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Flourishing Under Fire The Art & Science of Being at Your Best. Retail Ireland Conference Dr . Maureen Gaffney May 2013. The Problem Statement. Truth #1: The pressure for continuous & faster change is putting huge pressure our capacity to adapt to that change

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flourishing under fire the art science of being at your best

Flourishing Under Fire The Art & Science of Being at Your Best

Retail Ireland Conference

Dr. Maureen Gaffney

May 2013

the problem statement
The Problem Statement

Truth #1: The pressure for continuous & faster change is putting huge pressure our capacity to adapt to that change

Truth #2: Developing our capacity to adapt & change e is our biggest challenge & our greatest opportunity to survive, recover & flourish in a sustainable way

why so much pressure to change
Why so much pressure to change ?
  • Speed:

‘The world used to be a place where the big ate the small. Now the fast eat the slow.’ Klaus Schwab

  • Relentless competitivenessPressure to continuously replace products & services with more efficient ones
  • Focus on services : increasingly defined as ‘a solution to a problem’ or ‘something that works’
  • Fear of being left behind : Anxiety that job & workplace may be changed at any moment by economic & technological forces that are anything but stable

‘Microsoft is always only two years away from failure’ Bill Gates

‘Only the paranoid survive’ Andy Gove Intel

the complacency gap
The complacency gap

A recent survey of customers of nearly 400 US companies revealed that only 8% of them described their experience as ‘superior’

Yet, 80% of the companies surveyed believe that the experience they have been providing is superior.

This disparity should alarm any organisation that is competitive & serious about building sustainable success

we know how to change j kotter
We KNOW how to change.... J. Kotter

Ability to create a sense of urgency

Get a good team – with skills, motivation & connections to make the change happen

Create an enterprise vision – that people can vividly see, hear, feel, want

Communicate the vision

Remove obstacles out of people’s way so they can make change happen

Change fast – create small wins

Keep on changing

Make change stick by creating new organisational culture

then why is change so often hit and miss or unsuccessful
Then why is change so often hit-and-miss or unsuccessful?

Because change has both an internal & external aspect

Over focus on structural change & neglect of internal change – how people are thinking & feeling

Whether they feel they are flourishing - At Their Best

‘At work do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?’
  • When employees answer ‘strongly agree’ to this questions they are
    • 50% more likely to work in a business with lower turnover
    • 38% more likely to work in more productive unit
    • 44% more likely to work in business with higher customer satisfaction
at your best
At your best
  • Being at your Best not just about IQ but EQ
  • Longitudinal studies – IQ contributes only 20% to life success
  • High EI accounts for 2/3 of difference between ‘star’ & ‘average’ performers & 4/5 of difference between ‘star’ & ‘average’ senior managers/leaders
at your best1
At Your Best


High work




High Positivity


High Productivity

the problem
The Problem ?
  • Only 20% of people & 20% of business teams flourishing
  • 20% are ‘languishing’ – functioning well below par, blocked, frustrated, ‘running on empty’
what blocks us from flourishing
What Blocks Us from Flourishing ?

Losing a very precise ratio of positivity to negativity

the little meter in your brain
The Little Meter in Your Brain

Continually registering negative & positive emotional reactions to internal & external ‘events’

  • Each emotion triggers cascade of changes in thinking, in body & in behaviour
critical positive negative ratios
Critical Positive-Negative Ratios
  • Ratio of 3:1 – critical threshold & minimum platform for positive functioning
  • Below 3:1 – the ‘languishing ratio’
  • Ratio 5:1 – the ‘Flourishing ratio’
  • Ratio of 12:1 - dynamics of flourishing break up

For happy, sustainable personal relationships

  • For individual wellbeing & optimum functioning
  • For work & organisational success
negative designed to be powerful sticky contagious
Negative designed to be powerful, ‘sticky’ & contagious

Negativity ‘contaminating’

Loss more powerful impact than ‘equivalent’ gain

Negative first impressions ‘stickier’

Need 9 ‘bits’ of positive information to reverse negative first impression

Less than 4 new ‘bits’ of negative information to reverse positive first impression

Negative mood stronger & longer lasting effects than positive mood

Intense negative interactions powerful predictor of long-term outcome in relationships

Trust easier to destroy than create

two principles of flourishing
Two Principles of Flourishing

Consciously & Actively Build the Positive in yourself, in others & in organisations you care about

