Dealing with common myths about strengths development


Applying a strengths-based approach to development is neither a management nor an HR fad. The strengths-based organisation selects on strengths and trains in skills and knowledge; it recognises strengths so as to deploy them effectively, combining them in innovate and robust strategies to develop and deliver results.

Conventions, myths, assumptions and stereotypes abound wherever people interact but a focus on strengths provides an effective way to improve performance and engagement.

People know their strengths

Writer and management guru Peter Drucker observed “most people think they know what they are good at. They are usually wrong and yet, a person can perform only from strength.”

Clarity and confidence around strengths and weaknesses actually takes some analysis, reflection and a level of self-awareness, and for a variety of reasons we may not always be clear-sighted about our own strengths and may take for granted aspects of our strengths and mastery.

Strengths-development Even those who do understand their strengths may have reservations about discussing them, perhaps through fear of appearing complacent or arrogant. In contrast, most people, especially those with more work experience, tend to be familiar with their weaknesses.

Using Strengthscope® we help employees learn how to combine their strengths, skills and abilities to achieve work and career goals whilst mitigating weaknesses and other risks to performance; this enables them to challenge limiting beliefs and to achieve peak performance. The key lies in time spent reflecting on strengths and deliberate development time focussed on how best to put them to use in pursuing aspirations both inside and outside of work.

With the strengths analysis in place it’s possible to design focused action plans that will stretch an individuals’ strengths to enable them achieve work and career goals. Managers with practical coaching skills and techniques can empower employees to optimise their strengths and skills.

Playing to strengths is the easy option

There is plenty of evidence to support the value of identifying and playing to your strengths but it’s important to recognise that, in context, some strengths may be optional whilst others are essential. You can’t always choose, and you can’t play it safe, growth depends on stretch and challenge, we learn a lot about ourselves when we deal with new situations and adjust to new contexts.

Knowing your strengths isn’t a one-stop shop, once you’ve assessed strengths using Strengthscope® you can move on to the next stage – building a strategy for personal development. Optimum performance is achieved when you operate outside your comfort zone and test yourself. To optimise one’s strengths and move from good to great takes work and application. It’s useful to consider ways in which to use signature strengths in addressing weaker areas.

Think of the performers and athletes who hone their strengths with constant practice to achieve peak performance. Carol Dweck suggests that if we are willing to learn and persist in the face of challenge we can grow strengths that may not be ‘natural’ talents.

You can ignore weaknesses

It’s natural to focus on existing and natural strengths more than we do on our weaknesses, but that doesn’t negate a need to manage those weaknesses. You can’t overlook weaknesses and it is short-sighted to assume that playing to strengths will be enough to offset them. We can work to address these areas but it would be unrealistic to expect to transform a weakness to a signature strength.

Leveraging core strengths to address areas of concern is the best option, Strengthscope® helps the user examine creative ways to use strengths in dealing with weaker areas. Armed with self-awareness about strengths we are better able to discuss our weaker area and other risks/blockers to performance. Strengths assessment can also help in building partnerships with others who have strengths in areas where we are weaker and this has the added benefit of enabling a strong team culture within the organisation.

Acknowledge weakness and invest in self-improvement. Relying solely on established strengths is too limiting and calls to mind ‘Maslow’s hammer’ – over-reliance on a familiar tool “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail”, (Maslow, 1996). We work in a volatile and uncertain environment and need to ensure we offer skills that up to date, relevant and in demand.

Management guru Marcus Buckingham claims that organisations that focus on cultivating employees’ strengths rather than simply improving their weaknesses stand to dramatically increase efficiency while allowing for maximum personal growth and success. A win-win situation!

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Learning on the job


The UK’s 10th annual National Apprenticeship Week will be taking place from 6 to 10 March 2017. Co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service, the week is designed to celebrate the positive impact apprenticeships and traineeships have on individuals, businesses and the economy.

The overarching theme for National Apprenticeship Week 2017 is ‘Ladder of Opportunity!’- focusing on the progression routes of apprenticeships, from traineeships through to higher and degree apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship has a long and honourable tradition, from the 13th century master craftsmen operating within the guild system trained their successors, usually for a seven year term, admitting those who completed their apprenticeship and journeyman year to the guild.

In modified form this system of training survived until the Industrial Revolution when attitudes towards training and employment changed. Today apprentices are aged 16 or over and combine working with studying for a work-based qualification – from GCSEs or equivalent up to degree level. Apprenticeships can last from 1 to 4 years, depending on the level of qualification the apprentice is studying for.

National_Apprenticeship_Week_2017 Employers can apply for funding to cover the costs of an apprentice’s qualification if they are providing their formal study as well as being their employer, otherwise the training organisation which provides the apprentice’s training will get funding.

