What Small Businesses can do around Diversity and Inclusion

We have seen far more resources going into Diversity and Inclusion than ever before, with a growing understanding that businesses need to tackle this as an issue as a priority.

Much of our focus has been on the large, multinational organisations and what actions they are taking. This does make sense, after all they have the larger market shares and influence, as well as the resources to genuinely drive better standards in this area.

But what about the small businesses? After all, in the UK, of the nearly 6 million total business population, 99% are Small and Medium Enterprises. Fortunately in many SMEs there has also been a growing interest in doing more around diversity and inclusion. Unfortunately though, much of the work of D&I practitioners focusses on culture change for large organisations, meaning that smaller businesses are left without much guidance or support that really benefits their needs.

I’ve been speaking to some local businesses about this recently. Some of the issues relate to a lack of resources to tackle this issue, a lack of expertise in this area or their regional location where there is less diversity in general. On top of this, simply surviving during COVID has taken been one of the most difficult battles for many local businesses, meaning additional aspirations on this agenda can be tough to justify.

That being said, it is worth stating that many of the strong business reasons for D&I apply for small businesses as well. For example:

  • Serving diverse customers is a way to diversify business revenues. Offering products and services for underserviced communities can open up additional opportunities for a local business.
  • customers have a growing societal conscience around Diversity and Inclusion. People may be put off taking services if they feel a business is not representative or is not taking action to support the agenda. This is particularly important for community-based businesses.
  • By creating an inclusive culture, businesses making people feel more comfortable working there. Happy staff = productive staff (and less turnover).
  • Attracting wider talent pools will help small organisations get the best talent available. This is particularly critical for small businesses in ethnically diverse areas who may not otherwise attract individuals from different backgrounds.  

It’s also not all doom and gloom for small businesses in being able to act in this area. After all, Small businesses are more nimble, and much more likely to be connected to their local community, giving them a closer insight into local diaspora and are better able to build genuine relationships with key community leaders for different groups. Multinationals on the other hand have a hard time getting passed being seen as ‘faceless’, and shifting priorities mean community relations can often fall by the wayside. Likewise, it is far easier to shift the internal inclusive culture of a small business, compared to a large organization employing thousands of people.

So with this is in mind, I have created a list of actions small businesses may want to consider. These are intentionally bitesize to take into account limited resources, as well as the relative strengths small businesses have:

  • Have you asked how your employees feel? Have you asked them what it is like to work in your business? How do they feel about diversity and inclusion?
  • As a small business, you are likely already well-linked to your local community groups. Explore these avenues further to get a better understanding of what potential customers are out there, and what needs are currently not being met for them. Take a particular look at those from different backgrounds you may not have considered before.
  • Review your promotional material and website. How representative are they of different groups? Would they appeal to these groups? 
  • See where you are advertising. Is there a way you can diversify your approach, e.g. getting in contact with local mosque, diverse community groups, ethnic diaspora local newspapers etc.?
  • And if you would like to go a step further, take time to see how diversity and inclusion can be incorporated within your wider business plan and strategy.

These are my tips for small businesses to take more action around Diversity and Inclusion. What do you think? Are there any actions small businesses have taken that you have been particularly impressed by?

Bringing a Coaching Approach to advocating Diversity and Inclusion

Last week, I wrote about how Diversity and Inclusion would benefit from a more rigorous Project Management approach. This got me thinking: what other areas can we take inspiration from to improve our approach to Diversity and Inclusion?

Many are aware of the benefits of mentoring, both for personal development and for giving advice around Diversity and Inclusion. Coaching however, is usually more misunderstood; and whilst a growing amount of Diversity and Inclusion professionals may offer coaching-type services, this may often turn more towards mentoring where experience is predominantly shared which, although potentially beneficial, does not fully embrace the full positive benefits of coaching.

So what is coaching exactly? The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

In other words, coaching is about prompting the client to think for themselves around a subject, and the role of the coach is to prompt growth through insightful and powerful questions. Mentoring is more about knowledge transfer – the mentor is directly imparting information to the mentee taking their own experience as the reference point.

