Category Archives: Enjoy your work

A culture of feedback

Feedback is one of the most powerful tools we have for developing individuals and teams, for improving processes and systems, for enhancing quality and increasing productivity.

Feedback is best used when it’s embedded in an organisation’s culture – as a culture of feedback. It’s a shame that in so many organisations feedback is only given on special occasions, such as the end of a project or a personal review/appraisal. In a culture of feedback everyone is trained to help others by providing great feedback on a regular basis.

There are two aspects to giving great feedback, it is more than just expressing a view. The first aspect involves encouraging others to reflect on what they have done – it asks questions such as ‘what was your goal and what did you achieve?’, ‘what have you learnt?’, ‘how could it have been even better?’ The second aspect of feedback involves an objective assessment and sometimes a personal response, it looks at what was successful and what could have been better and how that might be achieved next time – it also praises and celebrates success.

In such a culture everyone is encouraged to ask for feedback, recognising that it is a way to grow and develop. They feel safe doing this because trust is endemic to the culture, there is a lack of blame and an absence of punishment – no-one needs to cover up or to justify their actions, it’s understood that people learn from mistakes.

I’m currently running a series of workshops designed to develop a culture of feedback – if you want to know more call me on 07932 657925 or email me at

You can read a bit more about a culture of feedback on Ed Batista’s Harvard Business Review Blog ‘Building a Feedback-Rich Culture –


A short piece on art and life

After I left school, which is a very long time ago, I spent four years at art-college practising to be an artist. Then life took over, I put down my brushes and started on a long winding career that took in art galleries, museums, bits of film and TV, a flirtation with marketing, and work as a business coach and trainer.

Last October I started to paint again. Now I try to spend at least a couple of days a week painting. While I love it and get a huge sense of fulfilment from it, I’ve been surprised to find that it’s the most difficult thing I’ve done for a very long time. The interesting thing is that, alongside the need to re-learn some technical skills (how to handle paint etc.), the challenges of painting have reminded me of some important life-skills

The first thing I’ve been reminded of is the importance of perseverance. When something isn’t going well, when we’re in danger of being knocked-off course or dissuaded from continuing, then the ability to stick at it is essential. But perseverance shouldn’t be simple bloody-mindedness, it needs to be linked to a clarity of purpose and a goal.

Courage is the next thing. I’ve found that when I’m painting I often produce something that looks ok, and it’s very tempting at that stage to accept the painting as finished. At that point it needs courage to go on, to change something that’s good in order to achieve something that’s even better.

Self-belief is crucial here too. There’s something about producing a painting (and this applies to many other aspects of life) that requires the empowering thought that ‘I can do that’ – it requires a certain amount of ‘balls’ to produce something that’s going to be out there in the world representing you.

Lastly, and this is the most thrilling thing to be reminded of (and therefore maybe the most important), painting has reminded me about letting go of pre-conceptions, thinking outside the box, using imagination, being creative – keep on asking questions, keep on exploring, keep on changing perspective.

Knowing when something isn’t good enough . . and when it is.

In a previous blog I talked about asset-based thinking, here’s another example.

Most of us at some time have found ourselves in the position where something we are working on isn’t going right – we can’t seem to find the right answer, one little snag is holding up the whole project, we can’t get things to be as good as we want them to be. When this happens it’s quite common to feel frustrated with ourselves and to have negative thoughts such as ‘I’m not going to be able to do this’ or ‘I’m not good enough’.

Asset-based thinking encourages us to focus on what we have got and what we can do, rather than what we haven’t got and can’t do. So, when you’re struggling to get a piece of work to a state that you’re happy with you might remember that ‘at least you know it’s not good enough!’ This might seem an insignificant and obvious thought, but just think of the opposite – without this thought you might believe that what you’ve managed to do so far is ‘good enough’, and as a consequence you’ll turn in a second rate piece of work.

Would you rather be the person who struggles to produce something really good/efficient/fast/beautiful/meaningful, or would you prefer to be the one who goes home thinking that they’ve done a good job when actually they’ve produced something second rate?

A great thing to say to yourself is ‘it’s not good enough YET’.

When you know it’s not good enough there’s a much better chance or producing something that’s really amazing.

And, knowing when something IS good enough is important too. It’s important to know when something is good enough to be fit for purpose, or as good as it can or needs to be given the constraints of time, budget or specification. This is good time and project management, and it stops the stress and over-work of perfectionism (the fruitless or unnecessary striving for a state that cannot or need not be reached).

Happy working.

How to be happy at work – PERMA

PERMA is a check-list of attributes that we need to have in our lives in order to experience a sense of well-being and contentment. The model was developed by the Positive Psychologist Martin Seligman in Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, Free Press, 2011.

