To help us understand each other, human beings develop the ability to make thousands of micro assumptions about the way people look, sound, behave and live their lives. These assumptions can be incredibly helpful and are perfectly natural in navigating our world, however, they aren’t always accurate, can lead us into stereotyping and unconscious bias.
This seems like a simple notion, but how readily do we explore the beliefs we hold, and truly challenge the assumptions that our beliefs lead us to make?
Take a moment to think about some of the assumptions you may have made this week?
How have these assumptions been linked to your beliefs about a person, a Team, a group or a situation?
What conversation do you need to have this week to actively challenge your assumptions, who would they be with?
It is enormously beneficial for all of us to look beyond our cursory self-reflections, and truly tune in to understanding what underpins the quick judgments and assessments of people we make. This deeper level of self-awareness helps us ensure that discrimination is never something we inadvertently promote.
At TWBC one of our core values is that every single action can add value, and that we need to mindfully do our part. Our learning over the last year has been to avoid the sidelines or the commentary box, but to actively engage in discussions around difference linked to our assumptions. This involves challenging our own beliefs, assumptions and actions first and foremost, in order to meaningfully value the individuality and worth of all human beings.
The following uses walking as a metaphor for understanding how our we use the present moment to evaluate the past and consider the future. It teaches us that self-awareness, which is a fundamental pillar of emotional intelligence, can be developed in all sorts of ways including poetry, art, stories, movement, embodiment and as we see here metaphor.
As I walk the hills I always find I am in a reflective space. It’s always time to think and explore the here and now, gain some perspective but still allows space for the past and time to think about the future. We know we cannot predict the future; we always know there will be some tough times, no doubt some of these sad, but there is something important about enjoying the moment, of experiencing today and the feelings it brings.
As I trudge up the hills, feel my heart beating and am outwardly panting, I feel alive for the moment and drink in the sights and sounds around me, the curlews flying around, the lambs bleating and frolicking, the wind that is quite chilly, the skies which are constantly changing above. I have no idea of what will arrive next around the bend in the path (I haven’t looked at the detail of the walk!) but it reminds me of life, we don’t know what is around the next bend or over the next brow – will it be a steep drop, a gradual decline or are we only part way up the hill, will the terrain turn from easy grass to a stony track or a boggy moor – it doesn’t matter, we will deal with that when we get there, but let’s just enjoy what we have now.
As I reach a point in the walk, I take a moment to look back, again what I see relates so much to life. I can see part of the path that I have walked but some is obscured by the contours of the land, the woods that I have walked through, the stony walls that zig zag across the hills, the fog that has rolled in since starting out. I remember what I choose to remember of the walk, however the whole walk is what has led to me reaching the point I am at. It has presented challenges, I have chosen how I respond to this – whether they becoming a defining moment of the walk is my choice. We cannot change our pasts, but we choose the elements and learnings from our past that we take forward. Sometimes it’s important to be reminded of the challenges and to know what motivated me to continue and how I overcame these. Looking back has importance in life, but choosing how to use this is of greater importance.
It’s now time to trudge on. I do know that I am as prepared as I can be for what is around that next bend, I am carrying what I need to be safe however I am always on the lookout for additional knowledge or tools, that will increase my ability to deal with that next bend however there will always be a new learning either from looking back, or dealing with something that happens in the future. Again such a parallel with life!
In these ongoing times of Covid-19 most days do not deviate from the normal pattern of things, some aspects of life really do go on, the day-to-day interactions with all those mini tensions or frustrations still surface. Is it right that I still find some aspects of my relationships with other challenging at times? A year ago I started to develop some ideas about how I could work better with my emotions. I have often found it an extremely difficult area to navigate, today ‘here and now’ I’m continuing to learn how to have a healthier relationship with my emotions. What have I discovered through my own personal journey?
I take a step back, take a breath and settle my mind – there is something about consciously engaging with an emotion or sensation when it arises, taking control of it, rather than it of you.
I try not to judge my emotions as good or bad, I accept them for what they are without judgement. This has been a massive breakthrough for me – emotions are clues for us, they help us to be curious and explore further what may be going on.
