The Loneliness of the Long Distance Speaker…

Truth be told: The (almost…) sole purpose of this post is to share this really awesome photo with you.

Rose_HR_Inside_Summit.jpg

It was taken by photographer Benedikt Weiss during my opening keynote on Positive Psychology at the HR Inside Summit 2016 in Vienna three weeks ago. The keynote took place in the beautiful and most stunning Hofburg Palace and was, at the same time, one of the largest crowds I´ve spoken to so far.

The setting was somewhat of a challenge. As you can see, the lights on stage were really bright, whereas the audience was pretty dark. Additionally, there was this gap of at least 25 feet between the first row of people and me – which basically meant I couldn’t discern a single face in the crowd. This was somewhat discomforting since – as most speakers do – I tend to frequently scan the crowd for friendly-looking faces, people who nod, or smile at me. Not a chance in this case – but I guess I did a good job anyway.

Still, if you´re presenting to larger crowds, I´d love to hear your speaking hacks on how to get ongoing feedback from the audience when you basically cannot see anyone…

Feedback? You´re doing fine! Just keep on going…

A good friend of mine, Vivian Wagner, has founded a non-profit organization called 1World Social Capital Program (1WSCP). 1WSCP offers mentoring to aspiring female professionals and students, helping them to grow their social capital with 12 highly regarded and successful mentors who are doing amazing work to break the glass ceiling for women all around the world.

1WSCP regularly posts short videos of leaders who share important learning experiences from the careers. For my video, Vivian asked me to specifically think about how we can elevate and uplift the people around us.

I share a story that took place while still studying Positive Psychology at Penn. The video contains a shout-out to Professor Jane Dutton from the Center for Positive Organizations who facilitated our learning experience that day. An older written account of that experience can be found here.

Share and enjoy!

Positive Psychology: What would you like to read about?

SONY DSC

I´m not sure if this has happened before – but I feel I´m in a kind of “creative slump” these days. I want to write but all the exciting ideas are evading my mind.

So, I thought I´d reach out to you, cherished reader, to provide me with some input. You know that Mappalicious is mostly about translating original Positive Psychology research into a layman´s format. So here´s my question to you:

What should I write about over the next weeks? Are there any (special) topics in Positive Psychology and adjacent that would like to know more about? Anything, that has not been covered enough over the past three years?

I´d love to see your input. Please leave your suggestions in the comment section.

Thank you!

 

If you´re Happy and you Know it, write a Blog

Dr. Nico RoseMost weeks, I put something between five and ten hours into bringing fresh Positive Psychology content to Mappalicious. Sometimes, people ask me about my motivation or my goals for the blog – which more or less translates to “Are your earning any money with this?”

The answer is: No, I don´t – and I don´t intend to do so. They pay me a heck of a lot of money in my management job which grants me the freedom to pursue Mappalicious as a delightful hobby.

Maintaining this blog is an autotelic activity: The journey is the destination.

Curiosity and love of learning are among my signature strengths according to the Peterson/Seligman typology. And my favorite way of learning new stuff is to read and then write about it. So, I´d probably keep on writing even if nobody ever read it – but it´s all the more fulfilling to hear that people actually enjoy and profit from my writing efforts. Funny thing: Wherever I go in the (Positive Psychology) world, a lot people feel they already know me – even though we´ve actually never met before.

Other than that, I just receive a lot positive feedback, mostly from students who share how, by way of example, my list of eminent Positive Psychology articles has helped them with finishing a paper or something like that.

Just over the last weeks…

  • I was informed by the academic director of the MAPP program that people actually read my blog to prepare for their applications to UPenn.
  • One of the top researchers in the field analogously said Mappalicious is one of the best free resources on Positive psychology on the net.
  • Mappalicious was included in a list of noteworthy happiness blogs along with top-notch sites such as the blog of the Greater Good Science Center and FulfillmentDaily.com.

Oh, and then I received this beautiful piece of feedback via Facebook – and I have permission to share it with you:

I feel grateful and lucky that your posts appear in my homepage every day, I think you might want to reorganize your signature strengths and put zest/energy above all of them! I´ve never seen that much discipline to post everyday a well thought and evidence based posts. Very good combination or as I like to call it “orchestra” you have there playing your character, the melody is inspiring.

Maybe you deserve to be paid, if not in hard currency, definitely in emotional currency, and hear that from someone: I usually save your posts to read them later while I´m cycling. Your posts have a great impact on people´s day.

Thank you!

Ready to push the Button? Instant Feedback for a Positive Work Culture

Today, I stumbled upon an article in The Wall Street Journal (Are You Happy at Work? Bosses Push Weekly Polls) that explains how some firms have adopted short weekly employee surveys/polls to measure workforce well-being, engagement, but also other work-related attitudes such as preferences for communication tools and software usage, among other things.