While it was developed as a model for a happy life, it’s a great tool for helping to understand and develop happiness at work. You can use it to think about your own situation and how it might need to be improved, or if you’re a manager you might want to use it as a way to improving the well-being, enjoyment, satisfaction, motivation and commitment of your staff.

PERMA is an acronym, the attributes it stands for are:

P – Positive Emotion

Needless to say, it’s important to feel happy at work, to be in a position where we can smile, feel content, and maybe even to laugh!

The obvious way to achieve this is to be doing something that we like and which we are good at, and importantly, something that gives us a sense of achievement. We often refer to this as having ‘job satisfaction’.

Another positive emotion at work, although it’s often only thought about when it’s absent, is security. Hope is important to, and comes from knowing that there are opportunities ahead.

What does work need to provide to make you smile?

E – Engagement

Work is engaging when there is enough of it but not too much, when it challenges us, and when it uses our skills and stretches so that we grow and progress. We know when work is engaging because we perform it in a state of ‘flow’, when time stops, when we lose a sense of self and think of nothing other than the task at hand.

What engages you at work?

R – Positive Relationships

Relationships with colleagues, bosses etc. at work are crucial to our happiness. We are more likely to thrive in a work environment where there is respect, plus openness and honesty.

If there are tensions, animosity or ‘bad blood’, when authority is used badly, then stress, depression, and lack of engagement soon follow.

How are your relationships at work?

M – Meaning

Meaning comes from doing something that we believe is worthwhile. In terms of work this might mean doing something that helps others or benefits society. But it can also be something as simple as understanding how the work that we do contributes to a larger project. So, we might think of meaning as having a sense of a bigger picture.

How does the work that you do fit into a bigger process or project?

A – Accomplishment

A sense of accomplishment can be had in many ways, such as seeing a job through to completion, solving a problem, an act of creation or innovation, learning a new skill, gaining promotion. Work that leads to accomplishment starts with a goal, be it completing the next task or rising through the company to be a leader.

What are the goals that lead to your sense of achievement?

Employee passion

Research by The Ken Blanchard Companies was undertaken to determine the links between leadership, employee engagement, customer loyalty and organisational vitality. The project also sought to clarify the definitions for these terms.

Employee engagement had been defined as ‘a combination of commitment to the organisation and its values and a willingness to help out colleagues (organisational citizenship). It goes beyond job satisfaction and is not simply motivation. Engagement is something the employee has to offer: it cannot be ‘required’ as part of the employment contract.’ ¹

Blanchard findings introduced the term employee passion (in place of employee engagement) because the subject seemed to encompass a greater spread of components. They defined employee passion as ‘the positive emotional state of mind resulting from perceptions of worthwhile work, autonomy, growth, fairness, recognition, connectedness to colleagues, and connectedness to leaders.’ ²

In other words, the factors in an organisation which lead to employee passion are:

Meaningful work – employees perceive the organisation’s larger purpose, believe that their work is meaningful and understand the contribution it makes to the whole.

Collaboration – employees perceive an organisation that encourages collaboration, sharing and team spirit.

Fairness – employees perceive an organisation that fairly distributes benefits, resources and workloads, and is consistent in its decision making.

Autonomy – employees perceive that they have the information and authority to make some decisions, that they are trusted, and there are clear boundaries to their autonomy.

Recognition – employees perceive that through feedback and rewards they are recognised for their performance and contribution.

Growth – employees perceive that there are opportunities for growth and development.

Connectedness to leader – employees perceive that there is good rapport with the leader, and the leader takes a personal and professional interest in them.

Connectedness with colleagues – employees perceive there is good rapport with colleagues who take a personal and professional interest in each other.

This research was part of a larger study into what The Blanchard Companies call The Leadership-Profit Chain.

This chain links the effectiveness of leaders to employee passion – there needs to be both strategic leadership to set direction, and operational leadership to shape appropriate policies and procedures to reach the organisational objectives.

There is then a further link from employee passion to customer devotion –customers are loyal because they have a positive experience of the organisation’s products, services, procedures and people.

And, customer devotion leads to organisational vitality – the degree to which the organisation is successful in the eyes of customers, employees, shareholders, and in terms of economic stability.

If you want to know more see Employee Passion, The New Rules of Engagement, and also The Leadership-Profit Chain. Both of these papers are available as free downloads from  – you’ll need to register first.

Happy passion seeking!


¹ From CIPD paper on employee Engagement, available at

² Employee Passion, The New Rules of Engagement, available from www://

Why be happy at work?