To really pinpoint the emotion I feel. I often use an emotions wheel to help be more specific about how I feel. In doing this I often find the underlying value driving the emotion
For more unpleasant emotions I try to work creatively – going for a run, gardening, or just talking with a trusted friend are my normal go-to activities. Sometimes I journal or in an extreme situation have a conversation with an empty chair, taking various roles (believe me it helps).
It is so important to invest in emotions in order to understand them, to take time, ground yourself and calm that part of my brain, to activate those higher functions of reasoning, logic and judgement – to bring about some deep reflection… the ‘what?’, ‘’so what?’, and ‘now what?’ (Rolfe’s model of Reflective Practice). I do love it when deeper reflection and the cultivation of new habits brings about something unexpected… they often reveal an unconscious judgement about something that made me emotionally react as I did. I’ve learned also my emotions are shaped by unconscious bias, this is the common term for the implicit assumptions or quick judgements we make about others in the context of our values and background. They are often about deeply hidden stereotypes that surface unexpectedly and shape our emotional responses and/or behaviour.
To capture these, in the moment is difficult, I am only human, but creating the right personal environment to notice these is so important. I’m gradually cultivating habits to help me, but also aware that here at TWBC we are also embarking on that journey of becoming more acquainted with bias and judgement and sharing some of those ideas with you. I hope they help in some small way…
The Wellbeing Collective spent Earth Day 2021 focussing on our pledges at a personal and professional level.
This year’s Earth Day theme is “Restore Our Earth”, with participants urged to focus not only on how we can reduce our impact on the planet but also on how we might actively repair ecosystems.
The Wellbeing Collective pledge to reduce our impact on the planet and actively repair our ecosystems by:
Buying second hand clothes and make gifts as a norm, not just today but for always
Being even more self conscious of our carbon footprint
Not just focussing on recycling but reducing our waste as a whole
Growing our own veggies (The Wellbeing Collectively shared veggie seeds last year between the team during the first lockdown, and gained some brand new crop growing enthusiasts – so this year we have our second crops underway – an exciting discussion point for our team)
Keeping our ‘weeds’ – especially our dandelions
Growing bee encouraging plants
Learning – we pledge to read ‘Ecological Intelligence: The Hidden Impacts of What We Buy’ by Daniel P Goleman for example
Did you make a pledge? We would love to hear from you.
I spend my time working with leaders who build and maintain healthy and effective work relationships and it is my observation that Authenticity is at the heart of those who are most are successful. I created this chart below for my own learning and to share with others. It breaks down 4 key components as defined by Dr T Fusco in 2015 – Authentic Leaders are Conscious, Confident, Competent and Congruent.
I have been working on these four components and it has really helped me to think about what each component means, how I might practice enhanced ways of being and what the impact might be as a result.
I would be really interested in your thoughts and experiences of how these four components of Authenticity and what the impact is when all four are present.
I know that I am able to build trust much more easily with those I work with when I am exhibiting behaviours that show I am Conscious, Confident, Competent and Congruent.
I recently discovered a great stretch that you can do for 5 – 10 minutes (or as long as you like) at any time of day. Personally, I found it a simple, quick way to step away from my desk, stretch out my back and leg muscles and re-set my body and mind for the rest of the working day.
Step 1: Find a chair or piece of furniture you can rest your legs on.
Step 2: Ensure your legs are at a 90° angle. You can add a cushion under your legs, back etc. Whatever is most comfortable for you.
Step 3: Take a deep breath in through your nose and release through your mouth.
Step 4: Relax your shoulders and arms.
Caution – I fell asleep trying this one evening as I found it so relaxing. No strain on any muscle, just resting.
Even my dog wanted to join in! I hope you find this a useful relaxation tool as well.
Our latest blogs focussing on grounding are a trilogy and can be read in any order. Blog one is Grounding myself in the moment, blog two is Grounding and re-connecting as a team, and the third is Grounding ourselves by planning ahead.
