Nominate a kind business or leader for The Corporate Kindness Awards here

Podcasts- Project Good Boss

EP1: Belinda Jane Dolan on Happiness and Peak Performance

 

I chat with Belinda Jane Dolan, the CEO of Clariti, a 16-time award-winning leadership and peak performance company that works alongside companies, teams and leaders globally, to create the happiest, most productive and motivated workplaces on the planet. Yep! Some seriously good vibes in this one!

TRANSCRIPT

Intro : 

You’re listening to Project Good Boss, the podcast with your host Anna Sheppard.

Anna Sheppard : 

Project Good Boss is a podcast dedicated to understanding the business benefits of kindness in leadership. We cover topics including and not limited to: leadership, equality, psychology, social impact, decent work and economic growth, all delivered with a little splash of good vibes. On this episode, I will be chatting with Belinda Jane Dolan, who’s the CEO of Clariti, an organisation that works alongside companies, teams and leaders to create the happiest, most productive and motivated workplaces on the planet. Clariti is a 16-time award winning leadership and peak performance company founded in Australia and operating globally. Belinda and her team support organisational change, wellness and performance projects that drive employee engagement and deliver real results for companies and their teams, which is needed now more than ever before, especially in the aftermath, and the continued uncertainty of the COVID global crisis. Belinda is a current PhD researcher in the area of leadership and peak performance and has worked across a range of industries. A quest to see higher levels of engagement and happiness within the workforces, led her and her team to develop Australia’s first Chief Happiness Officer certificate programme, set to change the landscape of businesses across the globe. Look out for the book, The Chief Happiness Officer which is also out this year. We are so happy to have Belinda on the show today. Hello, Belinda.

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

Hi, I’m absolutely honoured to be here. Thank you so much for having me here. I really, really appreciate it. And looking forward to joining you on Project Good Boss today.

Anna Sheppard : 

So we always like to get straight under the lid, Belinda. We’re no messing around. We’re both Northern girls, I can hear that Northern accent there. So tell me something about you, nobody would guess I’m first meeting you.

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

So this is a good one. Now, if I was on stage, or if I was in a meeting with you and I explained this, the first thing you would do is look to my leg. You’re gonna think, “What is she talking about?” Well, I was actually born with a disability. And the reason why nobody knows that it’s because I run ultra marathons and I’m training to climb the Seven Summits and go to the North and South pole as well. So yeah, most people don’t know that. And I often get people say, I don’t believe you. So yeh, something that people don’t know about me.

Anna Sheppard : 

Yeah, and you definitely wouldn’t know that on a Zoom call either. So, thank you for sharing that. So, Clariti group is creating the happiest workplaces on the planet, positively impacting the lives of 1,000,001 people globally. So you live by your values, you love being of service, and you’re inspiring others to reach their peak potential. But how are you doing this? Tell us a little bit about this, Belinda.

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

So we, we do it in a number of ways. One is obviously through our research, we you know, we’re heavily research focused as well. So currently researching within companies large and small across the world. The second, and for me, the most important I always think about it like a sandwich. The second and the most important one for me is a lot of the stuff that we’re doing to give back. So when we, you know, we’re doing all of these great things, you know, we have our Chief Happiness Officers programme, for example, award winning, I’ve got to keep saying award winning. But for me, every single person, every client that works alongside us, we give back. So we then give back to set up a woman and in a business, for example, or we set up to put a child through school. So when we talk about happiness, you know, yes, we’ve got all the theory behind it, and the, you know, the studies, but for me, it’s the part that they’re, you know, they’re giving back both obviously, in Australia, and Uganda, and we’re looking at overseas in Nepal as well.

Anna Sheppard : 

So every person that goes through your programmes you actually give back and you empower somebody in a developing community. Is that is that what’s happening there? Wow, that’s amazing.