An apprentice must be paid at least the minimum wage during their placement and must:

  • work with experienced staff
  • learn job-specific skills
  • study for a work-based qualification during their working week (for example, at a college or training organisation)

The CBI, TUC and a wide range of employers support apprenticeships and work with industry to develop the modern apprenticeship frameworks. Apprenticeships can also be the basis for training more established employees.

Thousands of organisations around the country are taking on apprentices in order to grow their businesses and solve recruitment challenges and to provide training that’s tailored to the needs and requirements of the organisation.

Some key facts

  • Apprenticeships are available in 1500 job roles, covering more than 170 industries, from advertising to youth work and from environmental engineering to legal.
  • There are currently 100 higher and degree apprenticeships available, with more in development, including foundation degrees, HNDs and full honours degrees. These include job roles ranging from legal services to banking and engineering.
  • After finishing, 7 in 10 apprentices (77%) stay with the same employer.
  • 46% of apprentices had received a pay rise since completing their apprenticeship.
  • 36% of higher apprentices report getting a promotion after completing their apprenticeship.

The National Apprenticeship Show will take place in Milton Keynes on 13 and 14 March 2017.

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Fairness at work


Fairtrade Fortnight 2017 runs from 27 February until 12 March. The Fairtrade movement is made up of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in their communities for Fairtrade.

With Fairtrade you have the power to change the world every day. With simple shopping choices you can get farmers a better deal, and that means they can make their own decisions, control their futures and lead the dignified life everyone deserves.

At 10Eighty we think aiming high is a sensible thing to do, so changing the world isn’t too much to ask and a fairer workplace is a good place to start.

What is fair?

This is what ACAS has to say:

  • Employers promote a culture that recognises diversity, addresses equality and tackles discrimination.
  • Employees feel safe and valued at work, and employers recognise and support their wider wellbeing.
  • Terms and conditions and pay levels are transparent, comply with the law and reward employees fairly.

The CIPD says that ’Evidence suggests that organisations that treat their employees with fairness, integrity and sensitivity are more likely to find that those employees respond with increased commitment and productivity.’

Last year the BSI launched the BS 76000 standard that says people are inherently valuable and are an organisation’s biggest asset. The standard provides a framework for any organisation to put processes in place that will help support that relationship. To facilitate the practical application of the standard, a set of Codes of Practice is being developed, with diversity and inclusion being the first.

Fairness-at-work-Fairtrade-Fortnight-2017 Fairness benefits all

Employee engagement and motivation are perennial topics for us and key to the issue is a human need for fairness; HR professionals need tools and processes to build trust and support fairness.

In a difficult economic environment and volatile marketplace organisations expect their staff to engage beyond the 9 to 5 contractual obligation, delivering over and above job descriptions. The quid pro quo is that organisations need to be real models of integrity and the quality of the relationship between the employee and the employer, is crucial.

Employees assess fairness at work using fairly straightforward criteria:

  • Workplace support – a good work environment and opportunities for professional and personal development.
  • Flexibility and autonomy – with regard to work schedules and how work is completed.
  • Inclusion and diversity – the value placed on all types of diversity among staff.
  • The length of service of employees at the organisation.

At a very basic level it matters because a research collaboration between Stockholm University and the University of East Anglia explored how perceptions of fairness and health relate to each other over time. The results suggests that employees who feel unfairly treated are more likely to develop health problems.

At 10Eighty we believe that enlightened organisations design jobs around employees’ values, motivators and strengths. They focus on investment in people management because adopting a proactive approach enhances engagement, performance and productivity.

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Magic for HR professionals

Magic of HR

Pulling a rabbit out of a hat is a neat trick, if you can do it, though probably not terribly useful in real terms. Magic isn’t that helpful in HR because it is difficult to describe, measure and compare and really HR should be rather more scientific.

Wikipedia says that modern Western magicians generally state magic’s primary purpose to be personal spiritual growth. At 10Eighty we believe in personal development and we like to keep an open mind, but we do practical work with organisations and managers to help them improve what their people actually do at the sharp end.

Magic may well work if you believe in it; if it is the ability to bring about change in the universe by focus and sheer will, then a lot of us do it without knowing. The truth is, the things you want can be made to happen, but you better be well prepared and have done the groundwork and then be ready to deal with the consequences; often what we want is not what we need.

Magic of HR HR, generally, makes decisions and manages change based on expertise, evidence, resources and context. We all have to do more with less and find innovative solutions at the drop of a hat but spells won’t help, what HR professionals really need is commercial awareness, political savvy, professionalism and the strategic awareness that gives them credibility within the organisation.

Follow the evidence

Evidence-based HR (EBHR) is a useful place to focus. Boudreau and Jesuthasan (2011) suggest five principles of evidence-based change. For them, business-thinking is linking EBHR with a systemic view of human capital management.

