Encouraging Positive Energy Networks

Today at work, look around you. I often make this call to action when writing. Take note of who in your environment is helping others to achieve. Who around you is helping others to succeed. Who can you see that just brought a smile to someone? Who have you seen who needs a pick-me-up? Who have you seen that just looks like a misery guts? Who around you is bouncing around with energy and enthusiasm.?

For the moment, disregard those who are being miserable. Take note instead of those making a difference to other people’s lives. They’re the people I enjoy watching and connecting with. They’re the ones I find energising and motivating. They’re the ones who make a workplace fun. But surely they do a lot of other good stuff except for being a fun place to be?

They encourage others to learn and do better. They give support openly and willingly. They listen genuinely and without distraction. They ask questions because they’re interested not because they have an agenda. They have conversations that seem fun and interesting. Either way, others are attracted to their conversations. They are sought out by people because they’re a joy to be around. They are the ones who wonder around and have meaningful conversations with those they meet.

Sounds all joyful and wonderful doesn’t it? So here’s the tangible benefits of what they help others to do. They encourage ideas and creation of answers so that they’re not getting stuck into ruts with problems and issues. They make things happen because of the richness of the relationships they have that increase the discretionary effort those around them put in. They know enough about what’s going on around them that if they don’t know the answer, they can direct people to the right place. They help calm situations where tensions may be fraying and possible friction exists.

So what point am I trying to make? In life, we need these people. They help us to learn about ourselves, and to learn about others. On a grand scale you can take the mighty efforts of people like Nelson Mandela or Ang Sun Suu Kyi to see how they impact and influence others. On a small scale, you can look for those around you.

In the work environment, these are the ones who will help the business grow and succeed. They won’t have all the right qualities you’re searching for. But there’s things you can do to help them succeed. We all have some sort of performance management system in place, and some may have plans in place around talent management and the likes. But, and this is a big but, we shouldn’t have to rely on those processes to help these people succeed. They’ll find ways to succeed on their own. They just need people to help guide and direct them.


Positive energy networks part 1 – #connectinghr

In a recent post on using positive psychology in the workplace, I talked about positive energy networks. I want to build on this and provide some examples of where I see it happen on a daily basis.

Think about the people you know. There will be those in your social circle who seem to be able to create energy and positivity around them. There’s a real sense of authenticity in their actions and people genuinely enjoy interacting with them. This is nothing to do with being extroverted or outgoing or gregarious in any way. This is about those people who are able to create such positive interactions, that people gravitate toward them naturally.

What I like about this kind of action is that you can see that it influences others. People enjoy being positive. It’s a good place to be in. At the very least, if you’re having a bad day, you often search for those who will help you feel less bad. And I’m pretty sure either they’ll seek out their PEN (positive energy network), or their PEN will find them. How can this happen? Well, if you know there are those who can lift your mood, you naturally seek them out don’t you? And if they are equally your friends in some capacity, they will unknowingly be supporting you when they meet you.

Further though, we should actively help these PEN’s around us. And it can be an individual as well as a collective. The real life example I have of this is the #connectinghr community on Twitter. I truly look forward to turning on Twitter on a daily basis to see who is discussing what and what are they blogging about. And these discussions and blogs range from the banal to the deepest of topics to insight and forethought. Best of all though, the community is so supportive it doesn’t realise it.

They do this by doing a variety of good actions. They build social capital. Their actions (albeit on Twitter) are thoughtful, considerate, genuine and virtuous. They actively engage everyone in the community. I don’t think there’s anyone who gets left out. New people get introduced all the time and it’s an incredibly welcoming bunch of people. They don’t take themselves too seriously. A very British quality for sure, but it certainly helps create a great sense of ease and banter. It’s the most supportive group of people I’ve ever met.

So here’s a big hat tip to the #connectinghr crew. Thanks all for being there, and for being an ever growing community. There are days you honestly raise my spirits and you don’t realise you do this, but I love that I’m part of you. Next week at the unconference, I look forward to putting many faces to names and to find new ways to nourish the relationships I’ve built with a lot of you.

Using positive psychology to create change at work

Continuing my learnings from #HRD11, one of the sessions I found truly useful was delivered by Sarah Lewis. She is a psychologist and has a particular focus on using concepts such as social constructionism, positive psychology and strengths based views. She has published a book called Positive Psychology at Work. Regular readers will know I have a bias towards positive psychology, and I was glad to not be let down by Sarah.

The following is a summary of various actions that can be used within a work context. As usual, this is only intended to provide a base level of information, there are nuances and details that I won’t be going into, and as such, this should provide some thoughts for things currently happening that you would like to change.

Sarah reinforced the importance of seeking positive experiences as part of building an environment of positivity. Previously, psychology used to be about helping those with issues increase their wellbeing from a state of -5 to 0 (-5 being unhealthy, 0 being healthy). Positive psychology aims to help individuals move from 0 to +5 (healthy to vibrancy). As such, we should aim to have a ratio of positive experiences higher than negative at about 3:1 at minimum, and at a maximum 12:1.

In organisations, there needs to be increased connectivity. A powerful motivator for a lot of people (be you an introvert or an extrovert), is to be able to connect with others. This is not exclusive to physical connections, particularly now in the ‘connected’ world we live in. Organisations have to allow for their people to be able to connect in meaningful ways. This is not to be confused with making people connect. People simply need to know there are options available, and they are fully capable themselves of deciding how they want to connect.

We should build social capital. An interesting turn of phrase with a good list of benefits:
– Reduces transaction costs
– Facilitates communication and cooperation
– Enhances employee commitment
– Fosters individual learning
– Strengthens human relationships and involvement
– Enhances organisational performance
– Facilitates organisational resilience

If we allow ourselves to act virtuously and positively, we create around us a network of people who see this happening. People are easily influenced by others’ actions, and we have long known that phenomena like peer pressure are incredibly powerful in directing how individuals will behave. Similarly, if you see someone doing something positive and virtuous, you understand there is a benefit to this, and are likely to seek out doing something yourself.

We should create micro-moments of High Quality Connections. This is about intimate, meaningful connections where we enable positive behaviours to happen. The way to do this is to allow ourselves to recognise when someone needs our time. We had an expression at my old workplace called ‘be here now’. By doing this, you build a connection with the person you’re talking to, allowing these micro-moments to happen.

Positive Energy Networks. This was really interesting for me. Who is a positive energy network? What is it? Perhaps the way to answer this is by looking at what a PEN can create:
– A stimulated environment
– Attentive to others
– Energising those around them
– Responsive behaviours
– Being hopeful and allowing others to have the same
– Generating new ideas
– Willing to devote discretionary time

In relationship to change, this was a useful way for Leaders to think about it: Most successful approach to change is to understand and work with it as an emergent phenomena.