If you’re new to positive psychology or thinking about how you can implement it on a practical level in your workplace, you’ve come to the right place. Unlike traditional psychology it doesn’t focus on dysfunction, what’s broken or what’s not working. Nope. By looking at what works it aims to create more of it. Positive psychology is a new, science backed paradigm that will enable your team to flourish, optimise performance and even, wait for it, feel happier at work. We show you how.
Positive psychology has turned traditional leadership metrics upside down. This new science of success examines strengths rather than weakness, celebrates failure as the path to mastery and encourages a culture of learning rather than competition. We dive into three tried and tested, evidence based kick ass positive psychology practices that will positively impact upon your leadership.
Sacrifice Syndrome: The Cycle Of Wellbeing Deprivation
Sacrifice Syndrome. The cycle whereby leaders are caught in a corrosive pattern of workplace behaviours; working late, skipping lunch, catching up on weekends….the list is endless. The result? Dissonant leadership, bleeding into the rest of your organisation causing stress and burnout.
The fourth in our series of live blogs from New York. Today we take a look at what we can learn from psychopaths about empathy.
The empathy switch. Usually associated with the Lectur-like ability to glide effortlessly from charm to callousness in the blink of an eye. The domain of criminals and those that your mother told you to stay away from, how could we possibly have anything to learn from the playground of psychopaths?
Do you believe that bad managers get results? That the stick is more effective than a toothless carrot? The truth is, if left unchecked, bad managers will hurt your business and irretrievably harm employee wellbeing. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that one of the keystones of employee wellbeing is the relationship between manager and employee. Positive relationships, promoting opens and transparency, fostering trust and recognising strengths are all the hallmarks of a good manager. They develop employees and cultivate an atmosphere where wellbeing, creativity and innovation thrive. All too often the converse is true. People leave bad managers not bad organisations, it may be a cliche but there’s a reason why cliches become cliches.
Wellbeing is about so much more than a box ticking exercise. Wellbeing domains include
True employee wellbeing aims to maximise each and every one of these domains. But how? Writing for wellbeing, a relatively new intervention is rapidly gaining popularity. Writing? For wellbeing at work? Sounds like a gimmick, right? A growing body of evidence suggests not.
How can managers introduce the concept of wellbeing in a meaningful way?
One of the first things you can do as a manager is develop your emotional intelligence (EI). It takes a healthy dose of this to manage a team effectively and authentically. Take a look at our blogs on EI for practical ways of developing your emotional intelligence muscles.
Reduce Your Stress Levels
We know from research that the first thing to go out of the window when you are stressed is self regulation, a key emotional intelligence competency. Bad managers are more than likely stressed too. Don’t believe us? Case Western Professor Richard Boyatwzis found this competency was responsible for a whopping 78% – 390% increase in performance. Self regulation is the bulwark of good management. If you’ve ever laboured under a tyrant masquerading as a manager who throws things, suffers mood swings, has favourites or maintains petty vendettas you’ll know where we’re coming from on this one. This type of dissonant leadership will eventually demotivate your team, leave you with high levels of absenteeism and a rapid staff turnover. Creativity becomes stifled and innovation grinds to a halt. It damages your brand and your reputational capital to boot.
So where does writing for wellbeing come into it?
Writing for wellbeing (the clue is in the title) improves both physical and psychological health (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005). Research has demonstrated the following benefits;
Decreased levels of stress
Fewer stress related GP visits
Increases creativity and innovation
Reduced blood pressure
Improved working memory
Improved immune system functioning
Feeling of greater psychological wellbeing
Quicker re-employment after job loss
Altered social and linguistic behaviour
Writing for wellbeing is a great addition to any wellbeing programme decreasing stress levels, impacting positively upon self regulation and improving creativity and innovation at the same time (it’ll help tame that stressed out manager and their negative impact upon your workforce). Take a look at our other blogs on writing for wellbeing to find out how.
To find out more about Writing for Wellbeing at Work contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our events page for details of our training courses. We’d love to hear from you!
However much you love what you do, if your job involves working with people, you’ll understand the concept of emotional labour. Perhaps you’re a figurehead and it’s important to build rapport and maintain your cool even in difficult circumstances that would send the rest of us running? Maybe your role involves managing other people’s emotions and it’s not always pretty? Or if you’re the first point of contact for a business, it’s possible you’ll be on the receiving end of frustration, disappointment and rancour.
Are you able to answer ‘Yes’ to the following questions;
Recently we’ve heard some great things about therapists Tes, Karim, Eliza and Ellie. So what, you might ask, there are probably lots of great therapists out there to choose from. What makes Tes, Karim, Eliza and Ellie unique is that they’re all artificial intelligence therapists. These AI therapists use pioneering software that enables them to both recognise and understand emotion in people and continually refine and develop that understanding. So how is robotic emotional intelligence learning new tricks? [Read more…]
The leadership moral grey zone. Or, more plainly, the tolerance of unethical leadership behaviour has a huge impact upon businesses, their people and, ultimately their success. If you’ve ever worked in a dysfunctional organisation where unethical practices are the accepted norm or bullying, gossip and favouritism is rife, you’ll be familiar with the grey zone.
Whether you’re part of a start up or an established business, your choice of leader (and the systems that support them is the bedrock of success). In spite of more immediate short term wins, there’s no longevity for a leader in the moral grey zone. The grey zone leader may appear to be achieving results, but they’re not sustainable. Think Siemens former CEO and Chairman, Heinz-Joachim Neuberger and Johannes Feldmeyer, fined for bribery. Or the arrest of Bruno A Kaelin Head of Corporate Compliance at Alstom following investigations into his alleged role in a bribery slush fund. One of the most infamous moral grey leaders was Kenneth Lay of Enron, convicted of 6 counts of fraud. His unethical behaviour resulted in the downfall of the company. Often tolerated, morally grey leadership wreaks lasting damage.
What does it look like?
Research from Knoll, Lord, Peterson and Weigelt ( 2016, Journal of Applied Psychology, 46) identified two factors necessary for predicting unethical behaviour;
- Moral disengagement
- Situational strength
So what does this look like in practice? The researchers found that for leaders to engage in unethical behaviour, for example (if indeed you do need an example).
Bullying, marginalising, spreading rumour, preferential treatment of ‘favourite’ staff, manipulating information, cheating, lying or using the workplace to enhance personal relationships or social status
They have to morally disengage their own moral compass, or ignore societal norms to enter into the above.
Can you spot them?
Surprisingly, yes. There are telltale signs. The research found that leaders in the grey zone typically;
- Have Low Levels of Emotional Intelligence. Grey leaders focus on the task and the results they want rather than their behaviours or how they get there. Self awareness and self regulation is usually low in unethical leaders. They are unable to heed internal clues and cues that their behaviour is unacceptable. They are also unable to recognise that such behaviours are shunned by wider society. They are oblivious to their behaviours and may even believe they are role modelling.
- Reduced Self-Organisation. When we operate effectively as human beings our values and systems are congruent. The lack of alignment that unethical behaviour produces is easily tolerated by grey leaders. When behaving unethically, they don’t feel dissonance between the beliefs they hold or espouse and their actions.
- Decreased Self Regulation. Unethical leaders display behaviours that lack impulse control, shouting, swearing, lying, bullying, creating a culture lacking in transparency, resulting in mistrust. Take time to reflect upon the worst office despot you’ve worked with and anyalse their behaviour, an ability to control themselves is usually in short supply. They are reactive, mercurial, the organisational grenade without a pin and more than just a little bit scary to be around.
- Lack Authenticity: They don’t know who they are or they are pretending to be something they’re not with a compelling variety of ‘Game faces.’ An individual’s level of authenticity is a significant predictor of unethical behaviour. High levels of authenticity are the armour against unethical leadership. People with high levels of authenticity have greater self awareness and self regulation. They are not driven by ego and status and place more emphasis on listening, learning and developing. They possess a congruence between their values and their actions and when they don’t they feel it.
The 4 Step Predictive Process
To disengage morally is a four step process. If you’re leading a business you may recognise the telltale signs in your own behaviour (don’t beat yourself up, you can change it). If you’re responsible for L & D these are the stages of moral disengagement to watch out for;
- Creating a story. This is characterised by ‘everyone else is doing it’ or ‘just this once’. A reconstruction that enables the unethical behaviour to flourish. It creates a reality where the behaviour is no longer immoral. The narrative is always creating justification for the behaviour e.g. ‘It’s not against the law’
- A reduction in accountability. Grey leaders place less emphasis on their own agency a more on the responsibility of colleagues by blaming others, organisational culture, systems and processes.
- They deny the result or pass the buck. Unethical leaders either deny or do not recognise the consequences of their behaviour. They are also adept at passing the buck.
- Victim perception. They will downplay their impact upon others or mentally reduce the status of those falling foul of their actions. Perceptions such as ‘They’re not important anyway’ ‘They don’t matter’ ‘They wouldn’t have a job without me’ scenarios are common. Unethical leaders often push the blame onto their victims, absolving themselves of all responsibility.
Is it their fault or are they misunderstood?
