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3 Leadership Lessons from Hiking the Camino Trail Across Spain

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3 Leadership Lessons from Hiking the Camino Trail Across Spain

This post is a guest post by Victor Prince.  The best way to become a better leader is to better yourself. Sometimes taking on a big adventure on your vacation is a great way to do that. Pilgrims from all over the world have walked the Camino de Santiago trails across Europe for centuries, making their way to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, North-West of Spain. Today, more than a pilgrimage, the Camino is an unforgettable experience and unique journey. The pilgrimage to Santiago has never ceased from the time of the discovery of St. James’s remains in 812 AD, though there have been years of fewer pilgrims, particularly during European wars. This post is the companion to Voice America interview between Maureen Metcalf and Victor – The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain.

Last month, I hiked 200 miles (320 kilometers) over two weeks on the ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Spain. It was my third Camino in five years. I go back because I have found the Camino to be more than just a fantastic trail. The Camino provides a unique social learning opportunity as I meet and share an intense experience with fellow hikers from around the world. It also provides me alone-time to reflect on my own life and career. After my first Camino, that combination inspired me to post a blog here on LinkedIn about the lessons I learned. That blog snowballed into a book deal with HarperCollins. This third Camino taught me three different, but equally powerful lessons.

1 – Find a Train to Jump On – During a stop on my book tour in June, I met a couple of readers who were interested in walking the Camino but had not yet made it happen. When they asked me if I was going again, I told them about my August trip, which was timed to celebrate the release of the Spanish-language version of my book. They were nice folks, and in the spirit of the Camino, I told them they would be welcome to join me. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but three weeks later I got an email. They had decided to do it and had gotten the time off work. About six weeks later, we all met for the second time on a morning in St. Jean Pied de Port, France and climbed over the Pyrenees Mountains together into Spain (see picture). Many miles later, we parted at the end of the trail in Santiago de Compostela as fellow Camino pilgrims – and new friends.

Leadership Lesson – If you have a big, difficult goal and you find someone else with that same goal who has a plan to achieve it, jump on that train with them!

2 – Test Your Boundaries – Before Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492, many Europeans believed that Cape Finesterre in Spain (pictured) was the western-most point in Europe, and thus represented the end of the world. After reaching the end of the Camino trail, many of these medieval pilgrims continued on for a few more days of walking to see for themselves. These pilgrims must have felt a surge of confidence after walking across Spain – something that may have seemed impossible to them before they did it. They wanted to see for themselves if other supposed limits were really true as well.

Leadership Lesson – When you have some belief that is limiting your potential, test it. Sometimes you will realize a big wall in front of you is just a bubble waiting to be burst if you just poke it.

3 – Seize Safe Moments to Try Crazy Things – After I walked to Finesterre, I was tired and not looking forward to retracing my steps on the 40 minute walk back to my hostel. I didn’t see many other options. Then I decided to try something I had never done before – hitch-hiking. While I never recommend getting into a car with complete strangers on the roadside, I knew this would be the safest place I would ever try it. Because the road went to the “end of the world,” everyone driving back were tourists like me headed back to town. It was a busy road in broad daylight and I had my phone on me, so I stuck out my thumb. Just before the five minutes I had given myself to try it ended, a nice couple of French women pulled over. We chatted a bit in English before I took up their offer to jump in their back seat. Five minutes later I was back in town with a couple of new friends – and a new story.

Leadership Lesson – Take advantage of very low risk situations to try out constructive new things. For example, on one solo business trip early in my career, I popped into a karaoke bar I walked by to sing a song. I hadn’t had many chances to do public speaking before, and that helped me fight stage fright in a low risk environment since I knew nobody in that town.

Sometimes a vacation can be a great way to do something that helps you in life after the vacation is over. If you are looking for an adventure that can help you long after the vacation is over, it is hard to beat the Camino – a trail people have been walking for over 1,000 years.

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: Victor Prince is a Corporate Trainer and Certified Executive Coach who teaches strategy, communication and leadership skills to clients around the world. His latest book, The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain (HarperCollins Leadership, 2017)has been a Top 100 Amazon bestseller in 8 categories and was listed as a top business book of 2017 by Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Earlier in his career, Victor was a consultant at Bain & Company, a marketing executive at Capital One, and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He has an MBA in Finance from Wharton. Learn more at www.victorprince.com.

Should IT Executives Show Their “Soft Side”?

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Should IT Executives Show Their “Soft Side”?