Sometimes I am surfing the wave and sometimes it feels like it am about to get dragged under by the power of the current. Other times I feel like the waves are even more powerful and I am struggling to keep my head above water at all. Over the years I have learned that there are things I can do to get back above the surf, regain a sense of perspective and calm. I have used the following three mini tools personally and professionally for years, as well as many other variations. Over time and with practice, they become more and more effective at managing unhelpful feelings and bringing a sense of calm, just when it’s needed most.
1 2 3 4 5 – this technique is widely used in helping reduce the impact of panic attacks and I find it a strong anchor to the present and physical place. Its very simple to try, when you have feelings of anxiety, panic or a sense of being overwhelmed – Stop for a moment, take a few deep slow breaths and count…
5 things that you can see – What do you notice about each of those items?
4 things that you can hear – Are they loud? Soft? Inside or outside? What kind of sound is it?
3 things that you can feel – what are you touching? What is your body supported by? What physical sensations do you have?
2 things that you can smell – Anything? Something? Several things? Nothing at all?
1 thing that you can taste – Anything? Something? Several things? Nothing at all?
My Core – when things seem overwhelming, uncertain or negative, it is easy to lose touch with the things that are more positive, constant and psychologically safe. It can be really helpful at times like these to pause and encourage ourselves to reconnect mentally with some things that ground us. These mental images can be whatever works for you, although they do need to be, positive, real and meaningful . Examples could be; what are you grateful for? Who cares about you and has your best interests at heart? What are your values? A memory of happy times, If you were at the centre of a spider diagram, what positive things would be around you? Here is an example from someone I have worked with who is happy to share.
My Anchor – When talking with a group of senior leaders who were experiencing exhaustion and ongoing stress I asked them to find (from home), a small physical item that had positive memories or meant something positive to them, once they had identified their object they held it tightly and closed their eyes, allowing their mind to explore what the item meant to them and what they wanted to think about and feel every time they held it in the future. The items ranged form a heart key ring to a small fridge magnet, a pendant necklace to a photo of a love one as a phone screen saver. By identifying a physical item and allowing it to symbolise something constant and positive in our lives we can use it every time we need a boost of positive calming energy to ground us in the moment. The more we use a anchor and the more powerful the positive thought it represents to more it will act as a grounding tool.
There are times when teams can experience additional stress and pressure for a wide range of reasons, some teams find themselves working in highly pressurised and challenging environments a great deal of the time. Having a range of tools and techniques to draw on when times are tough can make all the difference that reconnect and ground can be invaluable.
Team Tale – At a team meeting take a few minutes to talk about your team at it’s best, what are you like when you are fully on form? Come up with stories that are real examples of the great things about the team. Once you have talked it over, agree on one or two that seem to best represent your team strengths. Having agreed on the story, you use it to remind one another of how things have been and will be again at points when everything is tough or too demanding. The conversation, ideas, identification of positive memories all help to release ‘feel good’ hormones like dopamine which naturally reduce stress and increase a sense of wellbeing.
Team Talents – Another way of reducing team stress and increasing connectivity is by collecting a list of team talents, achievements, skills and qualities. A large sheet of paper can be attached to an office wall or a virtual list can be generated on a team communication platform or a list can be gathered collectively through group conversation. The important thing is that everyone has the opportunity to consider the positives that make up the team. We don’t often reflect on these things and hearing colleagues talk about strengths as well as sharing our own perspectives can be incredibly grounding and energising. It’s not to say that things aren’t tough right now or that sometimes things don’t go to plan, it is however about reminding ourselves that teams are greater than the sum of their parts and always have a strengths.
Team Motto – when things are overwhelming, exhausting or uncertain it can help to have an opportunity to chat with colleagues in a more light hearted and appreciative way. By generating a team motto that reflects the team in good times and when strengths are at play can be humorous, relaxed and release tension for a short while. It can also act as a reminder of better times and when used as a term of encouragement can provide light relief and support. A team I was working with recently decided that their motto was ‘all for one and one for all’ and reminded themselves that however challenging things seemed that they were there to support one another. The conversation to create the motto was actually more important and helpful that the actual motto they agreed, as it helped them all feel reconnected and more grounded during a very demanding period at work.
