Developing Extraordinary Resilience

February 22nd, 2018
Developing Extraordinary Resilience
In both business and your personal life, the ability to “bounce back” helps you recover from setbacks, adapt, learn and move forward. Use these practices to become more resilient in the face of any challenge.

Strategic Happiness: How a Great Culture Drives a Greater Bottom Line

February 15th, 2018
Problem...Solved! Three Innovative Strategies for Problem Solving
Happy employees do more than smile; they’re more productive, loyal, creative — and even close more sales. Check out these statistics, and find out what you can do to foster greater happiness — and build a healthier bottom line.

Stat of the Month:

February 15th, 2018
Leadership Tip of the Month
A recent study by economists at the University of Warwick found that:

  1. happiness made employees 12% more productive
  2. unhappy workers proved 10% less productive

Source: https://tinyurl.com/yd84dnqg

Leadership Tip of the Month: Attitude Is Everything

February 15th, 2018
Leadership Tip of the Month
When you’re working, pay attention to how you view your responsibilities, not merely what you’re doing. As a leader, the attitude you choose (yes, it’s a choice!) to bring to your activities is as important as what you actually do; it influences employees’ behavior, shapes your culture and ultimately, affects your bottom line.

What Can Aluminum Teach You About Leadership Development?

January 20th, 2018

Like the element, great performers are everywhere — but extracting their potential requires mining their skills and nurturing their development.

 

Certain materials have consistently been valuable throughout history. People have valued gold and silver, literally, forever. The value of other precious metals has varied over time. Today, I am going to tell you the brief history of aluminum; I think it will surprise you. But more importantly, I will translate these lessons to us as leaders — lessons more valuable than aluminum.

Aluminum is the most prevalent metal in the earth’s crust, even more common than iron ore. But since it can’t be extracted from ore with heat, it remained unused until 1825 when Hans Christian Oersted created a few flakes of what now is considered an aluminum alloy. Whatever it was, those who saw it, wanted it. It looked like a brand new precious metal.

Here’s a brief history of what followed from Slate.com:

…aluminum became more precious than gold and silver in the 19th century, because it was harder to obtain. The French government once displayed Fort Knox-like aluminum bars next to the crown jewels, and the minor emperor Napoleon III reserved a prized set of aluminum cutlery for special guests at banquets. (Less favored guests used gold knives and forks.) The United States, to show off its industrial prowess, even capped the Washington monument with a six-pound pyramid of aluminum in 1884. By 1888, the company now known as Alcoa could produce up to 50 pounds per day, 20 years later demand was 88,000 pounds per day. In September of 2017, daily global production of aluminum (according to world-aluminum.org) was over 350 million pounds. The earliest records for the price of aluminum, in the mid 1800s was $550 per pound. 50 years later you could buy the same pound for just a quarter.

And now? Aluminum is everywhere, and while not treasured as it once was, it’s utility and wide and varied uses make it a valued and powerful force in the world economy.

What does all of that have to do with leaders?

Too many people think of great performers like people in the mid-1800s thought of aluminum — extremely rare and, therefore, to be highly treasured. Those people are right, if they don’t know how to extract the potential, mine the skills and nurture the development of great performers. In other words, if you believe you can’t extract the potential and reliably turn it into productivity, then great performance will be seen as rare.

But the facts about aluminum in 1825 were no different than they are today — then, as now, aluminum was everywhere. The only difference was that people didn’t know how to access it then. That fact didn’t change the abundance of the material.

So, while there are people everywhere with tremendous potential, if we don’t know how to help them see it and extract that potential, we will only see the rock stars as tremendously valuable. But if we see the world clearly, knowing that tremendous potential is everywhere, and then go to work extracting and refining that potential, we will be far ahead of those opining for the rare rock star.

Your job as a leader isn’t to search for the rock star, as much as it is to see potential and become a “human chemist” working to transform that potential into productivity and results. While doing this well is a life-long endeavor, here are three things you can do today to start your personal transformation, setting the stage for using the valuable potential of others more predictably and successfully.

1. See potential. If you don’t see it, or know it is there, nothing will change.

2. Help others see it too. It isn’t enough for you to see it. Know that many people can’t see what you see, or their belief in themselves is damaged to the point they know longer believe they have any potential.

3. Give them opportunities to use it. As a leader you can provide a safe place for them to try things, build their confidence, and begin to see their potential as real.

Once you have helped people get started you have two more important roles:

1. Encourage progress. No one gets it all right the first time; yet they don’t fail completely either. Encourage the wins and help people build their confidence and momentum.

2. Provide guidance. While encouragement is needed, so too is guidance and correction. Potential won’t turn to productivity without help; and that guidance and correction is part of your job too. When that is done with the hopeful belief in a great future, the guidance will be seen as more valuable and, therefore, more likely accepted by the other person.

Potential is everywhere. It is our job as a leader to help people see it and use it for everyone’s benefit.

Leadership Tip of the Month

January 20th, 2018
As a leader, you must never view a problem as a distraction, but rather as a strategic enabler for continuously improving and identifying new opportunities. To effectively overcome challenges, use this four-step process:

  1. Communicate transparently, facilitating dialogue among all parties affected.
  2. Break down management silos to facilitate cross-functional collaboration and problem solving.
  3. Hire and develop open-minded people who see beyond obvious details and are comfortable with calculated risk-taking.
  4. Develop a solid strategy for solving problems by gathering the right people, resources, budget and experiential knowledge to work on it.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2013/11/04/the-4-most-effective-ways-leaders-solve-problems/#419f85904f97

Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind

May 19th, 2017

Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind

By Leo Babauta

The most important habit I’ve formed in the last 10 years of forming habits is meditation. Hands down, bar none.

Meditation has helped me to form all my other habits, it’s helped me to become more peaceful, more focused, less worried about discomfort, more appreciative and attentive to everything in my life. I’m far from perfect, but it has helped me come a long way.

Probably most importantly, it has helped me understand my own mind. Before I started meditating, I never thought about what was going on inside my head — it would just happen, and I would follow its commands like an automaton. These days, all of that still happens, but more and more, I am aware of what’s going on. I can make a choice about whether to follow the commands. I understand myself better (not completely, but better), and that has given me increased flexibility and freedom.

So I highly recommend this habit. And while I’m not saying it’s easy, you can start small and get better and better as you practice. Don’t expect to be good at first — that’s why it’s called “practice”!

These tips aren’t aimed at helping you to become an expert; they should help you get started and keep going. You don’t have to implement them all at once — try a few, come back to this article, try one or two more.

1. Sit for just two minutes. This will seem ridiculously easy, to just meditate for two minutes. That’s perfect. Start with just two minutes a day for a week. If that goes well, increase by another two minutes and do that for a week. If all goes well, by increasing just a little at a time, you’ll be meditating for 10 minutes a day in the 2nd month, which is amazing! But start small first.

2. Do it first thing each morning. It’s easy to say, “I’ll meditate every day,” but then forget to do it. Instead, set a reminder for every morning when you get up, and put a note that says “meditate” somewhere where you’ll see it.

3. Don’t get caught up in the how — just do. Most people worry about where to sit, how to sit, what cushion to use … this is all nice, but it’s not that important to get started. Start just by sitting on a chair, or on your couch. Or on your bed. If you’re comfortable on the ground, sit cross-legged. It’s just for two minutes at first anyway, so just sit. Later you can worry about optimizing it so you’ll be comfortable for longer, but in the beginning it doesn’t matter much, just sit somewhere quiet and comfortable.

4. Check in with how you’re feeling. As you first settle into your meditation session, simply check to see how you’re feeling. How does your body feel? What is the quality of your mind? Busy? Tired? Anxious? See whatever you’re bringing to this meditation session as completely OK.

