Feel Your Feelings: Thriving in the Cultural Workplace
Building on the findings of our Vulnerability and Cultural Leadership (2018), this action research project explores the emotional landscape of cultural leadership and offers a series of sector resources to build psychological safety and emotional awareness that is the basis for thriving.
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Clore Leadership, and supervised by the University of Warwick's Centre for Cultural Policy and Media Studies.
Read the research
The Feel Your Feelings research paper (published 2023) covers the role of feelings in leadership, creativity and thriving, and why emotionally healthy workplaces are a necessity in today's uncertain, crises-prone cultural and economic context.
Sign up below to get an instant access link to the full Feel Your Feelings research paper, documenting insights, principles, approaches and practices for feeling and thriving in leadership and life.
Why "Feel your Feelings"?
Rebooting organisational cultures to support thriving
Overview from programme designer and researcher Sholeh Johnston
This research is informed by my practice as a producer, coach, researcher and education designer, and also by my personal journey to recover from childhood trauma. In both cases, I have witnessed the impact that emotional vulnerability can have on a person’s capacity to thrive, and (professionally) an organisation’s capacity to evolve, regenerate and emerge creative solutions despite the uncertainty and volatility of today’s world. I have also been witness to the reality that many cultural workers and their organisations lack an explicit focus on the importance of and respect for the emotional landscape to their wellbeing and success, even though one of the core values of the sector is in providing experiences for people that connect them to stories, journeys and feelings that invite reflection on what it means to be human. At work, our feelings are still too often taboo, even though we deal in the drama of being alive. Anecdotally from my work as a coach, supported by findings from by 2018 research on Vulnerability and Cultural Leadership, cultural workers - like many people across the wider social landscape - are often painfully disconnected from their feelings or are actively repressing them in environments which provide little context for vulnerability, inhibiting the expression of authentic strengths, gifts and creativity that are core to our wellbeing.
In this pandemic era, this importance of creating space for feelings and their wisdom to be heard has never been more urgent and important. As the global Covid crisis continues to pose challenges to leaders, employees and organisations across the economy, the “soft” skills and cultural principles that support people to thrive in rapidly changing circumstances are still lacking, especially as people are challenged to find time and finances for personal development. While there is a wealth of academic research documenting the importance of psychological safety to the creativity, wellbeing and resilience of organisations and workers, there is still a need for research-based tools and practices that can support a paradigm shift towards a leadership that creates conditions for collective thriving rather than burn-out.
What we did
This research tested the quality and impact of a coaching programme and research-informed “DIY” resources to scale-up exercises and principles for healthy self- and organisational leadership across the cultural sector.
It was supervised by Dr Christopher Bilton at the University of Warwick's Centre for Cultural Policy and Media Studies.
A two-month group and individual coaching experience
We developed and tested an eight-week coaching programme called THRIVE, the process and outcomes of which informed our research on feelings and emotional intelligence in relation to workplace thriving.
We will be relaunching the programme soon - watch this space!
THRIVE resource pack
Based on the outcomes of the action research activities, we will create a digital and print resource pack for leaders to use for their ongoing self-development, and in their organisations. The resource pack will be available in April 2023.
Sign up to my mailing list to stay informed about the research, receive articles based on our findings and updates about our resource pack launch: