How to move on from here. Workshop with results

Every workplace has its own culture and atmosphere, built and continuously renewed by the actual people in the company. You clearly sense it when changing job: the workpace ”scent”, an sense for what is great or not so great. Sticking together, energy levels, management style, meeting culture. Absense due to sickness, resignations, stress, gossip. Collaboration issues and conflict. Etc, etc.

One thing is to have an unclear feel for well-being and culture. Another, to have a common language for the individual experience (what is a good balance between work and personal life? What is leadership?) A third, to actually decide: what will we do to secure workplace thriving?

You can measure the workplace environment (you must, it’s in the law 😊!) or a more detailed, thriving-oriented measurement like GAIS. When results are available, they’ll need interpretation and a plan must be developed. Eg this can happen:

  • Senior management decide what to do, and assign HR to implement. There is a risk of actual initiatives being perceived as irrelevant or less important than the “core mission”. Team leaders may not be fully mobilized and are not supportive. Staff see the project sink to the bottom of the agenda and cynicism spreads…..”we’ve heard that one before…”….
  • Or, work is delegated to the individual teams, and a long discussion begins. Problems may be understood differently. Individuals dominate the work. Representatives are feeling left out or used as rubber stamps. Initiatives are agreed per the ”least common denominator” principle.

A caricature, yes, definitely! But the balance between top-down and consensus is an extra hard nut to crack, when the topic is workplace thriving. It is a phenomenon so individually experienced, and still so collectively important, that an extra process step is relevant between measurement/observation and action plan: a Design Thinking workshop.

The workshop uses methods for structured articulation of all participants’ insight, eg by preventing individuals’ dominance in the group. Leverages timeboxed idea generation and is executed in accordance with a strict schedule, a total of approx. 2 hours. Works with relevant topics: measurement points or observations (sickness leave, meeting culture, energy levels after lockdown, introduction of new staff,..). Is scaleable from 4 to a very high number of participants (I have personal experience with up to 60). Best results when everyone is physically together.

Who joins? The leadership team, workplace environment team, a specific team. The workshop ALWAYS drives a documented result: what are the most important problems, and which initiatives are seen as most suitable and effective.  

Curious? Reach out to

Reflecting on 2022…….

I’ve had huge shifts in workload following lockdown, resulting in my one-person psychology business now having a more focused offering. Setting out as independent 3 years ago, I really wanted to engage in all kinds of projects – not anymore! Now: only leadership coaching (and only in small packages) and workshop facilitation (leveraging a fairly standardized set of tools). The trimming has created headroom to fine-tune, reflect and engage in a more committed way – in a sense, making things smaller has made the experience greater.

Warm thanks to the clients I have worked with in 2022, you have all taught me a lot and I hope I have contributed in a positive way to your business and personal growth.

Also, I stumbled across an opportunity in my home street in Copenhagen and opened Ulden, a small specialty yarn store, in May. This fulfils many objectives including a long-term dream: to work with my family. In the store, a small team of relatives – prominently, my son Jonathan – is delivering fantastic smiles, help and yarn to the Copenhagen knitters! Retail is new to me; fortunately, Jonathan has extensive training and real-life experience, limiting my damage 😊

Warm thanks also to the wonderful, patient, creative customers supporting this tiny shop.

The two activities complement each other perfectly. Business psychology is my primary work: intensive, growth-oriented, high-touch. Life in the store is fun, super-busy and creative. The balance is great. I’m feeling deeply thankful, happy, confident.  

Wishing everyone a lovely Christmas and a happy New Year. Yay, 2023!!

Workshop planning

A workshop to have a leadership team of approx. 60 people identify the most important challenge to employees’ job satisfaction (and agree how to deal with it in practice!), requires a strictly timed process and a LOT of post-it notes 😊, all suitably unwrapped by yours truly to free up participant’s time. Looking forward to an afternoon filled with energy!

I’m with her!!

Warning: this is personal!