  • Logic-driven analytics – using logic models, data and analysis of key issues.
  • Segmentation – to understand the strategic value of different employee groups and treat segments differently where it makes sense.
  • Risk leverage – to understand HR risk as it affects the business.
  • Integration and synergy – to inter-connect HR across processes and organisation units.
  • Optimisation – to focus on HR interventions with the biggest business impact.

Rob Briner, professor of organisational psychology at Bath University’s School of Management, says “The term ‘evidence-based’ describes something people always do, which is basing decisions on information, but doing more of it, doing it better and doing it more critically”.

Critical thinking

HR professionals should be curious, willing to question received wisdom and management fads, able to apply critical thinking skills in exploring alternatives, seeking understanding and testing assumptions about the effectiveness of activities and decisions.

Rousseau and Barends (2011) suggest that EBHR means making decisions, promoting practices and advising the organisation’s leadership through the conscientious combination of four sources of information:

  • the best available scientific evidence;
  • reliable and valid organisational facts, metrics and assessments;
  • practitioner reflection and judgement;
  • the concerns of affected stakeholders.

HR-Grapvine-Magic-of-HR-2017We work in globalised environment that is unpredictable, complex and volatile, and HR managers need to be realistic about what can be learned from past practice. We need to learn how to respond quickly and positively to uncertainty by employing flexibility and versatility in the face of unpredictable events and talent shortage.

The Magic of HR

Regular visitors to these page will recall that we’re sponsoring the HR Grapevine annual conference “The Magic of HR” on Thursday 16 March 2017 at The Brewery 52 Chiswell Street, Moorgate, EC1Y 4SD.

Click here for more information about the event and to secure your place (tickets are still available).

Join the conversation

If you’re going, or if you can’t make it, you can join the conversation about magical HR on Twitter on the day using #HRGV2017

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Everyday creative thinking


At 10Eighty we like to think we’re a creative bunch. We always enjoy a challenge and whether designing development programmes, building rockets from plastic bottles or sketching houseplants we’ll take it on.

Creativity offers a means of expression and communication that aids problem-solving, strategic thinking and resilience.

The benefits of creativity

  • Creativity is integral to learning and development
  • Creative activities are proven to be good for mental health
  • Creativity is a route to self-awareness and authenticity
  • Creativity is liberating, allowing us to take risks and try new things
  • Creativity inspires faith and confidence in our self-expression and inventive instincts
  • Creativity allows us to find new, resourceful ways of solving problems

Creative-Thinking As with any strength you can boost your creativity with practice and attention. Try to incorporate more creativity into your life. I recommend Edward de Bono’s How to Have Creative Ideas which is simple, practical and fun. The exercises may look too simple but perseverance shows that they aid in developing creativity of mind and fluency in dealing with ideas, concepts, perceptions and values.

Creative thinking is increasingly seen as a must-have in business life. Creative thinkers are crucial to the UK’s future economic success across business, industry and society. De Bono says “In business, creativity has become essential. This is because everything else has become a commodity available to everyone”.

Boost your creativity:

  • Look for ways to be more playful and to make your routines more fun.
  • Try changing your habits – take a different route to work, take notice what you see, value your walk as a meditative practice
  • Renew an old hobby – unearth your old guitar or your calligraphy supplies
  • Start a new hobby – start a journal, try writing stories or poems, try collage or marbling or macramé
  • Expose yourself to the life artistic by visit galleries and museums
  • Read biographies of musicians, dancers, artists, scientists, business leaders.
  • Listen to music; listening to music stimulates the part of our brain that controls motor actions, emotions, and creativity.
  • Exercise your eyes – moving the eyes back and forth facilitates interaction between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which may boost creative thinking
  • Create a mood-board – collect a bunch of inspiring items such as photos, quotations, magazine clippings, ephemera – you can use Pinterest to do this

Creativity is worth cultivating, it encourages open mindedness, a pride in individuality and a real interest in diversity. It is not the preserve of ‘creative types’ or the design department, it can come from anywhere at any time.

There’s an amazing amount of creativity untapped in the workforce and business leaders would do well to encourage creativity and innovation at all levels. Creative thinkers learn to look hard at problems and consider all the complexities of situation while looking for new and different approaches that might lead to new discoveries and world-beating innovation.

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Love the job you do


At 10Eighty we love any excuse for a celebration. Valentine’s Day is good because it involves both chocolate and flowers, we love both, though we’d choose sunflowers rather than roses.

Saint Valentine was a martyr, or possibly three martyrs, records are unreliable. During the Middle Ages, it was believed that birds paired in mid-February, this became associated with the romance of Valentine. Although the legends differ, Valentine’s Day is widely recognised as a day for romance and devotion.

