Friday, October 7, 2016
Next speaking engagement:
"The Brain" on Tue Oct. 11, 2016
Minnesota Continuing Legal Education Conference
Focus and Time Management -
What Neuroscience Tells Us About Improving These Critical Skills
Every time you focus your attention you are using glucose and other metabolic resources. Studies by Professor of Psychology at Florida State University Roy Baumeister and his colleagues show that each task that you perform tends to make you less effective at the next task. Whether we are at home, in the workplace, or elsewhere, we are constantly fighting off distractions and battling conflicting priorities. This session focuses on practical tips for avoiding and suppressing distractions, on a 4-step focused-attention-meditation, which will help you sustain attentional focus, and on other neuroscience-based practices to increase your ability to focus and manage your priorities, energy, and time best.
Tuesday October 11, 2016, Minnesota CLE Conference Center, 600 Nicollet Mall, Suite 370, Minneapolis
Friday, September 30, 2016
Positive psychology, founded by dr. Martin Seligman, is the scientific study of what makes people flourish. It is the study of the strengths and virtues that enable you to thrive. Positive Psychology helps you focus on what is working, on what can be done or controlled, on what is here now, and it helps you thrive by motivating you to focus on possibilities, opportunities and gratitude.
Positive psychology is not an over-reliance or exaggeration of things towards the positive. Below you find 7 practices from positive psychology. Choose. Practice. Thrive.
1. Write a “self-compassion” letter, in which you treat yourself with compassion while confronting your mistakes and shortcomings. Refrain from harsh criticism, judgments, and condemnations and write this letter to yourself as if it was from a supportive yet candid friend.
2. List your five main strengths and answer the following questions:
- How much do I use this strength?
- Is it wise to use it more or maybe less?
- Could my use of this strength be an example of “Too much of a good thing turns into a bad thing.” So which strength would I be better off toning down? For example: decisiveness can become pushiness if you over-do it.
- At the other end of the spectrum, a strength underused is one gone to waste so: Which strength am I under-using?
3. Adjust the narrative that you hold about a challenging situation that involves other people and ask yourself:
1. What am I exaggerating?
2. What may I be over-personalizing?
3. Am I checking what I perceive to be facts?
4. What other explanation or narrative could be true?
5. Do I have enough data to freak out? (Brené Brown)
6. How can I focus more on what is working, on what can be changed?
4. Emotions and mindsets are contagious, so be mindful who you surround yourself with: can-do, caring, interested people who can add new perspectives and who are candid with you are good people to be around.
5. Strengthen resilience and decrease stress by writing in your daily gratitude journal: Every afternoon/evening your write down 3 specific things you are grateful for that day. Do not repeat examples the next day. You want to train your mind to hunt for the good, not to get in a ‘lazy’ repetition mode.
6. Seek approval only from the people who really matter at times that it really matters. People-pleasing is draining your energy, hampering candor and depth, and most of all: it is impossible to please everyone.
7. Increase your awareness and mindfulness by focusing on being in the moment, here and now, whether you are in a meeting, in your car, walking with a coworker to the parking lot or any other situation. Gently push distracting thoughts aside and tell them you’ll deal with them at a certain time during the day, just not now.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Sure, numerous conversations and meetings benefit from subtlety and agreement. Yet at least as many conversations and meetings require all involved to be able to argue effectively, to candidly speak out, to respectfully tell it as they see it, to challenge conventional wisdom without sugar-coating, and to openly call out mishaps, cowardice, ego-trouble, misguided intentions, or simply an opposing view or unlikely perspective.
So how do you do this thing called ‘arguing effectively’?
1. Objectives must be shared, explained, and understood.
2. Intentions must be constructive and trusted.
3. Substantive debate must be everyone’s priority.
4. Empathy and curiosity must accompany candor and persuasion.
5. Participants must be willing to assume the other person’s position.
6. Participants must distinguish between the person and their opinion.
7. Respectful, straight-talk feedback must be given and received.
8. Dominating, condemning, remaining locked in the past, and attacking someone’s character must not be tolerated.
It is impossible and highly undesirably to eliminate all arguments from conversations and meetings. It is possible to argue respectfully and constructively so you can dive deeper into important topics and clear the air of otherwise suppressed, maybe even toxic thoughts and emotions. All involved need to realize that a lack of agreement does not have to equal conflict, and that deeper connections, smarter solutions, and stronger commitments result from expressing, respecting, and seriously considering a contrarian’s point of view.