From my experience, coaching and Diversity and Inclusion go hand-in-hand. It is a way for individuals to come up with an understanding of the issue themselves, as well as providing actions they can take from the point of view of their own personal upbringing. It also makes the subject more accessible, and can bring in views from those who do not have an obvious reason to be interested in D&I (e.g. being white, straight, abled etc.)

Coaching is extremely powerful as it allows individuals to come to their own solutions, rather than being told what to do (something as humans we tend to dislike!). It also allows us to bridge the gap between a difference of experiences. I have previously ‘reverse mentored’ senior white leaders, and whilst this process was highly valuable for both of us, I was mainly describing experiences that the senior leader would find difficult to identify with directly; this led to a conclusion that ‘this was a nice relationship and something to think about’, rather than giving genuine growth to the senior leader in question.

I have since taken a coaching approach, and I have found this far more effective to overcome the obstacles they have around diversity and inclusion. For example, I recall working with one senior white leader who found this subject extremely frustrating and difficult to access: they cited the terminology constantly changing as an example of not knowing what to do. They also just simply did not understand the issue properly as they was not seeing it happen in front of them, and were too senior to see this playing out on the ground – even if the statistics did prove that this was happening.

Through a coaching approach, I was able to dig deeper into their stumbling blocks around the subject, give some prompts as to why this may be frustrating (which in this case was partly because it felt like that they did not care about their staff, which was not the case) and over the process of time get more comfortable talking about diversity and inclusion for themselves. It also allowed them to bring their own perspective and understanding of the subject.

By the end of the process I found that senior leader who was one of the biggest advocates for diversity and inclusion within the organization, and the outcome was far more effective than if I had taken an approach to constantly bang the drum to them about why diversity and inclusion was important.

So I personally believe that Diversity and Inclusion practitioners (and indeed anyone advocating around the subject) would greatly benefit from use a coaching approach, particularly when having a trusted relationship with seniors.

I believe it also better mimics how we as individuals got passionate about diversity and inclusion in the first place. For most of us, this required a genuine stimulus relating to an injustice we have witnessed or felt personally, which made us reflect on why inequalities are allowed to happen. Coaching allows us to give this experience to senior leaders who may not have experienced any of these issues, simply as they never saw it themselves.

I have all too often seen the passion of individuals around diversity and inclusion crossing over to becoming an impediment to positive change; whilst positive energy is certainly needed to drive the agenda forward, many senior leaders can be put off or intimidated by practitioners who can come across as intense or are seen as one-dimensional as their approach tends to always be to challenge the organisation. What is lacking here is the supporting function to bring a leader who has little to no experience in this area into a space of awareness and allyship, something which coaching is extremely successful in doing.

One area which I am currently working on (and need to get on with!) is writing a book bringing a coaching approach to diversity and inclusion with a new framework to prompt individuals to better understand these issues for themselves, whether they be white, straight, abled or not. Hopefully this will help bridge the gap for diversity and inclusion practitioners and give them a new way to successfully influence their senior leaders and bring positive change to their organisations.

These are my thoughts, but what do you think about taking a coaching approach around D&I?

Bringing an Agile Approach to Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives

We are seeing more businesses taking notice about the importance of Diversity and Inclusion. More senior leaders are genuinely engaging than ever before. This is also starting to be backed up by genuine resources, something that D&I professionals have cried out for over the course of decades. There is currently a wide proliferation of new diversity and inclusion roles springing up across many sectors – something that was not the case this time last year.

So it is fair to say that diversity is higher up on the agenda than it has ever been. The new stumbling block however, is what to do now. As the scale of the task becomes clear, it can be easy to get quickly overwhelmed with the amount of work needed, and how difficult it can be to make meaningful change. This is particularly the case when many issues stem from outside the workplace, which can often touch upon our wider society and upbringing.

