Written by: Jonathan Eisler, Director of Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group
When’s the last time you felt extremely happy after a grueling day at work? For me, it was last week after a busy day last week filled with coaching clients, securing a new training engagement, lunch with an old colleague and the standard mix of internal meetings. I was heading home exhausted….yet exhilarated and as I said, feeling extremely happy! The next morning I reflected on the day before, and realized that I was overwhelmed by the excitement I felt in anticipation of getting to the office. I ended up arriving at the office a bit before the majority of my colleagues, so I took advantage of the calm to reflect on the juxtaposition that I found myself in: happiness and work. Not to say that work is drudgery, but the 8-5 workday isn’t always associated with happiness.
I like seeing individuals happy and I’m passionate about helping organizations increase the performance, commitment and engagement of their people, so I took a few minutes to explore the drivers of employee happiness as I was experiencing the two having a positive correlation.
As my coffee cooled, it hit me; in regards to what employers can control, there are really three main reasons employees feel happy at work.
- They know and understand what is expected of them.
- Uncertainty leads to fear, anxiety and withdrawal.
- They feel supported and valued by the organization.
- Having to fend for yourself or not being recognized leads to feelings of isolation.
- They feel competent to do their job effectively (which most often includes working with others).
- No one likes feeling inadequate.
You may be saying, “Jonathan, this sounds a lot like employee engagement” and I’d say absolutely! However, I believe that engaged employees are not always happy and happy employees are not always engaged, but I do know that unhappy employees are NEVER engaged. So I propose focusing on happiness first!
If you find yourself unengaged at work, ask yourself if you’re happy. If the answer is no, look at the list above and see what may be driving the unhappiness. Do you know what is expected of you? Do you feel supported/valued by your employer? Do you have the skills needed to fulfill your duties effectively (including interpersonal skills if relevant…. and they usually are)? If the answer to any of these is “no” and you want to change your current situation, you now have specific areas to explore with your supervisor. I’m sure there are outliers, but in my experience, I’ve yet to meet a manager that didn’t appreciate an employee’s proactive approach to improving their own performance.
If you’re responsible for the performance of others and their performance is not what it should be, ask them where they’d rate themselves on each area of the list. The caveat here is that you must first communicate that the responsibility for the areas you wish to explore fall on the organization’s shoulders, not the employee’s.
While it’s worth noting that many factors contributing to an individual’s happiness fall outside of an employer’s control, never underestimate the value of a high-quality workforce/organizational development partner and Employee Assistance Program.
Let’s focus on creating a happier workforce and who knows, one Friday afternoon we may just overhear someone exclaim without sarcasm, “I can’t wait for Monday!” …alright, that may be a stretch.
To learn more about creating a high-performing workforce, you can email Jonathan Eisler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by: Brea Seder, LCSW
It’s here! Part 2 of 10 Super Foods for Happiness. If you’re just checking in, read Part 1 here.
Go Nuts! These nuts are packed with omega-3s, which help fight off depression and mood swings and can also improve your memory and focus. Walnuts are one of the richest dietary sources of serotonin, the chemical in your brain, that helps create calm and happiness. Providing new evidence that serotonin may be directly absorbed from food into the body, a recent Spanish study found that those who ate a daily 1-ounce combo of walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds had more of this feel-good substance than a nut-free group.
This leafy green is packed with magnesium and folic acid, both found to boost your mood and increase energy levels. This super food also contains phenylethylamine which is responsible for the production of endorphins, an instant pick me up. Spinach is a great antioxidant that works to protect your brain cells from free radicals, which can lead to low energy and mood swings. This green giant is super rich in iron, which helps deliver energy-sustaining oxygen to your cells.
Milk products are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid our brain needs in order to make serotonin. . Milk also contains antioxidants, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 that help fight stress and aging. Foods that are rich in calcium will naturally help to boost your spirits and excellent for your bones. 1-2 glasses of milk a day can be a natural mood booster that can help a person to feel happier and more productive. Drink a glass of warm bed to catch some Z’s.
Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries contain anthocyanidins and anthocyanins — nutrients that help reduce stress and depression. These super fruits help stave off the brain aging that can lead to slower thought processing. Thank the anthocyanins (antioxidants that lend berries their hues); these substances may work with other compounds in the fruit to block enzymes that short-circuit normal communication between brain cells. Since each type of berry has its own mix of phytochemicals, go for a variety.
