Boosting your happiness at work. Part one:- are you asking yourself the right questions?

How many people do you know who are happy at work? – (I fully realise that there are other factors influencing our feelings but for the next few minutes, lets focus on work.)

Yes, I know it’s a big question, you are reading lots about happiness at work on social media and it even makes the TV news. In a sense it’s too big, too nebulous – what does “happy” mean anyway?! Like me, you could be pondering that one all day so…..

Let me ask another question or two.

How many people do you know who talk about their job with passion, who wake up in the morning (well, most mornings anyway) and actually look forward to going to work with a sense of excitement and anticipation about what the day will bring?

Do you?

I know a few folks who fit into that category… but I know others of all ages, who often wake up with a cocktail of less welcome feelings spinning around inside. Such feelings can include, anxiety, panic, dread, depression, boredom and in some cases, such an overwhelming mixture of the above that they would and occasionally do, turn right back over and bed down for a duvet day. If this continues, wellbeing suffers and mental health problems can arise.

“So, if I want to be happier at work, what can I do about it?” I hear you say!

Firstly, if you are the person looking forward to work….celebrate that, and spread a little of your enthusiasm within your team.. although the chances are they’re pretty happy too, because you work in the same place. Culture is a key influencer on the happiness barometer!

1. Get curious

If, however, you are hiding under the duvet or starting to feel that that would be a preferred option on a regular basis, then you need to do some detective work. Channelling your inner detective is useful but be careful…. the type of questions you ask yourself are key to what you will learn and to how quickly you solve the mystery and move forward.

2. Have a go at this thought experiment.

Ask yourself the following questions. (In my experience, these are the questions that people ask,  as clients usually come to work with me having worked out all of the answers to them)

Be disciplined and only spend a few seconds on each response and then move on.

  • How do I feel? What emotions can I identify here?
  • What is wrong at work that is making me feel this way?
  • How long have I been feeling this bad for?
  • What are the main problems and who is responsible?
  • Whose fault is this and……
  • What should they be doing about it?

How do you feel when you ask yourself these questions? Better… or worse and more likely to hibernate?

3. Get curious in a different way with a new focus

Now….. wipe the slate clean, look around the room, look at something that makes you smile, ground yourself in the present moment, take a breath or two and ask yourself this new set of questions:-

  • What feelings do I notice when I breathe, focus inward and notice what is going on for me?
  • What are the work based triggers that are impacting so strongly on my mindset and feelings? ( useful to identify in relation to taking action)
  • How do I want to feel?
  • What would I like to happen at work, that would help me to feel more energised, happier and to get my spark back?
  • What CAN I actually do to begin to take control, feel more energised and get my spark back?
  • What one thing WILL I do today, that will start to make a positive difference?

How do you feel now? – Feedback strongly shows that the proactive and solution focused, second set of questions, help to empower people and inspire a more positive, optimistic and motivated approach to change. This relates to Emotional Intelligence so feel free to check back to this post for more on EQ Emotional Intelligence at Work. What’s it all about?

If you have done the thought experiment and noticed the positive impact of the second set of questions, follow through.

Do one thing differently every day and begin to notice the differences. Let me know your experiences. Either comment below or email me at .

Part two (look out for my next post), will explore some tried and tested examples of actions you can take to increase your happiness and wellbeing at work and in general.

Until next time…





Ten habits for getting the best from your 121’s at work … to improve fulfillment and productivity.

If your 121 meetings are productive, positive and play a crucial role in moving forward in happily achieving company vision than maybe you don’t need to read this.

If not, read on and see how helpful you find it!. Either way, do message me or comment to share your experiences whether they are of best practice, or of the more frustrating variety!

What’s the point of 121’s?

The weekly, fortnightly or monthly 121 between a manager and team member is a fabulous opportunity for celebration, problem solving, creating thinking, learning and development.

It’s a chance for a senior individual to meet with a junior individual to check progress in relation to projects, the day job and ultimately checking that all is well, people are confident and supported and that all activity is in line with achieving the team and company vision.

“What a great idea – a no brainer”……. I hear you say!

Why then do I hear so many people, in many different organisations saying “ It’s a waste of time” “ Don’t see the point of them” and “ Ah, yes, 121’s….well…..we always mean to have them but something always seems to get in the way” ?

What goes wrong?

Talking to many team members and managers across many businesses, it seems that very often,  the 121 meeting is a tick box affair with managers and staff, short of time and focused solely on checking progress and on correcting poor performance.   Closed and leading questions are common, such as “Now that new project, you’re all Ok with that aren’t you?” to which the team member is highly likely to say “Yes” even if this is far from the case!

