Organisational Development Business Partner
Amy joined Adur & Worthing Councils in December, and will be part of the team until the summer, as maternity cover for Organisational Development within the HR Team.
A positive psychologist, her aspiration is to help everyone at the Councils thrive - in their work, at home and in their communities. She is particularly focused on management and leadership, and her key projects include a motivational programme for all managers, and an innovative multi-organisational leadership apprenticeship.
Outside of work, she loves getting people together, and is involved in Brighton Belles WI and Sunday Assembly, as well as holding big murder mystery parties for her friends.
You can read Amy's current 2018 blog posts on this page below
We're a mixed bunch here at the Councils - accountants, museum curators, administrators, refuse collectors, lawyers, housing advisors, porters, and coastal surveyors ... the list (and the diversity) is seemingly endless. But there's one thing that connects us all - we all work in public service.
Earlier this week, I met with a group of colleagues to explore how we could provide better service - both to our community and to each other internally. How could we listen more to the people we serve? How could we get it right first time? And how could we communicate more proactively? The ideas we came up with will lead to work across the organisation to help us serve each other - and the everyone in Adur & Worthing - more positively and consistently.
This session got me thinking about serving others, and the benefits for our own happiness. Socially, we're encouraged from a young age to be kind to others and to share; religious and philosophical teachings implore us to be generous and compassionate; and offering a helping hand often simply feels like the right thing to do ethically and morally.
Sometimes, though, it can seem hard when we're busy, have our own problems, or feel like what's being asked of us is simply 'not our job'. Happily, science has some further encouragement for us: undertaking acts of kindness has been proven to increase our own health and happiness.
A team led by Sonia Lyubomirsky at the University of California found that undertaking five acts of kindness one day a week for six weeks significantly boosted participants' 'subjective wellbeing' (a popular scientific measure of 'happiness'); research at the US Government's National Institutes of Health found that giving to others prompted a state of euphoria - a 'helper's high' of endorphins in the brain; and various studies on volunteering suggest that altruism can contribute to a longer, healthier life.
By consciously choosing to serve others, then, we can build our own wellbeing. Which is good news for all of us in public service.
Photo: Teamwork - six hands holding hands
In big organisations (such as the Councils) it's very easy to keep our heads down and do our own work, in our own departments - and to never really know (or care) what goes on in the office next door. Particularly in challenging times, we are prone to sticking within the confines of our safe and comfortable silos, using our heavy workloads as a reason not to peek above the parapet at the bigger picture - in case yet another thing to do comes our way.
Ironically, it is in times of hardship that working together can give us the greatest value: innovative new ways of doing things, shared solutions to seemingly impossible puzzles, and moral support when we are feeling most stretched.
In his book 'Reinventing Organisations', Frederic Laloux posits that “there are two fundamental ways to live life: from fear and scarcity or from trust and abundance”. This week I'd like to share the 'systems leadership' approach we've been exploring - to help us as individuals, teams and an organisation to move from fear to trust, and from a sense of scarcity to a feeling that there are at least some things we have in great abundance.
Organisations have traditionally been perceived as great machines, where we each (as tiny cogs) play our part - but this model is outdated, and doesn't serve us well in our contemporary, complex society. People are human beings - not cogs - with values, cultures, contexts, assumptions and conflicting views. We're just not that simple.
Instead, we can think of organisations of living 'systems' - groups of people and projects that are constantly changing, diverse and unpredictable, where shared purpose keeps us engaged with our work, not control and measurement. Within a system, we have scope to use our skills, knowledge and strengths in new ways; to break free of our silos and participate in projects that are interesting to us; and to reach out to colleagues to offer support, peer-to-peer learning and friendship. And - here's where the real game-changer comes in - the system doesn't really have organisational boundaries. By expanding our thinking outside of a rigidly defined 'job' and framing our roles instead as 'purpose', we are able to embrace the connections and overlaps with colleagues across the public, private and third sectors. Then we can truly work together on the big picture - and that is surely the best thing for the communities we serve.
Photos: Shared Leadership event, Shoreham Centre, 1st February 2018
'Wellbeing' is a funny old term; it's hard to pin down and even more tricky to define. What we can pretty much all agree on, though, is that our mental or psychological health is a key component of being or living 'well'.
For me, there's a real difference between 'mental illness' and 'mental health': the absence of mental illness doesn't mean that we are mentally well. If you like, think of mental illness and mental health as two separate scales: minus ten to zero is mental illness, and the aim of treatment such as antidepressants or CBT is to get us back to zero; and mental health is zero to ten - a scale that all of us can work on to help us feel as psychologically 'well' as possible.
Various scholars (for example, Carol Ryff and Martin Seligman) have explored ways of doing this - researching the 'levers' we can pull to build our own wellbeing. These studies have inspired toolkits such as Action for Happiness's Ten Keys to Happier Living - a brilliant resource for those of us wanting to develop our own and others' mental health.
I'm writing about this today not just because it's an interest of mine, but because it's Time to Talk Day - an awareness day designed to get us all talking about mental health (and mental illness!) Here at the Councils, we're marking the day with our teams in two ways: with conversation starters and tips cards in kitchens across the organisation, encouraging people to connect with each other and talk about their experiences; and through launching a Mental Health First Aid programme, training people from each of our services to better support colleagues, friends and family who are experiencing mental health challenges.
From a mental health perspective, connecting with others has numerous benefits, and from a mental illness point of view, every interaction can be a lifeline. So, your homework today is to have a conversation about mental health - wherever you like, with whoever you like. Just make the time to talk.
Hi! I'm Amy, and my role is to support everyone at the Councils to work at their best.
On a day-to-day basis, this means I develop big organisation-wide learning and development programmes, as well as making sure everyone has access to the industry- and role-specific training they need.
My background is in positive psychology - the study of human flourishing. Whereas 'traditional' psychology is all about illness, positive psychology is about 'wellness': how we can all live the best lives possible.
It's not about being happy all the time: if we suffer a bereavement, sadness can help us to grieve, and if things are unjust, anger helps us to bring about change; instead, it's more about exploring and understanding the human experience, with all its ups and downs, and trying to make the best of it.
I'm particularly interested in the role of relationships and community for our wellbeing.
Way back in the 1940s, Abraham Maslow suggested that we have a psychological 'need' for closeness with others, and almost all models of wellbeing conceived since have included a dimension related to social connections.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development - the most extensive study of lived experience that we have - has found that it is primarily the strength of our relationships that defines the quality of our life. And loneliness has been found to be as bad for us as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. So, a sense of belonging is pretty important.
I've lived in Southwick for almost a decade now, but it struck me as I started this role that I've never really considered myself part of the Adur 'community': working and socialising in Brighton, my sense of belonging was anchored firmly to the east.
As I've settled into my new role, though - and got to know my new workplace - things are changing.
I'm relishing the views over the River Adur from the train; I have a favourite charity shop, just down from Worthing Town Hall; and I've just excitedly discovered the cafe on the end of the pier.
I'm taking 'ownership' of the people too: my team in HR have made me so welcome, everyone I've met across the organisation has been open and helpful, and when I see the waste collection team out of my road, I have to resist waving at them all - from my very first day I've felt part of something.
So, the other day, when the man at the railway station asked “what do you want to go there for?” when I got a season ticket to Worthing, my hackles rose. It seems that, after ten years, my sense of belonging in Adur and Worthing might finally have set in.
Photo: View of the footbridge over the River Adur at Shoreham-by-Sea
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