Peas, beans, and peanuts are a rich source of protein, especially for vegetarians. Legumes release hormones like dopamine and norepinephrine, which signals the body to stop craving for food and they also make you happy. Legumes are also packed with magnesium, a mineral that plays a core role in your body’s energy production. “When you exercise, magnesium is redistributed throughout the body to help energy molecules get to where they’re needed,” explains Forrest H. Nielsen, PhD, a research nutritionist in the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. A deficiency may cause you to fizzle out more easily.
To get more information on Super Foods for Happiness, read part 1 now! For other blogs similar, check out Happiness without a Prescription: 10 Natural Mood Enhancers Part 1 and Part 2 or visit http://blog.perspectivesltd.com.
Written by: Bernie Dyme
Last week was a very painful one for many of us as we learned about the tragic suicide of a comedy icon, Robin Williams. In the time since his death, there has been much speculation in the media about why and how. But what’s most disturbing is the conversation about whether or not this was an act of selfishness on the part of Mr. Williams. I even heard one commentator speak about Mr. Williams’ suicide as an act of cowardice.
Now I realize that people’s natural response is to be angry, and since the easiest person to be angry at is the victim, I get it. But I think that this really does miss the point.
Although we may never know exactly what lead to his action, my guess is that it was an attempt on his part to deal with horrific pain. While we may or may not agree with his method of dealing with pain, what’s most significant here is to understand that he was in pain and so are many folks who are dealing with depression. And what we should really be dealing with here is how to prevent this in the future.
Prevention begins with bringing this illness out of the closet so that people can feel free talking about it openly and get the help needed to prevent it. Shame and guilt doesn’t do anybody any good. If we can encourage those suffering from depression or anxiety or chemical dependency to open up about this, we might be able to prevent or mitigate against much of this kind of pain.
There are many places in which we can exercise this influence. My particular focus is on the workplace. After all there is no other place where we spend more time, more energy or have a greater chance of impacting people’s lives.
So what can we do to bring this out into the open? In fact there are many things. Here are a few:
- Educate employees about the importance of good mental health. After all, we spend a lot of time and money doing this around physical health so why not treat mental health in the same fashion? And this should happen throughout the entire organization, from the C Suite to line level employees.
- Encourage all employees to speak with counselors whenever the need arises. Again, we think nothing of encouraging employees to get an annual physical so why not do this in the area of mental health?
- Teach managers the workplace manifestations and signs of mental illness as well as how to talk to folks who might be suffering and encourage them to get help.
- If a suicide should impact your workplace, encourage discussion about mental health and provide support to your workforce, especially those who may have known that person.
- Have good mental health professionals available to provide confidential support to anyone in need. The most logical place to get this is by having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). They can help educate, provide counseling and on-site groups for employees coping with a tragedy like this.
- Check into resources that might be helpful such as the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention or feel free to download “A Manager’s Guide to Suicide Postvention in the Workplace”. This is an excellent pdf that provides action steps for dealing with the aftermath of a suicide. I know because it was developed by the Workplace Taskforce of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention; a committee that I have been honored to serve on.
There are lots of resources out there so let’s take this opportunity to honor Robin Williams’ memory. With all of the good work that he has been involved in, I know that he would want us to take this seriously and try and prevent this from happening to anyone else. And that is not selfish.
If you or someone you know feels suicidal, please visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or call 1-800-273-8255.
Written by: Brea Seder, LCSW
Good nutrition is a key ingredient with physical and mental health. Do you ever feel happier just by eating? Need a boost? According to new research, some foods have the same effect on your body as taking a prescription mood-enhancing drug. Nutritionists swear that particular foods can make you feel amazing.
Researchers have studied the association between foods and the brain to identify ten nutrients that can combat depression, and boost our mood. These nutrients are calcium, chromium, folate, iron, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and zinc. Try to incorporate more of these feel good super foods in your diet today!
Avocado contains vitamin B3; a serotonin-boosting (feel-good neurotransmitter) ingredient. They are also high in monounsaturated fat and potassium, both of which help lower blood pressure, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Monounsaturated fat also helps keep receptors in the brain sensitive to mood-boosting serotonin. These green giants also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked with brain health and function and mood regulation. Avocados are also good for your skin, hair and nails!
If you needed another reason to indulge in dark chocolate, it’s this one: dark chocolate can make you happier. A study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that consuming chocolate high in cocoa flavonols increased levels of calmness and contentedness. Dark chocolate is high in magnesium, a mineral that calms your muscles and helps to reduce anxiety. It also contains tryptophan, which helps reduce symptoms of depression. Cocoa also contains phenylethylamine, which is responsible for the production of endorphins, which instantly boost your mood.