These meetings, it would seem, when they do happen, are often squeezed in to a busy week and, for this and other reasons, neither participant is able to be fully present. Both parties often have their brains darting all over the place to past, present and future challenges and focus is thus affected.

Getting the best from the routine 121 meeting.

Having created space in your diary for a 121, how do you both get the most from the precious time that you are spending together?

Here are my ten recommendations for leaders, managers and individuals who are meeting for 121’s and want to make them worthwhile.

  1. Manage your Mindset. Take time before the meeting to breathe and create headspace. This will help you to park other thoughts, be more mindful, focus on the outcomes of the meeting and thus have a positive attitude and approach.
  2. Build your knowledge and awareness of EQ skills….and use them. Emotional Intelligence at Work. What’s it all about?
  3. Decide what you want to have achieved when you both leave the meeting and…. “begin with the end in mind” as Covey would advocate!
  4. Always agree upon two sets of outcomes when setting the agenda.
    1. A focus on WHAT is going on i.e. strategy, projects, progress and challenges.
    2. A focus on HOW the individual and manager are operating i.e. using great skills, identifying skills gaps, awareness of how much pressure the individual is under, and how they are feeling about workload and success levels. In this way you can identify skills objectives and how the individual can be supported to develop skills that are lacking.
  5. Work out a format for your meetings that works – this may be that you spend the first part of the meeting, however long with your attention on WHAT and the second part on HOW or…… cleverly combine the two using great coaching skills along the way.
  6. Be fully present for each other during the meeting – choose the right meeting space, put phones on silent, park other thoughts, boundary the time you will spend, focus and delve in!
  7. Celebrate successes since the last 121 and identify the skills that have used to achieve it. The individual may be able to mentor another team member who is looking to develop the same skills!  To praise or not to praise? That is the leadership question!
  8. Identify challenges and adopt a creative and problem solving approach to overcoming them. Remember that between you, you have many years of experience and a combined skill set that is phenomenal.
  9. When mistakes or errors have been made, adopt a case study approach so that you can reflect together, be creative and plan to incorporate learnings in the future.
  10. Leave the room with a SHARED understanding of what you have spoken about and agreed and of next steps. 

Suggested exercise for leaders and team members.

a) Talk through these 10 habits with your team member and benchmark yourselves against them.

b) Decide where you need to focus and go for it!  I have a feeling that the quality of your 121’s, your working relationship and your productivity will all benefit.

c) Reflect upon the changes you have made and adapt further if necessary.

Do let me know how you get on and please share this to others who may find it of value.

Until next time

Best wishes

Bridget Clapham. Executive Coach and Development Consultant






To praise or not to praise? That is the leadership question!

To praise or not to praise? I believe that the short answer is “praise”, but, if I leave it there, the blog post would be a tad short and probably not too useful, so, here are my further musings!

As those with a fundamental knowledge and understanding of human psychology know, what we human beings like, or rather need, is to be treated kindly, to feel valued, appreciated and loved. It is, quite simply, part of being the social creatures that we are!

When we get signals from others that this is the case such as when we are authentically treated kindly and  praised by someone, our amazing brains release fabulous hormones – chemicals such as serotonin and oxytocin. This gives us a feel-good hit and, quite simply, we feel good.

For those of you who are interested in the neurochemistry and neuroscience, serotonin is released when we feel proud or valued and oxytocin when people are kind to us and we feel liked or loved. N.B. Love, in a workplace and leadership as opposed to a romantic sense, is defined here as having a sense of appreciation for and closeness to others.

For a great explanation of the importance of these and other neurotransmitters read Simon Sinek “Leaders Eat Last” – link here to one of the many places where it is available :-

 So why is praise important? When we feel proud, valued and appreciated, our brains are running on great neurochemistry and we are more likely to feel positive, motivated, learn quickly, be creative and perform well.


So, as a leader and, in fact, as a human being, which of your behaviours will help your team or your peers or your own leaders to feel supported, proud and valued?

Lead in a way that cultivates a culture where praise and celebration at all levels,  are the hallmarks of your style as a team or organisation. Be strong and kind – they can blend well together!  Spread the praise around too….. after all, your peers and your own leaders have a right to their own great neurochemistry too. It can be lonely at the top – who praises the leaders?

Many leaders and managers wait for formal 121’s or even for appraisal time to deliver praise and positive feedback to employees. My question is – why wait?