Romance in the workplace, not appropriate, not going there. I did once work for a firm where, on Valentine’s Day, the Chief Executive gave each female employee a single red rose, in a beribboned cellophane cone, from a very smart and very, very expensive Mayfair florist. Nice, but a bit odd.

Which leaves devotion. As in loyalty, commitment, dedication –  the devotion to duty evidenced by the engaged employee. For inspirational quotes about careers you can’t beat Winston Churchill’s, “If you find a job you love, you’ll never work again.”

Love The Job You Do Valentines Day 2017

Optimise the search for the perfect career

We think you should devote some serious time and thought to planning and managing your career. Most, but not all of us, want work that is stimulating, meaningful and rewarding. Some need teamwork, some want power, others need autonomy and meaningful work looks different to each of us.

We like to feel we are part of things, that we understand the corporate vision and strategy and that our contribution is recognised and counts for something. We are more likely to devote our energy and commitment to our jobs when we see the link between our performance and organisational success.

First, think about what you really want from your working life. Consider the factors that shape your career choices – how important are money and status? Do you need a job that embodies your personal values? Are you a specialist or a generalist?

Then, review your skills, values and drivers. Assess your strengths and preferences, and your aspirations. At 10Eighty we use a strengths-based approach. Strengths are what energise us, we enjoy using them and learn quickly when we can put them into action. A 2011 study showed that people who felt they were using their strengths have more positive emotion, greater vitality and self-esteem, compared with people who did not feel they used theirs.

Career management

If you want a rewarding career you need to work it. The ideal is find a job that suits you, so you are doing work you enjoy, working with people you find congenial, in a cause that resonates with your values. Your career is your responsibility. Invest in yourself, learn new skills and garner new experience, keep up to date with developments in your field and relevant technologies. Don’t restrict your learning to work-related studies, learning is good for your brain, learn for the joy of expanding your horizons.

It’s not pie in the sky, you spend a lot of time at work and many of us will either have to or want to work well into our 70’s, so finding a career that is challenging, rewarding and enjoyable makes sense.

Just so you know, the day of the week when people love their job the most is Thursday, believe it or not. I have no idea why.

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Staying safe online


Coordinated by the UK Safer Internet Centre Tuesday 7 February is Safer Internet Day. Hundreds of organisations get involved to help promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.

The day offers the opportunity to highlight positive uses of technology and to explore the role we all play in helping to create a better and safer online community.

Using technology at work

Some employers object to staff using the internet during working hours. Where use of a computer is part of the work monitoring is standard in some environments and takes many forms: some employers track content, keystrokes, and time spent at the keyboard; some store and review computer files; others monitor the blogosphere to see what is being written about the company by employees, and some monitor social networking sites.

Access to information and communication carries a responsibility to use it for the benefit the organisation. Failure to do so costs UK businesses millions of pounds a year, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD). They found that UK companies are losing up to £2.5m each year due to non-work-related surfing. It also discovered that about 84% of employees in the UK have unlimited access to the Internet and e-mail.

A telecoms company sacked 45 staff for viewing pornography on the internet at work. Apart from the loss of working time such activity may lead to legal action being taken by other staff or people outside the company on the grounds of sexual harassment, an eventuality that is potentially damaging both financially and in terms of organisational reputation.

The problem of illegal material being found on workplace computers is also growing. As an organisation it is important to take responsibility for devices and networks used by employees.

Safer-Internet-Day-2017 Protecting the workplace

Last year the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a company which read an employee’s Yahoo Messenger chats sent while he was at work was within its rights. The ECHR said that it was not “unreasonable that an employer would want to verify that employees were completing their professional tasks during working hours”.

They also made clear that it would not be acceptable to carry out unregulated monitoring of staff’s private messages, advising that policies should be drawn up to define what information employers can collect and how.

Online abuse of time does occur at work but we think monitoring is an over-reaction to the activities of a small number of employees.

  • Create a robust internet and email policy that gives employees clear guidance around personal time online at work. Focus on trust and responsibility, without making staff feel like criminals.
  • Train managers and supervisors to recognise when an employee might be abusing Internet time or sites at work.
  • Creating and maintaining a culture of trust where employees self-monitor personal online time at work is the most effective approach.
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This day is numbered


Today, Friday 3 February is a mega maths fundraising day – NSPCC Number Day is a fun, nationwide maths fundraising event for children and young people of all ages that helps raise money to support the NSPCC. This initiative is a fantastic way of making maths meaningful to all, regardless of age or ability while raising the profile of the NSPCC.

“Good numeracy is the best protection against unemployment, low wages and poor health.” Andreas Schleicher, OECD.

Poor numeracy costs the UK dearly; research suggests that poor numeracy skills cost the economy £20.2 billion every year. The UK needs a numerate population in order to build a strong economy and compete globally.

