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Positive Emotions: Love

July 2nd, 2013

Heather Johnston

Barbara Fredrickson’s latest book is called love 2.0 It builds on her first book-Positivity, picking up on the strengths of positive emotions in enhancing our wellbeing and focusing specifically on the emotion of Love as a key to improving our mental and physical health. However the twist is that she looks at what she calls this supreme emotion from a scientific perspective, stating that positive emotions and particularly love can set off upward spirals in you life that lift you up and make you a better version of yourself.

She sees love as tiny ‘micro moments of connection’ over a shared positive emotion. This can be between strangers and is not just focused at grand romantic gestures. For love to thrive though, people need to feel safe. The second pre-condition is a true sensory and timely connection, good eye contact and people to be both physically and emotionally present- social networking and texting doesn’t have the same impact!

So how do we start to develop further our loving emotions and micro moments of connections for our and others benefit> Take a look at the tools and meditations on Barbara’s site and hear more about Barbara and her work in this short video.





Career conversations and motivation at work

May 7th, 2013

Heather Johnston


In my workshops and coaching a common question I get asked is how to motivate people that are either a) not motivated b) coming up to retirement c) not in the top 10-20% or considered to be the backbone of the organisation with few vertical career opportunities.

In essence, I feel that one way to tackle this challenge is through the types of conversations that managers are having with their employees on a daily basis and at key review points. While competency systems are helpful in creating focus on what a role needs,  I think managers could benefit with coaching and training on how to have a really good career conversation with their employees. Why? Because the answers to the questions they ask will lead to a greater awareness of what inspires people, what makes them want to get out of the bed in the morning and hence give both the employee and the manager more of an idea about what really motivates them. This motivation drives personal development, performance and productivity.

Through exploring the types of questions to ask, really good listening,  taking a focus on strengths and an exploration of what makes work meaningful for people both the manager and the employee can build up a picture of what an employees’ ‘ideal’ looks like. The conversations are then looking at the alignment of people’s skills with an organisation’s needs, while at the same time addressing an individual’s intrinsic motivation rather than relying on typical extrinsic motivations of pay and promotion. While status, promotion and money are important most psychological research points to people being more fulfilled and flourishing by considering what drives them so that work moves from being just a ‘job’ through to a career or even for some a vocation.

..and what about those coasting towards retirement? Boredom can cause huge problems for those that that are understimulated or underchallenged-they rust out rather than burn out. Key here is exploring new challenges for the employee focused on serving others in the organisation, creating legacy and helping them start to manage the transition on to different things. We all liked to feel needed and appreciated..

If you would like to find out more about making the most out of career conversations workshops and skills boosters for managers and employees please do give me a ring or drop me a mail.



Wellbeing at Work Survey for both Individuals, Teams and Organisations

January 15th, 2013

Heather Johnston


At the end of last year, to further develop my services to sustain wellbeing within organisations in these current tough times, I attended a Masterclass with Nic Marks on a new Wellbeing at Work survey. Nic is known for his great work on wellbeing and developing the happy planet index

The survey is available to individuals and small teams (up to 5) and for a small cost of £6 per head (plus VAT) an organisation/team can survey its staff and gets results broken down by their own chosen demographics. Larger organisations will be able to take advantage of lowering marginal costs per user if they choose to survey the whole organisation. Small organisations can for the first time have a state of the art staff survey at an exceptionally reasonable cost.

The survey is based on a dynamic model of wellbeing developed with leading experts and is uniquely grounded in the latest psychological findings around wellbeing and happiness. Each question has been carefully selected to reflect what the evidence says impacts well-being at work and has been tested with thousands of respondents.

The wellbeing survey results give a more complete picture of employees’ experience than standard engagement surveys as it includes engagement and stress but also employees’ positive emotional experiences. For Chief Executives, Directors and HR departments the results can be compared between teams or by other demographics and the results act as a “mirror” reflecting back what is happening within the organisation and help people to have insights on how work could be happier.

What I like about the survey is that it provides instant individual as well as organisational results for real-time feedback, provides a simple interface presenting results in traffic light colours and has National benchmarks automatically built into the questions, providing individuals, teams and organisations with an anchor point to understand and compare scores. The survey can also be repeated over time to measure any change. To find out more have a look at the survey website

If you are interested in taking a temperature check of your organisation or team and are committed to some follow up action I believe this is a great tool to open up some very important discussions around sustaining and improving happiness at work. As research shows happier employees are more productive, healthier and creative and are more loyal and provide better customer service to clients. A win-win!