As a manager,  you are with your team most days.  It follows therefore that most days there will be positive behaviours and minor or major successes that you can use to deliver authentic feedback to your staff. I believe that authentic, time relevant praise – that is specific to an individual, even better, specific to an individual’s action or behaviour is worth its weight in gold.

“What about the need to let people know about their mistakes and shortcomings?”  I hear some of you say…. Well, think about it. We do indeed all make mistakes and have development needs. I believe strongly that the development feedback, delivered kindly in the context of a culture of praise and success, will be more likely to generate change in the employee. In the following example, which employee is more likely to develop and thrive?

  1. The one who is told to improve and given feedback on all of the reasons why he or she is not making the grade and thus feels demoralised and undervalued?


2. The one who gets praised when he or she does well, is supported to develop in areas where improvement is needed and can work on making further improvements from a foundation of confidence and self-worth?

As an emotionally intelligent leader, and one who is keen to further develop EQ, you can tailor praise and feedback to suit the individual styles of team members. One style does not fit all! Experiment and ask for feedback on your feedback – it’s always useful.

Want to know more about the importance and value of praise and of helping people to feel important and valued? Here is a link to a great article highlighting research that supports the ideas within this blog post.

My recommendation, start to make praise and positive feedback part of everyday conversations and ……let me know what you notice.

Until next time


Part Two. Why do you do what you do? the importance of your “Why”.

What do you do? Where, how and when do you do it – and WHY?


“People don’t buy what you do, they buy “why” you do it” as Simon Sinek so eloquently explains.

If this doesn’t yet make sense, it may be that you missed last week’s blog on the importance of WHY we do what we do. At the end,  I said that I would post my personal “why” in the next post and so  in Part Two, I will be doing just that.

Firstly, you may want to refresh your understanding of Sinek’s work, which will mean a trip back to last week’s post. Here’s a quick link:-

If you are up to speed, let’s keep going!

One of the key points that Sinek and others make is that we are biological, chemical beings with complex neurology and, that we are driven to a great extent by our emotions.

Think of your own decisions- how often do you “sense check” a decision, or change one because the first one just didn’t feel quite right?


If, like me, the answer to those questions is “always and quite often ”, then what follows will make perfect sense to you!

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy “why” you do it”

To explain what you do, is fairly straightforward, most people can tell you that. When I work with leaders and team members, most can articulate clearly what they do both as an organisation and as an individual within it. Often ( if not engaged with their “why”, they will explain it as being quite dull!)

As Sinek explains, some people can also explain how they do what they do. This is a bit more interesting but still a fairly neutral narrative.( See Sinek’s Golden Circle as explained last week – worth exploring if you haven’t already!)

What my and actually every other human brain is actually looking for is to experience a chemical shift, a connection, an emotional response to what we are hearing.

This starts to happen when people talk about or indeed, from their “why”. This is when we are likely to connect with and truly “buy in” to what the other person is saying. It is our “why” – our authenticity to our values that gives clues as to who we really are and what really matters to us! This is what other human beings connect with.

Think about it, given the choice, which Dr would you connect with and want to be cared for by? :-

  1. a Dr who only went into Medicine because it is the family tradition and is competent but dreams of another career because she/he would actually rather have been a lawyer…..OR
  2. a Dr who is also competent AND whose practice is fully aligned with her or his true values of care, support, health, healing and wellbeing.

So, here is my offering , my attempt to communicate my “why”.

My Golden Circle

Why I do what I do:- I have a passion and total belief in EVERY person’s ability to learn, develop and achieve their own excellence in life, in a way that enables them to feel happy, well and fulfilled. I believe that it is possible for each person to enjoy the process of becoming the best they can be.

How I do what I do:- I apply  curiosity and a skilled and ever developing knowledge and understanding of people, human psychology, organisational psychology, behaviour, learning, education, coaching and neuroscience in my work with clients. I combine with a great toolkit of strategies and methodologies to enable my clients to work with me to achieve fabulous results.

What I do:- I coach people to be the best they can be (beautifully combining personal excellence, success and wellbeing as essential ingredients in the cocktail!)

Those who meet me, say that when I talk about “what” I do, I do it from my “why”.

Exercise :-

I highly recommend working out your personal Golden Circle and one for your organisation. It is an interesting process and is great for developing increased self awareness as well as sometimes revealing some unexpected insights!

There are some great resources to share the ideas about the Golden Circle here

Let me know how you get on!

Until next time.





Why do you do what you do for a living? and ..why it matters!

