Andrew Soren

S02 | E10 Supporting Collective Organizational Wellness with Andrew Soren

Since the beginning of 2020, personal wellbeing has been a hot topic in the world, especially when it comes to work. With the Great Resignation, we see the effects of workplace cultures where people feel undervalued and overworked.

The antidote to this?

Creating a psychologically safe workplace. You need to design a workplace that allows people to harness the best of themselves in order to do something amazing and important. You could consider this a eudaimonic organization, which is what Andrew Soren has joined me to discuss today. By implementing components of positive psychology, leaders can design the conditions where individuals, teams, and organizations can be their best selves and do their best work.

Tune in and start supporting the collective wellness of your organization today.

Listen on your favourite podcast player

About Andrew Soren

Andrew Soren is the founder and CEO of Eudaimonic by Design. For the past 20 years, Andrew has worked with some of the most recognized brands, nonprofits, and public sector teams to co-create values-based cultures, develop positive leadership, and design systems that empower people to be their best. 

Since 2013, Andrew has been faculty with the University of Pennsylvania’s internationally renowned Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program. He founded Eudaimonic by Design to harness the collective strengths of the most talented alumni from this program working at the intersection of organizational effectiveness, design thinking, and positive practice. 

Andrew is an ICF certified coach. He splits his time between Toronto, Canada, Philadelphia, USA, and Montevideo, Uruguay. To learn more you can visit his website and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

Mentioned In This Episode:

 

Transcription:

Lindsay Recknell  0:07  

Welcome to Mental Health in Minutes, where we open the door to conversations about workplace mental health, and help leaders and HR professionals create safe and innovative organizations where our employees and our companies thrive. I am your host, Lindsay Recknell, psychological health safety advisor, workplace mental health consultant, speaker, facilitator, and an expert in hope. 

Lindsay Recknell  0:28  

Each episode of this show has three objectives to discuss the future of mental health in the workplace. To identify the best, most successful strategies for opening the door to mental health conversations at work, and to share the top ways we can engage our leadership in the workplace mental health conversation, and have them endorse and pay for a positive culture shift within our organizations. 

Lindsay Recknell  0:48  

If you’re listening to this podcast, you know that our people need us more than ever, but most of our organizations have a long way to go until supporting employee wellness is embedded in the culture of our workplace. This episode is a resource you can use to start and continue workplace mental health conversations, and my guests will share their experiences and what’s worked for them. Excited to get going. So let’s dig in. 

Lindsay Recknell  1:09  

Today’s guest is Andrew Soren, the founder and CEO of eudaimonic by design. For the past 20 years, Andrew has worked with some of the most recognized brands, nonprofits and public sector teams to co create value based cultures, develop positive leadership and design systems that empower people to be their best. Since 2013. Andrew has been with faculty with the University of Pennsylvania is internationally renowned masters of applied Positive Psychology program. He founded eudaimonic by design to harness the collective strength of the most talented alumni from this program, working at the intersection of organizational effectiveness, design thinking and positive practice. Andrew is an ICF certified coach, he splits his time between Toronto, Philadelphia, and Montevideo, Uruguay. 

Lindsay Recknell  1:59  

Welcome to the show, Andrew,

Andrew Soren  2:01  

Thank you so much for having me, Lindsay.

Lindsay Recknell  2:03  

Oh, I’m so excited to have you here. As an actual positive psychology practitioner, I’m very excited to learn how you have created this business and this organizational system to help support sort of collective organizational wellness. 

Andrew Soren  2:21  

Terrific. 

Lindsay Recknell  2:22  

So tell us a little bit more about your organization and how you use it to support organizational wellness. 

Andrew Soren  2:30  

Sure, so it’s eudaimonic by design. Maybe the best way to describe what eudaimonic by design does is actually to try to unpack the name. So I’ll start with eudaimonia, this crazy word that not that many people have heard of, but it is a really, really important word, especially for these days. 