I find this highly interesting as receiving regular feedback, but also being able to provide feedback to bosses and the company as a whole seems to be a driver of well-being at work, and as a consequence, performance (especially among the younger part of our workforces). So basically everything that enables or facilities giving or receiving feedback could be a worthwhile investment.

This then reminded me of a photo that I took a the airport in Bergen/Norway when flying home from my TEDx talk in October.

Feedback Button - Bergen, Norway

It displays an easy-to-use feedback system that is installed right after the security controls. While walking by you can simply press one of the buttons to convey your opinion with regard to the quality of the control procedure. No pencil-and-paper, no log-in, just a short movement with your hands. You can even do that while carrying several bags.

How about having one of these gadgets at your office´s main entrance? It could be used to receive day-to-day feedback on your employee´s satisfaction, or based on the prompt, e.g. organizational energy. Quite obviously, a system like this will not tell you why a certain measure may go up or down, but this can be tackled using more sophisticated (and less frequent) feedback systems.

Are you ready to push the button?

Mappsterview No. 5: Margaret Greenberg on how Companies can Profit from the Positive

I was in the ninth cohort of the Master of Applied Positive Program at Penn. Consequently, there are tons of brilliant MAPP Alumni out there that have very fascinating stories to tell: about their experience with the program, about Positive Psychology in general – and about themselves of course. I really want to hear those stories. That´s why I started to do Mappsterviews with my predecessors.

Today, you are going to meet Margaret Greenberg from MAPP 1, the very first group of Mappsters to be taught at Penn. She co-authored a very successful book that I also included in my Positive Psychology at Work Book List.  

Profit from the PositivePlease introduce yourself briefly:

Like all of us, I wear many hats. I’m a wife to my sweet husband Neal of 30 years. I’m a mother to our two bright and beautiful twenty-something daughters. I’m an entrepreneur, having started my consulting/coaching practice, The Greenberg Group, in 1997 after spending the first 15 years of my career in corporate HR/Learning & Development. I’m a certified executive coach, speaker, and co-author of Profit from the Positive: Proven Leadership Strategies to Boost Productivity and Transform Your Business with fellow MAPPster Senia Maymin, and positive business columnist for Live Happy Magazine. I also do fundraising for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in honor of both my mother and mother-in-law. Finally, I enjoy being outside in nature, as well as inside baking, as you can probably tell from all the photos I post on Facebook!

What did you do before MAPP?

I’m doing after MAPP the same thing I did before MAPP – coaching business leaders and their teams to achieve more than they ever thought possible. The only difference is that I now have more research and resources to draw upon, and I’m writing a heck of a lot more. We all entered MAPP with our own set of experiences and education. To prevent positive psychology from becoming just another fad (I don’t even like to use the term “movement”) I believe it’s prudent for us practitioners to view positive psychology as just one more body of knowledge that we bring to our professions and lives.

What got you interested in Positive Psychology in the first place?

I had been in practice for 8 years as an executive coach when I learned of MAPP. What was missing from my coaching certification was the science behind what we do as coaches. I’ll never forget the day an email popped up in my inbox about this new graduate program in positive psychology. I ran, yes ran, outside to share my excitement with my husband who was gardening. “Go for it,” he said. “Yeah, but what if I get in, then what?” The rest is history as they say.

I´ve noticed that you´ve written your MAPP thesis on optimistic managers. Shouldn´t managers be more the critical, discerning type of person?

Most certainly managers need to think critically to come up with innovative solutions to business challenges. The trouble arises when managers apply this same critical thinking to the people they lead. Case in point: If all I do is look for things you are not doing right, and skip over the things you’re doing well, that can be pretty discouraging. In our book  we offer several practical tools to combat this tendency. We call them “Capitalize on What’s Right”, “Find Solutions Not Faults”, and “Obsess Over Strengths, but Don’t Ignore Weaknesses”.

The title of your book is “Profit from the Positive”. Please tell us a bit more about that!

Writing PFTP with a fellow MAPPster has been one of the most rewarding experiences. Senia and I each brought different strengths to the virtual table (Senia is on the west coast of the US and I’m on the east). We really wanted to bring what we were learning from applying positive psychology with our coaching clients to a much broader audience. The book is written for business leaders, HR professionals, and coaches in particular, but we have had readers tell us they found one or more of our 31 tools helpful in their own personal life. I’m happy to report that it will be translated into Chinese next month, and Korean and Japanese early next year. People can see what we’re up to by visiting our website, Facebook page, or connect with us on our LinkedIn Pulse blogs or @profitbook on Twitter.

OK, in my day job, I´m a manager myself. Which three things should I (personally) start doing right away?

