Ancient wisdom enlightens leaders at Office Depot

January 8, 2020

The Bhudda once said: “It is better to conquer yourself than win a thousand battles”.

This proverb is influencing Office Depot Europe's approach to management training material and courses across the continent.

Louise Cunningham, one of the company's Learning & Development Officers, has combined her knowledge of ancient philosophy, modern psychology and quantum physics to create cutting edge training for employees.

Her credentials couldn’t be better. Louise spent a year living with Buddhist monks in a Thai monastery where she learned advanced meditation techniques.

Her training approach centres on the concept of self-reflection and how understanding how your mind works opens you up to new ways of thinking and learning.

“My approach focuses on root causes,” said Louise. “Rather than fixing a problem, we look at the reason for feeling a certain way or reacting a certain way. Once people understand the root cause, they can understand how to fix it.”

A great example is conflict resolution training where delegates are invited to begin a session with deep self-reflection to understand what they feel about conflict and why.

“What I took from Buddhism and meditation is, at its heart, it’s about controlling the mind,” said Louise.

“When you are in control of the mind, you can control emotions, which means you can control your behaviour.”

“This way of thinking and working fits directly into the corporate world. Everything we do in our roles is going to have some sort of positive or negative impact and we have the power to control ourselves and, therefore, the impact we have.”

She has embedded self-reflection into online and offline learning. One of the first things delegates are asked to participate in during emotional intelligence courses is to fill in a self-reflection questionnaire which Louise has developed.

“The self-assessment worksheet generates a report which shows you your strengths and weaknesses from an emotional intelligence point of view,” she said.

“On our leadership course, the first thing I ask people to do is to understand emotional intelligence, what triggers their emotions and why they feel the way they do. That leads to understanding of how they can prevent those emotions from affecting their productivity and therefore the company’s profit!”

“It’s about putting people in the position of empowerment.”

The success of Louise’s system has made her courses extremely popular at Office Depot Europe.

Richard Young, Manager Digital Experience (Europe) at Office Depot, said: “I cannot recommend Louise highly enough, she is a fantastic corporate trainer and coach. I’ve participated in several learning and development sessions run by Louise, including conflict management, emotional intelligence, mind-mapping and personal branding. They have all been thoroughly enjoyable and beneficial to me and the wider group.”

“The continued high attendance at such sessions proves the high quality of them. Several of my peers, at varying levels in the business have commented on how great the design, preparation, content and delivery of Louise’s courses has been.”

As well as conflict management and leadership, Louise also focuses on goal-setting which is about tackling anxiety, stress and depression.

Louise said: “It’s about looking at the root cause of why we think we don’t achieve. I set people to identify their personal mission statement – without a mission statement we don’t know what we’re here to do.”

“If you’re living the wrong life, then it will not work. We all have talents. When you tap into that and make that the foundation of your life, it brings you into a state of balance. It removes your personal conflict. It’s about understanding yourself.”

Louise said she believes the future of her approach can help create more collaborative cultures where people look at what brings them together, rather than what divides them.

She said: “It’s about getting people to realise they have more control over their lives and being more proactive in creating the life they will love to live.”

“There is definitely a shift to a more reflective way of thinking in the corporate world. It’s not there yet, but we’re much further ahead than, say, five years ago and it’s definitely having a positive impact on colleagues at Office Depot.”

The courses that Louise has delivered in the UK are I-lead, Management Essentials, Accelerated Coaching, Conflict Management, Personal Branding, Mind Mapping, Change Management, Emotional Intelligence level 1&2, Influencing With Impact, Resilience Training, Setting and Achieving Effective Goals (video workshop).

As well as time in Thailand, Louise spent years living and breathing the practice of yoga, meditation, holistic therapies and natural remedies, searching for root causes and cures to many of life’s challenges.