Wellbeing: what’s not working?

Last night a group of coaches, HR pros and leaders gathered in the pretty town of Castle Donnington to talk about wellbeing and explore what’s not working, why are the figures going up, what is needed? All facilitated by Debbie Leafe using Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment.

The group

In the context of the work I do with clients – reconnecting them to their innate ability for connection, clarity and calm – this session was important to me, both to give our delegates an experience of those innate qualities on the day, but also for them to explore what wellbeing really means and what really needs to happen. read more

Loss : how it’s essential

Loss is essential. Only through loss can something new flow in.

A thought. Dropped in a moment. New insight coming in.

A definite idea of a plan. Loosened and let go of, even the slightest gap. Innovation of something better appears….Keep reading over on Medium, and give it a few claps if you like it! Thanks

If you’re interested in talking more about the work I do, just get in touch here and we can set up a call. read more

Creating fresh from wisdom

Processes are great. They bring efficiency. Processes are awful. They drain the life out of life! Processes, as a human-created concept, contain no truth either way. Instead look for fresh wisdom.

When I began my coaching business five years ago, I thought I would have standard processes for everything (my background in corporate HR & OD had trained me to see process as good for efficiency and therefore profit)…keep reading on Medium…
https://medium.com/@WildFigSolns/creating-fresh-from-wisdom-37b1ba7db348 read more

Emotional intelligence made easy

Think of a time when you were in flow. Either on your own, or in a group or team. One of those times when things just seemed to happen really naturally and easily. When you didn’t have to put much effort in and yet you were making great progress, or getting great results.

Now compare that to the definition of emotional intelligence:

“the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s)”

When you were in flow, to what extent were you doing any of the things in that definition?

My guess would be not very much, if at all, and certainly not consciously. Not with intellectual effort.

This is because when we’re in our natural state, we don’t need strategies and tactics. We don’t need breathing and centring, or visualisations of the best version of us, or mantras about listening to understand not to reply.

And this is because, in our natural “flow state”, we aren’t paying attention to the thinking going on in our heads. We’re not grabbing hold of thoughts and believing them. We’re not analysing why someone’s said what they said, or why we ourselves are getting frustrated by something, and crucially we’re not trying to manage ourselves out of an emotional response we think we shouldn’t be having in that moment. We’re keeping our intellectual, egoic, personal thinking out of the way and we’re accessing a much deeper space of wisdom and intuition.

Why aren’t we in flow more?

For years we’ve been teaching people (me included until recently) that we need to intellectually manage what’s going on for us emotionally. That we need to use our brain muscle to fix ourselves, that we need to practice and repeat to build new habits and new neural pathways, all so we can be better versions of ourselves more of the time because we’ve been led to believe there’s some version of us which is not good enough and not acceptable to society right now.

The trouble is, the application of our intellectual capabilities to these emotional management tasks, takes valuable energy away from our ability to generate fresh new thoughts and ideas in any moment, from our ability to listen and hear others, from our ability to connect and collaborate.

Remember that flow state? All those things just happened naturally there because you weren’t stuck, caught, or getting tangled in your thinking. And I’m not saying that in flow everything is about positivity and full agreement, with permanent grins on everyone’s faces – but you and others will have felt able to express any frustration or concerns without it seeming like a big deal. In fact the complete opposite. Any such insights will have been gratefully received and discussed, leading to an even better way forward.

So if we’re not “managing” our state through emotional intelligence tactics, how do we get to this state of flow more of the time?

We understand how our human system really works.

What we’ve been doing with emotional intelligence is explore:

the “what” – the content of our thoughts, labelling the emotions we’re feeling,

and

the “why” – what’s triggered you to get to that response. Often then examined to be re-framed or replaced with a more helpful thought.

This different approach understands the “how” of our underlying system. Think of making a car go. There is no benefit in commenting on the shape or design of the bodywork (the “what”). And there’s also no benefit in polishing the paintwork to a high shine to make it look nicer (the “why”). Neither of these approaches is going to get the car going. You must first understand “how” all the parts of the engine work and fit together to make the thing move forward.

The exact same here.

So how does our system work?

There are two areas where we can see the system working the way it always has and always will.