Andrew Soren  2:51  

So eudaimonia is the ancient Greek word for well being. And, and, and I know within this past year, or at least they say 18 months, the idea of well being has become a really, really hot topic in the world, and specifically in the organizational context. But the idea of well being is an idea that has been discussed for literally millennia, probably since the dawn of time, we have been asking questions about what happiness is, and, and eudaimonia was one of the ways in which in which the ancient Greeks thought from a philosophical perspective about what happiness or well being might mean. But, it was a very specific way of thinking about well being that we don’t have a good translation for. 

Andrew Soren  3:36  

What Aristotle would have said eudaimonia was, was all about trying to figure out how to harness the very best of yourself to do something important in the world. And that was a deliberate thing that required a lot of thinking, a lot of reason to be able to do that. 

Well, in many ways. It was like a daily practice where every day you’re trying to figure out how do I use my strengths? How do I make sure that my strengths don’t turn into my weaknesses? How do I do all of the balancing act to really pursue something that is excellent to bring myself in, in the most engaged full way that I can to the table, and to do so in the most ethical ways. And that if I’m doing that on a day to day basis, every single day, sometimes failing but coming back tomorrow and trying to do it a little bit better than that at the end of the day, what a life well lived would be that would have been Aristotle’s definition of well being. 

Andrew Soren  4:38  

And for me, when I learned that word, my mind was like, one moment, and mostly because of the fact that I’m getting more working for a bank for about 10 years at the time when I learned that word. And, and and in the bank, we were constantly striving to be able to create conditions for high performance. And when we talk about high performance, we’re talking about productivity ratios. And we’re always trying to talk about discretionary performance. And nowhere where we actually talking about being the best of people to do important work in the world. 

Andrew Soren  5:15  

And when I heard that idea eudaimonia, I was like, that is what high performance is, and, and the more that I learned about eudaimonia, and by the way, eudaimonia is the philosophical foundation of positive psychology. When I started to learn more about eudaimonia, when I started to learn more about positive psychology, what I started to realize is that you want people to be their most eudaimonic selves at work, you have to design organizations, in a way, they’re different than the way that they’re typically designed. Most organizations do not allow us to bring the best of ourselves to do important work in the world. 

Andrew Soren  5:52  

So my question became this, this, this question that I’ll never probably find an answer to, but I’ll probably spend the rest of my life searching for of what does it mean to design udem or a eudaimonic organization and that’s really what we do. You know, Mike, by design we, we go in, we help organizations take the best of applied positive psychology, the best of evidence based practice, and try to figure out how they can redesign in their own organizations to help people bring the very best of themselves, their full potential to do the important work that those organizations that are meant to be doing in the world.

Lindsay Recknell  6:31  

That, I mean, it gives me goosebumps, like, it feels like a utopian organization to work for, you know, if, if Aristotle and his buddies have been talking about this for gajillions of years, what happened to us to get to this place where we’ve really only started talking about building high performance teams and high performance organization from this foundation, again, over the last five or six years, like give any thought about where, where we went wrong,

Andrew Soren  7:04  

Hm. Well, you, we could have, we could have a whole entire conversation about the history of philosophy and the ways in which the ways in which these ideas have shifted and changed over millennia. And, of course, I’m talking about ancient Greek, but we could just as easily be talking about about the east, we could be talking about Confucius, and in Buddhism, and Taoism, we could be talking about the many indigenous cultures, these ideas of trying to figure out how we ultimately tap into the very best of ourselves, this deep perspective of what well being can be, are pretty entrenched in all sorts of different cultures all around the world. 

Andrew Soren  7:52  

And so and so I think that there’s all sorts of questions as to what ultimately has happened. I’m gonna I’m gonna bypass kind of most of the most of the last 2000 years, at least in Western culture, and, and probably focus predominantly on the 20th century and the medical model. And, you know, we’re talking about psychology at the end of the day, and if you think about psychology, as the study of how people think, feel and do for all sorts of really good reasons. Psychology over the 20th century, really started to focus on what’s wrong with us. 

