Gillian Leithman talks health and happiness in the workplace
Gillian Leithman, BA 00, MSc 05, PhD 16, is assistant professor in the Department of Management at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business and a corporate trainer specializing in health and wellness. She has facilitated programs for some of Canada’s premier businesses, such as Bell Canada, Air Canada and TELUS. Leithman will host four sessions for the Alumni Career Workshop Series in 2019.
What do you think is the secret — if there is one — to professional success/ happiness?
Gillian Leithman: “Waking up most mornings excited about the day ahead. That means living with passion and purpose. If you are not sure where to start, here are a few good questions to shake things up: Are you living in alignment with your values? If you’re unsure, ask yourself, ‘Who in my life do I admire and why?’ Alternatively, imagine someone close to you is describing you: what would you want them to say? Make sure you are developing a life outside of work. So many of us are using our technical devices in lieu of forging real relationships, which has led to a loneliness epidemic.”
What advice would you give to someone who feels unsatisfied in his or her job?
GL: “Explore new adventures! What did you love pursuing when you were young but had to put aside due to responsibilities such as raising children or paying the mortgage? Look through a university catalogue and see if any of the courses catch your attention. This could provide another clue to what might fuel your passions.”
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced during your career, and how did you overcome it?
GL: “For 11 of the 15 years I’ve been teaching soft skills — interpersonal and people skills — to students and employees, the discipline has not been taken seriously. That has changed with behavioural science becoming more mainstream — but that has not always been the case. It is hard to stir the course when most people believe that ‘soft skills’ are just that — soft. What helped me surmount this challenge was seeing first-hand how this information truly changes people’s lives when they apply it.”
Can you give us three simple tips for professional development that anyone can use?
GL: “1) Make lifelong learning an objective. Don’t stop taking courses — of any kind — just because you have graduated from university. 2) Don’t rely on your employer to support your professional development. If your organization does not value training and development, seek it out yourself. 3) Step out of your comfort zone. If you are into social science, take a course in photography. If you work in finance, enrol in a culinary class.”
Tell us a little bit about your coaching career. What do you focus on?
GL: “My objective is to bridge the gap between the academic and practitioner spheres by creating fun learning experiences using the latest scientific discoveries from the fields of positive psychology, management, neuroscience and performance optimization. I am interested in health, happiness and success because it’s fun to teach stuff that has a practical application. I maintain that change starts with tiny tweaks.”
What can people expect in your upcoming workshops with Concordia?
GL: “A fun, interactive environment where you’ll learn some of the bestkept social science secrets that you can apply, in and out of the office, to achieve greater health, wealth and happiness.”
How did Concordia have an impact on your career?
GL: “Concordia gave me hands-on practical skills as well as a solid foundation in research methodology. I also had great teachers, such as my supervisor and mentor, Linda Dyer, whose support was instrumental both academically and professionally.”