Lentils are a good source of folate which is essential for your mood and well being; Just one cup of lentils provides 90 percent of the recommended daily allowance of folic acid. Lentils also contain the amino acid L-tyrosine, which your brain uses to make the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, helping your brain fight depression.
These spears are another green high in folic acid and packed with tryptophan which helps produce serotonin, also known as the “happy hormone” that helps regulate our mood, emotions and sleep.
Salmon is loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, especially easily absorbed ones like EPA and DHA. While all omega-3s are healthy, you get the most benefit from EPA and DHA, which found is also found in tuna, and other fatty fish. “Fatty acids help to keep our brains stable,” advises Dr. Usula Wemeke, Royal College of Psychiatrists. Several studies have shown a omega-3 has a distinct antidepressant effect.
Written by: Kathi Blaszkiewicz, Director of Account Management
Front line managers are typically employees who have been promoted to oversee other employees as the result of their ability to do their job well. Sometimes they have “people skills” and sometimes they do not. Sometimes they have longevity with the organization and sometimes they have only been there a short time. In addition to these and many other variables, the job of supervisor means different things to different people. Many accept the promotion for the pay raise or the status but do not consider what skills they may need to carry out those added responsibilities.
Managers play a key role in the day to day operations that either help or hinder a company’s success. There are three areas that organizations can focus their training efforts on that are likely to help them get meaningful returns on their investment from their managers.
1. Company policies/procedures - These are usually written “by people for other people” to implement and enforce. While the terminology may be in-line with legal and financial considerations, it does not mean it makes sense to the manager who has to field questions from employees. Training’s around FMLA, harassment/bullying policy, attendance, drug free work place, etc. can help reinforce not only what is expected but the spirit and reason behind the policy.
2. Employee relations – Most managers have never been given the opportunity to develop leadership skills necessary to guide and influence work team engagement. There are several dimensions that aid a manager in developing and maintaining successful work teams including communication, coaching, and recognition. Organizations looking for affordable and flexible options can provide these as topic modules in bite size pieces with one hour sessions as part of a manager training series with topics that are of value to them.
3. Accountability/progressive discipline – This is often the toughest part of being a manager. Dealing with employees who have job performance issues is challenging and requires skills beyond what comes naturally to employees. Companies who train their managers send the message that the company values include being professional under pressure, is interested in solving the problem rather than attacking the person and wants to be fair and even handed with all their employees.
Employee Assistance Programs provide training’s for managers and often include sessions as part of their EAP contract. If your EAP does not offer training’s, please feel free to contact Perspectives for more information by going to www.perspectivesltd.com or calling 800-866-7556.
Written by: Colleen O’Brien, EAP Counselor
You just had a work performance review and the reviewer told you seven things you have done well and three things to improve. How do you react to that feedback?
If you have ever overreacted only to find out later that you misinterpreted the situation, you have experienced the power of perception.
Perception is created from our five senses and past experiences. It acts as our information processor and affects the way we behave. Things that contribute to how we perceive information include:
- how our parents taught us to view the world
- our environment
- opportunities we’ve had
- other influences in our lives
We automatically use our perception to create the way we think or feel which contributes to how we behave in any given situation. For example, if you are a self-critical person, when your boss tells you those seven things you do well and those three areas where you can improve, your focus may be biased toward the things to improve. You may immediately discard the positive feedback and start giving yourself negative feedback. Your inner dialogue might go something like this:
“How did I miss that? I’m such an idiot! I don’t even know what the heck I’m doing at this job”.
These reactions are based on a potentially faulty view of the situation. From an objective standpoint, there is always room for improvement, and there’s always a possibility that issues with your company (communication problems, lack of training) contributed to your identified areas of improvement.
Our interpretation of a situation is dependent on our individual perception. That’s why two people can be a part of the same exact situation and have two completely different takes on it. There is a good example of this in the 1998 movie, Very bad things. After one of the very bad things has occurred, the most guilt ridden of the characters, played by Daniel Stern, is convinced that everyone knows he has done something wrong. While he is at a gas station pumping gas he worriedly scans each and every person, seeing non-verbal cues that he is misinterpreting as certainty that he will be found out at any moment. This exacerbates his feelings of guilt and he continues to freak out, certain that he is going to jail. On the other hand, Christian Slater’s character perceives the very bad actions as necessary for the situation and does not experience even the slightest of guilty feelings and is unconcerned about the potential thoughts of those around him. While I agree with the assessment Daniel Stern’s character makes, I bring up this example to highlight two things:
- how two people can view the same situation very differently
- it is possible that your feelings will change if you think differently.