First, recognize what we call the “Achoo! Effect”. Our emotions are contagious. Be sure you are spreading cheer, not fear at work (or at home). Second, if you do performance reviews at your company, be sure to preview, don’t just review Performance. Finally, I’d also recommend that you give FRE, which stands for frequent recognition and encouragement, to your employees, peers, and even your Boss. This was one of the key research findings from my Capstone that I collaborated on with another MAPPster, Dana Arakawa. Chris Peterson was our advisor and I will be forever be grateful for his guidance on this study, which is available on the University of Pennsylvania’s Scholarly Commons, and has been downloaded over 7,000 times.

And what kind of initiatives would you recommend on the organizational level?

I think there are lots of opportunities to be what Senia and I call a “positive deviant”. We’ve worked with companies large and small at the individual, team and organizational levels. Here are a few practical applications of positive psychology at the org level. To improve:

  • Strategy and Planning: Use the S.O.A.R. analysis (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results) rather than the traditional S.P.O.T. analysis (Strengths, Problems, Opportunities, and Threats).
  • Recruiting: Revamp hiring practices to include “Hiring for What’s Not on the Resume” to get at the more intangible social and emotional intelligence skills that are most predictive of success and higher Retention. In fact, there are many HR practices that need to be revamped to focus more on what’s going right, such as performance reviews that I mentioned earlier.
  • Meetings: Start and end meetings on a positive note.
  • Leadership and Talent Development Programs: That’s a topic for a whole other interview!

Margaret Greenberg and Senja Maymin

Thanks a lot, Margaret (on the left), for this Mappsterview!

My Year in MAPP: A 5-Step Course in the fine Art of Being Un-German

In general, I hate this sentence – but: time flies.

Right now, I´m in Philly, precisely: in room 340 of Wharton´s Huntsman Hall, for attending the final onsite period of the 2013/14 MAPP program at University of Pennsylvania. Seems like yesterday that I wrote that blog post on being admitted to my deepdive into Positive Psychology at UPenn. Maybe it´s still a little bit early for reminiscence, since there´s still a lot of work ahead (final papers, capstone projects) – but lately, I´ve been musing on a truly intriguing question:

Is MAPP a Course in being Un-German?

Flag - German SmileyThat question only makes sense when you´re German, of course – which I happen to be. My MAPP classmates surely know I´ve been using this definition a lot over the year: un-German. What do I want to say here?

Despite that disreputable first half of the twentieth century, I kind of like being German. According to most socio-economic (and also ecologic) indicators, it´s a very good place to live. Hey, according to BBC we might even the most popular country in the world. Go figure!*

But what do other countries like or maybe even admire about Germans? Let´s look at some of the (pretty thoroughly verified…) stereotypes:** People definitely love our cars (and the fact that there´s no speed-limit on most areas of the Autobahn), they indulge in our Bier, Schnaps, and Riesling-Wein (especially around the time of the Oktoberfest – which I´ve never visited by the way…), our ten trillion varieties of Wurst and the Schnitzels (although the original Wiener Schnitzel is from Austria, of course). So generally speaking, people like our products. They love things “Made in Germany”.

Because that´s what we´re good at. Germany has an “engineering culture”. We´re good at planning things and following through with it, that´s our Prussian heritage. We´re builders and craftsmen, planners and executors, not so much “poets and thinkers” any more. We´re industrious, punctual, orderly, dependable, and basically good at “being good at things”.

Emilia Lahti & Nico RoseRather not on top of the list is “the German” as a person(ality). Most other countrymen consider us to be blunt to the point of outright rudeness – if we´re talking at all, that is. We´re not the epitome of warm-heartedness, either (that may be a result of our language). And while Germany typically is considered to be the “export world champion”, our humor definitely is not one of our hit products.

Additionally, we´re just not a very optimistic people. I mean, compared to most other countries, we´re really really rich and really really healthy and long-living. We´re well-off – period. Still, collectively we´ve managed to have a special kind of fear being named after us: “German Angst” (roughly: being overly cautious and pessimistic). Oh, and we´re also good at feeling Weltschmerz – which can be described as the state of “being pissed off with existence in general and also in particular”.

So on the face of it, trying to be a good German and studying Positive Psychology (here´s a short definition) does not add up. At the end of the day, Positive Psychology is just too … ahem … positive. Rather, a German in a Positive Psychology course seems like a prototypal case of “opposites attract”.

Yet, in spite of it all, I did it. And here´s what I´ve learned…

Lesson 1: Greeting Somebody

In Germany, most people opt for a solid handshake when greeting somebody they do not know that well. Among younger people and goods friends, you’ll also see the occasional hug or that “kiss-kiss embrasser thing” we copied from our French neighbors.

In MAPP, people hug each other at all times. Basically, our bodies are completely entangled while being on campus. Was a little strange at first – but then I´ve found this piece of research that shows how important hugs are for our health.

