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The Science Behind Our Yes!

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Business
The Science Behind Our Yes!

This week’s article is an article by Lou Zenteno and Jim Ritchie-Dunham.  It is a companion to Jim’s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Science Behind Our Yes! that aired on Tuesday, September 28th, 2021.

The evidence is clear.  When we start with a Yes!, we are far more productive, creative, and engaged.  When we start with a No!, we are far less productive, creative, and engaged.  The evidence is in social media everywhere, in our work with 1,000s of groups in 43 countries, in our teaching at leading universities, and in our survey research with over 100,000 responses in 125 countries.

Along with the recent shake-up of the world as we knew it, brought on by the pandemic, comes the opportunity to self-assess where we are putting our energy in our day-to-day activities. While this isn’t new, the changes and uncertainty we have experienced, both firsthand and through our groups, have created a more obvious space to reflect on it. We have new situations that require new daily decisions.

If we make 35,000 choices per day, or 2 per second, 99% of them are taken unconsciously [1]. It is in this unseen space where we have the opportunity to find our real Yes!  We can avoid running on autopilot, shifting from reacting blindly to being consciously aware.

Choosing our Yes! is an acceptance; affirmation and confirmation of our human creativity. It is an acceptance of ourselves that enables us to access what we hold true. It is an affirmation of our capacity to choose, through our will, where we want to direct our attention and intention. It entails the affirmation of other agreements that are intrinsically connected. And perhaps, most importantly, it is the confirmation to the external world of where we are choosing to channel our energy.  This shows how we enter into our relationship with the world.

As leaders, you might be thinking, “How can I ‘know’ this for myself?”  Easy!  You know this.  You are constantly receiving feedback about your choices through your experiences. Our work with leaders shows that there is a common denominator–you know when you are resonating in your Yes!, when you are engaged in creative flow, in synergistic collaboration within a group, reaching high impact together.  You also know when your efforts, your attention, and your intention, are not aligned with your Yes!, when you accepting a No.

While easier said than done, the truth is that not choosing your Yes! has huge implications.  Falling asleep, not being aware of where you are making your choices from, the perspectives and agreements you are accepting unconsciously are dangerous, expensive, and very inefficient.  It’s not only ineffective for organizations, it is also an energy-draining experience for you and your colleagues. Companies are struggling today to get the talent they need. They are having trouble finding accountability, creativity, and self-initiative in their collaborators [2].  It is easier to attract talent to highly engaging, creative, productive experiences than to disengaging, improductive experiences.

It is your decision.  You can choose and shift your agreements.  You can align with your Yes!  Groups with a deeper Yes!, a deeper shared purpose, have more healthy interactions, far greater outcomes, and achieve much more impact. This has been shown to be true in fieldwork from the Institute for Strategic Clarity (ISC) with over 1,000 groups in 43 countries, surveys with over 100,000 responses in 125 countries, and our research network including the ISC, Harvard, Oxford, UCT, EGADE, and Boston College.

So finally, something to reflect on: What gets your Yes!?  Where are you giving your creativity? For the love of what future do you give your will? This creative contribution, which is unique to you, is yours to give.  Yours to engage.  We invite you into daily practice, asking yourself, “Is this a Yes! for me?”  If it is not, then, “Am I accepting a No?”  “Can I shift this to a Yes!?” You can also ask this within a group. Is this the Yes! that we want? Are we happy with how this is going? Is this engaging us? Is this bringing our best creativity? Can we shift it to a Yes!? If we can’t, can we still accept this No, even when knowing this is not our Yes!?  What is the cost of staying engaged with a No? Why would we stay?

Here is your easy cost-benefit analysis. What is the cost of you Yes! and the cost of your No?  When you accept the No, you give up value creation and impact towards the business’ purpose.  Value and impact that can be derived by choosing our Yes!

In the end, it is your choice. Your choice to collapse and accept your No, or engage your Yes!

You can find out more about the work with organizations, the free Agreements Health Check survey, and our research at isclarity.org, where you can also contact us to connect to our network for a full assessment of your organization.

References:

1 https://go.roberts.edu/leadingedge/the-great-choices-of-strategic-leaders

2 https://go.manpowergroup.com/talent-shortage

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Authors

Jim Ritchie-Dunham is president of the Institute for Strategic Clarity, affiliated with Boston College, Harvard, EGADE Business School, and UPMadrid, co-author of Ecosynomics (2014) & Managing from Clarity (2001). He blogs regularly at jlrd.me. He has a BSPE (UTulsa), MIM (Thunderbird), MBA (ESADE), and PhD Decision Sciences (UTAustin). Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance shows (1) you prefer abundance-based agreements to scarcity-based ones, (2) lots of people have figured out how to live this way, for decades, with far better results and experiences, and (3) you can choose to shift your agreements, experiences, and outcomes to abundance-based. [Get the book at https://bit.ly/ecosynomicsbook.]

Lourdes Zenteno is a systems thinker, a creative integrative professional, and a purpose-driven strategist. She is trained as a Systems and Industrial Engineering with a major in Quality (Black Belt Six Sigma); holds an MBA from Grenoble Ècole de Management, France, and a M. Phil. in Ecosynomics from the Institute for Strategic Clarity, USA.  She is Co-founder of ConnexAre, member of the Institute for Strategic Clarity Community and a founding member at Intergen. Her 10+ years of experience with international organizations have been mainly around socio-ecosystem design, process improvement and transformation, and collaborative processes that move individuals and groups towards flourishing.

Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash

Leverage Change: If You Want to Transform Your Organization, Start by Changing Your Own Paradigms

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Leverage Change: If You Want to Transform Your Organization, Start by Changing Your Own Paradigms

This week’s article is provided by Jake Jacobs. President of Jake Jacobs Consulting and author of Leverage Change, 8 Ways to Achieve Faster, Easier, Better Results.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Leverage Change: Achieve Faster, Easier, Better Results that aired on Tuesday, August 24th.

Transforming organizations takes years, is hard work, and often leads to disappointing results.  This is common wisdom.  It’s been proven time and again.  It goes with the territory.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Most approaches to organization transformation are littered with flawed paradigms.  Paradigms that inherently lead to these efforts falling short of the mark.  Want different results?  See the world in new ways.

Uncommon wisdom makes it possible to achieve faster, easier, better results with any transformation effort, in any organization, made by anyone.  The approach we’re describing is chockfull of new paradigms, fresh perspectives on problems that have plagued organizations for years.

Welcome to the world of Leverage Change.

Leverage Change

Leverage Change1 is a flexible approach to applying eight ways for individuals, teams and organizations to transform faster, easier, and better than you believe possible.  You can use it to turbocharge a change method you’re already using or as the foundation for one you’re developing.  It applies equally well to simple efforts involving a few people to complex ones engaging tens of thousands.  Benefit from it as you launch a transformation effort and reap rewards if your work is already underway.  Be the “go to” person when it comes to change, advancing your career and organization alike.

Adopt the paradigm of leverage and accomplish more with fewer hassles, headaches and problems.  Archimedes, a third century B.C. Greek mathematician described the power of leverage when he said, “Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and single-handed I shall move the world.”  You can move your worlds in the arena of transformation by changing your paradigms about how it happens.  Leverage Change is your guide map along this journey.

Leverage Change is comprised of eight levers, or smart, strategic actions, that yield profound results.  Each addresses a common problem that prevents transformation efforts from succeeding (see Table 1.)  While there are eight powerful ways available in creating effective transformations, we are going to focus on one that addresses a frequent frustration of leaders:  change taking too long.

Organizations pay a steep price for slow transformation efforts, even when they can eventually claim victory from their work.  While you are toiling away, competition is winning new markets, commercializing leading-edge technologies, making valuable process improvements, and creating cultures that lead to advantages in the recruitment and retention of top talent.

Living in a Leverage Change World

How can you reduce the time it takes to transform an organization from years to months?  Embrace a new paradigm, the lever noted above of Thinking and Acting as if the Future Were Now!  Instead of seeing the future as something “out there” that will occur at a later point in time, choose to live it today.  Here.  Now.  When you and your entire organization make this shift, transformation occurs rapidly, even in some cases instantaneously.

Your old paradigm told you that transforming culture takes years.  Plenty of experts will tell you the same.  Don’t buy it.  Your new culture will take years to create because you believe it will.  If you want a more participative culture, think and act as if this close collaboration already exists.  This paradigm shift immediately changes the game.  In this new reality, who should be in the room for your next meeting?  What criteria should you be using to make decisions today?  How much power should different stakeholders hold right now?  Stop talking about the future.  Start living it.