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

So that’s, I think, you know, if you ask, how are we doing that? You know, yes, it’s through the research. Yes, it’s through giving back. And anybody you know that that comes on to any of our programmes or even our consultancy services. Like for example, yesterday, I won’t say names, but and yesterday, we had a payment from a client come through. So I immediately then made sure that Uganda kids. And I’m going to shout out to Paul actually pull five. And he’s going to open his, his bank statements and find that. It’s only a small donation. We’re not a multibillion dollar company. But for me, the you know, the tsunami of change that we need, starts with the little tiny things that we do the little droplets. So, and you’re creating it through a number of different ways.

Anna Sheppard : 

Amazing. Let’s find out. I mean, what drives and motivates you to run a business with the focus on happiness in the first place? I mean, I actually interestingly went to Fiji a couple of years ago, and while I was there I remember they were they were named the number one happiest people on the planet a few years back. So I went and sought out a few, you know, tribes and and leaders that might share with me some advice and tips around happiness. And I remember one of them saying, “why are you thinking about it so much like we don’t sit and think about happiness all day, you know, we just are we, we just live, we’re just happy for the breath that we take in. To be waking up to have another day together.” And it was so interesting. It was almost like this Western agenda of trying to seek happiness rather than just be in a place where you can appreciate happiness. And I found it so interesting. So what is it that drives you? And to, you know, be focusing on this? What’s your career story? What led you to create this business, Belinda?

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

So I think the happiness journey started and I think from being very, very young, obviously, you know, coming from, you often find that some of the happiest people in the world have also been through some of the most challenging aspects. Either that or they grown up, as you so rightly talked about, in an environment where happiness is at the core. It’s at the foundation. It’s their, you know, their raison d’etre, the reason for living. Those of us that have had challenges, you know, from being children, for example, you often find that happiness also stems from that as well. And I think that’s where mine started obviously from, you know, from being very, very young and, and then I think from the, you know, the obviously progressing through career and university. And then if I’m being truly truly honest about why I set up Clariti and why I do what I do: My mum is the happiest person on the planet.

Anna Sheppard : 

Oh, is she! Ah, what’s your mom called? Belinda?

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

She, unfortunately and one of the reasons I say that I set that business up in, I suppose, in a legacy towards my mum, but it took me a few years to find that out though, this is not something that I found out, you know, it came over time. So I was very, very young. My sister was 15 at the time, and I was in my 20s and I heard the words that I don’t wish anybody to ever hear and particularly not a child at 15 years of age. My mom, as I said, the happiest woman on the planet, person on the planet. She said, sweetheart, I have cancer. And those words that shook my world. Tt was like someone just completely stopped the world almost and, and obviously through the grief and, you know, through for many, many years of the challenges that comes from that, I realised that, as she closed her eyes for the very, very last time, I didn’t want that to be the end of the happiness. I wanted to be able to carry that on in some way, shape or form – for her. I just didn’t know how and that was the thing. I didn’t know how to do that at the time because obviously, as you know, grief is , it’s pretty tough. And then over the years, I’ve realised and you know, after much heartache that, you know, if we can create a little bit more happiness with one person 1%, 2%, 3%, imagine the difference it would make to the world. So it’s my legacy to my mum, Jackie, to be able to say that we can still create happiness. And when I say create, I mean offer opportunities within our workplaces. Because imagine if we create happiness as leaders, it will spread. It’s like an infection. It will spread in a good way though. So in answer to your question, it was definitely some challenges. And I like to say a legacy to my mom.

Anna Sheppard : 

Thank you so much for sharing that Belinda. And I also lost my mom to breast cancer. So I I do understand and I can empathise with you on that and it was probably the trigger for me going on the kindness journey as well. So, so beautiful, beautiful to hear that and I’m very much with you on that one. So your research is looking pretty epic. And you know, you’ve identified some roadblocks to performance. And, you know, would you like to share a few of those roadblocks and some of the findings that you’re finding within the research that you’re doing?

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

Yeah, absolutely. So what we, we’ve identified that organisations as a whole, you’re bringing together a large group of people and trying to assimilate them. And we know that is fraught with challenges. So we approached it slightly differently. We looked at it from a happiness perspective. So we measure, we we’ve developed a survey – the Clariti happiness at work survey. We’ve identified through that, that there’s particular organisations that are functioning very well and flourishing. But there’s an awful lot that is struggling. Now, our research is also going to evolve even more given the most recent circumstance as well.

Anna Sheppard : 

Yeah, absolutely.

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

Blocks to performance. We’re talking about creating a happiness culture. So now that’s something that I think for some organisations, they often perceive happiness. And I always joke about this or one of our wonderful clients in the outback, he said Belinda, I hope you’re not going to make me wear a clown nose and run around and making everybody happy. And, you know, that always resonates with me. And I do talk about that a lot. Because you’ve often got boards and leaders and CEOs that are then thinking, Okay, so if I create happiness, I’m reducing productivity. The research is unequivocal. If you have a happy, engaged, flourishing workplace, you will have high productivity.

Anna Sheppard : 

Sorry, could you repeat that? Would you be happy to repeat that bit for anyone who’s just listening out there. Just in case you missed it the first time What was that? Belinda? What exactly was that?

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

The research is unequivocal. So if you have happiness as a core focus, so if you’ve got happy, flourishing, motivated workforces. It increases productivity without a shadow of a doubt. Yes, I could show you lots of studies for and against, but the reality is, as leaders, as bosses, if we if we turn our focus on place, not just profits. You know, there’s a lot of rhetoric, isn’t there, “people before profits”.

Anna Sheppard : 

People before profits? Yes, yes, yes.

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

And then you’ll hit you know, you’ll hear that, but is it actually true? Are we genuinely doing that we don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. We’re not talking about a scale now that if we have one, we can’t have the other. What about if we create a culture of, as you’re doing with your fantastic work, creating that culture of kindness, creating that culture, where happiness is at the centre, we’re not forcing it. Anybody listening to this, you do not have to wear a clown nose and make everybody laugh. We’re talking about kindness and happiness being the cure. The actual core of what each and every one of us are doing as leaders.

Anna Sheppard : 

So, it is cutting off a little there. It is because it’s five o’clock in the morning where Belinda is and she’s got she looks absolutely gorgeous. She’s put, she’s put on a makeup, she looks beautiful, and she’s bringing this big, beautiful brain to the table. She’s in Greece. She’s having a good time over there in Greece. And we’re really, really thankful for tuning in. So if it is dropping in and out, it’s because of that. But one of the things I find quite interesting, Belinda, because we work with lots of leaders is identification of a toxic workplace. And, you know, you might feel like, oh works probably not that great sometimes and the team culture, yes, they have their ebbs and flows. But what are the signs that leadership should look out for for a toxic workplace? I mean, look at the Ellen DeGeneres scenario, the moment you know, that’s a brilliant example of where, you know, and I and I’m an advocate for Ellen DeGeneres. I’m sure she’s made a mistakes along the way. But it’s the prime example of what can occur if there’s no active action taking place, to maintain a workplace culture. So what signs would you say people need to keep an eye out for toxicity in the workplace? Belinda?