Wondering what’s going on in this photo? It’s my daughter Emma wearing a PhD-hat, creatively constructed to her by co-workers at Department of Plant and Environmental Science, in celebration of her completing her thesis on epigenetics and heritable defense mechanisms in plants.

By her side Jonathan, my son and her older brother. On her arm Thea, her 1-year old daughter, the adorable youngest of my four grandchildren. As you can imagine, my joy was reaching spiritual levels.

Not only for Emma’s academic achievement, which in itself is truly important, a milestone in her career and a significant contribution to science.

But for the work ethic and style of her as well as her brother: building a family and a home, raising 4 kids in total with amazing results (no, I’m not biased at all 😊) AND achieving personal growth, pursuing ambition and dreams, balancing Covid (argh!) and even – in Jonathans case – dealing with a nasty accident. They both have careers in industries known to consume every waking hour, science and retail; but they know their values and what’s important in life. This is the greatest achievement.

An aside: I was a 21-year old mother, and negative comments were frequent, acidy and unhelpful, attempting one thing only: to drive shame. You couldn’t imagine the crap I had to take, primarily from elder women. I only met Madeleine Albright later in life, but at the time I could have used her quote about the place in hell reserved for women not helping other women!

When the PhD-hat (with unspoken functionality, but it has a handle on one side?) was awarded to Emma yesterday my heart was singing – about everything, really! The choices I made, all the various coincidences, paths followed and not followed; here we are, and I am proud of my kids and HAPPY about life.

2022, out for you!!

Job satisfaction ownership

Who is responsible for a healthy and stimulating environment at work? When it comes to stress prevention, I have met a common misconception: that this is a “joint” responsibility.

Well, you could argue that anything going on in a business is a joint responsibility, including making products and taking them to market. But if you’re looking to improve – or even transform – the psychological working environment, you need to take a closer look on accountability and structure.

Otherwise – it won’t happen.

In a recent stress prevention client project, this split of responsibility has been developed (with inspiration from and credit to materials made available by Velliv):

Clarifying accountability is key for all projects, also projects addressing human factors. Don’t settle for “joint”.

Job satisfaction – precisely!

A lot of people will tell you that they can only describe three emotions: happiness, sadness, anger. This can make it hard to understand and explain what you need – hence difficult to act or help.

This also applies in the workplace: when you talk about job satisfaction, there is not necessarily a common understanding of what is meant.

Some will find job satisfaction to be about being happy every day, having good colleagues and a nice, appreciative boss. Others think it’s about having a super-ambitious goal and a killer team working towards it. Others appreciate about the security from having a steady job, enabling the pursuit of dreams on your personal time.

This is all true for the individual, but how should a workplace and a leader act in a universe this rich and varied in understanding?

I frequently see initiatives to strengthen job satisfaction, where the intention is good but the mark is missed completely. A few examples:

  • Development of a common ”team charter”; this is a great tool if collaboration is faltering, but won’t help if the boss is a tyrant.
  • Subsidicing fitness memberships and providing fruit baskets in the office may be masked as initiatives to strengthen job satisfaction. In essence, these are hygiene factors, only contributing negatively if they are absent.
  • Christmas parties and other social gatherings, where the idea is to get to know each other better across departments. May lead to huge frustrations and brand new crisis, especially if there is alcohol involved.
  • Frequent 1:1 meetings. Great if you’re a new leader wanting to connect with your team, but won’t fix the absence of vision and strategy.

To be able to address job satisfaction constructively, we need knowledge and a common language.  You don’t have to settle for ”anything goes”. I was recently certified in the platform GAIS, based on ”General Job Satisfaction Index” measured by statistics professionals since 2015. (This is not a commercial, I have no relationship to GAIS, am not a member of Krifa and paid for the education myself).

When you look at a large enough pool of numbers, you’ll begin to see patterns. And when you apply a health-focus (rather than the typical APV-sickness focus) you will have interesting results. GAIS identified 7 factors which impact job satisfaction: meaning, influence, mastery, achievements, leadership, colleagues and balance. The factors have varying impact on job satisfaction, and their weighting will shift over time.