Then encourage others to join you in this journey.  Create an organization that subscribes to this new paradigm.  Benefits of effective change work accrue to the bold.  Colleagues previously reticent to jump aboard the transformation train see and hear change occurring all around them.  Their belief that this time it’s for real increases significantly.  As they begin thinking and acting as if the future were now, their colleagues’ faith in the future being real creates a virtuous cycle of ongoing transformation.  At the same time, you’ll be collecting financial, quality, customer satisfaction and other “winnings” sooner…and being able to reinvest them, further stoking the engine of your transformation efforts.

A Transformation Challenge

You have a new strategy where sales people partner in new ways with each other in the field.  It’s smart, strategic and sure to give you a leg up on the competition.  If you implement it before they make their next competitive move.  But how do you get that job done well?  And done now?

5 Steps to Transforming Your Organization

How does the lever Think and Act as if the Future Were Now! accelerate implementation of your new strategy?  I outline how to do this, providing answers to the above implementation effort as examples.  Pick your own transformation work – for yourself, your team or your organization – and respond to each of the steps for your own benefit.

Step 1:  Describe the essential elements of the preferred future you aspire to create.

A rapid response implementation where we gain substantial market share through the new partnership roles for sales people across the company.

Step 2:  If you were already living in this preferred future, how would you be thinking and what actions would you be taking right now?

  • Commissions are shared with the whole team
  • All team members are performing all sales functions
  • Customers are pleased with the comprehensive service they receive
  • Marketing and sales personnel are working seamlessly together

Step 3:  Recruit and request the help you need from a support and accountability partner to live into this new future now.

Our sales team has a “wants and offers” negotiation session with the marketing department.

Step 4:  Invite others to join you in Thinking and Acting as if the Future Were Now!

The entire sales organization is cross-trained on critical tasks; finance takes the lead in new commission structure.

Step 5:  Assess the impact.  What can you see, hear and feel that is different from applying this lever?

We gauge success by tracking market share and customer satisfaction scores against historical trends.

Paradigms help us make sense of our organizations.  They can also get in the way.  Change your paradigms.  Transform your organization.

1Jacobs, Robert Jake, Leverage Change, 2021, Berrett-Koehler, Oakland

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Jake Jacobs is President of Jake Jacobs Consulting, a global consulting firm focused on helping clients achieve faster, easier, better results than they ever imagined possible.

Today’s Deep Tech Solutions are Tomorrow’s Household Names

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Business
Today’s Deep Tech Solutions are Tomorrow’s Household Names

This week’s article is provided by Eric Redmond, a twenty-year veteran technologist and author. It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Deep Tech: Demystifying the Breakthrough Technologies that aired on Tuesday, June 29th. The following article has been adapted from the Deep Tech book.

If you’ve seen 2008’s Iron Man, a movie that reinvigorated the superhero genre, you can probably picture the high-tech laboratory of main character Tony Stark. Over a decade ago, much of the technology featured in his lab—augmented reality, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, autonomous robotics, Internet of Things—was largely confined to the realm of science fiction and academia.

A few years later, these emerging technologies are past the research and development phase, just on the cusp of scale, but not quite yet available for prime time. They’re deep tech: technology that is barely feasible today but will become pervasive and hugely impactful in day-to-day life tomorrow. Why does this matter to you as a business leader?

Deep tech offers the potential for enormous growth to businesses that adopt or invest in it at the right time. If you get in early—but not too early—you can leverage tech that will soon be so ubiquitous, they’re household names as recognizable as the iPhone.

When to Get Involved in Deep Tech?

Successful adoption of deep tech is all about timing. By its definition, deep tech practically begs to be undervalued in its early days, but those who seize on the opportunity at the right time almost always end up the winners. The trick is answering the question: when is the right time to get involved?

If you grab on too early, you may find yourself as Yahoo or Friendster. Jump on too late, and you’re Bing or App.net. But right on time?

You’re Google or Facebook.

The goal should be to not merely adopt emerging technologies but invest in and drive their adoption, forcing everyone else to catch up—that’s how you get ahead of the competition.

There are seven technologies poised to drive somewhere between 50 and 200 trillion dollars in new economic impact in the decade between 2020 and 2030: artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, and quantum computing.

The right time to get involved in these technologies? Now.

Deep Tech Matters in Business

You might be thinking if the deep tech hasn’t hit the mainstream yet, does it matter to my business? The answer is yes. Whether you’re in finance, sales, design, logistics, or any number of fields and industries, we live in a world increasingly dominated by technology.

Over a hundred years ago, factories were the cutting edge, powered by the assembly line, and the world was dominated by those who used them. Then came electricity. Then business structures like the firm. Then supply chain optimization. Then the world belonged to those who cleverly leveraged financial instruments.

Today, we live in a fully digital age, and the major division is between those companies that respond to that change and those that are left behind. As corporate tech expert Patrick Fisher said in Reuters, “all companies are technology companies now.”

Leveraging emerging technology is an effective way to get ahead, and on the flip side, ignoring it can cost you significantly. Recent history is littered with corporations refusing to make the transition into leveraging technology appropriately, from the loss of a century of Sears dominance to the upstart of Amazon to Hertz bankruptcy due to a billion ride-share cuts.

The biggest danger in being ignorant of the current docket of deep tech’s coming of age is apathy, which in other words is a recipe for irrelevance. Whether you’re beginning a startup, or you’re a CEO or a thought leader, don’t allow yourself to flirt with the lines of Luddite groupthink and be drawn into ignoring what you don’t want to believe.

Deep Tech is a Pathway to New Lines of Business

If you want a concrete example of the benefits of understanding deep tech, consider the Winklevoss twins. You may be familiar with these brothers, Cameron and Tyler, as popular foils in the Facebook creation myth. But what’s more interesting is how the Winklevosses made their billions after Facebook: by keeping a keen eye on deep tech.

In 2013, they saw the Bitcoin revolution coming and chose to act on it. They bought in on Bitcoin (BTC) early, starting when the going rate was around $10 per BTC. Then they bought more and more, finally amassing a 1 percent stake of the total number of Bitcoin. To support the technology and community, they worked as ambassadors for the power of the decentralized digital currency. All the while, their investment grew. Once Bitcoin hit $10,000 per BTC in 2017, they both became the world’s first Bitcoin billionaires. What a difference a decade makes.

Like the Winklevosses, deep tech can be a pathway to new lines of business for you and your company. Whether you’re looking for new revenue streams, process effectiveness, or other cost savings, deep tech is the most important avenue to investigate. You’ll get the most value by adopting early and implementing the technology before your competitors.

Act Before Deep Tech Turns into Popular Tech

In 2008, Tony Stark’s lab tech was still science fiction, but today, we’re living with much of it, and the next level of advancement is right around the corner. Remember, deep tech refers to the stage the technology is in: impossible yesterday, barely feasible today, and soon to be so pervasive it’s hard to remember life without it.

The key to leveraging deep tech to your maximum advantage is timing your involvement right. Adopt and invest early, just before the technology is ready for mass market. Moves to adopt deep tech at the right moment are what turned Amazon, Google, and Facebook into the juggernauts they are today.

Technologies considered deep tech now—artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, and quantum computing—will be household fixtures tomorrow, so lean into the opportunity and get involved.

For more advice on emerging technologies, you can find Deep Tech on Amazon.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Eric Redmond is the Forrest Gump of technology: a twenty-year veteran technologist who always happens to show up wherever deep tech history is being made, from the first iPhone apps to big data to Bitcoin. He has advised state and national governments, Fortune 100 companies, and groups as varied as the World Economic Forum and MIT Media Lab. He has also authored half a dozen technology books (including two tech books for babies) and spoken on every continent except Antarctica. Today, he’s a husband, a dad, and the leader of a global tech innovation team.

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

Pick up the Radio and Call for Help!

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Business
Pick up the Radio and Call for Help!

This week’s article is provided by Jeff Wald, founder of Work Market. It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The End of Jobs: The Rise of On-Demand Workers & Agile Companies that aired on Tuesday, June 15th.

Some people lead with their heart, some with their head.  Some leaders are “my way or the highway”, some are “we all move forward together”.  Every leader has their own style and as long as people follow, they are leaders.

I tend to use vulnerability as a core part of my leadership style.  I do that as it’s authentic, I have a lot of vulnerabilities.  I learned to embrace this vulnerability from an unlikely source; the New York City Police Department.

I spent the better part of ten years as a volunteer officer in the NYPD.  It was here I learned that asking for help was not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of shared strength. But first, some background on volunteer officers of the NYPD.

The volunteers, or Auxiliary Officers, get about 100 hours of training at the Police Academy.  Training includes basic self-defense, arrest procedures, radio usage, first aid, and many other lessons one needs to serve.  The Auxiliary Units are designed to provide an extra set of eyes and ears out on the streets.  They are not supposed to respond to an active situation unless specifically instructed by a regular NYPD Officer.  They are not trained or authorized to use a firearm.  They carry a baton, a small stick about eighteen inches long.  They are told time and time again that their radio is the most important item on their person.

