Want to improve your engagement with work and enjoy your job more? Helen Mayson spoke to Suzanne Hazelton to find out how
Do you think UK managers sometimes need some help to step back from the day-to-day?
I think a lot of managers do take that time to reflect. I was working with some quite senior managers form a large telecoms organisation and one of the things that came out was that they sometimes forget where they are in relation to some of their team. The feeling was that they were just ordinary guys who have been promoted, mostly men, and it was really useful for them to take time out and reflect and think about things from other people’s perspectives. When you’re in the job and you’re doing the work, you don’t always get that.
What are the pitfalls managers and leaders fall into when it comes to having a great day at work?
Often it’s just not important enough. I completely understand business pressures and deadlines, and often it falls off the radar. Often as leaders we’re not trained to be aware of people’s emotions – we’re promoted because of our skill on a task and not because of our emotional intelligence. There are a lot of skills that are often assumed and training to become a leader doesn’t equip these leaders to handle. It’s also for the employee to take their own responsibility.
Do you think attitude and mood influences others?
There is a lot of research now that shows that moods are contagious. A lot of research from the field of positive psychology looks at the contagion of emotions – so whether it’s stress that gets replicated in the workplace or positivity, what a leader brings to work will infect the team. People are more motivated and more enthused when that energy is positive. On one hand it’s common sense – when someone gives you compliment or is nice to you your spine lifts and you have a spring in your step, and you’re more likely to pass it on tot the next person.
What things you can do to instantly improve your day?
The instant improver for leaders would be to use “Active Constructive Responding” to team members – this is the 6 second technique I’ll be talking about next week and is from the field of Positive Psychology. You can read more about it on page 202 of Great Days at Work and you can find a free downloadable PDF of the whole chapter on my new website. Essentially it’s about how the leader responds to good news. It’s too easy to find fault, to see why / how something won’t work – and often we think it’s helpful to point this out early in a conversation. However the research shows being actively supportive and encouraging keeps the doors of communication swinging – later insight can be added with less risk of dampening enthusiasm.
The instant improver for team members would be to develop a habit of gratitude. It’s too easy to get into a habit of moaning about our day at work – heck perhaps it’s even the expected culture that we have a moan about work and our employer. However it is often “just” habit, and habits can be changed, although sometimes we may need to change our focus. Take the iconic facevase [http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/Facevase.png] picture – there is both two faces and a vase in the picture, but often our eye is drawn to one or other. This is like the negative and positive ‘stuff’ or experiences that make up our work days. By developing a habit of gratitude, it’s likely that we’ll not only start to appreciate, but also notice more of the positive! You can ‘do’ gratitude in a number of ways, from silent reflection, a list or even a glass jar with each new gratitude written on a coloured piece of paper. Be creative and find a way that works for you!
Are there any longer term tricks you can use?
Longer term activities for leaders is to ensure that the vision is clear, and individuals know how their goals fit to the vision. It seems that there are benefits to work having meaning. An understanding of (Zimbardo’s) time perspectives are also useful – and to understand the difference between past orientated conversations and solution focused understanding – passing this knowledge on to team members can also pay dividends.
Most individuals would benefit from developing more personal responsibility – Stephen Covey describes this as putting ourselves in the circle of control. This of course doesn’t happen overnight.
In some respects of course these answers depend on “where a person is currently”. I use a framework with clients … I start at the bottom and work up. The same framework (represented slightly differently) is used in Great Days at Work – and provides the structure for the book. Hence vision comes before some of the communication skills!
Ultimately, why is all of this important?
Great days at work are important from a business perspective, as moving people away from stress and into thriving has an impact of stress, productivity and engagement.
I’m going to run a session on positive emotions, and activity to look at why they’re important, how you can generate them especially on days when work isn’t great, and they I’m going to be taking a look at a really common source of frustration at work – other people. Relationships can be so energizing but unfortunately in the workplace we don’t get to choose our relationships, energizing or otherwise, and often they can become quite destructive.
Who is the event in Bristol on 4 March geared towards?
I think basically anyone – whether they’re responsible for people in a management or leadership role, if they’re responsible for the wellbeing of staff in an organisation in a HR role, or whether they’re aspiring to be a leader.