Happiness at Work

happiness1Maximising Your Psychological Capital for Success – By Jessica Pryce-Jones

I was attracted to this book as the title had components that all relate to my own current research into when you are your best in work: Happiness, psychological capital and success are all factors that I have come across and seeing them all in one book title was intriguing.

What kept me reading the book was the natural style and non-academic approach to sharing the research that the book is based upon.  So if you’re looking for a meaty read, based on research but with a refreshingly natural style, this could be for you.

Jessica Pryce-Jones has developed a model of achieving potential or happiness and she calls it the 5 Cs: Contribution, Conviction, Culture, Commitment and Confidence.  Its initial simplicity is perhaps misleading – all those factors are so interlinked.  As the chapters unfold she shares real stories from the research that illustrate the importance of each of these factors.

What is most compelling about her research is that she provides some tangible implications of developing happiness at work: Greater success, greater energy, greater commitment (all with a massive list of quotable research references supplied at the back of the book).  Each chapter has clear take-aways – I’ve summarised these to give you a flavour:

Chapter 1  sets outs the business case for happiness at work, highlighting that financial value is too limited a measure of success. She suggests that it is individuals’ personal resources and the relationships within teams (psychological and social capital) that work together to feed financial capital.

Chapter 2  takes you through the research journey and number crunching to get to her 5Cs model.  She also highlights that pride, trust and recognition underpin the model and suggests that achieving potential is about developing these factors and maximising the 5Cs.

Chapter 3  focuses on Contribution (one of the 5Cs and she suggests is the most important component of happiness at work).  Here she focuses on what she terms contribution ‘from the inside-out’.  She highlights things you may have already come across like breaking down goals into practical steps.  One memorable learning point is to create your own goals that suit your personal needs.

Chapter 4  takes a slightly different perspective on Contribution – from the Outside-In.  Here she highlights how experiences such as getting feedback can really impact on how you feel about yourself.  Feeling genuinely listened to would appear to be the most important factor here and she gives some helpful hints on developing trust and improving relationships.

Chapter 5  is focused on Conviction – being motivated, having a purpose and direction.  She picks up on factors like ensuring efficiency in our work and developing coping mechanisms so when faced with change we can continue to operate energetically.  She highlights that if we see that our work has a positive impact we are most likely to be able to show conviction in what we do.

Chapter 6  considers the role of Culture in maximising our potential.   She doesn’t take a formal view of culture, highlighting it as fluid.  But what she suggests is that we pay attention to the language that we use, the social support that we have and the control over our daily activities.

Chapter 7  looks at the role of Commitment in that we need to feel that we are doing something worthwhile, interested in our job and believing in the organisation.   She introduces the notion of having hope which is not so much the fluffy feeling but more about having both will power and a sense of how we can get to our goals (way power).   Positive self-talk, focusing on success and positive language are all associated with greater commitment and hope.

Chapter 8  considers the final of the 5Cs, Confidence.   She recommends: using mind tools (like self-talk, imagery) to build self-belief; accepting new challenges; and learning from success all go towards building confidence.

Chapter 9  sweeps up Pride, Trust and Recognition as underpinning the 5Cs – challenging you to build pride in your organisation with some reflection questions; build trust in colleagues, giving you 5 rules to do this; and developing more recognition for achievements through various techniques.

Chapter 10  is simply titled Achieving Your Potential and as you would imagine essentially says attend to all the 5C and you are on your way to doing that.   One interesting takeaway from this chapter that is not always highlighted in other books is that whilst it is vital to work with our strengths we must also not lose sight of weaknesses so we can work on refining our skills.

All of these factors are not earth shatteringly new but the way that she groups them together helps you to think about the practical implications for how we approach our work and how we structure it.   Mixing up happiness and potential is a little bit confusing but maybe that is what this book does – recognises that both are so interlinked they might well be the same thing.  So if I want to be happy in my work I need to maximise my potential…. That is one big challenge!