I reflect on the lessons I learned during my time as an Auxiliary Officer and how they apply to my leadership and my life.  There is always one that stands out: Never hesitate to pick up the radio and call for help.

I remember my first serious encounter as an officer.  There was an assault in progress right near where my partner and I were standing.  We knew we were not supposed to approach an active crime unless specifically asked.  However, being the invulnerable young men, we believed ourselves to be, we walked over anyway.

As we turned the corner on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I saw two men kicking and one man hitting with a baseball bat, a prone figure on the ground.  Real police officers were less than a minute away.  My partner took out his baton and yelled “Stop! Police!” and ran in.  I actually panicked for a second and froze, but the sight of my partner running in spurred me to action.  My action, aside from beginning to run after my partner, was to grab my radio.  The bad guys had started to run away when my partner yelled, so I called into central dispatch (and thus was heard by the approaching real officers), “three male suspects running south on First Avenue”.

They were caught and arrested, the person being attacked was injured but would be ok.

While we were not in any danger (although there were three of them and two of us, they had a baseball bat and we had batons, and I knew we didn’t have a gun but they might have!), I reached for my radio.  The radio’s primary purpose in this encounter was to inform the other officer, but its primary purpose to me was to inform the rest of the 19th Precinct that two very scared Auxiliary Officers were encountering suspects.  Implicitly the call was, “Send some real cops here now and HELP!”.

Ask any police officer anywhere in the world what is their most powerful weapon and you will get one consistent answer, the radio.  Every officer has one, and at the other end of that device is help; serious help.  When they make that call other officers will immediately be on the way.  There is no officer that would hesitate for a moment to call for help, to call for backup.  Think about that for a second.  These are some of the bravest people in the world.  They put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe.  Yet, at the slightest inkling of trouble, they ask for help.

If police officers do that, why don’t the rest of us?

As leaders, we may sometimes fall into the dangerous and self-defeating trap of thinking we need to have all the answers.  Maybe it’s driven by insecurity, maybe by imposter syndrome, maybe by the need to prove our intellect and strength.  For some leaders that may work just fine, but not for me.

I ask for help when I need it and my team responds.

I do need help, we all do.  I cannot do it alone.  No one is that strong, or smart, or well-connected that they don’t need the talents of their team.

Far from being a sign of weakness, asking for help is a powerful sign of strength.  It tells everyone that you are confident enough to ask for help when you need it.  Smart enough to know you don’t have all the answers.  Brave enough to rely on the intellect, creativity, and networks of others.  To me, this is what leadership looks like and it’s worked well.

So be brave like police officers all over the world and pick up your radio when you need help.  For leaders, it can be your most powerful weapon.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Jeff Wald is the Founder of Work Market, an enterprise software platform that enables companies to manage freelancers. It was acquired by ADP. Jeff began his career in finance, serving as Managing Director at activist hedge fund Barington Capital Group, a Vice President at venture capital firm GlenRock and various roles at JP Morgan.

Jeff is an active angel investor and startup advisor, as well as serving on numerous public and private Boards of Directors. He also formerly served as an officer in the Auxiliary Unit of the New York Police Department. Jeff holds an MBA from Harvard University and an MS and BS from Cornell University.

Conflict Strategies for Nice People

Posted by Felix Assivo on
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Business
Conflict Strategies for Nice People

This week’s article is provided by Liane Davey as part of the World Business and Executive Coach Summit (WBECS) interview series.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Good Fight: Using Productive Conflict that aired on Tuesday, May 11th.

We’re not having enough conflict. When we avoid issues that we need to address, we get into what I call “conflict debt.” What is conflict debt? Essentially, each time you avoid a discussion, debate, or disagreement that you should be having, you add that issue to the list of unresolved issues. If you should be introducing novel ideas to get your organization out of a rut but you think, “that’s gonna’ ruffle some feathers,” so you stay quiet, you’re incurring debt. If you should be telling a coworker that he’s not pulling his weight, but you just can’t be bothered starting a fight, that’s conflict debt.

Like with any debt, conflict debt accrues interest that costs us dearly. As organizations, we fail to prioritize, dilute resources, and accomplish little. As teams, we work around problem people and overwhelm the capable ones. As individuals, we stifle our concerns and become increasingly disgruntled, stressed, and disengaged.

Conflict debt is too costly. We need to surface and work through conflict, but the voices inside our heads give us so many reasons why we should avoid it. Perhaps the loudest voice is the one that tells us conflict isn’t nice. But is that true?

You might think conflict has to be loud, or aggressive, or rigid. It doesn’t. You can have conflict nicely by choosing words skillfully and keeping your tone level and your body language open. There are a few techniques you can use to have conflict nicely.

Validating versus invalidating

For the most part, grown adults in the workplace understand that they can’t always get what they want. What really frustrates people is when they don’t feel that they’ve been heard. Unfortunately, the moment you get into a conflict, your attention gets laser focused on pleading your case, rather than hearing theirs. When they say, “We need to drive more traffic into the stores, I’m dropping prices,” you immediately go to, “We need to protect our margins!”

The most powerful thing you can do to have conflict nicely is to leave your colleague with the impression that you understand their point. That means you need to start by really listening to and carefully reflecting their concerns before even mentioning your own. “You’re focused on driving traffic into the stores. Tell me what our numbers look like this week.” If the first thing out of your mouth is their perspective rather than your own, you’ve set a positive tone for the whole discussion.

Ally versus adversary

Conflict is particularly unpleasant when you make the other person feel like you are working in opposite directions. Antagonistic conflict pits the two of you against each other and leaves the other person feeling isolated. Imagine standing facing one another pulling in a tug-of-war. “We NEED to drop our prices, we’re not going to get anyone in our store at these prices!” “Yeah, well we NEED to make a profit and we’re going to lose our shirts at that discount!”

Having conflict nicely requires that you pivot so that you are facing the same direction and looking at the problem together, as allies. The secret is to appeal to a higher purpose that you have in common. For example, “Look, I know you think we need to drop our prices and I’m pushing hard to keep them level. We both want to make it through the holiday season profitably. How can we think about this differently?” As soon as you can start saying “we” and stop saying “you,” the conflict will feel much nicer.

Productive versus unproductive

A sure way to be the bad guy in a conflict is to back someone into a corner. Making assertive statements, pointing a finger, and shutting the conversation down with closed questions will leave your colleague with no way out. You know exactly how people behave when they are trapped, they either fight more aggressively or they back down. Neither is going to leave them with the impression that you’re a nice person. “Do you want to be the person who destroyed our Q4 margin?”

The alternative is to create a path forward with everything you say. Rather than trapping the person so that their only option is to contradict you or disagree with you, ask open-ended questions that allow them to explain their position. “How are you thinking about the impact on our margin if we discount prices that far?” Even when you’re proposing a solution to the problem, pose it as a question to test whether it works, “Ok, what if we were to take the sale to 30% and sweeten it with a free gift with $50 or more?”

If someone raised you to believe, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” you might be avoiding conflict altogether. That’s not good for anybody. Instead, focus your efforts on having conflict nicely. Make your colleague feel heard and understood, make them feel like an ally, rather than an adversary, and constantly leave room for both of you to work together toward a solution. From now on, “if you can’t say anything nice, make sure you say it nicely.”

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Liane is a New York Times Bestselling author of three books, including The Good Fight: Use Productive Conflict to Get Your Team and Your Organization Back on Track. Known as the Water Cooler Psychologist, she is a regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review and frequently called on by media outlets for her experience on leadership, team effectiveness, and productivity. As the co-founder of 3COze Inc., she advises on strategy and executive team effectiveness at companies such as Amazon, Walmart, TD Bank, Google, 3M, and SONY. Liane has a Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology.

Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash

The Art of Managing Time

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Business
The Art of Managing Time

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This article was previously published on the SIYLI blog (Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute.)  It is provided to supplement the interview with Peter Weng and Rich Fernandez, as part of the International Leadership Association’s interview series.  Their interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Mindfulness and the Benefits in the Work Place aired on Tuesday, April 20th, 2021.

Peter Weng, the founder of the EWS Collective, worked in the corporate world for more than 20 years and was a director at Google before leaving to focus on a mission of helping others develop their mindfulness, well-being, and performance. Given his background in information and data, it’s remarkable that he chooses to limit his access to technology. His home internet router shuts off daily with a tightly scheduled timer, and his cell phone is often in airplane mode on the weekends. But by avoiding television, mobile internet access and even meditation apps, he’s found more time to pursue, in addition to work, the things he loves—surfing (when he was in his early twenties, he surfed about 30 hours a week), music (he’s been a gigging musician in several countries), dancing (he was a semi-professional rollerdisco dancer) and his own mindfulness practice. Ultimately, all of these habits have helped him learn how to be less reactive, become more patient, manage his time more efficiently and focus on what he values most.

