Sharon Aneja – The Founder @ Humanity Works Consultancy
Sharon Aneja and I were introduced back in 2020 and I was lucky enough to have a number of conversations with Sharon about her journey and why she is fixing the broken world of work.
Sharon’s journey is a must listen and I highly recommend listening all the way through to hear her story, how Sharon and her firm’s work to improve the workplace, why positive psychology is so important and why we recommend every leader goes for therapy.
Why Listen: Sharon takes us on her incredible journey and why being a Positive Psychology coach is so important to her and for any workforce. Sharon shares a couple of brilliant frameworks and practices to improve any business.
What Sharon and I discuss:
- The importance of mental health and wellbeing
- Why psychological flexibility is so important
- Why command and control management fails their people and their business
- Why businesses and managers wait for people to get stressed and burnt out rather than proactively addressing such important topics
- The awakening businesses require
- Why gamification can be negative
- the opportunity to be able to partner with organizations who are courageous enough to want to get to the heart of issues
- How a routine operation changed Sharon’s life completely
- And why every “leader” should have therapy
Sharon’s Key Quote
Show Notes & Links
Sharon Aneja Full Bio
Sharon Aneja is a Positive Psychology coach, an award-winning strategist and people leader with 20 years of experience in Fortune 500 & FTSE 100 companies.
She is the founder of Humanity Works Consultancy, a Positive Psychology coaching and strategy consultancy that is on a mission to positively transform the future of work.
Together with her team, they help ambitious companies prevent a burnout culture through psychological fitness training and coaching.
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Fixing The Broken World Of Work Podcast With Sharon Aneja Full Transcription
The transcript was automatically created by our tool descript and may have a couple of errors.
Danny: [00:00:00] Sharon, thanks so much for joining me today and accepting this invitation to share your wisdom. , we’ve spoken before and I know you’re a little bit, but I’d love for the listeners to know more about you, what you do and who you are.
[00:00:13] Sharon: [00:00:13] Yeah. Well, thank you for inviting me on. Um, so that’s a big pleasure to talk to you and spend some time with you. So my name is Sharon Aneja. , I’m a strategist and a positive psychology coach. I’m the founder of an organization called humanity, works consultancy, and we’re on a mission to positively transform the future of work.
[00:00:36]Which sounds like. A big undertaking, but we are very, very committed to helping organizations to tackle the root cause of the wellbeing issues and the leadership, cultural issues that they are finding within their organization. And we take a very kind of holistic strategic approach to it, not surprisingly given my background and strategy.
[00:01:02]But we really kind of look at things across culture leadership and people, because you can’t treat things in isolation, they are all connected. And a lot of the kinds of work that we do is very much based on the kind of thought and kind of research that’s done by organizations like the CIP.
[00:01:27] Who found in their kind of 20 20, mental health and wellbeing report that less than 33% of organizations have holistic measurable mental health and wellbeing strategies. Now that number has actually gone up in the last few years. So it was even lower beforehand, but I mean, we’re talking about not more than a quarter of the companies have a holistic measurable mental health and wellbeing strategy.
[00:01:56] Um, they also found that, um, largely in most organizations, psychological help is not provided to people. So that is completely and utterly overlooked, which is really, really dangerous. Um, and they also said that, um, most of the wellbeing kind of initiatives in organizations are reactive and not preventative.
[00:02:23] Which basically means we wait for people to get stressed and burnt out and unwell, and then we help them. But actually you can, you know, stop a lot of those things from happening. I’m not saying we’re here to cure mental ill health. That’s not what we’re saying, but essentially we can approach this very, very differently.
[00:02:43] And so when we talk about positively transforming the future of work, we’re really trying to get to the heart of what’s actually causing people, wellbeing issues at work, and really, really trying to change that narrative and give them the real psychological resources or what I call psychological fitness that they, they need to be able to handle the challenging times that we are all facing at the moment.
[00:03:10] And I think without that, we’re not going to see a shift in these kinds of scores that we’re seeing in organizations. Um, one of the other big findings that they had. Organizations don’t measure the right kind of data or they don’t have any data at all. Now I know you’re a strategist as well down here.
[00:03:29] So I know how you feel about this. Um, you know, that’s scary because actually, how do you know then what’s working? What isn’t, so I’m really admire people like, um, the CEO of media com uh, Josh crash, crash events, ski, and I probably pronounced his name wrong. So if he hears this, I sincerely apologize, but I know that he’s working hard, um, to make, um, you know, mental health data in organizations, public record.
[00:03:58] And he’s lobbying parliament to do that because, you know, as you and I know Danny, what gets measured gets done, and if there’s measurable data, then things will be done to change it. So, you know, I really admire people who are also tackling those kinds of grassroots issues. To really, really positively transform the future of work.
[00:04:17] And I think next something that we can all do together. Um, so I feel very proud that you know, that humanity works, that we have the opportunity to be able to partner with organizations who are courageous enough to want to get to the heart of issues and want to help their people to work better, to live better, to feel better.
[00:04:37] Cause ultimately that’s what we all want, you know, better workplaces create better societies. Um, and that’s something we know we can all benefit from. If I was going to stop the podcast, I would put anywhere. I’d probably just stop it there because I think of it. You now say many important points there.
[00:04:55] One thing I’d love to bring up is the psychological fitness element that you brought up. And obviously there’s a measurement. That’s, you’re one of the only people I know that can talk so confidently and articulately around a subject like that. And I think that’s. So many leaders struggle with, how, how do you sort of think about helping people with, um, you know, psychological fitness?
[00:05:21] Is there, do you help them have exercises or is it, is it confidence or like you said, it’s courageous and co and, and sort of, um, strategic wise, is it like an exercise you go through? How do you help people with that? So psychological fitness, I mean, psychological fitness has different connotations. So like for example, in the army and kind of organizations like that, they will look at people’s psychological fitness, but that will be done in a different way when we’re applying it to businesses.
[00:05:51] And this is something that, you know, I’ve kind of created myself based on the work that I’ve done in positive organizational psychology, as well as positive organizational behaviors. Um, but I define it in three stages. Number one, it’s about building mental and emotional toughness. And actually I think that’s something that gets overlooked quite.