With a growing professionalization in the space of Diversity and Inclusion, I believe more can be done to use project management principles to improve the approaches (and thus the success) of diversity initiatives.

Agile is a Project Management approach, originating from software but now commonly used in dynamic projects. This approach is different from common corporate planning approaches where the aim is to plan everything at the beginning, get approval from seniors and delivering the whole project in a ‘big-bang’ approach at the end, which tends to have mediocre success rates as it is increasingly difficult to plan everything at the beginning in our uncertain environment.

Instead, Agile is about delivering in smaller iterations and being adept to changes. The Agile Business Consortium define Agile as “able to move quickly and easily” or to be “able to think and understand quickly”.

From my experience, the best diversity and inclusion champions have been those that have been willing to work smart. Admittedly, this has often been forced upon them – with shoe string budgets and often supported by a disparate crew of motivated but voluntary individuals who can spare an hour here and there. But what is also evident is that this approach follows the basic principles behind an Agile mindset.

In other words, those that are more successful in this space understand the importance of trying different initiatives quickly (and not being afraid to fail at them) as the approach can always be modified once you have learnt what has gone wrong. Organisations often get stuck in getting the solution right the first time, thus spending months (if not years) agonizing over a potential solution. This leads to them both getting criticised for not acting, and when they finally do act, disappointing their stakeholders as the solution is a relatively small action in the end.

So to get Diversity and Inclusion initiatives off the ground, here are a few principles I’ve found that tend to work (and which are inspired by an Agile mindset):

  • Start small, and work to make the most of the resources and positive motivation you have available (even if that is only yourself or a handful of volunteers)
  • It is better to start initiatives that fail rather than getting stuck trying to find the perfect solution. You can learn from failure, you cannot learn from inaction.
  • Accept you will get things wrong, such as using outdated words or definitions. Learn from your mistakes and correct them as you go along.
  • Demonstrate value to the business, and communicate how Diversity and Inclusion links to the overall Business Strategy constantly.

Whilst the above does take Agile’s general principles, I also admit I do not reference a lot of other areas that are key to Agile (e.g. key roles and responsibilities, defined ways of working etc.) This is deliberate, as I do not believe organisations are quite ready to put in the resources to devote such a professionalised approach towards diversity currently.

However, as time goes on, I believe we can go further with using a more systemic approach to Diversity and Inclusion using Agile Project Management methodologies. An issue with current activity within organizations is that they can lack coordination, so I do believe bringing a more rigorous Project Management approach will be a way to improve interventions in the future as the D&I field matures.

Are you a D&I professional, Project Manager or simply someone who is interested in the subject more broadly? I would love to hear your thoughts and whether you agree/disagree!

Diversity – how it plays out in the boardroom

Below is a fictionalised example of what can often happen in the workplace when discussing diversity. Whilst this example is not ‘real’, it is a reflection of what can often happen when looking to address diversity through the corporate systems currently in place.   

A meeting is called. The main executives and HR are invited in. The aim is to solve the diversity problem. The agenda item is scheduled for 20 minutes. At this meeting it has been put front of the agenda, as it had been scheduled in previous meetings but was put at the end so was never addressed as time ran out each time. With a new deadline approaching, the board need to nail it down now.   

The meeting was called due to a new government initiative wanting to promote more women in the boardroom. This caught the organisation by surprise, and led to some thoughts about where exactly all the women are. 

HR do not usually attend, but are invited in. They have spent the last two weeks scrambling around to understand where the women are in the organisation. They have built an initial analysis. 

The meeting begins. HR starts presenting that women are particularly prominent in certain areas such as her own area, but otherwise are overly represented at junior levels, predominantly with receptionists and customer service workers.  

One executive butts in that this is not true for their department, as there is one woman on his leadership team who is very visible. 

HR note this point, and say that some women are making it to middle management but do not often progress further at a certain stage. 

Another executive jumps in to share his experience that the women he has worked with have generally worked well and have always been happy. It does not make sense that there is an issue. He suggests that perhaps this is simply an issue of time needed for change to happen. 