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Building Trust

Totem-Trusting-2-400x265The Art of Building Trust

In a previous article we explored the importance of trust in the work place and the dangers that can arise if we don’t trust our colleagues.  With the support of a very popular book, we offer some insight to business partners and mangers in building trust in the workplace.

Working with professional services firms and support functions within any sort of business, we find a common challenge: How can we be better business partners?

Whether you’re building relationships with external clients, or supporting teams within a company through service provision of HR, IT, Finance support etc – we all need to be great business partners.

The Trusted Advisor book gives a great introduction as it helps us understand why we call one person a supplier – yet call on someone else in the same position or profession a friend, confidant or – you guessed it, trusted advisor.

In a nutshell we need to listen, ask questions and advise effectively.  Sounds ridiculously simple?  Well, yes it is – but we all know common sense is rarely common action.

Totem Gummi Bears

It makes sense because if I’m going to trust you, confide in you and think you can help me, I must believe that you’re in it to help me, not yourself.  In spite of the common sense this seems to tap into, this is the number one area where people fall down.  We’ve all got our to-do lists, priorities, objectives and we come to every meeting with an agenda – so how can we possibly demonstrate that we’re in it for others?

Here are some tips on how you can do it better…

Drop your Agenda

Or as one of clients puts it – “suspend your agenda.”  Put your own agenda to one side.  You might be here to win a sale or to get agreement on a project you want to go ahead with – but what do they want?  What does the other person in this conversation need from you?


And that means actually work hard to understand what they’re saying and what they mean.  This is different to “waiting to speak”!

Ask questions

Ask to clarify your understanding of something – “do you mean…?”  Ask to explore something further – “what might that look like?”

Advise effectively

In the book, the authors talk about this as – explain each option, give the pros and cons of each option, make a clear recommendation with a rationale.  If you have asked questions and listened well, this should be easy for you to do.

Be more curious

We’re often asked how we know what questions to ask – whether that’s in a coaching context, consulting situation or everyday conversation.  This book nails it by simply explaining why we need to be more curious.  Of course there’s not much in the way of practical tips on how to be more curious – as it’s simply seen as a yes or no mindset.  Are you being curious right now or assuming you already know everything you need to know?

The powerful point here is that we can choose at any moment to be more curious and ask more questions.

The Trusted Advisor is a great read and is available from all good book stores.



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Transactional Analysis

TA-400x265Exploring Transactional Analysis in the workplace.

Transactional Analysis is one of the cornerstones of modern psychology.  It was developed by Eric Berne, and describes the infamous ‘parent adult child’ theory.  Transactional Analysis is of great importance in organisational and personal development, improving communications, management, relationships and behaviour.

A deeper understanding of Transactional Analysis is a great starting point for building your self awareness, and an awareness of others.  When two people communicate, each exchange is a transaction.  Many of our problems come from transactions which are unsuccessful.

Dr. Berne studied the complex interpersonal transactions between individuals and developed a model of how those individuals interact with one another.  This culminated in his three “ego-states”.

  • Parent
  • Adult
  • Child

Each one of these ego states is the method of communication we choose to use with other individuals, and the impact of that communication style can be quite dramatic.  But in summary, the language of the Parent is one of values, the Adult is of logic and the Child is a language of emotions.

Totem Lollipops

Dr. Berne’s book, Games People Play, is a wonderful insight for leaders who wish to develop their understanding of the potential impact their communications may have, intended or not.


We can adopt the role of two quite different Parents when addressing someone, the Nurturing Parent is caring and concerned and often appears as a mother-figure.  The Controlling Parent attempts to make the Child do as the parent wants them to do.


The Adult transaction is born from rationality and a deep sense of Logic.  This is expressed in the form of someone who talks reasonably but assertively, without a desire to control or show aggression.  This is the state that most of us aspire too.


The Child state can be broken down into three different types:

  • The Natural Child has remarkably little self awareness and can be identified by the non-speech comments they make, yippee, woohoo for example!
  • The Little Professor is the curious and exploring Child, someone who always wants to try out new stuff.
  • The Adaptive Child is reactionary, and seeks to change themselves in order to better fit in with the world around them.