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

Look, it’s a good question. Now. I’m going to challenge this one. I’m going to challenge it. Now the reason I’m going to challenge this toxic workplace culture, and I do that in the most respectful way is, what is the notion of toxicity? What actually is it? Now the reason I challenge that is because we often get called into organisation, they say, oh, that person’s toxic or this is not working. So I’m going to flip that. I’m going to say that instead of it being a toxic culture, it’s a culture that’s dysfunctional, or it’s a culture that needs to turn around. It’s underperforming. It hasn’t got happiness at the centre and there is a reason why I say this. So if we look at the structure of our brain – If we’re constantly talking about toxicity, we’re saying it’s negative. Well, yes, of course, bullying, harassment, all of those things. 100% categorically, are not acceptable. But if we always lean towards a deficit model, how can we then provide a flourishing model? So instead of saying it’s toxic for me, I always challenge organisations and I say, “Okay, what are the behaviours and patterns that we’re seeing that are not at the level that you want right now?” So you know, too often we focus on meeting KPIs. And we really don’t focus on “Well, what are the things that are happening that we don’t want to happen?” So you know, instead of looking for weaknesses, first of all I’d say to leaders, firstly, look at your strengths. So look at what the company is doing well, firstly, and we’re going to do more of it. Because if you can find the strength in a company, whether that’s us leaders, whether that’s your team, whether that’s the diversity and more richness of culture that you have, let’s focus on that, we then can weed out those behaviours that are non productive, that are not creating flourishing environments. So I know, it’s challenging and the question a little bit, but I want to flip that now and say, okay, as leaders, first of all, I want you to look for what’s going right – and we do more of it. Because often when you seek what’s going right, you will see those toxic behaviours, you know, you will, you will see that there’s a disconnection of community. For example, you will see micro expressions of aggressions, or micro expressions of non productivity, you’ll see the extra, you know, the time that people are coming in a little bit later, or it’s the language use as well.

Anna Sheppard : 

I love it. I absolutely love it. And, you know, we’re all about the pos-pysche over hear and strengths. And, you know, I think it’s a beautiful way to frame and a really positive and a very kind way to look at, you know, how do you improve that workplace? And you know, just the word toxic makes me want to vomit a little bit. So, you know, yeah, hundred percent like, I need to go on a Green Smoothie Detox and I’ve done a couple of them. I’ll tell you Belinda. Not lately, but I’ve done a few and, uh, you know, I’m never not, not my favourite things in the world. So, um, look, you are incredibly high achieving. You are an incredible incredible, you know, human that’s doing some amazing things and you’ve actually been awarded 16 times so far. And what’s your favourite achievement?

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

Look, um, I almost cringe when. And, look, I would say the biggest, the biggest aspect for me is, is what those awards allow us to do. And what achievement allows us to do, you know, it allows us to build a bigger platform. Because from my perspective, when I see clients winning, when I see my team winning, that, for me is the greatest achievement, the greatest joy. For example, Mark or Mk or Anna, or any of the team that we work with, has given something have gained something. You know, having something where as an organisation, we have a core focus of giving back. And you know, the projects have to be bigger than us. So when you talk about achievements for me, it’s knowing that we’ve achieved something bigger than us. You know, we’ve done something pretty scary. By the way, we were very anti awards. I have to tell you. And Annette Denton who we worked with for our awards, if you ask her, you know, I was the first person that said, “Oh, no, we don’t want to do awards.” However, achievements like this allow you to gain a larger platform. Both here in Australia and globally. So I think the short answer to your question is a seeing others succeed, seeing others win and seeing the joy on their face to know that they have achieved something and that we can now give back. So I think that’s, that, for me is the biggest one.

Anna Sheppard : 

I was so interested to see what your strengths are and I’m wondering if you know team being a team player is one of them. And also that big gratitude piece. Lots of beautiful skills and strengths coming through. So thanks for sharing that. It’s such a lovely perspective again. You know, and there’s a lot of pressure and challenges in business and it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. What would you say is your best tip to happiness as a business owner and an operator. Like, you know, if you’re the lighthouse for happiness, and you’re showing up as the best version of yourself for others all the time. How are you looking after yourself? To watch once you hack, so actually tips for business owners.