The chair jumps in to clarify why there seems to be a drop off rate on the middle management ranks. HR suggest this is related to women going off on maternity leave. 

Another executive jumps in on this point, expressing that the issue is that women do not seem to aspire to senior management, particularly when they have started families. He notes he was having a conversation with his receptionist on this exact point, and she stated that she was not interested in progressing within her career. 

The chair notes the point, but is not totally convinced. He asks whether any of their competitors have the same issue. The room mumbles and generally agrees that it is, noting that the last time they have recruited for high level positions women do not apply. There must be a lack of suitably talented women for the role. 

One woman is sat in the room. She is deputising for her boss, and is staying relatively silent. She is uncomfortable at raising a point in front of a room that is more senior than her. The chair, noting a woman is in the room, asks her what she thinks. 

She fidgets in her chair, before talking a little about some of her experience being one of the few women at her level. She did not have children, so did not face some of the challenges her other women colleagues did, who ended up leaving the organisation; though she finds it difficult to explain this fully when being put on the spot. Her comments are politely noted by the rest of the board members. 

The conversation continues, breaking down into a general set of opinions from different people, often with little coherence with one another. When it becomes obvious that time is running out, the chair pushes for a decision they can make. 

One executive exasperatingly remarks that they can’t solve an issue if women don’t want the jobs. Whilst the chair sympathises, he highlights that they must be seen to act in order to meet the expectation of promoting gender equality. 

As such, the chair pushes the board to decide that they commission HR to find a solution to the issue and will revisit the conversation in the New Year. The chair ends by highlighting his personal belief that gender equality is extremely important and is a priority of the organisation. He then moves to the next agenda topic. 

Have you seen this scenario happen?

How to chair inclusive meetings

We’ve all been there, right? You walk into an hour long meeting, dreading what is to come. Whilst this is meant to be a ‘team’ meeting, 90% of the session is dominated by the chair, with very little input from anyone else.

Sadly, this is a fairly common occurrence in the world of work, which is unfortunate due to its soul sapping and morale-destroying nature.

So how can we avoid making our meetings a one-person-band and instead one that is inclusive to the whole team? Here are some of my top tips.

Before the meeting

In reality, the key to an inclusive meeting is usually the preparation. After all, if you are sticking this in a time which does not actually work for most people (or indeed you’ve forgotten to even invite them) you are unlikely to get the full engagement you desire.

Things to consider:

  • Is your invite list correct?
  • Have an agenda, and ensure people can add points to an agenda
  • Is the date/time of the meeting one that is inclusive. E.g. avoiding school run times
  • Have papers been sent ahead of time?

During the meeting

Within the meeting, as the chair it is your role to effectively facilitate the discussion. It is important to avoid abusing your chairing privileges which allow you to come in whenever you want, as this quickly leads to you dominating the conversation. Rather, if you do want to comment, perhaps open up the floor for discussion first before giving your comment.

As the chair is often the most senior person in the room, if they speak first they are likely to stifle any discussion as more junior members of the team are less likely to want to disagree with what you say.

Things to consider:

  • Try and make space for introductions – it makes any meeting far more human!!
  • Steer away from one / two people dominating the conversation (and avoid being one of those people yourself!). Agendas help with this.
  • Use your ability as chair to ask others whether they would like to come in.
  • Give moments of pause to allow people to think within presentations etc.
  • Keep to time! If possible, invite reflections on the meeting at the end.

After the meeting

Whilst the meeting may be over, your job may not necessarily be done. Following up after the meeting can ensure everyone is clear with the tasks agreed, as well as a great opportunity to pick more informal feedback from colleagues about how the meeting went.

Things to consider

•Send up follow-ups, actions, read-outs etc. Invite individuals to comment / dispute the write-up

•Check-in with individuals on how they found your chairing style and whether they got what they wanted for in the meeting

Finally, other things you may want to think about is having a rotating chair system, as well as a standing agenda point to review the meeting at the end. These both help increase engagement and give the team a greater sense of ownership over the meeting.