  • Everything works inside-out. Everything you’ve experienced, ever, in your whole life has been experienced through your thoughts. There is no other way. Nothing on the outside can “do” anything to you or “make” you feel anything. It’s all seen through the movie projector of our experience. “We’re the writer, the director, the producer – and in fact the audience”*.
  • Our system rights itself. Without intervention from us, our thinking moves on, our feelings change and we move to a different state. Automatically. In fact, I might go so far as to use the new word I recently learnt “automagically”! We “think” we’re so clever and we’ve been taught all our lives to be clever: in education, by parents, and in work. The message we’ve received is that intellectual capabilities are THE most important capability we have. And it’s not that intellectual is unimportant, but it’s the fact that this is not all there is. In emphasising our intellectual, we’ve denied and hidden the rest of what makes us whole; the true source of our brilliance and innate wisdom. We’ve been so busy fixing ourselves to be better we forgot that we didn’t need fixing in the first place.
  • read more

    Racing with square wheels

    I was with a Board team last week who were talking about change. How it takes courage and can be hard because we’re having to lose something of us to adopt something new or move to something different.

    This is true but only when we attach to our personal thoughts

    When we attach to our personal thoughts it’s like putting square wheels on a racing car. We clunk along. Sometimes stopping all together, unable to move forward. Certainly not able to quickly change direction when needed.  But we believe in these wheels, we created them. Even if “horrible” or “negative” there’s a familiarity about them that brings comfort. We know where we are. We’ve adapted ourselves to drive with these wheels, forgetting how things used to be before we had them.

    Then we start to consider maybe this isn’t ideal. Maybe I would benefit from a smoother ride. Normally we start working hard to change the wheels. Intellectually analysing how they were fitted, what they are made of. But some of the bolts seem stuck. Or maybe there’s a square wheel we subconsciously like the look of so we find a justifiable reason not to change it.

    Now we’re driving with 2 square and 2 round wheels. Better but not exactly a smooth ride. Then you meet someone who glides on round wheels. You’re fascinated & slightly freaked out by their difference. It reminds you of glimmers in your life when you’ve glided, when smooth wheels suddenly appeared and for that short while you enjoyed it! Thinking it must have been what you were doing at the time that created that feeling, you repeat the activity, repeating the external conditions to create the smooth-ride magic as often as you can.

    Maybe you didn’t realise that you brushed off the truth of what was going on because it seemed so simple and we all know simple doesn’t win kudos prizes.

    The truth is that round wheels are our natural state. Round wheels are what we are born with. We just acquired the square as we grew up & blindly followed the square-creating rules of the world. Once we really see the truth of how the square are created, moment-to-moment, and what they really mean, then our attachment to them drops away with a natural ease and we slip into the round. The natural place we fall back to. Our innate state of clarity, wisdom and wellbeing. From here we glide round the corners, speed along the straights and rediscover a life of richness and fulfilment. All the while connected to our innate brilliance.

    If you’re curious to learn more, this is what we’re going to be exploring through LearnConnctDo this year. The thread that’s going to weave through all the sessions.

    We’re starting on 14th March* with an introduction to the psychological understanding that underpins this smooth-wheel place. The Eventbrite will be up very soon on this page – if you don’t want to miss it jump on the mailing list by getting in touch with me here. As last year, all ticket profits will be going to Twenty:Twenty as we continue our partnership with this wonderful charity.  Thank you to PKF for continuing to host us so we can maximise how much we donate.

    *3-6pm at PKF Cooper Parry’s East Mids offices (near East Mids Airport).

    Don’t believe the hype

    Everyone.  Every.  Single.  One of us.  Has hang ups, neuroses, insecurities.

    They show up in different ways.  Some masked by confidence, others shaking with fear, others pursuing, driving and achieving to compensate for the empty space and the belief that they’re not good enough.

    But we’ve been sold hype all our lives and this is how it plays out.

    Hype in the form of…

    What counts as good and bad.

    What counts as acceptable and unacceptable.

    What will have you included and excluded.

    Which boxes to tick to be counted as good.

    All of which our ego attaches to and desperately works at to play the game, to be included, to be rewarded and praised.

    A game we’ve been taught.  A game we’ve been taught is the way to stay included, safe and OK.  A game which will stop us experiencing sadness or upset.  A game which we think will keep us alive.

    And our ego plays its heart out because it’s desperate to be accepted, to be good enough, to fill the empty space.  Keep playing the game.

    And yet it still doesn’t feel OK.

    And things go “wrong” and then it definitely doesn’t feel OK because it was taught that sadness and tears were things to be avoided.

