Welcome All!

If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Answer 8 questions before accepting a (new) leadership position

In "The Art of War for Women - Sun Tzu's ultimate guide to winning without confrontation" by Chin-Ning Chu, a case is made for the importance of mental strength. As I assume we can all agree, mental strength is vital to your success at any level in any industry and in any culture. "If you cannot handle the pain of setbacks, don't take on a leadership role in the battlefield of either business or life." is one of the numerous thought provokers from this book.

On page 147 and 148, Chin-Ning Chu presents 8 questions that should be answered affirmatively before accepting a (new) leadership position: 

1. Do I posses the ability to be decisive?
2. Do I have the guts to complete the necessary tasks?
3. Am I willing to take calculated risks?
4. Do I have the stomach to handle the unpredictable setbacks?
5. Do I possess an uncrushable strength?
6. If my plan fails, am I resilient enough to bounce back?
7. Do I have the ability to bear humiliation? 
8. Can I endure trying times?

Which of these questions are relevant for you and how do you answer them? 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Managing your attention, energy, and technology

On April 5th I have the honor and pleasure of speaking at the Women’s Forum of the Risk Management Association in Minneapolis. The topic is “Managing your Attention, Energy, and Technology” of which I am sharing a preview in this post.

A little something on your brain:
       Your nervous system constantly processes and reconnects trillions of neural connections.
       Our brains are wired to pay attention to novelty. We are distracted every 3 to 5 minutes.
       A distraction is an alert that says “Put your attention here, now! This could be dangerous or important.” So a distraction generally feels great.
       You get an emotional high when you get a lot of things done at once.
       Distractions use oxygenated glucose, which leaves you with less for the next task. Less energy equals less capacity to notice, process, understand, memorize, recall, decide, and inhibit.

May I emphasize though, that a temptation or disruption turns into a distraction only if you allow it to?

Some of the many studies done on multi-tasking, which is really a myth:
·       Sussex University: High multi-taskers have less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, so there’s impaired empathy and cognitive/emotional control.
·       Stanford University: Multitasking is less productive than doing 1 thing at a time. People bombarded with streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory, or switch between jobs as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time.
·       London University: Multitasking during cognitive tasks results in IQ declines similar to being up all night or marijuana use.
·       McGill University: Switching between tasks comes with a biological cost. It leaves us more tired than when we sustain attention on one thing only.

May I emphasize that productive people take a 15 minutes break every few hours, one that allows for mind-wandering through walking, reading, listening to music etc.

Just a few of the suggestions to improve your attention and energy management:
1. Practice focusing when you don’t have to: Read in a noisy spot.
2. Wiggle your toes: It brings back drifting concentration.
3. Listen attentively to the sound of brushing your teeth and that sound only.
4. The one you’ll either love or hate hearing: Prioritize physical activity. It releases brain chemicals for learning and memory, it boosts the size of the hippocampus (University of British Columbia). From now on, decide to stretch, stand, and walk when others remain glued to their seats.

May I suggest you choose 2 actions to start right now and that you will hold yourself accountable for?

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Psychology behind Organization Development Work

This post is inspired by two days at the University of Minnesota – College of Continuing Education, packed with curious people bringing a rich diversity of work and life experiences to our Organization Development Course. Stephanie and I greatly enjoyed and appreciated working with you all!

When it comes to Organization Development (OD) work, there is so much to discuss. This post focuses solely on some of the psychology behind OD work. Lets start with things you don’t need in OD work:
1.    You don’t need to own the client’s problem.
2.    You don’t always need to be the smartest in the room.
3.    You don’t always need to be right.

