This week’s theme gathers recent stories and videos that all speak to the importance of freeing our voices and finding effective ways to be heard, seen and understood, along with some helpful techniques for going about this with courage, credibility and charisma.
Some of the stories and commentary that caught my attention from this year’s World Economic Forum at Davos make our headline stories in this week’s new Happiness At Work collection. I have highlighted those that carry the new voices that can be heard with increasing resonance and authority amidst the more familiar agendas and rhetoric we might expect to come from a gathering of the great and good from the global business world, still predominantly older men in in suits.
These voices include a call to action to release and harness the still much much greater power and presence that women have to play in our work and leadership, the need to mix things up with a richer diversity of voices from the outside, from the fringes, from the edges, and the need to make conversations that join voices and unify thinking into the complex new solutions for the world we are continually having to reach for.
From outside the happenings of Davos 2015, I have also included some remarkable people who have found their voices – Morgana Bailey’s courageous stepping out of hiding, and Martin Bustamante, one of the prison inmates from Cristina Domenech’s poetry classes performing his own poem for a TED audience – as well as Julian Treasure’s practical masterclass in how to free and fire up your voice so that people will listen.
As Poppy Harlow reports from the event for The Guardian…
Davos is a gathering of great minds and change-makers from across the globe, and its theme this year was “the new global context”. The focus takes in everything from fighting terror to addressing the growing income divide. But this year just 17% of participants at this invitation-only summit are female; an increase on 15% in 2014, but still far too small a number. Meanwhile, on the Fortune 500 list, just 3.4% of corporations have female CEOs. Clearly, there is work to do.
In 2010 WEF introduced a new policy allowing corporations to bring a fifth senior leader to the summit (as opposed to the general limit of four), as long as both men and women were in the delegation. Progress has been made with initiatives like this, but the event remains dominantly male.
Facebook’s VP of global marketing Carolyn Everson thinks change will come. She told Fortune, “In the coming years, the number of attendees who are women will rise, as the conversations that are taking place all around us today are going to fundamentally impact the path for women in the future.” …
There’s a lot of work – game-changing work – being done by the women here at WEF. This is a place that humbles just about everyone because it’s hard to digest the calibre of many of the attendees and the magnitude of change for the better they are striving for.
WEF’s mission statement says it is “committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation.” And as Ann Cairns tweeted: “men and women make truly productive teams.” Let’s hope in the coming years they will also be equal in number.
Given the paucity of women currently in positions of political leadership (just 22% of the world’s parliamentarians are women), it is hardly surprising that obstacles – practical and psychological – remain to more women joining them. We know that in too many cases still, girls are leaving school without competitive qualifications, and that even when girls do make it to tertiary education, gender-based violence and intimidation on campus is a daunting prospect.
Yet these young people are the change agents of our future, and this recognition is reflected in initiatives springing up globally, large and small.
In this video clip you can hear maverick world changer and frustrated partygoer, Derek Handley, Adjunct Executive Professor for AUT University, talking about his work, his dreams for a more socially and environmentally proactive business model, and his view disappointment in the lack of diversity at Davos….
“I spent most of the time outside the main event meeting people in all the different environments,” he said. “My main takeaway is it’s a really interesting place and there are amazing people here, but there is a diversity problem, and I think it’s a significant issue.”
He took issue with the fact that most attendees of Davos are men, and also said the annual meeting lacks artists – people who are in the problems themselves. Because those people can’t afford to be here.
The best ideas always come from the fringe… Let’s mix up the really interesting and powerful people who are here with some very diverse perspectives and focus hard on that if we really want to create a very productive and flourishing century.
In her address, Drew Gilpin Faust said “Higher education is the strongest, sturdiest ladder to increased socio-ecomonic mobility…
Higher education is essential for a thriving society: it is the strongest, sturdiest ladder to increased socio-economic mobility and the locus, through research universities, of most of the major discoveries of the last two centuries.
At a time when access and affordability are more consequential than ever before, the world’s colleges and universities are facing a changed landscape. Three forces are creating possibilities and challenges that will define the future of one of humanity’s most enduring and most trusted institutions:
The influence of technology…
Residential education—working and living alongside one’s peers and mentors—cannot be replicated online. When I speak with alumni, they often reflect on serendipitous moments that changed the way they thought about themselves and their place in the world. More often than not, those moments happened in a common space or a classroom, a dining hall or a dorm, laboratory or lecture hall. Being together and sharing experiences no matter one’s surroundings.
The changing shape of knowledge…
What matter most in these moments, and in so many others, is recognising the extraordinary scope of expertise that humanity has at its disposal—and bringing the best minds together to work through problems and develop solutions, amplifying the possibilities for discovery inherent in all of their dimensions.
The attempt to define the value of education…
Higher education lifts people up. It gives them a perspective on the meaning and purpose of their lives that they may not have developed otherwise. Is it possible to quantify this experience, to communicate its value through a set of data? No. But it is among the highest and best outcomes of higher education. We must continue to prepare the next generation of thinkers and doers to navigate the world using evidence and reason as their guide, understanding their work in the broadest context possible as they imagine and define their purposes. We must continue to help humanity transcend the immediate and the instrumental to explore where human civilisation has been and where it hopes to go.
So much of what humanity has achieved has been sparked and sustained by the research and teaching that take place every day at colleges and universities, sites of curiosity and creativity that nurture some of the finest aspirations of individuals and, in turn, improve their lives—and their livelihoods.
As the landscape continues to change, we must be careful to protect the ideals at the heart of higher education, ideals that serve us all well as we work together to improve the world.
In the future, we will move closer to an education model that is truly responsive to the needs of employers, jobseekers and the international labour market. Only then will we solve the skills gap and the information gap and reduce the burden of unemployment.
Some uncharitably wondered whether Pharrell Williams had entered into a new, messianic phase of his career – one typically signalled by joining a society of billionaires and retired political figures in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. Others said the global hitmaker was too cute to go along with anything that smacked only of an ego trip.
“I think you guys know how serious the global warming thing is, and so for us we’re taking it very seriously, and we wanted to do something very different this time,” Pharrell said in Davos. What he means by having “humanity harmonise all at once” might remain slightly mysterious, but organisers say they expect 100 acts performing before a broadcast audience of two billion people across seven continents, including Antarctica.
Pharrell, whose song Happy was the bestselling single of 2014 and who was recently described by US GQ as “a quiet little Egyptian space cat of a dude”, is known for getting things done – at least in music.
As the magazine recently described, besides being a pop star in his own right he has become a kind of a musical consultant for other artists who guides you toward your “twinkling star”…
Pharrell says the trick in producing other people is to drop his ego. “I say to the artist, whether it be Beyoncé or Usher, what do you want to do? And when they tell me, I say, OK, let’s do it like this. It’s real simple.”
Like Prince, Pharrell surrounds himself with women – his assistant, Cynthia Lu; art director Phi Hollinger; and Fatima Robinson, his choreographer.
“Women have a way of expressing themselves that I can relate to more honestly,” he told GQ. “I am a sensitive person, so I want to be with sensitive people.”
Pharrell appears to be settling into his role as a multimedia prophet. He has given himself over to invocations of pseudo-mysticism, recently explaining: “It’s all math. You have a certain number of bones in your body. You have seven holes in your face. There are nine planets, a sun, trillions and trillions of galaxies. Everything quantifies to numbers.” He’s been described as pop’s Bill Clinton – “a masterclass in charm and empathy”.
Inspiring and deeply moving, Morgana Bailey’s presentation shows the vital importance of openness, embracing difference and daring to be heard for our happiness at work – and much much more…
Morgana Bailey has been hiding her true self for 16 years. In a brave talk, she utters four words that might not seem like a big deal to some, but to her have been paralyzing. Why speak up? Because she’s realized that her silence has personal, professional and societal consequences. In front of an audience of her co-workers, she reflects on what it means to fear the judgement of others, and how it makes us judge ourselves.
We all have a voice and we all have things of power and beauty to say with it. But some of us will find it harder than others to find, free and trust our own voices. Here is a success story of great empowerment where this has been achieved.
“It’s said that to be a poet, you have to go to hell and back.” Cristina Domenech teaches writing at an Argentinian prison, and she tells the moving story of helping incarcerated people express themselves, understand themselves — and glory in the freedom of language. Watch for a powerful reading from one of her students, an inmate, in front of an audience of 10,000. In Spanish with subtitles.
In this presentation sound and listening expert Julian Treasure provides his guide for releasing your full voice at its best sets, and his vocal warmup for tuning up before an important speaking engagement – see from 4’16”
Before this he sets out his top tips for increasing your impact and influence as a speaker.
Have you ever felt like you’re talking, but nobody is listening?
Here’s Julian Treasure to help you fix that. As the sound expert demonstrates some useful vocal exercises and shares tips on how to speak with empathy, he offers his vision for a sonorous world of listening and understanding.
Welcome to our first new Happiness At Work collection for 2015.
This week I have pressed the pause button to take a moment to reflect on the importance and value of taking the time to breathe.
In my work in both communications training and sound design I have come to recognise the enormous potency and power of silence, not merely as the absence of sound, but much much more as a very open, vital and often expertly held presence.
Great listening is quiet and still and held and full of energy.
And giving ourselves regular moments with our foot off the accelerator is essential to our forward advancement towards the meaningful success we seek and the happiness and resilience at work we need to make it. This can equally mean formally as a time of mindfulness or meditation, or as a pit stop in your day to stop and reflect and recognise what you have achieved or done well before considering what will be the very best use of your time now, or the ongoing delicate and difficult work of finding and keeping the right balance, however this is defined for you.
Or, sometimes, it is simply taking a moment to more fully notice and enjoy our own breathing.
As the new year winds itself up into another twelve months of what will undoubtedly be sometimes frantic busy-ness, I have drawn together recent articles that all bring some ideas about the why’s and how’s of remembering to make ourselves moments of stillness and quiet that are much much more than simply the absence of activity.
Welcome to January, that wonderful month of the year when anything seems possible – at least until your first day back in the office, when you realise there are weeks of freezing weather ahead and not a holiday in sight. Work can be tough this month, as memories of mince pies and Christmas film marathons retreat into the distance, to be replaced by deadlines, meetings and dark evenings hunched over a laptop. While I don’t believe in grand, sweeping New Year’s Resolutions, a few simple changes can help to make the next few wintery months a little more bearable.
Leave the office at lunchtime
We’ve all somehow got used to being bound to our desks and either skipping breaks completely, or using them for yet more screen time by scrolling through Facebook. Breaking this habit, even for a few minutes, can give you a fresh perspective and renewed energy.
Write shorter lists
First, stop putting things on your list that you do without thinking. “Check emails” does not need to be written down. Take longer to consider what you can realistically get done in the day ahead; then write down only what you actually need to do – not the million other things to be done at some point in the future. The aim is to cross off everything on a list by the end of the day, or at least try to. Ever-increasing lists do nothing for your sense of balance or efficiency.
Make use of your “out of office” email response
If you are so busy that you can’t do anything else, let people know and they will adjust their expectations. If they get no answer from you all day, they will push harder and make more demands. Far better to let them know straight away that you are in meetings all morning, so that they can adjust their expectations accordingly.
Get up 15 minutes earlier
We all assume we have no time, yet we spend hours wasting it: watching mindless TV, on social media, or repeatedly set the alarm to snooze. Those few extra minutes could be the difference between arriving at work refreshed and ready to face the day, and being face down in a cup of coffee until 11am.
Stop trying to be liked, concentrate on being respected
If you only make one change this month, it should be this one. We waste a huge amount of time and energy in the workplace trying to please others: not saying no when we should, not taking credit where credit is due, not asking for a well-deserved pay rise for fear of looking pushy.
Imagine how much we could achieve by taking a step back from the politics and using that energy more productively, redirecting it back towards our work. The ultimate mark of success in the working world isn’t about being the person in the office everyone wants to go for a beer with, it’s about being the one that others aspire to emulate. This comes from creativity, passion, talent and delivering real results.
Harvard-trained researcher Shawn Achor says that living in an electronic, hyperconnected world can, of course, get very noisy. When the many sources of noise are combined, it becomes a deafening roar blocking us from true happiness. Watch as Shawn explains why we need to turn down the incessant sound before we can begin processing the meaning of life.
Lisa Langer outlines the top reasons why she sees the growing popularity and success of Mindfulness practice…
Of all the ancient and modern practices designed to wake us up, why has the simple practice of Mindfulness and Mindful Meditation arrived at the forefront of our cultural sensibility?
Why is it taking hold so strongly in our healthcare, academic and business institutions? What makes Mindfulness so compelling, grabbing our minds and our hearts, not letting us go?
Over 25 years ago when Jon Kabat-Zinn began sitting and adapting Zen Buddhist mindfulness practices to the healthcare arena at UMass Medical Center and writing Full Catastrophe Living, no one and certainly not he, could have predicted the Mindful Revolution (Time Magazine, February 2014) of today.
Why are we now sharpening the lens of mindfulness, polishing the glass and more willing to see the full catastrophe thru a mindful eye than ever before??
Why not yoga?? (although popular) Why not Tai Chi?? (also popular) or boot camp, spinning, running, Zumba???
Here is why:
1. Mindfulness is FREE (in more ways than one)
Not only is mindfulness free, it is “free-ing.” The practice of mindful meditation, when practiced with commitment, is a sure-fire way to help liberate us from our reactive states of mind and emotions.
2. Mindfulness IS SIMPLE, practiced anywhere and everywhere without equipment.
If you’re are breathing, you are able and capable of practicing mindful meditation. If we are alive then we are breathing. Simply follow your in breath and out breath.
3. Mindfulness is FLEXIBLE, practiced solo, or it can also be a group activity
Not only is it flexible, the practice of mindfulness helps create a more flexible and open mind and body. Period. We become less reactive and more able to see our usual patterns of thought and behavior
4. Mindfulness itself is ORGANIC – a word very popular today. Breath-based and derived from the simple ground of our living. Self-explanatory and certainly healthy!
5. Mindfulness is RELAXING – or it teaches us to relax. We live in a busy often-anxious culture. Usually more focused on “doing” versus “being”.
A regular mindfulness practice helps restore the states that we lived as children, happy, free, and simple.
An eight week study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) determined that meditation literally rebuilds the brains grey matter in just eight weeks. It’s the very first study to document that meditation produces changes over time in the brain’s grey matter.
“Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day. This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.” – Sara Lazar of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program and a Harvard Medical School Instructor in Psychology
“It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life. Other studies in different patient populations have shown that meditation can make significant improvements in a variety of symptoms, and we are now investigating the underlying mechanisms in the brain that facilitate this change.” – (1)Britta Holzel, first author of the paper and a research fellow at MGH and Giessen University in Germany
How To Meditate
A common misconception about meditation is that you have to sit a certain way or do something in particular to achieve the various benefits that it can provide. All you have to do is place yourself in a position that is most comfortable to you. It could be sitting cross legged, lying down in a bed, sitting on a couch etc, it’s your choice.
Another common misconception about meditation is that you have to “try” to empty your mind. One important factor I enjoyed reading from the study mentioned above is that participants were engaged in “non-judgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind.” When meditating, you shouldn’t try to “empty” your mind. Instead, try to let your thoughts, feelings and whatever emotions you are feeling at the time flow. Don’t judge them, just let them come and go and be at peace with it.
Meditation is a state of being/mind more than anything else. You don’t have to sit down for half an hour and “meditate” in order to reap the benefits of it, or to be engaged in the practice itself. You can be engaged in meditation while you are on a walk, for example, or the time you have right before you sleep. Throughout the day, you can resist judging your thoughts, letting them flow until they are no more, or just be in a constant state of peace and self awareness. There is more than one way to meditate.
“You will have to understand one of the most fundamental things about meditation: that no technique leads to meditation. The old so-called techniques and the new scientific biofeedback techniques are the same as far as meditation is concerned. Meditation is not a byproduct of any technique. Meditation happens beyond mind. No technique can go beyond mind.” – Osho
We all lead lives that move 1,000 miles per minute. In his TED Book, The Art of Stillness, Pico Iyer posits a bold idea: that in our chaotic time, the greatest luxury is actually the ability to go nowhere and do nothing. To Iyer, it’s this time for quiet, inward, still reflection that snaps all of our experiences into focus.
This got us curious: how do members of the TED community find time for stillness and reflection? Turns out that people had very different answers.
“I hike,” said our curator Chris Anderson. “Water, pine trees, cliffs, meadows… doesn’t matter. All nature will do. Walk a little, dream a little.”
Brené Brown (watch her TED Talk on the power of vulnerability) has a similar approach. “One of the most important practices in my life is swimming. It’s exercise, meditation, and therapy in one. It’s quiet and I’m completely unavailable,” she said. “I also love photography. I know that I’m moving so fast that I blow past extraordinary beauty everyday. When I have my camera in my hand I slow way down and pay attention to small things.”
For Dilip Ratha (watch his TED Talk which stole our hearts at TEDGlobal), it’s listening to music. “Mostly Hindi and Odia songs from the days I was growing up in India,” he says. “These songs take me back to the days of hopes and dreams and poetry. I also listen to boleros from Latin America and Western songs with good lyrics. ‘Poetry and friendship are the two greatest sources of sweetness,’ says an ancient Sanskrit proverb.”
And for Kelly McGonigal (watch her TED Talk on making stress your friend), yoga and meditation help, but she has another strategy too. “People-watching,” she explains. “I like to go out to the park or walk down the street when people are opening up shops, and watch people engaging in rituals of caring for people or places or objects. The morning street cleaners with their brooms; people walking dogs; parents attending to their children’s busy hands in line at the coffee shop. I find it incredibly calming and inspiring. It’s a meditation I do everyday.”
And then there’s another camp of TED community members who simply aren’t that fond of stillness at all. Hans Rosling (who has given 10 TED Talks) says, “I don’t bring stillness to my life, because there will be plenty of time for stillness after death, when there is nothing else to do.”
Ben Goldacre (watch his TED Talk about bad science) agrees. “I fight stillness every step of the way,” he says. “I wash up wearing a bluetooth headset for podcasts. I read my phone in the bathroom. Before proper technology, I read books while walking down the street. I want more data, more facts, more fun, and more life.”
We all have off days from time to time. It’s human nature. But barring the occasional disaster or tragedy, a bad day is really only bad if you decide to stay in that frame of mind. As Martha Washington put it, “The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances.”
In reality, there are some simple actions that can put a positive spin on things and flip your switch from “ugh” to “awesome.” Here are a few things that can help you turn your day around.
1. Create Your Own Talisman
I have an electric guitar in my office. I’ll slap my headphones on and play my guitar to snap out of lethargy or bad moods—or to simply help my brain start solving problems. Find a physical object that you puts you in a happy, energized state. In A Few Good Men, Lt. Daniel Kaffee needed his baseball bat to think best. You likely have something similar, and it’s not only OK but essential to use props like these to get out of a funk. If you’re stumped, consider Play-Doh, a doodling pad, or a toy you loved as a child.
2. Make Connections
Instead of glancing over your News Feed, try making a connection with someone real. Even chatting with the barista at your local coffee shop can help put you in a good mood. At my company, we make it a habit to touch base with one another before getting down to business. Sharing something that’s inspired us or that we’re grateful for during the day not only helps form human connections and build a positive atmosphere, but also makes our meetings shorter, more productive, and action-oriented.
3. Make Someone Else’s Day
Choose a person—whether you know him or not—and decide to make his day with a random act of kindness. Leave a note to brighten someone’s day, pay for someone’s coffee in line, or buy extra muffins and distribute them to your team members. Ask a co-worker if you can help her with something. Giving to others and appreciating what we’ve been given are two of the shortest paths to shaking yourself out of a bad mood. On that note:
4. Express Gratitude
Whether you do it in person, over the phone, via social media, or just in your own head, taking a moment to express gratitude leads to improved health, happiness, relationships, and income. A popular restaurant in Los Angeles, Café Gratitude, has its staff practice this every day, and it has one of the highest levels of customer and worker satisfaction in the business.
Imagine what you might be doing if you were six, 10, or 15 years old. Draw it or write it down, then take a moment to find a photo online that captures its essence. By accessing part of yourself that’s younger, you tap into a time before your aspirations and dreams were reshaped by society. Better yet, spend time with a child. Just watching and spending time around a child opens you up to the freedom and carefree feeling of being young.
As one of my yoga teachers says, shallow breathing results in shallow experiences. Deep breathing, on the other hand, helps clear your mind, reduce stress, and reset your mood. An easy way to get started is by downloading The Mindfulness App, which Healthline called “straightforward and simple.” The quiet alerts, regular reminders, and customization options can make breathing such a routine part of your day that you may even find yourself needing to take mood-calibrating breaths less often.
7. Avoid the 4 Cs
There are four things you need to avoid to stay out a funk (not to mention office drama) in the first place: comparing, competing, criticizing, and complaining. If you catch yourself engaging in one of these unhealthy behaviors, redirect your attention to something happy, like a funny video, for an instant mood booster. (Just make sure the funny video doesn’t lead you to the latest dark headline or celebrity drama.)
8. Find a Quiet Space
Even if it means taking refuge in a bathroom stall, find a place where you can have a moment of quiet or move around and shake off the negative thoughts and feelings.
9. Listen to Music
Everyone has a few tunes that never fail to lighten their spirits. Put on some headphones, and crank it up. Better yet, play it out loud in your car, and sing along.
10. Take a Walk
Go for a walk, or try having a walking meeting. In addition to the health benefits, walking has shown to have amazing mood-boosting powers. Sometimes you just need a quick change of scenery to improve your state of mind.
There are a variety of other techniques that can help you shift your day from bad to better. Sometimes escaping a bad mood is all about remembering that, as author Regina Brett put it, “No one really has a bad life. Not even a bad day. Just bad moments.”
A bad moment is just a tiny fraction of your entire day, and a bad day is just one out of your entire life. The more good moments you create, the fewer bad days you’ll have, and the less glaring the bad ones will seem.
So the next time you feel like your day is going south, put these tips into practice, and let the good days commence.
Brené Brown, an expert on social connection, conducted thousands of interviews to discover what lies at the root of social connection. A thorough analysis of the data revealed what it was: vulnerability. Vulnerability here does not mean being weak or submissive. To the contrary, it implies the courage to be yourself. It means replacing “professional distance and cool” with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Opportunities for vulnerability present themselves to us at work every day. Examples she gives of vulnerability include calling an employee or colleague whose child is not well, reaching out to someone who has just had a loss in their family, asking someone for help, taking responsibility for something that went wrong at work, or sitting by the bedside of a colleague or employee with a terminal illness.
More importantly, Brown describes vulnerability and authenticity as lying at the root of human connection. And human connection is often dramatically missing from workplaces. Johann Berlin, CEO of Transformational Leadership for Excellence recounts an experience he had while teaching a workshop in a Fortune 100 company. The participants were all higher-level management. After an exercise in which pairs of participants shared an event from their life with each other, one of the top executive managers approached Johann. Visibly moved by the experience, he said “I’ve worked with my colleague for over 25 years and have never known about the difficult times in his life.” In a short moment of authentic connection, this manager’s understanding and connection with his colleague deepened in ways it had not in decades of working together.
Why is human connection missing at work? As leaders and employees, we are often taught to keep a distance and project a certain image. An image of confidence, competence and authority. We may disclose our vulnerability to a spouse or close friend behind closed doors at night but we would never show it elsewhere during the day, let alone at work.
However, data is suggesting that we may want to revisit the idea of projecting an image. Research shows that onlookers subconsciously register lack of authenticity. Just by looking at someone, we download large amounts of information others. “We are programmed to observe each other’s states so we can more appropriately interact, empathize, or assert our boundaries, whatever the situation may require,” says Paula Niedenthal, Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. We are wired to read each others’ expressions in a very nuanced way. This process is called “resonance” and it is so automatic and rapid that it often happens below our awareness.