These are my top tips, do you have others?

How to solve your diversity headaches? Get creative!

Let’s face it. Diversity and Inclusion are complex. Cookie-cutter solutions rarely work to ‘fix’ the issues, whether it be representation of diverse groups at senior levels or creating a more inclusive environment.

Whilst there are schemes you may have heard of that might help such as introducing a talent track, reverse mentoring or a sponsorship programme, these are not the silver bullet to create the utopian organisations that our lofty Diversity and Inclusion Strategies envision.

So take the responsibility into your own hands. No external person will know your own organisation better than you do. You understand what the aims and objective are, the products it makes, and most importantly the way it works. So rather than introducing more schemes or doing another call out for diversity volunteers, find ways for you to solve the problem. In other words, it’s an opportunity for you to get creative.

Creative solutions do not need to be creating the next COVID vaccine, it can be as simple or effective as tweaking the staff rota; have staff that have childcare responsibilities? Ask to see if someone else might prefer early morning starts, and see if the parents can clock in later. Do people perhaps get turned off by the idea of a pub social every week? Why not take a meeting room and host a boardgame evening, or do breakfast/lunch socials instead?

These small acts can actually be very powerful in fostering better inclusion and wellbeing within staff, particularly those from diverse groups (or indeed anyone who isn’t a fan of noisy pubs, including some of the introverts!).

Whilst this may not sound like much, you are playing your part in creating that inclusive culture in practice. Your Diversity and Inclusion Strategy may talk of grand shifts in recruitment practices or hard-set targets, but it is your actions on the ground that will genuinely shift the culture which is so vital for success in this area.

Inclusive environments also tend to perform better. So whilst you may feel like you are not doing much, you may be role modelling positive behaviour, and sooner or later you will be looked at with envy by other teams and departments. Your staff will laud the positive practices you initiate, and often others can quickly copy and follow suit. This grassroots, more spontaneous style of improving workplace culture will trump any boardroom approved strategy mandating people to do so.

So embrace your creative side to solving some of the Diversity issues you face, and there is no need to feel intimidated by the word ‘creative’! I’ve recently reflected that I am far more creative than I previously believed; I always thought of ‘creatives’ as alternative-dressed artists with a pencil and notebook in hand all the time. I never thought of creativity as a skill, rather than choosing a creative profession such as a musician, artist or writer. It turns out I have a natural knack for creative problem-solving, which as an office worker I never even thought of as something I was good at.

So after reading this, take some time to think about the issues you’re facing within your workplace on Diversity and Inclusion. Come with afresh pair of eyes and perhaps ask yourself – ‘what have I not yet considered?’

Taking Time for Reflection (’tis the season)

Last week, I posted about my ambition to write a book. I’ve made some progress – 12,000 words – but hope to make some more when I have some time off work next week!

November is often a time of lower energy, but particularly so this year. Usually, it is the last month of ‘serious work’ before the interruptions of December and Christmas. This is also tied in with the change of season and clocks changing which suddenly makes our evenings feel very long.

On top of that, we have the current lockdown and ongoing pandemic which has long past the novelty factor it had during the first lockdown. I have felt a sense of tiredness, and a generally lower mood of people. There is also general pent up frustration, which has certainly been the case for me. I have had to remind myself that I am allowed to feel and express what I am going through.

But November is also a time for reflection. We are approaching the New Year and whatever the future may bring in 2021; we also have more time to spend time alone to think for ourselves.

For me, I have been looking at the changes I have made since Summer. I have started blogging, videos, coaching and now writing a book. I also started a new job with it’s own set of particular challenges.

I have really enjoyed writing, and I’ve learnt that there are many things I want to say and do in the world. Whilst the exploration has been revelatory, it has also been overwhelming in seeing the different options of things I can do in the time I have available around my other commitments.