Here he shares his views and practices on mindfulness:

How did you first learn about mindfulness?
Visiting Chan Buddhist monks from Taiwan were teaching weekly sessions at the University of Texas at Austin when I was living in Austin, Texas. I happened upon the sessions while waiting for a friend who was doing research there. The teachings from those monks were so practical and pragmatic—it just made sense to me. My mindfulness practice started at that time about 20 years ago.

 How has mindfulness shaped your life, both in the workplace and personally? 
It’s a bit frightening if I consider how mindfulness practice has shifted things in my personal and professional life. In my personal life, personal time has shifted to retreats and meditation groups. I previously served on the board of Insight Santa Cruz, a meditation center in the Insight/Theravada Buddhist tradition.

Professionally, I left my corporate career—and the interesting things associated with that career, such as being invited to attend economic forums at the White House—to focus on helping spread mindfulness practices. Throughout, I have striven to keep technology from dominating life, even when I worked in technology companies.

What’s your daily mindfulness practice like?
For daily practice, my preference is for breath-focused and body-scan meditations, both as seated practices and incorporated into moments and space throughout the day—on the bus, waiting in line, etc. I also journal at night. For journaling, I’ve been tracking my activities every day for about 30 years. It ‘s been incredibly helpful to review my journal each month to assess whether I’m living the way I would like to live. Reading the issues that I write about has also been interesting to see how my priorities have shifted over time.

The best way for me to make time to practice is to prevent myself from being online at night and morning. So, for this, I’ve set up my internet router on a timer that shuts off my at 9:30 p.m. and doesn’t turn on again until 8 a.m. on weekdays or 10 a.m. on weekends. On weekends, it’s also off from 12 to 5 p.m.  This prevents me from randomly clicking on things at night, so I can get to sleep at a decent hour, or wasting my weekend days online. In the morning, it prevents me from getting online right away and running out of time.

Why do you find it important to limit your exposure to technology?
I find technology addicting, and with unlimited access to technology I end up spending time in ways I don’t find the most fulfilling. Limiting my own access to technology has allowed me to devote more time to my passions.

In the mid-’90s, my colleagues found out that I didn’t watch TV—because I was always silent when discussions on TV shows happened—and convinced me to buy a television. I bought one that Friday afternoon. The next morning, I spent the entire morning mesmerized by the moving pictures on the TV and missed out on beautiful surf conditions. I was so upset to have missed the surf session that I returned the TV that afternoon and never missed out on surfing because of the TV again.

The weird social pressures, consumerism, and negative worldview that are carried through popular media also concern me. I read the news every day because I feel that it’s important and aligns with a mindfulness practice to be aware of what is happening in the world, but I try to obtain my news from sources that focus on reporting rather than sensationalism. I have a subscription to The Economist and, for leisure reading, The New Yorker.

In addition to time limits on the internet, I often leave my phone at home on weekends when I go out or put it on airplane mode to prevent me from reading email all the time. In a somewhat unplanned way, I subscribed to a terrible phone service that doesn’t offer reliable mobile internet service, so I don’t use my phone to access information online, except for Google Maps and email. Maps I find useful, so it’s really email on the phone that I am most wary about.

I feel that sheltering myself from the bombardment of ads in popular media reduces the clutter in my mind. There are certain things that I hear others talk about that I think are related to the influence of popular media—concerns about status, wealth, etc. Also, limiting technology allows me to actually do my mindfulness practices—because if I didn’t limit it, I might spend all my time online. I have a weakness for surfing videos on YouTube.

How do you feel about meditation apps? 
I stopped using meditation apps. Some of the apps are excellent and helpful in general. But the meditation app I liked the most gave me data about when I practiced, the length of practice, etc. I became obsessed with the data and would export it to a spreadsheet and look at my daily averages over time. It’s embarrassing to admit this, but I used to worry that if I meditated for a shorter time on any given day it would impact my daily average, which I’d have to make up later in the week. It was a striving mindset, which wasn’t a healthy or productive way to conduct my mindfulness practice. It’s better for me to not have that data.

How has your mindfulness practice benefited your leadership abilities?
The biggest impact has been around my reactivity. I’m impatient and react strongly to things. In my work history, I have often had challenges with being reactive when issues came up. Mindfulness practice has helped me improve on this, and I’ve been able to reduce the frequency and intensity of expressing my negative reactions. It’s an ongoing process, but this was a focus area of my practice and definitely an area from which I’ve benefited.

And on a personal level?
I notice many small rewards regularly, which are fun to observe. I mentioned my impatience, and mindfulness has made waiting more enjoyable. Delays are now a bonus because I can fit in some more mindfulness practice while I wait.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Peter Weng is the founder of the EWS Collective. Peter is focused on supporting individuals and organizations to optimize the balance of well-being and performance. As a corporate executive (Google, Dell) and well-being/mindfulness non-profit leader (HMI, SIYLI) he has implemented systems of well-being and performance in companies, governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations around the world.

Leading During a Crisis: Explosion in Beirut, The Aline Kamakain Story

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Business
Leading During a Crisis: Explosion in Beirut, The Aline Kamakain Story

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Maureen Metcalf, ILI’s CEO and Founder is a Fellow with the International Leadership Association (ILA). In this role, ILA recommends 12-16 interviews for her radio show focusing on innovating leadership. The show focuses on balancing academic excellence in leadership with personal stories of high impact leaders and thought leaders and authors talking about their latest books and frameworks.

The following blog accompanies an interview with Aline Kamakian. This interview, specifically Aline’s Story, was very moving and inspiring. We encourage you to learn more about Aline by listening to her interview titled Thriving During Crisis: A Successful Middle Eastern Businesswoman that aired Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020. If you feel moved to donate during the holidays to a person and organization in Lebanon impacted by the recent explosions, please consider supporting Aline and her efforts to re-open Mayrig to provide jobs for 85 staff.

This is Aline Kamakian’s Story.

As someone who has a master’s degree in business, I recognize that we can learn things in school, from books and lectures, but there are things that only life teaches us.  Being a Lebanese of Armenian origin, I grew up with my grandparents embedded in the stories about my ancestors. Their stories about the resilience and ability to adapt and the respect and gratefulness to the country that accepted them conveyed the values I learned.

On 4 Aug 2020, Beirut was hit by a huge blast.

According to BBC reporting, “The blast that devastated large parts of Beirut in August was one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history, experts say. The Sheffield University, UK, the team says a best estimate for the yield is 500 tons of TNT equivalent, with a reasonable upper limit of 1.1 kilotons. This puts it at around one-twentieth of the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945… The explosion was the result of the accidental detonation of approximately 2,750 tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate. The blast led to some 190 deaths, as well as more than 6,000 injuries.

My restaurant, our offices, my house and my car were all blown to pieces in just a second. The terrace outside of our meeting room looked out over the port just 300 meters further. We were having a management meeting. I don’t know how I survived, standing on the terrace, looking at the fire and fireworks in the port. The next thing I remember was standing over my financial controller and giving him CPR. I don’t know how I knew what to do, reflexes from when I was a girl scout? The blast had injured 25 employees, of which five were left with a permanent handicap. It destroyed most of the restaurant furniture and equipment. The building was still standing, but windows, doors, winter gardens were all shattered.

First, I needed to make sure all my employees were safe and had a roof over their heads. I had never felt a victim, but there was no way I could get back on my feet without external help. So, I decided to open a fundraising page to help us. One week after the blast, we started cooking over 1,000 meals per day in our central kitchen to be distributed among those who lost their homes. We prioritized, first comes the team, holding on to our values, generating income, moving on, and moving fast.

On the 4th of September, just one month after the blast, the restaurant opened its garden and kitchen again. While we were still working hard to repair and rebuild the inside of the restaurant. The first evening that the restaurant was again partly operational, the whole team had dinner on the Mayrig terrace.

Here is the reporting about the restaurant:

 

When 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate tore through Beirut, only a highway separated the city’s port where the explosives were stored from 282 Pasteur Street. This is where Mayrig, the famed Armenian restaurant known as much for its delectable sour cherry kebab as preserving Armenian culture in one of the diaspora’s strongholds, has stood since 2003.

Located in Beirut’s lively Gemmayzeh neighborhood in a building from when Lebanon was under Ottoman rule, the restaurant was destroyed.

It joined the rest of the city that stood in ruins, where over 170 people have died, thousands more injured, and an estimated 300,000 left homeless. The decimation the blast caused came on top of a Beirut that was already in political and economic crisis. The Lebanese pound was tumbling to shocking lows that have caused widespread poverty. Electricity and food shortages are the norms.

But the destruction of Mayrig stung beyond a crumbling building: around 85 families, whose livelihoods depended on the restaurant, were suddenly left jobless and homeless. Not a single staff member escaped unscathed, and some are still in critical condition.