Like an acute sounding board, parts of our brain internally echo what others do and feel. Just by looking at someone, you experience them. You internally resonated with them. Ever seen someone trip and momentarily felt a twinge of pain for them? Observing them activates the “pain matrix” in your brain, research shows. Ever been moved by the sight of a person helping someone? You vicariously experienced it and thereby felt elevation. Someone’s smile activates the smile muscles in our faces, while a frown activates our frown muscles, according to research by Ulf Dimberg at Uppsala University in Sweden. We internally register what another person is feeling. As a consequence, if a smile is fake, we are more likely to feel uncomfortable than comfortable.
While we may try to appear perfect, strong or intelligent in order to be respected by others, pretense often has the opposite effect intended. Research by Paula Niedenthal shows that we resonate too deeply with one another to ignore inauthenticity. Just think of how uncomfortable you feel around someone you perceive as “taking on airs” or “putting on a show.” We tend to see right through them and feel less connected. Or think of how you respond when you know someone is upset, but they’re trying to conceal it. “What’s wrong?” you ask, only to be told, “Nothing!” Rarely does this answer satisfy – because we sense it’s not true.
Our brains are wired to read cues so subtle that even when we don’t consciously register the cues, our bodies respond. For example, when someone is angry but keeps their feelings bottled up we may not realize that they are angry (they don’tlook angry) but still our blood pressure will increase, according to research by James Gross at Stanford University.
Why do we feel more comfortable around someone who is authentic and vulnerable? Because we are particularly sensitive to signs of trustworthiness in our leaders. Servant leadership, for example, which is characterized by authenticity and values-based leadership, yields more positive and constructive behavior in employees and greater feelings of hope and trust in both the leader and the organization. In turn, trust in a leader improves employee performance. You can even see this at the level of the brain. Employees who recall a boss who resonated with them show enhanced activation in parts of the brain related to positive emotion and social connection. The reverse is true when they think of a boss who did not resonate.
One example of authenticity and vulnerability is forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean tolerance of error but rather a patient encouragement of growth. Forgiveness is what is described by Patchirajan’s employee as, “She does not get upset when we make mistakes but gives us the time to learn how to analyze and fix the situation.” Forgiveness may be another soft-sounding term but, as University of Michigan researcher Kim Cameron shows points out, it has hard results: a culture of forgiveness in organizations can lead to increased employee productivity as well as less voluntary turnover. Again, the impact of a culture that is forgiving breeds trust. As a consequence, an organization becomes more resilient in times of organizational stress or down-sizing.
Why do we fear vulnerability or think it inappropriate for a workplace? For one, we are afraid that if someone finds out who we really are, or discovers a soft or vulnerable spot, they will take advantage of us. However, as I also described in my last post on “The Hard Data on Being a Nice Boss,” kindness goes further than the old sink-or-swim paradigm.
Here’s what may happen if you embrace an authentic and vulnerable stance: Your staff will see you as a human being; they may feel closer to you; they may be prompted to share advice; and – if you are attached to hierarchy – you may find that your team begins to feel more horizontal. While these types of changes may feel uncomfortable, you may see that, as they did for Archana, the benefits are worth it.
There are additional benefits you may reap from a closer connection to employees. One study out of Stanford shows that CEOs are looking for more advice and counsel but that two thirds of them do not get it. This isolation can skew perspectives and lead to potentially disadvantageous leadership choices. Who better to receive advice from than your own employees, who are intimately familiar with your product, your customers, and problems that might exist within the organization?
Rather than feeling like another peg in the system, your team will feel respected and honored for their opinion and consequently become more loyal. The research shows that the personal connection and happiness employees derive from their work fosters greater loyalty than the amount on their paycheck.
The Harvard Business Review looked at the benefits of starting your drive to work with a mindfulness practice:
To use your daily driving commute to help you practice conscious thinking and improve your mindfulness, start by getting into the car and acknowledging the intention that you aspire to be mindful during the commute. Take a few deep breaths. Once buckled up, but before you start to drive, become aware of your body. Feel your hands on the steering wheel, the contour of your body on the seat, your foot on the pedal. Make an effort to be aware of the body and feel present. Start to drive and notice that you are “looking” as you drive: through your windshield, into your mirrors. Now become aware that you are “listening.” Notice the sounds you hear.
The idea is that you are continuously aware of three things: your body, what you see, and what you hear. This is what it is to be mindfully present as you drive. Do your best to stay present for the entire commute.
Set your phone to do-not-disturb and keep your focus on your driving. If your focus waivers, gently bring it back to the drive. Instead of arriving to work stressed, you’ll arrive aware and ready for the day.
Here is my slimmed down list of favourites from these pearls of wisdom of successful leadership experts…
Good leaders all have one thing in common: They know how to seek advice. It’s a bit like parenting. No one who raises a child for the first time understands the job perfectly. You have to keep learning and growing. These experts know the drill. They’ve written about their experiences in leadership, spoken in front of mass audiences, and honed their skills over many years. Here are their single best tips, exclusive just to this list.
1. Don’t hide anything from employees
“Your team can tell if you’re hiding something. It makes them uncertain or suspicious, both of which you don’t want. Lay out the rules of the game as you see them with your team. Let the team know where they are; work on a plan to go forward. Keep individuals up to date on their status as it relates to the group. All this forces you to have and share your vision, which is what makes you a great leader in the first place.”
“You can’t just be sympathetic and try to be liked every time someone comes to you with a problem or concern. But you need to be able to understand the problems, as well as that person’s point of view. You can’t just dismiss them out of hand. And if you’re able to see things from their point of view and truly be empathetic, you’ll be able to frame your response in a way that will prove you’ve heard them, and also answer their specific concerns. They might not always be happy, but it will lead to more acceptance if you have to tell them something they’re not eager to hear.”
“Leaders of younger generations are from the most social generation in history. They are in constant contact with peers and family through iMessages and social media sites. But they are also highly isolated because so much of their relational contact is through technology. This has led to poor people skills, low emotional intelligence, and the inability to handle interpersonal challenges. Leaders should work to build relationships one-on-one. A helpful way to do so: Join industry or peer communities to take advantage of meeting and networking in person. Not only will this help their professional development but also help them learn to communicate on a level playing field with those of various generations and years of experience.”
“Be willing to look at the truth, no matter how uncomfortable. That includes truths about yourself, your product, your people. If your product stinks and your people aren’t performing, pretending that just ain’t so won’t change anything. At the same time, don’t beat yourself up. Just look at it, address it, and move on.”
“Be candid with yourself and acknowledge what you know and don’t know. Select supportive team members who possess the skills necessary to take the business in the right direction. See yourself as a piece of Swiss cheese–know your holes and add others (slices) whose substance, when layered on your slice, eventually creates a solid, firm unified block of cheese. A single slice of cheese with its many holes can easily be pulled apart, but a solid block is very difficult to pull apart.”
“Humanoids show (and feel) no emotion at all. Ever. They are incapable of it. You may think there is no room for emotion in the workplace, but think again. There’s already emotion there–too bad much of it is negative. Let some positive emotion flow between you and your people. Get to know them better … and let them get to know you better. People will go to the wall for people they know, like, admire, and respect. But if they don’t know the first thing about you (or vice versa), how can they feel as though they know you, or have a relationship or anything at all in common with you? Humans truly connect with each other on a personal level, not a business level. You don’t have to be “best buds,” but you must have at least a few human elements in common in order to effectively work together to accomplish common business goals. One way to be more human is to realize that simply saying, ‘Hello, how are you?’ each morning does not constitute a relationship. Get out and talk with different people occasionally; ask about their families, pets, hobbies … and share yours. Remember their names (and the names of their significant others/children/pets); ask about a tough situation they’ve gone through. When they know you really care about them, they will care more about you, and this will bridge the divide and help eliminate the ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ mentality.”
“My best leadership tip is to think of leadership as a responsibility as much as an opportunity. Effective leaders understand that they are responsible for everyone that they are leading, and consider that responsibility as the main concern of their position. If you ever lose empathy for, and dedication to, the people you are leading, you are not being a leader.”
“In today’s dynamic and uncertain business environment, the most successful firms are able to act quickly and decisively in response to change. Strong self-efficacy, high achievement, autonomy, and the ability to take decisive actions in the face of uncertainty and dynamic environments are critical capabilities for an organization. Preparing individuals to evaluate a dynamic environment and act in the face of uncertainty is a particular strength of the military and it should be a priority for executive training programs. It all begins with having a clear vision and a specific mission that empowers people to act in alignment with the company objectives.”
9. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you
“Leaders find success when they create teams composed of people who are experts in their areas, and many times, smarter than the leader who’s hiring them. Great leaders give them room to grow and innovate. These are the leaders who people want to work for. Unlike the micromanager leader whose insecurity leads them to create teams that include people ‘just like them.’ These teams may make the leader feel comfortable, versus challenged for the purposes of creating the best work.”
10. Take someone in training along with you on mundane tasks
“Several years ago I had to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my license–a task that sometimes could mean three to four hours of waiting. There was a college student who was working for our church as an intern for a college credit. He wanted to learn the ins and outs of church leadership, so I asked him to come along to the DMV. Sure enough, it was a three-hour wait, but I spent that time answering all of the intern’s questions about leadership. It was real quality time to invest in the young man. Now when I have a task that will involve a long wait time (such as going to the DMV or doctor’s office or waiting for a plane flight or going on a long ride in the car, etc.), I take along a developing leader to invest in him or her.”
“Be as transparent as you can with all of your team members. The more they know, the more you all are part of the same dream and vision and you’ll all work harder to get where you need to go as a team. If you’re keeping information from your team members, they’ll lose trust and start to feel like they’re not contributing to the bigger picture. That’s when they look elsewhere.”
“When you’re leading a new team or joining a new organization, honor the new team/organization’s past, and then build them a bridge to the future. Too many leaders inherit a new team and want to tell everyone how much success they had in the past, and how good their old organization/team was. When leaders disrespect their new team, team members start asking each other the following questions: If your old organization or team was so good, why did you leave? If your old organization is so good, why don’t you go back?”
Peter Barron Stark, a consultant, speaker, and author
13. Have a clear vision and communicate it to your team
“Know what your future looks like, feels like, and acts like. It has to be a compelling vision that gets your people excited and focused. Latch onto that picture as though it has already happened. Transport yourself into the future so you can see it with picture clarity. Share it with your team so they can see it and do what it takes to achieve it.”
14. Make it a priority to develop your current leaders, nurture your future leaders, and hire great leaders
“Strong leadership is one of the key pillars of success at any organization. People aren’t necessarily born with great leadership skills. As such, organizations can’t just sit back and hope people will be great leaders. Leaders need to be shaped and molded. And by leaders, I don’t just mean executives–I mean managers at every level of the organization. Too often frontline managers are overlooked when it comes to leadership development, when the reality is that 70 percent to 80 percent of the workforce reports to frontline managers. The results of a study we did with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services reveals 79 percent of global executives believe lack of frontline leadership capability negatively impacts company performance. As such, it’s critical to the success of any organization that these people be given the tools, resources, and development to succeed.”
“Leaders with character are highly effective. They have no need to pull rank or resort to command and control to get results. Instead, they’re effective because they’re knowledgeable, admired, trusted, and respected. This helps them secure buy-in automatically, without requiring egregious rules or strong oversight designed to force compliance.”
“Leadership has got nothing to do with figuring it out and everything to do with feeling it out. It is an ‘awareness,’ and for so long in my businesses, I too was not aware. Leaders aren’t born; they evolve. And to evolve you must first be self-aware. To develop leadership skills, allow yourself to be open, honest, and real. Be confident, not arrogant. Confident leaders lead through values, vision, and vulnerability. Arrogant leaders lead through fear, blame, and ego.”
Troy Hazard, a TV host, business owner, former Global President of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, and author of the book Future-Proofing Your Business
17. Good leadership is about good alignment
“If you think about achieving your vision, it’s like climbing a mountain. Executives and managers think they have to be all buttoned up and have the path up the mountain all mapped out, then they shout the directions back down to their organization. But really, leadership is about alignment, and that means we can achieve a lot more if we all go up that mountain together.”
“Repeat the words, ‘It’s not about me!’ every day, multiple times a day. Don’t make your leadership about being in charge, being right, getting promoted, or looking the best. Make leadership about the cause of the organization, serving the legitimate needs of those you’re leading, and not taking yourself so darn seriously. You’ll have people lining up to work for and with you and the results will follow.”
“Your posture and body language needs to be intentional and consistent. Always be aware of your posture when you are sitting, standing and walking. Roll shoulders up, back, and down. Straighten your spine; leaders don’t slouch. Nor do they intimidate with off-putting body language such as crossed arms, puffed out chest and finger waving. Align your appearance, head-to-toe, with how you wish to be known. Aligning your appearance also means dressing the part head-to-toe. This includes wardrobe, haircut, eyeglasses and even shoes. Leaders look the part–not like they just rolled out of bed. A pressed dress shirt or wool sweater, well-fitting trousers, leather shoes and belt is a good uniform to adopt. A tie and/or sport jacket give extra bonus points for executive presence. Update your eyeglasses every other year and get a good haircut. Dress, head-to-toe, as the leader you want to be.”
“When we are curious with others, we learn, we collaboration, and we innovate. When leaders aren’t curious, they tend to judge, tell, blame, and even shame without realizing it. This creates conflict, frustration, narrows perspectives and opportunities, and prohibits collaboration, innovation, and understanding. Based on our 10 years working with leaders, we know that they know they need a new language to be successful; however, they don’t know how to access it. Curiosity allows you to access that language to meet the leadership needs of the 21st century.”
Resolutions Are Too Hard To Keep Unless You Have A Plan
Here is some great ideas from VIA Institute of Character for using your top strengths to activate this year’s resolutions and best intentions…
Before you’ve had enough time to clean up the glittery confetti from your New Year’s celebrations many people are already brainstorming goals and resolutions for the coming year. And why not?! It’s the perfect time to self-assess and make a plan to begin living a happier, healthier life. For many people though, the problem is not making the resolution, it is keeping it. If this sounds like you—you’re not alone. Fewer than 10% of people that make a new year’s goal actually stick with it for the entire year. So, how can you make sure you are in that small group of success stories when 2015 comes to a close?
Use your signature strengths!
Research by Alex Linley shows that strengths play an important role in helping individuals achieve their goals and ultimately experience greater well-being. Your signature strengths are those characteristics that come most naturally to you. You have a strong desire to use them and a sense of ownership and authenticity when you do. Therefore, it is easier for you to achieve a goal when you actively use your signature strengths to pursue it. As an added bonus, Linley’s team finds that strengths can “be an important part of an affective learning loop in which progress leads to well-being which, in turn, motivates sustained effort and leads to further goal progress.” In other words, strengths use leads to an upward spiral of further goal attainment and even more strengths use.
The first step in aligning your strengths with your 2015 goals is discovering what your Signature Strengths are. The next phase is self-reflection and planning. How will these personal values contribute to daily progress on your goal? Let’s take a moment to review one of the most common New Year’s Resolutions from a signature strengths perspective to give you some ideas.
New Year’s Goal: Exercise More and Lose Weight
Here are some examples of how you can use your signature strengths to stick with this 2015 resolution:
Love: Choose a close friend or family member to become your “workout buddy”. Plan time each week to meet at the gym, a yoga class or in your own basement to exercise and spend time with one another. On the days you feel unmotivated remind yourself that you made a commitment to this person and your workout is an opportunity to be together.
Fairness: Get involved in a team sport, such as basketball or soccer, and make it your mission to ensure that everyone on the court or field gets the chance to participate—pass the ball often and monitor everyone’s playing time. When disputes arise, step in to mediate and find the most impartial solution.
Humor: Download Pandora or Spotify and find your favorite comedian’s stand-up routine. Plug in your headphones, get on the treadmill or stationary bike and laugh as you melt away the pounds. Curiosity: Find a gym that offers a variety of exercise classes and has helpful employees. Take a new class each week and learn how to use all of the strength-training machines and props. With all of the different options your curiosity will keep you coming back for more!
How will your signature strengths help you on your 2015 journey?
You can find more articles about and practical ideas about relaxation and overcoming stress, as well as top tips for making greater leadership, self-mastery and happiness at work in this week’s new collection here
This week’s featured Happiness At Work articles highlight a clutch of articles that offer us some down-to-earth tools and techniques for being and staying happier.
These include how to manage our emotional intelligence, our time and work-life balance when we are feeling especially stretched, how to be better at stopping and smelling the roses, and how to enhance your state of being in flow – those best moments when we feel at the frontier of our abilities, playing to our strengths and doing our finest work. Plus some tips on how to jumpstart employee happiness in your organisation, and some reasons why we now need to be teaching the new science of happiness in our schools.
No matter how much you love what you do, striking a balance between work and your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing is essential. Studies have repeatedly shown that happy workers are more productive workers, so keeping up stable relationships with friends and family, making time for fulfilling activities, and taking a break from work is key to maintaining a quality of life that serves you and your employer best.
To maintain your happiness and keep your wellbeing in check, Melody Wildings hares her strategies to stay balanced and stress-free, courtesy of The Muse.
1. Communicate with your boss
Even if you choose to embrace the extra work and additional responsibilities as a challenge and way to grow your skill set, it’s important to communicate with your boss about expectations such as deadlines and the duration of the project. Be sure you’re both aware of when the craziness will start to wind down, whether the project is on schedule, and any potential roadblocks that could arise.
Not only will having this information help you feel in control of your workload, it will actually help you control the process. With full knowledge of your boss’ expectations, you can step in when things aren’t moving along to suggest a change in direction, and you’ll be able to weather surprises (like the project getting extended for an extra week) with grace and ease.
2. Create a morning and a bedtime routine
Research shows that following a morning routine can help get your day off to a productive start—and that good feeling can boost your mood throughout the rest of the day.
Create a routine around a daily morning practice, such as meditating or waking up a half-hour early to get work done before ever checking your email. By sticking to this morning after morning, you’ll automatically begin your workday on a positive note, with a sense of accomplishment.
Then, at the end of the day, make a point to go to bed at the same time each evening (more or less), and designate some time beforehand to wind down by reading, jotting down tomorrow’s to-dos, or another calming routine that isn’t in front of a screen. Engaging in a nighttime ritual signals to your body it’s time for bed, and clearing your mind before bed also helps calm your nerves, which improves sleep.
3. Move your body (even a little)
Exercise is often one of the first things to go when work gets crazy, but its stress-reducing benefits make it even more important to incorporate during demanding times in your life.
If there’s no way you can squeeze in your normal gym routine, think of smaller ways you can get the blood flowing, like changing up your commute to walk or bike to work, YouTube-ing a short yoga or abs routine that you can do at home, or even just spending 10 minutes stretching when you wake up. Physical activity is proven to reduce stress and can help calm you down when you’re amped up—which will help keep you sane during marathon workdays.
4. Set Aside Quiet Time
When it feels like you’ve signed your life over to your company or clients, carving out some time for yourself is essential to stay grounded. Whether you squeeze in time to call a friend or just sit and decompress sans electronic devices, designating uninterrupted time (however short!) to clear your head can work wonders for your mood and will help you to think more clearly when things are moving fast.
Try getting in early to take advantage of the empty office, or, if most days you’re starved for a peaceful moment, pop on some headphones and jam out to your favourite Spotify station on the way to work. Or, taking lunch away from your desk—especially if you can find a quiet park or courtyard—is a great way to de-stress.
5. Make Room for Creativity
Making time for creative expression—whatever that looks like for you—will help stay centered when it feels like work is taking over your life. Creativity is cathartic: It allows you to channel stress, anger, resentment, or whatever other negative emotions you may be holding onto in a productive, healthy way.
So, be sure you’re still making time to sing your favorite jam in the shower, write posts for your blog, or send your mom a thoughtful card in the mail, no matter how busy things are in the office. Yes, there is always one more thing on your to-do list and you can always find more reasons to work, but if you don’t pause to take a timeout, you’ll stop being productive.
Finally, when it seems like all you do is work, do your best to maintain perspective. It can be helpful to remind yourself that the stress will not last forever, and in the meantime, you have plenty of resources to cope with the stress and take back control of your life.
Making time for yourself amid the dozens of other demands on you is what will help reset your balance—and what will make you a better employee and happier person in the long run.
Here are six keys to increasing your emotional intelligence:
1. The Ability to Reduce Negative Emotions
Perhaps no aspect of EQ is more important than our ability to effectively manage our own negative emotions, so they don’t overwhelm us and affect our judgment. In order to change the way we feel about a situation, we must first change the way we think about it. Here are just two examples:
A. Reducing Negative Personalisation. When you feel adversely about someone’s behaviour, avoid jumping to a negative conclusion right away. Instead, come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting. For example, I may be tempted to think my friend didn’t return my call because she’s ignoring me, or I can consider the possibility that she’s been very busy. When we avoid personalizing other people’s behaviors, we can perceive their expressions more objectively. People do what they do because of them more than because of us. Widening our perspective can reduce the possibility of misunderstanding.
B. Reducing the Fear of Rejection. One effective way to manage your fear of rejection is to provide yourself with multiple options in important situations, so that no matter what happens, you have strong alternatives going forward. Avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket (emotionally) by identifying a viable Plan B, and also a Plan C, should Plan A not work out. For example:
Increased fear of rejection: “I’m applying for my dream job. I’ll be devastated if they don’t hire me.”
Decreased fear of rejection: “I’m applying for three exciting positions. If one doesn’t pan out, there are two more I’m well qualified for.”
Most of us experience some level of stress in life. How we handle stressful situations can make the difference between being assertive versus reactive, and poised versus frazzled. When under pressure, the most important thing to keep in mind is to keep our cool. Here are two quick tips:
A. If you feel nervous and anxious, put cold water on your face and get some fresh air. Cool temperature can help reduce our anxiety level (1)(2). Avoid caffeinated beverages which can stimulate your nervousness (3)(4).
B. If you feel fearful, depressed, or discouraged, try intense aerobic exercises. Energize yourself. The way we use our body affects greatly the way we feel (5)(6). As the saying goes – motion dictates emotion. As you experience the vitality of your body, your confidence will also grow.
3. The Ability to Be Assertive and Express Difficult Emotions When Necessary
“Being who we are requires that we can talk openly about things that are important to us, that we take a clear position on where we stand on important emotional issues, and that we clarify the limits of what is acceptable and tolerable to us in a relationship.”
― Harriet Lerner
There are times in all of our lives when it’s important to set our boundaries appropriately, so people know where we stand. These can include exercising our right to disagree (without being disagreeable), saying “no” without feeling guilty, setting our own priorities, getting what we paid for, and protecting ourselves from duress and harm.
One method to consider when needing to express difficult emotions is the XYZ technique – I feel X when you do Y in situation Z. Here are some examples:
“I feel strongly that I should receive recognition from the company based on my contributions.”
“I feel uncomfortable that you expect me to help you over my own priorities.”
“I feel disappointed when you didn’t follow through when you told me you would.”
Avoid using sentences that begin with “you” and followed by accusation or judgment, such as “you are…,” “you should…,” or “you need to….” “You” language followed by such directives put the listener on the defensive, and make them less likely to be open to what you have to say.
4. The Ability to Stay Proactive, Not Reactive in the Face of a Difficult Person
Most of us encounter unreasonable people in our lives. We may be “stuck” with a difficult individual at work or at home. It’s easy to let a challenging person affect us and ruin our day. What are some of the keys to staying proactive in such situations? Here are three quick tips:
A. When you feel angry and upset with someone, before you say something you might later regret, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In most circumstances, by the time you reach ten, you would have figured out a better way of communicating the issue, so that you can reduce, instead of complicate the problem. If you’re still upset after counting to ten, take a time out if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.
