The Hard Sell

People from the UK are known as a dry-witted, self deprecating, stiff upper lip sort of people. We don’t do emotions, we don’t do passion, and we certainly don’t be positive. Those are for… other people. We’re an expressive people, very opinionated, and love a bit of pomp and circumstance. We’ve got brilliant engineers, a world leading creative industry, and top class medical professionals. What we don’t need is a group of people spouting mumbo jumbo, or getting you to help yourself in three easy steps, with little or no knowledge of what they’re talking about.

And yet amongst all that, here’s me trying to hold and promote an event on Positive Psychology to a group of professionals in the UK, many high earning, many very qualified, and many bloody intelligent. I may as well take a herd of elephants to the North Pole and convince them it’s their natural habitat.

And yet, I’m being doggedly determined to bring this thing to fruition and make a success of it. As of today, I have 13 people signed up to Positive Psychology in Application, and we’ve got 29 days before the day itself. To say I’m feeling the pressure is an understatement. Not pressure to get people signed up, but the pressure to ensure I help impart a set of practical tools and interventions that people can use immediately after leaving the workshop.


If I throw on my L&D hat for a moment, what are the key learning objectives for the workshop? Or put another way, why should you book your ticket?

Here’s some big themes prevalent in the workplace today affecting HR professionals:
– Health and well-being
– Employee Engagement
– Innovation
– Redundancies

I’m laying the gauntlet down for myself, by aiming to provide some ideas on ways to help address those various themes using a Positive Psychology approach.

Ultimately, Positive Psychology is about an individual set of interventions to help a person increase their sense of well-being and take part in activities that create long lasting effects of feeling positive. By engaging in a range of activities that help you to do this, the research has found that it has a knock-on effect in other areas of your life. You start to feel more energetic, you become more conscious about your body and how you’re keeping physically fit, your interactions with others become meaningful and you focus less on things which annoy you. These are a result of actions taken which positively influence your behaviour, your perceptions, and further has an influence on those around you.

There are some well researched and developed approached such as Appreciative Inquiry and the use of facilitation techniques such as Open Space or Positive Deviance which build and allow for full and robust discussion on topics important to a group of people. At work this could be topics like having an on-site day care service for parents wishing to bring their children to work, it could be about developing a work-life balance policy which everyone has a vested interest in, it could be about addressing concerns about health and safety in the workplace by creating a group of people at work who are responsible for it.

In wanting to be innovative/creative/fresh, the culture of the company has to be supportive and have the right mechanisms in place. Actually, what needs to happen is the belief in the company that good ideas can come from anywhere. You create that by helping people feel like they have the autonomy and responsibility to do it. Having unofficial work-groups spend time throwing ideas together, or an internal community of practice which meets fortnightly, or a social club where like-minded people can come together, are all helpful and useful ways of building that environment. In the main, good ideas come from collaborating and discussions with others.

And sometimes we have to accept that bad things happen. At the end of the day businesses will do what they must in order to survive. The procedure of redundancies are not pleasant and not very positive. Yet there are still things which can be very useful during stressful times like this. My own experience of redundancy from several years ago helped me to see that being able to discuss things with others in the same boat was highly beneficial. The company didn’t do this for us, we did it ourselves. There were those in the group who were more than happy to spend time in giving support to others. Those conversations and discussions were very helpful. The CEO was quite removed from the process and left it all to the HR Manager to deal with. On the last day the CEO tried to come around and talk to everyone individually. You might think this is a good thing except he didn’t know our names, the work we did, or what value we provided. This isn’t going to be an easy time, but more care can be given to providing the right support within and from the leadership team.

So there you have four key things which you will be able to apply the learnings from Positive Psychology to.

Now go book your ticket.