My first day 4 years ago coincided with a move for the team into the brand new Bronco office. In the time since then, we’ve grown and changed as a company – we’ve had a few new faces along the way and said goodbye to others, but the Bronco team spirit has always been there and it’s something that we’re always keen to maintain and improve. As one of our new mottos says: we’re Always Improving.
We started working with Bernie Price, once winner of the Universe now turned inspiration coach, a couple of years ago. I see you rolling your eyes at the phrase “inspirational coach”, and to be honest, most of us were probably doing the same thing before we met Bernie. In our eyes, we had a great working environment, amazing perks and a fantastic team, but what company doesn’t need a bit of improvement here and there?
Our first sessions with Bernie a couple of years ago were mostly focused on bettering our communication with one another and with clients. In these, we established some initial guidelines for Bronco team members to work by.
However last year, it became apparent that the guidelines we had weren’t as relevant to the team as they once were. We’d metamorphosed as a company again as our client base changed before our eyes, as changes happened in the industry, and as we grew as people, in confidence and in understanding each other. So Becky and Dave, ever the intuitive bosses, booked us in for some more workshops with Bernie around the topic of positivity – something that I think everyone, in and outside Bronco, needs a helping hand with sometimes – and to help establish a new set of values that fit the Bronco of today.
The workshops with Bernie are always a lot of fun. They take place outside our working environment; the first couple were based in our Broncoplex, then when that became a gym last year, we took them up to the Old Deanery. We get off to a good start gathered around a big breakfast of bacon sandwiches then migrate to the room where the masterclass takes place.
The sessions are hugely interactive – they’re about us engaging with each other rather than Bernie lecturing us. We start off with some “warming up” exercises to release a bit of energy and tension; these tend to get us off to a great start as we’re laughing at each other across the room as we flail our arms and tap our heads.
No two sessions are ever the same with Bernie. We recap things that we talked about previously, but we’ll sometimes go into more depth or push ourselves to remember the importance of certain things. And we’ve been given a lot of useful tools from them to help us out when we feel that we’re stuck in a negativity rut: if you ever hear us mentioning “our shadow”, that’s a Bernie phrase; if you see us stop to take a breath and refer to our “chimp brain”, that’s thanks to Bernie; if you hear us talking about the “mood ladder”, gratitude journals and feeding back to one another, that’s another thing we picked up from Bernie.
So for a bit more explanation if those sounded like gibberish; these are some of the things that have had the most impact on us:
Ever noticed that when you’re around someone who’s constantly in a bad mood, you start feeling grumpy too? Or that you just naturally gravitate towards people who are inspiring or positive? That’s their shadow you’re feeling, and you have one of those too. The most important part is that your shadow is contagious; being negative will make others around you feel that way too. An important phrase for us now is to “check our shadow” – make sure that we’re casting a positive vibe to those around us and making the Bronco office a more positive environment.
One thing we, and everyone else I’d imagine, struggle with is what Bernie calls the “Chimp Brain” – the part of us that instinctively reacts to a situation, usually with anger and annoyance. The best example is when you’re driving and another road user gets in your way, better known as road rage. Bernie recommends, whether on the road, at work, or even just with friends and family, taking a step back from the situation to consider it with the phrase: “that’s interesting”. The effect of this is that it gives you a chance to breathe, evaluate the situation and not respond with something that will cast a negative mood onto it. Even a traffic jam, which Bernie experienced on the way to one of our sessions, can be put into a better light with good music and the opportunity to sing along at the top of your voice.
We’re constantly coming back to the mood ladder. Starting at depressed/low mood, it goes all the way up to happy, content and balanced. We’ve learnt how to recognise which level of the mood ladder we’re at (because you can’t be expected to be right at the top every single day!), what triggers us to be at this level and what helps us to move back up the mood ladder to be at our most positive and productive.
A gratitude or positivity journal is a trick Bernie recommended and that several of us took on board. The idea is to simply write down three things that you’re grateful for at the end of every day, because there’s always something. Over time, it becomes more natural to recognise positive things in your daily life and you’ll realise just how many good things happen every day.
This has been a big topic in our last couple of sessions. While we were getting better at recognising low moods and things to be grateful for in our colleagues, many of us were uncertain about how to let them know about these, either to help bring them back up or to acknowledge when they’d done something we appreciated. Feedback is important because it helps you to improve, feel valued, allows you to learn and to pass it on to others. We’ve discussed how feedback is never good nor bad, it’s simply a piece of neutral information and it depends on your tone and body language how it’s interpreted and received, leading to:
This was a fun part of the last session – role play on how body language can change a situation entirely. While it’s really important to remember that phrases like “I’ll try” and “no worries” can make a situation more uncertain (so try to avoid these and use “I will” and “that’s okay” instead), words only make up 7% of what we’re getting across. 38% is tone, pace and rhythm; 55% is body language. Slouching with hunched shoulders can make you seem less approachable to others and can get you stuck in a bad mind set; standing up tall and straight, maintaining eye contact and keeping your shoulders relaxed can make you appear and feel more confident. Try it, see what you think.
And finally, the one I’ve got to say I’m not a fan of – the cold shower. Bernie recommended a cold shower every morning to kick your brain into action and get the endorphins flowing. I should probably feel ashamed to admit that I rarely do this, but other team members manage it well and say it works, so I’ll just take their word for it!
At the end of each session we’ve made a commitment, remembering the power of our phrasing and words when we do so. Many of us have stuck our commitments onto our desks or monitors so they’re always around, reminding us to be confident in giving feedback and to check our shadows, to get perspective on situations and to be open to receiving feedback.
I can definitely feel the difference these workshops have made within the team. We have constant reminders of the new Bronco values around us, in visual images, words and even phrases spoken to one another. Among others, we have Pride & Passion in our work; we Choose Positivity; we’re a United Team; we Show Gratitude; we are Always Improving; and, most of all, we are Exceptional.