Three Simple Steps to immediately experience the Happiness Advantage

Leonie Cutts

August 9, 2018 5:55 pm

‘The happiness advantage – because positive brains have a biological advantage over brains that are neutral or negative, this principle teaches us how to retrain our brains to capitalize on positivity and improve our productivity and performance.’
Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage

If you are like me, and about 18 million other people, you have watched Shawn Achor’s TED talk on “The happy secret to better work”. (Actually, I think I have been at least 20 of the views — just watching it makes me happy! I’m also in awe of his flawless presentation.)


So of course, I went out and bought a copy of Shawn’s book, The Happiness Advantage.  Throughout the book he shares techniques and the supporting research to building and creating happiness. As with many things in life, most of them are easy to do. But they are also easy not to do.

One of the most accessible exercises he suggests is to focus on 3 good things that have happened in the last 24 hours. As a facilitator and a coach, I often prime my sessions by asking participants for something positive that has happened. As Shawn points out in his book, research has shown that this simple act “trains the brain to become more skilled at noticing and focusing on the possibilities for personal and professional growth and seizing opportunities to act on them.”

The CCS Ideal Team and GROW

Glen McKernan

January 22, 2018 6:36 am

Guest Blog by Glen McKernan, Director GM Growth Consulting

I recently facilitated a session with a senior leadership team using the CCS Ideal Team process paired with a group GROW conversation.

I found the use of the CCS cards to be very valuable as it allowed the leaders to speak more freely about the key ingredients that they believed make up the ideal team. In some instances the cards served a dual purpose: they gave participants a way to identify what ingredients they believed may be missing from the current team and an area for improvement.

Something about you
To start the session I used the Something about you ice breaker activity — each person goes through their vision pack and finds one card that is a springboard to describe something about themselves that no-one else in the room is likely to know. As a relatively new team this worked really well as there were plenty of life achievements that people did not know about one another and I can still see the smiles on peoples faces when they were talking about their life events or moments.

I then transitioned to the ‘Ideal Team’ part of the session asking everyone to think of time when they believed they were part of an excellent team and to choose 5 cards that best describe the elements of this excellent team experience. Using key open questions as they searched the vision decks assisted their thinking to focus on the constructive ‘behaviours’ of the team as opposed to ‘what’ the team was actually doing. Questions like: ‘Think about how you behaved? How did you feel? How did others behave? How did you communicate with each other? What did you like about being in that team? What happened when you gathered together? How did the team work together? How did you treat each other? What was good about the team?’

We then broke into a pairs activity where everyone shared their thoughts on the 5 cards chosen, followed by an all-in activity where each individual shares their thoughts back to whole group.

Very powerful to see at this stage that people have had a diversity of different ideal team experiences but there are some very common themes or key ingredients across all people.

Moving into the close out phase I had the team break into two groups of four, and work together to “Choose 4 cards that you believe, as a group, best represent the ideal team that you would like to be, in the present day and into the future”. Once they had selected their top 4 cards, the teams used the CCS stickers and a template to clearly record what each card meant to their group.

Each group then played back to the whole team about their group’s choices, while and I as facilitator scribed the key elements on a flip chart to represent their ideal team.

As icing on the cake, I then used the agreed elements from the 4 card ideal team feedback and facilitated the team through a group GROW conversation to have the team collectively agree on a few options and actions that they would commit to implementing to keep the momentum and move them towards being the ideal team.

Overall for me as a facilitator, I like the flexibility of the CCS cards and the different ways they can be used to suit the challenges you are helping others find solutions to and also to own those solutions.

People always respond positively to the cards and the volume and excitement you witness when the cards are produced is always a high point in my sessions.

Creating Learning Environments To Inspire Innovative Thinking

Janet Sernack

September 21, 2017 4:25 pm

Guest Blog by Janet Sernack, Founder and CEO of ImagineNation

As a seasoned corporate educator and coach, three factors currently stand out to me that appear to be common across corporate demographics impacting negatively on our ability to adapt, change and innovate;

  1. The “instant learning” hook, is seducing some people into believing that, for example, a 5-minute video, or an 18-minute TED talk can give them the content they need to master the subject they are exploring.
  2. The “fast paced, reactive environment” prohibits many of us others from being fully present, from being able to suspend judgement, to sense and perceive systemically “what is really going on” in a current situation or business problem.
  3. The critical “inner self management” disciplines and practices are absent, inhibiting people from investing time to see a current situation or problem with the “fresh eyes” needed to discover and emerge creative ideas, or hidden solutions.

The outcome is the absence of the “deep learning” required to build our competence, capacity and confidence to successfully adapt, change and innovate.

So why is it that we seem to have forgotten to seriously value and invest our precious time and resources to engage in the type of deep learning that enables us to truly connect and have the generative conversations we need to have to manifest change and innovation?