[00:06:13] The second part, um, it’s called, you know, where we focus on psychological flexibility. So that’s, you know, um, that kind of more agile mindset where you’re able to exercise more emotional agility. And the third is the stage that I call flourishing. So this is I think the point where we often talk about helping people to thrive, but we don’t do the beginning two bits in order to get them to that.
[00:06:39] So I often hear a lot of people saying things like make a gratitude list, practice this every day, but actually if you haven’t done those things beforehand, if you haven’t worked on challenging the negative thoughts, feelings, behaviors that you have building that mental and emotional toughness, then quite frankly, you won’t be able to handle the waves of change that are coming our way and have been coming our way over the last 18 months.
[00:07:09] And once you’ve kind of done that first step. So I liken it to when you’re in the gym, it’s the kind of no pain, no gain stage. That’s why I called it on the scale. You know, that bit, when you first go to the chairman, it really, really hurts. Well, building mental and emotional toughness is a bit like that.
[00:07:26] And then the second stage that psychological flexibility, you know, that emotional flexibility. That’s what I call when you starting to hit your stride, you know, when you are hitting those goals. So you’re like, yeah, I’m a high performer and that’s third stage the flourishing stage. That’s what we, as positive psychologists called the optimal performing stage.
[00:07:47] And I label that catch me if you can, because then you’re flying. You know, then you can willingly get yourself in and out of a state of flow. Then when you do practice the gratitude exercises, you really really mean it rather than it just being toxic positivity, which I think it can be very easy to get into.
[00:08:04] So, you know, these are things that can be applied, not just to people. But it can be applied culturally as well. You know, you can apply these same three stages there as well and equally to leaders. And when we talk about, you know, preventative solutions, you know, helping leaders to, um, you know, manage their own emotional.
[00:08:28] Wellbeing helping them to be able to build that emotional kind of flexibility, that toughness, you know, that ability to be able to handle their emotions, um, lead people with compassion, with empathy, with courage, you know, those are what we call preventative solutions to get to the root cause of what’s actually causing issues and organizations.
[00:08:51] There’s absolutely no point having a year’s worth of mental health and wellbeing initiatives. If you have leaders who Paul work upon their staff and don’t help them when they’re going through difficult times, you know, that’s like showing them the promise land and then taking it away from them because you know, you’re not allowing them to get there.
[00:09:10] So when we talk about this psychological fitness, we don’t just apply it to people and getting the best out of people. You know, really helping their kind of capabilities to really shine. We also apply it to the conditions in which they need to be able to thrive. And that’s why we look at things holistically because you can’t just do one without the other.
[00:09:32] Now I’ve recognized that for a lot of leaders who are going through so many waves of change at the moment, you know, really struggling with the kind of hybrid working model. I understand that, you know, this might sound overwhelming in the beginning, but actually it’s a very simple process that once you start taking these steps, you immediately start to see the benefits.
[00:09:54] And once you empower people with the ability to be able to do that, once they really understand how they think feel and behave and how that affects everyone else in themselves, you know, people really start to take responsibility. It really starts to change that behaviors within the organization and inevitably changes the culture.
[00:10:15] And also, you know, when leaders role model, these behaviors, you, and I know this, you know, you know, that changes things, you know, the way the leader reacts to say bad news, you know, the way that, you know, if they’ve got good kind of mental and emotional toughness, if they have flexibility in their cycle, you know, psychologically, then they’re going to be able to handle bad news much, much better.
[00:10:37] And that, you know, You know, affects team’s performance by 40%. That’s an enormous role that the leader plays. So it’s really important that when we tackle these things, we look at all three of these areas together. But when you do the results are exponentially brilliant. Um, so there’s a reason why, you know, we’ve put all of this together.
[00:10:58] Um, yes, it’s more work. Yes. It’s maybe harder in the beginning, but ultimately you are going to resolve issues rather than what I call just putting plasters onto symptoms, which quite frankly, you can spend as much money as you want to, you know, you can drain your mental health and wellbeing budget on it, but it won’t resolve the issues.
[00:11:19] And actually that is what in the end affects people, productivity of the business and quite frankly, employee engagement, which my understanding is I think is like 8%, 8% of employees are engaged or I think it’s 10%. That’s really poor, you know, so something needs to change. And I think we really need to challenge the ideas that we have on what we think solves or resolves these issues.
[00:11:44] Cause I think, you know, with the way things have evolved in the mental health and wellbeing space in organizations, I don’t think that it’s really evolving in the way that is actually going to get to the root cause and resolve things. And that for me, is an issue. Completely agree. There’s a fitness challenge that a lot of companies are going through is how do they get everyone aligned to the company goals?
[00:12:09] How do they then align to the manager or the department lead? And then how does it connect to the individual? And I think maybe we’ve seen this evolution over the last 10 years where it was always company first and the hourglass has flipped to me first, often because of poor management because of. Just a lack of people skills and just get, you know, just get the job done.
[00:12:37] Mentality kind of started to get eroded a little bit. And I loved that. You said the think, feel behave because people need a slogan. They need something simple to remember to, to sort of challenge it and then understand their own motivations. I think that’s my, you know, that’s my tip to everyone. If you can understand the motivations of individuals and then teams, you can then really work with them and progress how, how things are operating.
[00:13:05] And I think that’s so important for people trying to take positive change, whether that’s from a performance perspective, from a mental health perspective, from just trying to have positive change, it can take such a long time. I think some, some people could carve out time in their calendar and they fitness a tick box exercise.
[00:13:25] And to me, that’s not what leadership is, but fit in. That’s what leaders. Conditioned or trained into, and then there’s a flip side to that as well is once you’ve worked in an organization for a certain period of time, you’ll see certain behaviors rewarded. So some people overwork and they see that as a way to get promoted.
[00:13:45] Other people, um, will reply or will want to be seen constant. And then that behaviour is copied and it’s followed through and they believe that that’s something that has to happen for an organization, but if they left and went somewhere else, that’s the worst type of behaviour that in somewhere else, I think that’s a challenge.
[00:14:02] You also brought up some vintage really interested in, you said around empathy and courage around traits of a great leader. Do you have any others that you, that you would call out as, as traits of great leaders? Yeah. I mean, empathy and courage I think are really, really important. And I think they’ve really come to the fore more and more, um, in this pandemic, because I think we’ve never had to show more empathy or be more courageous, you know, as leaders.