It is no secret that I am passionate about championing diversity, and am building my own coaching practice. I am now looking to focus more in these areas – in particular supporting Diversity and Inclusion practitioners with the many difficulties they face in the workplace through coaching and mentoring. I believe this is the place where I can have most impact in something that I believe in, and something I can sustain in the long run.

Whilst there are still many things I want to say around personal development, the plight of young professionals and organisational development, I will likely focus on these less, at least for now.

So I hope you will find my future blogs interesting (and I hope this one wasn’t too bad either !). By sharing my thoughts, I also hope it might prompt you to reflect about how you are feeling and doing too.

My November Goal: Write an E-Book!

November has been a pretty interesting month so far. We’ve had lockdowns, elections and new budgets. And we’re only a week in!

The month of November is also an interesting time for challenges – we have numerous charity and abstinence goals that have been going around social media, including my own personal favourite of Movember (which for me started about four months ago!).

I recently came across about NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. The goal is writing a 50,000 word manuscript, approx 1,500 words every day. The main encouragement of this is to simply write – not get bogged down by doubting your own writing, nor being too worried about editing until you get to the end.

I’ve had the idea of writing an e-book on my mind since the beginning of the year, so what better time than now when we’re all locked down?

I’ve taken some creative liberties, in that it won’t be a novel, rather a non-fiction book. I’ve been in the field Diversity and Inclusion for some time, along with working as a coach. Using my experience, I am really keen to build a new way of understanding Diversity and Inclusion through a new coaching framework.

As I’m sure you are all aware, 2020 has been a seismic year for racial awareness and wider diversity activity. We’ve seen many managers and leaders suddenly becoming far more aware of these issues, but not necessarily having the understanding or competence to deal with these issues in the measured way it deserves.

As such, I have created the ‘CUBE’ model. I invite individuals to look at their Culture, Upbringing, Bias and (lived) experience. Essentially, by asking yourself more about your own understanding about these elements that make up your background, it helps you recognise more effectively the particular experience you have had, and how much this has shaped you. So when you are dealing with an experience that is different than your own, it is easier to understand the effect this might have on those individuals.

I’m currently about 7000 words in, with heavy editorial input required! So as a disclaimer I probably won’t have a completely finalised product by the end of the month, but I do want to push myeslf to get as far ahead with it as I can – so do wish me luck!

I will let you all know how it goes – and if you’d like to read an early draft do let me know!

What Black History Month Means to me

*This blog was originally intended to be published for Civil Service Blogs*

My name is Tahmid. I work in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on Regulated Professions Policy. I also spend 50% of my time working on Diversity and Inclusion for the Trade, Europe and Analysis Group. I am currently the Secretariat Lead for the Civil Service Race Forum and previously chaired the Faith and Minority Ethnic Network for two years in BEIS.

So you’ll be unsurprised to know that I’m passionate about Diversity and Inclusion. I also have a particular interest in race. I am British-Bangladeshi by heritage, and as a second-generation migrant I have experienced the difficult tensions of being split between two cultures.

When entering the workplace, I quickly learnt that as a BAME individual I had a very different life experience, and therefore it made sense to come together and look at solutions to address inequalities as part of the BAME umbrella. Throughout my time, I have absolutely loved learning more about different cultures and experiences. I learnt Unity is Strength. I also learnt that each of us has particular experiences and heritages which can be different from one another.

My first experience of large-scale Black History Month celebrations was in BEIS, where I saw the power of bringing inspirational black leaders together along with allies together to better understand the history that brings us to our modern day. It’s why I’m really excited to see Black History month this year, (even if we have to do it all virtually!), it is such a fantastic time to get together to celebrate our black colleagues. It’s a moment to understand our history, and in particular black history – something that we don’t often get the opportunity to do.

But what of the fact that I’m not actually black? Whilst I had some disadvantages as a South Asian, my experience has been quite different to black colleagues. Indeed, I’m far less likely to get stopped and searched compared to a black colleague, and in certain areas my life experiences are not negatively affected in the same way. So why do I believe it is so important to support and get involved?

