In our 10653NAT Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing we always talk about starting with self and creating a ripple effect out there in the world - whatever that may mean for you.
In this Student Insights interview, one our 10653NAT Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing Adelaide graduates explain how the course has helped him create significant and sustained positive change within his global organisation and life.
Senior Manager Organisational Development and Leadership - Schneider Electric
Adelaide - 2014 - Alumni
What drew you to complete the Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing?
I had been exposed to Langley Group content before so I knew that the company was headed down a direction of wellbeing.
I knew that it would help me move forward in my role, and I also had a feeling that I would be able to implement the content within Schneider Electric based on what I’d read about the course itself. So, I was really interested for my own personal development, yet also the development of the organisation.
Part of my degree in education covered human physiology so the neuroscience part of the Langley Group's teachings had always appealed to me - I wanted to understand human behaviour from a neuroscience perspective.
How was your experience of the Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing?
There were ‘aha’ moments across the board the entire way through the programme, I knew that everything I was learning was immediately applicable.
As I was going through the whole programme I would write a little ‘a’ with a circle around it suggesting ‘I can action this’, ‘I can implement this’. I kept thinking 'wouldn’t life be great if this was to be happening in the organisation?'.
I didn't have any preconceived expectations of the course, and I went in there with an open mind, yet I certainly didn’t expect the level of engagement, application or resonance of the content.
It resonated both professionally and personally for me.How are you spreading your positive ripples, and how has the Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing helped you achieve this?
The main thing is from an organisational perspective; I have actually implemented a lot of the concepts from the diploma into my work, and we have been instrumental in implementing the wellbeing initiatives in the Pacific Zone.
Our Flourish programme (creating flourishing employees and managers) is the shining example. Our language has changed and a strengths-based approach is embedded in the organisation totally. If you ask our Executives about our culture at Schneider, they will say it’s a strength-based positive leadership culture. So, the language is actually really firmly embedded into the organisation as well.
Positive leadership, wellbeing, neuroscience, emotional intelligence; all of the key foundational pieces that we learnt during the diploma, have been welcomed with open arms in Schneider and we are really implementing them all over the place in lots of different ways.
How did you get the senior leadership team on board with a Positive Psychology based programme?
Leverage and strength of persistence. I kept chipping away. Yet I was very lucky to have a very supportive Executive Team. For us, it was a bit of serendipity as well, as at the time of me doing the programme, we had a big strategy day and part of that was soliciting input from anyone in the organisation.
It was a "shark tank" style day where people would pitch ideas, and we pitched positive psychology and the implementation of it to the Executives. The response was ‘well, yeah, give it a go, let’s try this out’. So, we pitched the business case, we looked at all of the research including where it was happening elsewhere in the world, and we got the data. We reviewed all the technical information and it was undeniably our way to go.
So we started implementing Positive Psychology and we moved from strength to strength from that point forward. It didn’t take too long for the Executives to actually buy in wholly and solely, once they felt it and experienced it themselves. I guess that was the key turning point.
Positive psychology is not a spectator sport, It's something that people have to jump into and experience. Once they do that, it’s a no-brainer really!
How has your Positive Psychology Programme grown?
We won our internal leadership awards, an award for Leadership Transformation in 2016 in Dubai.
We were also finalists at the AHRI (Australian HR Institute) Awards in 2017. So we have received recognition both internally and externally. We see the statistics on glass door changing.
We moved into Ranstad’s top 10 employers of choice survey in 2017 as well.
Have you found the concepts to be applicable across cultures?
As a result of the above programme recognition, our international operational arm started to take notice of what we were doing and became interested.
People like to see if things are working first before they take them on board. We have run the programme in Dubai and Singapore now for our East Asia crew and we’re getting take up in those areas now. It has certainly been really well embraced in those spaces so it does translate across cultures.
We have global offers in this space as well now, so it’s seeping in and it does translate.
How do you maintain momentum of the positive psychology programme within your organisation?
The momentum comes from the programme creating it’s own demand.
The courses that we have implemented have been really popular and participants resoundingly say "this has not just helped me be a better manager, or a better work colleague; it’s actually helped me be a better father, mother, partner, uncle, etc".
People talk internally and a positive reputation is generated.
All of these concepts are applicable in people's personal lives as well, so the programme has gained that reputation and now we get people clamouring to experience it. Previously it would be that individuals would be told to go along to some programmes, yet now we go through an application process, we’re always at capacity and we always have 100% attendance rate on the programmes.
There’s a lot of work that obviously needs to go on behind the scenes, so the momentum is also generated by this. The hard work required to keep the energy levels going, to build the excitement and to build the experience. The Flourish programme is a whole experience as opposed to just a training course.