Neuroscientist and artist Beau Lotto sums it up nicely in his presentation on perceptions, “Sensory information can mean just about anything […] It’s what we do with that information that matters.”
If you are someone who tends to think the worst or struggles with misinterpreting information, awareness is the first step in helping yourself get a more balanced view of situations. An EAP counselor or other qualified mental health professional can help you take a look at how you perceive things. Shifting your perception may impact your reactions and behaviors.
Well, it has happened again. Another incident of violence at the workplace. This time though with another twist. In the situation that occurred in Chicago on Thursday, 7/31, the shooter was an employee and friend of the person he shot. In this situation, the CIO had recently learned that he had been demoted by his friend and boss, the President of the company. In fact one news report mentioned that the two of them had shared a bottle of wine over dinner just one month before the shooting.
Unfortunately these incidents occur far too often but even once is enough for us to be concerned. But it is even harder when it occurs between individuals who are friends because that is not supposed to happen. Or is it?
The real lesson here is that this can happen even in circumstances we would not have predicted. This incident occured after a demotion which obviously caused the CIO to snap. Although we will never be able to totally eliminate workplace violence, there are some things we can do. Here are a few of those things:
- Put together a plan for your employees in the event that there is an episode of workplace violence. Make this a priority. You can begin by watching an excellent video by the city of Houston called “Run, Hide, Fight. Surviving an Active Shooter Event“.
- Make sure you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and keep them abreast of any changes in your organization, especially those that may have a negative impact. There is nothing like being prepared and getting some consultation about what to do to minimize the negative impact of these changes on affected employees. And don’t forget those employees who may be indirectly affected and may have a reaction to the changes.
- If there are employees whom you are concerned about, consult with the EAP around how to encourage them to get some help as well as the best way to give bad news.
- When giving any news that might be interpreted badly, make sure you have another person around. It is also helpful to inform security so that they are on extra alert for a period of times afterwards. It is always better to overreact than to miss something.
- Make asking for and receiving help a part of your workplace culture so that employees don’t feel that they will be punished for doing so.
- In the event that an episode of violence or trauma occurs in the workplace, enlist your EAP to come into the workplace and provide support and assistance. Supervisors and managers don’t always want to embrace this because they may feel that this might shed negative light on them or their management skills. They will need to be reassured that this is not the case and encouraged to avail themselves of these services. Never underestimate the potential effects on people of even a minor incident.
With respect to this incident, even though it did not directly happen at your workplace, you may want to activate your EAP to come in and help your employees who may be shaken. If you have Perspectives Ltd. as your EAP, just contact your account manager. If you don’t have an EAP, contact us or EAPA for resources.
Remember that these things can occur but creating a workplace culture of respect and caring will minimize the possibility and damage.
For more information, contact Perspectives Ltd.
Written by: Chris Kunze
Change; we all talk about the pace of it, the need for it and the lack of time to make it happen. If all of that is true, and it usually is, than why is it so difficult to make changes, especially in business? Change in business often fails for two primary reasons: poor communication and planning.
This means more than talking to employees about the need for change. It means very clearly defining why a change has to happen. Change often seems to employees as the latest new fad in business and in some companies, it occurs like clockwork. Every couple of years someone in the executive suite decides on what is needed to make the organization really productive and comes up with a new approach to managing people, processes or a program rollout. Examples might be Best Practices, Six Sigma, TQM, HEI…the list goes on. Often you can achieve better results by asking and really engaging the employees or team members who are engaged in the work day-to-day, what they need to execute their responsibilities better, faster or to deliver an improved customer experience. But what is most often missing is a compelling reason for the change that can be clearly communicated to all employees so that they understand its relevance and how it directly impacts what they are doing in their daily work activities.
To plan for a change before executing it seems intuitive, but it is so often done poorly or not at all. Either action is a sure fire means to failure and is why determining the compelling reason for change is the first step in developing a successful plan. If you know why you need to change then you will have a much better idea of what needs to change in you organization. Do you need new equipment to remain competitive? If you are a roofer still using a hammer then you will not be competitive in terms of speed and cost with a roofer whose crews are using nail guns. Does your team require new and improved skills to operate the equipment? Does your sales team need additional training to successfully present the new services and products you are offering? Can your IT team support the increased need for data that sales, operations and accounting teams will need to sell, produce and invoice. Planning takes a lot of time and effort but pays dividends when you begin implementation as it will help your employees feel a part of the process and take ownership of it.