The learning curve is the earning curve

In the Deloitte Report on Corporate Learning in 2016, Ten Trends Shaping the Future, Josh Bersin reinforces and validates these factors, stating that the Modern Learner is “overwhelmed” and that today’s employees are largely “overwhelmed, distracted and impatient.”

He also introduces us to the “new world of work, with learning at the centre” telling us that “the learning curve is the earning curve.”

Taking action — developing a reflective stance

One of my goals as a leadership coach and corporate educator, is to know how to fast track a leader’s consciousness, realising that the key clue lay in, what Senge describes as transforming and integrating our motivational, cognitive, emotive, visceral structures. [download PDF of Senge article]  I discovered another clue in Otto Sharmer’s “Theory U” where he provides us with a dense yet cohesive construct for leading from the future as it emerges, a process called “Presencing”.

Considering, and being willing to work with, peoples overwhelm, distractedness and impatience, at ImagineNation™ we adapted these core structures, as the overall learning structures for our global innovation education and coaching programs, to ensure that deep learning occurs.

Having authentic conversations that create the space for deep and meaningful change

We are all enjoying the shift in both macro and micro agile learning channels towards the use and adaptation of Story and Conversations, to facilitate learning and change.

As part of a collaborative event, held here in Melbourne between the Organizational Development Association (ODA) and the Victorian Chapter of the International Coach Federation (ICF), my colleague and I co-created an evolutionary model, to enable people to have authentic conversations that create the space for deep and meaningful change.

Key Steps for Taking a Reflective Stance

By embodying and enacting these stages and steps, people learn how to co-sense, co-presence and co-create the space for deep and meaningful change.

“We include the CCS Cards as triggers for enabling people to be truly present, pay deep attention and to be intentional as they cycle through the key steps. CCS Cards enable people to unconsciously access their internal motivational, cognitive, emotive, visceral structures and states and “bring them forth” into the reflective stance.”

In one on one coaching and group training situations, we include the CCS Cards as “triggers” for enabling people to be truly present, pay deep attention and to be intentional as they cycle through the key steps.  The CCS Cards enable people to unconsciously access their internal motivational, cognitive, emotive, visceral structures and states and “bring them forth” into the reflective stance to:

  • Create a Container: that gives people permission to be their authentic selves, to take responsibility for their actions and outcomes, because they feel connected and trusted and are motivated, open minded (curious) and hearted (compassionate) in their willingness and desire to collaborate.
  • Sense and Perceive the Whole System: in ways that allow people to see with “fresh eyes” (not knowing) “what is really going on” to gather information, associate the key patterns and trends, diverging and converging within the social field, with discernment and detachment (open mind, open heart and open will).
  • Generate Discovery: deep diving through generative listening, inquiry and debate to safely challenge the status quo, provocate and disrupt conventional ways of seeing, perceiving and responding to people’s internal and external worlds. Creating cracks, openings and thresholds for possibilities and opportunities, not previously imagined, for change, to emerge (open mind, open heart and open will).
  • Emerge Creative Ideas for Change and Innovative Solutions: through facilitating options, making choices, co-creating the desired future, solution and a collaborative outcome. Being tolerant and willing to experiment, adapt and grow by sharing reflections to learn, by knowing how to advance the transformation and integration of our four human structures – cognition, emotion, body and will.


Choosing the authentic learning pathway

This is truly an immersive and emergent process, which, with experimentation and practice can be adapted to meet short and longer time frames.

It is an enormously powerful change because it potentially reduces peoples overwhelm as it involves learning how to emerge creative ideas and innovative solutions for change. It holds people’s attention as a crucial part of the overall process, and because is it a deeply iterative, generative and co-creative process, it potentially reduces people’s impatience.

This is because they are deeply engaged in a trusted and collaborative, inspiring and purposeful, meaningful learning and change process that is open to alternate world views, operates from the highest source of human possibility, and taps into the whole (Source).


About Janet Sernack

Janet is an ICF ACC executive coach, located in Melbourne, Australia. She is the Founder of ImagineNation™ a global innovation culture consulting, education and coaching start-up that helps people make sense of innovation, develop innovation agility and unlock collective genius. She invented thought leading global innovation education programs: The Coach for Innovators Certified Program™ and The Start-Up Game™ that enable people to be, think and act differently, to make the difference they want to make, in ways that people value and cherish.

Visual techniques that deepen coaching conversations: using the new CCS cards with ICF in the US

Ellen Moran

July 9, 2017 6:15 pm

Guest blog by Ellen Moran PhD

For the past few years my passion has been to find ways to help teams collaborate for innovation in their workplaces. When I was asked to deliver a workshop at a recent International Coach Federation (ICF) meeting in St Louis, I decided to introduce them to the new CCS cards and to demonstrate how they could easily integrate visual images into any kind of coaching engagement to enhance the effectiveness of both seasoned and novice coaches.