We all find ourselves making and keeping commitments, almost all them are to other people or to do things for our roles at home or at work. How often do we show true self compassion and make personal commitments to ourselves? Commitments that can support our wellbeing and our sense of being grounded? When things are overwhelming, exhausting or particularly demanding it can help to make some additional ‘above and beyond’ commitments to our self and not just to others. Below are three good solid ways of adding in an extra layer of self care when needed and the process of deciding to make an extra self-compassion commitment is likely to help ground and calm in the moment as well.
Treat – When things feel too demanding or your reserves of energy and good will are running low, consider committing to giving yourself a treat. Something you like, don’t often have and something that you can look forward to however hard things are right now. Examples I have heard recently have been …. A virtual clothes shop on line, a stay at home spa, booking a trip, outing or event for the future, turning off all gadgets for an entire weekend, a positive addition to an exercise routine, a long lie in with coffee and weekend papers, reconnecting with a long lost hobby.
Promise – In moments of feeling overwhelmed or exasperated try making a promise to yourself, something tangible, needed and full of self compassion. Prioritise yourself in a way that shows that you matter too and that you have control over many things in your own life. Promises I have heard include…. a walk before work, taking a full lunch break twice a week, setting limits to working hours, speaking to a colleague about work related stress, mindful eating times and sleep when stressed, seeking out friendly colleagues regularly, adding in ‘thinking time and reading time’ to work schedules and sticking to it, giving positive feedback to others as a matter of habit.
New chapter – Many people like the idea of starting something fresh and feeling like it’s a new beginning full of possibility. A technique that I use myself and with people I coach is to choose that the next day or week or month or even season is the beginning of a new chapter. That way it can be viewed with an increased level of optimism and energy, its true that this method doesn’t change things beyond our control, however it can have a powerful impact on the things within our control….How we feel, how we respond, what we do and how we perceive things. By deciding what this new chapter is going to be called can help cement an increased sense of persona empowerment into our lives and provide a helpful sense of possibility. It can be useful to actually name this chapter as if it were in a book or a pod cast. Chapter headings I have heard recently include…. Snakes and ladders, the only way is up, counting my blessings, its not over till its over, spring is around the corner, in it together, hello to the new confident me, put your own oxygen mask on first… grabbing every opportunity… learning to fly…. Happy to be helped.
Before reading this blog, we highly recommend watching Hilary’s discussion around Organisational Development with Tim Coupland, on our You Tube channel.
The end of my working day has become characterised by a daily ritual of shutting down my laptop and moving into an outdoor space. It is a habit that has only emerged during lockdown and it has frankly been a revelation. The link between spending time in the natural world and the positive impact on mental well-being is well-understood and yet it is only in the last three months that it has become a consistent reality in my own life. I came across this piece of writing recently that sums up the essence of this uniquely human experience so beautifully, that I wanted to share it, in its entirety:
“When the mind is festering with trouble or the heart torn, we can find healing among the silence of mountains or fields, or listen to the simple, steadying rhythm of waves. The slowness and stillness gradually takes us over. Our breathing deepens and our hearts calm and our hungers relent. When serenity is restored, new perspectives open to us and difficulty can begin to seem like an invitation to new growth.
This invitation to friendship with nature does of course entail a willingness to be alone out there. Yet this aloneness is anything but lonely. Solitude gradually clarifies the heart until a true tranquility is reached. The irony is that at the heart of that aloneness you feel intimately connected with the world. Indeed, the beauty of nature is often the wisest balm for it gently relieves and releases the caged mind.”
(Excerpt from Divine Beauty by John O’Donohue)
Of course our capacity to get out into nature can be severely hampered by any one of a number of challenges; from living in a built-up urban environment to the demands of family, life or health limitations. And yet I have heard so many stories of people developing a connection with the natural world in a way they have not previously considered – growing veg on a small balcony or seeking out their nearest green space on a daily basis.