We are strengthened by being unified. I support the organisation of Black History Month events to empower my black colleagues and celebrate the work they have done, whilst also learning about our country’s colonial past. I gain fabulous insights into the lives of others, enriching my own cultural and emotional intelligence. I also learnt to see how I can support others and bring together people from different backgrounds in my own working life.

I also understand that these events don’t come easy. A lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into putting these together, and there’s always a need for support in the background. In our working context, these efforts are mostly done voluntarily, and with limited financial and resourcing support. So I do what I can to help with the less fun side of organisation – replying to emails, supporting logistics and helping grease the wheels in the background to ensure we can be as effective, open and inclusive as we can be. That’s more important than ever when we’re doing this all online!

So I invite you to take the time out to attend the hundreds of Black History Month events going on around you! This is a great time to learn more from our black colleagues, and learn more about our collective history, told from different perspectives.

I would also invite you to get involved and support the organisation of these events, and events to come in the future. There is always a space for volunteers, and events on black history aren’t confined to this month alone. So do get involved, either through your own departmental staff network, local diversity and inclusion groups and your local community organisations.

Have a great Black History Month, and I hope to see you at some events soon!

Building More Gratitude in our Daily Lives

In my previous team, we spent every morning listing three things we were grateful for. We would go around in a circle (which turned virtual as the Pandemic hit) listing one thing each, patiently waiting until someone had something to say. Originally we wanted to do this once a week, but we found that we would often forget, and the exercise lost value as we simply were not doing it often enough.

So we moved to saying the three things we were grateful for every morning in our team standup. At first this was really tough. We sat there, often grasping at straws at what possibly could be something positive in what felt a stressful job in the midst of a post-apocalyptic world. After all, it was rather tough to think about the positive when work pressures were high and there was so much negativity being bombarded at us every day through the news.

Over time though, we stuck at it. And like most things in life, we slowly got better at the exercise, and our examples also did too. We would note things that would happen throughout our lives and make a mental note of it for our morning round, which naturally made us remember these moments far more. Whether it was having a nice coffee break, relaxing in the evening to a nice meal, catching up with a long-lost friend, spending time with the kids or simply the sun coming out in the morning, we started verbalising these positive moments far more than we ever would have done otherwise.

For me personally, I found it a good way to bond with my team and open up about my own personal experiences. I could talk about the nice things I did outside my job (which can sometimes be a ‘taboo’), and make it far easier to build a positive spirit when facing upcoming challenges – something I had a particular vested interest in as the team lead. Like everyone else, I got much better at it over time, and I believe doing this over a good 6-9 months has had a lasting impression on me in making me realise I did little to appreciate the ‘good’ moments, instead mostly focusing on the bad.

There is science behind this: in a nutshell the brain is pretty good at focusing in on the negative. When we worry about something, our brain often looks to correlate other negative events that are similar. This often leads us spiralling downwards, and no matter how intelligent we may be, simply go more and more negative; and we are unable to think our way of this rabbit hole. So unless we do something to think about the positive in a deliberate way, we are more than likely to fall into this trap of descending into negativity.

Now gratitude is not saying that everything is perfect; it’s okay to be upset, disappointed and angry at the situation: what we are not talking about is some level of toxic positivity where everything must be good. The point of building exercise though, is to appreciate the positive moments more in our lives. And by doing so, we are more likely to be positive in our outlook. And whilst it may seem tough to find the time to constantly talk about the reasons you are grateful every day, it will lead you to be a happier, more fulfilled human being. And if that’s not incentive enough, remember that happier, more fulfilled human beings are also more successful ones.

So if you’re reading this and are looking for a way to be more grateful, perhaps try and list the things you are grateful currently in your life. You can either journal this, or say it to your partner or colleagues at work every day. It might take a little while, but it can help build appreciation of the nice things in life even when things are stressful or a bit tough going!