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This is a guest post by Patt Hardie, Leadership and Talent Management Expert.  It is the companion to the July 17, 2018 Voice America interview with David White, CIO of Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, aired on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations”: Should IT Executives Share their ‘Soft Side’?

 

Soft skills have many definitions, one key being emotional intelligence. Research has provided clear evidence that emotionally intelligent leaders are more successful. Many of these studies yield bottom-line results. Yet, many leaders miss the mark. Why? Maybe they believe that strong leadership equates to being tough, they lack confidence, or don’t want to appear vulnerable in their role. Or some may believe it seems too ‘touchy-feely’ or soft. The ‘Soft Side’ of leadership spans beyond technical leaders to all leaders, and really isn’t about being soft (or any of those other things) at all. What it IS about is being confident and secure enough to be yourself with others; its about being humble, approachable and personable; and treating people with dignity, concern and appreciation. It’s also knowing your people, about having compassion and restraint; listening with purpose and responding with care; and caring about the impact of decisions on people. Finally, it’s about sincerity, self-awareness and learning. The ‘Soft Side’ of leading doesn’t eliminate the important responsibilities of managing performance and holding people accountable. It is a ‘both/and’ combination of strengths that leaders need to have to be successful.

As an IT Leader and someone who works in technology, David talks about why the soft side of leading is a significant contributor to success. As technology leaders, we need a diverse set of skills including a heavy dose of soft skills to be a highly successful business leaders beyond our technical skills. These skills range from awareness and management of our mood, an ability to be present and focused to skills in establishing and managing a positive culture where a broad range of perspectives can be explored and synthesized.

David has a strong understanding about the ‘Soft Side’ of leading and demonstrates it effectively.

The soft side of leading is a hot topic today for many articles and books under titles such as Authentic or Gracious Leadership, or the Genuine or Compassionate Leader because it couldn’t be more important than in today’s environment, in our culture, our communities, and in our organizations and its impact to bottom-line business results. The beauty of it all is that when leaders are willing to be their authentic self in business relationships with key stakeholders: teams, peers, customers, etc., great outcomes emerge:  trust builds, morale and engagement increases, teamwork and collaboration multiplies within and between groups, and empowerment and accountability grows. Better decisions are made, ‘conflict’ becomes ‘problem solving’, and over time, if practiced by enough leaders, authenticity becomes part of the culture. The old saying that the leader sets the tone couldn’t be truer. All of these lead to higher performance and business results.

Maya Angelou, the American civil rights activist and poet once said, ‘I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ Janet Smith Meeks, business leader says in her book Gracious Leadership: Lead Like You’ve Never Led Before ‘Gracious leadership represents the intersection of ultimate respect ad optimal outcomes.’ These inspirational quotes represent what the soft side of leading are ultimately about: Sharing the best version of yourself in service of others. Yet, how do you do that well? It’s often the little things surprisingly, it’s consistency over time. Here are a few tips with examples:

  • Be personable, humble, authentic:
    • Make eye contact, initiating conversation with those you encounter on the elevator, in hallways, in the cafeteria, in meetings (even if you’re introverted)
    • Get to know your people, team members, key stakeholders; remember names, important information; let them get to know you
    • Acknowledge mistakes, ask forgiveness; show gratitude; be sincere
    • Ask for coaching, mentoring, training, support when needed
    • Drop by offices or invite staff to your office to chat
    • Have your meetings in the cafeteria or other casual spaces at the office
    • Have lunch with team or 1-1 with team members/others

Author personal example: When I have meetings in cities where team members are located, I always make time to meet and have lunch with them to discuss current issues and learn more about them personally.

  • Treat people with dignity, concern and appreciation:
    • Show compassion with a personal note of condolence, get well card; work from home in special circumstance if you can, etc.
    • Say thank you, send notes of appreciation
    • Celebrate accomplishments/milestones individually/team
    • Never be too busy to reach out to become aware of what’s going on with other’s needs
    • Manage performance issues with dignity
    • Do more listening than speaking so that others feel heard
    • Give people undivided attention when they come into your office to talk; put everything down, don’t answer your phone

Author personal example: I recall a time when my team was working on a lengthy project and we were closing in on our deadline. We were working long hours, so over the weekend, I put handwritten motivational notes on small post-it’s on everyone’s desktop monitors… simple sayings like ‘Stay awesome… we’re almost there!!!’ and ‘Hang in there, you’re doing GREAT!!!’ I was amazed at the impact that small gesture had the following week on the entire team!