In my description to promote the workshop theme to participants, I stated that most of our coaching engagements rely on exchanging ideas through the spoken word. However, disciplines such as Art Therapy have long used visual imagery to draw out clients’ “tacit” forms of knowing — knowledge that is understood, but is unspoken and implicit.

Furthermore, a frequent challenge in coaching is that coachees can tacitly know and feel certain things but not have, or cannot find, the words to describe what they know and feel. Accessing the tacit knowledge we all have, gently opens the gates into deeper conversations and can be a wellspring for creativity.

Introducing coaches to the new CCS

In this session coaches had the direct experience of using CCS jumbo cards, vision packs and stickers for coaching others, self-coaching and working with teams.
I launched with a favorite ice-breaker — swap and share. Participants received a random jumbo card and used it to prompt what it represented about some feature of them or their life. With each introduction, they swapped cards and then had to find something new to add to their description.

Afterward these coaches commented that the cards helped them break from their usual “scripts” and access unique aspects of themselves. It primed them to anticipate that this was not going to be business as usual.

Next I had them break into coaching pairs and chose a topic on which to be coached. The exercise began very simply. Each person chose three cards to describe the current state of their challenge and placed them face down. Then they looked through the remaining cards for three images to describe how they wanted things to be in the future.

In turn, the person being coached turned over each card and was helped by the coach to probe the meaning in each card — present and future. After exploring both, the coach framed questions to create insights on how they would transition from one reality to the other.

The coaches commented:

  • the cards created a deep understanding of what they thought and felt
  • they kept them focused on the issue rather than wandering to side topics
  • the clarity from going deeply into the future state made it easier to think of solutions.

With this experience, it was easy to describe different ways the images could be used in a variety of group coaching scenarios — each in their own context.

At the end of the session, the coaches were thrilled to learn that on behalf of CCS Corporation, I was gifting them a vision pack, template and sticker sheet for their personal client engagements.

Thank you Leonie and Craig for so generously supporting this impactful program. We were proud to be the first group in the US to use the new CCS images.

About Ellen Moran, PhD, PCC

Ellen is the principal at Leadership Dialogues. She is a business psychologist, ICF certified executive coach, facilitator and speaker. She works with leaders and their teams, both nationally and internationally, to create collaborative conversations, cultures and work climates. She uses an array of assessments, processes, concepts and tools that customize the path to outstanding results. She is particularly interested in using concepts and methods that are scientifically based, yet engaging and accessible. A primary focus is equipping leaders to spark employees’ creativity and connection to the business mission and purpose.

Prepare to get better

Leonie Cutts

January 29, 2017 5:15 pm

It may happen at the beginning of a new year. It may happen at a transition point, between projects, when teams are merged, or simply when starting afresh. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all.

‘It’ is the process of looking back at what has been, and projecting forward to what is possible.  This process enables us to learn from the past and get better in the future.

If we don’t review and plan at all, we run the risk of making all the same mistakes again and feeling the frustration of being stuck.

Success is progress. Success is moving forward and getting better.

When working in teams, success is about the individuals in the team getting better as well as the whole team working together more effectively as a unit. When reviewing the past and planning for the future, it’s critical that each team member has a say, and each team member is open and honest about their reality, expectations and ideals.

While you can use other techniques to conduct this kind of review conversation, here’s 6 great reasons to use a CCS process:

  • Safe environment: the CCS allows everyone to ‘speak the same language’. It levels the playing field, and ensures everyone gets to share their thoughts and feelings in an environment that removes hierarchy and encourages full participation.
  • Open honest communication: while some individuals will happily and freely express their thoughts open and honestly, some have a great deal of difficulty doing this. Having a tool to help uncover their thoughts and express them in a way that is reinforced with an image helps people to share more openly and honestly.
  • Full participation: the nature of the CCS process is that everyone has a CCS vision pack, everyone is expected to reflect and share. If the team is to move forward, it’s important that everyone has the opportunity to share their perspective.
  • Clarity: hearing from everyone in the team, supported by common images, allows key themes and patterns to be more clearly identified. This clarity can help expedite the next steps to moving forward.
  • Create: with clarity and contribution comes the ability to create a new future. The CCS can also be used in the creation process to help think a little differently, and to ensure participation from all.
  • Affirm: to move forward it’s important that we understand what strengths we bring with us to help the journey. This part of the process ensures time for individuals to identify what they need to flourish, and other team members to affirm their strengths.

Getting better is a constant and never-ending process. It happens one step and one conversation at a time. So, give your teams the chance to be better than ever this year with this new CCS process.

Download CCS Better Than Ever Process Download the CCS Better than ever team process