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” Aristotle.

I guess we can’t argue with that. And what Aristotle said over two thousand years ago is echoed by today’s positive psychology movement: for example, Sonja Lyubomirsky calls happiness the Holy Grail.

Because the pursuit of happiness is fundamental to human beings, possessing a high level of it brings a huge range of benefits. Happiness, the researchers tell us, aids our physical and psychological health. Interestingly, it can also improve our willingness and ability to cooperate, boost our ingenuity and creativity, and make us better leaders and negotiators. If that’s the case then we had better make sure we take it seriously in the workplace.

So what makes us happy? On one level we all desire different things – whiskey rather than gin, that Arsenal beat Manchester United, the country rather than the city. But at a deeper level there are some things that we all need. In the context of work, these are some of the things that have been found to make us all happy:

  • a variety of tasks
  • challenges, things that stretch us but don’t stress us
  • control and self-determination, the freedom to decide some aspects of how things get done
  • doing things that we are good at
  • a chance to learn and grow
  • the sense of purpose which comes from clear goals
  • an understanding how our work contributes to bigger/higher things
  • good relationships with our colleagues, bosses etc.

This isn’t rocket science. But I know from working with hundreds of people from many organisations that these obvious things are often overlooked or not in place. The other day I was talking to a young woman who was at her whit’s end because her manager either micro-managed (no self-determination), or dumped challenging projects on her at the last minute (challenges that stress), and wouldn’t listen (bad relationships).

It’s not rocket science, but it does help to be reminded of these things.

For more information on this subject, see:

Happier: can you learn to be happy?, Tal Ben-Shahar –

The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky –

Authentic Happiness, Martin Seligman –


If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or

Triple win development

This is obvious: we train and develop in order to improve skills, knowledge and experience, and to boost effectiveness and productivity.

What’s less obvious are some of the subtler benefits of training and development.

When staff are given training there’s a good chance that in the back of their minds (and sometimes in the front) they’ll think ‘the company is investing in me, it must think I’m worth it.’ From this comes a greater sense of self-worth, and that means happier and more motivated staff.

When training and development succeeds in improves performance. Individuals enjoy the sense that what they are doing today is better, bigger, faster, more creative, and much improved in comparison to what they did yesterday. That’s a nice feeling.

And, when someone feels valued and motivated, and when the see themselves being better than yesterday, that kick starts an upward trajectory. Improvement leads to improvement.

It’s obvious really!

If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or



First manage yourself, then manage others

A client of mine lost her temper with her assistant. She was stressed and tired, and, sooner or later, it was bound to show in her behaviour. As lost tempers go it probably wasn’t very high up the scale – it was more of a momentary lapse of control, a sharp word, some cynicism, a snarl.

But the damage had been done. Months of building a working relationship had been destroyed.

What a waste!

Many people are elevated to be managers without proper training. And, much of what managers are taught is designed to help them direct and support their staff, to motivate staff and bring about effective and productive working. Little or no attention is paid to the skills managers need to manage themselves!

A manager’s emotions can have a profound impact on staff morale, working relationships, and ultimately productivity.  Think about how you have been managed or want to be managed – remember the difference between being managed by someone who is happy or sad, passive or aggressive, resistant or compliant, supportive or indifferent.

Understanding emotions, knowing how and why they ‘happen’, how they affect behaviour and relations with others, is an essential skill for a good manager. One way of improving this skill is offered by the concept of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is ‘the ability to monitor one’s own and other’s feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions’. The American psychologist Daniel Goleman has developed the concept in relation to work and working with others. Goleman proposes that we should have two broad sets of competencies – personal competencies through which we manage ourselves, and social competencies through which we handle relationships with others.


These are Goleman’s suggested competencies for a manager/leader.

Personal competences – self-awareness and self-management

Emotional self-awareness – the ability to recognize our emotions as well as understand their impact on our behaviour, relationships etc.

Accurate self-assessment – a realistic evaluation of our strengths and limitations.

Self-confidence – a strong and positive sense of self-worth.

Self-control – the ability to keep destructive emotions under control.

Trustworthiness – a consistent display of honesty and integrity.

Conscientiousness – the ability to manage ourselves and our responsibilities.

Adaptability – skill at adjusting to changing situations.

Social competences – social awareness and social skill

Empathy – skill at sensing other people’s emotions, understanding their perspective, and taking an active interest in their concerns.

Organisational awareness – the ability to read the currents of organisational life, and navigate workplace politics.

Developing others – the ability and propensity to improve the skills of others through feedback and guidance.

Communications – skill at listening and at sending clear, convincing and well-tuned messages.