Consciously & Actively Reduce the Negative in yourself, in others & in organisations you care about

ten strategies to build the positive
Ten Strategies to Build the Positive

Build your capacity for happiness

Set yourself goals

Control your attention

Always know your positive purpose

Take charge of your mood

Master the art of vital engagement

Build meaning in your life - feeling that you matter & what you do matters

Build your resilience

Stop sabotaging yourself : How you can’t be driven crazy without your full cooperation

Embrace the future: Why optimism really counts

strategy 1
Strategy 1

Build your capacity for happiness

happiness health exercise body mass smoking important factors but positive feelings more important
Happiness & Health: Exercise, Body Mass, Smoking important factors- but positive feelings more important
persistent negative feelings
Persistent Negative Feelings

Cut 10 yrs Off Your Life

persistent negative feelings1
Persistent Negative Feelings

Cut 10 yrs Off Your Life

positivity is contagious so is negativity
Positivity is Contagious (so is negativity....)
  • One person\'s positivity directly causes another person to feel positive
  • The more direct & face to face the interaction stronger the influence
  • Effect spreads throughout social network - even to those you don’t know.
  • Every positive colleague increases your happiness by 9% & each unhappy colleague decreases it by 7%.
  • So if you can add three positive people to your network your positivity increases by nearly a third.
2 why having life projects counts
2. Why having ‘Life Projects’ counts

Happiness Set Point

Life circs




Life projects


strategy 5
Strategy 5

Take charge of your mood

how mood changes everything
How mood changes everything
  • Feelings provoke mood
  • Mood lasts two hours
  • Mood affects virtually everything you think, remember, feel & do
  • Mood is contagious -particularly mood of somebody you depend on
  • So you can’t leave your mood at the door of your life
the mood of a group
The ‘Mood’ of a Group
  • Emotional contagion happens in groups & spreads like virus
  • The more emotionally interconnected a group, the longer have worked together, the stronger the moods expressed by individuals – the more contagion
  • Mood at work counts – to individuals but also to productivity
  • Negative mood affects in performance of entire group
  • In cardiac unit where nurses’ general mood depressed, death rate among patients four times higher than on comparable units.
strategy 8
Strategy 8

Build your resilience

flourish not in spite of adversity but because of it s tress related growth
Flourish - not in spite of adversity but because of it: Stress –Related Growth


Level of functioning




stage 1 coping with immediate distress are we there yet
Stage 1: Coping with immediate distress: Are we there yet?
  • Why me? ‘Why us? Why now? ‘What if....?’ ‘Now what...?
  • Affecting focus, concentration & productivity
stage 3 building a new narrative
Stage 3: Building a new narrative
  • About the kind of person/organisation that you think you are

Worthy of love & respect? Or not?

  • About what you expect of other people

Can you trust others? Or not?

  • About the future

Full of opportunity? Or threat?

contamination narrative
‘Contamination’ Narrative
  • Set-back or crisis seen as

‘a life that was once good has now gone bad’ - forever spoiled, ruined, never to be again

  • Sense of future robbed
  • Energy trapped in despondency, & helplessness or continually going after goals no longer attainable
redemption narratives
‘Redemption’ Narratives
  • Admitting the scale of the crisis & setback & accepting new reality
  • Unwelcome yes, but intrinsic to growth that followed
  • Crisis as positive turning point - not as end but beginning of something new
  • Refocus big picture – reconnect to deepest values – who you are & what is really important to you
strategy 10 cultivate optimism
Strategy 10Cultivate optimism
  • Remarkably little evidence that optimists EVER worse off than pessimists
  • Optimism & human power to adapt wired same way in the brain
  • Be ready to respond to both threat AND opportunity by activating positive & negative expectations
learning to ask transformative questions
Learning to ask transformative questions
  • How are we different in positive way – not in spite of but because of what happened?
  • Is there anything about what happened that allows us to do something that otherwise we could not have done? Or would not have done?

The answers are the drivers of post-stress growth

the incredible frailty of predictions
The Incredible Frailty of Predictions....
  • 1984 Economist experiment
  • The classic experiment – 284 experts making 27,000 long & short term predictions
  • ‘Foxes’ & ‘Hedgehogs’

‘In this world the optimists have it, not because they are always right, but because they are positive. Even when wrong they are positive, and that is the way of achievement, correction, improvement and success. Educated eyes-open optimism pays; pessimism can only offer the empty consolation of being right.

The one lesson that emerges is the need to keep trying. No miracles. No perfection. No millennium. No apocalypse. We must cultivate a sceptical faith, avoid dogma, listen and watch well, try to clarify and define ends, the better to choose means’.