragoza identified three types of burnout. In a study of 429 university workers in a variety of occupations ranging from administration to research, the study identified 3 separate subtypes;
What’s Your Type?
- Boredom. This type of stress stems from lack of challenge. When employees aren’t stretched they’re unable to get into a state of flow, or optimum performance, stifling their development and their motivation. If you find yourself using avoidance as a coping strategy and complaining about your organisation on a regular basis, the research suggests this could be your burnout type. Leaving you feeling like giving up. boredom is fuelling your burnout fire.
- Overload. This subtype is characterised by frenetic behaviour. You find yourself doing, doing, doing with a constant mental ‘To do’ list. Your coping strategy is to keep working until you’re exhausted in the belief that you’ll somehow make headway. You’re overloaded by stress and feel cynical due to the lack of support you receive. You may feel that your organisation is limiting you. Excessive workload is fuelling your burnout.
- Worn Out. In this subtype when you’re faced with stress, you give up. It’s all just too overwhelming. The will to achieve is there but you lack motivation to get started in the onslaught of stress. If this is your subtype you may feel badly let down by your organisation. You’ve simply had enough and that is fuelling your stress.
What’s Fuelling Your Organisation’s Risk of Burnout?
Now you know what’s fuelling your individual burnout, lets take a look at your organisation. Maslach, Schaufel and Leiter identified 6 organisational risk factors that increase the likelihood of burnout.
- Mismatch in workload
- Mismatch in control
- Lack of appropriate rewards
- Loss of sense of positive connection with others
- Perceived lack of fairness
- Conflict with values
If the causes of burnout are multi factorial, how can you begin to combat it?
If you’re a leader, the starting point is your organisational culture. Here’s our checklist to guide your stress audit;
- Do you have a wellbeing strategy?
- Do staff have a healthy approach to work life balance and is this modelled by your leadership team?
- Are your people micromanaged or given the autonomy to carry out their role?
- Do you model your values or is there a disconnect? Do you need to revisit your strategy, policies, procedures and actions?
If you’ve identified that you’re on the way to being stressed, find a way to reduce your stress levels by;
- Practising mindfulness (see our mindfulness resources on this site)
- Consider Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) sessions. Talk to your GP who will be able to recommend a therapist.
- Reflect upon whether your values are in alignment with your role. Is your current role what you feel drawn to as a profession or is something else calling you?
- Check your work – life balance is where you want it to be. If it isn’t take the necessary steps to address the areas that need work. Cut back on your hours, take lunch breaks and make sure you create time for friends, family and a life outside of work.
Using mindfulness to develop an empathic police force
It’s always great to hear about the benefits of mindfulness being experienced in the workplace, one fascinating example is the use of mindfulness practices to reduce stress in the US police force.
Psychologists at Pacific University have been working on an innovative study, instructing police officers in mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) practices. Training the officers began in 2006. Training involved learning a combination of skills to enhance mental clarity, health, and mindful exercises that emphasised a range of motion and injury prevention. Police officers also learned practical skills to reduce stressors at work and home. An emphasis was placed on self-awareness and compassion. The impact of stress and anger on officers and their work can be significant, the research findings have been published in the journal of Mindfulness.
What to look for when choosing a mindfulness teacher, course or coach
You’ve been interested in mindfulness for a while and decided to give it a try. It’s now time to find a course. But amidst all of the advertising and the hype, how do you know what to look for, from a mindfulness teacher, a course or a coach? Here’s our step by step guide to choosing the right mindfulness teacher for you.
- Committed to good practice? Is your prospective teacher committed to the UK Network for Mindfulness-Based Teachers Good Practice Guidelines for teaching mindfulness? The UK Network was developed to promote good practice in teaching mindfulness. Teaching Mindfulness in the UK is unregulated and the Network is an attempt to address this. Qualified teachers who have demonstrated that they meet the UK Good Practice Guidelines for Mindfulness Based Teachers will be registered on the UK Network Listing https://www.mindfulness-network.org/listingspagenew.php This means that they have been verified as suitably trained, committed to continuous professional development, hold insurance and receive regular supervision.
- Your teacher has a regular Mindfulness Practice. You wouldn’t go to a gym and expect to find a personal trainer who had never exercised. You certainly wouldn’t choose them to show you how to train your body. The same is true of your mindfulness teacher. Training your brain is no different to training your body. It’s ok to ask them about their own practice, how long they’ve been meditating and whether they practice on a regular basis. Standard advice is that mindfulness teachers should have been practicing for at least two years before they teach others.
- Retreats. All teachers should have a regular daily practice and attend one retreat a year as a minimum. You need someone who has walked the path themselves before they can lead you.
- Do they have a qualification? Has your mindfulness teacher attended a Level 1 and Level 2 Mindfulness Teacher Training programme? Whilst this doesn’t demonstrate competence it does demonstrate a commitment to professional development. Ask them where they trained and who with. Find out about their credentials; who have they worked with? How many courses have they run? Solo or alone? Don’t feel bashful, a good teacher won’t mind answering your questions. It’s important that your teacher is following a framework when teaching, all of the research evidence is based upon courses led by qualified teachers delivering a structured Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programmes.
- Do they undertake regular supervision? It’s important that teachers have supervision on a regular basis. Your teacher should be able to tell you who their supervisor is and how often they meet. This is necessary for regular reflective practice as well as the safety of everyone involved.
- How do you ensure you’re up to date? All Mindfulness teachers should maintain continuous professional development in the form of workshops, peer evaluation and keeping up to date with the latest research. A teacher who has their own teachers recognises that we are all on a mindful journey, however long we’ve been practicing.
- Do they practice what they preach? Known as embodiment this simply means that they demonstrate mindfulness in the way they behave towards you and others. Look for someone who displays a consistency in actions and words. An authentic Mindfulness teacher will walk their talk. They’ll treat you with respect and compassion rather than use sessions as a platform for their own ego. Asking why they have chosen to teach Mindfulness and what motivates them to practice can provide valuable information.
Are they a good fit for you? Notice how you feel around your teacher. Listen to your intuition. Do they seem authentic? Do you feel that they have genuine humility and are there to serve you and others in the group? If it doesn’t feel right, find another teacher. Use your judgement, you’ll know when you find a teacher that is right for you.
We love to talk about all things mindful at Positive Change Guru. Check out our forthcoming events or get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses and discuss bespoke mindfulness at work training for your organisation.
Positive Change Guru’s Mindfulness at Work expert, Gill Thackray, is registered with the UK Network for Mindfulness-Based Teachers Good Practice Guidelines for teaching mindfulness. She has also studied Mindfulness with Aberdeen University, Bangor University, Dr Patrizia Collard and Google’s SIYLI Programme. She is currently researching Mindfulness, Leadership and Compassion at Aberdeen University.
Compassion and work, strange bedfellows or not?
At first glance they might seem strange bedfellows; compassion and work? Surely not? Whereas compassion may not appear to be a priority in the work place there is increasing evidence that when it’s present, employees flourish and organisations thrive.
So what is compassion at work?
Sogyal Rinpoche describes Compassion as “not simply a sense of sympathy or caring for the person suffering, not simply a warmth of heart toward the person before you, or a sharp recognition of their needs and pain, it is also a sustained and practical determination to do whatever is possible and necessary to help alleviate their suffering”. Wharton Management Professor, Sigal Barsade describes compassion as “when colleagues who are together day in and day out, ask and care about each other’s work and even non-work issues.” Barsade talks about the importance of an emotional culture, stating that this is equally as important as cognitive organisational culture, stating compassionate employees “are careful of each other’s feelings. They show compassion when things don’t go well. And they also show affection and caring — and that can be about bringing somebody a cup of coffee when you go get your own, or just listening when a co-worker needs to talk.”
Put simply, compassion at work is empathy with action. The ability to notice the suffering of colleagues, whether it be a stressful day, a difficult conversation with peers or a problem at home – and then the ability to act upon that noticing.
Why is compassion at work important?
There is a growing body of research that suggests that the happier we are at work the more productive we are. Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research suggests that happier staff are more engaged, creative, productive and motivated. Successful leaders recognise that happy employees mean increased productivity and ultimately increased profit. It’s not just about the bottom line, nobody wants to be miserable in the place where they spend the majority of their waking hours.
It’s not just about the feel good factor and being civil to each other in workplace. In a 16 month longitudinal study “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” set in a health care facility, Barside and Olivia O’Neil researched the impact of compassion upon the emotional behavioural outcomes of employees. They found that compassion reduced levels of exhaustion and burnout. The researchers also saw a decrease in absenteeism with a corresponding increased levels of employee engagement. Increasingly research in the field of compassion at work is beginning t show that there are tangible results when we develop compassionate individuals, leaders and cultures;
• When we’re on the receiving end of compassionate leadership at work we’re more likely to be committed to our organisation and to talk about it in positive terms (Lilius et al. 2008)
When we experience compassion at work connects co-workers psychologically and results in a stronger bond between them (Frost et al. 2000).
Managers who believe that their organisation is concerned about their well-being are more likely to show supportive behaviour towards their team members (Eisenberger, 2006).
• Those who receive compassion are subsequently better able to direct their support and care giving to others (Goetz et al. 2010). As Bayside found, this is important in healthcare organisations. Working in a compassionate organisation reduces the chance of compassion fatigue and burnout in caregivers (Figley 1995). This also provides them with essential emotional resources that they need to care for their clients (Lilius et al. 2011).
• Compassionate leadership also influences employees’ perception of their colleagues and organisations. Studies show that employees who believe that their leaders care about their well-being are happier with their jobs and more commitment (Lilius et al. 2011). When we experience compassion ate work we are also less likely to leave the organisation, reducing employee turnover.
• Fredrickson et al. 2000 found that when we experience positive emotions our heart rate and blood pressure is lowered. Our psychological distress also decreases. Compassionate leadership has the potential to improve employee wellbeing.
How can you develop compassion at work?
Consider the way that you interact with others in the workplace. Think about;
- Say ‘Good Morning’ to colleagues, acknowledge their presence and let them know you care.
- Actively look for ways to help colleagues, direct reports and clients.
- If you’re making a coffee, offer to make one for a colleague.
- Notice how others are feeling, bring mindfulness to your interactions and if someone appears to need help, reach out to them.
- Practice mindfulness. Professor Paul Gilbert one of the world’s leading experts in compassion says that mindfulness can be used to develop an attitude of compassion at work.
- Here’s a Mindful practice from Compassion Life by HH The Dalai Lama to help you o your way:
Sit in a comfortable position. Take a few moments to pause and relax bringing your focus to your breath. Gently settle into a relaxing breathing rhythm.
Bring to mind a person or situation where you got angry, impatient, frustrated or seriously annoyed. Get a clear picture of the people in this situation and what they were doing that really bothered you…..
Now think of each person when they aren’t at work. Connect with them as another human being.
Picture them as a fellow human being with a family, pets, children, brothers and sisters… just like you
Think of them working to support their family and wanting to live happily…. just like you
Imagine them working as best they know how to work ….. just like you
Think of them having life challenges, fears, worries, insecurities….. just like you
Picture them trying to do their best with what they know to do…. just like you
Know they desire happiness and want to be free from suffering… just like you
Breathe deeply as you picture them with their family or neighbors enjoying life and being happy. Feel the wave of compassion in your body as you connect with your desire for their happiness.
We love to talk about all things compassion at work related at Positive Change Guru. Check out our forthcoming events or get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses and discuss bespoke compassion at work training for your organisation.