B. Another way to reduce reactivity is to try to put yourself in the difficult individual’s shoes, even for just a moment. For example, consider the person you’re dealing with, and complete the sentence: “It must not be easy….”
“My child is being so resistant. It must not be easy to deal with his school and social pressures…”
“My boss is really demanding. It must not be easy to have such high expectations placed on her performance by management…”
To be sure, empathetic statements do not excuse unacceptable behavior. The point is to remind yourself that people do what they do because of their own issues. As long as we’re being reasonable and considerate, difficult behaviors from others say a lot more about them than they do about us. By de-personalizing, we can view the situation more objectively, and come up with better ways of solving the problem.
C. Set Consequence.The ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most important skills you can use to “stand down” a difficult person. Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the difficult individual, and compels her or him to shift from violation to respect. In my book (click on title) “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle People,” consequence is presented as seven different types of power you can utilize to affect positive change.
5. The Ability to Bounce Back from Adversity
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
— Michael Jordan
Life is not always easy. We all know that. How we choose the way we think, feel, and act in relation to life’s challenges can often make the difference between hope versus despair, optimism versus frustration, and victory versus defeat. With every challenging situation we encounter, ask questions such as “What is the lesson here?” “How can I learn from this experience?” “What is most important now?” and “If I think outside the box, what are some better answers?” The higher the quality of questions we ask, the better the quality of answers we will receive. Ask constructive questions based on learning and priorities, and we can gain the proper perspective to help us tackle the situation at hand.
“Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections, failed twice in business and suffered a nervous breakdown before he became the president of the United States.”
— Wall Street Journal
6. The Ability to Express Intimate Emotions in Close, Personal Relationships
The ability to effectively express and validate tender, loving emotions is essential to maintaining close personal relationships. In this case, “effective” means sharing intimate feelings with someone in an appropriate relationship, in a manner that’s nourishing and constructive, and being able to respond affirmatively when the other person does the same.
A person’s “heart withers if it does not answer another heart.”
— Pearl Buck
Psychologist Dr. John Gottman calls the expression of intimate emotions “bidding.” Bidding can be any method of positive connection between two people desiring a close relationship. For example:
Verbal bidding: “How are you doing?” “How are you feeling?” “I love you.” “I appreciate you.” “I like it when we talk like this.” “I’m glad we’re spending this time together.” “you’re such a good friend.” “I’m sorry.”
Body language bidding: positive eye contact, hugging, smiling, patting the elbow, arm around the shoulder.
Behavioral bidding: offering food or beverage, a personalized card, a thoughtful gift, a needed favor. Empathetic listing. Engaging in shared activities that create a closer bond.
Dr. Gottman’s research reveals that close, healthy relationships bid with each other in ways large and small up to hundreds of times a day. The words and gestures can be a million variations, all of which say, in essence, “I care about you,” “I want to be connected with you,” and “you’re important in my life.” Constant and consistent bidding is crucial in the maintenance and development of close, personal relationships. It’s the vitamin of love.
Why is that we tend to be more successful at pursuits we are genuinely passionate about? Why does time seem to drag when you are completely bored and uninterested in a task? How come you can easily lose yourself in a task that really piques your interest?
According to positive psychology, doing things that you find genuinely interesting and stimulating can put you into a state Flow, which is defined as an ‘optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.’ During flow, self-awareness and the ego can dissolve, meaning you become completely focused and immersed in the activity for its own sake. Flow has been linked to enhanced performance and creativity across a wide range of activities, such as sports, artistic pursuits, and even in the workplace. Perhaps you can visualize a time when you became so focused and passionate about something that time just dissipated?
WHAT DOES FLOW FEEL LIKE?
Psychologically, riding a state of flow can feel incredibly pleasing and liberating. As we immerse ourselves in an activity that stimulates our passions, curiosity and interests, we lose track of the world around us and can enter unusual states of creativity and productivity.
According to psychologist Mikhal Csíkszentmihályi’s landmark book Finding Flow, the feeling of flow is associated with these ten factors, although not all of them need to be present to experience it. Have you ever experienced some or all of these?
You feel a complete focus of attention
The activity is intrinsically rewarding
You have clear, attainable (although still challenging) goals
You have a feeling of peace and losing yourself
There is an element of timelessness, or, losing track of time during the activity
You receive immediate feedback
You know that the task is doable, and you can strike a balance between skill level and the challenge presented.
You feel a sense of personal control over your efforts
You lose track of your physical needs.
You experience an unusually high level of concentration
WHAT DOES FLOW LOOK LIKE IN THE BRAIN?
A variety of processes occur simultaneously in the brain when we enter a state of flow. Essentially, these processes are threefold and together they help explain why during flow, the brain is capable of enhanced creativity and productivity: Transitions in brainwaves, deactivation of the prefrontal cortex, and changes in neuro-chemistry.
Brain Wave Transitions:
While in a state of flow, our brainwaves transition from the more rapid beta waves of waking consciousness to slower alpha waves, and even to the border of much slower theta waves. Alpha waves are associated with relaxed and effortless alertness, peak performance and creativity, while theta waves are associated with the deeper dream-state consciousness and experienced predominately during REM sleep.
Pre-Frontal Cortex Deactivation:
During flow states, the Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC) becomes deactivated in a process called “transienthypo-frontality.” The PFC is the area of the brain that houses higher-level cognitions, including those that help us to cultivate our ego and sense of self. During a flow state this area becomes deactivated, helping us lose ourselves in the task at hand and silence our criticisms, fears and self-doubts.
Flow states also trigger a release of many of the pleasurable and performance- inducing chemicals in the brain, including dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and endorphins. A recent study shows that when are intrinsically curious about an outcome and driven for answers, dopamine is released in the brain, helping to solidify our memories. These findings suggest why flow states are good for promoting learning and memory in addition to creativity.
EIGHT STEPS FOR ENHANCING YOUR STATE OF FLOW
In addition to being a pleasurable and productive experience, riding the flow also has a host of other benefits to well-being including increased self- esteem, self-confidence, life satisfaction and overall happiness. Here are eight steps for enhancing your state of flow:
Do something that interests you.
Flow comes most naturally when we are intrinsically motivated, excited and curios about the task. So if you are looking to get creative and productive, choose to focus on a task that you enjoy and already feel passionate about. If this is for work, or you don’t have a choice of the task, try to identify elements of the tasks that excite you. Maybe there are certain parts of project or elements of an assignment that interest you? Pay special attention to those.
Set Clear Goals.
Be specific when you are getting started on a task. What is the goal you are aiming for? Are you trying to finish a painting? Write a new song? Complete a presentation? Or perfect a new yoga pose? This will help to hone your focus and keep you on task. If you try to do too much it could overwhelm you, and if you do too little you might not spend enough time in deep concentration to reach a flow state.
Find A Quiet and Productive Time.
Most people find that an environment of peace and quiet works best for inducing a state of flow, possibly because of how brainwave patterns shift into slower frequencies during flow. When you begin your work, try to cultivate a calm, quiet environment. Also, make sure to identify when you are most productive: For some, this is first thing in the morning, and for others it is afternoon. For me, it is late at night. Identify the right time for you to be creative and block it off to engage in your flow time.
Avoid Interruptions and Distractions
Interruptions are the nemesis of flow. Every time get distracted, whether it is a roommate speaking to us, our phone beeping, emails coming in, a distracting song, or a messy desk, it can pull us out of flow and quicken our brainwaves to beta state. When you decide it is time to get into flow, turn off the phone, ask your friends, family or roommates not to disturb you, and tidy up your work space before you get started.
Focus as Long as you Can:
Once you are able to sit down during a quiet productive time without distractions, try to stay focused for as long as you can. At first, especially if you are new to the task, you may only be able to focus for five or ten minutes. This is OK: Just keep practicing! As you continue to direct your energies to focusing, you will train your brain to more easily and fluidly drop into the flow state and before long, hours will be passing by like minutes.
Match Your Skills to the Task
We can best enter flow when we are working on a task that is suited to our skill level. In other words, when we are well prepared for the task at hand, we are more likely to experience flow. Csíkszentmihályi gives the example of a runner experiencing flow during a marathon for which she has trained for several months.
But There is No Harm in Stretching Your Skills Slightly
Your skills should match the task at hand, but it is also possible to stretch your skills slightly past your comfortzone to maximize flow. A little bit of a challenge can be a great thing. So perhaps you are trying a new yoga move that is extra difficult. Or you are recording a song using new software. As long as the background skills are there, pushing yourself a little bit can be excellent for bringing you into a concentrated, productive state.
Emphasize Process, Not Outcome
Finally, please remember that the experience of flow is a PROCESS, not an outcome. In other words, working and creating from a place of flow is a life skill that you can strive to master with practice, and this usually does not happen overnight. Just keep trying and do not give up even if you don’t nail it right away. Remember, flow is all abut enjoyment and living in the present moment. If you become to wrapped up in the outcome, then it can take your enjoyment away. Who really cares what the painting looks like, so long as you enjoyed painting it right!? Just keep trying and continue to be open to the creativity flowing through your space
Brooks, director of the Austin Psychology and Assessment Center, says our thoughts are like a river. When we’re thinking about what we need from the store, the river is calm, but when we’re having negative thoughts–worrying about a presentation, for example–the current becomes more turbulent.
Mindful people–those who live in the present–can step back and stay on the riverbank, watching their current of thoughts and not getting swept away by their content.
Meditation fosters mindfulness, but the practice seems difficult in today’s world of constant stimulation: “People think the goal of meditation is to empty the mind,” says Brooks. “It’s not about clearing the mind; it’s about focusing on one thing. When the mind wanders, the meditation isn’t a failure. Our brain is like a wayward puppy, out of control. Catching it and putting it back to the object of focus is the mediation.”
Brooks says meditating is like exercise; a full workout is preferred, but there is value in short bursts.
“Research shows that a total of 15 minutes of meditating each day for several weeks produces detectable, positive changes in the brain as well as corresponding reductions in stress, anxiety, and an enhanced sense of well-being,” says Brooks. “You can get the benefits of a formal meditation practice by weaving mini-meditations into your daily life.”
He offers six ways you can effortlessly incorporate meditation into your daily life:
1. WALKING MEDITATION
While walking your dog, taking a hike, or simply getting the mail, focus your attention on one item, such as the sound of the cicadas, the feel of the ground beneath your feet, or the color of the tree. When the mind wanders, catch it and return to your original focus.
“Research has found that just being in nature reduces stress,” says Brooks. “We weren’t meant to sit in cubicles all day and when we disconnect from nature, we suffer a lot of stress.”
2. RED LIGHT MEDITATION
While stopped at a red light, turn off your radio and focus on deep breaths. When your mind wanders, go back to your breath.
“Breathing meditation is one of the easiest because it’s always with us and exists in the present moment,” says Brooks. “You can’t listen to yesterday’s breath.”
3. RUNNING/CYCLING MEDITATION
If you run or bike, leave your headphones at home and focus on the experience.
“Tune into a physical sensation, such as the ground beneath your feet, the wind in your hair, or the warmth of the sunlight,” says Brooks. “Choose one item and maintain your focus. Don’t jump mindlessly from one sensation to another.”
4. EATING/DRINKING MEDITATION
As you eat or drink, focus on the various flavours, textures, and sensations of the particular food or drink. Drinking a cup of tea or enjoying a piece of chocolate can be a form of meditation, says Brooks.
“Savor what you have in the moment,” he says.
5. WAITING MEDITATION
While in line, observe your breath or surroundings. Use the time to do some inner observations. For example, are your muscles tense? Are you cold or hot?
“It is important that when you do the observations, you do them without judgment,” says Brooks. “If you’re in the supermarket checkout line, for example, avoid judging people for what they have in their shopping carts. Observe and notice without opinion.”
6. TASK-RELATED MEDITATION
You can also incorporate mindfulness meditation into daily activities, says Brooks. For example, washing your hands, folding laundry, taking a shower, washing dishes, or brushing your teeth can serve as mini-meditations if you focus on the experience and stop your mind from wandering.
“Focusing on what’s happening now pulls us out of our river of thoughts,” says Brooks. “The benefit of meditation is that when something in the real world comes up, we’re much better at catching our thoughts instead of getting swept into their current.”
The workplace happiness trend is sweeping through corporate America, but overhauling a company culture is no easy task. Businesses big and small share their most effective strategies
Companies of every size and in every industry have whole-heartedly embraced the idea that happy employees are more productive, and that engaging employees in a company’s mission is one of the best ways to ensure success. But let’s face it: not everyone is Etsy, with an entire team devoted to such endeavors, or Bank of America, with a budget for extensive sociometric studies of its workplace, and even fewer could justify the sort of investment Google makes in attracting and retaining top talent.
Fortunately, it’s not an all-or-nothing endeavor. According to Alison Davis Blake, dean of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, there are myriad ways for companies to pick and choose the positive business strategies that best suit their size, industry and particular needs. Here are five strategies some of the world’s most successful businesses have deployed to help them not only hire employees that are a good fit, but also keep them engaged over the long term.
Step one: consider your culture
If the idea of re-engineering your company’s culture sounds overwhelming, consider the case of Mercedes-Benz, which had to figure out how to accomplish the task across a geographically distributed franchise dealer network with more than 25,000 employees.
“How do you build a strong culture, especially with an organization like ours, which has 3,000-plus employees and then a dealer network wherein each organization has its own initiatives and agendas?” said Gareth Joyce, the automaker’s vice president of customer experience. Tasked with improving customers’ experiences across the brand, Joyce knew he needed to start with the employees that interacted with those customers daily.
“You have to create a vision for people to follow, and once you succeed in doing that, you have to tell the story, again and again,” he said. “Eventually the story begins to feed itself. People start to feel good about what they’re doing. If you know what your purpose is and you start to see the connection between what you’re doing every day and the company’s vision, you see that you’re making a difference. Then tomorrow you want to get up and do more of that.”
The first step in that process for Mercedes was giving each employee access to the company’s product. “We got them into a Mercedes to take home, to show their families, their wives, their kids, their boyfriends and girlfriends, so that they could say: ‘This is the brand I represent. This is what I take pride in,’” Joyce said. “If they haven’t experienced it themselves, how are they going to sell it to anyone else with any passion?”
Next, the company created a culture survey that it regularly administers to both corporate and dealer employees. Mercedes provides one day of consulting to each of its dealers to go over the results of the survey and turn the information into action, which then gets evaluated in the next survey.
Instead of using software or IT tools, “we’ve opted for a people-centered approach because we think that goes straight to the root: if you get your people behind what you’re doing, it takes you further, faster than any other approach,” Joyce said.
Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of online food seller Zingerman’s, puts it simply: “If you want customer service to be better, give better service to the staff.”
Step two: rethink hiring
Once your company has set its culture and vision, the next step is thinking really carefully about who you hire, Blake said. She recommends evaluating candidates not just for skills, but also for temperament and fit.
“The problem is that hiring tends to be based on attraction bias – I like people who are like me – which has nothing to do with features that are relevant to the sort of firm you want to build,” she said.
This approach to hiring, sometimes called “attribute-based,” is growing more popular for companies of all sizes. In some cases, companies are ignoring resumes, references, and even the traits traditionally associated with success in a particular role, and opting instead to look at the attributes that make employees successful (and likely to stick around) in their particular culture.
It requires a bit more planning and potentially a lengthier interview process, but figuring out which attributes work well in a specific company and role – and documenting those traits – is helping businesses to get better talent and keep it. ATB Investor Services, a mid-size financial advisor firm in Alberta, Canada, for example, saw its turnover rate drop and sales increase when it adopted this approach.
“It doesn’t cost any money to be more disciplined in hiring – in fact it costs less in the long-term because you make fewer errors,” Blake said. “Companies should think carefully about not only a candidate’s skills, but also their attitude about work, attitude about the role of business in general, about the company’s products and so forth, and be intentional about writing that stuff down.”
This is especially important for small businesses, which often have loose hiring practices, she said. “Smaller firms will often say ‘we don’t need HR; we don’t need all that bureaucracy,’” she said. “But mission-aligned, culture-aligned hiring is important for companies of any size.”
Step three: increase performance reviews
The idea of conducting more performance reviews doesn’t sound like something that would catch on, but more and more companies are doing just that. The idea is simple: only giving employees and managers one chance a year to sit down and talk about what does and doesn’t work all but ensures that things will slip through the cracks. It doesn’t give managers time to improve an employee’s performance, nor does it give employees time to raise important issues. The result is typically higher-than-necessary turnover rates.
Instead, some companies are opting to conduct quick weekly surveys that not only help the companies deal with issues but also help employees pass good ideas up the management chain regularly. Luke Ryan, a spokesperson for 15Five, which provides performance review software used by eyewear brand Warby Parker, software company Citrix Systems and invention website Quirky, says the idea is to “create ‘trickle-up’ communication, to surface ideas and problems on a weekly basis”.
Other companies have created their own performance review processes, incorporating input from employees and external HR experts. Australian software company Atlassian conducted a year-long program aimed at replacing its performance-review process – a standard bi-annual, 360-degree review – with something that took less time and did a better job of engaging employees.
In a blog post about the project, Joris Luijke, the company’s vice president of talent and culture, wrote: “Twice a year, the model did exactly the opposite to what we wanted to accomplish. Instead of an inspiring discussion about how to enhance people’s performance, the reviews caused disruptions, anxiety and de-motivated team members and managers. Also, even though our model was extremely lean and simple, the time investment was significant.”
In the end, the company created its own new process, which has since been duplicated by hundreds of other companies. It got rid of the scale associated with performance reviews, and replaced bi-annual review meetings with monthly check-ins. Atlassian managers were already meeting weekly with their employees, so the company decided to devote one of these weekly meetings per month to a broader conversation about performance, with a different focus area each month.
Eventually the company discovered and began using software from Small Improvements to manage this process, joining several other companies, including social media company Pinterest, ride-sharing company Lyft and home décor business One King’s Lane.
Step four: be transparent
Transparency is often discussed in terms of how a company communicates with the public, but even companies that have transparency down pat in their external communication can falter with internal transparency.
There are, of course, companies that manage to be transparent in the extreme: Zingerman’s Deli, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for example, opens its books to every single employee. Digital payment infrastructure company Stripe, based in San Francisco, has a famously open email policy wherein all email is internally public and searchable. And social media app Buffer has made its internal salary formula public, along with all employee compensation packages, as part of its commitment to the “radical transparency” CEO Joel Gascoigne says is intended to “breed trust, the foundation of great teamwork”.
But even companies that are either unwilling or unable to be completely open could benefit from a bit more transparency with their employees.
“A lot of public companies in particular are worried about legal and financial issues with opening up their books, but they could still be transparent about their operations and some aspects of the finances and reap the benefits,” says Wayne Baker, who teaches open-book finance at the Ross business school.
Baker cites Whole Foods Markets and Southwest Airlines as large, public companies that use a modified form of open-book finance to help keep their employees engaged.
Step five: empower employees
In addition to educating employees about the company’s mission, it’s important for executives to find ways to empower their employees to contribute to that mission in every way they can.
Mercedes’ Joyce sees this as critical to the success of his company’s customer service goal of delighting customers. Mercedes’ internal brand program, MB Select, provides a framework that gives employees who have direct customer contact the flexibility to do what they deem necessary to keep those customers happy.
“In that moment, where the customer is right in front of someone, and they see that something is going in a direction it shouldn’t be, you have to empower people to act,” Joyce said, describing MB Select as a “no-rules program”. “It’s about saying to our employees, ‘we trust you to do the right thing’ and enabling them to truly wow a customer in the moment.”
For Zingerman’s Weinzweig, it’s not just about making employees feel empowered but also about doing what’s best for the business.
“Why wouldn’t you want to tap into all the intellectual and physical capabilities of your staff?” he said. “People are smart and they want to do good work. Our job is to create an ecosystem in which that’s ever more likely and to create processes that encourage them to use that intelligence, and a system in which they have agency so they’re not helpless victims of some big corporate entity.”
A Trinity College researcher says students need to develop resilience, by focusing on their strengths.
Jolanta Burke believes not enough attention is paid to what makes children happy in the Irish curriculum, and yet it has a huge bearing on how well they perform in school.
Ms Burke, a psychologist and PhD researcher at Trinity College’s School of Education, believes we should embed positive psychology in the Irish curriculum. She has been advising guidance counsellors on how to use it in schools and says teachers should also receive training.
Positive psychology is defined by Jolanta Burke as the “science of well-being”.
“Until now, psychologists in schools have tended to focus on students with problems. They focus on the students’ weaknesses and how they fall apart.
“Positive psychology looks at the school differently. We look at the top students and learn from them as much as possible, so that we can help the majority of students become better. Rather than focusing on the weaknesses of students, we focus on their strengths.”
The psychologist is keen to emphasise that this is not a “happy clappy” approach, where children are told how wonderful they are.
“It is not about building up self-esteem. That was a mistake among the 1970s generation of parents. They tried to blow up their child’s sef-esteem by telling them how fabulous they were and that they could do anything. That is actually not good for a child because it reduces their resilience.”
The positive psychology programmes in schools place a strong emphasis on developing character strengths and encouraging resilience.
Jolanta Burke believes resilience can be encouraged in three ways:
• children can be taught to bounce back after disappointments – for example, if they fail exams
• they can be taught to build up a shield that protects them from hurt in certain situations
• kids can learn how to keep going and the importance of perseverence when facing up to the challenges in life
The psychologist says perseverance and an attitude of not wanting to give up are hugely important when it comes to performance in schools.
“You might have a talent for music, but unless you are prepared to put the effort in, it can be wasted.”
While Jolanta Burke does not believe in inflating self-esteem, she wants to encourage more positive emotions and a more optimistic outlook.
“An optimistic way of thinking is very important. I am doing research on bullying at the moment, and it is associated with a pessimistic thinking style.
“Adolescents who think optimistically believe adversity is temporary, and that it affects only one aspect of their lives, and they do not tend to blame themselves for the situation.
“Those who are pessimistic believe adversity is permanent and affects all aspects of their lives and that they themselves are to blame. We try to get students to think more optimistically, and this can reduce depression and anxiety.”
This week’s headline theme considers self-mastery: what is it, how is it integral to our learning and our success, and how might we strengthen and develop greater self-mastery?
It is said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. That’s the the equivalent to the hours spent over five years in a full-time job. And although this number as an absolute is hotly debated, as you will read in the stories below, the fact remains that the more time we spend practising anything the better we get at it, and the better at something we want to become the more time we better be prepared to put into it.
This is good news for those of us who are are not-so-very-young anymore and have plenty of hours doing what we do already on the meter. But what does it mean for learning something new…?
Well, certainly practice, if not making us perfect, is needed to progress us closer towards our ideal state. And practice demands great amounts of self-discipline, determination, willpower, self-belief, perseverance, self-regulation, stamina, optimism, self-reliance and resilience – perhaps summed up best by Charles Handy in his book The New Alchemists as the three essential qualities of successful entrepreneurs: Drive, Doggedness and Difference.
Notice the repeated emphasis on the self in these essential capabilities. More and more self-mastery is becoming one of the essentials for our 21st century work and lives.
Nice word but what is it and how can we develop it?
He titled his ideas The Fifth Discipline to underscore the necessity of Systems Thinking, and if, for Senge, Personal Mastery was not the most important, he made it the his first and arguably the one upon which all the others then depend upon and build out from.
We have developed his ideas to extend into individual capabilities with resonance for everyone one of us, and here then is what we can learn about self-mastery from Senge’s model for deliberate continuous learning and adaptation:
Personal Mastery ~ learning to expand our personal capacity to create the results we most desire; continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision and focusing our energies; developing resilience and searching out a wider reality; knowing what ‘playing to our strengths’ means and being willing and able to act differently from our natural style and preferences to better match the demands of the situations we face.
Mental Models ~ learning to expose our internal assumptions and beliefs about the world, to bring them to the surface and hold them rigorously to scrutiny; being able to unveil and communicate the assumptions inside our thinking, making our thinking open and porous to influence from others. This discipline enables us to recognise our different mindsets and change them to more helpful when we need to.