GAIS can be used at no cost, also by businesses (you can see examples here  of regular business clients).

When your satisfaction is measured according to 7 welldefined and benchmarked factors, you get a temperature for each (how are ”we” doing compared to ”others”). But even more importantly, you develop a common language for something that can otherwise be fluffy, and as a leader you are enabled to target the real problems rather than shooting generic initiatives into your team.

Reach out if you want to hear more, or check them out yourself directly.

Diversity, disagreement, courage

Margaret Heffernan, UK scientist and entrepreneur, Professor of Practice at the University of Bath School of Management, is the author of a string of books on effective leadership and the release of hidden or unused talent.

She is featured in this TED Talk about the importance of having diverse ways of thinking; how even freely available information will be of no use unless someone has the courage to fight for it.  And how we need to resist our neurological wiring, driving us to seek companionship with people sharing our world views, rather than actively seek diversity.

Global connectivity and sharing of information are only the beginning. We need the courage to start conflict and disagree, challenge conventional wisdom, and speak up for real change to happen. This is true in politics as well as in business.

A culture where opinions can be shared freely and conflicts addressed without fear of interpersonal retaliation, is a key precondition for psychological safety.

The talk is less than 13 minutes; and it’s great!

Summer reading

Vacation is just around the corner, and the feed will now be flooded with pictures of planned summer readings. Piles of eminent management books, in English or American to get to the contents quickly.

No thanks. For me, vacation is part of my self-defense. I’m letting go of all feelings of guilt and obligation, not wanting to contribute to the self-destruction so applauded in our culture. A few weeks of unplugging and blissful relaxation is just what I need. My summer reading is just one book, and I’ve already read it many times. Still looking forward to hours in the proverbial hammock with this one, it’s almost like spending time with an old friend.

For years and years, my favorite novel was Gabriel García Márquez’ “A Hundred Years of Solitude”. I’ve read it countless times, its magical and exotic universe coupled with a complicated family legend – deservedly awarded the Nobel Prize. Since 2012 however, I’m having a new favourite: Kim Leine’s “The Prophets of Eternal Fjord”. I’m reading it in Danish to really indulge in every nuance of the story, but it’s available in many languages. The story is about Greenland’s movement to liberate from Danish colonialism, told from the viewpoint of a Danish priest and set in the late parts of the 1700’s. It is every bit as magical and amazing as the Márquez novel, a quiet, gripping story of Nordics and the Arctics.

Enjoy summer.

Why reboarding is not a good term

With the pandemic receding, people will be getting together in the coming months. Office buildings re-filling, subways and motorways re-crowding. And employees “re-boarding”?

Some are referring to the process of getting people back to work as a re-boarding process, with obvious reference to onboarding, the process of including and welcoming a new employee.

It’s not a good term at all, and here’s why:

A typical onboarding curriculum involves the practicalities of the new job. Start date, how to get help with IT, documentation that needs to be read, important aspects of the new company’s leadership, vision, culture, warm messages of welcome from new bosses and colleagues, etc etc.

None of these elements have changed during the pandemic. And if we want to seriously address learnings and issues following more than a year of lockdown, the process of bringing people back to work will look nothing like on- or “re-“boarding.

What has changed the most during Covid lockdown is the way we socialize.

When getting back together, we can expect to feel rejected frequently (now that the handshake is no longer the default way of greeting).

Working from home may lead to us feeling excluded (especially when people that are now physically together “forget” the distance inherent in being the person attending virtually).

We may experience a feeling of uncertainty or even distrust of our colleagues – are they washing their hands properly? Are they vaccinated?

Bringing people back to the office will have emotional consequences, and these qualities are what should be addressed as part of a “re-gathering” program.

Psychological safety, the freedom to feel included, to learn, to contribute and to challenge the status quo is more important than ever before. How is your workplace doing for psychological safety? Can you freely talk about how you feel, and ask for what you need?