[00:14:30] Um, and I, I, another thing that I find interesting about this conversation about leadership is that you don’t need to be in a leadership position to show leadership capabilities. And I, you know, I have interesting conversations sometimes with clients where they’re like, no, these are our managers. So I don’t think they need leadership training.
[00:14:49] They just need to know how to manage. And I’m like, okay, But why is that? You know, why do we put people in this box of managing, you know, we’re, we’re why do we need to manage people? Don’t we want people to manage themselves, you know, you know, where is there autonomy in this? You know, do we not trust them?
[00:15:10] You know, I think there there’s a lot of, um, confusion, right? And labeling, I think that happens in this area and it stops people from progressing, you know, to be a great leader. And I’ve seen, for example, in, you know, when I, when I was working in organizations with the teams that I lead, I might have been in inverted commerce, the leader of that team, but actually the people, people that were in my team, they were leaders too.
[00:15:38] And that was kind of the point, you know, it wasn’t the, I said this, and then we did it. You know, that doesn’t work, you know, the command and control style leadership, even then this is before pandemic. It doesn’t work. People want to be trusted. They want to know that they feel valued. And as leaders, it’s our responsibility to be able to bring out the best of each, you know, each of the people that we work with, whether they’re in our team or their peers, or even the people that we report into, ultimately, that’s what people want.
[00:16:09] Right. Everybody wants to be heard. Everybody wants to be seen, and everybody wants to feel valued and respected. And for me, you know, that’s, you know, it’s why I call it. My company, humanity works. This is essentially what I’m describing are the qualities of human being, you know, when did leadership become something other than human, but it has, it has over time because business productivity takes over, you know, difficult conversations with client that takes its toll on people.
[00:16:39] People who are acting out, it takes its toll on you stressing about the deadlines, you know, and suddenly we lose our ability to be able to connect. You know, be able to connect with people. It’s a really important part of leadership communication, how many times? So we had terrible communication from, uh, you know, a leader in the organization where they’ve sent a really awful email to you, but it does nothing but harm you, you know, like what do you do with that?
[00:17:04] You know, how we communicate with people, you know, our confidence in our ability, our competence, as a leader, our courage, our empathy, um, how committed we are, you know, all of these things I think are really, really important traits and leadership. But I think the one thing for me that has really stood out, um, and really kind of come to the fore is flexibility.
[00:17:29] Because the thing is, is that if you can’t move with what’s going on, if you’re so stuck in the way that you think feel behave, you know, as you quite rightly pulled up forehand, um, how are you going to do all those things? How will you be competitive? How will you show that empathy? How will you be courageous?
[00:17:48] You can’t because you’re too worried about what you think you’re going to lose in the exchange, because you think maybe you need to have the answer. So I think all of these things, you know, there’s lots of CS isn’t there. I’ve read an article the other day at Harvard business review, like the five CS of leadership.
[00:18:05] Um, but I would put an F the beginning of them and I would say flexibility because I just don’t see, um, that you can really not just survive, but I don’t see that you can really enjoy this time as well. You know, what happened to the joy of work? When did we lose. You know, it’s almost like we work. It’s something you do rather than, you know, the enjoyment of it.
[00:18:30] And I think these things are very much got lost along the way. And I’m not saying all of work will be joyous, but surely there’s got to be moments that we can find where we are enjoying it, you know? Um, so I do think that, you know, leadership is very multilayered, you know, like, like emotional intelligence is multilayered, like psychological fitness as I described to you as multi-layered I think leadership is the same.
[00:18:56] And I think the thing is, is that I often see, like on LinkedIn, you get these like pie charts where people go like, you need to have like a quarter flexibility, quarter this, and I don’t think it’s like that. I think it’s like a pickup. And on some days you need more flexibility and another days you might need more compassion and on another day you might need more commitment or courage or whatever it is.
[00:19:19] So I think you kind of dip in and out of that pick and mix, and you’re like, okay, these are the things I need, but really you need to be able to have the ability to be able to tap into all those different kinds of ways of behaving as a leader and be consistent with those behaviors, not docket, but consistent, you know, so that people know what to expect when they’re around you.
[00:19:41] So it feels psychologically safe. Um, because I think without, you know, the kind of, you know, capabilities I’ve just described, I can’t see that a leader would be able to create that atmosphere. And that in turn is really going to demoralize the team. And I’m going to have to cut some of this out, but I’m saying a hundred percent not in my head off.
[00:20:01] Uh, I keep that in, but, um, I it’s so true. Like, uh, something I say to. Businesses I talk to now and how power is I try and understand the leader’s perspective and therapy, because why I want to understand is if they have a complete, uh, nonchalant approach to it, or they completely dismiss it, it just means an open-minded, uh, how to, um, heal or how to understand their triggers or that some of the problems they haven’t, because we throw so much of ourselves in our work identity.
[00:20:34] I always say to leaders in, uh, in commerce, um, I would say to niche, going to have a therapy session, like book one in and then go and see someone and understand how it flows and actually how much you have to talk and listen, and the flow of it. Because if you don’t understand that, how you ever going to be able to listen to people around you and how you’re going to be flexible and how you’re going to know when to take on these different responsibilities and, and understand and help people along that journey.
[00:21:04] That’s something I think is really interesting that you, you sort of said really sprung and sort of, uh, sort of struck a nerve, but in a good way is, um, people don’t seem to celebrate their work anymore. I think we’ve gone on to link. You know, there’s a habit of people go to LinkedIn and social media and, and post it.
[00:21:23] And there’s a lot of gamification, I think, which is as a negative effect. And they used to taught and, and, and they’ve done a good job as opposed to a person telling them, and now waiting for, you know, their monthly check-ins or the quarterly check-ins or the annual performance review to be told they’re doing a good job, as opposed to a lot of leaders, aren’t actually taught to become a leader.
[00:21:44] They’re not even taught to be a manager. So I think there’s two things that people, uh, companies really have to do in my opinion, is get leaders to take some, take therapy, have a session of it. And then the second one is help people coached him to become a manager and then. Yeah. And like you said, a leader to me, isn’t a title is behaviors.