Why do you do what you do – for a living?  What’s the point of reflecting upon this? Read on!

Let’s consider a continuum of related scenarios….Some people drift into certain fields and then wake up decades later asking themselves the above question and not finding a satisfactory answer. They may be “happy” enough with their job and role or they may feel they are simply treading water to pay the mortgage. At worst they feel trapped, hate their job and find the whole work arena stressful and unfulfilling.

Some people, on the other hand, are fortunate to be able to answer the question with relish and enthusiasm because, what they do for a living resonates brilliantly with their values and life purpose.

Where we are on this continuum, matters hugely on several levels. It affects our wellbeing and health, our family life and relationships and of course, our level of passion and our productivity and effectiveness.

If you are a leader, your answer affects not only you but all the people whom you lead and manage.

Whatever stage you are at in your career work proactively to ensure that what you do matches your values, and that you have a degree of purpose and passion for what you do for so many of your waking hours!

Simon Sinek in his, now legendary TED talk which, incidentally I would make compulsory viewing on ALL degree programmes, MBAs and Leadership Training, is essential viewing for leaders and those aspiring to lead.

I could write pages of prose explaining it but instead, I invite you to spend about 18 minutes of your time watching and listening to Simon Sinek

Click on this text to spend 18.04 minutes learning from the great Simon Sinek on TED

and then continue the learning by reflecting upon the following questions:-


  • Watch Simon Sinek TED talk and then reflect upon the following alone and , if a leader, with your leadership team!
  • What is your why?
  • What is the “why” of the company you work with and does it provide a good fit with your own?
  • Are you working where you are working because of their “why”?
  • Does your current role allow you to tap into and honour your why?
  • Do you recruit people to your organisation who “fit” and can strengthen your company’s why?
  • Do you sell your products or carry out your daily activities with your “why” in mind?
  • Is your “why” obvious to those whom you lead and work with?
  • Are you authentically leading people in a way that honours your own and your company’s “why”?
  • What questions does this generate for you?

If you have a great coach, this is a good exercise to work with. My clients love it and it generates lots of discussion and actions whenever I use it!

Let me know your thoughts after this exercise and if you have time to leave a comment on the blog, I would love to hear from you.

Until next time when I will share with you my personal “why”

Bridget Clapham

Leave a comment or feel free to email me direct via my website by clicking on this link!

Emotional Intelligence at Work. What’s it all about?

There’s a lot being written about EQ or Emotional Intelligence. It is said that having a high EQ is a greater indicator of our success than having a high IQ which in itself challenges many peoples’ belief systems.

If you are a manager, leader or team member and haven’t yet explored the positive benefits of working to raise EQ, I hope that this blog will give you a taste and hunger to learn more!

So, what is EQ and why is it important?

There are 4 main components ( 5 if you read Daniel Goleman’s work – he adds Motivation.) but let’s focus on the 4 below for now!

  1. Self Awareness – ability to be aware of own emotions in any given moment
  2. Self Management- ability to manage and alter own emotional state.
  3. Awareness of others- people’s perspective and emotions in any given moment
  4. Relationship management – Ability to build rapport, communicate and relate to others effectively in any given moment.

Reflective Learning Activity:-

I invite you to:-

  • Look back at the list of skills above and reflect upon your abilities in each for a moment or two.
  • Think about times when you do this and times when you don’t ( we ALL have those!)
  • Now think of yourself in an average day at work and consider how, upping your ability in each of the EQ skills, could enhance your experience and excellence!
  • What difference would being better at each skill make to how you behave and excel?

Moving on :- what is so important about emotional intelligence and what will increasing our EQ get for us?

We are each unique and social beings, as a species we thrive in groups and thus, at home and even more so at work, with very few exceptions, interact, on a daily basis, with a multitude of other totally unique human beings.

Being Emotional beings

We are also, thank goodness emotional beings as opposed to computers or robots, we each have a fully functioning emotional spectrum and a full range of feelings that vary throughout any given day, hour or even moment!

Part of the joy of my job is working with people to help them gain insight into how they create their emotions and how to manage them more effectively. These are the first stages of developing EQ. Following this, comes coaching on how to raise awareness of others and to communicate more effectively to get better outcomes more of the time!

So- more on the whole issue of emotions:-

If you could select a way to feel from a menu of emotions, these and more would all be on your list :-


  • Confident
  • Positive
  • Happy
  • Motivated
  • Excited
  • Joyful
  • Curious
  • Chilled
  • Calm
  • Relaxed
  • In control
  • Sad
  • Low
  • Frustrated
  • Annoyed
  • Stressed
  • Embarrassed
  • Hurt
  • Scared
  • Anxious

and many more…..