And then there’s the other, more existential loss: the idea that an institution fighting to preserve and progress Armenian culinary heritage, which has always teetered on the brink of either being forgotten, denied, or erased, could disappear forever.

“Mayrig” means “mother” in Armenian. For the last 17 years, this woman-owned culinary institution has brought centuries-old recipes from inside the homes of the Armenian community in Lebanon to a restaurant enjoyed by both local and international patrons and built on those traditions to create new dishes. Staffed by the same Armenian mothers who have always led the preservation and passing down of food culture to future generations through their labor and knowledge, “Mayrig” was founded by Aline Kamakian.

Being at “Mayrig,” she said, is being alive.

Her grandparents, Armenian Genocide survivors, found refuge in Lebanon, becoming part of the Lebanese-Armenian diaspora, which now numbers over 150,000 and has contributed significantly to the social, political, and cultural life of the city while keeping Western Armenian heritage alive. Bourj Hammoud, one of the first places refugees settled, became the historic center of the Lebanese-Armenian community. The area was heavily impacted by the explosion.

Aline’s early Story

I was five years old when the war broke out in Lebanon. I have seen my father as an entrepreneur struggling to raise his family and keep us safe during the war. This taught us to be creative and find means under pressure and create solutions to the absence of necessary provisions such as electricity and water and fundamental civil human rights. For example, to open my restaurant in 2003, I had to build my water reservoirs, bring a generator to produce electricity, ensure the team’s transportation and basic needs, and find other locations during the war.

Preparation for Management During Crisis

In the war in 2006, we took three days to find a safe spot up in a mountain resort. This move made it possible to guarantee the continuity of the restaurant and the employees’ income. We had to build our reserve in fuel; bring walkie-talkies because there was no phone; secure a safe location for employees to sleep, and secure kitchen equipment from the kitchens of friends and family. We created a restaurant in 1-weeks’ time. The most important tools were: sharing information, make the team part of the decision making, delegate responsibilities. In these circumstances, it is about operating a restaurant and the security of the team. Almost half of them were living in dangerous areas. The team managed to work and did so without days off, without hours to rest to cover for the others. We agreed that we would see how to cover extra hours or vacation after we passed this crisis. We learned to adapt to respond to this disruption quickly. It turned out to be a right decision because it generated enough income to secure the salaries, and it offered the chance for the employees to continue working.

Every two years, we have a minor to big crisis that asks for our adaptation. In 2019 the revolution started after three years of financial difficulties and corruption scandals. The challenges were different and led to significant hardship.

  • The internal security was terrible; roads were blocked, breaking and burning buildings and public property.
  • The banking sector turned into an unpredictable mess. Lebanon was known for its strong banking sector and was the saving place for all the Lebanese diaspora. And suddenly, the banks stopped giving out money. There was a limitation on cash withdrawals and transfers. The impact was dramatic since Lebanon is mainly an importing country. Its own industries ae very limited and the country has very little raw materials.
  • Inflation towered: Lebanon rates now 3rd worldwide after Venezuela with an inflation rate of 365%. The challenge is that it is not just inflation but also inflation that the government doesn’t recognize. There is an official rate, a rate from the banks, and a black-market rate.
  • Covid-19 led to lockdowns in many countries; in Lebanon rules were not applied evenly over the whole territory as some political parties allowed their followers to disregard the rules. COVID spread fast in autumn, and governmental regulations are often contradictory from one week to the next, unequally applied and harmed first of all the whole Food and Beverage sector.
  • With a government that is corrupt, and incapable comes the explosion of 4 August. The government resigned, but since it hadn’t formed a new government yet, the old government continued in the same corrupt, incapable way.

How to lead in such a context?

University lectures didn’t teach us to navigate this type of crisis. I didn’t learn a to-do list.

In the restaurant business, never compromise on the quality. The challenges were to keep the quality. We couldn’t look at saving money during this catastrophic crisis. We were committed to living our values during the crisis.

  • We needed to keep the employees safe and secure cash. I created a pop-up project in Saudi Arabia and took part of my staff there for three months.
  • We were committed to maintaining food quality. The aim is to find the best product at the best price, not the cheapest product. We needed to keep the team quality-oriented, encourage sharing resources, information, and pay attention to finding the best ingredients.
  • I communicated very openly, explained the companies’ situation, and explained the difficulties of living in Saudi Arabia. We went as one team and worked together to maintain the team as in Lebanon, there was no income.

My goal was to jump on opportunities that would allow me to take care of my family and my team! I didn’t have all the info, but the circumstances required me to keep going. I knew I needed to be transparent, genuine, honest, and always make values-based decisions. In this case, I was focused on my team’s safety, health, and economic well-being.

Again I did the same thing: first comes the team, holding on to your values, generating income, moving on and moving fast.

 

Aline Kamakian acted in the best interest of her team during the most challenging experience of her life. She truly exemplifies someone who is living her values! She supports the families of the employees who are unable to work and who continue to require significant medical treatment. During our call, she deeply inspired me as a leader and person who acted as her best self during this crisis. We often look to movies for superheroes. I believe Aline is a real-life superhero. Her actions inspire and invite all of us to act with courage, integrity, and selflessness. To support her campaign, please consider donating to the Mayrig Family Go Fund Me campaign.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Aline Kamakain began her career as an insurance broker at the age of 18 to put herself through college. She graduated with a double major in Masters in Finance and Marketing, Aline’s skills as an insurance broker allowed her to build one of Lebanon’s top 9 Brokerage Firms. All through her successes, Aline never forgot her love for food but most importantly she never forgot her Armenian roots. In June 2003, she opened “Mayrig” an avant guardiste traditional Armenian restaurant to introduce to all those who appreciate homely, healthy and tasty food, the forgotten flavors of Ancient Armenia. Aline was also voted Women Entrepreneur of the Year 2014 in the Brilliant Lebanese Awards. She is a board member of the Lebanese Franchise Association as well as a board member of the Lebanese League of Woman in Business and a successful candidate of the 2014 Vital Voices Fellowship Program.

Photo by rashid khreiss on Unsplash

 

Building Resilience – Lessons for Coping with Anxiety

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Health & Wellness
Building Resilience – Lessons for Coping with Anxiety

This post is written by guest blogger Samar Habib. It is the companion to an interview on the Voice America show, Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future with Jon Wortman focusing on How the Brain Impacts Leadership Resilience. I am posting this blog because of the anxiety many people are facing with the combination of economic uncertainty, political uncertainty and geopolitical uncertainty to name a few. There are many different approaches to work with anxiety. An element that helps us navigate the anxiety and build our resilience is understanding how our brains and body respond to stress so we can counterbalance our physiology.

I’m on the balcony playing with pegs. Not quite two years old. Out of nowhere a bomb drops from the sky and explodes nearby. It’s a huge shock to my little heart. I scream. My sympathetic nervous system injects me with adrenaline and cortisol, propelling me like a rocket into my father’s arms.

I grow up in a war zone. Living in war is like being in a relationship with an emotionally volatile person. You spend years walking on eggshells, not knowing when they’re going to blow up next.

I’ve experienced both. Growing up in war and being in a relationship with a volatile person. Gradually, and without my awareness, I lose my sense of safety. Even long after I leave the war zone and that relationship ends, my anxiety remains. Just like a piece of toilet paper that gets stuck to your shoe long after you’ve left the restroom, anxiety follows me around.

And even though the world shows me everyday that it is a gentle and safe place that’s full of love, my body still expects everything to go to hell without warning.

When I look back on my life I can see how this stuck-fear turns me into a tiny Anxiety Mouse. As an Anxiety Mouse I’m afraid to leave a job that doesn’t utilize my full potential because I don’t know what will happen if I do. As an Anxiety Mouse, I’m afraid to ask the woman I like if she’s interested too, because I fear the sting of ridicule or rejection. As an Anxiety Mouse I abort many potential friendships because I don’t trust people’s intentions. And so when I finally become aware of how my fear oppresses me, or how I oppress myself with my fear, I set out to transform it. And in coping with anxiety, these are the lessons I learn.

Love Anxiety Mouse (with all your heart)

It takes me many years to even realize that I am afraid. Scientists say that when your body is used to being in a state of alert for so long, you stop noticing that it is on edge; it becomes your new normal.

In Life Unlocked, Srinivassan Pillay writes that certain brain regions involved in fear can be active without our conscious awareness. We can be afraid and just not know it. I first notice my subliminal fear in the backseat of a coworker’s car. I’m in my mid 30s. She’s very nice and invites me to spend time with her and a friend. But for some reason my chest constricts and I want nothing more than to get out of there. Instead of berating myself for this social failure, I turn toward my fear with curiosity and unconditional self-love.