[00:22:07] It’s the pave it, people say that you said, I think we’ve asked mentoring is one of the most powerful things that corporations don’t follow and don’t enable within their business. And I know a really large sports company. That was probably the thing that got them back on the right track from when they stumbled off.
[00:22:25] So it’s, there’s all these things that I think people aren’t flipped. Like you said, aren’t flexible enough. They don’t understand how to feel and how to operate and what the feeling of things are in emotional intelligence. That’s required. One of the things that I wouldn’t mind asking you in it, that you don’t have to then have to answer it, but what kind of gave you the motivation to take this on, because obviously you were successful at what you did before.
[00:22:49] Was there a story or a motivation that really drove you to do this? Well, when I was. Oh, I mean, I I’ll lay it out and I’ll be honest, you know? Cause I ask if I understand other people. So I need to be honest about myself when I was coming up the ranks, um, and getting kind of, you know, promoted if you like him, you know, my twenties and thirties, I’ll be honest.
[00:23:12] I was not a good leader. I was a command and control leader. So I was like, most people gifted at what I did. So I was a strategist and I was good at that. And I got promoted because I was good at that. Um, and clients liked me, you know, I’m, you know, agencies or even, you know, when I was on the brand side now I didn’t know how to manage people.
[00:23:35] Uh, for me, vulnerability was weakness. It was not strengths. You know, I came up. In, you know, giving away my age now, but like 1980s working girl kind of mentality, work hard, play hard, you know? Um, and, and to be honest, I was an overachiever, so I’m, it suited me to be work hard, play hard because that played to what I considered.
[00:23:58] Then my strengths. I had no idea what strengths were back then, but that’s what I considered them to be. And so there were many times in my career where I burnt out. Now I did not go to the root cause I treated the symptoms and I paid a very, very heavy price for it. Um, none more so than when I was in my.
[00:24:20] How old was I? 34 years old was, this is March, 2014, no way. My age now I did that. Um, I, I felt very, very unwell. So I was, um, having a very routine surgery, um, which went wrong because the surgeon during that surgery cut my bowel and put a stitch in there and sent me home and said, everything will be okay.
[00:24:45] But within 48 hours of that, I was rushed back into a and E and the doctor said like, we’re really sorry, but you’re dying. And we need to perform emergency surgery on you to save your life. And we don’t know whether we can, so you should say your goodbyes. So my parents and I were, I mean, we were distraught.
[00:25:05] Um, and I, you know, I can remember, you know, turning to my dad at the time. And we were both just really crying. And I just said, I never even got the chance to fall in. You know, to get married, to have kids. I haven’t done the things that I’ve really wanted to. And I, at that point I felt awful because not just because I was dying, but also because I was like, what have I been doing with my life?
[00:25:28] You know, it, it, you know, people talk about having this moment of clarity when you’re on your death bed. And it wasn’t like my life flashed before my eyes, not a Hollywood movie, but there was this intense moment of clarity where I kind of just thought, what have I been doing? Like I never got to do those things.
[00:25:45] And actually they will really important. And obviously I survived the surgery. I’m talking to you now, but you know what? I went through in order to recover, you know, first physically, and then mentally and emotionally, it was, I’m not gonna sugar coat it. It was absolute hell. Um, you know, I couldn’t even walk after that surgery.
[00:26:03] I had to learn how to walk again, eat again. Like my whole world basically collapsed and was turned upside down. So this kind of, you know, command and control leader, high achiever over a P . I was like, I had nothing, you know, I was a freelancer at the time, so I didn’t even have work. So it was like everything in my life.
[00:26:24] You know, when you kind of hear about like people go out of my life, I fell apart. It really, really fell apart really, really quickly. And I’ll be honest. I had none of the tools to be able to rebuild my life mentally, emotionally, and psychologically. I had none and not surprisingly after facing such an enormous trauma.
[00:26:44] I was diagnosed with PTSD, but boy, did I fight it for a year? You know, I just didn’t want to acknowledge that I was having problems. I didn’t sleep more than four hours a night for you. I just so afraid that I was never going to wake up again. So my mind would just wake me up every night because I was so afraid and I didn’t know what to do.
[00:27:06] Um, and it wasn’t until I hit the second stage of rock bottom. So, I mean, you were saying, you know, rock bottom was like being on my death bed, but this was actually worse because I couldn’t function. I didn’t know what to do. I got help. You’re describing how a leader should have therapy. I had a lot of therapy.
[00:27:23] And when I came back into the workplace, I did not know how to tell anyone what I was going through. I found it really, really hard because I couldn’t let go of being a command and control leader, even though all these terrible things had happened to me, there was this enormous dissonance in my mind. But cognitively, emotionally and psychologically, I could not reconcile the person I was now versus the person I was beforehand.
[00:27:52] And I kept trying to go back to that old person, even though I knew that wasn’t a happy place to be because I was afraid. And it took a long, long time for me to be able to say to someone at work, a good friend who we both know who’s introduced us. Um, Gemma. And I said to her, I’m really struggling, and this is what I’m going through.
[00:28:13] And she was exceptionally kind and compassionate towards me and really, really helped me. And I was lucky that I had her in my life, but to be honest in the organization we worked in, although it was a very, very nice place. There were no formal setups to be able to help someone who was going through something really, really difficult.
[00:28:32] And so I think all those things combine them. And it’s what led me to coaching, to study positive psychology, because I was like, I’m not going out with PTSD. I’m going to have post traumatic growth, you know, and I’m going to create these conditions and I’m going to do it. But all of these things combined, it really made me just, not just reappraise my life, but also working cultures, organizations.
[00:28:54] How do we help people in difficult situations, but equally, how do we help create the conditions in which they can thrive? Because it shouldn’t just be down to the individual, but also the conditions that we, you know, we help them with. And so that is what really led to the founding of humanity works.
[00:29:10] Cause I was like, what is it that actually helped me in that moment? It was the humanity, the human Manatee of somebody who turned to me and said, I’m with you not I’m going to solve the problem. No one could solve it, but I’m with you. You’re not alone. I see you. I see your pain. I hear. I feel you you’re not alone.
[00:29:34] And in that moment, it’s not like suddenly I went to suddenly from being completely floundering to flourishing. It’s not like that, but at least there was an ally. At least there was someone there who I could turn to and be like, today’s an awful day. And it’s awful because of this. Um, and, and that, because I was fortunate in that actually, you know, I’m so did change.