Influence – the ability to wield a range of persuasive tactics.

Change catalyst – proficiency in initiating new ideas and leading people in a new direction.

Conflict management – the ability to defuse disagreements and orchestrate resolutions.

Building bonds – proficiency at cultivating and maintaining a network of relationships.

Teamwork and collaboration – competence at promoting co-operation and building teams.


It’s obvious that we all have at least a degree of emotional intelligence – we can sense our own emotions and see emotions in others etc. As a way of improving (we can always improve!) your own emotional intelligence, read through the list again and start to:

  • think about your own level of competence in these areas
  • become aware of some areas where you have competencies you hadn’t noticed, or areas where your competencies need to be improved
  • think about the impact of your emotions on your relationships with people in both your private and work life
  • ask others (staff, colleagues, your own manager, friends and family) for their thoughts.


I run workshops for those new to management or those who have been managers for a while but have never had any proper training. The workshops include an introduction to emotional intelligence. I also deal with emotional intelligence in my one-to-one coaching sessions. For more information email me at or phone 07932 657925.

This list of competences is taken from Daniel Goleman, Leadership That Gets Results, Harvard Business Review, March-April 2000.

When is enough enough?

Some people stop work and go home at 5.30 and don’t think about it again until the following morning. But for some of us there is always one more thing, sometimes many more things, that need to be done or that could be done.

Seth Godin uses the term ‘dance’ for this endless process of deciding when to stop. My term for it is a little less poetic – I think of it as knowing when enough is enough. It’s deciding that we’ve done all that we can, or all that we are prepared to do.

Knowing when to stop is a big decision, and for many it’s a big and difficult challenge. ‘When is enough enough?’ – it’s the topic that most often crops up when I do time management workshops.

Making the decision to stop often takes account of our bodies (we’re tired or hungry), but it should always take account of the fact that a rewarding life which is lived to the full involves a variety of activities (not just work).

Whether you call it the dance (and from now on I will), or whether you think of deciding when enough is enough, getting that decision right is a major factor in living a fulfilling life.

Knowing when to stop – or knowing how to dance – becomes clearer if you ask yourself some powerful questions:

What is the most important in thing my life?

What do I want to achieve?

What gives me most pleasure?

What is expected of me?

What am I capable of?

What do I want to do now?

.. and ..

Is it time to stop?

If you don’t know Seth Godin’s blog, check it out here

If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or

What can we learn from David Hockney?

You can’t open a newspaper or magazine at the moment without David Hockney’s boyish good looks staring out at you, or without seeing one of his ultra-colourful Yorkshire landscapes.

Hockney’s career now spans more than fifty years and has been characterised by a constant and ongoing artistic development. His artistic ‘periods’ include the early 1960s pop paintings, the Bigger Splash and Californian work, the photographic ‘joiners’, and the recent multi-canvas landscapes. Parallel to this development has been his changing status, in the public eye he’s gone from enfant-terrible, to Californian exile, to the UK’s most popular painter.

Hockney has constantly changed, developed, and re-invented himself. So, what can we learn from him?

Firstly, we can learn the pleasures and benefits of curiosity. At the heart of everything he does is a restless questioning, a fascination with new ideas, and a search for new possibilities. Nowhere is this more obvious than in his use of different media. He’s employed the traditional artistic media of pencil and paper, paint and canvas, he’s been an accomplished print-maker, he’s used both film-based and digital photography, made art with faxes and photocopiers, championed the ipad as a serious artistic medium, and in the new exhibition there are multi-camera film pieces too.

Secondly, we can learn that moving on to new ideas and interests need not involve a rejection of the past. For Hockney, moving on has always been a process of adding, of combining old and new skills and interests, of building on achievements. He’s always been striving to create something new that gains strength, meaning and interest from the inclusion of what has gone before.

Sir Isaac Newton said that he achieved what he did because he ‘stood on the shoulders of giants.’ This is the third lesson from Hockney. He has stood on the shoulders of Picasso. For him, Picasso has been a role model – think of Picasso’s lifetime of experimentation and breadth of work, from painting and drawing, to prints, to sculpture and pottery. At times Hockney’s work has shown the stylistic influence of Picasso, but this was never a slavish imitation. What Newton and Hockney share is the ability to absorb, rework and improve the ideas that have come before them.

When we put these aspects of Hockney’s character and career together – the restless curiosity, the constant learning and improvement, the absorption of ideas – we perhaps go some way towards explaining his permanent boyishness, his childlike passions. Hockney has shown us how to grow and mature while staying forever young.

If you want to know about what I do and how I might help you, your colleagues or your organization, contact me on 07932 657925 or