Equally important of course is what you do need in order to be effective in any kind of OD work. Again, using a psychology lens, I’d start with:
-       Observing astutely
-       Asking powerful questions
-       Reflecting thoroughly
-       Listening just a little longer than you may want to
-       Understanding the influence of self
-       Thinking in alternatives and multiple perspectives

These six ingredients form the foundation of any success in OD work yet they are only the beginning of course. There are a myriad of other OD competencies, to mention just a few: knowledge of the business / industry / organization, research methods, management / organization theory, teamwork / collaboration, dealing with ambiguity, organization behavior, resource management, and project management. Enough to work on I’d say.

Returning to the psychology of OD work, I think there are six crucial C’s in any OD role in addition to understanding the system and the technicalities of your field. They are:

You want to apply all of the above with the right intention, timing, strength and focus in order to be effective. Ask yourself, which one of these comes natural to me and which ones do not? Which C’s may I be overusing in challenging situations, knowing that a strength that’s over-used easily turns into a liability? And which ones may I be neglecting or even shying away from and for what reasons?

As you very well know, much of OD work involves listening to people, influencing people, helping people understand their organizational, business, and personal challenges better and so on. It is ‘people-work’ so we also discussed some tempting pitfalls that are very human. They are nothing to be embarrassed or afraid about, yet tendencies to be very mindful of. Knowing and recognizing these pitfalls can take you from awareness and acknowledgement to accountability and action – my 4 A’s of personal and professional development. They will in some cases help you prevent these pitfalls from occurring, in other cases from continuing. Here they are:
-       Getting sucked into personal drama
-       Communicating by verbal ping pong
-       Focusing in who is wrong and who is right
-       Being oblivious to the box you are in
-       Complaining, blaming or wanting to fix others
-       Getting in your own (and your client’s) way by not acknowledging and managing your hot buttons

There is so much more to say about the psychology behind OD work, maybe some other time. I’ll leave you with some of the many helpful questions to ask yourself and to ask others to increase awareness and reflective thinking:

What may I/they be missing?
What may I/they be misinterpreting?
What may I/they be repeating from some other context?
What may I/they be really needing or protecting?
What can be different lenses to look at this situation?
What may I/they be seeing as a problem to be solved where it is really a polarity to be managed?

Wishing you success with awareness, acknowledgement, accountability, and action!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Power of Your Beliefs and Thoughts - Talk at St. Catherine's University

Thank you for all the positive feedback on my talk at St. Catherine’s University last Friday at the Leadership Imperative Conference for women leaders. Honored, humbled, and enriched I left this day. So much wisdom from and for women leaders! Cindy Kent, general manager of Infection Prevention Division at 3M provided a powerful and inspiring closing keynote, sharing her personal and professional journey with us. Thank you Cindy! Also a warm-felt ‘thank you’ to everyone who participated in my talk “The Power of Beliefs and Thoughts.” Some key points from my talk:

- Learning requires curiosity, creativity, candor, and courage.

- You and only you are responsible for your thoughts, emotions, and actions.

- Identify your musts and ask whether they should be musts or preferences.

- You may not be fit to lead if your greatest strength is seeing weakness in yourself, in others, or in both.

- We often do not realize how incomplete and subjective our perceptions are.

- We regularly deceive ourselves, driven by the need to protect our self-esteem.

- The biggest gift we can give ourselves and others is listening just a little longer and postponing judgment.

- There is wisdom to be gained from asking positive, self-critical questions such as
o   What if I am (partially) wrong?
o   What may I be missing or misinterpreting?
o   Could I be clinging to untested assumptions?
o   Which biases and hot buttons could be at work right now?
o   What assumptions and thoughts would lead to a better outcome?
o   What if I am focusing on the wrong thing or on too many things?
o   How much will this still matter tomorrow, next week, next month?

I’d like to close this post with the thought that the best leaders allow themselves to be persuaded. I think of Alan Mulally, former FORD executive, who is said to be exceptionally skeptical of his own opinions. I think of Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, who is known to seek out information that disproves her beliefs about the world and herself. And I think of the successful hedge fund manager Ray Dalio, who is said to insist that his team ruthlessly second-guesses his theories.