Did you ever have a boss who changed your life?

Have you ever come across Gretchen Rubin? If not you can learn about her here and here. She is most famous for The Happiness Project and I wrote about it a bit here.

Any-hoo, I was on LinkedIn the other day, trying to find something interesting, which at times (in my opinion) can be difficult,  and came across a question posed by Gretchen. She asked "Did you ever have a boss who changed your life?"

Immediately I thought yes. Many have. Some good and some bad and most taught me something and as a result, changed my life and career in some way. Here are the three bosses that immediately came to mind.

1. The Store Manager
This boss was a Store Manager when I worked in retail. I was her Assistant Manager and despite her liking me, she didn't want to teach me anything and she was often rude to customers. She was insecure and nervous and I think quite a bit worried that if she taught anyone anything they might take over her job. I wrote about her here. She was very worried when she went on holidays back to the UK for a 6 week trip that we would all get along without her and she wouldn't be needed. Myself and the rest of the team really enjoyed that time she was away. We actually worked as a team and had happy customers.

How did she change my life? She taught me all the things not to do as a manager. She taught me to be generous and teach other people what I knew and to not be insecure about doing that. Managers and leaders who are generous with their time and knowledge will always be valued.

2. The Difficult Manager
I started work at this Australian listed company and from day one I knew it wasn't for me. I didn't fit the culture and my manager was a difficult person from start to finish. She was diagnosed with a debilitating illness when I worked there but I suspect I would have still struggled to work with her demands and style despite that. I tried lots of different things to work with this manager but in the end I just couldn't do it any more. I also wrote about her here

How did she change my life? She taught me that despite being able to work with pretty much anyone, if I don't fit the organisational culture I would fail from the start. I learnt that organisational fit is really important and that there are just some people that I won't be able to work with, and to keep trying is very unhealthy.

3. The Challenging Manager
There are challenging people who are bad for your career, and challenging people who are good for your career. This is a tale of someone good for my career. This manager was open to a debate, a verbal sparring and it was great. If I didn't believe in something I could speak up. He also made me realise the importance of the role of HR. I have worked in many organisations where it wasn't valued that much, but having someone point out that I helped manage the most expensive part of running a business was enlightening. This person was also the first to treat me as a true business partner and confidant, and I learnt so much about the business by just being there to listen.

How did he change my life? He gave me confidence to be me and to not be afraid of conflict, as conflict can help relationships in the workplace.  I also improved my spreadsheet skills immensely!

Did you ever had a boss that changed your life?

Lisa x

Is your career glass half-full?

I have some time on my hands. My role was made redundant recently. Bummer hey? But there are always positive sides to any situation. For example, I get to go to Pilates and Yoga during the day! It's nice I tell ya! I go to Quro Health Studios, which are walking distance from my house. The Yoga class last Wednesday was awesome! I can't say I have been to a bad class there, but this one was different. The instructor had prepared the room. It was warm. The lights were turned way down and candles were lit all around the perimeter. Great start. Then the instructor, who I had only known as the Receptionist until this point, conducted the most beautiful, zen and challenging class I have been to. When I complimented her at the end, she said she was leaving soon, to move back to Canada. Bugger.

This person is so lovely and so positive. She seems to get so much joy out of what she does, which is serving people and helping them to have healthier minds and bodies. She obviously loves her job and choice of career. I would say she understands her purpose.

Have you worked with anyone like this? I worked with "Joe" for around 3 years in one of my jobs. He is flat-out the nicest person I have worked for, and with. When I first met Joe I couldn't believe he was that nice. I was always looking for times when he wasn't this nice person (and I don't think that says great things about me). You know, I never saw it. He operated in a tough and political environment and managed to develop the trust and companionship of each of the Senior Executives. He is genuine, nice and optimistic. Even when I was at my most frustrated, he always took the time to listen and help.

Thinking about these two people got me thinking about positive psychology and the "happiness" movement. Have you heard these terms before? They sound a little "pop", a little naff maybe. But is it really? Don't we all want to be happy, and do things that make us happy? That's what understanding your "why" or your purpose is all about.
After one of my Pilates classes last week, I decided to go through each of the 6 or so very large bags of books, folders and papers I had packed up from my work office and do a clean-out. Cleaning out clutter is supposed to make you feel happy. It did feel good to throw away a whole lot of stuff I was keeping "in-case" I ever needed to refer back to it. I never do. Plus I don't really have anywhere to keep it all! During the clean out I found a booklet from a seminar I attended a few years ago, run by Dr Martin Seligman.  He is a Psychologist and the founder of Positive Psychology.  He is focused on building mental strength and wellness rather than just removing mental illness.

What I really like about Dr Seligman is that his theories are based on strong empirical evidence from rigorous research. He has done a lot of work around understanding and developing your signature strengths, which has excellent application when trying to work out how to be happiest in your career and life. Signature Strengths are things that are inherently part of each of us. By identifying,  developing and using these strengths, we can improve our performance and happiness. If you would like to learn a little more, this article has a good summary of Positive Psychology and Signature Strengths.

You can use Dr Seligman's Signature Strengths questionnaire to identify your inherent strengths, then ask yourself the following questions:
  • Does your current job allow you to use your signature strengths? If yes, how could you use them more? If no, are there opportunities you can identify to start to use your signature strengths?
  • Thinking back to this post on identifying your purpose....does understanding your signature strengths match with what you think your purpose might be? If you are still working out your purpose, does understanding your signature strengths help you move closer to your purpose?

Inspire me  

Want to learn a little more from Martin Seligman on positive psychology? Here is the man himself during a TED talk

Develop me

What did you just love doing as a kid? Do these activities relate to your signature strengths? I bet they do somehow. How can you start doing these again? What do you think my husband Arran loved doing when he was young? Check out his passion here

Just for me

Have you heard about The Happiness Project? Learn about Gretchen Rubin's year, where she test drove all sorts of ways to improve her happiness. You might like to get started on your own happiness project!