We are indeed creatures of habit, and for me, the ritual of spending daily time alone, outdoors has been re-enforced for long enough for it to have started to seep into my identity. It is who I am now. I am the kind of person who likes to get out into nature every day to recover, recharge and recuperate. The challenge will be holding on to these rituals as life returns to a different pace. I was about to wander into the garden earlier this week at the end of the working day when my son dashed into the kitchen to remind me that he needed a lift to football training ……. And so, some of the challenges of the next phase start to emerge.
So, have you developed any new habits that you would like to hold on to?
If you can anticipate what might get in the way, as our everyday activity starts to shift back to some kind of normal pattern again, you will have time to develop strategies that will enable you to retain them and the sense of enrichment that they have brought.
Hilary Charlton, Consultant for The Wellbeing Collective
Is there such a thing as change without threat? The Wellbeing Collective have built a team of like-minded people wanting to make a tangible difference in other people’s lives. We coach, facilitate and support for a living, and in some ways our world is as simple as that. However, we are also a small business trying to hold on tight and become even better.
We have used Covid as an opportunity to review our business model. We have run a business review using techniques we use with other organisations such as Appreciative Inquiry and dialogic organisational development…. and so far, so good! Our small team has come up with creative ways of redesigning what we do, and how we do it and to date it’s been a testament to team cohesion and trust.
The real issue now is that the ideas generated include a range of changes to our roles, responsibilities and probably more.
This has led me to ponder the question …. Is there such a thing as change without threat? Really is there?
Our team have been involved in the process, we share values and a purpose and yet as the leader I want to find ways to take these next potentially disruptive steps without causing a threat response in my valued colleagues. This is the first blog of a trilogy – today I will share my plans for trying to implement sweeping change without threat, the next Blog in this trio will be in the middle of the change and hear from those most affected (if they are still talking to me) and the last Blog will be a reflection on our journey and our overall learning. These really are important steps to shaping a desired future as part of the ‘D’ for destiny in Appreciative Inquiry.
My plans for minimising a threat response in my team during this next phase of our change project include:
Regular one to one time with each person to talk without judgement about the impact on them, their hopes, fears and any feelings of anger or vulnerability.
A crystal-clear vison as to where we are going, why we are changing, and their part in our future.
Opportunities for each team member to have as much control as possible in this process and to offer clarity over the things beyond their control.
A focus on each person strengths and talent conversations to support development plans that will run alongside the formal HR processes.
Meaningful communication and positive feedback for each person help people see that even though there is significant change that they are valued.
Over the last few weeks we’ve all been impacted in some way by the tragic death of George Floyd. The impact of a single event has resonated with many lives and reminded us how little progress has been made in tackling deep seated racism in our world. The surge of voices, the protests, the tearing down of symbols have conveyed absolute outrage that we continue to live and tolerate so many things in our societies and communities – our history is bleeding through from our past and ever present in our day to day lives. This is sometimes explicitly seen, but most of the time hidden, subtle and insidious.
We can no longer ignore racism’s presence! We are all having to deeply reflect, face uncomfortable truths, and engage in profoundly difficult conversations about how racism manifests in our thoughts, feelings, our conversations and the communities we live in. Indeed, recognising, valuing and celebrating difference and diversity is easy to do when everyone around you is white and from similar socio-economic background, but to step out, and seek out conversations with a black person about their experience of living as a black person is so much harder, but so needed right now.
As I’m thinking about how I may do this, I’m aware of how I could face my uncomfortable truths with a desired future in mind – one with hope, connectivity, reparation and restoration. I’m minded of my work around Appreciative Inquiry which can sometimes be viewed as just focusing on ‘feel good’ and positive things but is actually more about a deep sense of self-inquiry, a deep reflection on something the really matters. Using an AI lens, I’m wondering how I can discover a time from my past when I’ve had a deeply uncomfortable conversation that’s brought positive, enabling and powerful change. I wonder what dream I can have. What destiny I desire? It’s now time for me to act, to address my own ongoing dissonance, to find a future that values all human beings equally.
“Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of [what is morally] right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways.
I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”
Tim Coupland – Consultant, The Wellbeing Collective.