  • Self-awareness and learning:
    • Seek feedback for yourself from others regularly
    • Know what you know, know where your gaps are; fill your gaps with learning and supplement some with smart people and utilize them well
    • Be clear about your personal leadership philosophy; your own development plan; your organization’s mission/vision/values and share it all with your team and have them hold you accountable

Author personal example: In all my regular 1-1 meetings with team members, I always ask what else they need from me to help them in their role…

Leadership is about building the next generation of leaders. People want to know how their work contributes to the achievement of results and are eager to provide their discretionary effort. People want to feel fully appreciated for the work they do, they want to matter. Step up to the leadership they deserve and deliver them the best version of yourself that you can. You won’t disappoint, and neither will they… I promise!

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

Patt Hardie, Principal and Founder of The Hardie Group LLC, has 30 years of business experience across healthcare, chemical, utility, contract research and retail industries as an expert leadership consultant, coach, and advisor. Patt delivers impactful, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership / team development and organizational challenges. She is recognized as a collaborative partner and progressive thought-leader who has the ability to connect with the business and synthesize needs into successful strategies for sustainable results.

Who is really in Control: Neuroscience and Reimagining Leadership

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Who is really in Control: Neuroscience and Reimagining Leadership

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This blog is a guest post from Gary Weber, Author of Happiness Beyond Thought: Brain’s Software. It is the companion to the interview between Maureen Metcalf and Gary Weber on Voice America Radio, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations, Who is really in Control: Neuroscience and Reimagining Leadershipthat aired July 10, 2018.

Recent blogposts “Can we survive w/our outdated OS and buggy programs?…” and “Aleppo, Trump, Berlin, Orlandos, Nice…what can you do?“, discussed the evolving global dystopian situation, largely due to our 75,000 yr old ego/I Operating System (OS) and its programs that developed in very different times.

New information will help us “right size” the weighting assigned to the “I”, and understand confirmation bias from an experiential and scientific standpoint.

What is our “conscious” I’s OS’s operating capability vis-a-vis the brain’s “off-line” processor?

The focus of this work is on deconstructing or at least de-energizing the “ego/I-based OS”.  Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could take a global ego/I dimmer switch, and dial them down about 30%?

In looking at different ways to illustrate the problems with the ego/I-based OS, a useful metaphor is that of an elephant and a rider.

The “rider” is the ego/I, and our “conscious” processor that generates the problematic, self-referential internal narrative (SRIN) “blah, blah” about everything and nothing.

The “elephant” is the massively-interconnected, “off line” brain of 800 billion neurons which does all of the “heavy lifting” and most of everything else.

Some powerful comparisons have emerged from neuroscience to define the capabilities of the “rider” and the “elephant”.

The “rider” can handle 7 +/- 2 pieces of data at a time and solve one problem at a time.  Its processor runs at 40 to 60 bits/second.

The “elephant” has something like 100 trillionsynaptic interconnections (latest research) for handling and storing information and operates at about 25,000,000 bits/second, depending on applications and assumptions.

The total computing power of the brain is determined by how many discrete areas are operating at the same time.

Obviously, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching can go on with talking, texting (not so much), walking, driving, digesting food, breathing and pumping of blood, hauling away waste and sending energy-bearing glucose and oxygen to working areas, problem solving,etc.

Comparing the speed of silicon switching in computers (lightning fast) to our brain’s synaptic switching speed (not so fast), and how much information is stored in the computer’s silicon (none) compared to the information stored in existing synaptic networks (a lot) is complex. Estimates for this parallel processing put the entire brain’s capacity as high as 320 Gigabits (billion bits)/second for the entire brain, > 99.9999+ % of which we are, thankfully, unable to perceive.

There is also a great difference in how parallel processing “assignments” are done in computers vs how the brain likely does it.

However, the bottom line, for our purposes, is that the “rider” is Uber-microscopic, (get it, “Uber” and “rider”?) both in size and capability, compared to the “elephant” is roughly 500,000 to 1.

Why do we listen to it?  It’s just a confused press-secretary, disconnected CEO, apologist, critic, etc. contributing little beyond endless “blah, blah”, like many “talking heads” debating a tweet.

As Wei Wu Wei says:

“Why are you so unhappy?

Because ninety-nine percent of what you think,

And everything you do,

Is for your self,

And there isn’t one.”


Confirmation bias – What it feels like  

Confirmation bias is simply the tendency to search for, interpret, favor and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs.  Rather than theorize about it, it is important to get a sense of just how strong our bias is.  It is how “fake news” works, as no matter how bizarre or false the story is, we will select the parts that confirm how we already feel.