[00:29:55] My leadership style became obviously a much more empathetic leader, much more compassionate, one on one who in the end did tell their story to people. But when I did, you know, it really unleashed a tsunami of emotions and equally it changed culture. So I could see firsthand actually how simple these things are and they’re not expensive.
[00:30:16] Okay. I mean, expensive to me to go through a terrible thing to, in order to achieve this growth. And you know, I’m not saying that, you know, we want leaders to go through something awful to then be able to grow. But, but actually, you know, there are simple things that we can all do. As leaders within organizations to make people’s lives better to help people to flourish.
[00:30:35] Um, and you know, yes, I went through something very difficult, but out of a lot of pain I think has come a lot of positivity, not in a toxic kind of way, but genuine, you know, I’m gonna, I’m going to channel the pain. You know, there’s this quote that I have on my desk. I’m looking at it right now. And it says there’s pain that you use and there is pain that uses you.
[00:30:57] Well, I’m using this pain and I want to create something really amazing out of it. That’s going to transform how we work in the future and now, and I’m not want to let that pain use me anymore. Like it used to because in the end, you know, it’s not worth it. Thank you so much for sharing that. That’s one of the most powerful stories that I can remember.
[00:31:27] I really appreciate you having the courage to share that and want to share it. And command and control is, is the default. Like when I was, um, sort of going on a management journey, I’ve been a manager since, for 21 years now. And I would say I’ve learned to become, I need that. I wasn’t the greatest manager, but I knew I was a bad coach or mentor.
[00:31:56] And I know people need different things for managers and leaders and Ben, you know, wanted my senior to, you know, and start a new career. They wanted to most juniors, one of the most important things for a leader for them, for me is to know your strengths and weaknesses and know, know how to change your style, who needs what, and when, and I think that’s so, so important.
[00:32:18] It, storytelling is such an important aspect and angle of it. And thank you for sharing that. I’m not saying that we’re, uh, we’re anywhere near fixing things. Cause you know, like you said, you’ve, your, your slogan is, is sort of basically changing and being more positive and, and helping people anger towards it.
[00:32:37] And I’m not a very, and, and I want to fix the broken world of work. Like I think we’re on the same path. And for me it’s often it’s always has to be people first, but I finished a lot of organizations that have put in tools first and they’re put in software in to try and make it more scalable when I don’t actually fit in that that’s the right approach.
[00:32:58] And I think if someone tried that maybe 10 years ago, it would have completely backfired. Now we’re just conditioned again into, into copying it, to try and scale things with an app or with something else. And you know, there’s a load of tools out there that are trying to help people. But I think it’s really important that we.
[00:33:17] That we learned, actually that you have to get into people’s psychology. You have to get deep in inside, inspires them. And I love that quote. I think you can paint, definitely can use your may stays. You feel that pain, but once you, once you’re east you’re confidently flip it the other way you really drive drive forward.
[00:33:37] You’ve as you said, you’ve been at a strategist and you’ve been brand side and agency side. Is there something that if someone wants to follow a seminar on a similar journey or wants to follow something, a similar path to you from a work perspective, is there something that you would say that they should do first or like a couple of steps that they should take to work in creative agencies?
[00:34:01] Yeah. Well more so into helping businesses improve and along the journey that you’re on now. Yeah. I mean, I would say to people, um, who are interested in this area, Um, I would actually recommend that you just work in an organization so that you, first of all, understand how it works, you know, how people interact with each other, what leadership styles are.
[00:34:26] Um, you know, what it, what it means to have a culture understanding, you know, the impact that values and ethics have. So I would definitely recommend that you combine a career of understanding, you know, whether it be, you know, I did positive organizational psychology, but you know, a lot of people do organizational kind of development or organizational psychology, you know, there’s lots of different routes into it.
[00:34:49] I think it just depends on, you know, what side of things you really are interested in. Um, but I would say, definitely understand what it is to be in the organizations first so that you can apply the kind of the science, the theory. But you understand the practice because one thing I have noted a lot, you know, and I’m, I’m not, you know, saying things about, you know, other coaches or anything like that.
[00:35:13] But I think a lot of times we talk about what things should be like, rather than being in the down and dirty of what actually yeah. You know, and, you know, we can talk a good game about what leaders should be, but, you know, if you haven’t had any kind of training or help where you don’t have other good role models, then saying to people, you need to be the five CS of leadership, it’s a complete and utter waste of time.
[00:35:37] So I think, you know, you’ve got to meet people where they are, and in order for you to be able to meet people where they are on their journey, um, I really recommend that you have been within the environment within which you are trying to improve. Cause I don’t believe you’d be able to do it as successfully.
[00:35:54] Otherwise I’m not saying you can’t absolutely people will take different paths, but certainly one of the things I found the most beneficial is that I understand both sides. You know, I speak the language of business because I have been a business leader for so long, but I get it. Um, but I equally speak the language and the science of positive psychology and human flourish.
[00:36:16] Because that is my area of expertise, you know? So I do think it’s important that you have both, but I do, I, you know, there’s flexibility and all of these things. And over time, I imagine people will perhaps take completely different approaches when they, you know, maybe what I’m suggesting feels a bit long and people want shortcuts to things don’t they?
[00:36:38] Um, okay. There isn’t, uh, I was talking to an organization organization recently and they wanted a quick fix and it was, it was discussed in a strategic offsite that they, they might have a culture problem and that they needed to fix it. And there wasn’t, there wasn’t any real insight apart from they run laser pulse surveys, uh, around, um, sort of throughout last year and into this year and score sites go down.
[00:37:08] So therefore they felt like there was this action that was needed to be taken. And when I was talking to. And being very open with them. I said, you’ve got probably six weeks to audit everything. You’ve probably got them in another six weeks to understand it, uh, questionnaire and, and trying to, so almost solve the problems that you’ve been, uh, understand the problems that are being brought to you.
[00:37:33] And then you’ve got about six to 12 months worth of work ahead. So that’s understanding all different levels. And they said, oh, isn’t there like a course that we could take and is spot on the, I think he reads articles and you read Harvard business review and Forbes. And some of you have a sort of, well within tensioned and publications, but they publish things to try and make it easier or quicker.