When I get home, I do a meditation prescribed for people coping with axniety by Christopher Hansard in his book The Tibetan Art of Living. I lie on my back and close my eyes. I imagine that my breath is flowing in and out of my navel. And with every breath I feel warmer and more energized. I place my attention on my heart and I feel the anxious glow that emanates from it. It’s an icy cold, electric heat. I then imagine a miniature me lying in the center of my heart, just as Hansard instructs. She is perfectly safe and perfectly at peace. Nothing can harm her. And I sit with this perfect peace, together with my fear, for some time.

I learn from Hansard’s book that this peace is actually my inner wisdom and it is always there, accessible in the space between moments. For the ancient Tibetans, he tells me, this inner wisdom is the healer of the body and mind. In knowing how to contact this inner horizon, as he calls it, lies our ultimate healing. I now direct the image of my safe-self out of my heart and into the world. I color it with a bright, powerful light and allow it to radiate like a white sun. I let its rays permeate every aspect of my life.

Rest and let yourself receive the good feelings that come to you from doing this, Hansard writes. And I do.

I have just communicated with my sympathetic nervous system with guided imagery. I’ve brought the fear response under my sway. When I am not meditating I blast Anxiety Mouse with light and love every chance I get. Every time I notice her. Remembering the not-yet-two-year-old girl on that balcony, who was terrorized within an inch of her life, I wrap my now strong arms around the afraid parts of me and love the hell out of them. Wherever the fear is nesting in my body, I direct love with all my heart at it. Ultimately, it’s not our technology or our medicine but our love that heals. That’s what neurosurgeon James Doty writes in his book Into the Magic Shop, and that’s a neurosurgeon talking!

How to Send Love To Your Pain 

In the past I thought these ancient visualization techniques were archaic wishful thinking, now I realize they are truly medicine.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

I’m sitting in the back seat of a taxi. Next to me sits the object of my affection. I’d really like to ask her out for dinner but I just can’t. I’m so tense, if I was a guitar string I would snap. I’ve already read a dozen books on body language and nonverbal communication and I can tell I’m giving her all the wrong signals. You’re supposed to lightly touch your love interests here and there: on the arm, a little slap on the knee, maybe even a light touch on the small of the back if you’re ushering them through a doorway. If you have hair, flick it. And you’re supposed to make meaningful and non-invasive eye contact when they speak. Ask a lot of questions. Dress to impress. Connect emotionally. Yeah, I get it. All of it. But I just can’t bring myself to put my hand on a woman I’m attracted to.

What if she feels violated? What if I come across as sleazy? What if she’s straight and I misrepresent all gay women as predatory sex fiends for all time?

So you see, I just sit there, awkward and uncomfortable. Stewing in my closed off stance, my body turned away from her. She’s talking but I’m so caught up in my own nervousness, I have no idea what she just said. Seconds later she’s out of the taxi. Gone. I just missed my chance. I go home and I’m really tempted to hate myself. What a coward. I keep replaying our time together in my head, looking for clues. Does she like me? It never occurs to me that I could have just asked.

The fastest way to deal with anxiety is to do the thing that scares you. Once you’ve done what you’re afraid of, it can’t scare you anymore. That’s because anxiety is only possible when you think about the future and about what could happen. So feel the fear and do it anyway. This is literally the title of a best selling book by Susan Jeffers. Jeffers teaches me to say I’ll handle it, every time I catch myself worrying about the consequences of doing something. I just keep saying it over and over again, every time Anxiety Mouse rears her fragile little head inside me. If I keep giving all my money away, I’m going to end up homeless myself: that’s fine, I’ll handle it. If I quit this job I’m really not cut out for, I might never be able to find something better: I’ll handle it. What if America turns fascist and they start rounding up immigrants: I’ll handle it. What if I go on vacation and come back to find that my startup doesn’t exist anymore: I’ll handle it. Whatever you fear is going to happen that you’re theoretically worrying about right now, just tell yourself, I’ll handle it. And if the worst case scenario eventuates (it almost never does), Jeffers says in another book, tell yourself I can learn from this. I’ve just blown my last chance with this incredibly amazing woman by not asking her out. I can learn from this. I’ve just blown the entire fuse box fixing the electrics on my motorcycle. I can learn from this.

After I finally overcome my fear of losing money and start investing in the stock market, it crashes! I can learn from this.

I do learn a tonne from that last one, actually. I realize how ridiculous money is; how easily it can be made and lost. My fear of not having enough is transformed into my knowledge that material security is an illusion. It doesn’t make sense to continue being afraid of losing something (material security) that no one can ultimately have, does it?

Put Fear in a Larger Historical Context

My heart rate can go from 60 to 100 BPM instantly for no seemingly good reason. The first time this happens to me, I’m in high school. I see two police officers walking towards me and I feel the fear. I do a mental check of my school uniform. It’s a crazy thought to think that police officers are going to cite you for not having your shirt tucked in, isn’t it? They pass me without incident of course and I’m left wondering what the hell my reaction was all about. The same thing still happens to me sometimes when I see Border Patrol officers in foreign airports. And during the 2014 Ferguson protests I break into a cold sweat when a police helicopter hovers over my house for over an hour. I’ve been in war zones, why should a police helicopter make me feel like it’s coming for me? None of this makes sense to my logical mind. The physiological reactions happen in spite of my logic. In search for self-understanding, I come across the concept of epigenetics. Epigenetics teaches us that we can inherit the traumatic experiences of our predecessors even up to the moment of our conception.

What this means is that what happened during the lives of my parents and their parents lives inside me too. And so it all starts to make sense. My grandparents had to flee their family homes, they and my parents were persecuted. They lived in constant terror, hiding from genocidal militias for decades. Now that context is gone, but thanks to epigenetics my brain is still vigilant against those non-existent threats. I soon realize that Anxiety Mouse wants to make sure I survive in a world that no longer exists. I take a moment to honor the experiences of my parents and their parents before them. I close my eyes and I bless the souls of the living, and the souls of those whom we have lost. My eyes well up with tears as the fear that sits inside me takes on a new meaning. This fear is not an enemy but a precious relic from my family’s history that is asking to be acknowledged and healed.

I imagine that as I am healing my own trauma, I am also healing the trauma of my entire lineage. I feel the spirits of my grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins who were murdered in the war and to each one of them I acknowledge the pain and terror they must have faced. I take a moment to imagine what they would say to me and I listen for their messages. May you be happy, may you be at peace. Thank you for your sacrifice. I promise to live the life I am given to its fullest potential. I bless the living spirits of my mother and father. My heart radiates tremendous love and the electric ice-cold fear transforms into a tender aching, like the pain of a fresh wound. I feel my heart opening to the unhealed traumas of my predecessors and I ask that they be released now and for all time.

Bert Hellinger, a German psychologist who invented a therapeutic methodology known as Family Constellation Work, claims that we can inherit the traumas of our predecessors and live out similar fates to them if these experiences are not brought to consciousness and resolved. He calls this phenomenon systemic entanglement. We might even harbor a sense of unconscious loyalty to our fallen loved ones and end up steering ourselves toward similar fates in solidarity with them. Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy, a hungarian psychologist who founded family therapy, refers to this phenomenon as invisible loyalty.

My body, without my conscious awareness, makes me live out the same psychosocial distress as my predecessors. My body is motivated by unconscious love and deep family ties that live in the cells of my body. As I become aware of this dynamic the healing begins and I set out to write a new destiny for my life. One based on optimism and trust.

Take a moment to expand your awareness of that steel-cold existential fear that doesn’t seem to leave you alone. What aspects are based on your direct experience and what aspects could you have inherited?

Take a moment to acknowledge the pains and losses of your loved ones. The ones you know and the ones you don’t. Ask that they be acknowledged and healed. Surrender the pain to the greater love that governs and corrects all things.

Subliminal Fear Lives in the Unconscious Mind

I post on an online forum about a rare motorcycle part I need to repair my bike. The following day, I receive an email from a man named Steve telling me has has the part and to call him on a given number. My first thought isn’t oh, great! My first thought is is this a scam? I put the phone number into Google and sure enough, Steve is calling from a motorcycle salvage yard in Southern California.

Someone else wouldn’t have had that thought. But that kind of thought is my default mode. It’s the first thing I think in most situations. Is there a threat? How can I make sure there isn’t a threat? How can I keep myself safe?

I’ve lived with this way of thinking for so long I barely even notice it, but now that I can see my subliminal fear in action, I can also see how it’s interfering in all aspects of my life. For one thing, I don’t trust my friends. This means I can never rely on them. And because I don’t give people the chance to be there for me, I’ve ended up with a lot of superficial relationships. Unintentionally, I have been isolating myself from others in this way for years.

Another example is that I never trust that things will work out for me, or that I might just get lucky. This means I don’t take risks and it also means that undesirable circumstances in my life are slow to change. I realize that for drastic changes to occur in my life I need to create momentum by taking bold action. But since I’m subliminally afraid all the time, I haven’t dared to quit that stupid job. I recognize that I need to go deep into my unconscious mind to fix this. And I quit that stupid job.