The digital age means we are presented with more numerical data than ever and puts a premium on numeracy skills. Computers may do the processing for us, but we need good numeracy in order to use data effectively and to recognise whether the answer seems approximately right.


Putting numeracy to work

Research suggests that 90% of new graduate jobs require a high level of digital skills and digital skills are built on numeracy.

In most modern jobs success depends on flexibility, learning agility, keeping up-to-date, and increasing levels of technical skill. Most tasks require the use of computers and various aspects of mathematics, in terms of analysing data and ensuring quality control in a myriad of processes.

Usually we have to define the problem that needs solving, design the metrics or collect the data that is needed, formulate a strategy for addressing the problem, implement it and then check that the solution makes sense in the context of the problem. What counts here are good solutions.

Numeracy, or mathematical knowledge, is crucially important and increasingly necessary in a range of life-skills, from personal finance to data wrangling. The argument is that debate in society rests largely on statistical arguments, with increasing amounts of data in our digital society, and an understanding of these arguments is necessary for informed debate and decision making (British Academy, 2012).

A further argument is made that mathematics is important because it encourages and develops important ways of thinking. Mathematics is ‘critical in fostering logical and rigorous thinking’ (Vorderman et al., 2011). Critical thinking skills are crucial in a dynamic and volatile environment.

Count on some help

BBC Skillswise is a minisite for adult basic skills, which provides practical, commonsense maths for adult’, organised by topic. The activities include small, self-contained games and videos focused on particular skills.

The OU provides students and enquirers with free access to high quality learning resources related to everyday mathematics. Covering numerical, graphical and related skills, the resources include activities to help with new skills (or revise long-forgotten techniques), and quizzes to check progress.

A free app – Maths Everywhere  – for Android and Apple phones is available

Citizen Maths is for people who want to improve their grasp of maths, and become more confident in using maths at work and in life.

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Values – the calm in the eye of the storm


When good times turn bad, will the organisation you work for be able to cling on to its values? We all want to believe the answer will be “Yes”. But in truth, the pressure to buckle and bend can be enormous.

An HRD recently confided in me that that his organisation’s redundancy programme, while run in a highly effective manner, had somehow become cast adrift from corporate values, in the face of commercial pressures. Bad news was inevitable for many, yet the basic lack of humanity with which it was delivered betrayed values previously held dear. Consequently, the damage went far beyond those who lost their jobs – demotivating “survivors” at least as much as their fallen colleagues – and is still being felt.

The conversation made me realise that the more uncertain the outside world becomes the more the values become the calming sense of perspective we need to hold on to – they are effectively the eye of the storm swirling around us. Organisational values may be something we can cling to in times of uncertainty, but they can be hard to think, talk or write about in a meaningful way, because they imply different things to different people. The successful delivery of effective values-based leadership in turbulent times therefore requires a thought through reconciliation between the “big picture” business values and the personal values of each employee.

values-the-calm-in-the-eye-of-the-storm In the past, businesses simply defined what was required to get the job done, then recruited or developed employees to match those requirements. Today, enlightened organisations know they can do much, much better. They design jobs around employees’ values, motivators and strengths (what they believe, what they like doing and are good at) to give them an army of highly engaged employees. And the sense of “calm” that individuals feel from knowing that their personal values are being acknowledged makes it easier for them to contribute to their organisation’s “big picture” values.

Personal values are fundamental beliefs that are well-developed and have probably been part of one’s character for years. There are great ways of helping you become aware of your personal values – traits like credibility, determination, enthusiasm, integrity or passion – and the priorities that they hold in your work and in your life. Self-awareness of one’s values alone creates an energy surge that can effortlessly lead you towards greater success and goal accomplishment. And when there is a further connection between these and the values championed by the employer, there is probably no greater guarantee that success will soon follow.

In the face of the storm, therefore, the true leader looks to values to bring a sense of calm, focus and purpose. He or she builds the business around the needs of the employees – and employees in turn flourish when they see leaders who can know the difference between “what” needs to be done and “how” they go about it.

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Happy Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year 2017

The Year of the Rooster will begin on January 28, 2017. Roosters are the tenth sign in the zodiac and people born in a rooster year are seen as confident, honest and hardworking. They also enjoy being around people but may be seen as attention seekers.

At 10Eighty we love a celebration and apart from the great food Chinese New Year is a good opportunity to reboot those difficult New Year resolutions.

January is a bad time to try to make or break habits, the weather is so bad it never gets properly light on some days, and it seems like long time to the first Bank Holiday of the year, which makes keeping resolutions is heavy going. The writer broke a resolution before getting out of bed on 1st January one year.

If you are having trouble with your resolutions then you are not alone. Surveys reveal that 32% of respondents say that their resolutions are usually broken by the end of January, while only 10% said they never break one.