[00:38:01] And I think they are my I’d love frameworks. I don’t think it ever really just applies straight. Has there, has there been an organization that you’ve worked with and things have just sort of slow it in, like if you’ve run something you’ve taught to them and just the light bulb moments happened and something’s just connected and it’s almost managed itself for your, for your coaching.
[00:38:26] It’s funny you ask that because I pretty much had this conversation the other day with a client who we’ve been working with over the last couple of months. And, um, of course, you know, as I’ve been speaking about our work in kind of psychological flexibility, but a lot of the work that we’ve done over the last year with clients has been about how do we help people to heal and then grow?
[00:38:47] You know, we’re very focused on growth in organizations, which I understand, but actually, um, you know, we were speaking earlier about this as well. The rate of change that we are all dealing with on now a daily basis, Hits you like waves. We were speaking about how they’re like waves. They’re like waves of grief.
[00:39:08] I think this is also hitting people in the same way, and there’s almost no space, no time, perhaps no awareness or ability to be able to heal from these difficult changes that are we’re being hit with all the time. And I think people are starting to feel like they’re drowning. Like they’ve literally dragging themselves by the color to work, you know, virtual work.
[00:39:33] Yes. But still being dragged by that, you know, proverbial collar and work that we’ve been doing is really about that kind of psychological fitness scale. So a lot of the work that we do is about helping people to gain greater insights into the thought feeling behavior framework. And what we found is when we do those kinds of workshops or webinars or whatever format they tell.
[00:40:01] They are an enormous pool of insight for leaders, because then they really start to understand what is going on in the psyche of their people and what they understand that yes, it’s overwhelming for them in the beginning, but then they start to understand the behaviors that they’re seeing. And they perhaps understand people aren’t, you know, being non-committal or lazy or perhaps whatever else the narrative has been.
[00:40:29] But simply people are finding it really, really hard to pull themselves out of this psychological, what I call. Mental straight jackets that we put ourselves in, that we can’t get ourselves out of. And that have really inhibiting our ability to be able to heal at this very, very difficult time. So what we find is while we may be delivering, it might be psychological resilience, emotional agility.
[00:40:56] We know whatever the title, if you like is, but ultimately what we’re doing is we’re helping them to understand their human behaviors. And we’re giving the leaders insights into actually how their people really think, feel and behave. And that is transformative. And you know, of course there’s followup work to do after that, because once you found it out, then you’ve got to do something once, you know, you know, you can’t un-know it, but at least then you know what you’re dealing with.
[00:41:22] And that I think, like I say, it can be overwhelming, but equally with time is transformative. And I have found, you know, yes, we do some followup work with those kinds. But to be honest, once they’ve understood the leaders have understood and they’re like, okay, we got to do something now, you know, we gotta, we gotta pull this together.
[00:41:43] Um, it really starts to change things in the organization. Um, and that is that, that is really when you see change happen. And, and I think that’s nice as well for us as kind of consultants or coaches, because then you start to see them take responsibility for it. Um, and ultimately that’s what you want.
[00:42:01] You know, I don’t think, you know, success for me. Isn’t having three-year contracts with clients. Why do you need me for three years? You know, at what point are you going to take responsibility for making these changes? There is, uh, there’s this, uh, challenge. I think that leaders face and, and then people underneath them face is when you’re, when you might start feeling that you’re the cause of the.
[00:42:32] Some people have to step out the way or felt like they have to become less of a problem by stepping out. And actually, you know, I always say they should step into it, like lean in sort of see being used a lot. Um, but I think leaders have to step in, but I wonder if it’s something that just organizational development and design and they were all powered by higher hierarchy and taxonomy in everything that we do.
[00:43:00] We just, a lot of the time you didn’t see it. And I know we all, we all try and have an org chart that’s representing, you know, represents how knowledge should flow and how people are connected to others. But I truly felt that some org charts set businesses up to fail because leaders instantly felt like when they’ve done a bad job, they have to get out of the way or they have to get someone else to fix it.
[00:43:25] And then they can be part, they can be on the bus, alongside the person at six. It’s interesting when you say they might, they don’t want, they shouldn’t need you for free years, but some organizations, their sizes of in need people like you for, for probably a long time, um, to, to help them out. And you know, there’s so many examples now, I think it’s obviously high end fruit, free lock downs and pandemics and the pandemic, but I think it’s it.
[00:43:55] We’re seeing it more and more as I see problems at base camp and Google, if have changed their tone app or asking people to attend the office three days a week, others, uh, doing Tuesday, Wednesday, first days, et cetera. I just think that’s going to escalate problems. And what we’ll do is we’ll see high turnover of staff as opposed to high turnover of problems.
[00:44:19] So I don’t feel it’s problems are gonna be solved a thing, actually, it’s just, people are going to get to the point where they felt like they have to leave. Uh, it’s improved for them. Um, I don’t know how you. About whether it could be things can be done in a hybrid environment now. Yeah. I find the whole conversation about hybrid working in some ways, a bit amusing and sometimes a bit depressing.
[00:44:42] So, um, I say amusing because I don’t understand why everyone is so focused on where we work in terms of productivity, creativity, and innovation. And actually, if you look at the science behind it, there’s no data to support that where we work influences the levels of productivity, creativity, and innovation.
[00:45:05] I’m not suggesting that we all should continue to always work from home. You know, this idea about flexibility. I don’t actually, I don’t know why we never even had it in the first place. I found the whole thing, quite preposterous. Um, you know, you know, how, how certain people work and how other people work will be completely different.
[00:45:22] And that’s okay. You know, when we talk about positively transforming the future of work, it’s positive trans positively transforming how we work. Um, and the ability to be able to work where you feel the most productive or where it suits your life. That’s fine. But actually, you know, I see a lot of leaders, particularly in like, you know, these kind of global investment banks who were saying, you know, if you can go out to a restaurant, you can come into the office.
[00:45:51] It’s like, well, okay, I see where you’re going with this, but it’s really not the same thing. Um, so that’s why I think I find it quite, um, amusing, especially as there are so many organizations that already have. Flexible working arrangements, or there are organizations who will completely work from home organizations way before the pandemic, and they are exceptionally successful businesses.