Andrew Soren  8:36  

And it did for all sorts of really good reason it did, because that’s what we focus on in medicine, we try to fix problems in medicine. And most of the people who study psychology were ultimately doctors looking for the things that were wrong with us. We did it also, because a lot of the funders of psychology or ultimately, people who are looking to fix problems, whether it’s them was the military or, or various forms of government that were looking to try to solve the problems of the world. But we very much started with this deficit mindset when it came to psychology. 

Andrew Soren  9:12  

And yet, it’s not just that there are things that were wrong with us. There’s this beautiful question that one could ask. It was like, if you just eliminated all the things that were wrong with us, would you get somebody who’s flourishing in? The answer’s no. I mean, there’s all sorts of other things that are right with us that deserve as much rigorous study as the things that are wrong with us. And so and so really over the 20th century, we saw some extraordinary psychologists doing really important work on asking those questions. 

Andrew Soren  9:48  

And around the turn of the 21st century. We saw psychologists really start to ask, Hey, can we shift our focus not that we have to stop focusing on the things that are wrong with us, but can we bring as much rigor to starting to study the things that are right with us. And that’s really what positive psychology is all about it is, is the study of the things that go right with us. It’s the study of things like engagement and meaning, and extraordinary life giving relationships and resilience and agency and accomplishment to study of, of emotions, like love and hope and gratitude that we’re studying with as much rigor as the ways that we study depression and anxiety, and fear and anger. 

Andrew Soren  10:31  

And so and so yeah, I think that’s a very good turn in the world of psychology. And of course, we need all of it. I mean, we know it’s not, it’s not just one or the other, but, but I think that that’s a good sign.

Lindsay Recknell  10:45  

It is a hugely great sign. And I love, you know, speaking with, with senior leaders, speaking with a lot of people in business, bringing emotions and feelings into the workplace is terrifying. We also historically have only talked about, you know, the metrics around performance and all those traditional metrics that you talked about. 

Lindsay Recknell  11:11  

But we’ve also I love how now we are, we have the evidence to support what we anecdotally knew that when we allow our people to bring their whole selves to work in a psychologically safe environment, that raises overall organizational performance that raises overall engagement and reduces present absenteeism and increases present T, you know, being being present at work, and how, so you mentioned design thinking, you mentioned how we can actually design organizations to support this kind of environment for people. Why would an organization start to do that?

Andrew Soren  11:55  

That’s a great question. It’s a great question. And I think that there’s, well, there’s many different ways of being and to be able to answer that question. When I think of the fundamental pillars of what, what you’d want to design, or what you’d want to be intentional about designing when it comes to an organization, they probably come down into three major buckets. 

Andrew Soren  12:19  

So I would start with, with leadership, you talk with leadership, I think that the way that we think about what it means to lead, the way that we think about what it means to make decisions in an organization, the kinds of mindsets that you require, as leaders is probably the first place that we need to change because if the end of the day if power in organization doesn’t believe this stuff is important, chances are, it’s gonna be really hard to do anything else. So I think that leadership is a place where design starts. 

Andrew Soren  12:50  

I also think that it’s not just leadership, or at least leadership can come from every single direction. So I think that culture becomes the next major thing that we want to start thinking about from a design perspective. And when we think about culture, what we’re really talking about is behavior. How do people show up? How do people? How do people think, what are the mindsets that everyone holds in an organization? And how can we, how can we co create in the most human possible ways, the kinds of cultures that are going to be like giving the kinds of cultures that are going to that are going to be helping us ultimately find the kind of psychological capital that they create the conditions for psychological safety, that they will allow us to actually thrive. 