Chinese New Year 2017 Failure is allowed

If you failed with a resolution, just start over. Failure is not fatal, try again, giving up is the only real failure.

People assume that willpower is something you either have or lack, but psychological research suggests that willpower is more complex and can be trained. “Just like a muscle, the amount of willpower you have at any given time rises and falls, and if you exercise it, it gets stronger,” says Roy Baumeister at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Start over with the Chinese New Year. Get a traditional calendar, pin it where you can see it and at the end of each day mark a big black cross over the day if you kept your resolution. After a few days you’ll have a row of crosses and won’t want to spoil the pattern, after a month, give yourself a gold star. After three months of rows of crosses give yourself a reward, just make sure it isn’t one that sabotages your resolution!

Instead of making unrealistic promises to yourself try a new tack. Ask yourself, “What needs to happen this year for this year to be the absolute best year yet?” Focus on growth and think about what’s important to you and how to make this year better than the last.

Remove temptation

Our colleague Liz gave up chocolate for Lent a few years ago. When found eating chocolate she simply explained that she meant she had ‘given up buying chocolate’ but gift chocolate was deemed to be acceptable. That’s the right attitude, make sure your resolutions are realistic and achievable.

Spring is in the air so take another run at those resolutions aim for self-improvement but don’t be too hard on yourself, don’t dissolve into negativity when things don’t go to plan, just start over. If you want to give up smoking, or practice the guitar each weekday, it doesn’t really matter what date you start or when you achieve it; take it a day at a time, step by step until you get what you want.

We’ve been considering perfectionism and procrastination recently. You won’t achieve perfection but don’t put off trying again. Stop worrying, stop waiting, and stop doubting. You can do it.

Gong Hey Fat Choy, buy in some Chinese beer, cook a stir fry and share some fortune cookies around, there’s a whole near year ahead.

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Be smart, be happy

Be Happy

Following our article about Shawn Achor and choosing to be happy, it seems that happiness is a good thing to focus on in January; at 10Eighty our motto is “work hard, do good and along the way have fun”.

Dr. Raj Raghunathan is a visiting professor of marketing at the Indian School of Business (ISB) and professor of marketing at the McCombs school of business at The University of Texas at Austin. A trip to India with a group of MBA students set him thinking about a couple of things he had noticed when meeting up with old college friends:

  • There is very little correlation between academic success and career success;
  • and an even lower correlation between career success and what you might call life success.

He wondered about the purpose of education, concluding that the ultimate purpose of education is to give students the tools and the skill sets required to lead a happy and fulfilling life, and of course to help other people do the same.

Among Dr. Raj’s findings:

  • The correlation between wealth and happiness is much smaller than you’d expect it to be
  • Generosity is not only a key to happiness, but a determining factor of long term success
  • Appreciating uncertainty, rather than seeking full control of outcomes, is necessary for happiness

He’s on YouTube talking about his latest book If You’re So Smart, Why aren’t You Happy?

What does it take to be happy?

Philosophers and psychologists have been working on this problem for centuries. Famously, Bhutan is the only country in the world to systematically measure GNH. Happy people are healthier and more compassionate, they also more productive which means that happier countries are likely to be more productive than their less happy counterparts, so you’d think we’d all be measuring the happiness of our societies.

Philosophers say happiness can be understood as the moral goal of life or as an aspect of chance; as either a state of mind, or a life that goes well for the person leading it. Plato asserts that those who are moral are the only ones who may be truly happy.

Positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”


Greater Good in Action offer an overview of findings around happiness.

  • Happiness is good for our health: happy people are less likely to get sick, and h live longer.
  • Happiness is good for our relationships: happy people are more likely to get married and have fulfilling marriages, and they have more friends.
  • Happy people make more money and are more productive at work.
  • Happy people are more generous.
  • Happy people cope better with stress and trauma.
  • Happy people are more creative and are better able to see the big picture.

Remember, happiness makes people successful, rather than the other way around and happiness is within our control.

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Choosing to be happy


A favourite author of the 10Eighty team, Shawn Achor, says “happiness is actually a choice for the brain.”

The better you get at scanning the world for the positive, the better you get at overcoming problems. It’s not that you don’t see them; you actually get better being able to rally the resources you need to be able to solve those problems as opposed to languishing in constant scanning of the world for the threats and hassles that need to be dealt with.

Given that the first day of this week may have been Blue Monday we’re posting some 10Eighty positivity.


Looking for positives

You can rewire your brain to make yourself happy by practising simple happiness exercises and within 30 days, those habits change the neuropathways of the brain and turn us into lifelong optimists. These six daily happiness exercises are proven to make anyone, from a 4-year old to an 84-year old, happy, or simply happier, Achor says.