Shared Vision ~ building a sense of shared purpose and commitment with the rest of our group by unearthing the collective pictures of the ideal future we hope to create, and the principles, values and practices by which we hope to get there. Knowing why what we want is necessary and compelling and has worth and meaning outside our own self-interests.
Team Learning ~ discovering and expanding what we know through the act of listening to each other, using dialogue to suspend assumptions and genuinely ‘think together’ and Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to transform our conversations into collective learning so that our group can reliably create intelligence and capability greater than the sum of its individual parts.
Systems Thinking ~ a way of thinking about the forces and interrelationships that shape the behaviour of our system, and a language for describing this to each other. This discipline enables us to look out for the consequences of our choices and actions, to see how to change systems more effectively, and to use all of the disciplines together as an ensemble in order to act in tune with the larger processes of our natural, social, and economic ecosystems.
Linked closely to these ideas and amplifying their importance for both ourselves and the people and organisations we work with is the idea of Achieving Potential, also the top-line outcome from having high level happiness at work. And our thinking about what this means is inherited from Maslow’s hierarchical model of different level needs, and places Self- Actualisation – achieving our fullest potential – at the pinnacle of his pyramid.
What follows is a number of articles that have been collected in this week’s new Happiness At Work #edition 110 that add different ideas, insights, and guidance for building this increasingly crucial capability of self-mastery.
“Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life.”
– Theodore Roosevelt, former US president.
What do you think when you hear the term “self-mastery”? You might picture someone like a martial arts master – calm, focused, and in control at all times. Or, maybe you imagine people who have their lives planned, and are in control of their own future.
Do you show these traits on a regular basis? Do you feel in control of your career and your goals? Or, like many people, do you feel that you should take more control of your actions and emotions?
In this article, we’ll examine what self-mastery is – and we’ll look at what you can do to develop it within yourself.
What is Self-Mastery?
When you have developed self-mastery, you have the ability to control yourself in all situations, and you move forward consciously and steadily towards your goals. You know your purpose, and you have the self-discipline needed to do things in a deliberate, focused, and honorable way.
Think about people you know who don’t have any self-mastery. They’re probably impulsive and rash. They might let their emotions control them, yelling at colleagues when they’re angry, and then being overly polite to make up for this later. They’re unpredictable and, as a result, people see them as untrustworthy.
When you demonstrate self-mastery at work, you prove to your colleagues that you have the inner strength and steadiness needed for effective leadership. So it’s well worth the effort to invest time developing self-mastery. You’ll likely become a happier, more balanced person – and you’ll find that opportunities arise because of this.
Self-mastery is a broad term that covers many aspects of your personal and professional life. Developing self-mastery can mean working on many of these areas. (If so, it may be best to focus on one or two areas at a time, so you don’t become overwhelmed.)
Look at the following areas of your life to develop self-mastery:
Self-mastery starts with a vision of how you want your life to be.
Think about people you know who have incredible self-discipline. Chances are that they know exactly where they want to go in life, and this vision gives them the strength to get there.
This is why it’s so important to start with a clear vision of your short-term and long-term objectives. Learn how to set personal goals, and get into the habit of moving towards these goals every day. The clearer you are about what you want to achieve in life, the easier it is to move forwards calmly and confidently.
2. Attitude and Emotion
Your attitude and emotions play a major role in self-mastery. Those who show strong self-mastery don’t let their emotions control them – they control their own emotions.
Focus on something positive every day. Be grateful for things, even if these are just things like that fact that you do a job you enjoy, or that the weather is beautiful on your drive to work. Having gratitude and a positive outlook will set the tone for the rest of your day.
Resist the temptation to blame yourself when things go wrong.Self-sabotage is a quick and cruel way of stopping yourself from reaching your true potential. If you find that you’re undermining yourself, consciously make yourself stop. Instead, think of something positive and encouraging.
You can also change negative thinking with cognitive restructuring. Write down the situation that is causing your negative thoughts. Next, write down the emotions you feel, and list the “automatic thoughts” you have while experiencing these emotions. Then, list the evidence that supports these negative thoughts, and the evidence that refutes them. Finally, list some fair, balanced, objective thoughts about the situation.
Being able to manage and control your emotions helps you buildemotional intelligence. This is your awareness of others people’s needs and emotions, and your knowledge of how your own emotions affect those around you. Those who have good self-mastery are always aware of others, and they work hard to make sure that their emotions don’t negatively impact other people.
Think about how many times you’ve set a goal and, for one reason or another, never followed it through because of lack of willpower or self-control. It’s happened to all of us, and we probably felt ashamed or disappointed that we didn’t achieve what we wanted.
Willpower is an essential part of self-mastery. It’s what pushes you forward to take action, even if you’re feeling scared or hesitant. Willpower is also what keeps you moving towards your goals in the weeks or months ahead.
To boost your willpower, make sure you have both rational and emotional motives for what you want to achieve. For example, if your goal is to stop surfing the web in work time, a rational motive could be that it’s against company rules, while an emotional motive could be that other people will lose respect for you when they see that you are not working hard.
For many of us, willpower comes in short bursts and is often strongest when we first decide to make a change. So, use your initial burst of willpower to change your environment, so that it supports your efforts to reach your goal.
For instance, imagine that your goal is to improve your self-confidence at work. At the beginning, when your willpower is strong, you could focus on changing the environment in your workplace by making a list of everything that hurts your self-confidence. You could also create a plan for overcoming those obstacles, and post items and affirmations in your office that provide reminders about your goal.
After a week or so, you might find that your willpower is not as strong. But, because you changed your environment, you’re better prepared to continue working towards your goal, because you have a foundation already in place.
Improving focus is also key to self-mastery. For instance, how much time do you waste during your work day? How much time do you spend on the Internet, talking casually with colleagues, or getting coffee? What could you accomplish if you fully used the hours available to you?
Start by working on your concentration. Focus on one task at a time, and slowly increase your level of focus.
At first you may find that you can’t concentrate on a task for more than one hour at a time, before you get tired anddistracted. Try to increase this to two hours by adding 15 minutes of focused work every day. This will allow you to strengthen your focus to two-hour stretches – and then even more, if that’s what you need to get things done.
Achieving self-mastery takes time and hard work, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
It’s best to work on one or two areas at a time. Start by identifying your life and career goals. Then, focus on maintaining a positive attitude during the day. Also, try not to let negative emotions impact anyone else.
Other strategies, like building your willpower and strengthening your focus, will help ensure that you keep moving forward toward your goals – while further building self-mastery.
Research shows that only 20% of people achieve anything close to their true potential. I recently sat down with Shirzad Chamine, who believes he has identified exactly why most of us do not reach out true potential, and what we can do about it. In his New York Times Bestseller Positive Intelligence, Shirzad distills his groundbreaking research on the ten well-disguised mental Saboteurs that hold people back, and how you can overcome them. He shares the key to improving your performance at work and feeling happier and less stressed in as little as 21 days. Does this sound too good to be true? Ironically, that may be one of your Saboteurs talking right now!
Shirzad believes it is critical that leaders become aware of the duel perspectives “raging inside their minds.” The constant battle is “between the ‘Sage’ voice that serves them versus the ‘Saboteur’ voices that undermine them.” According to Shirzad, while this conflict between Sage and Saboteur happens inside every mind, it intensifies with most entrepreneurs.
For many entrepreneurs, your identity becomes very wrapped up in your business, which is why it can feel so personal when things don’t go well . This leads to additional stress, which is what fuels the Saboteurs. Shirzad says that the reason only 20% of people achieve anything close to their true potential is due to the destructive power of their Saboteurs.
There are a total of ten Saboteurs, “internal enemies” as Shirzad calls them; however, most people are undermined by only a couple of them, depending on personality and background. The ten Saboteurs are: Judge, Controller, Victim, Restless, Stickler, Pleaser, Avoider, Hyper-Rational , Hyper-Achiever, and Hyper-Vigilant.
There is a specific subset of Saboteurs that tend to afflict entrepreneurs:
Judge: The Judge causes the greatest damage. It beats you down constantly over your flaws and mistakes. The lie the Judge tells is that by beating you up over your imperfections, you stay driven.
Controller: The Controller runs on an anxiety-based need to take charge, control situations, and bend people’s actions to your own will. By overdoing this, it causes resentment in others and prevents them from developing themselves, because they have to do things your way.
Hyper-Rational: The Hyper-Rational involves an intense and exclusive focus on the rational processing of everything, including relationships. It causes you to be impatient with people’s emotions, regarding them as unworthy of your time and attention.
The key to overcoming these Saboteurs and reaching your full potential involves three strategies:
1. Weaken Your Saboteurs
To weaken your Saboteurs, you need to observe and label the Saboteur thoughts and feelings when they arise. Start off by exposing which of the ten Saboteurs are your primary internal enemies. Then create a “mug shot” of each one, profiling key beliefs, assumptions, and feelings. This helps you intercept the Saboteur when it shows up in your head and switch to the Sage alternative. It takes a little practice, but the results are game changing for the company, and life changing for the leader.
For example, if you are feeling stressed out at work and notice yourself saying “I’m such an idiot for saying xx in that meeting”, you might say to yourself “Oh, the Judge is back again, saying I’m going to fail”. It is a powerful act of mindfulness to notice and label your Saboteurs, realize they are not serving you and choose to move into Sage mode instead.
2. Strengthen Sage
The Sage perspective is always available, and Shirzad outlines five specific Sage powers in his book that you can use to meet any challenge. One of the most powerful tools Shirzad gives to switch from Saboteur to Sage involves asking yourself, “What is the gift or opportunity in this situation?”
The next time you are faced with a challenge, try taking a few deep breaths and then ask yourself “Hmmm……What is the gift or opportunity in this situation?” Force yourself to come up with a list of at least threegifts or opportunities. By simply asking this question, you will start to shift into Sage mode and open yourself to a better outcome.
3. Strengthen Your PQ Brain
In addition to identifying and labeling your primary Saboteurs and strengthening your Sage, the final tool to achieve your potential involves improving your Positive Intelligence (PQ) brain muscles through repetitive exercises.
Positive Intelligence measures how well you are able to control your own mind and how well your mind acts in your best interest. One example Shirzad uses in his book to illustrate this is when your mind tells you that you should do your best to prepare for a big meeting, it is acting as your friend. When your mind wakes you up at 3:00am anxious about the meeting and racing in a loop over and over again about potential problems, it is acting as your enemy. The key to reaching your potential lies in your ability to use your own mind as your biggest alley rather than your biggest saboteur.
Practicing mindfulness is one of the best ways to strengthen your PQ Brain. Shirzad suggests doing at least one hundred PQ reps each day for twenty one days and he provides examples of how to do this in the book. Meditation is a great way to strengthen your PQ brain muscles.
To determine your current PQ Score and learn tools to strengthen your PQ brain, click here. According to Shirzad, a PQ score of 75 is the tipping point for a net-positive PQ Vortex, which results in an exponential boost in productivity.
Shirzad believes the reason many management trainings are ineffective is that there is too much focus on “insight,” and too little on building and maintaining new mental habits or muscles. He says “Transformation is 20% insight, 80% muscle”.
And he has found that if you commit to the three tools above for a period of twenty one days, you will build new PQ muscles to create lasting change.
People at the very peak of there fields have been shown to have put in 10,000 hours getting to that level. How does this translate for the rest of us…?
By Ben Carter
A much-touted theory suggests that practising any skill for 10,000 hours is sufficient to make you an expert. No innate talent? Not a problem. You just practice. But is it true?
The 10,000-hours concept can be traced back to a 1993 paper written by Anders Ericsson, a Professor at the University of Colorado, called The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance.
It highlighted the work of a group of psychologists in Berlin, who had studied the practice habits of violin students in childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
All had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age 20, the elite performers had averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only done 4,000 hours of practice.
The psychologists didn’t see any naturally gifted performers emerge and this surprised them. If natural talent had played a role it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to expect gifted performers to emerge after, say, 5,000 hours.
Anders Ericsson concluded that “many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 years”.
It is Malcolm Gladwell’s hugely popular book, Outliers, that is largely responsible for introducing “the 10,000-hour rule” to a mass audience – it’s the name of one of the chapters.
But Ericsson was not pleased. He wrote a rebuttal paper in 2012, called The Danger of Delegating Education to Journalists.
“The 10,000-hour rule was invented by Malcolm Gladwell who stated that, ‘Researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: 10,000 hours.’ Gladwell cited our research on expert musicians as a stimulus for his provocative generalisation to a magical number,” Ericsson writes.
Ericsson then pointed out that 10,000 was an average, and that many of the best musicians in his study had accumulated “substantially fewer” hours of practice. He underlined, also, that the quality of the practice was important.
“In contrast, Gladwell does not even mention the concept of deliberate practice,” Ericsson writes.
Gladwell counters that Ericsson doesn’t really think that talent exists.
“I think that being very, very good at something requires a big healthy dose of natural talent. And when I talk about the Beatles – they had masses of natural talent. They were born geniuses. Ericsson wouldn’t say that.
“Ericsson, if you read some of his writings, is… saying the right kind of practice is sufficient.”
Gladwell places himself roughly in the middle of a sliding scale with Ericsson at one end, placing little emphasis on the role of natural talent, and at the other end a writer such as David Epstein, author of the The Sports Gene. Epstein is “a bit more of a talent person than me” Gladwell suggests.
One of the difficulties with assessing whether expert-level performance can be obtained just through practice is that most studies are done after the subjects have reached that level.
It would be better to follow the progress of someone with no innate talent in a particular discipline who chooses to complete 10,000 hours of deliberate practice in it.
And we can, thanks to our wannabe professional golfer, Dan McLaughlin.
“I began the plan in April 2010 and I basically putted from one foot and slowly worked away from the hole,” he says.
“Eighteen months into it I hit my first driver and now it’s approaching four years and I’m about half way. So I’m 5,000 hours into the project. My current handicap is right at a 4.1 and the goal is to get down to a plus handicap [below zero] where I have the skill set to compete in a legitimate PGA tour event.”
David Epstein hopes that McLaughlin can reach his goal, but he has some doubts. In the sporting world innate ability is mandatory, he believes.
A recent study of baseball players, Epstein points out, found that the average player had 20/13 vision as opposed to normal 20/20 vision. What this means is that they can see at 20 feet what a normal person would need to be at 13 feet to see clearly. That gives a hitter an enormous advantage when it comes to striking a ball being thrown towards them at 95mph from 60 feet (or 153km/h from 18m).
Using an analogy from computing, Epstein says the hardware is someone’s visual acuity – or the physiology of their eye that they cannot change – while the software is the set of skills they learn by many, many hours of practice.
“No matter how good their vision is, it’s like a laptop with only the hardware – with no programmes on it, it’s useless. But once they’ve downloaded that software, once they have learned those sports-specific skills, the better the hardware is the better the total machine is going to be.”
But is there a simpler way to think about all this? Maybe talented people just practise more and try harder at the thing they’re already good at – because they enjoy it?
“Imagine being in calculus class on your first day and the teacher being at the board writing an equation, and you look at it and think ‘Wow, that’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,’ which some people do,” says Gladwell.
“For those people to go home and do two hours of calculus homework is thrilling, whereas for the rest of us it’s beyond a chore and more like a nightmare.
“Those that have done the two hours’ practice come in the following day and everything is easier than it is for those who didn’t enjoy it in the first place and didn’t do the two hours’ homework.”
What Dan McLaughlin is hoping is that what he lacks in innate talent he more than makes up for with his 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.
If Dan’s plan goes well he could be mixing it with the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in 2018. If not, he will just be a very good golfer.
The centrepiece of Gladwell’s book was practice well, practice well and you’ll reach the top of your field.
What Dr Ericsson was actually saying [in his 1993 paper] was “It takes 10,000 hours to get the top of an ultra-competitive filed in a very narrow subject.”
But here’s what happened. Ever since Outliers came out, reached the top of the bestseller list and stayed there for three solid months, all of a sudden the 10,000 Rule was everywhere. And a society-wide game of Telephone started to be played. So this message ‘It takes 10,000 hours to get to the top of an ultra-competitive field’ became ‘It takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something’ which became ‘It takes 10,000 hours to become good at something’ which became ‘It takes 10,000 hours to learn something.’ But that last statement is not true…
And the story of the Learning Curve is when you start you are grossly incompetent and you know it. With a little bit of practice you get really good really quick. That early level of improvement is real fast. Then, at a certain point, you reach a plateau, and the subsequent gains become much harder to get.
How long does it take to get from being grossly incompetent to being reasonably good at something? My research says 20 hours.
You can go from know nothing about any subject – learn a language or learn how to draw or how to juggle flaming chainsaws – if you put 20 hours of deliberate focused practice into learning that thing, you will be astounded at how good you are. And 20 hours isn’t that hard to accumulate – it’s just 20minutes a day for two months.
But this demands more than just fiddling around for about 20hours. There’s a way to practice intelligently and efficiently that will make sure you invest those 20hours in the most effective way that you can. And here’s the method…
4 Simple Steps To Rapid Skill Acquisition
Deconstruct the skill. Decide exactly what you want to be able to do when you’re done, and then look into the skill and break it down into smaller and smaller pieces… The more you’re able to break apart the skill, the more you’re able to decide what are the parts of the skill that will actually help me to get to what I want. And then you can practice those most important parts first, and this get to what you want to be able to do in the least amount of time possible.
Learn enough to self-correct. Get 3-5 resources on what it is you’re trying to learn – books, dvdd, course, anything – but don’t use those as a way to procrastinate. What you want to do is learn just enough to self-correct as you’re doing. The learning needs to enable you to know when you’re making a mistake and then do something helpful to correct it.
Remove practice barriers. Remove dust rations – television, internet, social media – all of the things that limit you actually sitting down and doing the work. The more you are able to use just a little bit of willpower to remove the things that get in the way of your practice, the more likely you are to actually do the practice.
Practice at least 20 hours. Most learning has a deeply frustrating part. We don’t like to feel stupid, and feeling stupid is a barrier to us actually sitting down and doing the work. So by pre committing to practicing whatever it is that you want to do for at least 2o hours you will be able to overcome that frustration barrier and stick with it long enough to reap the rewards.
The major barrier to learning anything is emotional. What do you want to do? Go out and spend 20 hours on it.
Here is Josh Kaufman’s full TEDTalk, including his demonstration of how well he has learned to play dozens of songs on the ukelele, practicing his own 2o hour guidelines:
Josh Kaufman is the author of the #1 international bestseller, ‘The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business’, as well as the upcoming book ‘The First 20 Hours: Mastering the Toughest Part of Learning Anything.’ Josh specializes in teaching people from all walks of life how to master practical knowledge and skills. In his talk, he shares how having his first child inspired him to approach learning in a whole new way.
As we learn new things, we often feel inspired to change.
We discover the possibility of achieving something greater and fall in love with that future idea.
You’ll agree with me in that doing things just once or twice won’t do the trick, right?
To achieve the end result, you need to repeat the same positive action, over and over again, until at one point it becomes automatic. And then, you’ll have a habit that you can’t live without. It becomes part of your routine.
New habits can give your brain pleasure
Installing a new positive habit has the power to bring you closer to your ideal self. But this is just a small part of the story.
Most people tend to perceive the notion of new habits as a ‘bore’ or as a painful thing to do, and feel discouraged to even try. This is because nobody told them about the additional benefits of a habit that has been successfully installed:
It feels effortless. You don’t have to think about it much. You just go on autopilot – like when you brush your teeth.
You don’t need willpower because your behaviour is automatically triggered by a contextual cue (rather than self-control).
There’s a promise of reward from completing the action. And your brain gets pleasure from a completed task.
The automation of common actions frees mental resources for other tasks or thought processes.
We perform thousands of actions a day, 95% of which are automatic: a new habit is part of this group.
This is how you can create freedom and space for other things in your life. Who doesn’t want to create health habits that are sticky and that make us feel great?
Now you may think: “But don’t we need to go through a phase of pure willpower in order to create a new health habit?”
Stay tuned, that’s what we’re here to explore – how to create a health habit that will stick, without having to employ pure willpower.
Can you rely solely on willpower to change?
If we’re talking about long-term change, then the answer isno.
Willpower is the ability to ‘mindfully’ control oneself. Controlling oneself in order to change a behaviour isn’t that easy. It’s an effort.
In contrast, a habit is an almost ‘mindless’ behaviour pattern acquired by frequent repetition that shows itself in regularity or increased facility of performance. Unlike willpower, a habit feels easy.
Willpower alone will not get you to long-term success. It’s the birthing of a new habit that will.
As Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habit, we create a habit through a cue which leads to a routine, that ends in a habit. It is the routine or habit that allows us to access a part of our brain that runs on relatively little gas.
How do you go from self-control to easy habit?
When you feel good internally after completing what you set out to do, you build into your own self accountability. You want to do more of it because you received positive feedback from the task and you felt good doing it.
You completed the new task and you added to your habit strength. It’s almost as if you perpetuate the new behaviour through letting it build its own muscle, if you will.
What’s more, installing a good action in your routine can trigger a positive ripple effect on many other health behaviours.
Australian researchers Oaten and Cheng conducted a study that concluded how one repeated action (in this case exercise) can trigger a variety of positive behaviours and faciliate the improvement of self-regulation.
Is habit automation all you really need to do?
Research led by USC Professor Wendy Wood shows that lack of control – or willpower – doesn’t automatically mean success or failure.
When you don’t have self-control, what really matters is the underlying routine, or the habit groove you’ve already installed – good or bad.
Dr. Wood, who is a leading researcher on habits, goes on to tell us this:
Habits persist even when we’re tired and don’t have the energy to exert self-control.
Is this also true for your eating habits?
The same principle applies to our eating behaviours.
Willpower – or self-control – is a limited resource and can become depleted as the day goes by.
If you’ve been juggling difficult clients or stressful situations at work to the point of mental exhaustion, there will be none or very little willpower left at the end of your day. That means a reduced ability to change what and how you eat.
So in the long run, developing a habit or an automatic reaction is more effective than self-control: you’ll perform it anyway, even when your mental energy runs out.
Can automation be used for athletic performance?
Absolutely. Here’s an example.
When an athlete is in ‘the zone’ and goes for the gold at the Olympics, it isn’t about self-control; it’s about automation. It’s about relying on that 95% of their (subconscious) machinery that they worked so hard to optimise.
For this reason, most aspiring gold-medalists are already training for 2016. Because, when it comes to star performance on the competition day, relying on automatic actions and intuitive skills is more powerful than having a ‘mental debate’ on how to control an outcome.
So how do you set up a habit?
Start simple and start small.
When you choose an action to push yourself towards your goal, plan specifically when and where you will do this action. Be consistent; choose a time and place that you encounter every day of the week. This will help with the adherence, or stickiness.
Surround yourself with new habit-forming contextual cues. These are the subconscious triggers for your new action, which can be, for instance, a time of the day, a certain place, a sound, a particular smell, foods that you keep in the kitchen, or a pre-installed behaviour – typically small things.
The less overwhelming the cues, the better your chances of grooving a habit.
Your goal here is to pay attention to the cues (or to plant new cues) around you, which act as reminders. As your brain reacts to the cue, completing the subsequent action feels like a reward.
It’s this feeling of accomplishment or reward that will cause your brain to want to do it again. When it comes to perpetuating the behaviour, repetition is king!
The bottom line
Remember, it’s about automation. This means that we remove any debates inside your head about whether to perform the action or not. Even when you don’t have the energy to exert self-control (willpower), a habit can keep you on track and in line.
Now it’s over to you! Join in the conversation and tell us in the comments below:
Which new habit can you install this week?
What triggers do you need to plant or remove to make this happen?
This is a supportive and safe place to share and learn from each other!