Andrew Soren  13:35  

But then the third major important bucket is systems. At the end of the day, we live in organizations that have all sorts of systems that drive us. I know that a lot of the listeners to this podcast are HR professionals. And, and that is where my background is. You think about HR, the HR cycle, the employee lifecycle as one of the most important systems that actually drive an organization, we can start thinking about all of these aspects of eudaimonia throughout the entire employee lifecycle. Whether it’s how we hire people, how we onboard people, what it means to recognize and reward people, what it means to manage performance, what it means to offer people career progression, and opportunities to grow, what it means to fire someone, what it means to see an alumni out of an organization. 

Andrew Soren  14:28  

All of those moments that matter in the employee lifecycle and part of the system, that we actually have a tremendous amount of control over the designer. And every single one of those design choices will actually make a difference into an employee’s experience and whether they actually feel like they can be their most eudaimonic selves.

Lindsay Recknell  14:47  

Feels very helpful the way that you’re speaking because if I’m thinking about it from an HR professionals point of view, and I’m, you know, looking at my overall organization and thinking there is something Broken here, but it feels so overwhelming. And I don’t even know where to start, there feels just in what you described there, there is a ton of opportunity. And truly, you could pick any one of those areas along the employee lifecycle, and start there. You know, it just feels so hopeful.

Andrew Soren  15:19  

And that’s it. I mean, that’s, I think that there’s, there’s micro changes that ultimately add so much important traction, and we have so much capacity to actually influence as HR professionals, no matter where we are, we don’t need to just wait until the CEO kind of gives him gives his or her blessing for us to be able to move forward. And I think that that’s a profound and very empowering reality. I think that HR professionals probably have the biggest opportunity to have an impact on almost anybody in an organization.

Lindsay Recknell  15:56  

Yeah, I couldn’t, I couldn’t agree more, I really think that they have one of the hardest jobs right now. You know, we are, we are recording this in September of 2021, we are making our next transition into whatever work looks like next, as we are still you know, lots of people are saying we’re coming up to the pandemic, and in many cases we are but in many cases, this is just the next season. And I really think that HR professionals are kind of these unsung heroes of the world of work right now. 

Lindsay Recknell  16:30  

And I love this conversation, because I’m hoping that it gives a sense of encouragement, a sense of power, a sense of agency, to those of you listening, that there is something that you can do, even if you don’t have yet kind of that overall blessing from the people that hold the purse strings in your organization. It makes me it does it. I mean, I use the language of hope a lot, and it makes me feel like the future will truly be better than today based on some of the stuff that you’re talking about. So that’s amazing. Um,

Andrew Soren  17:05  

Can I just add one? I want to add one thing, because I think that hope is a really beautiful concept. And of course, of course, there’s the whole entire psychology of hope. This is one of the things that positive psychology has done is help us understand and unpack what hope is. 

Andrew Soren  17:22  

And so to the people who study who the people, the people who have written the most about hope theory, you know, Charles Snyder, is probably the biggest academic in that field. Shane Lopez, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago, wrote a beautiful book on making hope happen. Those two authors, when they talk about hope, what they’re ultimately talking about is, not only is really two important things, one is the capacity to be able to look into the future and see that good things are possible. 

Andrew Soren  17:56  

And so we’re just talking about the pandemic, wherever we are, in the pandemic, it might be, you know, I feel like this is a the pandemic is like a series of waves. And sometimes those waves are huge, and sometimes they’re, they’re not, and it seems flat. But just as you know, just as it feels like we uncover one wave, there’s another one that’s coming, it’s coming after us this is the wild ocean, but the the ability to be able to look into the future and see that realistically good things are going to be possible at some point is one ingredient of hope. 

Andrew Soren  18:27  

But the second ingredient of hope that’s even more important is the capacity is the belief that I have the capacity to influence that positive future. And it’s really that it’s that sense of agency, that sense of empowerment, that, that belief that I can have an impact, that is the thing that gives us hope. It’s the thing that differentiates just blind optimism in the world. And so and so that’s I think it’s there’s nothing more important for HR professionals to believe that good things are possible and to believe that they have the role to be able to play in making it happen.