Reading this, how does this make you feel?   Take a minute or two and just get in touch with how/what you feel about the first President of the United States having wooden teeth…good, bad or indifferent.
This exercise is about George Washington, the first President of the United States, who had wooden teeth, as he lost most of his teeth in his twenties.

Write down a few descriptive words about it.

OK, what do you feel if i tell you that it isn’t true?

Write/type a few descriptive words.

A 2016 fMRI study published in Nature, a top-tier journal, “Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counter evidence”, showed politically-active participants some contradictory and irrational statements by their candidate. Scientists @ the National Museum of Dentistry found that George Washington’s wooden teeth were replaced with gold, lead, hippopotamus or elephant ivory, horse and donkey teeth.  Another source included cow teeth, and silver and copper alloys.

Take a minute or two.

Now how do you feel about George Washington?

Write/type a few descriptive words.

Finally, it was revealed from third and fourth sources that George Washington also had many teeth in his dentures from the slaves on his plantation.

Take a minute.

Now how do you feel about George Washington?

Write down some descriptive words.

These stories are all true, but did you see how different your feelings were toward George Washington as the different scenarios were considered?

This confirmation bias exercise is from a “the Oatmeal” cartoon which also uses Napoleon, Thomas Crapper, house flies, Jesus, and Roe v Wade, etc. and is strongly recommended.  The link came from Saima Yousuf.

Confirmation bias – research

The scanner showed that to create separation from the information, the Default Mode Network was activated  to create isolation from the external world and increase internal focus. To actively reduce the emotional conflict, the emotional center, the amygdala, was deactivated.

Other studies have found similar problems with shifting any beliefs that are “directly challenged, especially when these beliefs are central to their identity.  In some cases, exposure to counter-evidence may even increase a person’s confidence that his or her cherished beliefs are true.”  (many references).

A new Harvard study pointed out just how strong the major media bias in the US and Europe is against the world’s most famous tweeter, reflecting their own confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is a real world problem, particularly in an era of  “fake news” and social media with little/no source credentialing, validation or “fact checking”.  IME, this is acute in spiritual/religious arenas.

As the authors point out “the inability to change another person’s mind through evidence and argument, or to have one’s own mind changed in turn, stands out as a problem of great societal importance”.

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.

Author bio:

Gary is a Subject/collaborator in neuroscience studies at Yale, Institute Of Noetic Sciences, Baumann Institute, Center for Study of Non-Symbolic Consciousness, Johns Hopkins, Penn State.

From 2000 – 2004 he was Associate VP of research for Penn State responsible for all technology transfer operations of University including angel investing, venture capital, licensing, patenting and start-up support. Responsible for external industrial R&D contracts and interfaces with the University.

In the late 90’s Gary was SVP Science and Technology for PPG responsible for all corporate R&D w/four research laboratories, approx. 1000 engineers, scientists and technical folk, and $260MM budget. Member of Executive Committee.  Since then he has been researching and writing about happiness beyond thought. He is applying his extensive research skills to helping leaders.

Stress and Sleep – How to Master Stress and Recharge

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Stress and Sleep – How to Master Stress and Recharge

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This guest blog is a guest post provided by Nestmaven, a blog focused on helping people sleep. We selected this specific blog because it ties rest to stress and effectiveness. If you are not sleeping well, your resilience will be lower and it will, over time, impact your ability to lead. It is a companion to the Voice America Interview with MaryAnna Klatt, PhD, Mindfulness: Manage Stress to Improve Performance on Voice America, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations.

The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that approximately 40 million Americans have some kind of sleep disorder. This encompasses a wide range of illnesses and conditions that include insomniasleep apnoea and restless leg syndrome.

Sleep-related disorders are on the rise and many illnesses that people are suffering from during the day, may be connected to poor sleep, at night.

Depression, weight gain and high blood pressure are just a few of the health issues that can be related to insufficient sleep and the connection between poor sleep and stress can be a cyclical one.

Too much stress can cause you to have a bad sleep, leading to mental and physical health issues which can, in turn, cause stress in daily life, leading to poor sleep at night.

Understanding how stress and sleep are connected is the path to getting a handle on the problem and learning how to manage stress during the day can only help improve your overall health and wellness and, hopefully, lead to better sleep, too.

Your Body On Stress – What Exactly Is Stress And How Does Your Body Handle It?

Stress is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”

In short, it is the way by which your body experiences and manages external pressures, whether they are mental or physical.

A normal level of stress can actually be good for the body and can motivate you to work harder, focus and even improve performance.