Then the content needs to be implemented through programme alumni so it actually becomes part of the culture and part of the language. There need to be supportive mechanisms in place, not just from the training yet also from tools, alumnus and the language that is being used in the organisational processes.
Positive Psychology principles need to be continually backed up and reinforced for the programme to change the culture.
What advice would you give to people who would also like to embed their learnings from the diploma within their organisation?
You can certainly look at stuff that’s worked for other organisations, yet first of all you need to look at your actual organisation and
where you want to be first of all. So imagine if everything was working really well in your organisation; what could that look like? Start to get into the mindset of ‘what would it look like if we were the very best in what we do? If I were to walk around the office, or my organisation, what would I see people doing?’ Then keep that in mind.
My advice would be then to look at some of the buzzwords like 'collaboration', 'innovation' and 'agility' that tend to be thrown around, and bring it back to the more human side of things. Think about what it is that is going to enable collaboration. 'Am I talking about relationships with people? What is it that is going to allow innovation?' 'How do I create the conditions to enable these things to happen?
It’s not so much a focus on ‘let’s be more collaborative, let’s be more innovative’; the focus is more on 'let’s create the climate and the environment where collaboration and innovation happen automatically'.
So how can we enable people to actually want to do those things? How do we equip them with all the skills and capabilities and the environment to be collaborative and innovative?
We have to live and breathe it as well, so the advice is that if you’re going to go down the positive leadership route and implement positive psychology in your workplace, you’ve got to actually live it and breathe it yourself, and get your managers and leaders to actually role model those behaviours as well. It can be seen as contradictory when we’re saying one thing, yet our leaders are doing something different in reality.
So buy-in from the Executive level and the top leadership level with some figureheads is really important; you need them to do things loudly, to support positive psychology loudly, to look after their own wellbeing loudly, and believe in it. So influencing and convincing senior leadership is absolutely key.
Creating the groundswell and excitement within the actual population is really important as well, so you can get at it from both directions.
Would you say that the Diploma has had an impact on your personal life as well in any way?
Absolutely. I’ve had endless joy with some of the things that I’ve learned from the diploma.
My favourite positive ripple story on a personal level came from random acts of kindness and the reciprocity and social capital concept that arose as a result.
A couple of years ago I had my fiftieth birthday party, and I had everything I wanted in my life so I didn’t want any presents. I had a big party in my back yard and it said on the invitation that I as my present, I wanted people to go and do a random act of kindness for somebody else and write down what they did. I asked for everyone's stories to be put it in a box and that box of stories would be birthday present.
The next day, I opened up this big box of cards and started to read everyone's stories of kindness, 150 diff
erent stories. It was probably the most uplifting experience that I'd had in my life.
My favourite example was from my friend Shelly. When she got the invitation, she had an old bike in her back shed that she was planning on putting out onto the verge as rubbish. So, she decided that she would get the bike fixed up and through a contact that she had at a refugee association, she would give this bike to a recent refugee child.
She took the bike into the shop and was explaining to the shop manager why she was doing it. He though that what she was doing was pretty awesome, so decided to fix the bike for free. While this was being discussed, a woman in the shop also overheard Shelly’s story, went up to Shelly and said: ‘Excuse me, what you’re doing is wonderful, can I buy a helmet, and donate it to you so you can give the bike to a child as a full package?’. Then Shelly’s mother heard what she was doing and bought a bike lock. So, the ripple went out to the bike shop guy, the woman in the bike shop and Shelly's Mother. And then, for my fiftieth, I got a photo of a young refugee kid on his bike, with his helmet and his lock.
It was just amazing and now every year for my birthday since, Shelly has done a random act of kindness. So it just goes on.
That was just one of the 150 little things that people did, so I keep that box really close to m
e and when I’m feeling a little bit low, I will go through my box and revist some of the stories. It's pretty special.
Interestingly enough, Sue Langley was running a Diploma of Positive Psychology a couple of years later and when they got to the topic of random acts of kindness somebody in the classroom said ‘I heard about this guy who had his fiftieth and he did this thing’, and Sue was like ‘I know him!’.
To top it all off, the guy at the refugee association who received the bike to give to the child had his fiftieth not long after and did exactly the same thing.
How would you summarise the impact that the diploma has had on your life?
It has had a really profound impact, changing the direction of my life professionally and improving my life personally. I’m able to get really great things out of my life at the moment and appreciate my life so much more. Personally and professionally it’s been an incredible benefit to me. I would not change it for the world and I’m just incredibly thankful that I went on that journey.
If I had to choose one word: it would be profound. It has had an impact on me yet it has actually had an impact on lots of other people as well.
I still get grumpy every now and then though...
Any last advice?
Just do it. Enrol onto the Diploma. Take a risk and jump into some unknown territory because what you’ll find at the other end is pretty incredible.
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