Lindsay Recknell  19:02  

Look, you are speaking my language, Andrew. you’re speaking my language. Because I have this, this company, mental health in minutes and then in my personal empowerment life, I speak about hope and using the power of hope and the ability to take control over the things you can control to help create that future better than today. 

Lindsay Recknell  19:22  

And at a you know, you can do it at a personal empowerment level which helps to influence your organization, the people around to your community, your nonprofits, your you know, your church, whatever, wherever you are contributing to your world, having a foundation and that that personal belief in yourself that you do have power and agency and that sense of control. To make a positive influence out in the world is super powerful. 

Lindsay Recknell  19:51  

Um, one of the things that speaking of kind of personal agency and one of the things that I believe in in our companies is not only Does the organization have a responsibility to support our people and make sure that we are not creating a toxic environment for people to come to work every day. But I also believe that we, as the employees, as the individuals working in the organization, have an equal obligation or equal responsibility to design our lives and are our jobs to not stay in those toxic environment? What thoughts do you have around that kind of shared responsibility for

Andrew Soren  20:33  

I believe, 100%, that it requires a shared responsibility. There’s, there’s something there’s something in psychology that’s under the fundamental attribution error. The fundamental attribution error is a belief that everything is caused by one thing. And so if you think of the nature nurture debate, the nature nurture debate, in some ways, is a fundamental attribution error problem. Your everything is either caused by nature, or everything is either caused by nurture is, is a fallacy. The reality is, is always both like it’s there’s there’s an equal, maybe not equal, it depends on the context. But there’s always an influence of the system. And there’s also the influence of the individual at work. 

Andrew Soren  21:18  

And so when I think about this challenge within an organizational setting, I think about it in the context of if you want, well, being in an organization, there are absolutely enabling conditions that need to be in place. And enabling conditions are all the things that we just talked about leadership culture systems in the organization. You need to be paid a level that allows you the kind of financial stability that you can begin to think about well being there’s fundamental things that are enabling conditions of well being. And there’s also personal resources that are required. 

Andrew Soren  21:52  

You talked about psychological safety a lot in this podcast. I also think that there’s, there’s, there’s psychological safety is something that an individual has control over to a certain extent within their context. And they are also influenced a tremendous amount by external factors. There’s something called psychological capital, which is another another way of thinking about what are the kinds of states that we need to have things like hope things like optimism, things like resilience, things like efficacy, all of those things that give us the power to actually feel like we have agency that we can be empowered in the world. 

Andrew Soren  22:32  

Those things aren’t going to come from anywhere else, we need to be able to bring those things to the table, and all of those things are developable. We can all increase our capacity for resilience, we can all increase our capacity for hope. And it requires work, it requires daily practice, it requires effort, it’s not going to be solved in five minutes, you know, Tip of the Week. And all of those things add up over time.

Lindsay Recknell  23:04  

And I really just want to be good at this stuff. That’s not an option is what you’re saying to me.

Andrew Soren  23:11  

It’s an option. If you practice every single day, I like it. I kind of like to think of it as yoga in all sorts of ways. I practice yoga in my spare time, I love it. And the more that I practice yoga, the more that I realized that this was a really good metaphor for all of this kind of stuff. 

Andrew Soren  23:28  

When you’re practicing yoga, you’re doing certain poses. And so a lot of us get really hooked on trying to figure out how do we do yoga pose in like a specific way like I want to, whatever, whatever it is, whatever whatever that that poses, even if that poses Shavasana, just lying down on your back, we are we are doing these poses. And the more that you do yoga, the more that you realize you can be doing the exact same pose every single day. And every single day, that pose is going to feel a little bit different. 