LOVE_Penn_PhiladelphiaLesson 2: Engaging in Small-Talk

In Germany, when meeting somebody again after several weeks, of course you´ll engage in some microscopic dose of small-talk. E.g., when somebody asks you “How was you flight?”, you´re supposed to reply something like this: “Oh, it was the worst thing ever. There was a delay of at least five minutes. And they didn’t have Becks beer on board. I did not get the window seat I wanted and the food servings were tiny. The guy next to me smelled like a dead rodent and I had already seen all of the HIMYM episodes they showed on board.” The other person will then reply: “Oh, I know exactly what you´re saying. It´s been even worse for me…………..”

In MAPP, when people ask how your flight was, you´re supposed to say “Awesome!” That´s it. And the other person will respond: “That´s awesome. Let me give you a hug…”

Was a little strange at first – but then I´ve found this piece of research that shows how mostly looking on the bright side of life is really beneficial for your psychological and physiological well-being.

Lesson 3: Taking a Break

MAPP Energy BreakIn Germany, when you take a break (which we don´t do that often), you basically stop doings things. Maybe, you have a piece of Streusel-Kuchen, maybe you check your mobile phone for messages. And if you meet a German who is one of those rare positive outliers on extraversion, you might be able to get him engaged in a little small-talk – but don´t count on that.

In MAPP, when you take a break, you´re not allowed to sit down and just do nothing. Because breaks are supposed to be “energy breaks”. So basically, somebody will walk up front, put on some music that is not Rammstein, and then coerce all the other people in the room into frenetic singing and shouting, and moving their bodies in distinctly inappropriate ways. Afterwards, you return to your seat. But before that, you hug.

Was a little strange at first – but then I´ve found this piece of research that shows how taking short breaks from work for dancing is really good for your health and gets so creative juices flowing

Lesson 4: Answering “complicated” Questions

In Germany, when somebody asks you a (“complicated”) question, you answer. That´s it. If you don´t want to do something or disagree, you just say “Nein!” or “That´s not a good idea.” Works out fine.

In MAPP, when somebody asks you a (“complicated”) question, you´re supposed to say something like this: “Oh, that is a truly brilliant question (break into huge smile while speaking…). I really appreciate it. It´s just so thoughtful and deep. I could have never come up with that in a million years. By the way, I just love your hair today. So, about your question…”

When you want to say “No” to somebody, or “I think that´s a bad idea” things get a little more complicated. Because: You can´t. It´s sort of “not allowed”. So instead, you might want to start with something along the lines of the above-mentioned phrases. Now, proceed by putting on a (just slightly) less smiling face and say, e.g.: “Let me give you a little bit of context on that.”*** Then, in excruciating length and detail, you recount each and every item of information that may or may not be relevant to the current affair, starting roughly at Lincoln´s “Better Angels of our Nature” address. And basically, you keep on going until the other person has forgotten what she wanted in the first place. Afterwards, you hug.

Was a little strange at first – but then I´ve found this piece of research that shows how important it is to really be empathetic towards other people, and to engage in (what Positive Psychologists call) active-constructive responding.

MAPP White DogLesson 5: Finishing something

In Germany, when you´ve finished something, you start doing something else immediately (except for when we want to practice the art of Gemütlichkeit – but hey: drinking beer is also doing something…). That´s what we´re here for. We do stuff. We finish it. We do something else. I mean, one of the largest chains of building centers in Germany advertises the slogan “Es gibt immer was zu tun…” (“There´s always something to do…”).

In MAPP, when you´ve finished something, you cannot do something else immediately. Nohoo! Somebody will walk up to you and ask you to savor what you´ve just did. So you might have been to the rest room, reenter the classroom – and somebody will approach you and ask: “Nico, did you take enough time to savor that experience?” Not.

But savoring really is a big issue in MAPP. Now, that is really really un-German. I´ve understood that it´s close to the concept of being “gemütlich”, just (mostly…) without beer. Basically, it´s the opposite of feeling Weltschmerz. It´s about back-pedaling, admiring your recent accomplishments, and giving yourself (and the world in general…) a mental pat on the back – and a hug.

Was a little strange at first – but then I´ve found this piece of research that shows how taking your time to savor life and the beautiful things (and maybe even some of the not so beautiful things…) it entails is really important for our well-being and finding meaning in life.

So, that´s what I´ve learned. Here´s the management summary:

Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world.

(William James)

Alternatively, in the words of Henry David Thoreau:

Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.

MAPP 9 & Co.: Thanks a million! Love you guys. Lots of hugs…

Nico

MAPP_White_dog

 

* But to be honest: that survey is from 2013, a year without any major soccer tournaments. That doesn´t really count…

**You will find 151 of those in Liv Hambrett´s hilarious and at the same time truly insightful piece What I Know About Germans.

*** Thank you for that one, James!