  • Gratitude exercises – write down three things you’re grateful for that happened in the last 24 hours. Not necessarily profound, perhaps a really good cup of coffee or a sunny day.
  • The Doubler – take a positive experience from the past 24 hours and spend two minutes writing down every detail about that experience. As you remember it, your brain labels it as meaningful and deepens the imprint.
  • The Fun Fifteen – do 15 minutes of a fun cardio activity, like gardening or walking the dog, every day. The effects of daily cardio can be as effective as taking an antidepressant.
  • Meditation – every day take two minutes to stop whatever you’re doing and concentrate on breathing. Even a short mindful break can result in a calmer, happier you.
  • Conscious act of kindness – at the start of every day, send a short email or text praising someone you know. Our brains become addicted to feeling good by making others feel good.
  • Deepen social connections – spend time with family and friends. Our social connections are one of the best predictors for success and health, and even life expectancy

Making your own luck

Achor, in his inspiring book The Happiness Advantage, demonstrates that our attitudes have very real implications:

You are on your lunch break, waiting in line at a crowded bank for a teller, among a group of fifty people. A robber comes in and fires his weapon once.

You are shot in the right arm. Take a moment to consider: Do you count yourself lucky or unlucky?

“Lucky” people – those who are gratitude focused – reflect: It could’ve been worse. I could’ve been killed. I could’ve been maimed or paralysed. Negatively-focused people complain: I should’ve gone to lunch earlier. I could’ve gone to the bank another day. Why me?

Positive thinking has practical applications in the workplace, managers should lead in a way that increases employees’ happiness. Do this through acknowledgments and increasing people’s ability to do things that make them happy.

Happiness makes people successful, rather than the other way around and happiness is within our control.

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Motivation on a Monday


The third Monday of January, the 16th of January this year, has been awarded the gloomy title of Blue Monday due to a combination of post-Christmas blues, cold dark nights and the arrival of unpaid credit card bills.

Apparently, a university professor managed to precisely calculate the most depressing day of the year, using the following formula:

[W + D – d]TQ


Where weather=W, debt=d, time since Christmas=T, time since failing our new year’s resolutions=Q, low motivational levels=M and the feeling of a need to take action=Na. ‘D’ is not defined in the press release, nor are units.

Supposedly the date was calculated by using many factors, including: weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and our ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action.


However, all may not be as it seems, as it turns out this was in fact a PR stunt by Sky Travel.

Wikipedia reports that the idea is considered pseudoscience, with its formula derided by scientists as nonsensical. However, 2014 saw Blue Monday invoked by legal firms and retailers of bottled water and alcoholic drinks. Some versions of the story purport to analyse trends in social media posts to calculate the date.

Make the most of Monday

blue-monday-2017As with many such stories posted on the internet it has now passed into urban myth and crops up periodically, sometimes taken seriously and sometimes debunked.

At 10Eighty we’re a cheery lot and welcome the New Year as the perfect opportunity for a career review. A whole new year full of possibilities and opportunities is our preferred world view. It’s dark and cold outside so smile and make the most of all there is to be grateful for and celebrate whatever you can:

  • Celebrate Martin Luther King Day, also on 16th it’s a federal holiday in the USA, take a day off in solidarity!
  • Look forward to Winnie the Pooh Day on the 18th, celebrate the birthday of A.A.Milne
  • We like flowers at 10Eighty, detour on the way to the office and buy a bunch of sunflowers or some scarlet tulips for your desk
  • Do a random act of kindness – compliment a stranger, pay for their coffee, make someone smile, pick up litter, or surprise someone by calling them unexpectedly to have ‘Hi, love you’
  • Be good to yourself – set the timer on your PC and every 20 minutes get up, stretch and spend two minutes moving around, take a proper lunch hour leave your phone behind
  • Be good to others – be sure to thank people, checkout staff/doormen/security staff/customer service folk may only be doing their jobs but they’ll appreciate it if you make eye contact, say hello and thank them for their help

Monday is the start of a whole new week. If you failed to keep up your New Year resolutions last week, never mind, try again this week and there’s always Chinese New Year on 28th for a resolution reboot. If you are managing to keep your resolutions, pat yourself on the back.

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Posted in Career advice, Developing yourself, Homepage

A whole near year ahead

the year ahead

Happy New Year from all at 10Eighty!

The year ahead is full of possibilities, opportunities, challenges, learning and growth. Whether you made a list of resolutions, or have simply resolved to do what you can, the start of a new year is a good to time to review your career plan.

You know it makes sense to plan ahead but most people just let their career happen. We like certainty, and become comfortable in our jobs, we are lulled into a false sense of security where it is easier to hope nothing will change and there is no need to plan for change.