We possess all three Ego States as our personality is a result of our combined life experiences. Who we are as a Parent, Adult, or Child is a product of these experiences, regardless of far we’d like to distance ourselves from those experiences.

Totem Gummi Bears

Depending on whom we’re talking to, we switch between these ego states.  And how and when we switch is largely driven by our own understanding of the social context we’re in, our perceived relationship with those we are interacting with, and our own inherent personality type.  See Khaler’s 5 Drivers for more on this.

We’ve developed many social rituals, from greetings to whole conversations where we take different approaches for different contexts. These are often ‘pre-recorded’ as scripts we just play out. They give us a sense of control and identity and reassure us that all is still well in the world.  Other games can be negative and destructive and we play them more out of sense of habit and addiction than constructive pleasure.

Identifying and Resolving Conflict

Complementary transactions occur when both people are at the same level – adult to adult for example. But problems occur in crossed transactions, where each is talking to a different level.

For example, by being a Controlling Parent we are inviting the other person to adopt a Child state where they may or may not conform to our demands. They adopt the ‘naughty child’ state to oppose the Parent or Adult states, simply for rebellions sake.

Be aware for crossed wires. This is the source of conflict between individuals.

By choosing carefully the state that you employ to communicate, you can engender a great deal of trust.  If you have recognised the Child in an individual, employ the Nurturing Parent or talk at the same level as the other person.

There are three things you can do when you want to get the most out of an interaction with someone and all three require you to notice what is happening:

Observe and challenge yourself – note what sort of state you are in, how you are responding and what your reactions are like.  Is this how you want to be?  What sort of interaction would be more appropriate?

Observe others and respond productively – not what sort of state they are adopting, how they are responding and what their reactions are like.  What sort of response would be most productive?

Observe the interaction – has it been successful? Does it set a precedent for the future?  What will you do differently in the future? 

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Five Drivers

steering-wheel-smallWhat are Drivers?

Way back in 1975 Taibi Kahler identified five common drivers that motivate us, these drivers are born in our unconsciousness and can lead to some very positive, as well as destructive behaviours.

By identifying which drivers an individual exhibits most, it becomes possible to recognise and develop the potential of these positive behaviours and how to respond constructively to the negative.

These drivers result in the behaviour that we exhibit to the wider world and find their roots in our unconscious. We’ve put together a guide to the 5 drivers and a questionnaire to help you identify which of the five driver types you naturally have a preference for.  Or more likely, which blend of drivers you have.

For more information on the five drivers download this:



To use the interactive online version of this questionnaire follow me, or to take the paper based test, download this:





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The Trusted Advisor

trusted-advisor2By David H. Maister

It’s always great when someone recommends a book to you because they’ve found it really useful and helpful in their work.

And for the ego, it’s amazing to then find that you’ve already been doing a lot of the stuff described in the book!  When I got over myself and moved past that over-confident initial reaction, I realised I was learning some great insight into why what we do works and how we can make it even better.

The Trusted Advisor helps us understand why we call one person a supplier or service provider – yet call on someone else in the same position or profession as more of a friend, confidant or – you guessed it, trusted advisor.

Getting somewhat complex in places with equations, which I fear could make the reader obsessive over the details – the ideas shared are powerful for considering how we can all build trust and be better advisors.  That’s invaluable to any roles where consulting and influencing is key (are there any roles where that isn’t the case?) – whether as an external supplier or as an in-house partner.

Can you describe three fascinating ideas suggested by the book?

Be more curious

We’re often asked how we know what questions to ask – whether that’s in a coaching context, consulting situation or everyday conversation.  This book nails it by simply explaining why we need to be more curious.  Of course there’s not much in the way of practical tips on how to be more curious – as it’s simply seen as a yes or no mindset.  Are you being curious right now or assuming you already know everything you need to know?  The powerful point here is that we can choose at any moment to be more curious and ask more questions.

Park your personal agenda

Low self-interest was consistently found in the authors’ research and examples as critical to building trust.  It makes sense –  if I’m going to trust you, confide in you and think you can help me, I must believe that you’re in it to help me, not yourself.