[00:46:17] So it really doesn’t matter. The point is, do you trust each other? You know, are you going to respect each other? I know you’re going to find ways to bring out the best in each other. And therefore then the productivity, creativity and innovation will go up. You know, that those are the things that really need attention.
[00:46:33] I think in a way that the conversation around where we work is a great way of being able to not address the real issues. Like I just said about respect, about trust, um, and having that kind of psychological safety, because actually that is where everybody’s energy and attention needs to go rather than where you work does.
[00:46:57] That’s not really going to change. I love the Ebro energy up because. I think energy is the most important part of getting work done. I think that people don’t have lost the ability to know what the energy source is and know where the gauges, you know, and the, if we were playing a computer game, you know, how big is it or how in yellow or green or red is it like I I’m on SP I know that I’m a ambivert.
[00:47:27] So I know that if I need to go and be with people, I’m okay for awhile, but then only to recharge on my own. And when I need to truly think I have to book in time to deep work, I’m one of those people that’s lucky that can, that can get energy from other people, provide the network, making a little bit of progress.
[00:47:47] If I felt like we’re reverting backwards, my energy levels is depleted and stolen away from in it. That’s my fitness one. We should all learn a little bit more and being able to vocalize it and be confident in saying no, I’m really tired. Uh, I, you’re not going to get the best out of me after four o’clock.
[00:48:07] So therefore I think that businesses should think around rethinking the work day and rethinking the structure of work. So if you, and I think I’m more than people. So I G you know, if I wake up, I can, as long as I drink some water, I can hit the ground running. And I think that if I could do that work between seven free, there should be organizations that fully support it, because now there’s no excuse that you have to be in the same room.
[00:48:35] You don’t even have to be in the same meeting, because all the asynchronicity that we can have and the different forms of communication we can have in a feat, that’s so important that businesses start to consider that. And also if you’re a night owl and you know that you’re going to hit your peak at 5:00 PM, that’s completely fine.
[00:48:52] Cause if there’s less people around you in the office or that. There’s far more focus that you could have. So that’s my sort of forced to take on, um, on, on energy and, and re re shift in the plant. Well, I think you’ve beautifully described the conditions in which we thrive. And actually the fact is, you know, the conditions in which we thrive will be different for you.
[00:49:16] But respecting that and understanding that and knowing what each of us friends are. I mean, the fact that you even have that level of awareness of like my energy levels are highest at this point in time when we’re in a conversation and progress is being made, that will, you know, the energy snowballs when we’re stalling, my energy goes down, you know, like that’s such valuable information, not just for you, but for the people that you work with in your company or your clients, you know, that, that is like, Hey, you’re laying out in the line.
[00:49:46] Like, do you want me to be at my best and do my best work? Cause when I’m flying, you know, like I was saying on that psychological fitness scale, you’re like, catch me if you can. Right. Because I’m going to be like, I’m going to be churning out amazing work. But between those hours and this style of communication, Um, so I think, you know, understanding, understanding yourself and being able to be confident enough to communicate that with other people, but then equally people coming back to you and saying, I hear, okay, well, I, I worked like blah, blah.
[00:50:17] You know, like, okay. But then at least you understand, you know, you can play off each other. It’s like a duck hunt, right. Which psychologist, um, had this, but it’s people do their best work in bursts of energy. Don’t they bursts of creativity rather than the model, which is where we sit in front of our screens for eight hours a day.
[00:50:36] No one does that best work like that. It’s just not possible. Um, you know, so I, I really think, but I think what we’re up against, isn’t it just how organizations have organized work, which is very much based on like the industrial revolution. But I think what we’re up against also is the mentality that each of us has internalized about the world of work.
[00:51:03] So I think even if you’re an entrepreneur, who’s decided to say, move away from the corporate world. I guarantee a lot of them will be trying to sit at their desk from nine to five because we have internalized that way of working and measures of success are based on that kind of world. And so, although I can sit here and say, I find the compensation of music about, um, where we work, quite frankly, these are really entrenched ideas.
[00:51:35] And you know, a lot of the people leaders who I see who are saying things. You know, if you can go out for lunch, you can come into the office. Goddammit. You know, uh, I, there they’re dinosaurs in there thinking, you know, that’s, that’s kind of the old way, but I think the old way has pervaded our mindsets quite a lot.
[00:51:54] And I think it’s, it’s going to take quite a shift on so many levels for it to really change and change for the better. I think there’s going to be a generational shift. I truly do believe. I think we’re, we’re hitting that point where we understand what we want from a workplace, what we want from leaders, what we need as well.
[00:52:13] I think we’re getting now fitting the dinosaurs in finance is going to take a little bit longer, I think, but I think, you know, there’s a BBC, so it was on HBR in the U S um, and it was telling a story of bankers and what they go up to. And for me, young banker through to, through to bank. And I’ll add it to the show notes.
[00:52:38] Cause I can’t remember what the title was off the top of my head, but it just shows you that it hasn’t changed. I worked in a finance company and working hardest, longest, and being seen the most. It was, was the way that you were seen to be a brilliant employee. And I remember a quick story, a director went out, the owner director, went out, got a razor and some shaving foam and made me shave because I wasn’t cleaning shaving that morning because I worked so late the night before I was so tired or as I’m being, you go in and I can look back and laugh about that now.
[00:53:09] But at the time I found it funny, but also is it was a, you know, a demonstration of power. And I figured if that happened today, that would make probably, uh, Twitter and LinkedIn and whatever else and some publications. Yeah. Yeah, very popular from stories like that. But, um, I’m conscious that I know I’ve taken so much of your in a stolen and borrowed.
[00:53:34] A lot of your knowledge. Um, one tip that really jumped out, I think might help the listeners is when we’re at work, we’re often given blank documents and accosted. It just sort of brings us, and that’s not how a lot of us work. Can we we’re we’re not, we’re not humans on, um, powered by something that’s empty.
[00:53:54] We need to know what success is. So often what I say to people is create the templates for people to know how to start and where to finish or, or give them, um, like an exercise to do that. Isn’t a blank piece of paper. And even if you need to sort of confine it bigger than a bit of paper or white board, some people thrive on a whiteboard.