I think perhaps I would suggest looking at these and selecting the one or two that you believe could have the greatest positive impact of how you do things, rather than take them all – with particular caution around Tip 2…
The hardest part is getting started.
When there’s a long list that needs tackling every day, the hardest part is tackling what needs to be done first. You may feel intimidated to start your next big project or pull your colleague aside for an awkward, but much-needed confrontation.
And prioritizing isn’t getting any easier. In his book Present Shock, Douglas Rushkoff blames this modern-day condition on our “continuous, always-on ‘now’“ world which has made us lose our sense of direction.
Successful people know that planning, organizing, and protecting your time is no easy feat, but if you don’t have your priorities straight, who will? Below are four unconventional methods that keep the brightest minds focus on exactly what they need to:
1. Think About Death
Reflecting on death might not be what comes to mind when you want to tackle your to-do list, but studies find it helps you re-prioritize your goals and values. Buddhist teachings encourage reflections of death with the idea that a better understanding of mortality also helps us better understand our purpose in life.
2. Wear The Same Clothes Every Day
When you downsize your closet, you also cut down on the number of choices you have to make every day, which means you can now focus on what’s most important: your priorities.
Plenty of CEOs adopt this “uniform” strategy. Steve Jobs wore the same jeans and black turtleneck day in and day out. Oracle’s Larry Ellison also preferred black turtlenecks, but often wore them underneath fashionable slim jackets. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos sticks to khakis, blue shirts, and sometimes a dark jacket. Aspokesperson for the company once said: “[Bezos would] rather spend his time figuring out how to cut prices for customers than figuring out what to wear each day.”
Leo Widrich, cofounder of Buffer, despises these daily decisions so much, he wears the same clothes every day (he owns five white T-shirts and two pairs of pants) and also eats the same dinner six times a week. Widrich believes that the fewer decisions he has to make, the better his decisions will be.
In an interview with Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair, President Barack Obama agrees with Widrich’s way of life: “I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus yourdecision-making energy. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”
I notice though that every one of these examples is a man. What would we think of a woman who came to work constantly wearing the same outfit?
3. Know The Difference Between Urgent And Important
Like Rushkoff, Dwight D. Eisenhower knew how easy it is to lose track of goals if the importance of tasks are confusing. To differentiate between “urgent” and “important” tasks, the 34th President of the United States broke the two into very basic distinctions:
An urgent task requires immediate attention and is often performed in a hurried, reactive mode. An example of an urgent task is calming the baby or attending a meeting.
An important task contributes to long-term values and goals and is performed in a responsive mode that leads to new opportunities. An example of an important task is planning the company’s next relationship-building mixer. Important tasks can sometimes also be urgent, but often are not.
Warren Buffett knows that you can’t be amazing if you focus on everything you’re interested in at once. This is exactly why, to keep his focus laser sharp, Buffett advises making a list of the top 25 things you want to accomplish in the next few years. From this list, pick the top five that are most important to you.
Now you have two lists and Buffett suggests you “avoid at all cost” the longer one. According to the business magnate, adding your second most important items into your focus only prevents big things from happening.
Whether it’s reflecting on mortality or getting rid of your wardrobe, the smartest people know that there’s never more time in the day–only better ways to manage your time through prioritizing. And if you’ve tried it all and still get sidetracked from what’s really important, it’s time to learn the most simple, yet effective way you can prioritize: Start saying no.
Creating success in work and life, on our own terms
by Megan Dalla-Camina
Understanding the process of change — why we are the way we are, and how to change when we really want to—is incredibly important. The attribute of driving effective change can give you the keys to the kingdom of success and happiness. However, , if you don’t learn how to use it, you can stay mired in a dark hole of frustration that can lead to self-defeat and low self-esteem.
So let’s start with what we typically know: Changing behaviors is hard. (Change is hard, period.) You get wired to certain behavior patterns, and your brain gets stuck in a groove that takes concerted, conscious, and consistent effort to change. And even when you do manage to change for a few days, weeks or months, it is all too easy to slip back into old patterns.
The good news is that we know, through the latest neuroscience, that our brains are “plastic.” This means they can create new neural pathways, which allows you to create change and form new patterns of behavior that can stick over time. You find a new groove, so to speak. But it takes work—sometimes, a lot of work. And it takes time. The popular myth that you can quickly and easily change a deeply-ingrained habit in 21 days has been largely disproven by brain and behavioral scientists. They now think it actually takes anywhere from six to nine months to create the new neural pathways that support changing behavior.
There are three things you need to make any change, whether mental, emotional or physical: desire, intent, and persistence.Our culture is filled with magazine covers that say you can meet your dream partner by the weekend, land your dream job in five days, or lose 10 pounds in two weeks. This can leave mere mortals feeling completely inadequate when they fail to achieve such results, which are completely unrealistic, if not downright impossible, in the first place.
When you consider that only 8% of people actually follow through on intentions to change a habit, you can see why it’s so critical to understand enough about the change process, and yourself, to smooth a path to success.
So what are the steps and considerations? Here are some questions to think about, as you begin to create positive change in a lasting way:
Do you really want it?
There is no point in saying you are going to stop working so much, so you can get some semblance of balance in your life, if in reality you really don’t care that much about balance, and you really love to work. Who are you doing it for? Don’t kid yourself. You must be serious and care about the change you decide to make, so you’ll be willing to work for it and follow through.
What need is being served by what you are doing now?
Your current behavior is there for a reason, or you wouldn’t be doing it. Hard to swallow, but true. Whether you’re a workaholic, 20 pounds overweight, have angermanagement issues, or are unhappily single—your current situation is serving you somehow. So take some time to think about this. Whether the need is relaxation but the behavior is binge drinking, or the need is recognition but the behavior is overwork, you first need to identify what need is being served by your current behavior. Once you have the answer, you can work out how to meet this need in another way, smoothing the path to change.
How else can you meet your needs?
So, you have identified the current behavior and how it is serving you. Now think about how else you could get this same need met. You may relate to this example. For some people, eating foods they know are not only bad for them, and in fact likely to leave them feeling tired, grumpy, and full of self-loathing, is less about the foods, and more about the nurturing, comfort, or distraction they provide. How else could you get your need met? Perhaps retreating to your meditation cushion, your yoga mat, the bath tub, or even your bed, would give you an even greater sense of the nurturing you need, without the guilt, the self-esteem crash from not following through on your intention, and, of course, the pounds. So when you think about the needs you have, how elsecan they be met?
What’s the price of not changing?
You will experience ambivalence on the change path, no question about it. And that’s okay. But to progress down the road, you have to ask yourself: What is the price of not changing? If you really want a promotion, but are too fearful to ask for the management training you need, the price is staying in the same role. Is overcoming your fear worth the goal? Or if you really want to get healthy, lose weight and get fit, but you don’t want to have to cut the sugar and get out walking, what is the price of that behavior? Putting on yet another 10 kilos? Think about and write down any negative effects your current behaviors are creating in your life—self‑loathing, boredom, career stagnation, frustration. Once you have hit this wall of realization, you are in the perfect place to turn around and move forward.
What positive image can pull you forward?
It is known, from research in positive psychology and neuroscience, that you’ll have more success when you move towards something positive rather than away from something negative. It is also known that positive images pull you forward. (Think vision boards, athletes visualizing their performance success, or thinking through the positive outcome of a business presentation before it takes place.) It works, and science proves it. So what positive image of the outcome you want can you visualize to pull you toward success? Come up with one; have it firmly in your mind; place it on a wall, in your computer, in your journal, or anywhere you will reference it; and look at it frequently. It can be especially helpful when your resolve is slipping, to remind you what you are working so hard for.
Are you acknowledging success?
When you have made progress on your efforts, it is important to acknowledge that achievement. When you celebrate your efforts, you create upward spirals of momentum that help reinforce the positive change and make it stick. Recognizing your efforts also helps to reinforce the direction in which you are moving, and motivates you further toward your goals. Recognizing, acknowledging, and celebrating progress, however small, is a key to success on your change path.
Change can be challenging. Anyone who has tried to change a habit knows this is true. But it is possible. And you can smooth the path to success by being aware of the cycle of change, being prepared, and being consistent. The result is worth the effort, if you want it badly enough to work for it.
Here is a brand new MOOC from Berkeley starting next week which I thought you might like to know about…
Starts September 9, 2014 – Register Now!
An unprecedented free online course exploring the roots of a happy, meaningful life. Co-taught by the GGSC’s Dacher Keltner andEmiliana Simon-Thomas. Up to 16 CE credit hours available.
We all want to be happy, and there are countless ideas about what happiness is and how we can get some. But not many of those ideas are based on science. That’s where this course comes in.
“The Science of Happiness” is a free, eight-week online course that explores the roots of a happy and meaningful life. Students will engage with some of the most provocative and practical lessons from this science, discovering how cutting-edge research can be applied to their own lives.
Created by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, the course zeroes in on a fundamental finding from positive psychology: that happiness is inextricably linked to having strong social ties and contributing to something bigger than yourself—the greater good. Students will learn about the cross-disciplinary research supporting this view, spanning the fields of psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and beyond.
What’s more, “The Science of Happiness” will offer students practical strategies for nurturing their own happiness. Research suggests that up to 40 percent of happiness depends on our habits and activities. So each week, students will learn a new research-tested practice that fosters social and emotional well-being—and the course will help them track their progress along the way.
The course will include:
Short videos featuring the co-instructors and guest lectures from top experts on the science of happiness;
Articles and other readings that make the science accessible and understandable to non-academics;
Weekly “happiness practices”—real-world exercises that students can try on their own, all based on research linking these practices to greater happiness;
Tests, quizzes, polls, and a weekly “emotion check-in” that help students gauge their happiness and track their progress over time;
Discussion boards where students can share ideas with one another and submit questions to their instructors.
All of these articles and more are collected in the latest edition of Happiness At Work, the weekly free online paper from BridgeBuilders STG of the best stories, research news and articles about learning and leadership, happiness and employee engagement, creativity and resilience from across the web over the previous week.
I hope you find much here to enjoy and profit from.
And do feel welcome to bring your ideas, challenges, insights and experiences to our Facebook page
Science of Happiness At Work expert Jessica Pryce-Jones discovered through her research in dozens of different organisations that what lies at the heart of happiness at work is achieving our potential.
If we feel we are doing this, we will probably feel that we have high levels of trust in the work we are doing, and pride in and recognition for what we are achieving.
This week, as we celebrate our 100th edition of the Happiness At Work collection, I want to headline stories from this week that shine a light on different ways we can all reach out and into our best and fullest potential.
We use Jessica Pryce-Jones’ 5 Cs model in our happiness at work training because it has been rigorously researched in organisations and because it provides a practical framework to grow and sustain increased levels of happiness at work, both as an individual and collectively as an organisation or team.
“Happiness at work is a mindset which allows you to maximise performance and achieve your potential. You do this by being mindful of the highs and lows when working alone or with others.” Jessica Pryce-Jones
The first key to happiness at work is your approach and being aware of it. Being mindful allows you to have a perspective on a situation, which means you’ll manage it better.
Secondly, our definition of happiness focuses not only on the individual but also on their role within the group because that’s where most work takes place.
Thirdly, it’s important to recognise the “yin and yang” effect. Growth of any sort involves accepting that discomfort and difficulty are part of the process. Happiness at work doesn’t mean that you have to feel good 100% of the time. Or that you shouldn’t feel the usual negative emotions you do at work. Like anger, frustration, disappointment, failure, jealousy or shock. Just like the times when you feel so stretched that you aren’t sure how you will cope. Those are the moments that help you achieve your potential. The times that you look back at with a sense of accomplishment and achievement.
Moving from struggle to success to the next struggle to the next success in a repeated upward spiral is how you grow, develop and achieve more. It is what peak performance is made of. And it is how you become happy at work.
And lying at the heart of all this is
Achieving Your Potential – if you think you are – you will be happy at work,
This is strongly associated with:
Feeling energised – pay attention to what energises you because it is a good internal marker of your happiness. (Doing long hours may mean you don’t have enough recovery time. And it looks like a 48hour week is the maximum you can work before productivity starts to rapidly fall off.
Using your strengths and skills – work to your strengths but don’t lose sight of weakness – successful people are aware of both, and spend time boosting and refining their skills too. We now know with certainty that when we use our signature strengths we not only find things easiest and ‘natural’, we also do our finest work, and we feel energised and nourished doing it.
Remember the fastest way to develop your potential is to learn.
Overcoming challenges – like most people, even when you enjoy overcoming a challenge, you won’t like having to face especially hard difficulties, and it is normal to experience less happiness when you start tackling a difficult project and more as you work your way through it.
And part of our humanness is to feel greater pride for achieving things that have been difficult for us, more than the things we might do more brilliantly but, for us, are no big deal because they lie within our natural or existing strengths and capabilities.
But what if you don’t feel you are achieving your potential?
Well here is where the 5 C’s come in – and each of these are areas that we can learn how to develop and grow stronger.
First is Confidence
Most of us take Confidence for granted when it feels strong and only notice it when don’t feel like we have it. Even though this scored the least important element after the other C’s, Confidence is the one on which all the others depend – you can’t have high levels of Contribution, Conviction or Commitment without it.
If you’re one of those people who have the highest level of happiness at work you will have 40% more confidence than other people. And when you have high confidence you’ll also have 25% more self-belief; and 180% more energy and get 35% more done. And you will feel like you understand your role backwards & forwards.
Contribution is the most important component of Happiness At Work and is made up of two dimensions:
The Inside-Out aspects are what you bring to your work.
Feeling Secure In Your Job
Raising Issues That Are Important To You
Having Clear Objectives
and Achieving Your Goals
There is a huge body of research, which shows that if this bit of your working life is right, a lot of the rest will fall into place. And, as we have already noticed, iti’s only difficult goals that increase our happiness over time. Easy ones just don’t make you feel good.
The Outside-In aspects are what you get from your work;
Feeling that you are Listened To is the most important element in the Outside-In group. It is fundamental to your happiness at work and productivity.
Feeling Respected By Your Boss and Getting Positive Feedback really build Contribution. We need at least 3x and ideally 5x as many positive comments to equal the effect of one negative criticism, and we do our very best work when we are feeling positive.
Feeling Appreciated At Work means feeling validated for who you are and what you bring, as well as getting thanks for what you do
Conviction is the engine that means you deliver come what may.
It’s what keeps your Contribution on course when things are going well and means you won’t stall when they are not. Conviction is the second most important element for happiness at work after Contribution.
High Conviction means you have high Motivation
Motivation comes from the Latin word meaning “to move”. We need a compelling reason to get moving and this can be either TOWARD something we desire and want to get closer to having, or AWAY FROM something we don’t want or wish to avoid happening. Being motivated involves purpose, direction, and effort.And it’s enhanced when you feel you have choice, when you feel competent and when you feel strongly and positively connected with the people around you.
With high Conviction you also feel Resilient – ready to deal with the challenges you might face.
And you feel that Your Work Makes A Positive Impact on the world.
Commitment is a dynamic balance between what we believe and what we feel – our head and heart if you like.
One of the elements of having a high Commitment is believing in the Vision of your organisation And – above that – believing that what you are doing is worthwhile – that it adds up to something that extends beyond your own self-interest. Your commitment will be stronger for work that connects to what you are interested in and like doing.
And all of this is boosted by strong bursts of positive emotion – enjoying what you are doing.
And the 5th C is Culture
This is the environment in which you work. Culture when looked at through a happiness lens means working in a place where your preferences for how you like to work are matched.
In a large organisation you may have less control over Culture than you do over your Confidence, your Contribution, your Conviction and your Commitment. But it will have a big effect on you. When it is right you almost don’t notice it. But when it’s wrong it’s really wrong because you will feel you just don’t fit. And this can easily lead to you doubting yourself rather than the place you’re working in.
High levels of satisfaction with your work Culture come from:
Having a fair ethos at work
and Feeling in control of your daily activities. The more autonomy or choice (real or perceived) that you feel you have in your job, the more you can deal with its daily pressures.
People who are most happy at work experience a 33% greater sense of control than their least happy peers.
And round the outside and emanating out from the 5 C’s are Pride Trust and Recognition
Are you proud of your work?
Do you trust your people you work with?
And do you feel you get enough recognition for what you do?
Pride and Trust work like a pair of facing mirrors. While one mirror shows your front, the other shows your back, together they reveal multiple aspects of the same thing: your happiness at work.
Recognition is related but different. Pride and Trust are what you give to your organisation and Recognition is what you get back from it.
Recognition is when others inside or outside your organisation acknowledge what you do and the way you do it. It is your payback and it means much more than money. We know this because there is a strong negative correlation between Recognition and pay, which means that the more you want Recognition, the less you will be happy with money in its place.
You need all three in place if you’re going to feel really happy at work. Pride and Trust without Recognition will make you ask: “Why do I bother when no-one notices what I’m doing?” And lots of Recognition without Pride and Trust will just feel fraudulent – unearned and undeserved.
Pride, Trust and Recognition map strongly onto all of the 5 Cs and the scores you give to these will not only give you a very clear indicator of how happy you are at work, but will also tell you how well the 5 Cs are working for you
The outer wheel aspects of Pride, Trust and Recognition help you to understand more specifically what our happiness at work is bringing you, They are the golden wheel that is turned by the spokes of the 5 Cs, and you need all of these to be strong to keep your Pride, Trust and Recognition strong and unbroken.
And at the heart of everything is your central hub of Achieving your Potential that is directly affected by the strengths and balance of all of the others.
We are each responsible for our own levels of happiness
The good news is you have much more room for manoeuvre than you may think. And there are always choices.
The most important first start point is self-awareness: the more you know about yourself, and your situation, the greater the range of possibilities and choices that you will be able to discover to start to make a positive difference. Here’s what Jessica Pryce Jones tells us – a call to action if you like:
If you continue to put up with what you’ve always had, that’s what you’ll always get. And if we all do that, nothing will change.
We need to make a fundamental shift to work that brings together some of the key recent findings in organisational research, neurology, psychology, behavioural economics, psycholinguistics, and anthropology. To create new models, new practices, and a new approach…regardless of sector, nationality, product, service, role or status.
The only way to do this is to galvanise around something that is practical, that’s compelling for individuals as well as organisations, and that produces real results, results of real and lasting value.
Or as American psychiatrist Theodore Ruben puts it…
“Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best.”
Here are some more articles fro this week’s Happiness At Work collection that add further ideas and techniques for achieving our potential…
When we find a job we feel passionate about, there are a lot of signs that we love it. But finding work we love does not always mean that it’s easy. And when the work begins to challenge us, or when we hit roadblocks (which everyone will) it’s not as easy to tell if we’re actually doing work we’re meant to do.
Finding work you are truly passionate about can feel a lot like falling in love. You become infatuated, excited, and you can feel yourself changing for the better. But what happens when you get used to it? New is now familiar, and that loving feeling is not as “sparkly” as it once was. In some cases, when relationships last for this long (with a person or a career) it can be difficult to tell if you still want to be in it for the long run. Here are some signs that you’ve found the one.
1. There are never enough hours to accomplish everything.
There is always a constant stream of work coming in. But you don’t let it paralyze you. There is so much to be done because you keep getting it done. You’re in the work flow…
Hemingway always stopped writing when he had more to say. It was better than writing ’til he ran dry, which meant picking it up the next day with nothing ready to write. This is you at work. There’s always a to-do list ready to go the next day.
2. You often remind yourself of the “bigger picture.”
There are always going to be little mundane tasks that have to get finished—even if we don’t want to be the one to finish them. It’s easy to lose yourself in the nuts and bolts of a project without envisioning it’s completion. It’s even easier to get hung up on how difficult and time consuming the little projects can be.
But when you love the work you do, you always find a way to see the forest through the trees and remind yourself of what you are working toward.
3. Your frustration is born out of something not being good enough.
When we care about the work we do and something doesn’t live up to our standards, it can be really disappointing. If this frustration comes from wanting something to be better than it is and (here’s the kicker) taking extra time and effort to bring it up to those standards, then you are actually doing work that matters to you.
Even if the struggle feels like a huge pain, working toward the end result you want will give you an even greater sense of reward once you get it there.
4. You talk about your work during breakfast and dinner.
You seriously can’t help talking about the thing you’re working on, even if it frustrates you. You try to talk out the issue with your loved ones, thinking maybe another perspective can help you “hallelujah” your way to a solution. Complaining about your job does not fall into this category.
There will always be days or even weeks at a time when things just feel like they’re working against you, but you keep talking about your work through every kind of phase. Work does not end when you walk out the door at the end of the day.
5. You feel like the day just started when it’s suddenly lunchtime.
Have you ever done this? You’ve gone through a couple of tasks, maybe answered a few quick emails, or tidied up some things left from the previous day and are ready to dig into the bigger work when you look at the time and it’s 11:47 a.m.? Where the heck did the morning go?
If it’s easy for you to get into flow, meaning you’re working on something that is not too easy but not so challenging you can’t do it, you’re doing work that is juuuust right for you.
6. You are constantly inspired by the people around you.
The things they seem to accomplish can sometime blow you away. You admire their tenacity in their work and you want to support them any way you can so that they can keep being awesome. You love what you are all working toward collectively as a team.
Typically, when we are feeling good, we see the good in others. So by admiring the work of others, it’s coming from a place of admiring your own work as well.
7. You find yourself looking at your extracurricular life in terms of work.
You are not strict about mentally checking out of work when you don’t have to be there. You like your work, so you also like thinking about it outside of office hours. You find yourself solving problems, brainstorming ideas, and thinking in terms of how something in your life relates to something in your work.
Like Newton and the apple, sometimes your greatest ideas come to you when you are far from the office.
8. You don’t dread Sunday night.
For people who don’t like their jobs, every day of the week has a certain quality. Monday is for the blues, Wednesday is halfway there, and Friday is the sweetest day of the week because it means they are one lazy work day away from the weekend. Many Saturdays are occupied by a hangover, and Sunday, well, even though it’s a day off, it can feel like one of the most dreadful because another work week is around the corner.
But when you like the work, Sunday is a great day! Just like most of the other days. It’s always so nice to have time to take care of our homes, spend quality time with family and friends, or just go out and explore. But when Sunday does finally come around, it’s almost exciting to get back to work after a refreshing weekend.
Kasmin Cooney writes this article about what great trainers do, but is so true also of great leadership that I have enlarged what Cooney writes to include managers and how we can help people to achieve their greatest potential in a role as a trainer, facilitator or manager…
…For me the ability of a trainer or facilitator or manager to inspire people to move out of their comfort zones and make change is extremely powerful. Effective learning, ideally, will put the delegate or learner at the centre of the event, rather than the event to provide a platform for the trainer or facilitator or manager to spout on about their own personal achievements. So, if a programme is being led properly, the trainer or manager themselves cannot be the centre of attention, no matter how wonderful their own experiences. Learners must be the centre of that particular universe. The trainer or manager with the edge truly believes that everyone holds their own key, which can unlock the potential within. A fabulous trainer or manager believes in her or his delegates’ abilities and potential to shine. For me it is the belief, held by the trainer or manager, that the people sitting before them can be amazing, that provides the difference between the trainer or manager who can do a good job and one that can inspire change. The exceptional trainer or manager not only believes the people before them are amazing; they help them to realise the fact too. The trainer or manager’s faith alone in people’s abilities to shine is not quite enough. Each person must believe in their own potential, otherwise the magic doesn’t happen. Those trainers and teachers and managers that can wield magic and open doors, will inspire hope, ignite imagination, and build confidence in people to be the best they can be.
Continuing the theme of helping others to achieve their potential, here is a great set of roles that highlight the different things we need to be and bring to help different people at different times to progress and advance in their learning, confidence and work.
Used together they provide a sufficiently complex and rich array of responses to help us to achieve our real change and transformation.