    And it remembers – in body and mind – the times it’s been told it’s not good enough.  That it’s not OK.  And the hurt.  So it denies and ignores those feelings and memories and tries to be positive and look on the bright side and to work hard to get the stuff that it’s been told will make it happy.

    So it works (really hard through struggle and stress)

    to be successful (because it’s been told this makes you happy because you can buy the stuff of happiness)

    and it gets there and is happy for a while with the glow of the stuff.

    And the glow fades and the emptiness returns and the cycle begins again.

    Because without a true belief that it’s good enough, it can never truly be kind to itself.  That deep disbelief that it really is worth love or happiness or contentment just can’t be worked or bought or drunk or eaten or friend-ed away.

    And so sadness and suffering prevail and the masking behaviours come back because that’s all it knows.

    Isn’t it crazy then to discover this game of life doesn’t matter.

    That playing the game isn’t the thing that keeps us alive, or not.

    We can still play it, we can still enjoy it, we can still “do well” at it – whatever your measure of “doing well” is.  But it doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t determine your good-enoughness or your OK-ness.

    We’re all OK just as we are.  We always have been.  But we forgot.

    Maybe we’ve all been believing the hype?

     

    [Image source : https://rogerluethy.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/dont-believe-the-hype-efficiency-matters/]

    Why people disengage

    First day in the new job….
    I’ve never been responsible for so much before. I wonder what the new boss will be like.
    Better make a good impression or they’ll think they’ve made the wrong hiring decision. Better make a good impression or they’ll think I’m no good at my job.
    Must look like I know what I’m doing and what I’m talking about. I’m meant to be in charge of all this. Must look like I know what I’m doing and what I’m talking about. I’m meant to be in charge of this department.
    OK, let’s do this. OK, let’s do this.
    [Step into the office, shoulders back, head up, eye contact, confidently greeting people] [Steps into the office, looking around]

    Is he here yet?

    [Conversations in flow – listening deeply] [Conversations in flow – speaking passionately]
    Wow I’m learning loads. Wow I know more than I realised, and he seems to be really listening. This is going well!
    I have so many questions. These questions are really getting me thinking. I love this!
    These people really know their stuff. I feel like I know my stuff even better than I did before this conversation!
    They seem so engaged with what they’re doing and keen to change things for the better. I love this job and this new boss seems great!
    I’d better show that I know stuff too [adds knowledgeable stuff to conversation]. And he has insights to add. That’s so useful to have a new perspective.
    A few months later…..
    [Amount of knowledgeable stuff added to conversations grows….] [Amount of knowledgeable stuff added to conversations is dropping, confidence is dropping]
    Hey, I’m doing great!   Look at all this stuff I know now. I’m not sure I’m as good at this as I thought I was.
    I can add so much to conversations. I don’t feel I can share anything he doesn’t already know.
    I have so many ideas.  I’m thriving on sharing them with everyone! I don’t know where to take this next.  I can’t get a word in edgeways anyway.
    6 months later….
    I get all this now. I’ll wait to be told.
    I’ve got a clear plan of what we need to do and how we’re going to get there. It’s always his opinion first so no point thinking first.

     

    Why is this person saying this again? We went over this already? If he’d only listen he’d hear what I’m really saying. He doesn’t get it. He doesn’t care what I have to say.
    I asked for that last week. What are they doing? What’s the point, it won’t be exactly what he wants anyway.
    I have this amazing idea – I’ll go and tell the people who need to make it happen. It must be done yesterday! Instructions received.   Robotic task-completion mode engaged.
    Nobody has anything to say around here. …..
    I wish people would just get on and do instead of seeking permission from me! Given he knows it all I need to check this first or it’ll be wrong.
    Why does nobody interact in our meetings or bring ideas?

    It’s like they’ve all just disengaged.

    …..

    We’re taught our whole lives – from school and through work – to show our brilliance.  Have the ideas.  Show you know things.  Demonstrate capability.  Do stuff and do it well and quickly.

    All through school, university and work we’re rewarded and praised for knowing and doing.

    Then we reach leadership and we keep knowing and doing.  And people disengage, switch off their brains, and do the basics or go elsewhere.

    We need to just be.  To listen.  To allow space for others to grow into.  And yes to add insight.  To provide a broader context or set a vision higher than anyone might believe can be reached.  But all the while involving and listening to others.