5. Count your breaths. Now that you’re settled in, turn your attention to your breath. Just place the attention on your breath as it comes in, and follow it through your nose all the way down to your lungs. Try counting “one” as you take in the first breath, then “two” as you breathe out. Repeat this to the count of 10, then start again at one.

6. Come back when you wander. Your mind will wander. This is an almost absolute certainty. There’s no problem with that. When you notice your mind wandering, smile, and simply gently return to your breath. Count “one” again, and start over. You might feel a little frustration, but it’s perfectly OK to not stay focused, we all do it. This is the practice, and you won’t be good at it for a little while.

7. Develop a loving attitude. When you notice thoughts and feelings arising during meditation, as they will, look at them with a friendly attitude. See them as friends, not intruders or enemies. They are a part of you, though not all of you. Be friendly and not harsh.

8. Don’t worry too much that you’re doing it wrong. You will worry you’re doing it wrong. That’s OK, we all do. You’re not doing it wrong. There’s no perfect way to do it, just be happy you’re doing it.

9. Don’t worry about clearing the mind. Lots of people think meditation is about clearing your mind, or stopping all thoughts. It’s not. This can sometimes happen, but it’s not the “goal” of meditation. If you have thoughts, that’s normal. We all do. Our brains are thought factories, and we can’t just shut them down. Instead, just try to practice focusing your attention, and practice some more when your mind wanders.

10. Stay with whatever arises. When thoughts or feelings arise, and they will, you might try staying with them awhile. Yes, I know I said to return to the breath, but after you practice that for a week, you might also try staying with a thought or feeling that arises. We tend to want to avoid feelings like frustration, anger, anxiety … but an amazingly useful meditation practice is to stay with the feeling for awhile. Just stay, and be curious.

11. Get to know yourself. This practice isn’t just about focusing your attention, it’s about learning how your mind works. What’s going on inside there? It’s murky, but by watching your mind wander, get frustrated, avoid difficult feelings … you can start to understand yourself.

12. Become friends with yourself. As you get to know yourself, do it with a friendly attitude instead of one of criticism. You’re getting to know a friend. Smile and give yourself love.

13. Do a body scan. Another thing you can do, once you become a little better at following your breath, is focus your attention on one body part at a time. Start at the soles of your feet — how do those feel? Slowly move to your toes, the tops of your feet, your ankles, all the way to the top of your head.

14. Notice the light, sounds, energy. Another place to put your attention, again, after you’ve practiced with your breath for at least a week, is the light all around you. Just keep your eyes on one spot, and notice the light in the room you’re in. Another day, just focus on noticing sounds. Another day, try to notice the energy in the room all around you (including light and sounds).

15. Really commit yourself. Don’t just say, “Sure, I’ll try this for a couple days.” Really commit yourself to this. In your mind, be locked in, for at least a month.

16. You can do it anywhere. If you’re traveling or something comes up in the morning, you can do meditation in your office. In the park. During your commute. As you walk somewhere. Sitting meditation is the best place to start, but in truth, you’re practicing for this kind of mindfulness in your entire life.

17. Follow guided meditation. If it helps, you can try following guided meditations to start with.

18. Check in with friends. While I like meditating alone, you can do it with your spouse or child or a friend. Or just make a commitment with a friend to check in every morning after meditation. It might help you stick with it for longer.

19. Find a community. Even better, find a community of people who are meditating and join them. This might be a Zen or Tibetan community near you (for example), where you go and meditate with them. Or find an online group and check in with them and ask questions, get support, encourage others. My Sea Change Program has a community like that.

20. Smile when you’re done. When you’re finished with your two minutes, smile. Be grateful that you had this time to yourself, that you stuck with your commitment, that you showed yourself that you’re trustworthy, where you took the time to get to know yourself and make friends with yourself. That’s an amazing two minutes of your life.

Meditation isn’t always easy or even peaceful. But it has truly amazing benefits, and you can start today, and continue for the rest of your life.