Team leaders wear many hats, not always all at the same time. Concentrating on these 7 roles in your leadership development efforts will go a long way to exceptional frontline execution. #1 The Translator
Key Question: What’s most IMPORTANT?
Important Duties: Makes company vision relevant; identifies key priorities.
#2 The Galvaniser
Key Question: How do WE make a difference?
Important Duties: Rallies the team around a concrete picture of success; Shows the team that they are vital and able to accomplish something magnificent.
#3 The Connector
Key Question: How can we best work TOGETHER?
Important Duties: Knows each team members strengths and motivations; Draws on strengths to create synergy.
#4 The Builder
Key Question: How do we IMPROVE?
Important Duties: Stretches individuals and the team; Expands individual and collective capacity.
#5 The Backer
Key Question: How can I HELP?
Important Duties: Offers support and removes roadblocks; Digs in and supports the team.
#6 The Accelerator
Key Question: How do we accomplish MORE?
Important Duties: Challenges the team to break through to new levels; Inspires creative ways to do more with less
#7 The Ambassador
Key Question: How do we SHARE our success?
Important Duties: Advocates for the team; Showcases team and individual accomplishments.
Some of the key theories and practices used in executive coaching will be detailed by Olympic gold medallist Adrian Moorhouse MBE at the Alec Rodger Memorial Lecture on Tuesday 24 June at Birkbeck, during Business Week.
In his keynote address, Moorhouse, managing director of Lane4, which helps organisations build competitive advantage through individual and team development, will explain what he believes business can learn from sport and how concepts within sport psychology and organisational psychology more broadly can help to create high performance business environments.
Resilience, learning mindset and high performance leadershipare three of the elements that Moorhouse highlights as key for organisations to learn from the sporting world…
The name ‘coaching’ is of course derived from sport, and has helped raise its perceived value in business as it has a more performance edge compared to ‘counselling’. The focus is on ‘reaching your full potential’, ‘increasing your performance’, and ‘finding solutions’…
Moorhouse points out that, like the best sporting coaches, successful leaders engage with their teams, particularly when times are hard, they confide in them and share the problem at hand. They frame the long-term mission not just the short-term financials.
Moorhouse explains:“If my swimming coach had walked poolside when I was training for the Olympics and constantly told me that I had to reach a 62-second speed, it would have been morale-crushing. Instead, he would remind me that I am in winter training, that I am recovering from an injury, and that I am trying my best, but also that the Olympics are on the horizon and my purpose is to be a world-class swimmer.”
It is vital to drum home the broader objective behind what your organisation is doing and how the workforce can play a meaningful part in achieving that. Leaders should help their employees become more resilient and not through the macho approach of telling them to stick with it and work harder, but the emotionally intelligent way of nurturing resilience by balancing well-being with performance. A manager must avoid burn-out, just like an athlete…
Interestingly, Organisational Citizenship Behaviour (OCB) research, also referred to as contextual performance, maps the extent to which altruism, civic virtue, sportsmanship, courtesy and conscientiousness are manifested at work and why investing more time cultivating OCBs makes commercial sense, even in today’s fast-paced organisational cultures. And one important predictor of OCB is leadership – if there is a good relationship between the leaders and the employees, more examples of helping behaviours will be found, as well as higher performance levels (Motowidlo, 2011).
And it is perhaps here that an executive coach can really make a difference.
Most research shows that we don’t get enough sleep, and our deficit is seriously hurting our productivity, our physical health, even our mental wellbeing.
There are a lot of factors working against us, but many of these are easy to address. You don’t have to follow any of these perfectly—I certainly don’t, at least not all the time—but here are six strategies for getting more and better sleep starting tonight.
1. Get Committed
How many times have we been up later than we wanted because there was one more link to click, one more episode to watch, one more page to read, one more whatever?
Researchers call it “bedtime procrastination,” and it’s really about willpower. If we want the benefit of extra sleep, we have to decide on the tradeoff: one less link, one less episode, one less page.
Determine to go to bed at a set time and then do it.
2. Set an Alarm
To help follow through on that commitment, set an alarm. There’s an inertia to being tired. We’ve all experienced this. It’s easier to just go on than go to bed. But a calendar alert or phone alarm can help us change gears when we might otherwise cruise along for another hour or more.
Blogger Eric Barker started using an alarm to signal sleep time and reports it’s even more beneficial than a morning alarm.
3. Establish a Ritual
It’s easier to do just about anything when there’s a pattern or a rhythm we can follow. As parents and grandparents, we know bedtime rituals work for our kids, but they can work for us too— especially if the ritual includes things that are helpful in making the transition to sleep, like:
The key is to follow the same pattern most nights, even on weekends.
4. Go for a Run, but Not Before Bed
We all know about the benefits of exercise for health and longevity, but it’s crucial for improved sleep as well. Research shows that exercise in the morning or afternoon can benefit sleep.
David K. Randall’s survey of sleep science, Dreamland, confirms these findings and adds another side benefit of exercise, particularly outdoor activity. Exposure to sunlight helps “keep the body’s clock in sync with the day-night cycle and prime the brain to increase the level of melatonin [the sleep-regulating hormone] in the bloodstream,” he says.
The important thing is to avoid exercise right before bedtime, which will make it harder to fall to sleep.
5. Kill the Lights
Just as important as getting enough natural light during the day, it’s critical to extinguish artificial light at night.
More than nine in ten of us use electronic devices before sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Not only can the tweets, emails, videos, and articles we consume leave our minds buzzing and unrestful, the light from the devices themselves—even little LEDs—can compromise our slumber.
To prevent experiencing what expert Michael J. Breus calls “junk sleep” consider:
turning off TV’s, tablets, and other screens an hour before bedtime
putting your phone in a drawer or leaving it in another room
getting black-out curtains for summertime or sleeping with an eye mask
reading a genuine paper book instead of a tablet before bed—remember those?
There’s no sense getting to bed on time if we’re getting poor sleep throughout the night.
6. Blow off Work
For high achievers like us, this is really important. Let’s agree to let the report wait for morning — the design comps, too, and the email. Unless we’re already totally exhausted, all of these things just keep our minds active long after we close our eyes.
Our bosses don’t own our sleep. And if you — like me — are your own boss, then let’s give ourselves a break! If you can’t let something go, just write it down, hit the hay, and deal with it in the morning.
The evidence for the importance of sleep is clear at this point. All that remains is for us to take it seriously enough to change our habits. After all, becoming more productive, efficient, and effective in every other area of our life is pointless if we cheat our minds and bodies the rest they deserve.
This week I have highlighted stories collected in the new Happiness At Work edition #99that can help us to make our relationships at work work better, with particular emphasis on how to make great communications.
In our work as learning specialists, when we ask people in organisations what problems they are facing, they nearly always tell us the number one difficulty they face is communication problems. The fine and deceptively difficult art of human communications has always been complex and much more likely to go wrong than right, despite our expectations that all is fine unless we get clear signs of a breakdown. And our increasingly digitalised communications are not always making things any better for us.
How many of us feel that we are as fully heard, understand and believed as we would ideally wish to be – and feel that we deserve to be?
I hope you will find something amongst the following articles to add to your own communication success and effectiveness – whether you want to power up your own communicative power and persuasiveness, or to strengthen the connections and synergies in the relationships you work in, or to harness the potential of strong, appreciative, empathetic communications to increase the happiness at work for yourself and the people you work with.
Saying Thank You expertly isn’t just a nice thing to do, it is a powerful boost to your own happiness at work, and the happiness of the people you work with. This involves being specific and matching what you say to what the recipient cares about and pays most attention to. Here’s how…
Brain studies suggest that the capacity to experience positive emotions may be fundamental to human flourishing.
Shawn Achor, a leading speaker on positive psychology, focuses on the idea of positivity in the present. Forget about delaying happiness until some lofty goal is reached, he says. Happiness is achievable today and every day. That means connecting it into your daily work.
One thing Achor recommends is to write at least one message of gratitude each day. He says this simple gesture has the potential to boost your own happiness, and that the act itself can flood your system with dopamine, the happiness hormone. What a win-win! Writing a note or email of gratitude is as much a boon to your own happiness as it is to that of the person you’re sending it to.
Saying It Right
This might sound overwhelming at first, but if you put it into the context of what you’re working on, it can be both beneficial and highly productive.
Thanking people is important, both for our mutual happiness quotient as well as to deliver gratitude for hard work. But to really help either me or my team, these notes have to be genuine and appeal to what each person values and what drives him or her.
We’ve identified four ways that people think and three ways that people behave. By tailoring your message around those attributes, you can ensure it will appeal to your recipient.
Take a look below and remember, these are all different thank-yous coming from the same meeting!
Greeting: Even the opening can be specified.
Dear Ann.More formalised greetings probably work for leaders like Ann, who may exhibit analytical thinking or prefer a more structured environment.
Hi, Mike! Informal greetings using a name appeal to those with a Social preference. Exclamation points convey warmth to those on the gregarious side.
Hey!Those with a more driving behavioral preference or Conceptual thinking preferences don’t even need their name–you aren’t hurting their feelings.
Body: This is your main thank-you.
Analytical. “Your ability quantify the value in this strategy is much appreciated.”
Structural. “Thanks to your methodical approach, we were able to meet the deadline on Phase 1. The fact that you’re taking the lead on the planning for Phase 2 signifies strong leadership growth.”
Social. “I am so glad that you were able to connect us with that new vendor partner. Your ability to continue this relationship will be really helpful moving forward. I really appreciate it!”
Conceptual. “Your ability to rattle off one good idea after another in the meeting was amazing–your imagination and creativity are assets to our company.”
Ending: I like concluding notes with next steps related to behavior.
Assertiveness. “Looking forward to next steps and doing this the right way.” Or, “Now it’s time to hit the ground running. Talk soon!”
Flexibility. “We’ve got our plan and we’re moving forward on it.” Or, “We’ll keep you posted and let you know how things change and shake out.”
Expressiveness. “Sincerely.” Or, “Thanks so much!”
Sending notes of gratitude not only confirms your appreciation of someone, but it also makes you happier. Doubt it? Give it a try. You can thank me later.
In conversational communications, more encouraging, more asking great open questions and more listening will get far greater results than you telling ever will – no matter how forceful and dynamic and articulate you want to make it – and here’s some of the reasons why…
When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet – the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact.
Positive comments and conversations produce a chemical reaction too. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolizes more quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.
This “chemistry of conversations” is why it’s so critical for all of us –especially managers – to be more mindful about our interactions. Behaviors that increase cortisol levels reduce what I call “Conversational Intelligence” or “C-IQ,” or a person’s ability to connect and think innovatively, empathetically, creatively and strategically with others. Behaviors that spark oxytocin, by contrast, raise C-IQ.
Observing Rob’s conversational patterns for a few weeks, I saw clearly that the negative (cortisol-producing) behaviors easily outweighed the positive (oxytocin-producing) behaviors. Instead of asking questions to stimulate discussion, showing concern for others, and painting a compelling picture of shared success, his tendency was to tell and sell his ideas, entering most discussions with a fixed opinion, determined to convince others he was right. He was not open to others’ influence; he failed to listen to connect.
When I explained this to Rob, and told him about the chemical impact his behavior was having on his employees, he vowed to change, and it worked. A few weeks later, a member of his team even asked me: “What did you give my boss to drink?”
I’m not suggesting that you can’t ever demand results or deliver difficult feedback. But it’s important to do so in a way that is perceived as inclusive and supportive, thereby limiting cortisol production and hopefully stimulating oxytocin instead. Be mindful of the behaviors that open us up, and those that close us down, in our relationships. Harness the chemistry of conversations.
The first power cue is how you show up when you walk into a room. Some people walk into a room with confidence, while others enter with shyness, reluctance or other negative attributes.
The second cue is the emotions you convey when you are going into an important meeting, conversation or presentation. We leak emotions to the other people in the room unconsciously, so you need to first become aware of and then take charge of those emotions.
The third and fourth cues center on the unconscious messages that you receive from other people and the effect that your voice has on others.
The fifth cue comes into play in key work and social situations: What are the signals you send out that indicate success or failure? There are a series of unconscious body language signals that we naturally emit when in stressful, important situations, and they either add up to failure or success.
The sixth cue focuses on how well you manage your unconscious hopes and fears. Do they help you in times of stress or undercut your performance?
The final power cue is the stories that we tell. A great deal has been written about the importance of storytelling, but the research shows that it’s even more important than we realize. Through powerful storytelling, you can control the minds of your listeners.
…We live in an anonymous age. People today want to be seen and heard for who they are, so the first thing is to listen to your employees. Leaders are so pressed for time that they tend not to listen.
Second, find a way to be authentic. If you are not authentic, people sense it right away. That doesn’t mean that you must bare your whole soul to everybody — people don’t want that much information. Instead, you want to reveal a real piece of yourself, one that will resonate with your employees.
…Most of the time, we walk around with a to-do list in our heads — a mixture of the immediate issues we’re facing, a few thoughts about tonight and tomorrow, and perhaps a passing nod to a vacation coming up this winter. If you enter a room with that mish-mash in your head, your body language will reflect that conscious confusion, and you will not be present or charismatic. That’s why people find so many meetings in business so boring. Most of the attendees are not participating completely.
If instead you can focus your attention and emotions on a particular moment and be fully present, then you can be charismatic.
…Common leadership communication mistakes are they talk before they listen. They speak from insecurity rather than security. They are afraid to say, “I don’t know.” They make things more complicated than they need to be, in order to sound knowledgeable. If you are a young leader, you should be saying “I don’t know” at least three times a day!
You should listen first, and speak second. And you should keep it simple. By the way, our elders make all the same mistakes, too. These are equal-opportunity communications errors.
…The power of storytelling is frequently misunderstood. People have been told that they should tell stories, so they attempt them, but what they end up relating are anecdotes, not stories. What’s the difference? An anecdote says, “This happened.”
A story has a hero, a conflict, a villain, a crisis and a resolution. It’s a quest, or a revenge story, or a love story.
Most of the stories people tell lack those key elements. In our fast-paced, confusing, information-overloaded world, we really need stories to help us make sense of our lives. That’s the essence of it.
Find one of those powerful stories to tell, and start telling it. Then you can lead people in the way you want because you’re providing your followers with the meaning they seek.
…As Burton suggests, listening can sometimes be hard. It doesn’t matter what degree of hearing loss people have, or how long they’ve had it, every single one of them says the same thing: it’s tiring. When your ears and your brain are having to work much harder both to get the sounds in and then to turn them into a comfortable and comprehensible form, then you’re using up a lot of energy. If your listening is as skilled and nuanced as a musician’s, it can be exhausting.
In fact, those who have trouble hearing are often highly skilled listeners, fluent in acoustic variation and the power of sound in a way that few fully hearing people ever are. Most of them also have a different relationship to silence. All silences have their own personalities — contented or meditative, empty or replete. If there’s a whole force-field of difference between a couple unspeaking in anger and a couple unspeaking in love, then there’s also a huge variation in the silence generated both by lots of people silent in a space such as a Quaker meeting or a Buddhist meditation practice, and the silence of space itself.
True silence outdoors is as rare as it is inside, especially in a place like Britain, fizzing with people and movement. Even if there is no road or aircraft noise, then there are the susurrations of trees, leaves, grasses, birds, insects — the sounds of life in the process of living. These are the sounds that are probably most endangered and least listened to. It isn’t that we can’t hear them; it’s just that, so often, they’re hidden by the white noise of our own thoughts. More than anything, more than planes or drills, it is that soft blanketing snowfall of our own intelligence that blocks our ears. Go for a walk in the country and what you hear is not the clank of geese or the cows on their way to milking; it’s your own head.
…But if sound is a thousand times more powerful than we give it credit for, then so too is the power of being heard. Most people are used to the idea of using music to alter their own mood. Less common is the idea that just being listened to is itself a harmony, and a balm. The last time I took a London cab, the driver told me that many of his fares are so desperate to have someone hear them that they actually get down on their knees and confess into the little slit in the window between the driver and the back.
Almost everyone has things they don’t want to hear: their son’s fights, their partner’s rants, the high-stakes stuff about debt or divorce or mortality. But there’s a difference between offering someone a better connection and knowingly taking another man’s poison. And sometimes it takes a lot more energy not to listen to someone than it does to hear them out. If you completely listen, then you completely open yourself.
And that, in the end, is probably the scariest and the most exhilarating thing you’ll ever hear.
Peter Brooks, one of my hero theatre makers, famously wrote in his opening lines of The Empty Space: “A man walks across any empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.” The only requirement for a performance is an audience of at least one person, and recognising this, Arthur Joseph provides these excellent tips from the actor’s toolkit for making our own any-moment everyday performances connect with the people want to reach, excite and persuade to do something, including crafting your message; practice; pacing yourself, and breathing…
We live in a society where perception is reality and an opinion is formed in three seconds. We never get a second chance to make a first impression. The most effective way we have to control how we are known by others is through how we communicate.
Practice the following tips to be more deliberate and intentional in your communication with others:
1. Craft your personal statement. We have a choice in how we want to be known. Identify and write down strategic elements that reflect your positive character traits and best attributes. Begin by completing the following sentence: I want to be known as …
2. Every public encounter is a performance, not a presentation. It is a performance because someone is watching – not because it is false. The root of the word presentation means to introduce formally – to bring before the public.
Performance means to begin and carry through to completion – to carry out, fulfil. In other words, performing is an opportunity to embody who we are, not merely superficially, or formally presenting who we are.
Practice 15 seconds of an opening statement, a PowerPoint presentation or a conference call. Do this in front of a mirror and observe yourself or record it on a video camera, audio recorder or smart phone and play it back. The goal is to begin to recognise what others might hear or see. You may notice that your pitch is higher than you thought it was or that you speak too quickly or look tense.
3. Breathe. Breath is fuel. If we don’t put gas in the tank of our car, we do not get to our destination.
If it is important enough to say, breathe before you say it. Practice slowly inhaling to a count of five and say the following sentence at the apex of your inhalation, “I am an extraordinary person, and I do extraordinary things.” As you practice this phrase with this breathing technique, you are not only embedding a new communication tool, you are also learning to claim who you are — without flinching. Practice this daily until you not only believe it but you become it.
4. Speed is only speed. Communication mastery is not about being fast, it is about being effective. Nothing is gained by going too fast, but potentially, everything could be lost. The best way to slow down is to integrate this tip with the previous one. The single most important way to control the flow of information is to control the flow of breath. Breathing more slowly and deeply will slow down your communication and also create more time to think, thus more communication control.
5. No white noise. Eradicate “um,” “uh,” “like” and “you know” from your vocabulary. In place of these fillers, deliberately take your time and breathe. Space has value. Embrace it.
Many years ago, my former student Tony Robbins referred to my techniques as “pattern interrupts.” Vocal Awareness shifts our communication behavior and by extension, how we are perceived, from unconscious behaviors to strategic actions. These pattern interrupts help us discard negative or less effective habits and create more positive empowering habits. This will enhance not only your professional relationships but your personal ones as well.
Communication mastery is not about making us into someone we are not, but rather helping us discover who we truly are and embody what is possible. As you develop these new techniques, you may initially feel awkward or unnatural, but that is the nature of learning. In time, these skills will enable you to reflect authenticity, strength, warmth and compassion — not just in what you do but through who you are. The goal is for the same person to show up everywhere.
It is never just the message, but the messenger that matters.
Communications expert and author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs watches this star performance and distils what makes it successful into these top tips for the rest of us: claiming the space and bringing a heightened performance energy; using humour; being physically fully open and connected with your audience; making your visuals visual; and keeping your audience’s attention in 10minute chunks…
Since I wrote a book titled The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, I’ve been searching for a presenter — at Apple or any other company — who comes close to sharing Jobs’ presence on stage. It hasn’t been easy. Jobs was charismatic, inspiring, humorous, dramatic, engaging and polished, and his slides were beautifully designed.
Apple is giving one vice president more time on stage and he’s the most compelling business presenter I’ve seen in a long time. His name is Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering.
Here are five very specific presentation techniques that Federighi does very effectively, techniques that you can – and should – use in your next presentation.
1. Raise the energy level. Federighi doesn’t just walk on stage. He leaps, strides and exudes passion and enthusiasm in his voice and gestures. He has a smile on his face. He laughs easily. His energy level is high – much higher than the average presenter.
Most people deliver a presentation in the same tone of voice and use the same energy as though they were speaking in hushed tones to a colleague in the hallway. A mission-critical presentation is not a casual conversation. It’s a performance. A performer such as Federighi brings up the energy in the room as soon as he walks in.
2. Make people laugh. Most business presentations are dry, boring and stuffy. Federighi didn’t get the memo. Right out of the gate he injects humor in his presentation…
Throughout the presentation he poked good-natured fun at himself, especially his mane of white hair, which he jokingly refers to as “hair force one.”
When Federighi was demonstrating new phone features, he was interrupted by a call from his mother (all of this is planned and rehearsed, of course).
3. Keep your body language ‘open.’ Federighi has commanding presence. He doesn’t cross his arms or slouch. He has a constant smile and maintains an open posture, which means his palms are up and his arms are kept above the waist. Your body language speaks volumes before you say a word.
4. Design simple, visual slides. The average presentation slide has 40 words. It’s nearly impossible to find 40 words in 10 of Federighi’s slides. His slides were photographs, images and animations that complemented his message. This is called picture superiority, which means that information is more easily retained when it is presented as pictures instead of text.
I’m not suggesting that you avoid text completely. There were plenty of words in Apple’s WWDC 14 presentation, but images and simple numbers made up the preponderance of the slides.
5. Stick to the 10-minute rule. John Medina, a University of Washington brain researcher, came up with the “10-minute rule.” He says that no matter how engaging a speaker is, the audience will naturally tune out after approximately 10 minutes. The cure is to build in soft-breaks to re-engage the audience. Federighi doesn’t break the 10-minute rule.
By building in soft breaks every few minutes, Federighi can do what very few presenters can accomplish – he can keep the attention of the audience for an hour.
You may never speak in front of an audience of 6,000 developers or customers as Federighi does, but the techniques that made him the most talked-about presenter at the Apple developer conference are the same techniques that will help you win over any audience.
Why an audience’s attention declines and how to combat it
At first, most people are all ears, listening closely to what a speaker says, but their attention gradually drops to around 10 to 20 percent of its original level. The audience’s attention peaks again toward the speech’s conclusion.
This attention curve suggests that speakers should state their main points near the beginning of their presentations and summarize them at the end. It’s also a good idea to divide a presentation into several sections, each one with an intermediate conclusion.
Why storytelling works better than facts alone
Renowned speakers use stories because stories keep the audience members’ brains entertained and active.
When a speaker presents just facts, only the language-processing portion of the brain is activated. However, when a story is shared to reinforce key points, all the other parts of the brain are engaged in experiencing the story’s events. It encourages the audience to imagine, associate, and feel.
As such, a story evokes cognition as well as emotion. When both the mind and heart are engaged, people are more attentive and receptive to information.
Why practice really does make perfect
If you’re an inexperienced presentation speaker, don’t let your mind and emotional being get the best of you. Minimize your fear of public speaking by conducting a series of mock presentations.
When you start worrying about your communication skills, you worry about the audience’s possible negative reaction to your speech. This manner of thinking causes your body to display indicators of anxiety such as palpitations, excessive sweating, and restlessness. When your body is on high alert with those symptoms, it becomes difficult to convey any message—let alone a well-organized presentation.
One good way of combating anxiety is with practice. After preparing your materials, invite some of your friends to be your audience and do an actual presentation. When you expose yourself to an undesirable stimulus over and over again, you become less sensitive to fear. In psychology, this is considered a desensitization strategy and it works wonders for public speaking.
Why non-verbal communication matters
Your audience will absorb more than just what you say during your presentation. They will also grasp the messages conveyed byyour body movements, tone of voice, gestures, attire, and choice of materials. According to the studies of James Borg and Albert Mehrabian, more than 60 percent of the message you convey can be attributed to your body language.