    How are you doing at being?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Self Care for People Professionals @ Learn > Connect > Do

    Today’s post is brought to you by Janice Keyes.  Janice is a wonderful, dedicated HR professional and coach who’s bringing her self care expertise (learned through her own challenges with bringing balance to life!) to Learn > Connect > Do next Thursday (15th March).  All profits from these events go to Twenty:Twenty and when you join us you

    LEARN new things,

    CONNECT with like minded people,

    and then go DO something different to make work better!

    We’re excited that PKF Cooper Parry are hosting the event at their amazing East Mids offices (check out the image at the end!) and we’d love to see you there.  Click here if you already know you want to book.  And read on if you’d like to know more…..

    P.S. Please make sure you check out the great boat metaphor for self care at the end!

    Now, over to Janice…..

    I have a little self-care graphic that I keep visible by my desk. It’s a simple hand-drawn graphic that serves as a reminder on those busy days of the things that keep me healthy. It prompts a bit of structure around my self-care and reminds me to keep it high on my agenda. And as you’d expect, the more I engage with activities that nourish my soul, the more rewards I reap. Not only in that short-term joyous time of connection with whatever it is I’m doing but for the long-term too as I continually reinforce those behaviours. Reminding my brain and body what it feels like to be nourished with those feel-good vibes on a regular basis.

    And why am I telling you this?

    Because hands up! I haven’t always been great at self-care. I know that self-care can be difficult. And so if, by any chance, I can enable your journey to greater self-care to be a little less time-consuming than my own then I’m happy to share my ideas.

    So what makes self-care so difficult in the first place?

    We live in a forever changing world, where we’re moving at a pace we, perhaps as humans, have never moved at before, constantly driving forward to keep up, take new stuff in and change. Our minds are constantly stimulated. Our mental health continually pushed to its limit whilst we strive to live our lives to their fullest. And with that we are continually challenged to keep everything in check (work and life) AND to deal with whatever has cropped up.

    So its no wonder when we live in the world we do that life or work can sometimes ‘get in the way’ and can knock your self-care routine off-balance.

    But here’s the thing…

    There is ALWAYS going to be something that will get in the way. The experience of life is not one that is always in balance as much as we’d like it to be.

    And these days we perhaps find that it’s unusual to get a ‘steady’ moment in work or in life… That is, unless we create one ourselves!

    And so to create one we will….

    On Thursday 16th March, I’ll be facilitating a session on self-care at the quarterly LearnConnectDo gathering. Learn > Connect > Do was founded by Helen Amery who is passionate about making work better. So if you care about making work better too by being better connected to your own self-care and if you have ‘people’ as the core focus of your work : HR, L&D, OD, coaching, leadership and management, then we’d love to have you along.

    I appreciate that it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which meeting, activity or event is the most important for you to attend in any day. It seems we’re forever prioritising. But let’s not forget that “Learning self-care is like building your own lifeboat, plank by plank. Once you’ve got your boat, you’ll still be rocked by the waves of life, but you’ll have a feeling of safety, and a stability that means you can pick other people up on your way.” (Nadia Narain & Katia Narain Philllips)

    So if you are ready to build the next plank in your own lifeboat to get to that feeling of safety and stability, book on here

    We look forward to seeing you!

    PKF Cooper Parry Offices, East Mids – this is where we’ll be on the 15th!

     

     

    The Rebel Playbook : A Book Review

    I’ve just finished reading my pre-release copy of the Rebel Playbook and wanted to pen a few words to share my thoughts so that you can choose if you’d like to read it when it’s released on 23rd Feb this year.  You can pre-order it now though – here or (currently at a reduced price) here.  First up, I want to say that I have no association to Debra or Glenn so this review isn’t a “helping mates out” thing.  I bought a pre-order copy, as anyone could do if they spotted the tweets promoting it.  Full disclosure though – they did send me some Haribo!  Which swiftly went to the kids 🙂  And a second book by way of apology because my copy was delayed.

    So, my thoughts….

    My summary view : a fantastic, practical and accessible handbook to shift attitudes to how we work with those we employ and therefore how we can make work more engaging.

    The book’s based on Debra and Glenn’s Engagement Bridge model and so it’s structured around the ten elements of that model.  These elements are essentially the elements you’d see in any decent people strategy but with the nice Bridge metaphor – the foundational rocks for the bridge are Workspace, Wellbeing and Pay & Benefits.  Above that, the more “planks of wood” you lay, the stronger your bridge and the more people you can safely get across the river.