In spite of the common sense this seems to tap into, this is the number one area where people fall down.  We’ve all got our to-do lists, priorities, objectives and we come to every meeting with an agenda – so how can we possibly have no interest in what we need from every conversation?

What I love about this concept is once again, it’s a choice in the moment.  I may go into a meeting that immediately I sense suits me to drive my agenda and get what I need.  And minutes later, I may realise that the other person is not where I thought they were, they’re unsure what’s next and they need to talk about it.  I have a choice in that moment to park my agenda, and pay attention to my broader purpose: To make a difference.  I can’t possibly make a difference if I’m not listening, so I make my choice, and have a greater impact.

Give good advice (I know, it’s not rocket science!)

If you’re a fantastic listener and have no issue with the point above about parking your own agenda, maybe this tip is more for you.  Where a lot of people fall down with self-interest, others may fall down by not being forthcoming enough with their opinion, expertise and thinking.  It is a fine balancing act to take a high level of interest in a person, be curious and focused on their agenda – then as soon as it’s required (judging when that is may be the biggest challenge) – come in with your advice and suggestions.

The book suggests a three-step approach to giving advice – offer options, explain the pros and cons of each, then make a recommendation.

What’s the one thing that will stick with you after reading this book and why?

For me personally, as is perhaps evident from the way I have written this review, it is the need to be more forthcoming with advice that will stay with me.  At the time I was reading this book, I was working with a client who wanted me to give far more advice on how I thought a project should run, rather than follow his lead on what happened when.  That will not be the case with all people I work with, but I know the idea will stay with me for life that when I have an opinion on a subject that may be useful for someone, it’s better to share it.

You can buy the book from all good book stockists, or click on the image and be whisked away to a rainforest…

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The Power of Optimism

Optimism 400x265Are you an optimist or pessimist?

The optimist / pessimist contrast is usually the only contact many of us have had with the concept of optimism.  Optimism by itself, is a fascinating concept and there is a growing body of research showing that this is largely genetic and then shaped further by early experiences and upbringing – so we’re optimists or pessimists from a young age.

Yet there is a difference between being an optimist and thinking optimistically – and we can all benefit greatly from choosing to think more optimistically, some of the time.

Martin Seligman is world famous for his work on depression, happiness, wellbeing and optimism.  He points out as a result of thousands of examples from therapy and experimentation that regardless of our natural style (more or less optimistic), we can develop our thinking.  And that change in thinking leads to both lower chances of getting depressed and faster recovery time if we do feel depressed.

So what can we do?  It all comes down to how we explain to ourselves and others “good” and “bad” events.  Life happens – it’s how we think about those events that makes the difference to our wellbeing.

When good, great, pleasing things happen, it is better for our health and wellbeing to explain those things as personal, permanent and pervasive.  This is optimistic thinking.  An example would be:

“That workshop went so well because I did a great job.  And I always do a great job so tomorrow will be just as good.  And I’m not just good at this, I’m good at other things too – my strengths apply across situations.”

As opposed to: “it was a fluke the workshop went well, the group were just really nice.  I won’t be that lucky tomorrow.  And just because that workshop went well, that doesn’t make up for the fact that I’m useless at most other things.”

Totem Gummi Bears

When sad, upsetting, bad things happen, it is better for our health and wellbeing to do the opposite.  Let’s explain those things as impersonal, temporary and specific.  This is optimistic thinking.  An example would be:

“My marriage is not going well because of current circumstances, I don’t think it’s all down to me.  This is just a bad time, things will get better.  And just because the marriage isn’t so great right now, I’m still able to do great at my work, hobbies and relationships with other people.”

As opposed to: “It’s all my fault, I’m ruining my marriage.  This is permanent, it’s never going to get any better.  How can I do anything else well, I am a failure at everything.”

So the research shows it, more optimistic thinking is better for our health, wellbeing and overall success.  It’s not about thinking positive all the time – how would we get on if we had no risk management specialists planning for the worst?!  This is about us having a choice in each situation, and choosing at times to think more optimistically for our wellbeing and happiness.

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