Please get in touch if you would like to find out more!


Looking back and Looking forwards

January 7th, 2013

Heather Johnston


It is the time of year for thinking about resolutions and considering what the future might hold. Many of the goals set will last a matter of days and some will last the test of time. Key in thinking about the goals you set yourself at this time of year is whether they are intrinsically motivating to you- are they something you feel you ‘should’ or ‘must’ do rather than something that you are genuinely interested in.

In the following, I have listed some thoughts from the fields of positive psychology and wellbeing to help you in setting yourself up for a happy and healthy 2013:

1. Take a moment  to look back at 2012- what were the high points, what made them high? Try and relive them in your mind and savour the moments. By building savouring into your everyday you will start to look out for the good things as they happen. By taking notice of your surroundings and what makes you feel alive you will start to become more and more aware of what feeds you and what matters to you and build more of these experiences into your daily life.

2. Set some goals. By becoming clearer about  what you would like to happen we set up a chain of events that create an energy and momentum working behind the scenes on these goals. Trust your creative mind to come up with some ideas rather than feeling that you have to plan everything down to the finest detail. Recognise that goals are statements of intent and that key is the movement towards the goal and the learning along the way, not necessarily whether you achieved it totally or not. Recognise the level of mastery you are obtaining. Finally, make sure that the goals you set yourself  inspire you, work to your strengths and move towards something positive rather than away from something negative.

3. Find ways to connect with people in as many ways as you can to help build a support community for you and for them.Try and ensure a balance between virtual connection and physically being present. Give people the luxury of your total attention (minus the technology distractions)

4. Find ways to get physically active in a way that works for you be it running, walking, dancing or gardening

5. Try something new, get curious about something and find out as much as you can. Anything that helps you learn and do something that you haven’t done before. And when you have done that find something else that engages you…

6. Think about how you might give something for the benefit of others. Be it time, money, knowledge, expertise or anything else for that matter. It feels good to help others.

7. Find ways to build creativity into your life, get curious- do something that you have never done before or that surprises you. Do something completely different to what you would normally do and challenge yourself. Once you have mastered something new increase the challenge to maintain your level of stimulation and keep boredom at bay!

8. Give yourself permission to relax, stop, recharge and reflect!





Success…at what cost?

July 3rd, 2012

Heather Johnston

On the day that Bob Diamond resigns I can’t help wondering about how success is defined and its ultimate impact on human and therefore organisational and societal behaviour….

Having worked in both Investment Banking and in the NHS and consulted in a number of other sectors, I have got to experience a number of ‘cultures’ at work. Having made the step into self employment 8 years ago, it makes you have a long hard think about what type of life work you want to craft for yourself, what do you stand for, what type of work do you want to offer and what do you not want to do…In effect how do you want to define your own success, values and ethics.

In organisations, it is very difficult to step out of line with the current way of doing things without being seen as a maverick, a loner or troublemaker. This is why it is so crucially important for Leaders, individuals, teams and organisations to take a step back regularly and look at what they are creating and what success they are chasing. Is it purely for individual gain or for the benefit of our particular group be it a team or an organisation or even a sector? Perspective is key.

It is a tricky balancing act to please many different parties with different priorities. However, if we do not spend time really thinking about what we stand for, the consequences of our actions and how we define success we are likely to be swept away by the current tide…well if they are doing it, it must be alright…yes?…well not always!

In these current turbulent times, it forces us to look at how we define our success and I believe a reflection on our values cannot be a bad thing. Looking at the situations we face and the decisions we make from a view wider than ourselves, considering the impact and consequences at a societal rather than an individual level (for personal gain) may help in navigating us down a path with our integrity intact.




Being good enough

May 18th, 2012

Heather Johnston


It takes huge courage to admit to either yourself or others that we are struggling or feeling vulnerable… Particularly if you are a leader. It could be that we haven’t met the goals we set ourselves or our team/organisation and are judging ourselves, that we have been made redundant or haven’t got the job we want and think we are a failure or that we didn’t get the performance rating or promotion that others have. Outside of work it could come in many forms around perceived societal measures of success or juggling home and work life.

