And what a fantastic day we had at Cumbria Coaching Network‘s annual conference! Thanks to all who came along and took part so enthusiastically in our range of workshops. It’s a tense moment for any organisers of a long-awaited event when their preparations and planning are over and the participants start to arrive . . . so I’m delighted to report that the day surpassed our expectations and was memorable for all the right reasons.
I’ll reflect on the Happiness from Within workshop I co-presented with Beth Curl of Hyproformance and the therapeutic benefits of laughter yoga with Keith Adams of Laughter Aspirations in a later post – for now I’ll focus on what I learnt from our keynote presenter Henry Stewart, CEO of Happy Ltd and author of The Happy Manifesto.
Henry’s workshop was inspiring and energising, and challenged our thinking on some of the conventional structures, cultures and procedures of organisations with humour and playfulness. It was so refreshing to think ‘outside of the box’ and see the audience engage readily in a lively debate on the topic of workplace happiness. Although some of Henry’s principles may seem unorthodox, the fact that they are grounded in his own real-life practical experience of growing an effective, productive and profitable business meant that the examples he shared with us were really meaningful.
I would recommend The Happy Manifesto to any employer, manager or employee interested in creating a better and happier workplace using Henry’s ten simple principles. These cover a range of topics including good management, effective recruitment, social and community purpose and ethics, work-life balance, and creating a culture that focuses on strengths rather than weaknesses.
Here are my personal reflections on just three of his principles:
Trust your people – this includes the idea of pre-approval, i.e. asking staff to undertake a project, solve a problem or improve an aspect of working life (with clear guidance initially) but then stepping back and allowing them to take ownership of the process to completion. I think many employees struggle under the constraints of corporate bureaucracy, dislike being micro-managed and end up demotivated and less productive as a result, so I can relate to this principle – it’s probably why I choose to work for myself! But wouldn’t it be great to be encouraged to be creative and innovative within an organisation?
Be open and transparent – about information, finances and salaries. Sadly in my experience (which includes multi-agency working) there often seems to be a fear of sharing simple information which would enable people to do their jobs more effectively and with a better sense of responsibility. And how many organisations do you know – whether private sector or even charities – where salary structures and bonus schemes are kept a secret? To my mind that’s a fast track to staff resentment – and if you’ve nothing to hide then why hide it? Just asking . . . !
Celebrate mistakes – in a no-blame culture where it’s OK to experiment and own up when things don’t work out. Not surprisingly, as we had many NHS staff attending the conference, this provoked some discussion – and as Henry was the first to admit, his usual calming take on hearing of a blunder – ‘Has anyone died?’ – would not be the most appropriate in a hospital! Nevertheless the truth is that mistakes are made, even in crucial circumstances. In the week of the Hillsborough report I reflected that while a mistake can have tragic results, the consequences can only be compounded when the culture of an organisation leads to an attempted cover-up. Also, if we can’t admit to our mistakes, how can we learn from them?
So thank you Henry Stewart for bringing your visionary ideas to the North-West and helping Cumbria Coaching Network to put workplace happiness firmly on the agenda. By coincidence the date we picked for the conference was also the International Day of Peace – and as we spent the day focused on happiness, laughter, celebrating diversity and increasing wellbeing through understanding and connecting with others, it seems an entirely appropriate choice.
If you have thoughts to share – whether you attended or not – please leave a comment below!