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

I think, first of all, and this, this is an interesting one as leaders and we don’t often do it, it’s, it’s putting your life preserver on. Firstly, you often say the analogy about planes, for example, and if something terrible was to happen on a plane, you would reach for your oxygen mask first. And that’s something as leaders and I find that with working, you know, with clients as well, you know, we’ll be coaching through some of the challenges that they’re having. And often, it’s related to the fact that you can’t pour from an empty cup. If your cup is empty, you cannot pour from it. You have to reach for your own oxygen mask first. And that’s something that I didn’t do, by the way, either. You know, I think we’ve all suffered a little bit of that burnout over the years. So I think in terms of developing a culture that’s contagious. Developing a culture where people want to gravitate to it also, as well. And there’ll be somebody listening to that podcast like, well, how can you do that? Well, that’s the thing. We don’t know how. There’s no magic recipe, you know, I can show you research papers. You know, there’s many, many of them, but it has to be you as a leader. So don’t lose your identity for the sake of, you know, from a corporate organisation perspective, create your own culture, your own leadership, culture, of kindness, of happiness, you know, whatever your core values and you talked about strengths before and I think that’s incredibly important as well. So when you ask about the, you know, the tips and the hacks, there isn’t one particular one. But I would guess that you know, habits and rituals are incredibly important to me. The habits and rituals that I have, they start at five o’clock in the morning until I go to bed at night and you know, that’s a whole podcast in itself, but from a peak performance perspective, but what I would suggest is – let’s take a step back from that, and we cannot pour from an empty cup. So my suggestion is, whatever you do, whatever your habits and rituals are, it must start with yourself being happy and engaged and flourishing, because you can’t expect anybody to follow somebody who’s not strong in themselves.

Anna Sheppard : 

Beautiful advice right there. And I think it’s so important. People forget to fill their own cup. And there is a massive amount of burnout, especially with business owners and startups, and so on and so forth. And yeah, thank you for sharing that. So do you want to do a bit of a quick fire round? Yeah, you up for a little bit of that? I’ve got a few questions. And so first question, what is the one thing you would change in this world if you could?

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

This one’s an easy one. Creating a culture of happiness. So that every single organisation no longer has people who are burnt out, who no longer have mental and mental wellness rights that are not where they should be. So if I could change it, I will do anything and everything within my power to do that.

Anna Sheppard : 

Amazing. It’s impossible to actually be happy all the time. So what do you do to make yourself feel better when you’re not having a good day?

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

So this is where I challenge you again.

Anna Sheppard : 

Yeah, good.

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

And the reason I’m challenging this, is that nothing is impossible. So I totally agree with you by the way that you cannot have happiness 100% of the time. I have grouchy days really grouchy days, my husband will attest to that also as well. And but I also say that nothing is impossible. I absolutely live by that motto as well. So what I would suggest is, instead of focusing on you know, happiness all the time, let’s focus on contentment on that self assurance. Because if we can find that contentment and that self assured belief that we’re making a difference, and that we’re doing something greater than ourselves, happiness flows. And when I say flow, I don’t mean that we’re walking around with a big smile on our face. I’m talking about that, you know, that demonic happiness, that internal happiness that’s not driven by extrinsic rewards of, you know, phones and money and technology. It’s not driven by anything else. So, no, you can’t be happy all the time. But what I would say is it’s not impossible.

Anna Sheppard : 

So, what’s the one thing you think leaders should focus on right now to help maintain happiness for their teams? Because it’s difficult at the minute, isn’t it?

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

Yeah, that and that’s why I pause on that. So and the reason why pause is because at the moment, I still believe that leaders have to focus back on themselves. And when I say focus, I don’t mean that you, you know, you have to sit in a meditative pose for the next 20, you know, 21 days. What I’m talking about is you have to go back in and even if you you know, you set aside an hour or half an hour to actually go back and revisit those values, revisit what’s important to you. And there’s a quote I just read here, it’s by Howard Thurman, and he talks about, “don’t ask what the world needs, ask yourself, what makes you come alive, and go do that.” So the world needs people who have come alive. So I’m going to challenge those listening on you know, on the podcast today, to just take that time and go to wherever creates abundance and joy. And you know, let’s look at what creates flow for you. So let’s take a step back. Let’s reevaluate what creates that flow. And that joy for us firstly, and come back refreshed. Because if you’re refreshed and if you’re energised, can you imagine the difference you’re going to make to people. And there’s a lot of people struggling out there right now a lot of people talking about it. But unfortunately, our mental wellness rates across the world are have have taken, you know, a significant decrease and, as we know, mental wellness is incredibly important and those rates are nowhere near where they should be. We have a higher incidence of, you know, of death by suicide, and you know, all of those challenging things that I know for some people that will be very challenging to hear. But as leaders, let’s be that difference. Let’s be that change. Let’s be that 1%. Start with one person, start with yourself firstly, and then work out from it. So a very long answer to your question.