    The ten elements provide the chapters for the book – but in a flexible way.  There isn’t a prescriptive “work on this, then this, then this”.  They invite readers to jump in where it feels right for them.  So you could read the whole book and then decide your priorities, but equally, if you know where your opportunities are you could go straight to those sections.  I also like that at the end there’s an acknowledgement that there can be huge overlap and interconnection between these ten elements.  So many books try to keep the boxes of a model (falsely) separate so I like the honesty about the fact these elements are operating as a whole system.

    Each chapter begins with insights or knowledge-sharing about the topic, then how Rebels do these things differently – the outcomes they’re striving for and the behaviours they deploy, before sharing case studies or “plays” from a huge variety of organisations – varied both in terms of type and size of business but all consistent in being led by people who have a passion and the courage to do things differently to make work better.

    In terms of the Plays, I don’t believe for a second that all these organisations have engagement perfectly nailed in every way, but the examples of what they’ve done give great ideas to get thoughts stimulated and minds broadened to possibilities.  Again Debra and Glenn are honest about this work of improving engagement being an ongoing journey.  There is no quick fix, no silver bullet.  It takes commitment for the long term and continued effort to keep practices fresh and still engaging.  And also (yay!!) they discredit the idea of best practice – read the examples, consider them in your context, and do what’s right for your organisation, your values and your uniqueness.

    I found some chapters more interesting, sparky and hope-inducing than others – even though some of principles and Plays are ones I’m aware of.  The one I found least engaging was the Learning & Development one, but maybe that’s because it’s the area I know best.  The Plays in it just seemed to be things we were doing in Boots a number of years back and not especially innovative.  Or does it mean that L&D are ahead of the curve in doing things differently?  That would make a nice change to the usual narrative around L&D holding things back!

    Counter to that, HR and Legal teams get the raw deal in here.  Held responsible for the dreadful employee handbooks, rules and policies which punish the many for the misdemeanours of the few.  However, that approach has grown up from the management practices of the 19th Century and the belief of the need to control the lazy workforce so I don’t think HR and Legal can be held solely accountable here.  A key message is about starting from a place of trust and believing that people are at work to do a good job – and that if you treat people that way that’s likely what you’ll get.  And if you don’t, you deal with that on an individual basis, treating it as the exception to the rule that it really is rather than writing a while new policy paragraph.  @HRGem would be proud!

    Of course with one book and ten topics to cover, these are relatively topline insights into each, but definitely giving enough information and ideas of “what” you can do.  There’s a gap in terms of the “how to” but maybe that will be for future books – or at the very least for you to research more and/or seek support from relevant experts.

    One thing I struggled with, and am still grappling with now, is one part of the definition of engagement where Debra and Glenn say that engaged employees “genuinely want the organisation to succeed” which means “They will often put the organisation’s needs ahead of their own.”.  I just don’t agree with this.  I believe we have enough people who attach their self-worth to how well they do in a job (which can lead to burnout and mental illness) and I don’t think a human and responsible employer should use how much people put the org before themselves as a measure of success – further increasing the pressure to be “good enough” by going the extra mile.  In fact that to me this is counter-intuitive to the arguments later in the book about wellbeing.  If we’re truly going to help people be well we need to be OK with employees putting their own, their friends and their families needs ahead of the org.  Not only that, if we believe that putting the org first is a measure of good engagement then you automatically exclude a large and diverse proportion of the workforce from being on the “engaged” list because they may just not physically be able to make that kind of commitment – whether due to caring responsibilities, for their own health or because of a disability which limits how much they can work.

    Overall I think this book is fantastic, easy to read and containing loads of top tips and ideas.  I’ve already recommended it to a number of my clients to help them and their leadership teams with their own cultural shifts.

    Strangely I’m going to finish on a worry I have.  Not one that I think Debra and Glenn should have covered, nor are responsible for but…..

    I have a more fundamental grapple about engagement and the purpose of the org towards which people are being engaged.  If these practices are intended to improve productivity towards a positive purpose then that’s all good.  But I fear that too many orgs continue to operate with profit as the primary pursuit, and engage in work which damages the local community / the environment / people further down the supply chain.  I appreciate this isn’t the concern of this book but it is something that concerns me about the world of work; that orgs will do the engagement thing like they might do the CSR thing – make themselves look good on the surface to hide the unspeakables that are under the rug.  My hope is that nobody can be that good at hiding….

    And in the meantime I’m going to be focusing on the ones who have a positive purpose to do good in the world and who really mean it!