Earlier this month I was fortunate to provide a professional development clinic for members of TeamWomen MN, a great group of women that share one goal: to inspire, encourage, and support each other in reaching their full potential. My talk was on women brains and behaviors, focusing on practical tips to better manage up, down, and sideways. There are six thoughts from this talk that I’d like to share with you:
1. How well you lead up is an indication of your potential to become a senior leader in your organization. Your ability to demonstrate initiative, persuasion, persistence, and passion in combination with your ability to overcome obstacles and promote resilience is a critical measure of senior leadership. You will need to be able to influence your boss and you want to give people a compelling reason to believe in what you stand for.
2. High-potential women tend to be over-mentored and under-sponsored. Acquire and utilize high-positioned sponsors. These are people who will advocate for new roles and projects. They advocate for your promotion and help you plan your moves. They endorse your authority publicly.
3. It’s on your plate to learn to get your point across and to communicate persuasively with your superiors, your team members, and your peers.
4. Understand your leaders and your company: their strategic business objectives, their personal goals, needs, and fears, and their styles. Adjust your messages and style accordingly while remaining loyal to your core objectives and values.
5. Assert yourself with tact and provide feedback with tact: Be clear and brief, focus on what’s relevant, what’s practical, and what’s helpful.
6. Establish trust by following through on commitments, by making yourself available, by demonstrating the ability to think and act for ‘the boss’, and by taking initiative, acting decisively, and sharing credit.
As Michael Useem, professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania once said: “We might fear how our superior will respond, we might doubt our right to lead up, but we all carry a responsibility to do what we can when it will make a difference.”
Friday, June 17, 2016
Social awareness is the third of four elements of emotional intelligence and consists of organizational awareness and understanding your environment. The latter requires a good dose of empathy in order to understand and relate to people. Below you find ways to strengthen your empathetic insights and skills:
1. Be here, now, with this situation and with this person and their needs and emotions. Gently push aside your judgments, your thoughts about the thousand other things you have to attend to, and any other distractions that keep you from being here now.
2. Use your own past experiences to understand the situation or person better, but be mindful not to interpret from your own frame of reference.
3. Move away from your own agenda and ask yourself: What are the interests, needs, and possible fears of this person? What might their agenda be and above all: Why?
4. Make sure you meet the people in your organization on their own grounds. Walk around, observe, and ask. Experience first hand what challenges, pressures, and risks they are dealing with and how they are succeeding or not.
5. Ask people how they like to be supported. Discuss what they expect of you and listen with the intent to understand and learn. Stay away from autobiographical listening, jumping to conclusions and the like.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Stuck in a rut. Blindsided. Tunnel vision. Blind spots.
I call them ‘siblings’ from the family of cognitive errors.
If I say that you are stuck in a rut I mean that you are fixed in your thinking and in the way you do things. It could be that you've been doing something the same way for too long. It could be that you over-use the otherwise very useful skill of pattern recognition and reliance on previous experience. If you do an online search for the meaning of ‘blindsided’ one of the examples you get is of a quarterback who was blindsided and had the ball knocked out of his hand. And then there is tunnel vision, blind spots ….
… you get the point I’m sure.
In our coaching and workshop conversations my clients and I regularly discuss the benefits and the ‘how-to’ of taking different perspectives, seeking dissenting views, and appreciating contrarians (ask my husband and our children and they’ll probably tell you that I fail at least as often as I succeed in putting this to practice myself).
Two weeks ago I was fortunate to attend the Global Change Management Conference by the Association for Change Management Professionals. Imagine 1500 people from 26 different countries sharing a wealth of knowledge, their experience, and a wide variety of perspectives during this three-day event in Dallas. Enriching, energizing, and fun!