When you have relaxed facial muscles, good eye contact, and moderate tone of voice, the audience will assume you are confident and experienced. But when you cross your arms in front of you, for example, you are putting up a barrier to trust. When you have a sloppy or typo-prone PowerPoint presentation, the audience will stop listening to the content you’ve been deliveringand start critiquing the mistakes they see. You lose credibility in the audience’s eyes.
Because nonverbal communication matters, don’t just focus on what to present, but also on how you deliver your topic. Your presentation is a package of knowledge, delivery style and audiovisual materials. Maximize all your resources; don’t take any for granted, or concentrate on one at the expense of the others.
Everything Connects by Faisal Hoque and Drake Baer is a book about how to create an innovative, sustainable organisation. But it is much more. It’s about being intentional about relationships to create the space to do something great.
From their ongoing work they have concluded that organizations with a focus on long-term value creation share three principles:
1. Converged Disciplines. Ideas from one discipline aren’t isolated from another. The disciplines in a sustainably innovative organisation form a single entity. An ongoing part of identity building—both in our individual working lives and as part of a team—is to practice inviting a breadth of experiences, a pool of experiences from which we can draw on later in life.
2. Cross-Boundary Collaboration. No one operates in a vacuum. The more we can connect the people within an organisation, the more we can increase our overall potential. Relationships are the bandwidth within an organization, which means we need to be deliberate in forming them. You have to quash any sense of a zero-sum game.
3. Sustainably Innovative Structures. If you are not careful of the culture that’s being created, it will merge thoughtlessly rather than by design. Organisational structures can wreck your organisation if you rigidly cling to the product that they’re built to deliver rather than the value they attempt to create. “They couldn’t change because all they could think about was how to improve the thing they did, not the value they offered.”
All of this leads to setting up a system that continuously discovers. In other words, Hoque says, “we’re responsible for our long term growth in each short-term situation.” A long-term mindset that we manifest every day. Wedding the long-term to the short-term requires “mindfulness and authenticity, for mindfulness allows us to directly perceive our experiences in the moment, while authenticity acts as a star in the night sky, orienting us toward the future we wish to arrive at.”
It’s also a good way to set a benchmark, and you can see where you stand with your goals at the following review session.
3. How Happy You Are
This is probably the most important thing to tell your boss, in case he or she doesn’t ask you about this already in the review.
Employee happiness is directly related to employee engagement, and a smart leader will ask you several questions around this subject during the review.
If they don’t though, make sure to tell them if you’re happy, why or why not, and what you think would make you happier.
4. Things You Want To Learn
Tell your boss about new skills you want to have or new things you want to learn.
It’s very possible that the company can help you learn, through subsidised courses, to giving you time at work to pursue these things.
Coaching is another great way to develop and stretch your self out towards your fullest potential
5. The Future Of The Company (And What Role You Play)
If your manager doesn’t ask you this, tell them anyways, because it will show that you’re thinking about the long term, and that you see yourself in that vision.
It’s also important to really explain what role you see yourself playing in that future, because it shows that you want to grow professionally, and you have a long term vision for yourself as well as the company.
6. Things You’d Like To Try
The review is a great opportunity to reflect on certain processes that you currently have, and how they can be optimized.
If there’s a new tool, or new process that you want to try that you think will improve the way you work, feel free to mention it.
7. Collect Feedback
If you’re smart, then you’ll use this opportunity to collect as much feedback from your manager as possible.
If you want to really grow as a person, you need to be willing to take criticism, no matter how hard it might be.
Ask what you want to know. For example: “what am I doing that you think is working especially well?”
“What do you see are my strengths?”
“What is just one thing that you would really like to see me doing better or differently?”
Andrea Ayres outlines what assertiveness is, how it benefits us and how we can make our communications more assertive and effective…
Assertiveness isn’t going to solve all your problems and it’s not appropriate for every situation—context is key. What it will do, is help you feel more confident and communicate more effectively when you need to. Expressing your true self and sticking up for your rights is empowering and it’s something that the majority of us, should do a lot more.
Speaking eloquently not only improves your daily communications, it builds up your overall persona and executive presence. “Every verbal encounter is a vital opportunity to create and nurture a positive impression,” Hewlett writes.
Some phrases instantly undermine your authority and professionalism, and should be banned from the office. Here are 11 things you should never say at work:
1. “Does that make sense?”
Instead of making sure you’re understood, asking this tells the listener that you don’t fully understand the idea yourself, career coach Tara Sophia Mohr told Refinery 29.
Instead, she suggests asking, “What are your thoughts?”
2. “It’s not fair.”
Simply complaining about an injustice isn’t going to change the situation. “Whether it’s a troubling issue at work or a serious problem for the planet, the point in avoiding this phrase is to be proactive about the issues versus complaining, or worse, passively whining,” Darlene Price, author of “Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results” told Forbes.
3. “I haven’t had time.”
“More often than not, this is simply not true,” said Atle Skalleberg in a LinkedIn post.
Whether you didn’t make time for the task or forgot about it, Skalleberg suggests giving a time when it will be done instead of explaining why it’s late.
Adding “just” as a filler word in sentences, such as saying “I just want to check if…” or “I just think that…” may seem harmless, but it can detract from what you’re saying. “We insert justs because we’re worried about coming on too strong,” says Mohr, “but they make the speaker sound defensive, a little whiny, and tentative.”
Leave them out, and you’ll speak with more authority.
5. “But I sent it in an email a week ago.”
If someone doesn’t get back to you, it’s your job to follow up, says Skalleberg.
Be proactive when communicating instead of letting the other person take the blame.
6. “I hate…” or “It’s so annoying when…”
Insults have no place in the office, especially when directed at a specific person or company practice. “Not only does it reveal juvenile school-yard immaturity, it’s language that is liable and fire-able,” says Price.
7. “That’s not my responsibility.”
Even if it’s not your specific duty, stepping up to help shows that you’re a team player and willing to go the extra mile. “At the end of the day, we’re all responsible,” Skalleberg says.
8. “You should have…”
“Chances are, these fault-finding words inflict feelings of blame and finger-pointing,” Price says.
She suggests using a positive approach instead, such as saying, “In the future, I recommend…”
9. “I may be wrong, but…”
Price calls this kind of language “discounting,” meaning that it immediately reduces the impact of whatever you’re about to say.
“Eliminate any prefacing phrase that demeans the importance of who you are or lessens the significance of what you contribute,” she says.
10. “Sorry, but…”
This implies that you’re automatically being annoying. “Don’t apologize for taking up space, or for having something to say,” says Mohr.
BridgeBuilders STG offer bespoke training across the UK in communications including high impact presentations, voice and performance coaching, assertiveness and confidence and speaking with greater authority and persuasion, leadership communications and solving relationship and communication problems.
Do contact me if you would like to explore what programme we might be able to make for you: firstname.lastname@example.org
With everything else that we have to deal with at the moment, why should we think about happiness at work?
This is the question I want to try and answer in this week’s post. It is inspired partly by noticing how often I am told by people that happiness at work is all very nice, but irrelevant, or at best an unaffordable luxury, in an organisation which is having to battle through major change and upheaval, and battling to make the best of decimated staff numbers and budgets or even remits, and battling to try and redefine the organisation’s raison d’être in a world that has shifted its priorities and radically reframed its expectations, and in a world where many people are feeling fundamentally unsure about the purpose and value of the work they are doing.
In this environment, surely there are far more pressing concerns that demand the reduced time, energy and resource that remains to us?
And yet, when I am working with people on creating specific solutions to these problems – with individuals in coaching and webinar sessions, with teams in workshops, and with leaders in strategic thinking and action learning meetings – again and again some of the best tools and techniques that people are choosing to build from come from the new science of happiness and the principles and practices of happiness and resilience at work in particular.
Remember what it was like to be constantly dreaming up bigger and better ideas for what we do and how we do it and what we might achieve by doing it?
Remember being fuelled by an excitement about what might be possible and what we might do together if we dared, as often we did? When we knew how what we did made the world, not merely more able to carry on, but a better, finer more wonderful place to inhabit somehow?
What follows is a collection of writings that have all been published in the last week or so that are collected in this week’s Happiness At Work edition #98. I hope something here can provide a way of thinking about and, even more critically, a framework for doing something about the very real and complex problems we are most certainly facing in these times of major cultural, economic, social and personal shift and upheaval. I hope you will find here ideas and approaches that will point your way to solutions that can significantly progress us out of these hard times of enforced change and adjustment and, little by little, layer by layer, incrementally move us toward a way of working and working together that is sufficiently reimagined and recalibrated and reforged fit enough and strong enough to be grown into a world much closer to our wanting.
Here might be solutions that are sustainable enough and inclusive and flexible and achievable enough and worthwhile enough to bring us out of these siege condition times of having to just survive somehow, to “keep calm and carry on”, and into a more hopeful aspirational and far greater future that we can all feel galvanised and inspired to be an active part of.
The first article, Mindfulness, Purpose and the Quest for Productive Employees, considers the emerging field of happiness at work development, variously known as ‘positive business,’ ’employee happiness,’ workplace happiness,’ ’employee wellbeing,’ and ’employee engagement,’ with particular emphasis on the dual necessities for a sense of real purpose and meaning alongside great relationships at work…
“If you have positive connections between employees, that means it’s also probably easier to cultivate meaning in the work they’re doing, And similarly if your employees feel they have a purpose, it’s easier for them to cultivate positive connections with each other.”
In Arts & Ideas: Free Thinking – Arianna Huffington & Richard Hytner – 29 Apr 14Arianna Huffington, one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, talks to Anne McElvoy about measuring success using The Third Metric, that puts wellbeing, wonder, wisdom and giving alongside the conventional success criteria of money and power. She is not suggesting that there is anything wrong with these two metrics, but they alone are
like sitting on a two-legged stool: sooner or later your are going to fall over – and we need the Third Metric to have any hope for a life of meaning and purpose,
This is followed by advertising exec and leadership thinker Richard Hytner and Ashridge Business School leadership learning expert Kerrie Fleming talking about stress in business and the nature of leadership.
In a fast-moving, digitally-powered world, creativity and intuition could be the difference between gaining ground as an innovator and getting left behind.
Fixing the ‘I Hate Work’ Bluesproposes the need for much flatter organisations with a higher interest and value given to frontline workers and a much more integrated, involved, inquiring, delegated and inspiring style of leadership to counter the severely depressed levels of staff engagement in most organisations…
As a result of these changes, the employees will be more engaged and more productive, overhead costs will drop dramatically, and customers will report a much higher level of responsiveness. The executives will make better informed, more thoughtful decisions about the business because they are so much closer to their markets and the people doing the work.
The Two Transformative Influences on Employee Engagement cites recent research studies that show that while 70% of staff currently feel less than engaged in work, just a 1% increase in employee engagement can yield $100,000 increase in revenue. In another study less than one third of surveyed employees felt their company would be willing to change practices or directions based on employee feedback. The author’s study discovered that 43% of employees claimed they knew what their company’s goals were but were unable to name any specifically, and concludes…
It’s time to light the way for your employees, so they’re not fumbling in the dark and missing your goals. Transparency, tracking, and real-time adjustments can help keep your team aligned and engaged, so everyone is heading in the right destination.
In most organisations, there is not much focus on practice – and a lack of focus on reflection – on learning from that practice, considering what worked, what didn’t work and what to adjust next time. In organisations, practice and reflection are the missing links between the theory and skilled execution.
Four Ways Sadness May Be Good for You,while accepting without question the power and importance of happiness and positivity in our work and lives, points out the benefits and importance that sadness has to play too. Sadness is not necessarily the opposite of happiness, but a right-brain imaginative part of our thinking that can feed richly into our creativity and our drive to change the world for the better…
Though much has been made of the many benefits of happiness, it’s important to consider that sadness can be beneficial, too. Sad people are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eye-witness distortions, are sometimes more motivated, and are more sensitive to social norms. They can act with more generosity, too.
And for a glimpse into the already-here future, The High-Tech Headband That Can Make Your Stressed Brain Happy Againis an interview with neuroscientist, artist and practicing psychotherapist Ariel Garten, the 34-year-old co-founder of InteraXon, creators of Muse. This technology, which brings closer together the magic of art, science, learning, technology and mindfulness, aims to help us address the stress that comes from our obsession with conventional ideas of ‘success’, that when compounded by financial woes and health concerns put us in a constant state of fight or flight, causing us to be more reactionary and further perpetuating the cycle of stress….
I wanted to create a tool that would help people exercise their minds in the most positive and productive way — not just with cognitive exercises alone, but also with a focus towards building emotional resilience.
Muse senses your brainwaves much the same way a heart rate monitor senses your heart beat. It’s easy to use and will allow people to learn and train their minds at their own pace with another tool everyone has already in their pockets –their smart phone or tablet. Muse actually measures the state of your mind. Ultimately, we’ve created a usable, fun system that enables virtually anyone to improve themselves, cut away the static of a busy mind, and feel calmer in only three minutes a day.
And, before all of these from our BridgeBuilders Guide to Happiness At Workherearethe principles we believe are most important to understand and learn to adopt to increase our own and each other’s happiness at work:
1st Principle of Happiness At Work:
• Developing our own happiness will bring us greater success than trying to be more successful will ever increase our sense of happiness. Read More …
2nd Principle of Happiness At Work:
• We all know how happy we are (or are not). Read More …
8th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• We find what we go looking for. Read More …
9th Principle of Happiness At Work:
• There is no one right way to happiness. Different things will work for different people at different times. And Happiness At Work, just like learning, is more a continuous ongoing practice of increasing mastery rather than an end or finishing point. Read More …
In the first article of a new series on workplace culture, Amy Westervelt writes in the The Guardian about a growing number of businesses are learning that employee satisfaction and employee productivity go hand in hand
Over the last few years, there has been a marked increase in the number of companies touting their happy workplaces – and in the number of consultants promising to make any workplace more palatable. A handful of business schools have begun integrating positive psychology into their curricula, using the discipline to teach students how to create a happy workplace – or a positive business. As interest in the field has grown, so have its names: its strategies are known, variously, as “positive business”, “employee happiness”, “workplace happiness”, “employee wellbeing” and “employee engagement”.
Last month, the first Positive Business Conference took place at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. The gathering featured speakers from Procter & Gamble, Humana, and McKinsey, who discussed their experiences with the rollout of positive business strategies.
One of the first companies to measure – and engineer – the contributors to employee satisfaction was, of course, Google. In its attempts to create the world’s happiest workplace, the company staffed its HR department with sociologists. They experimented with employee interactions, offering workers free lunch to encourage them to stay on-site, and then organizing the cafeteria in such a way that employees stand in line just long enough to have an interaction with each other, but not long enough to get annoyed by the wait.
In addition to Google’s various lauded – and often lampooned – perks, which include everything from on-site massage therapists to a fleet of bikes for employees to use at will, the tech company routinely offers employees workshops in skills to boost their wellbeing and productivity, ranging from yoga to the popular “search inside yourself” class (now also a book), which teaches mindfulness.
A growing – and diverging – discipline
Google may have blazed the trail when it comes to employee satisfaction, but it has been joined by legions of tech companies in the last year, particularly in Silicon Valley and the UK, which currently find themselves in the middle of another dot-com style talent war.
“In tight labor markets like California, you really do have to be good at this to retain talent,” says Jane Dutton, PhD, professor of business administration and psychology at University of Michigan. “It was more trendy before and I think it’s now real economic imperatives, but there are multiple imperatives, it’s not just about retention and the attraction of talent.”
Within the positive organizational universe, the experts tend to divide into two camps: those who feel that employee happiness hinges largely on a sense of purpose, and those who feel that relationships are the secret sauce. Dutton falls into the latter camp. “Having positive relationships at work is seen as a major predictor of employee engagement, and that’s a major driver of customer engagement,” she says.
When it comes to cultivating health and well-being among workers, Dutton says that the most important consideration is community. “Meaning or purpose is part of it, but I would bet on positive relationships,” she explains. “Evidence on the almost instantaneous effect of positive human connections on people’s bodies convinces me that if I had to choose whether my workplace had purpose or positive connections, I’d bet on connections.”
However, Dutton notes, human connections and workplace purpose are interconnected. “If you have positive connections between employees, that means it’s also probably easier to cultivate meaning in the work they’re doing,” she explains. “And similarly if your employees feel they have a purpose, it’s easier for them to cultivate positive connections with each other.”
Leading the charge for Team Purpose is Aaron Hurst, CEO of consulting firmImperative. …Hurst’s company has quickly become the go-to firm for startups wanting to move beyond perks and create happy workplaces where employees will want to stick around for a while. It has worked with Twitter, eLance, and Etsy in the last few year, and Hurst brings to the table his experience consulting with LinkedIn, where he helped to launch the website’s “board” and “pro-bono” functions.
“I’ve seen it over and over, what people want from their careers are things that help them boost purpose in their lives,” Hurst says.
While Imperative provides quantitative surveys and reports of employee happiness as part of its offering to employers, it also makes a point to include more qualitative elements. “Data only matters in context,” says Fullenwider. “The way I see it, the value of data is that it’s a language that can help you speak to the unconvinced to get that initial buy-in on why this stuff matters. After that, it’s a lot of good old-fashioned insight, talking to people, slowly moving the needle – really digging in and working on creating a healthy workplace.”
Imperative bases its quantitative work on the research of Dr. Martin Seligman, head of the positive psychology department at the University of Pennsylvania. Working for the US military, Seligman developed a measurement tool that tests emotional and psychological wellbeing. He and his staff recently simplified it to an 18-question survey called the PERMA scale (Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationship, Meaning, Accomplishment).
The quantified self, qualified
Matt Stinchcomb, vice president of Values and Impact at Etsy, says that the PERMA scores were really useful when he was first starting to work with Imperative. “I’m fortunate enough to work at a company where I don’t have to convince the CEO, but having it science-based makes it much more convincing to the data-driven folks in our company,” he says. “And being able to go into the board meeting and present numbers around this sends a signal that this is something we are taking seriously.”
This data clarified a large number of questions, such as which Etsy offices tended to be happier, and whether employees with male or female managers reported different happiness scores. And many of these lessons impacted the company’s policies. For example, Stinchcomb says, “We saw that people who were more active as volunteers had higher wellbeing scores, so we launched a program to give people 40 hours a year to volunteer, which they could either spread out over the year or take all in one week.”
Ultimately, Stinchcomb says, Etsy learned that one snapshot of how the company’s employees felt in a given week was not going to amount to meaningful change. “I realized we needed more of a continual read on employees, but without constantly pestering them with a survey, so we started to look at all the other signals that would indicate employee wellbeing: participation in things, for example, or something as simple as employee feedback,” he says.
“We needed to find the middle ground between heart and data,” Stinchcomb explains. “Maybe it’s enough that we’re looking into this at all, that we care enough about our employees’ wellbeing to want to improve it. Maybe it’s as simple as ‘hey, be nice and respect each other.’ Rather than worrying about what wellbeing is and how much wellbeing exactly, let’s just do the stuff we already know makes people feel good and then just measure stuff like retention rates that we already have.”
Arianna Huffington talks to Anne McElvoy about measuring success using The Third Metric. Richard Hytner and Kerrie Fleming look at stress in business and the nature of leadership. Zia Haider Rahman on his debut novel In the Light of What We Know which contains elements of his own Bangladeshi background, a scholarship to Oxford and time spent as an investment banker on Wall Street. Plus Anne pays tribute to the late Maya Angelou’s influence and humour.
Wondering if you have what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur? New research from Gallup offers a window into what separates those who launch and grow successful companies from less successful peers.
Gallup studied more than 1,000 entrepreneurs to arrive at a short list of the 10 qualities of highly successful entrepreneurs. They will be discussed in a book by Gallup chairman Jim Clifton and consultant Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal called Entrepreneurial Strengthsfinder, scheduled for release in September 2014.
1. Business Focus: They base decisions on the potential to turn a profit.
2. Confidence: They know themselves well and can read others.
3. Creative Thinker: They know how to turn an existing product or idea into something even better.
4. Delegator: They don’t try to do it all.
5. Determination: They battle their way through difficult obstacles.
6. Independent: They will do whatever it takes to succeed in the business.
7. Knowledge-Seeker: They constantly hunt down information that will help them keep the business growing.
8. Promoter: They do the best job as spokesperson for the business.
9. Relationship-Builder: They have high social intelligence and an ability to build relationships that aid their firm’s growth.
10. Risk-Taker: They have good instincts when it comes to managing high-risk situations.
What if you are weak in some of these areas? Can you still make it as an entrepreneur?
Citing research showing that entrepreneurship is between 37% and 48% genetic, Gallup’s conclusion is that entrepreneurs with a natural gift for things like opportunity spotting will find it easiest to succeed but that others can compensate somewhat for a lack of inborn talent through efforts like working with coaches and getting technical assistance. And, of course, factors like skills and experience also play a role in entrepreneurial success.
After surveying 1,344 CEOs in 68 countries, we found that 70% of US CEOs are concerned about the skills gap. And 86% say technology advances are going to transform their businesses within the next five years. So the relationship between talent quality and financial success isn’t just causal. It’s completely consequential.
1. Transformation requires trust – Departmental changes are nothing new, and most employees will go along to get along when the degree of change is small and the rate is slow. Bigger changes require more. Employees need to trust their leaders when the leaders ask them to take a leap of faith. This is going to be harder to do than it used to be. Five years after the financial crisis, just 32% of US CEOs say the level of trust with employees has improved. Being transparent about where the company is going and what it takes to be successful is an approach managers will have to embrace to regain that trust.
2. The people you have now are the people you’ll have later – In the past, large-scale change could be achieved by replacing people.
But the skills gap that comes with the level of changes now happening is just too big for managers to fire and rehire their way out of the problem. To cope with this degree of change, training for tomorrow must become as important as revenue today.
The leader’s role here is to point towards a common goal, motivating people to learn from each other so that they can achieve this new opportunity. The skills gap, in other words, is very much a leadership gap.
3. The meaning of a diploma – As much as we bemoan the paucity of skills training in higher education, it’s not possible for schools to be close enough to industry to have a perfect match between training and needs. The good news is that industry can do more. A number of companies are offering MBA programs at night inside their own buildings. Others are working hand-in-glove with community colleges to train operators for their plants. There are even instances where companies have approached high schools to encourage shop classes so that people will develop welding and pipefitting skills. There are no limits to the practical, if inventive, ways companies can develop the talent they need.
Looking at these problems and their solutions, it becomes clear that the secret to closing the skills gap isn’t closing the skills gap – it’s seizing the leader’s mantle. That’s not a title or a position, but a role of pointing to the valley, telling the people about the danger ahead and then inspiring the changes necessary to survive and prosper.
How prepared are you for this challenge? To answer that question, simply ask yourself another question: How invested are you in your people’s skills?
In a fast-moving, digitally-powered world, creativity and intuition could be the difference between gaining ground as an innovator and getting left behind.
by Francesca Lagerberg
Do leadership styles differ around the world? This is one of the questions explored by our recent International Business Report. We asked 3,400 business leaders working in 45 economies to tell us how important they believe certain attributes are to good leadership.
Patterns in their responses point to some intriguing cultural differences. While the top traits – integrity, communication, and a positive attitude – are almost universally agreed upon by respondents (and confidence and the ability to inspire also rank high globally) not everyone is aligned on the importance of two other traits: creativity and intuition.
Nine in ten ASEAN leaders believe creativity is important, compared with just 57% in the EU; while 85% of ASEAN leaders think intuition is important, compared to only 54% in the EU. More generally, we find greater proportions of respondents in emerging markets falling into the leadership camp we would call “modernist.” They put more emphasis on intuition and creativity and also place greater value on coaching than leaders who are “traditionalists.”