The researchers found another significant factor affecting the moral grey zone, situational strength.The cues and systems provided by an organisational culture will either support or discourage unethical behaviour. The people, the culture, reward systems, processes to ensure compliance, actions, punishments (or lack of) all come together to form psychological impetus for ethical or unethical behaviour. Organisational systems and structures often support unethical behaviour. You might not be approving it but are you tacitly saying it’s wrong?
Reflect on our checklist to see if you are supporting the development of unethical behaviour
- A lack of authenticity
- Your organisation places emphasis on task completion above all else
- Your business has considered objectives but not behaviours
- You do not explicitly disapprove of unethical practice
- Your systems promote a lack of ethics and may even reward them
- You recognise a narrative pattern that always seeks to blame others or justify behaviours
- You identify behaviours that fail to recognise the consequence of actions
- There is a narrative about how the impact of victims is negligent or it is their fault.
To learn more about selecting leaders or developing a workplace culture that promotes ethical behaviours contact us at email@example.com or join one of our Leadership programmes. We offer espresso bitesize, half day, one day, conference or bespoke sessions.
Are you under attack from Mood Hoovers?
No matter how positive you are, sometimes you’re in a situation where those around you have lost their mojo and radiate negativity. Unknowingly these emotional vampires suck the positivity out of everyone around them with their doom and gloom approach to life. It can happen to any of us and we’re all entitled to an off day but on a regular basis it can be exhausting and completely drain your energy levels. If you frequently find yourself in a situation where you’re surrounded by negativity, in the office, with friends or even at home, here’s our quick survival guide to managing mood hoovers.
Developing your assertiveness toolkit
Being assertive can feel like it’s easier said than done, but including new skills and techniques in your personal toolkit will develop your confidence as well as increasing assertiveness. Try these five tips to give your skills a boost:
1. Allow your self-belief flourish
Self-belief is the foundation of assertiveness. Develop a strong sense of self-belief by challenging yourself to try new things and learning new skills. Acknowledge and celebrate your successes. Spend time monitoring your inner dialogue; when you notice yourself making negative or energy-sapping statements, take time to dispute them with a positive, self-affirming response. With practice, the positive inner dialogue can become habit.
2. Develop your emotional intelligence (EI)
Assertiveness requires two core emotional intelligence skills, the ability to:
a) identify our own emotions and the emotions of others
b) manage our own emotions, and the emotions of others, whilst under pressure
We can all develop our level of emotional intelligence, and the best way to start is by taking small steps. Begin by challenging yourself to manage your own emotional responses in situations you know you will find relatively easy to control. Gradually build your skills: increase the level of challenge and practice managing the emotions of others. Think of your EI skills as being like a muscle: every time you use those skills that muscle is growing bigger!
3. Get modelling
Observe someone whose assertiveness you admire and think about what makes their skills so impressive. Are they cool and unruffled under pressure? Do they casually take their time? Can they manage aggressive challenges effortlessly? Is everyone wowed by their authoritative body language? Although this technique is about observing behaviour, you can also ask the person for their top tips. Once you have discovered exactly what they are doing, saying or projecting to be so assertive, model that behaviour for yourself.
Listening is a key technique in the assertiveness toolkit. Effective listening allows you to hear what the other person thinks, feels and needs. This information is invaluable and can help you to negotiate and influence much more effectively. Listening also provides you with an opportunity to:
- practice calm
- choose your assertive response
5. Stay calm
When we feel anxious and under pressure our bodies enter into fight, flight or freeze mode. The way in which the body responds includes the release of stress hormones into the bloodstream and a reduction in the ability to process complex thoughts – not a helpful situation when you want to be assertive! Finding a technique that enables you to remain calm whilst under pressure is vital, and what works for you will be as individual as your personality. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach but some popular techniques include:
Stay calm with this simple anchoring technique
Practice holding your thumb and forefinger together whilst in a state of calm. It can help to think about a place or time during which you have felt extremely calm and relaxed. Next, ‘anchor’ the calm feeling to the thumb and forefinger action. Practice until you are able to prompt the feeling of calm just by placing your thumb and forefinger together. This enables you to use the thumb and forefinger technique, on its own, during times of anxiety, to evoke your moment of calm.
Remain calm by practising this easy breathing exercise
Breathing exercises are also a popular way to effectively handle anxiety. Breathing is connected to, and influences, all aspects of the mind and body. Research has shown that inhaling for 5 seconds and exhaling for 5 seconds five times per minute prompts the body’s mechanism for reducing anxiety into action. This technique enables you to manage difficult situations and respond assertively.
Fired up to learn more tips? Take a look at Julian Treasure’s TED Talk:
Want to find out more? Check out our Essential Assertiveness course on 8th December in London on our ‘Events’ page. We’d love to see you there!