Rest assured, your very amazing brain, and mine, knows exactly how to create each and every one of the emotions on the menu…and a few more. You have a wonderful ability to generate the different neurochemicals that lead to different feelings and understanding this is key to developing EQ.

Quite clearly, the way that we feel in any given moment is going to impact hugely on how we filter and process information AND on how we respond, react and behave towards other human beings in your workplace or home.

(Remember at this point that all other human beings are all experiencing their own cocktail of emotions in any given moment.) This is what makes working together and communicating so interesting!

Think of a workplace scenario such as a meeting :-

If all human beings in your workplace scenario are feeling positive and are aware of self and others, can manage their state and are socially skilled – people will relate well to each other and generally be happier, functioning well and be more productive. Think what this means to wellbeing and team effectiveness at work!

If one or more of the human beings is low on EQ, feeling angry, fed up, low or anxious and NOT able to change it, oblivious their own and to the other person’s emotional state and socially unskilled, all the players will be left feeling negative and functioning below their best.

Building higher levels of EQ

When you stop to reflect on the above, it is clear that when we work on all four skills within the EQ model, we will be able to build and develop our EQ. This means that we will feel better more of the time AND be able to manage and change our state when necessary.

We will also be more aware of the emotional state of those around us, reflect on how THAT is affecting their behaviours in any given moment AND be skilled in establishing and maintaining rapport and relate well to others!

The joy of EQ is, that whilst we each have an existing level of EQ, we can enhance and develop our skills in each of the four areas. I work with many individuals and teams that do just that!

Until next time



For Executive Coaching

Contact me via  or email direct to to explore ways to enhance EQ and increase wellbeing and performance at individual, team and organisational levels.

Books and links

There are many. Here are just two from the selection available that will be of interest if you want to read more!

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Graves is excellent. In explaining EQ and giving some strategies for development.

Daniel Goleman Emotional Intelligence. Why it can matter more than IQ








Thoughts about confidence – what’s it all about?

How often do you hear someone say..(that someone could be you!) that they have lost some confidence or that they would be able to do something more easily, if only they had more confidence?  We often talk about it as if it is something tangible when in fact it isn’t!

What has happened here is that through the way we use language, we have turned something that is a feeling, a way of being, sometimes a cocktail of feelings, into a simple noun. An elusive thing!

Sadly we cannot go into our favourite store and purchase a bag of “confidence”. It doesn’t work like that. I would go as far as to say that, in truth, “confidence” as such, does not exist.

If we can identify and recognise “it” as a feeling – a sense of “being” confident,  we start to take control. That sense of control starts to come because we are experts in feeling different emotions and “being” in different states. Lets face it, we have been doing it since we were born!

Your amazing brain has many memories of feeling the way you feel when you have the feeling that you describe as confident. It knows which parts of itself to activate and exactly which cocktail of neurochemistry to create. If you need to feel more confident, you can give your brain a helping hand.

This simple  brain training experiment will demonstrate:-

  1. Take a few moments and sit or be somewhere where you can have some peace and quiet!
  2. Go into your memory banks and think of a time when you felt really confident. What were you doing? Where were you? Who was there? What was happening?
  3. Immerse yourself in that memory ( you will probably be smiling by now)  and step right back into it.
  4. Imagine you are back there again, seeing the sights and hearing the sounds that were going on at the time.
  5. Notice how you feel and smile some more as you replay the events of that memory.
  6. Stop and notice how much of the original confident feelings your brain has cleverly regenerated for you! If you could measure your neurochemistry right now, it would be very different to how it was before you started the exercise!

Clever eh?

Play with this and if you are wanting to incrementally build your ability to “be” confident more of the time, I invite you to do this exercise daily, several times. Notice the differences!

There is a wealth of neuroscience to support these ideas and if you are interested in more ways to run your brain differently, you can look up the many works of two of my teachers :- Dr Richard Bandler co- creator of NLP and Paul McKenna. If it’s business texts you are looking for check out the work of Simon Sinek. he includes some great explanation of our positive neurotransmitters in his book Leaders Eat Last

The aim of this post is to get you thinking about how you “do” confident and to invite you to be curious about how you work on ways to BE the way you want to be in different situations. I am aware that there are many variables to consider and this is one piece of the jigsaw.

Watch out for more pieces. I am excited that I will be sharing them with you!

Until next time

Best wishes