Anna Sheppard : 

It was, but it was lovely. So don’t you worry. And now you like to talk about that sandwich in our analogy earlier. So just out of curiosity, what’s your favourite sandwich?

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

Yeah, this ones really challenging.

Anna Sheppard : 

So I’m not gonna judge you based on this, but I am a little bit. What’s your favourite sandwich?

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

So I could go the whole path to have a leadership sandwich and all of those things, but I’m thinking, if I eat eggs – I don’t need eggs at the moment because I’m vegetarian – I will say curried egg sandwich. So if Anna’s listening, who is our Chief Happiness Officer, she’ll be laughing at this because she knows I absolutely love curried egg sandwiches and she’ll also be squirming at the thought of it. Or I would say, corn salad on a very delicious brown bread.

Anna Sheppard : 

So the moral of the story is you just throw curry on everything. It’s a good strategy you right? You’re absolutely right. And so, you know, what should we expect to see of you in the future? And how can people get involved with you?

Belinda Jane Dolan : 

Oh, okay. That’s a great question. And thank you very, very much. In terms of what can people expect to see from us and I think more broadly, as well, the the piece that you and I, and because yourself and your team are also working very near, there’s a lot of synergies in what we’re, what we’re doing. I think from a from an organisational perspective, I think that mental wellness focus, creating psychologically sound workplaces is where this piece needs to move to. So I’m going to focus from a corporate you know, perspective, but if anybody’s listening that has a small or medium, small business in particular, we can still do this. We can still have this foundational kindness, gratitude, happiness at the core of what we do. There’s incredibly successful organisations all around the world that are doing this, that put their people (first). You only have to look to some of the big organisations like Zappos and Google, they have the chief happiness officers delights have the chief wellness officer as well. And if Jeff Fisher is listening to this, there’s the chief happiness officers and chief wellness officers, we want to see those in every single company in the world. It’s gargantuan. I know, a little bit like Everest. Sometimes I think it’s a ridiculously impossible goal, but there is nothing that’s impossible. I think we’re going to see a shift as well, we’re going to see a shift in professional development, we’re going to see a shift in those micro learnings that we need. So it’s you and I connecting off smaller occasions more often. So it’s not this big piece where we talk about, you know, we’ve got these distant teams now. I think what we’re going to find is that, we’re going to have these hybrid models of working and also the hybrid models of learning as well, where we get to connect regularly, you know, on a daily, weekly, basis rather than leaving it three to six months before we meet and connect and hopefully not on Zoom either.

Anna Sheppard : 

And I think now are spoken to you and I’ve had this lovely opportunity to chat to you. I really do think anything is possible. Thank you so much for your time today. Belinda, take care of yourself. And I’m very much hope we’ll see you again soon.

Thank you for listening to this episode of Project Good Boss. Bambuddha Group is a social enterprise, providing leadership coaching for corporate leaders, business owners and operators. We believe in a future where every leader is committed to creating a sustainable world of equality and opportunity for everyone. If you are a game changing leader, and you have an amazing story of how your business is making the world a kinder and a better place, we would love to hear from you. Visit bambuddhagroup.com or slide into our DM’s. And finally, you should know, for every paid member we have in our network, we provide scholarships to reduce inequalities in leadership and business. Thank you to Sonic Union for editing this episode, Lo Roberts for writing and performing Project Good Boss and design by Flare Creative. Thank you for being kind today. Thank you for tuning in. And we’ll see you again next time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *