Tag Archives: business psychology

Happiness, Laughter Yoga and Wake up London, Heart of London Sangha

To begin thank you again to all the people, who give me encouragement and inspiration to write this blog.  Sometimes I think I am lucky, I get to choose how I spend my time and where I put my energy.  Last week I was asked to volunteer at the Museum of Happiness, second event on ‘Exploring Happiness: An Afternoon of Talks, Workshops and More!’.  I  have been to quite a few workshops in my time.  One of my values is learning, so I can overdo it and go to lots of events.  These days I try to go to less events and try to do more by writing, and sharing my work with others instead.  So I debated going to this event on a Saturday.  I was asked by my friend Shamash one of the co-founder’s and author of 7 books, including the latest one  The Mindful Way through Stress .

10714399_10152725248900983_8866355716824582720_o I decided to go and I was surprised that about 60 people turned up, motivated and really wanting to be there.  I got to work with all the volunteers who were interesting and compassionate people, I was thankful to be part of the team.  I listened to the two main talks from TEDx speakers.  The first one was Susanna Halonen ‘Screw Finding Your Passion: Unlock It & Find Happiness at Work’.

She calls herself a happyologist, in the introduction of her book she says:

“ stop chasing your passion.  Instead look inwards and you will see that passion is right there, within you…you’ll notice that people have been engrained with the message that they must find their one and only passion.”  

She goes on to share the five keys that unlock the passionate way of being:

  1. Be the Authentic You
  2. Understand Your Why
  3. Master the Art of Learning
  4. Connect with Your Tribe
  5. Play with Your Strengths

These are the key points for being authentic-

  1. Identify what your values are, what is important to you and why.  Awareness and fully embracing your values is the first step to unlocking your passion. If you want to do this you can take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths.
  2. Have the courage to carry your values in your everyday life.
  3. Acknowledge that being the authentic you at work is what helps you to be your best performing, most passionate you.

If you want to explore this area further this is another interesting resource by Neil Crofts to help you explore What is my purpose?

The second TEDx speaker was Marisa Peer ‘The Happiness Code: Three secrets to make your brain work for you’ with internationally acclaimed  therapist, multiple bestselling author.  From her experience she shares a fundamental rule that all our emotional and personal problems come from us believing that we’re not ‘enough’ and she explains how to overcome it.  She teaches people to say ‘I am enough’ and get’s people to write this on their mirrors and put on their fridge doors.  She shares the stories where this has worked.  To find out more you can watch her TEDx talk-

I got to also meet Esteban there a friend of a friend Ben Rodrigas, who I met at the Wisdom2.0 conference in 2014.  Here I am with some face painting by Livi Lollipop with the wise Esteban.

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Later in the week I was going to be running a post-lunch energiser with Julie Whitehead on

Laughter Yoga.  Last year I trained for two days to teach laughter yoga so I suggested it to TMSDI to have this as part of their yearly networking day.  They said yes, so we delivered a surprise Laughter Yoga session to the delegates.  Julie began by asking whether people have enough laughter in their life?  The room was silent and the answer was no.  So they were ready to give it a go.  We shared a little bit about laughter:

LAUGHTER – ho ho ha ha ha
Laughter releases endorphins, giving us the ‘feel good factor’, acts as aerobic exercise providing internal jogging, unleashes inhibitions, encourages better communication.  Great team building tool for colleagues. Helps boost our immune system which fights disease.  Tones muscles, improves respiration and circulation.  Encourages positive thinking and creativity.  Relaxes the whole body by reducing stress and tension. laughter yoga at TMSDI

We practiced quite a few laughter yoga exercises to encourage childlike playfulness, helping us all to let go and connect with the present moment.  There were 40 of us laughing together, there is something about the group energy that makes the laughter experience together even more special than when we laugh alone or with one other person.  We had an extra nice group, ready to give it a go and participate, it was a pleasure to be able to do this, so thank you to the wonderful Julie for saying yes and giving it a go to run the session with me.

This is a poem Julie shared at the end of our session:

SMILE FOR YOU 

“Smiling is infectious, you catch it like the flu.When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too. I passed around the corner and someone saw my grin. When he smiled I realised I’d passed it on to him. I thought about that smile, then I realised it’s worth. A single smile just like mine, could travel round the earth. So, if you feel a smile begin don’t leave it undetected Let’s start an epidemic quick, and get the world infected!”

Also at the TMSDI network event was Dr Charles Margerison one of the founders of the Team Management Profile.  I have been accredited to use this team psychometric since 2006 and it is always great when you get to meet the creator.  I think his major role from the profile is a ‘creator-innovator’, the same as me.  His presentation was deep and thoughtful around the concept of existentialism and how we use our time.  He shared stories of people that had been successful, bringing to light ‘perception’, people that noticed something of more value than was already there.  For example, Heinz tomato ketchup was made from all the left over tomatoes that were going to be thrown away, Heinz found a different more valuable use for them.

Charles is an advocate of action learning.  He used to think you had to learn to act.  Professor Reginald Revans the originator of action learning said to him “why don’t you take some action and you will learn something.”  Most of the learning we acquire is from our experiences.  What new experiences can you have today, tomorrow, next week?  He ended his talk with saying:  “think about the right thing to do“, sometimes the right thing is not appreciated straight away or even during your lifetime.  He encouraged us all to be a little more daring and take some risks.  He is a unique character and really got into the laughter yoga exercises! maxresdefault

To close the day, I had been invited by Esteban to an evening talk in Covent Garden close by to where I was in Leicester Square.  I went to ‘ A Wake Up and Heart of London Sangha event for Mindful Entrepreneurs: Practising Together’.  This was facilitated by the two leads of the two groups Carol Wilkins and Joe Holtaway.  They both follow the teachings of Thich Nhat Han, a favourite teacher of mine. He encourages people to practice mindfulness meditation together through a sangha:

“In practicing together as a Sangha, as a community, our practice of mindfulness becomes more joyful, relaxed and steady. We are bells of mindfulness for each other, supporting and reminding each other along the path of practice. With the support of the community, we can practice to cultivate peace and joy within and around us, as a gift for all of those whom we love and care for. We can cultivate our solidity and freedom – solid in our deepest aspiration and free from our fears, misunderstandings and our suffering.”

I enjoyed the meditation together and it was interesting to hear about how people are running their business with mindfulness and some of the difficulties they are having and how as a group we could encourage and support each other.  This was the first meeting they had together, with a wish to continue.

Enjoy your weekend and leave any comments you have on my blog if you would like to.

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Week of the 6th April- Suicide and the Compassion Research day at Facebook

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Before starting my second weekly blog, I want to thank you if you read my previous blog – I appreciate that.  Also, some of you have emailed me feedback on the blog which I value and thank you for taking the time to do that.  I mentioned the topic of this week’s blog to a few people and they used the word “depressing” to describe it.  However, even if suicide is viewed by some people as a depressing topic, I think it is important to raise awareness of suicide and death.  It does not have to be depressing for us to talk about this and share our experiences.

This week was the week that my friend Justin Broglie died of suicide last year.  I met him at the Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco last year.  I only knew him for 5 weeks before he died, however he left an impact with me and connected deeply in the short time that I knew him.  Below is a picture of Justin teaching some local Philadelphia kids how to meditate.

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We were both actually at the Compassion Research day at Facebook in 2014 during wisdom week, just before the Wisdom 2.0 conference.  This year it was sad for me when I went to the Compassion Research day at Facebook and he was no longer with us.  Equally I was sad and pleased with the topic of discussion during the day which was the work that Facebook have been doing on suicide prevention.

It’s estimated that around one million people will die by suicide worldwide each year 

(UK mental health foundation).

•Suicide remains the most common cause of death in men under the age of 35 (Five Years On, Department Of Health, 2005).

•More than 5700 people in the UK died by suicide in 2010 (Samaritans Information Resource Pack, 2012).

•British men are three times as likely as British women to die by suicide (Samaritans Information Resource Pack, 2004).

•The suicide rate among people over 65 has fallen by 24% in recent years, but is still high compared to the population overall. (Samaritans Information Resource Pack, 2004).

Suicide is something that we as a society are not comfortable with discussing and can bring pain to even bring it up.  Death is going to come to all of us.  Yet we spend most our lives trying to live longer and avoiding the subject.  I have thought that it would make it easier if we learnt about death and how to prepare for it at an early age, even at school, it would be more sensible than the stress encountered of when it happens and not being prepared with how to handle it.

Facebook can be seen in lots of ways; a social media giant, a place where you appear to have so many friends yet can feel depressed and alone.  I saw another side of Facebook that surprised me, as it is not something most people are aware of.  What happens at Facebook behind the scenes that I got to experience two years in a row is the work of the Compassion team at Facebook led by Arturo Bejar.  This is where they share their latest research related to helping make technology more compassionate.  In this blog I will be sharing their work on Suicide and in a future blog I will share the work they are doing with the Greater Good Science Centre.

11071145_10153081821327415_4285278657027288661_oIt is pretty shocking that 41,000 deaths in the US are from suicide, more people use guns to kill themselves than breast cancer or homicide.  Although from watching the media during my time in the US you would think differently and think that homicides were more prevalent.  Suicide is happening although, hidden and not really discussed in the media.  I was reassured by the work that Facebook are doing to care for people using Facebook and using it as a platform to connect with others and get help and support.  They have  three leads across the world covering  three time zones  that are on alert to help anyone that raises a concern and may need help.  Initially they encourage friends to help friends by putting together a suggested email that they can amend and add to or send as it is.  They have worked with researchers at the University of Washington, and two organisations that help to prevent suicide called Forefront and Now Matters Now to develop the content and resources available to help people in pain and suffering.  The responses link to a number of positive options, including videos from Now Matters Now, an online program started by Forefront research scientist Ursula Whiteside that uses real-life accounts of people who have struggled with suicidal thoughts to provide research-based coping strategies.

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The two presenters, one from Now Matters Now called Ursula and from Forefront Dr Stuber, were truly courageous and inspirational.  They shared very deep and personal stories about suicide and have started the two organisations now partnering with Facebook.  When I sometimes ask people what they want to do, myself included, the answer is to help people, but help people do what?  These two ladies are helping to destigmatise suicide and show there is a way to help people suffering, by sharing their story, providing information and resources about suicide.

Ursula Whiteside is suicide prevention researcher, developer of this #NowMattersNow, and one of the first psychologists to publicly disclose that she has experienced suicide ideation. She thinks that lots of people have suicidal thoughts and yet it does not define them – or limit what they can achieve #ZeroSuicide

Dr. Stuber from the University of Washington, who lost her husband to suicide in 2011, has conducted research and informed advocacy work to improve Washington States readiness to address the public health problem of suicide. In 2013, she co-founded the UW-affiliated organization Forefront, which focuses on innovations in suicide prevention policy, education, outreach and research.

Information is out there, however, I do not think everyone knows about it unless they really need to know.  For example, while watching the recent BBC1 programme ‘Life After Suicide’ I became aware of a place in London to help people called ‘Maytree’ a Sanctuary for the Suicidal.  They provide people in the midst of a suicidal crisis with the opportunity for rest and reflection, and give them the opportunity to stay in a calm, safe and relaxed environment. They can support four “guests” at a time. The service runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The volunteers and staff team spend up to 77 hours with each guest over their stay, giving them the opportunity to talk through their fears, thoughts and troubles. On leaving, each guest receives a goodbye letter. This is a personal record written by a member of Maytree’s staff team which reflects their stay, validates their struggles and honours their achievements.  Maybe we need more places like this in the UK and the rest of the world.

On Facebook I shared the remembrance of Justin and I think most people do not know the best way to respond.  The more we can talk about suicide I think the more people will respond to others experiencing suicidal thoughts and friends and family of people after suicide.  Although one of my friends Lincoln did share more with me following the post:

“I saw your post re your friend that committed suicide. And whilst listening to a Buddhist talk on non-self I thought of a poem I wrote that you might like and get comfort from. To me depression can be a door to dispassion and enlightenment and I think this was the thread of the poem.”

Once I laid asleep and woke,                                                                                                                                                                  To beauty all around,                                                                                                                                                                      Sun rays, softness, warmth and peace,                                                                                                                                             A couch, a room, a window I’d found.

13 years of age,                                                                                                                                                                                  A transforming stage,                                                                                                                                                                Looking out on the world around,                                                                                                                                                  And as I did, it bit by bit,                                                                                                                                                                Came crashing,tumbling down.

Sun rays darkened to thoughts I’d left, behind before I slept,                                                                                                 Softness hardened to thoughts I’d had,  of passed and so inside I wept,                                                                                  Warmth turned cold to thoughts I’d need, for future plans iI’d kept,                                                                                             And peace oh peace, such sweet release turned to hatred and contempt.

Let me sleep some more I thought,                                                                                                                                                  13 but lives so old,                                                                                                                                                                            Its hard to bare the load out there,                                                                                                                                                 When so much beauties sold.

To thoughts of goals and dos and don’t,                                                                                                                                            To thoughts of then and when,                                                                                                                                                            To thoughts of making sense,                                                                                                                                                             Of senseless everything.

But this tangled mess of thoughts to digest,                                                                                                                                  Will always be out there,                                                                                                                                                                     So I awoke,                                                                                                                                                                                      but kept a piece of peace,                                                                                                                                                                To a world less hard to bare.

Lincoln Mitchell 2012- lincolnmitchell@me.com

Facebook has 1.393 billion monthly active users (Craig Smith, 28/1/15) spending an average of 21 minutes a day.  Whatever we may think of this growth in social media –  be it good for us or bad for us, or both good and bad –and using it in this way to help people when they are suffering most and feeling alone to feel they are not alone, and letting them know that help is available is definitely great work by Facebook – so gratitude and compassion to the team at Facebook working on this for us all.

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To close this week’s blog, a lesson I learnt from meeting Justin is the importance of how we engage with others when we meet them: are we present, are we listening to them?  We will never have the chance to have the same interaction again.  Remember a kind word, a gentle smile, listening with your heart can make your day and someone else’s a day to remember.

More information-

* Life After Suicide http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05n2922

* Panorama – a Suicide in the Family- http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05rcrx0/panorama-a-suicide-in-the-family

* Suicide respite centre in London- http://www.maytree.org.uk/index.php

* Now matters now- http://www.nowmattersnow.org

* Forefront- http://www.intheforefront.org

* Recordings of the presentations from the Facebook Compassion Research Day: http://bit.ly/1GPtwwG and slides from the presentations: http://bit.ly/1BF9rZD

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GLOW AT WORK MASTERCLASS – DEVELOPING EVIDENCE BASED SKILLS ON 21ST NOV 2013 WITH PROFESSOR ROB BRINER

Could it be that occupational psychologists (OP) draw on research evidence that is less valid and reliable than a movie review site found online?  Could consultants be promoting psychological interventions that may sound appealing, look good on paper but hold limited to zero evidence supporting validity, reliability or business impact?  Professor Rob Briner from the School of Management, University of Bath and Vice-chair of the Centre for Evidence Based Management posed these and other questions during a Glow at Work master class session on evidence-based organisational psychology.

The use of the term evidence-based emerged in the 1990s within medicine but the principle has extended across other disciplines such as education, public policy and business management.  Within business psychology, an evidence-based approach means basing management decisions through a combination of critical thinking and the most valid and relevant ‘evidence’ (information rooted not only in scientific research but also, expertise, internal business information and even personal experience).

Seems obvious, no?

In reality, not quite.

photo-2Citing examples from employee engagement to executive coaching, Rob highlighted how absence of evidence and lack of research awareness plague organisational psychology practitioner activities.

Four main problem areas were identified.

Clients may not be interested:  multiple factors sway HR practices away from an evidence-based approach.  In addition to cognitive biases and decision-making errors, senior managers are prone to ‘faddism’ or adopting business practices without a solid intellectual foundation (Donaldson & Hilmer, 1998). Internal politics also plays a role.  Do senior managers actually achieve their status within an organisation because of accuracy and findings or because of action and speed?  Is political clout valued more than a rigorous scientific approach?  In many cases the answer is most likely yes.

Don’t trust the Academics:  they have extensive vested interests, are inevitably biased and in reality hold limited knowledge.  A survey of US based business school academics asked respondents whether they knew of faculty engaging in different types of academic misconduct – affirmative answers ranged from 50%-90% depending on misconduct behaviour cited (Bedeian et al., 2010).   And if that wasn’t enough, many academics engage in dubious scientific practice and behaviour (Kepes & McDaniel, 2013).

Some other interesting highlights include:

  • Academics can’t really agree on much:  a 24 item questionnaire survey of 75 OP professors asked that participants indicate where they saw good evidence supporting fundamental findings in organizational psychology – this yielded only 75%+ participant agreement on seven questions (Guest & Zijlstra, 2012)
  • Publishing only positive findings:  negative research results tend not to get published.  In addition, the percentage of hypothesis supporting articles published in journals has risen from approximately 70% to 85% in the period 1990 to 2007 (Fanelli, 2012)
  • HARKing or creating hypotheses after results are known.  Doing science backwards or developing hypothesis after some preliminary analysis in order to ensure alignment with results
  • Null Hypothesis Significance Testing:  Does failure to reject the null hypothesis really mean the null hypothesis is supported? And does a so-called statistically significant finding support the alternative hypothesis?  Why are .01 and .05 drawn as arbitrary lines of significance and therefore of interest?  And what about the issue of a large enough sample size delivering an inevitably significant result?

A lack of systematic reviews:  the aim of a systematic review is to identify all relevant studies on a specific topic and to select appropriate studies based on explicit criteria. These studies are then assessed to ascertain their internal validity.  Unfortunately, we just don’t have many of these reviews in management science or organisational psychology.

Teaching practices are not evidence based (Goodman & O’Brien, 2012): indeed the focus of teaching in most business and OP settings is on student satisfaction.

Rob challenged us to consider what impact on people and organisations our professional practice actually has, and what impact we want it to have.  Rob emphasised that evidence-based practice was a long-term professional commitment that implied being prepared to give up on cherished beliefs.  It would also mean finding clients who would be prepared to accept such an approach and in practice this might mean turning away assignments with organisations not prepared to do so.

In adopting evidence-based practice, Rob suggested making decisions that were conscientious, explicit, judicious and based on different information sources.  Four types of information were suggested for consideration:

  • Evaluated external evidence:  what does systematically reviewed evidence suggest?  What effective interventions feature in the research?  Are they relevant?
  • Practitioner experiences and judgements:  have you seen the problem before?  What are your hunches?  What has worked in the past and how is this situation different?
  • Local context evidence:  what is happening and how do managers perceive it?  What do they think about it?  How do managers view the costs/benefits of a potential intervention?
  • Stakeholders:  the perspectives of those who may be affected by the intervention.  How do they feel? What upside or downside do they see with the proposed plan of action?

Overall, a very entertaining and informative talk that highlighted why nothing should be taken for granted and that a rigorous evidence-based approach can help support better decision-making and management practice.

Michael Webster – mjw_london@yahoo.co.uk

References-

Quite interesting journal produced by SIOP – http://www.siop.org/journal/siopjournal.aspx
The good but depressing book about consumerism and higher education – http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199660940.do
Center for Evidence-Based Management website http://www.cebma.org/
 Any questions for Rob you can email him at Rob Briner- rbb25@management.bath.ac.uk
The next Glow at Work event is January the17th on Self-Compassion in Leadership– An introductory workshop
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