Andrew Soren  24:00  

Some days, it’s going to be easy. Some days, it’s going to be brutally hard. Some days your mind’s going to be in and you’re going to be focused some days, your mind is going to be in 1000 different places. As you’re doing yoga day after day. The thing is to realize where am I today. And to actually have the awareness of what is going on to the magic of yoga is when you can start doing the poses and focus more on your breath and then what’s happening in your body. And just see that the pose is a vehicle for you to be more mindful about all of those things. 

Andrew Soren  24:36  

When I think about and I think about eudaimonia in the workplace, think about the exact same thing. It’s not It’s not about bringing something totally different and unique into the world of work that you’re doing, doing the work that you’re doing every day in a much more mindful and deliberate way. 

Andrew Soren  24:54  

So that you are thinking about how engaged my as I’m doing this, how ethical Am I am When I’m doing my work on a day to day basis and basis, how much of excellence Am I pursuing, as I do the kind of work that I’m doing, if I can think of those three things, that little Venn diagram of ethics and engagement and excellence, there’s probably nothing more that I can be doing as an individual that will help me up my game that will allow me to be the very best that I can be in truly enjoy the work that I’m doing at the end of the day.

Lindsay Recknell  25:30  

So much goodness in this conversation, I can’t even, I just can’t even the engagement and the excellence, it just feels like once you can get to that place of almost unconsciously doing your job. And the focus become changing the focus from doing your job doing your tasks, doing, you know, checking the things off your list, and more focus on the way it makes you feel the presence that you’re bringing the excellence that you are, you know, impacting your organization, that is the ultimate utopian state to get into which when we leave the office, or the restaurant or the workshop or the the site, we bring that flourishing feeling into our lives into our family and that into our community, which just continues to raise collective wellness. Right? 

Lindsay Recknell  26:24  

It all just makes so much sense to me, anecdotally, and you know, all of the work that you fabulous positive psychology psychologists have done to give us the evidence and the science to support this stuff is incredible. And I hope that I do. I hope that everybody who’s listening here today, throws aside the skepticism that we’ve had as a culture, that feelings and emotions and flourishing has no place at work, because it absolutely does. It absolutely does. The work that you do, proves it. The work that all of your colleagues are doing is demonstrating how excellent it is in our organizations. 

Lindsay Recknell  27:05  

And I want to continue having these conversations with you and other people to start to get more and more organizations and more and more leaders implementing this kind of work to you know, continued for overall people wellness, human wellness, overall Express. 

Lindsay Recknell  27:22  

So thank you very much for our time together. And thank you all to you listeners, for being here and listening to another episode of Mental Health in Minutes. I loved hearing Andrew speak about positive psychology, and how we can apply this evidence based science into our organizations in an ethical way. He also shared the concept of eudaimonia, why it’s important and how we can design the conditions where individuals, teams and organizations can be their best eudaimonic selves. 

Lindsay Recknell  27:51  

Andrew and I both believe in the power of our leaders to create psychologically safe workplaces and I know you do too, or you wouldn’t be listening to this. If you loved this episode, please consider subscribing and leaving a review on your favorite podcast player. You can find this everywhere at mental health in minutes, as well as on the web at www.languageofmentalhealth.com

Lindsay Recknell  28:09  

you can start supporting the mental health of your organization in minutes by joining my digital subscription monthly done for you presentations designed to engage, inspire and increase mental wellness in your workplace. It’s my pleasure to get to work with people like you, people, leaders who care so much about your employees and want to give the best of yourself to support those around you. I also know how bonker bananas It can be as a people leader and how competing priorities always seem to get in the way of actually being able to provide the good stuff. The real value added stuff to your people. Let me help you by doing the heavy lifting and you can get back to doing what you do best, engaging with and supporting your people. Let’s connect and talk about the best ways I can help. As always, I’m here if you need me, 

Lindsay Recknell  28:52  

Andrew, it has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much. You’re spending your time with us today.

Andrew Soren  28:55  

Thank you, Lindsay.

Lindsay Recknell  28:56  

Take care

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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