Core to these feelings of vulnerability are a sense of shame, a feeling that you are ‘bad’ in some way.  By its very nature shame drives you to hide and self judge and creates a sense that you are not good enough. It gets further compounded, if you are a Leader, with a sense of needing to be seen to be perfect and in control. Many leaders suffer from a sense of feeling an imposter or that they will be found out as not being good enough…

I invite you to reconsider whether in fact the mental self talk that you are telling yourself is in fact helping or hindering you? Could you actually be good enough already? Recognising that imperfection is being human? That presenting an image of infallibility causes challenges for those that work for you and can drive a culture of pretension and in-authenticity?

To be vulnerable in front of others is in fact to be courageous, and you might want to consider to some that

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change. ” Brene Brown

To see more of what Brene has to say, a researcher specialising in vulnerability and shame, I highly recommend having a look at her TED talk of  a couple of years ago and her more recent talk this year.

By being authentic, taking risks, being vulnerable and daring to do it anyway you may well find that others are on that journey too! And, if you are leader of others telling your story, warts and all can help a more authentic and courageous, creative, resilient culture to develop.

The power of vulnerability

Listening to shame

Employee engagement versus employee wellbeing

May 11th, 2012

Heather Johnston


Central to my positive psychology approach to Organisational Development and Coaching, is looking at whether an individual is flourishing in their work and their wider life. By focusing on helping an individual explore their strengths and helping align these with their work there can be a win/win in terms of an individual’s happiness and wellbeing as well as an increase in individual and organisational productivity.

An interesting article, written by Dr Bridget Juniper and promoted by Action for Happiness, about the downfalls of traditional productivity orientated employee engagement measurement, argues the case for employee wellbeing becoming more central in workplace productivity measures and quotes

…the top 10 drivers of employee engagement, identified by Towers Watson – ISR, show that, of 75 possible areas, the one that was rated the most important was the extent to which employees believed that their senior management had a sincere interest in their wellbeing.

The research goes on to ask employees whether or not they think their senior management actually exhibit this behaviour, with only 39% believing this to be the case. By contrast, the second driver relates to employee development, which is more often associated with conventional engagement measures.

In these times of uncertainty and strain, even more consideration needs to be given to employee wellbeing both for the benefit of the individual but also for organisations and society as a whole. By creating leadership strategies and working practices that help to enhance wellbeing, we will be helping all of us to remain resourceful, happy, healthy and productive.



Welcome to my new website

May 3rd, 2012

Heather Johnston


Thankyou for visiting my new website and blog. I will be updating it with various thoughts, book reviews, articles and links that I think would be useful for you to know about. If you would like to get occasional updates and newsletters then please do sign up on this page. Please be rest assured that your email address will not be sold on to others and you will have the option to unsubscribe at any time.

In my services page I have also highlighted the range of services that I now offer, however if there is a piece of work that you would be interested in exploring and it is not detailed there then please do get in touch as I may be able to help or know someone who can!

If you prefer facebook as a way of connecting, I am now also linked with a mindtrip facebook page By ‘liking’ this page you will get updates into your newsfeed from my blog.

Finally, any feedback on my new website or comments on my blogs are very welcome!

With best wishes



What drives you…is it from within or without…?

April 15th, 2012

Heather Johnston


Great article about intrinsic and  extrinsic goals and their link to a person’s overall happiness. We all need money but it is not that that fundamentally makes us happy- check out the article to find out more about what is driving you and whether that is good for you! money and happiness

Are you an Angel or a Judge? Your ethicability MoralDNA

April 13th, 2012

Heather Johnston

Roger Steare and Pavlos Stamboulides have been researching for a number of years our ethicability-particularly pertinent in these current times: ‘ how we decide what is right and finding the courage to do it’ .

So what are our moral values? How do they influence the decisions you make day to day both within and outside of work and how do they particularly influence you in Transitions in your life…? Are you acting with Integrity, being Authentic? Understanding more about your moral values and what drives you can help you to understand more about the tough dilemmas (and why you are finding them tough) you are facing in both your personal and work life. Once understood it can then give you a springboard for thinking about how best you deal with these conflicts of interest you face on a daily basis.

If you want to find out more, they have just launched a free revised version of their ethicability moral DNA profile. MoralDNA™ is a personality test which reveals our moral values and the way we prefer to make decisions about what’s right. Check it out at:

When you complete your profile, you will receive a PDF report that describes your character type. This could be Philosopher, Judge, Angel, Teacher, Enforcer or Guardian. You will see how you score against the average for human beings on three scales that measure how we prefer to do the right thing, both at work, and in our personal lives. You will also see how you compare with others on 10 moral values including Love, Fairness and Wisdom.