Learn > Connect > Do : Wellbeing and the Thinking Environment

A week ago on 9th March was the latest Learn > Connect > Do : an event held quarterly in Leicester which is for people professionals who care about making work better through doing great people stuff.  These are also people who care about giving back while they learn and I’m delighted that we raised a fantastic £130 for Twenty:Twenty through ticket sales.  This will enable a young person to get support with transport costs to get to their local centre to learn, or to go for a day out to celebrate their learning successes!  And even more than that, with the professional backgrounds we have there are so many other ways delegates can get involved and support these young people into jobs they might never have considered an option before.

Each time we meet we have a topic to discuss and learn about, and a facilitation approach for people to experience so that, if they think it could be useful to them or their organisation, they can go away and explore more for themselves.  This time we talked about Wellbeing – what are we doing about it at work? – facilitated using Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment approach.  The event was sensational!  One delegate said she didn’t know what to expect of it “but that it over-delivered by far!”.  Makes it all worthwhile 🙂

Having chatted, got to know each other and captured the questions all the delegates brought, I started things off with an intro to the Thinking Environment and how we’d use it as a group.  It’s a very different way of behaving together and so it needs careful set up to agree with the group how it’s going to work and why.  I highlighted how the Thinking Environment really connects to what we know, and are continuing to learn, about how our brains respond to threats, and also it has a strong connection to the theory of Human Givens which is about the conditions needed to help people thrive.

Andrew Harris then shared 8 (plus a bonus 9th!) top tips about how not to be effective with wellbeing.  You can read more about these in a great blog Garry Turner wrote after the event.  It gave a great, concise injection of information and advice to feed the later conversation.

Janice Keyes then took the reigns to help the group choose the top question they wanted to focus on – the choice was broad with aspects like influencing top leaders, showing ROI, engaging managers and employees, developing managers to have conversations about wellbeing, communicating what’s happening and what’s working, developing a strategy…..From all those options the group chose this question: “If wellbeing means something different to each individual, how can an organisation develop a strategy with the flexibility to meet those needs?”   Great question!

We then got into the Thinking Environment group activity.  The evolution of everyone’s thinking was fantastic – there was great diversity and appreciation of each other for new ideas that were introduced.  And laughs, especially when Rhodri highlighted the (unfortunately too often) sad truth that we only need the term “work-life balance” to demonstrate the fact that when we come into work at 9am we die, and only come back alive when we finish for the day.  Like David D’Souza’s Reverse Superman Effect.

Something that struck me was that the same goals we have of empowering people to take responsibility in work, to have clarity of the end game and everyone’s roles in that, and to help people more often choose what they do and when they do it are the same for the topic of wellbeing.  Therefore if you have a great, empowering, coaching-centred and human organisational culture, wellbeing is naturally part of that and doesn’t even need a separate strategy.  Wellbeing is the vehicle, not the destination” as Mark Gilroy so beautifully said.  The addition an organisation might bring is around education about physical and mental health, nutrition, sleep and exercise….  For continued pondering…..

The discussion was so rich and diverse I didn’t feel I could do it justice on my own (these photos show a snapshot of the brilliant thinking that was going on) and so I asked the delegates to send me their thoughts on it.  Here’s what they’ve had to say…..

 

Jo Lee wrote a whole post about it.

 

“I read Nancy Kline’s book “Time to Think” a while ago and I’ve heard it talked about a lot but I hadn’t experienced the thinking environment in action.  The thinking environment that Helen created last week gave me the space to think, to go with whatever came to mind, to let my thoughts evolve, without feeling I had to compete.  I felt very calm.  My takeaway was how powerful something so simple could be – just being able to speak and listen without interruption.  Who’d have thought of that?

My individual takeaway about wellbeing was less about the organisations and strategies that the question we talked about posed.  More about personal responsibility.  How we all have a responsibility to recognise and say how we are feeling – like a wellbeing contract with ourselves.  How what we mean by wellbeing can change, for us as individuals, as a society and how we live our lives.  I am also mindful how important people managers are in the whole wellbeing agenda but how they may not feel equipped or mandated by an organisation to promote wellbeing or respond in an individual way to the people they work with.”

Karen Foyster

 

“The Thinking environment process is powerful, moving, insightful and challenging.  Powerful and moving in terms of the depth of listening and understanding that one draws from the process.  Insightful as one hears and learns on a completely different plane/level.  Challenging as, I at least, am used to competing to be heard (in relative terms), so the serenity and calmness of the process is genuinely mind-blowing.   This is a process that I have already promoted to some colleagues internally and I will practice it in my own time also.

The Fit for Work presentation from Andrew was excellent, very insightful and engaging.  I learned a lot about the aims and process of this organisation, but I also took away the consistency of challenge, like so many other people interventions, that exist around introducing effective wellbeing into organisations i.e. leadership buy in, effective line management training etc

All in all genuinely my best CPD experience of my career to date.”

Garry Turner

 

“The session was a perfect fusion of process (thinking environment) and content (wellbeing) with each being integral and complementary to the other. To have the opportunity to talk and listen in such an uninterrupted, focused and purposeful way was illuminating and made for one of those ‘moment in time’ sessions we all hope for as facilitators. What was most striking for me was the synergy between the process and the content – our own wellbeing (many of us reported feeling calmer and clearer) was being enhanced as were discussing the topic. I am already thinking of how I can use this approach for teams in crisis and for leaders who are under significant pressure”

Kirsten Holder

 

“So many gems. I appreciated hearing from others about how to promote wellbeing as a strategic consideration for any organisation. Helen’s facilitation of Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment was positioned expertly, and a timely refresher of a highly valuable facilitation tool, one which enriched the quality of the conversations throughout the session. All this, topped off by the knowledge that a portion of the cost is being donated to a worthwhile local charity. It’s easy to cover a lot of content in a short amount of time…but to also have time built in for reflection, networking and practical takeaways, that’s something special. Time well spent.”

Mark Gilroy

 

So thank you to all the delegates for their energy and wonderful thinking on the day.  Thank you to Janice and Andrew for facilitating the session with me.  Thank you to Mark for taking fab photos.  And thank you to Bianca for supporting me with the very important and hidden administration to make the event happen.

If you’re interested in joining a future event, the next one’s 8th of June 3-6pm at The Observatory in Leicester.  If you’d like to go on the mailing list, email me.  Or keep an eye on the website, or on Twitter (#LearnConnectDo) or on my LinkedIn.

It would be great to welcome you to this growing community!

 

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