Releasing Stuck Energy

The unconscious mind is that part of ourselves that carries out the bodily functions we don’t have to think about. Things like a beating heart, breathing, digestion and life-saving reflexes. My unconscious mind is the one that’s running my fear factory because it still thinks I need it to survive. I need to find a way to tell it that there is no threat. I need to find a way to tell it all is good. The war (at least for me) is over, if I run out of money I’ll handle it, and there’s really no one out to get me. And if there were, I’ll handle that too. I’m sitting in my bedroom after a long day of reading and writing on my desk. I have no reason to be afraid and yet there is a knot in my stomach. Above that, in the center of my torso and radiating all the way up to my heart, I also feel a stuck energy. I am not thinking anxious thoughts, I am simply observing the sensations we would normally call fear as they manifest in my body. My Sympathetic Nervous System is on alert, it’s ready to respond to threat. Except there is no threat and I know this, but my body doesn’t. How do I tell my body everything is ok?

I soon realize that the sensations of anxiety that I am feeling in my body are located in what Eastern mystics call chakras. Chakras are energy centers in the body. For a long time I thought they were just make belief. But I can definitely feel this excess energy in the places where the second, third and fourth chakras are supposed to be.

In his book Becoming Supernatural Joe Dispenza puts the idea in my head that these energy centers can experience blockages because of past traumatic experiences. Sometimes an energy center can move away from its alignment with the spine.

The idea makes sense because the sensation I feel in what’s supposed to be my second chakra is not in alignment with my spine, it juts out slightly to the left. After his meditation technique, Dispenza says, practitioners notice a realignment of those energy centers with the spine and the energy flows freely again.

I’m willing to have an open mind about this. If these energy centers are real and my unresolved emotional experiences of being threatened are actually stuck in my body, then if I do this meditation, I should be able to feel the difference.

I close my eyes and prepare myself for the breathing exercise he prescribes. I squeeze the muscles of my pelvic floor as well as the muscles of my lower and upper abdomen in tandem with inhaling a deep breath. At the same time, I imagine that I am using my core muscles to move the energy in my lower chakras up my spine, into my brain and all the way out of the top of my head. Once I get to the top of my head, I focus my attention there and hold my breath for a few seconds. As I exhale, I relax my muscles and prepare to repeat the breathing cycle all over again. After several minutes of doing this I return to breathing normally. I focus my awareness on each chakra in turn, beginning with the first one at the base of my spine, making my way up to the 7th, blessing each with love and gratitude as I go. Finally I rest my awareness on an energy center that is supposedly a few inches above my skull. That’s supposed to be the 8th chakra. When I finish blessing each center, I place my awareness on my entire body all at once, which now feels like a massive, pulsating field of energy. I feel bigger and lighter. To my surprise I don’t feel the symptoms of anxiety return for several days. Could it have worked or was it just a coincidence?

Teach Your Body to Trust Again

After I quit my job, I realize that other areas of my life have to change. I sit down at my desk and I make an inventory of all the times I suspected people of ill intentions and turned out to be wrong. I make a second list of all the times I was afraid something bad was going to happen and it didn’t. Looking at the lists I can see the absurdity of some of those thoughts! And I remember just how plausible the scenarios seemed when I imagined them. For example, when one of my clients gave me a mechanical keyboard as a present, I wondered if it was possible for someone to install spyware on your computer through an external keyboard. I even asked a software engineer about it. Why did my mind take this kind and generous gesture from my client and turn it into a possible episode of espionage? And what subtle effects does this have on my ability to connect meaningfully with people?

At its core this is a trust issue. I have to teach my body to trust again.

I pick up Habits of a Happy Brain by Loretta Graziano Breuning. She explains that the feel-good brain chemicals are released when we form trust bonds. Breuning teaches me how I can increase these brain chemicals by offering my trust to others. I don’t have to trust everybody, that’s actually not such a great idea, she writes. Steve from the motorcycle salvage yard could have been a scammer after all!  But even if people go on to break our trust it’s better to assume trust initially. The joy we gain is in the act of offering our trust, not the outcome. We will feel much better for trusting people rather than living with mistrust all the time. In other words: look for people you think you can trust, initiate a situation where you’re offering your trust, and reap the brain chemical reward right there and then, regardless of whether they go on to honor or betray that trust.

Take for example the time a business owner contacts me about working with him on expanding his business. When we meet, some of his comments seem really off-kilter and abrasive to me. I feel immediate alarm bells in the usual energy centers of my body. I decide to feel the fear and offer my trust anyway. I agree to meet with him several more times. After a few encounters though, I can see that my initial assessment is correct. He is rude and abrasive, even if he isn’t aware of it, and I don’t have to spend any more time in his line of fire. I respectfully end our relationship and move on to the next business opportunity. By placing my satisfaction in my trust-offer rather than the outcome, I’m able to confidently end our relationship without feeling hurt or stupid for trusting him in the first place. And I feel good that I felt the fear and did it anyway.

7 Get Curious

Fear is an automated physiological response over which we have no control. But we can consciously maneuver our brain activity away from the automated fear response, toward other regions in the brain. We can do that by getting curious.

When my body initiates a fear response, I

  1. Assess the situation by asking myself am I in immediate danger? The answer is almost always no
  2. Breathe in deeply and direct self-compassion to the areas in my body where I feel the fear
  3. Accept the fear as a sensation completely and utterly, without judgment
  4. Investigate the sponsoring thought behind my fear. And the sponsoring thought is nearly always a fear for my survival (which isn’t being threatened)
  5. Ask myself if there is an action I can take to alleviate my concern and if there is, I take it. I don’t react or overreact, I simply act if needed

Let me give you an example:

I receive an offer to work on a very interesting project. My client and I draw up an agreement and I sign it. I start working but she doesn’t send me the countersigned copy. This triggers my fear response. My mind plays out a number of worst case scenarios. Is this a scam? Why hasn’t she signed the agreement? I notice my heart rate go through the roof and that’s when I decide to get curious about the situation. I ask myself am I in immediate danger? Obviously not, the worst thing that could happen is that I’d work for free for a few weeks. That’s literally the worst thing that can possibly happen in this situation. I accept my absurd thoughts, take a deep breath and send love to the areas in my body where I can feel the sensations of fear. At the same time I ask myself what is it that I am really afraid of?

The answer is nearly always the same for this question: the fear is for my ultimate survival. I’m not afraid of losing out on money owed in wages, the fear is much more primal than that. The fear is of having nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. This was a reality for many members of my family decades earlier, but it is not the case for me: an able-bodied, legal resident of a country with a thriving economy. What action can I take to turn off the fear response? Send an email asking about the countersigned agreement. I do and moments later my client responds with an apology for having forgotten to return it until now. I add this to my inventory of incidents where I suspect people of having ill intentions and I turn out to be wrong.

What Are You Exactly Afraid Of?

The limbic system is the oldest part of our brain and the most primitive. It doesn’t think, it reacts. The purpose of it is to keep us alive. My fear of not having enough is ultimately a primordial fear of death. But our brains have evolved so much and are now capable of thinking. And with my thinking brain (that’s the prefrontal cortex: the area of the brain behind the forehead), I can entertain philosophical and existential ideas. One idea in particular resonates with me. The Thai buddhist monk, Ajahn Chah, teaches me that I’m going to die eventually. In fact, that’s literally the one thing we can all be sure of. We are all going to die. Eventually. And so I realize that there’s no point of living in fear of the only inevitable and certain thing. I’m not saying let’s all hold hands and run to our deaths, I’m saying that existentially it is a little absurd to live a life in fear of the inevitable.

I decide to do a meditation on fear. I begin with my first memory of fear. That’s my memory on the balcony. After that I remember being afraid of my father’s angry voice and of my teachers as they’re deciding how to punish me. I remember my fear of mean girls at school as a teenager and my fear of asking a woman out as an adult. I remember my fear of police and border patrol officers and even my fear of police helicopters. Then I get to death. And strangely everything goes quiet. I realize that I have no fear of death. Astonished, I ask myself how is it that I can be afraid of a girl making fun of me for liking her and not be afraid to die? In my lack of fear of death I realize that I can be fearless to anything I meet in life. I realize that what I possess is the ultimate bravery of all. I realize that everything I am afraid of is really nothing. I am afraid of nothing. I break into laughter at the misunderstanding that I have been living with all my life.