Fact of the Month: Reality Check

May 19th, 2017
Fact of the Month: Reality Check

Telecommuting in the United States has grown 103% over the last decade, and by 2020, 50% of people will work remotely.

Source: Forbes

Power Principle: How to Amp up Your Influence at Work

March 23rd, 2017
Power Principle: How to Amp up Your Influence at Work<

In today’s flatter, team-based and dynamic organizations, influence matters more than ever. Here’s how to drive performance and build loyalty — without cracking the proverbial whip:

Truly effective leadership is all about getting people to follow willingly, rather than forcing them to follow you through your authority alone. Today, more and more workers — specifically millennials — prefer1 an egalitarian structure over hierarchy, and influential leadership is often the most effective way to get everyone pulling in the same direction.

Influential leadership is far more art than science, and it can be difficult to know how to develop the skills needed to wield influence rather than power. Let’s examine some of the ways you can begin to build influence and have it work to your advantage — and the advantage of your entire team.

Understand the Personality Styles of Your Team

No two people are the same, but we can generally classify people into four personality styles. The way in which they receive and process information is influenced heavily by that style. To become an influential leader, you must adjust your own approach to the individual, not the other way around. The most common personality styles are2:

  1. Drivers: These are results-oriented people. They can become frustrated with long-winded discussions and respond to direct, results-oriented communication.
  2. Expressives: Typically your social butterflies, they are outgoing and creative. They can be influenced through inclusion in the decision-making process and respond best when they feel their input is valued.
  3. Amiables: Easygoing and dependable, they rarely make waves. They are best influenced when you consider their feelings and can demonstrate how an action will impact both them and those around them.
  4. Analyticals: These folks are systematic and structured in the way they approach work. They are influenced by facts and data, and are not easily moved by feelings and emotions.

Understanding the personality styles you are working with will help you tailor your message when trying to influence people towards action or change. This understanding will also help build stronger relationships with your team, and once you’ve established a strong relationship, it is much easier to have influence.

Focus on the Benefits of Change

People naturally resist change, and when you receive pushback on a new process or initiative, it’s easy to default to the old mantra, “Do it because I said so.” You can influence, however, even in the face of resistance. The key is to tailor your message to the personality styles of your group and to focus on communicating the ways in which the change will benefit them.

If a change will eliminate redundancies in their jobs, for example, show them how. Illustrate how it will make their workday easier or less stressful. Determine the true benefits they will experience through the change, and communicate them clearly. If they have questions, let them ask. It will help you determine the benefits to highlight, and the more information the group has about a change, the more receptive they will be.

Take a Class or Workshop

There are many seminars, classes (both online and offline), mastermind groups and workshops that focus on building an influential leadership style. A formal class environment can benefit you by giving you a plan of action and providing you with a safe space in which to role-play and get familiar with the strategies involved with influencing. If possible, grab a colleague to participate with you. This gives you an in-house accountability partner to practice with when the class is over, and to debrief with as you build your influential leadership style.

Don’t Give Up

Don’t be afraid to talk to your team about the fact you are in the process of trying to better yourself as a leader. This can help them ease into the transition and be more receptive to a new approach. As with any new skill, persistence is the key to amping up your influence as a leader. It will take you time to develop your influential muscles, and you’ll probably fail more than a few times in the early stages.

It can be a useful exercise to keep track of the situations in which you sought to influence rather than impose authority. Make a list of the things that went well, and the things that could have gone a lot better. Look for patterns to help you more clearly identify the areas in which you need to focus in future situations, as well as the actions you should repeat. Positive results will follow with persistence, practice and a bit of patience.

1 http://www.chicagotribune.com/dp-millennials-want-an-end-to-hierarchies-in-the-workplace-20150622-story.html/

2 http://crestcomleadership.com/2015/11/24/4-personality-types-that-all-leaders-should-learn-to-recognize/

Leadership Tip of the Month

March 23rd, 2017
“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire teammates and customers.”
— Robin S. Sharma