Harvard happiness researcher Shawn Achor was the opening keynote speaker at the conference. Shawn mentioned the Tetris Effect, after the popular tile matching video game Tetris. The Tetris Effect occurs when you devote so much time and attention to an activity that it begins to pattern your thoughts, your mental images, and even your dreams. People who play Tetris for prolonged periods, don’t see ordinary boxes at the department store or ‘just’ buildings on Main Street. They see how the different shapes of these boxes and buildings can fit together as if they were playing the Tetris game.
So back to the ability of pattern recognition, which helps us all assess and solve problems and prevents us from inventing the wheel over and over again. In 1998 psychologist and researcher Robert L. Solso defined pattern recognition as the ability to abstract and integrate certain elements of a stimulus into an organized scheme for memory storage and retrieval. Sounds useful and it is useful! One of the many advantages of pattern recognition is that you can identify patterns and objects even when partly hidden, with incomplete and ambiguous information, and even better, you can recognize these patterns with ease and automaticity.
Our ability to recognize patterns is what gave humans their evolutionary edge over animals. It’s considered one of the hallmarks of intelligence if you define the latter as the ability to solve problems. We humans are amazing pattern-recognition machines. We have the ability to recognize many different types of patterns, transform them into concrete and actionable steps, and draw cause and effect conclusions. None of that I wish to throw out. Nor am I against the increasing possibility of machines to recognize patterns, such as Google’s driverless cars, which are able to recognize traffic and schedule changes faster than humans. Or think of the application of pattern recognition in the medical field. Diagnosing an illness is also the result of recognizing patterns, however my bacterial infection was misdiagnosed – which almost cost me my leg – as an acute rheumatoid attack due to the absence of a so-called must-be-present element in the ‘bacterial-infection-pattern’. IBM Watson is getting into medical diagnosis and in many ways, machines will be better at pattern recognition than humans due to their superior processing power, recognizing the right patterns faster than anyone else.
Yes, I hugely appreciate pattern recognition, whether done by man or machine, and at the same time I urge everyone to be watching out for over-reliance. Make sure you do not ‘see’ patterns that aren’t there (maybe they never were or maybe just not this time). Explore which relationships between events you may mistake for cause-and-effect patterns. Investigate which of your blind spots are based on so-called patterns and on expectations that haven’t been tested in a while. Know when you’re jumping to conclusions and clouding your perceptions and interpretations because you (think you) see a pattern. Focus instead on four C’s:
1. Be Curious – especially towards different views, thought processes, and choices.
2. Be Critical – particularly of your own pattern-based focus, interpretations, assumptions, and conclusions.
3. Be Creative – look for different ways of viewing a person, situation, or problem.
4. Be Candid – with yourself and with others, whenever you suspect the Tetris Effect or any of its siblings.
Four words that, if applied on your job and at home, can have a significant positive influence on your outcomes, relationships, and well-being.
Curious. Critical. Creative. Candid.
Saturday, April 16, 2016
Change management is popular and there are numerous books, talks, blog posts and what not dedicated to this topic. In this post I choose to alert you to questions, that, when considered thoughtfully, will help you lead and manage change more successfully. Some of the questions you find below may seem obvious or strange. Regardless I ask you to reflect on them all and to ask others to reflect on them with you.
Note: Some of these questions stem from Wally Bock's blog, writing on Decision Making on March 17, 2016
Please ask yourself:
What’s the story of the problem?
Why do we want to solve the problem?
What do we know for sure?
How do we know this?
What are we assuming?
What purpose are our assumptions serving?
What is it that we are leaving un-discussed?
Why are we doing it this way?
What do we not know?
What’s a similar situation?
Who are the stakeholders and what are their needs?
What happens if we do nothing and things remain as they are?
What can be my first step to better deal with what is coming?
Are we often coming to the same kind of conclusions?
Who can I consult to get a completely different perspective?
Which excuses for underperformance make perfect sense to me?
What am I doing to give voice to unstated agendas, whispered concerns?
How can I best mine wisdom from previous experiences here or elsewhere?
Let me add a Jack Welch question:
What would I do differently if I had just been hired for the job?
In closing, a Charles Duhigg question:
Is how our organization or team functions truly the best course of action or did it develop simply because that’s the way it’s always been done?
(From his book The Power of Habit)