I Turn My Fear Into A Spiritual Path

To self-identify according to your spiritual rather than material reality is enlightenment. Marianne Williamson, Law of Divine Compensation. I’m sitting in a classroom listening to a Kabbala teacher talk about waking up and feeling uneasy, or thinking negative thoughts for no reason. And he says that whenever his teacher feels those negative emotions he says to himself what a pleasure! It turns out that for the Kabbalists this psychological tension that comes out of nowhere is a sign that you are on the edge of a spiritual breakthrough. A seasoned Kabbalist gets really excited when they get anxious for no reason.And so my first thought is this guy is nuts. But actually he isn’t. It turns out that people who are just about to have a spiritual experience first have an overload of activity in the areas of their brain traditionally associated with fear and negative emotions.

To get to a spiritual experience you first feel a lot of distress. Sorta like the story of Jesus in the desert getting taunted by the devil, and the Buddha by Mara, sorta like that. Both have their spiritual breakthroughs on the other side of their respective freak outs. For this reason I can’t call Anxiety Mouse by that name any more. Sure I still have the physiological symptoms of fear every now and then but my thoughts about those feelings are not the same. Physical sensations are just physical sensations. We assign meanings to them and why should my feeling that we call anxiety be seen as such a bad thing? How do I know it’s bad? How do I know it’s not even awesome? What if it’s like a stargate into another dimension?

Pain Does Not Equal Harm

I am on an exhilarating spiritual path. I’m exploring the influence I can have on my body and my world with my conscious mind. Realizing this, I come to see that anxiety isn’t really anxiety, it’s the perfect opportunity for me to explore what I can and can’t do with my mind to influence my body. Every anxious moment is the perfect opportunity to master the skill of this subtle influence of mind on the body. I know we’re led to believe that we shouldn’t feel this way and if we do then something is wrong, but this feeling is not harmful. I can learn so much from this! And I do. Every day.

Evidence Based Practices for Leadership Development

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Evidence Based Practices for Leadership Development

This post is a report from the December 5, 2018 Forbes.com article Authentic Leadership for Peace and Prosperity. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview to air on January 29, 2019 with Dr. Gama Perruci, Dr. Sadhana Warty Hall, and Dr. Karen Ford, Evidence Based Practices for Leadership Development. This interview is particularly important because companies are investing large amounts of money and time to build strong leaders and some programs provide much better returns than others. Programs that teach leaders to be better leaders rather than those that teach leader about leadership provide different results. Programs that offer 1. strong frameworks (including the knowledge of how context and culture play a role in leading and following), 2. teach leaders to become more self-aware, and 3. perform better using the new frameworks and self-awareness provide the highest returns. The interview is part of our partnership with the International Leadership Association to bring you the latest and most relevant leadership information.

The following section is from Forbes. I am keenly interested in understanding how leaders progress their business agendas as well as the global agenda in times of significant geopolitical shifts. I attended the International Leadership Association’s conference, Authentic Leadership for Progress, Peace & Prosperity, in West Palm Beach, Florida, where keynote speakers, academics, award recipients and leaders across industries and the globe discussed their perspectives on the subject. This article summarizes my key takeaways.

With 39 countries represented at the conference, the focus on the volume, complexity and rate of change in the current climate continued to inform the conversations. So too did the political landscape, particularly the disillusionment with democracy and the move toward populism. The conversation was also impacted by several events happening in the background, such as a bomber delivering 14 bombs to democratic leadersand supporters, who was actually apprehended near West Palm Beach, where the conference was being held. There was also a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in the morning of the final day at the conference.

These events called to question what more we, as members of an international association, can do to focus on the intersection of leadership, scholarship and practice at a conference that focuses on progress, peace and prosperity.

The following themes are based on my discussions with thought leaders around the world and sessions I attended.

1. Leadership certification needs to be a strong consideration.

Many professions require certification before performing a job, like realtors, massage therapists, electricians, attorneys and certified public accountants. This is in strong contrast to the number of leaders holding key roles with no education and, in some cases, little experience.

While hiring is always complicated, certification can reduce the risk of costly hiring mistakes. Certification is important for leaders who want to stand out by demonstrating their competence. And organizations will have a greater degree of assurance that the person they are hiring is competent based on an objective standard and a rigorous certification process.

2. Leadership is the interplay between the organization’s internal environment and external ecosystem.

We train leaders in leadership concepts but don’t address the importance of helping leaders understand how they need to flex their leadership approach based on their context and their followers. The most effective leaders “sense” the needs of their followers and adapt their leadership accordingly. They help followers understand their leadership style and set clear expectations as well take into account their followers styles, so everyone can focus their energy on accomplishing goals.

3. Leaders need new tools to solve highly complex problems.

Many of the problems organizations face are emergent, and they may not have faced them before. Therefore, leaders must have the tools to address them. The most effective leaders balance inner knowing with strong analytics and collaboration. 

4. Leadership ethics are key. 

There are questions about leaders learning ethics versus gaining ethics as part of the process of maturing. Are ethics the guidelines people comply with? Is there a call for leaders to develop a strong inner compass that ensures they follow the spirit of ethics as the rules change? I believe it’s important for leaders to have a strong inner sense of both the impact you want to make on the world as well as the “guardrails” you use to accomplish that impact.

5. Leaders operate in an interconnected system and need to consider the broader impact they make.

Conference participants were clear about the importance of profit as the fuel for the business and that businesses are among the most powerful institutions across the planet. They are positioned to enact important changes that involve issues such as climate change, for example.

During the conference last year, there were many discussions on identifying leadership values. This year, speakers reminded us of the mandate for leaders to live their values and pay attention to how their actions impact their organizations, and by extension, the world.

6. Resilience remains a key concern.

It was acknowledged that everyone is now or will soon be impacted by some level of change to their organization, their climate, their community and their government. These changes require that we deliberately tend to the resilience (ability to absorb change and remain highly functional) of our people, our organizations, our communities and our governments. It is important to ensure these have the capacity to metabolize change without going into crisis mode.

7. Learning to harness the power of women and a diverse workforce is critical to addressing the upcoming talent gap.

Even with artificial intelligence and other forms of workforce augmentation, participants projected a huge talent shortage now through 2030 and beyond. The size of this change is expected to grow from 2020 to 2030.

Companies need to leverage the best talent to thrive. It will be important for companies to find ways to identify the right people and create a work environment that fosters attraction and retention and expands the old norms that caused talented people who wanted to work but not within restricted bounds to leave. 

As leaders in this era of turbulence, if we want to create a more prosperous and peaceful world, we need to look at new ways of leading and of identifying and developing leaders of the future. This is a call to action to revisit what you are doing now and how you can evolve your own approaches that enhance your ability to lead from a stance of authenticity.

Are you learning from thought leaders, academics and practitioners? Each holds a piece of the complex solution we all need to thrive in the short and long term.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Author: Maureen Metcalf, CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, coach and consultant.

 

Team Effectiveness, Brexit and Theresa May

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Team Effectiveness, Brexit and Theresa May

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This blog is a guest post by Simon Mac Rory as a companion to the November, 27 Voice America interview where he talks about his latest book, Wake-up and Smell the Coffee: An Imperative for Teams.

While writing my recent book “Wake up and smell the coffee – the imperative of teams” all around me was the Brexit discussion. I could not pick up a news feed and not see something on the negotiations in terms of the UK position, the EU position and the Irish question. I must admit, despite a keen interest in the outcome, both as business person and an EU/Irish national living in the UK, I remain in a confused state as to what is happening. I cannot make head nor tail of the UK position!

Observing the UK Brexit team and the confused narrative that emerges, I got to wondering how effective are they as a team? Do they have the capability for success? Brexit is such a critical issue for the UK overall and can even be viewed as the greatest existential threat to the UK since World War II, if the negotiations are not a success.

To be effective there are a number of critical issues that teams need to address. If they can improve on these through their own efforts, they can drive their overall effectiveness substantially. I define team effectiveness as – “The ability of a work team to be successful and produce the intended results. For the team, success is achieving the results, but effectiveness is about capability for success.”

I have attempted to map the Brexit team to the factors and criteria for an effective team. These are my views and generated as a distant observer (as I can only be). What do others think – does Theresa May and her Brexit team have the capabilities for success? The model I use is displayed below and is comprised of six factors. Each factor in turn contains two criteria that impact team effectiveness. In the table that follows I have given a brief definition of each criteria and my opinion of the Brexit team in relation to same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a reader of this blog and listener to the interviews, please consider enrolling in one of the innovative leadership online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching through our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the Author

Simon Mac Rory is a specialist in team development. He works with senior staff leaders to help them discover that edge to becoming a truly high performing team. Over his 30-year career he has worked globally with a blue-chip client base in both the private and public sectors.

He founded The ODD Company in 2011 to deliver TDP (a cloud-based team development tool and methodology) to the international markets. Simon
operates the business from London with a Dublin-based development and support office.

Simon received a doctoral degree for his work on the application of generic frameworks in organizational development and is a Visiting Research Fellow at Nottingham Business School.

Follow Simon on Twitter @SimomMacRory

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