Each business and industry is different but spending the time upfront to determine the reasons for change will help communicate and plan for successful results.
Written by Jonathan Eisler, Director of Perspectives Organizational Consulting Group
When looking to “get work done” nonprofit organizations have to consider a number of options available to them. Will the work be done “in-house”, by a volunteer,or by a consultant? Sometimes the discussion is driven by resource constraints, or politic considerations, and not by careful thought about what is really needed to advance the organization and its mission. Each choice brings with it certain advantages and disadvantages which need to be weighed out against the anticipated outcomes.
These challenges are at the heart of the upcoming program & panel titled “Building Just the Right Team” which is part of the Donors Forum’s new Breakfast Learning Series. I am currently the Vice President of Programming for the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits and will be on the program panel so I want to give a sneak peak here of the considerations that will be discussed at the event by suggesting that nonprofits explore the following questions before moving forward with their projects:
- The pros and cons of hiring a consultant vs. volunteer vs. contracted person. Cost, scope of responsibility, and organizational fit should all be considered.
- Does the organization have internal resources to deal with the issues or the funds to hire an outside person? Does it make more sense to develop the existing staff to deal with the issues or to gain an outside perspective?
- Is the organization ready to cooperate with outside resources and implement the results of the work being done?
- Are the roles and responsibilities clear to all involved? What are the expectations placed on the outside worker and are they willing and able to fulfill them?
- Is there a process and criteria in place for choosing and hiring outside help? What issues should be considered before making such a choice?
If you are interested learning more and becoming a part of a more in-depth discussion on this topic please check out the Donors Forum’s Breakfast Learning Series: “Building Just the Right Team” which will be held on July 30th at the Donor’s Forum. The program will feature a panel of nonprofit executives including Gary Garland the Executive Director of Lakeview Pantry, and Andrew Smerczak-Zorza the Executive Recruiter for Nonprofits at Campbell. For more information please email email@example.com.
Written by: Bernie Dyme
Now, I am not a soccer aficionado and I must admit that I am not an expert in the game but the recent world cup was pretty captivating. Just a quick background on me and soccer. My exposure, to this game occurred almost 25 years ago when the first of my 3 sons played park district soccer. It expanded when my middle son (who is now 28 years old) got onto a traveling team.
I give you this background because if anyone reading this is looking to learn much about soccer, you should stop here. No, my point in this post is to do a quick analysis of the German victory over Argentina in the finals this past Sunday.
I did watch almost the entire game and here are some of my observations that demonstrate why victories in team sports occur as a result of the “team play”. And this is exactly how it works in successful organizations. Look at the game and you will see that the “name player”, Leo Messier, was on the Argentinian side. He got all the pre-game hype and make no mistake, he is one of the best but he couldn’t do it by himself.
It was a very hard fought, close game but I had this feeling very early in the first half that Germany might win. Why? Well, their precision was impeccable and their patience was remarkable. They seemed to dominate possession of the ball which is their trademark. You can read about it in this Washington Post article. In fact, no team in the world cup has completed more passes and they remained true to their philosophy by dominating time of possession again (60% to 40%). So what does this tell us? Well, it tells us two things. First, that team work is the key to success. And that is true in the workplace too. Everyone out there on that soccer field for the German team understood his role and they worked unselfishly. Secondly, it speaks to staying with what works for you in terms of overall organizational philosophy and mission. Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t adjust or change to accommodate changing marketplaces. It does mean the following 4 things:
- Be true to your company’s mission, keep it updated and use it to guide you in decision making.
- Constantly communicate your mission and objectives to ALL staff so that they can know what the main organizational philosophy is, as well as their role in achieving results and success and so they can contribute to that success.
- Be patient and disciplined in your approach so that you and your organization aren’t constantly shifting with the changing winds of the marketplace.
- Be open to innovation and supportive of the ideas of all of your employees at all levels of the organization. They usually know best and are willing to help out if they understand what you are trying to achieve.
Doing these things may not always insure victory or success, but it will over the long haul which is the most important thing of all. Like Germany, patience, discipline and teamwork are the key ingredients to long term sustainability and profitability. After all, Germany won the World Cup for the 4th time.