This is an intriguing discovery, but it immediately raises a follow-on question. It’s conceivable that our survey captured a gap that still exists for now but is shrinking, as globalization brings a certain sameness to businesses around the world. Will we see a steady convergence in leadership – and toward the Western style – as developing economies mature?
Many believe so…
I’m not so sure. Given the superior growth rates of their economies, it might be that leaders in emerging markets are gaining the confidence to stick with the management approaches that have apparently been working for them – or that they have the agility to adapt to whatever techniques and tone prove best suited to their fast-evolving local markets.
And here is the really big factor in play as leadership styles continue to evolve: Women still have far to come as business leaders. Today, just 24% of senior business roles around the world are held by women, but the proportion of female CEOs is on the rise. Awareness is growing that diversity, of all sorts and in any walk of life, leads to better decisions and outcomes. There is now a wealth of empirical evidence proving that greater gender diversity correlates with higher sales, growth, return on invested capital, and return on equity. One recent study from China even finds that having more women on company boards reduces the incidence of fraud. Meanwhile, uniformity of background often yields uniformity of opinion and worse decisions. The pressure is on to make boardrooms and management ranks less “male and pale.”
It has often been claimed that a key way in which business women differ from business men is in their leadership styles. For example, research shows that women leaders, on average, are more democratic and participative than their male counterparts. Studies have also shown that, as investors, women are more risk-averse and, at the household level, tend to invest a higher proportion of their earnings in their families and communities than men.
Looking across the global landscape today, we find women more prevalent in the upper echelons of companies in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.
Perhaps it is not just coincidence that where we see more women leading, our survey finds more openness to using creativity and intuition – and also a higher value placed on the ability to delegate. In any case, these parts of the world, with their higher proportions of women in leadership, have a fair claim to be arriving sooner at the well-blended leadership style of the future.
Decision-making based on analytics is all the rage now, and certainly represents progress in many areas where managerial decisions have been made in the past on “gut feel.” But there are still many decisions in business that, either because they relate to future possibilities or because they involve trade-offs of competing values, can’t be reduced to data and calculations. One could argue that those are the very decisions – the ones requiring creativity and intuition – where leadership is most called for and tested.
In a fast-moving, digitally-powered world, creativity and intuition could be the difference between gaining ground as an innovator and getting left behind.
by Bill George, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School
The New York Times ran a troubling story, “Why You Hate Work,” in last week’s “Sunday Review.” The article indicated that employees work too hard and find little meaning from their work. The anecdotes we all hear about this topic are reinforced by the Gallup Poll, which shows that only 30 percent of employees are engaged in their work.
The issues raised are ones I have worked on for many years. With the drive for higher productivity in the workplace, there is little doubt that people are putting in longer hours than they did two or three decades ago. In part, this drive comes from never-ending, short-term pressures of the stock market. An even greater factor is the global nature of competition today, which pits American organizations directly against counterparts in Asia, where work days are long and onerous.
The much greater issue raised, however, is that many workers do not find meaning in their work. A shockingly low 25 percent of employees feel connection to their company’s mission. (Contrast that to the 84 percent of Medtronic employees who feel aligned with the company’s mission.) In my experience, if employees don’t feel a genuine passion for their work and believe that it makes a difference, engagement drops off dramatically. When engagement falls, so does productivity.
Message not being heard
Many senior executives have been focused on building mission-driven organizations for the last decade. The CEOs I know are fully committed to getting everyone focused on mission through regular engagement with employees—much more so than CEOs in my generation. So if CEOs are focused on the mission, why aren’t these messages getting through to employees?
“Instead of managers who control, we need leaders who inspire”I believe the answer lies in the highly bureaucratic, multilayered organizations that companies are using to execute their plans. There is so much pressure to realize short-term results that middle managers are consumed by making this month’s numbers rather than building teams that focus on achieving their company’s mission. Innovating under intense operational pressure is nearly impossible.
In addition, the heavy burden of compliance with government regulations and internal corporate requirements is taking a toll on people, limiting their creativity, and causing them to be risk-averse. In this environment, desired qualities like empowerment, engagement, and innovation are subordinated to control aspects. No wonder people aren’t engaged and having fun!
Finally, we have lost sight of the importance of first-line employees—the people actually doing the work—and have given all the power to middle management. We have driven down compensation for first-line employees, increased their hours, and taken away their freedom to act with myriad control mechanisms. When it comes to layoffs, it is the first-line people who get laid off, not the middle managers, as senior leaders protect the people closest to themselves.
What’s the solution to this dilemma? I believe we need to restructure large organizations by giving much more responsibility and authority to first-line workers and paying them accordingly—with appropriate performance incentives. We need to trust employees, not control them, by empowering them to carry out the company’s mission on behalf of customers. They should be given full responsibility for performance, quality, achievement of goals, and compliance with company standards.
To realize this change, organizational structures need to change. Dramatically. For starters, companies have far too many layers of managers. The best way to address this is to widen the span of control for everyone between the CEO and first-line employees. Instead of six to 12 direct reports, all managers should have 15 to 20 people reporting to them. For many managers, this violates traditional management principles, but it also dramatically reduces the number of layers between the CEO and first-line staff. I know many extremely effective executives, including Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy and Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak, who have more than 18 direct reports and handle the load extremely well. It just requires ensuring that all your direct reports are competent to do their roles and that you use a superb system of delegation, so that you’re not over-managing subordinates.
Required: leaders who inspire
Next, the role of middle management requires fundamental changes. Instead of managers who control, we need leaders who inspire in these roles. They should work alongside their employees, doing more than their fair share of the most challenging aspects of the work. Their leadership role is to champion the company’s mission and values, and to challenge others to meet higher standards on behalf of their customers. It is the job of these leaders to facilitate the work of the people they lead by making their jobs easier, and removing bureaucratic impediments and other obstacles. Middle managers who cannot make this shift may have to move on to new roles elsewhere. All of these actions make these leaders more like partners and coaches than bosses and controllers in the traditional sense.
Finally, the most senior executives in the organization should be engaged every day with the first-line: working with them in the marketplace and in customer meetings; roaming around the labs, quizzing innovators, scientists and engineers about their latest ideas; visiting production facilities and service centers to check on quality and customer support. That means far less time holding lengthy business reviews in their conference rooms or having 1:1 meetings in their offices. Executives who are fully engaged with first-line employees every day will have a much better sense of how their businesses are running, and their presence will be highly motivating and even inspiring.
As a result of these changes, the employees will be more engaged and more productive, overhead costs will drop dramatically, and customers will report a much higher level of responsiveness. The executives will make better informed, more thoughtful decisions about the business because they are so much closer to their markets and the people doing the work.
It’s time to light the way for your employees, so they’re not fumbling in the dark and missing your goals. Transparency, tracking, and real-time adjustments can help keep your team aligned and engaged, so everyone is heading in the right destination.
Why are employees checking out? Likely because they can’t see how their daily efforts contribute to your company’s strategic goals. While you may think your company is crystal clear and extremely transparent, the cold reality is your people look at your organization as a maze of disjointed hierarchies.
While you may think your company is crystal clear and extremely transparent, the cold reality is your people look at your organisation as a maze of disjointed hierarchies.
In fact, most of them can’t even name your company goals. In the “How Leaders Grow Today” survey by ClearCompany and Dale Carnegie, 43 percent of employees claimed to be familiar with company goals, yet couldn’t list any specifically. Your team needs more than the Cliff Notes version of how their contributions add value to the organization if you want a happy, engaged, and productive workforce.
Your company needs to turn on some lights, so employees can see how their efforts make a difference. Here are a couple tips to light the way towards alignment:
Transparency is the lightswitch you need to get your team moving together in the right direction. A survey by Fierce, Inc. asked 800 responders what practices were currently holding their company back. Nearly half of all respondents identified a lack of company-wide transparency and too little involvement in company decisions as problem areas keeping their organizations from thriving.
Helping employees “see” company-wide goals with easy visualization can ensure your best people are clued in and engaged, without constantly barraging employees with company messaging. With high levels of transparency, your team never has to wonder how their work contributes to overall company goals or how they add individual value. So it should come as little surprise the most effective communicators use more metricswhile explaining goals, the same way talent alignment systems provide real-time tracking so employees can see their value.
Organizations which share information and encourage participation also have greater levels of employee trust. Employee trust is an important component when it comes to engagement and morale, which in turn both have huge impact on a company’s bottom line.
Just how much can employee engagement affect a company’s profits? Best Buy wanted to find the answer, so they tracked the influence of employee engagement at a specific store. What they found was an increase of only .1 percent had a substantial impact. At the store in question, this tiny uptick in engagement equaled more than $100,000 additional funds in the store’s annual operating budget.
Make Real-Time Adjustments
Sometimes in business you need to make a big pivot to be successful. This is why the ability to make real-time adjustments is so important. Unfortunately, less than one third of surveyed employees felt their company would be willing to change practices or directions based on employee feedback.
The ability to pivot has been instrumental in the successes of multiple businesses, including Twitter. The 140 character microblogging service started life as Odeo, a podcasting platform. In 2005, Odeo got some bad news when Apple officially moved into the podcasting arena. Without a clear backup plan, the 14 member team at Odeo began working full-time on a pivot, including hosting “hackathons” where members worked on concepts. One such concept was a status update platform, which eventually became the massively popular Twitter.
Without real-time tracking, it’s tough to see what your best people are working on and working towards. Employees feel like they can’t provide feedback and executives don’t understand how to motivate teams to do their best work. By tracking progress in real-time, you can make adjustments and stop small problems from snowballing into huge challenges.
You can also better play to the strengths of your best employees if you can see where they excel in their workflow and where they’re falling short. After all, an article in Human Capital Review by Robert Biswas-Diener and Nicky Garcea explains how highly engaged employees report using their strengths 70 percent of the time in their day-to-day work. According to this report, by taking a strengths-based approach to managing your employees you can expect at least a 36 percent increase in performance.
Playing to the strengths of your team means higher engagement and productivity. Real-time adjustments also mean you can stop goal deterioration and work cascading in the wrong direction. Since you can see your team’s work, you can keep everyone focused on your company goals. From the employee perspective, tracking their own progress means they can take ownership of work while still being able to see how their contributions align with overall corporate strategy.
“The more I practice, the luckier I get.” — golf legend Gary Player
Practice is about applying an idea, belief or method rather than the theories related to it. Practice is also about repeatedly performing an activity to become skilled in it.
The value and benefit of practice is taken for granted for performers at the highest level in fields such as sport, music, and art.
Can you imagine teams like the New York Yankees in baseball, Toronto Maple Leafs in ice hockey, Dallas Cowboys in American Football, Manchester United in soccer just turning up on match day? In the arts, would the cast of Cirque du Soleil or the dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet just turn up on the day of the performance? Even the Rolling Stones practice!
Practice and reflection: The missing links
From the sporting world we see that anyone who wants to learn and improve needs to commit time and effort to practise, to notice what works and doesn’t, to keep training until a routine is improved, perfected.
How does this translate to organizations?
Training exists of course – focused on new recruits or “teaching” new skills and technical knowledge that may be required. Skilled execution is highly valued.
But, in most organizations, there is not much focus on practice – and a lack of focus on reflection – on learning from that practice, considering what worked, what didn’t work and what to adjust next time. In organizations, practice and reflection are the missing links between the theory and skilled execution.
What does practice do for you?
Practice enables you to broaden your repertoire, to deepen your knowledge, insight and capability. The brain, once thought to be a “fixed” entity, is malleable. Purposeful practice builds new neural pathways and constant repetition deepens those connections, making that new option a readily available choice.
The result of all this practice?
The seemingly super-sharp reaction time of various ball sports is an illusion. In standard reaction time tests, there is no difference between, say, a leading tennis player compared to other players. BUT, the player is able to detect minute signals which, from years of practice, has led them to read the direction of the serve before the ball has even been played.
It’s this practice that has created unconscious patterns and distinctions that the player responds to equally unconsciously – resulting in the seemingly super-sharp responses.
“Gretzky’s gift…is for seeing…amid the mayhem, Gretzky can discern the game’s underlying pattern and flow, and anticipate what’s going to happen faster and in more detail than anyone else.”
Purposeful practice is the primary contributing factor (above natural talent) to excellence in sport and life. To be a truly practised at a skill or habit, hours of sustained practice are required – estimated at 10,000 hours. The focus and attention to the practice and learning from that practice is fundamental.
At this level of competence, you have developed what is described as reflection-in-action, where you are critically aware of what you are doing – judging each moment for its suitability against an inner set of criteria – at the same time that you are actually doing the activity. One of the reasons Brazil is so successful at soccer is because most of the footballers played futsal. The smaller, heavier ball demands greater precision and encourages more frequent passing.
Failure comes with the territory
Paradoxically, failure is a key part of success because it is an opportunity to learn. Shizuka Arakawa, one of Japan’s greatest ice skaters, reports falling over more than 20,000 times in her progression to become the 2006 Olympic champion.
Practicing any skill is a full mind, heart and body event. As you build new physical skills, you’re laying down and deepening neural pathways. As you develop competence and strength in a particular skill, you’re building up the positive emotions associated with execution.
Practice in something can lead to belief in your ability to do it. This principle is one that informs coaches and practitioners working in the area of somatics and embodiment.
How can organizations create the culture and space for practice in order to grow and learn? Individual practice at work is a systemic question – it’s about the prevailing culture, skills and process – as well as individual focus and motivation.
Specifically, how can you establish an environment of striving to achieve the best and an expectation that this will be achieved? To what extent do people receive good quality feedback in a relatively “safe” environment so that they can learn and improve?
Everybody then benefits from the virtuous circle of being with others who are excellent at what they do. This “multiplier” effect impacts across groups and communities.
For example, an organization may have the core value “relationships,” and a Practice to bring this value to life, “We invest time with stakeholders to build long-lasting relationships.” On the day of this particular Practice, all employees are therefore very mindful and consciously looking for opportunities to build strong relationships with colleagues, customers, suppliers, communities. The impact? Let’s consider this:
“Today, instead of sending an email update, I took the time to call the project sponsor and ask her what she was noticing. I learned that a key team member was in the process of resigning and this information enabled me to prepare a shift in resource. The call took five minutes; it would have taken me longer to compose the email. I felt great.”
Over the course of one month, you live each of the organization’s values through a number of different Practices. Initially, like anything new, you may feel uncertain, but over time, the Practices are repeated, becoming habitual. You will find that you start adopting the Practices more generally, not just the one that day.
The key point is that, just as with sport or other activities, hours of purposeful practice of behaviours and attitudes that are explicitly linked to living core values will result in a strong values-based culture.
Though much has been made of the many benefits of happiness, it’s important to consider that sadness can be beneficial, too. Sad people are less prone to judgmental errors, are more resistant to eye-witness distortions, are sometimes more motivated, and are more sensitive to social norms. They can act with more generosity, too.
Being sad from time to time serves some kind of purpose in helping our species to survive. Yet, while other so-called “negative emotions,” like fear, anger, and disgust, seem clearly adaptive—preparing our species for flight, fight, or avoidance, respectively—the evolutionary benefits of sadness have been harder to understand…until recently, that is.
With the advent of fMRI imaging and the proliferation of brain research, scientists have begun to find out more about how sadness works in the brain and influences our thoughts and behavior. Though happiness is still desirable in many situations, there are others in which a mild sad mood confers important advantages.
Findings from my own research suggest that sadness can help people improve attention to external details, reduce judgmental bias, increase perseverance, and promote generosity. All of these findings build a case that sadness has some adaptive functions, and so should be accepted as an important component of our emotional repertoire.
Here are some of the ways sadness can be a beneficial emotion.
1. Sadness can improve your memory.
Our research finds that happiness can produce less focused and attentive processing and so increases the chances of misleading information being incorporated into memory, while a negative mood improves attention to detail and results in better memory.
2. Sadness can improve judgment.
Sad moods reduce common judgmental biases, such as “the fundamental attribution error,” in which people attribute intentionality to others’ behavior while ignoring situational factors, and the “halo effect,” where judges tend to assume a person having some positive feature—such as a handsome face—is likely to have others, such as kindness or intelligence. Negative moods can also reduce another judgmental bias, primacy effects—when people place too much emphasis on early information and ignore later details.
So negative mood can improve the accuracy of impression formation judgments, by promoting a more detailed and attentive thinking style.
3. Sadness can increase your motivation.
When we feel happy, we naturally want to maintain that happy feeling. Happiness signals to us that we are in a safe, familiar situation, and that little effort is needed to change anything. Sadness, on the other hand, operates like a mild alarm signal, triggering more effort and motivation to deal with a challenge in our environment.
Thus, people who are happier will sometimes be less motivated to push themselves toward action compared to someone in a negative mood, who will be more motivated to exert effort to change their unpleasant state.
A sad mood can increase and happy mood can reduce perseverance with difficult tasks, possibly because people are less motivated to exert effort when they already experience a positive mood. Sad mood in turn may increase perseverance as people see greater potential benefits of making an effort.
4. Sadness can improve interactions, in some cases.
In general, happiness increases positive interactions between people. Happy people are more poised, assertive, and skillful communicators; they smile more, and they are generally perceived as more likable than sad people.
However, in situations where a more cautious, less assertive and more attentive communication style may be called for, a sad mood may help.
Why would this be? In uncertain and unpredictable interpersonal situations, people need to pay greater attention to the requirements of the situation to formulate the most appropriate communication strategy. They must be able to read the cues of the situation and respond accordingly. Sad people are more focused on external cues and will not rely solely on their first impressions, which happy people are more inclined to trust.
Sadness is not depression
The benefits of sadness have their limits, of course. Depression—a mood disorder defined, at least in part, by prolonged and intense periods of sadness—can be debilitating. And no one is suggesting that we should try to induce sadness as a way of combating memory decline, for example. Research does not bear out the benefits of doing this.
But my research does suggest that mild, temporary states of sadness may actually be beneficial in handling various aspects of our lives. Perhaps that is why, even though feeling sad can be hard, many of the greatest achievements of Western art, music, and literature explore the landscape of sadness. In everyday life, too, people often seek ways to experience sadness, at least from time to time—by listening to sad songs, watching sad movies, or reading sad books.
Evolutionary theory suggests that we should embrace all of our emotions, as each has an important role to play under the right circumstances. So, though you may seek ways to increase happiness, don’t haphazardly push away your sadness. No doubt, it’s there for good reason.
Muse is wearable technology, but it doesn’t create mind-blowing experiences. Just the opposite. Muse is a brain sensing headband that measures how overwhelmed your brain is from everything life throws at it — and it helps calm your mind and rid yourself of unproductive and unhealthy stress. This is just the beginning of what Muse can do. In the future, using this technology, you’ll be able to customize and control your home environment based on your brain state, turning sci-fi into reality.
Ariel Garten is the 34-year-old co-founder of InteraXon, creators of Muse. She’s a neuroscientist, artist and practicing psychotherapist. She’s closing the gap between science, art, technology and business.
I started working with brain sensing tech in labs over a decade ago and was immediately fascinated by the potential to help people peer into the workings and behaviors of their own minds. It didn’t seem right that these incredible tools weren’t available to the general public, and I really wanted to use my background in neuroscience and psychotherapy to help others. Together with my business partners, we decided to make it happen.
Muse is going to be part of every day life as an indispensable tool helping people overcome mental, physical and emotional barriers. It’s going to allow us to free ourselves in ways we never thought possible.
How does it work? Muse has sensors to detect and measure the activity of your brain, similar to the way a heart monitor measures your pulse. The sensory input is translated into real-time feedback on your tablet or smart phone via Bluetooth. You can see if your brain is stressed or calm, and with scientifically proven exercises, you can bring your brain back to that healthy state of calm, training your brain. I think one of the best parts is that this exercise only takes three minutes a day (if only this could happen at the gym).
What will Muse fix in the world? My interview with Ariel, one of the brains behind the headband:
What do you think is one of the most important things in the world that needs to be fixed?
Unproductive stress! Between 70-90% of doctor’s visits are stress related illnesses (source: The American Institute of Stress). With rising costs of health care and the number of people with limited access to it, if we could help people reduce their stress imagine the impact on their wellbeing — financial, physical, mental or emotional.
Arianna Huffington speaks very candidly about this. After collapsing from overworked exhaustion a few years ago, she has since become a dedicated advocate of moving away from the popular two-track focus on money and power. She talks about prioritizing life: wellbeing, wonder, wisdom and giving. Ultimately it all points towards a more balanced and less stress-controlled life.
Obsession with conventional ideas of ‘success’ can be harmful enough, but compound that stress with relationships, family, financial woes and health concerns and you find yourself in a constant state of fight or flight. This causes people to be more reactionary which further perpetuates the cycle of stress.
I want to help give people the ability to stop and take just a few minutes a day to regroup and refocus; to give them a chance to get perspective on the things that matter and the things that don’t. Being able to train your mind to do this isn’t as hard or time consuming as people think. It’s about committing to it just like an exercise routine or healthier eating habits. A healthy mind is just as important.
A statistic from Harvard states that we spend 46.9% of our time thinking about something other than what we are doing. This absence from the present moment also causes unproductive stress.
What will the world look like when it’s fixed?
The world will look a lot healthier when this is fixed. People will discover ways to be more productive and creative, and thus feel a greater degree of satisfaction. Their professional and personal relationships will improve because stress will be less of a barrier to listening, communicating and cooperating with others. Personal motivation will be higher because the negativity of stress will be less of a factor in their daily lives. All of this adds up to a greater sense of wellbeing; dare I say “happiness.”
What are you doing to help fix it?
I’m tackling the fix in a couple ways. The first is developing and launching this new product, Muse: the brain sensing headband, that combines my passion for neuroscience with my desire to help as many people as possible. I wanted to create a tool that would help people exercise their minds in the most positive and productive way—not just with cognitive exercises alone, but also with a focus towards building emotional resilience.
Muse senses your brainwaves much the same way a heart rate monitor senses your heart beat. It’s easy to use and will allow people to learn and train their minds at their own pace with another tool everyone has already in their pockets –their smart phone or tablet. Muse actually measures the state of your mind. Ultimately, we’ve created a usable, fun system that enables virtually anyone to improve themselves, cut away the static of a busy mind, and feel calmer in only three minutes a day.
The second way I’m helping fix it is as a therapist. From as far back as I can recall I’ve always felt compelled to make people feel better. Being a therapist gives me the opportunity to do that one-on-one. There are so many people suffering from stress and negative thoughts, and I’ve seen it lead to harmful actions and feelings. I’ve had the opportunity to help people identify root causes of stress and destructive thinking to help them heal. With Muse, I’m able to share that on a much larger scale.
What can others do to help fix it?
In the work environment, people can look to encouraging healthier working habits and environments. So much productivity is lost due to employee stress that manifests itself in various ways. The healthiest work environments are transparent and open, and where communication and collaboration foster creativity. Leaders need to be open to change and geared towards fostering more happiness in the workplace. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is a good example. I’d say InteraXon is another, and we model ourselves on the other good examples out there. And we all Muse.
As individuals, seek small adjustments to lifestyle habits. If we can be open minded to new suggestions and tools and new ways to approach problems, we can become less fixed. This opens us up to new ideas and possibilities.
What is a mistake you’ve made that you learned from and others can also learn from it?
When we began creating this technology, I was a little naive and somewhat idealistic. I didn’t realize how many barriers we’d come to face. We’re essentially cutting the path in a field that is still unfamiliar to many people and we’re building a technology that will change the world – not a short order. I’ve been a lifelong optimist and so I have a hard time imagining blocks to success – but there were a few, namely in manufacturing and finance. A lot of ups and downs I never even considered. But the manifestation of InteraXon’s vision is now a tangible product now and that makes the challenges worthwhile.
While a good degree of optimism is absolutely necessary to keep a team inspired, grounded optimism is an even greater asset when working to bring a vision to life.
Beyond looking into our brains today, what will Muse mean for the future?