[00:54:15] So just enable them to, to work in different ways and work to their strengths because then it would be the strength for the. Eventually because it would all connect, but, uh, I’d love to finish up with a quick fire round if you don’t mind. Yeah. Um, is there one book you’d recommend to read and what would it be?
[00:54:36] Oh, that’s a difficult one. Um, oh yes. Um, healing is the new high. It’s brilliant. Awesome. Is there a particular reason why? Well, I’m the author of acts. He does a really good job of making healing, uh, very accessible. Calm set. And the exercises that he gives you in the book of really, really practical. I think sometimes healing can sound a bit too, like airy fairy spiritual, and it can put a lot of people off, but actually what he does is he just makes it, he just uses normal language and he leaves aside a lot of the scientific jargon and the exercises are something that anybody can do in their day.
[00:55:20] And it won’t take more than say a half an hour max, if you did all of them, but if you really just wanted to do a few, maybe five minutes, but they make a difference. And so for that, I think, I mean, I applaud him for being able to do it, but I think it will really transform people at this moment of collective vulnerability.
[00:55:38] Cause I think we need collective healing processes. Like the ones that he outlines in the book. I think I’m going to order that straight on what’s. Is there one podcast that you’d recommend or that you listen to? Um, that you’d, you’d highly recommend people to do. What do you mean other than this one, Danny, obviously I’ve heard of this one is obviously going to be priceless for people, but for another podcast or audio that you, that you’d recommend.
[00:56:07] Um, I, I really liked breeze days. Lee’s podcasts. Um, I think he’s brilliant. And actually, um, humanity works. The name of the company is very much inspired by his kind of teachings. You know, the joy of work, his book is phenomenal. Um, so yeah, I’m a big, big groupie of Bruce’s. I think he’s brilliant. Um, and I enjoy, and I enjoy his podcast because he’s very, very good at getting to the heart of matters.
[00:56:35] Um, he obviously has really interesting guests, but he’s really well-informed himself as well. So hugely enjoyed it. Bruce also came up in a previous podcast. So in our spoken event last week, uh, together and we’ve spoken at a few together, he’s often come after me. I came after him last week. So it’s always an interesting dynamic.
[00:56:57] He’s very smart. Is there one newsletter or piece of content that you, that you, you fear of missing out if, if it didn’t get delivered to you every week or every month? Um, I’m not sure if it’s a newsletter, but I, I do greatly enjoy reading the articles in Harvard business review because they do have, um, often, you know, really different ways of looking at subjects, which I really like.
[00:57:23] Um, I really like thrive global as well. So Arianna Huffington’s, um, uh, like, uh, content website and actually the whole movement that she’s created. Um, I think that they have really compelling pieces of information in there. Um, I enjoy things like they have like meditation sessions, you know, like they really kind of give you that what I call, you know, that holistic look at how to, you know, live better, to work better, to feel better.
[00:57:50] And, and the I’ve really, I really enjoy, I think both of those, they kind of serve different purposes, but I think that they’re both really important. Completely agree. And is that one video that you tightly recommend or you always recommend people to watch? Well, I mean, it’s a classic, but it’s Brittany Brown’s Ted talk on vulnerability.
[00:58:11] Um, for me it was an absolute game changer as I moved from a commodity and control leader to, you know, a more human one. And, you know, I think that work is still ongoing for lots of people. Um, and I, I, um, she’s brilliant. I mean, I’m a, you know, as much as I love Bruce, I love Bernie more. Um, you know, that’d be a dream combo for, for you and I, I think, yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:58:37] But no, she’s fine. And just to wrap up, what’s your number one piece of advice for any leader trying to improve wellbeing or organizational, um, safety or health or, or what would that be? I think you’ve got to ask yourself, um, if you were in this person’s shoes, how would you want to be treated? You know, cause I think for a lot of leaders, you know, perhaps, you know, they haven’t been through maybe something very difficult or perhaps they have, and they were just like stiff upper lip get on with it.
[00:59:13] But actually, you know, I think it’s important to really, it’s gonna sound strange, but think like a human being, you know, think about how you would care for people. Think about, you know, You know how you can make their lives better. And I think if you ask yourself those questions then, and ask those other, you know, ask people in your team, your organization, those questions, then I think you’re going to get very different responses, perhaps a more honest ones and ones that will actually help people in their lives.
[00:59:44] And I think you’ve got to kind of be, you’ve got to open yourself up to asking those kinds of broader questions to be able to get to better answers. So, um, I don’t like to tell people what to do, you know, I’m a coach, so, you know, I want them to kind of get there themselves. But I think the important thing is, is that you ask yourself some good questions to get to some good answers.
[01:00:07] Um, and, or at least even if you don’t get to good answers, at least have a good discussion, you know, something that is meaningful. Um, but I would say use the filter of humanity because I think often that is what it’s lacking.
[01:00:24] Um, and most importantly, where can people, um, work with you find you, et cetera, how what’s the best way to contact you? Yes. So I would say go to our website, humanity works, consultancy.com. Um, or you can,
[01:00:56] oh, are we back? Uh, yes. So, um, humanity works consultancy.com. Um, or you can email me, email@example.com. You know, you can chat. Um, of course I’m on LinkedIn as well. Um, and there’s a bunch of helpful, uh, videos on YouTube as well. Um, under Sharon and Asia performance coach. So yeah. Um, easy to find.
[01:01:27] No highly recommend your, um, one of the PDFs that you, you created a tenant here. That’s that that’s well worth reading. If you’re, if you’re a leader and wanting to improve your work, your workforce so much space, I didn’t catch the question. Sorry. Uh, suggesting I was just, uh, promote in your PDF that you created.
[01:01:52] Yes, yes. Yeah. And reading for latest. Yes. Yes, definitely. We produced a human trends report, um, earlier this year, but it’s still relevant now, you know, on how to have, um, you know, what we call more psychologically flexible working, um, and how to actually implement that across your, um, people, your leaders and your culture.
[01:02:15] So, yes. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed that. That was a labor of love putting that together. Um, but yes, we we’ve had great feedback on that and I think it’s, you know, it’s got some very practical tips in it, which was very important to me that people be able to take away things from it and be able to implement it straight away.
[01:02:32] Um, so yes, no, thank you. That’s really nice to hear.
Danny: Thank you very much for today showing that that was brilliant.
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