If you were made redundant tomorrow would you be ready to tackle the job market? Do you have the skills and expertise the market wants? Is your CV up to date, your elevator pitch fluent and convincing? Don’t kid yourself you won’t be made redundant, things change and acquisitions are a fact of life. Organisational restructuring means cost savings and job losses, expect to see more of such activity in 2017! Be ready for what life throws at you.

Plan ahead

Be prepared to deal with the unexpected. Be alert to changes in your work environment. Network assiduously, whatever your employment status, so you are well-informed and can call on your network when you need to find a new role.

At 10Eighty we advocate undertaking a regular ‘career MOT’ – review last year, assess what you learned, evaluate your achievements and any new responsibilities you assumed. If you are not learning you are not growing, are you treading water rather than making progress? Update your CV as a matter of course.

Focus on your career and decide where you want to be and what you want to achieve in terms of personal development this year. Commit your plan to writing and keep it somewhere handy so you can refer to it at intervals and monitor your progress.

As a starting point we could characterise this very simply:

  • Plan – focus on objectives, the imperative, urgent, needed and nice to have
  • Prioritise – design strategies to achieve those objectives
  • Perform – then focus on getting things done, a plan is great but you need to act on it

10Eighty career management tips

Make the most of your career opportunities in 2017:

  • Use some lateral thinking around how and where your skills and experience may be useful. Don’t think of career progression simply in terms of promotion; you may miss valuable opportunities with such a narrow focus. You may be an expert in your area of work but it’s smart to appreciate that developing skills such as project management or effective communication skills may offer benefits and opportunities.
  • Expand your knowledge base – are your qualifications up to date? A new challenge may expand your horizons, think about researching training opportunities and costs, and consider whether new qualifications will help you to ‘sell’ yourself at interview. Look at the qualifications others in your field hold, and take advice from colleagues or a mentor as to which may improve your employability.
  • Be open to the possibilities. There is often more to a role than meets the eye in a job description and an informal chat with a hiring manager or HR manager could provide important contextual information. Be ready when an opportunity presents itself.

The average Briton spends 100,000 hours at work during their lifetime so making a good job of it will really make a difference to your health, happiness and career prospects.

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Another look at diversity and bias


Diversity in the workforce matters, there’s a lot of research to prove that diverse workplaces are more successful. We need women and those of various ethnic backgrounds especially when trying to design a product or service to represent the general population; the diverse population out there who are the buyers of your product or service.

We all make instinctive decisions, based on what ‘feels right’. Research shows that unconscious preferences (biases) play a significant part in the way we engage with others and the decisions we make about them. We all have automatic and unconscious biases, over which we have little control, no matter how unbiased we think we may be. We don’t set out to make poor decisions, it’s a question of how our brains operate and what is going on in our environment.

diversity-in-the-workplace Bias in the workplace

To compete in a tough environment we need organisations that are people-oriented regardless of gender or ethnicity or faith. But times aren’t changing quickly enough, it seems that 40 percent of British women have faced ‘inappropriate’ questioning, compared to 12 percent of men, according to Debut a graduate recruitment app. Research earlier this year from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission found that 70 percent of employers think women should declare they’re pregnant when applying for jobs, and one in four think it’s fair to ask interviewees if they plan to have children.

We all know that recruiters shouldn’t be asking female candidates about their plans to start a family but sometimes unconscious bias is less obvious. Research from 2004 by Judge and Cable, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, noted a perception that height correlates with success. While only 15 percent of American men are taller than six feet, more than 60 percent of corporate CEOs are over six feet tall. A 2013 Swedish study uncovered similar findings.

Recruiters need to ensure that bias, and any form of discrimination, is eradicated from the recruitment process. Unconscious bias hinders the diversity of an organisation and techniques such as using name blind application form review mean that candidates are tested on their talent not on who they are.

Take a fresh perspective

Sometimes a measure of innovation and fresh thinking are required to attract those employees who may not be obvious candidates. It’s a question of being open to new ideas and taking a new view of the environment, sometimes using non-traditional methods. It’s not always easy, as dealing with the unfamiliar takes more effort, imagination, and empathy in order to communicate effectively, to establish common ground, common interests and shared concerns.

There are some simple things that we can do to improve the quality of our decision-making:

  • Seek input from others, especially those willing to play ‘devil’s advocate’ who will get you to explain your thinking to them.
  • Explore the alternative meanings of data before making a decision.
  • Pause before taking action particularly when decisions are made under time pressure.
  • Focus on the problem to be solved, not just on the options that are obvious.

Organisations need to be aware of how biases affect talent management practices, and to appreciate the business-based benefits of diversity practices — diverse companies are more competitive, they better reflect the composition of their customer base and enhance their employer brand.

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Posted in Diversity, Homepage, Organisational development

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Michael Moran – CEO 10Eighty

A blog about career and talent management, things that might help you with your career and in your job.