But, this is only the case when the cause of the stress is short term. Too much stress can have the opposite effect and lead to chronic health problems. To understand why, it is important to know how exactly your body responds to stress on a physiological level.

Normally, when faced with a situation of stress, your nervous system causes your body to release stress hormones, particularly cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline.

This is part of what is known as the “fight or flight” response in the body and it’s the system that gets you ready to fight or flee your challenge or dangerous situation. These hormones subside once the external threat is removed and the body begins to relax again.

But, when you are under stress continuously, this aggravation to the nervous system doesn’t subside and it can have a devastating effect on your overall health.

Incessant stress causes your blood pressure to be continuously raised, putting a strain on your heart and circulatory system. Breathing is affected, heartbeat becomes rapid and you might be in a near constant state of holding your breath or hyperventilation.

With long term stress, muscles are continuously tense, which might cause headaches and neck strain and continued, heightened levels of cortisol can cause weight gain and inflammation in the body, leading to a suppressed immune system.

Digestion is also affected, as raised cortisol levels cause you to crave and eat more fatty foods, as it helps your body prepare for a dangerous and threatening situation and you might start to suffer from heartburn and acid reflux, as your stomach produces more acid during times of stress.

Your endocrine system, regulated by the brain, is also affected. This can have an effect on everything from mood and tissue health to blood sugar metabolism and reproduction.

It’s no wonder you can’t sleep when your stress levels are raised, as your body is in an ever-ready fight mode on a physiological level, ready to tackle whatever danger is coming your way.

5 Ways In Which Stress Affects Your Body

  • Endocrine system – Stress causes the adrenal gland to release epinephrine, or adrenaline and norepinephrine, or noradrenaline, into the body, which helps your body respond to danger by increasing heart rate, constricting blood vessels and converting fat to energy. Your body also releases cortisol during stress, which has many damaging effects on the body when unregulated. The increase in hormones causes the liver to produce more glucose and strains the body’s ability to reabsorb the sugar, causing diabetes. Even more frightening, an Australian study showed that chronic stress increases the rate and volume at which lymphatic vessels drain cancerous tumours, helping them to spread throughout the body.
  • Respiratory system – Stress can cause increased and shallow breathing or holding of your breath, meaning that cells don’t get enough oxygen. This can lead to dizziness, lack of concentration and you could even temporarily lose consciousness.
  • Circulatory system – When you are under stress, your heart beats faster, working to pump blood quickly around your body to get it ready for action. Blood pressure is raised and when under stress and it can be raised for too long, causing long-term problems for the body.
  • Digestive system – Heartburn, acid reflux, ulcers and esophageal spasms are all health issues that can be tied to stress in the body, as your body produces more acid and controls what nutrients you absorb during times of high stress. This can also cause constipation and diarrhoea.
  • Musculoskeletal system – During times of high stress, muscles are constantly tightened, leading to pain, injury and chronic issues like migraines and tension headaches.

5 Top Causes Of Stress

The American Psychological Association conducts an annual “Stress in America” survey, in which they determine how stressed Americans feel and what exactly keeps them up at night.

Released in November 2017, the most recent poll shows the most common sources of stress are as seen in this infographic.

While this report showed that American’s stress levels in 2017 were at levels consistent to those in 2016, nearly half (46 percent) of Americans polled reported that lying awake at night in the past night was one outcome of their stress levels.

This is a marked increase from 2016, when 40 percent of Americans reported sleeplessness due to their stress levels.

Further to this, 34 percent of people polled reported that they felt fatigue due to their stress.

How Stress Keeps You Awake At Night – The Vicious Cycle Of Bad Sleep And Stress

There are many ways in which the above mentioned physiological changes can make for a poor sleep. Heightened adrenaline levels and increased heart rate can cause tossing and turning and a feeling of restlessness.

When your body is experiencing chronic stress, it thinks it’s in a state of perpetual danger and that it shouldn’t be sleeping! You might be able to fall asleep but not stay asleep and you might wake up frequently in the night.

You might find it hard to calm your thoughts and lay awake at night, worrying about your finances, relationship, work or whatever else is bothering you.

Overwork or being too busy during the day can also lead to stress and leave yourself with not enough time to get a good sleep. If you find yourself with not enough hours to sleep, you might not fall asleep easily when you finally do go, because you are overstimulated and overworked.

With no time to wind down at the end of your day, your body forgets which is rest time and which is time for action.

Not enough time and too much stress in your day might also mean that you don’t have enough time to exercise, make time for friends and family or do otherwise relaxing and healthy activities that relieve stress, leading to a poor sleep at night.

After a bad sleep, you might need more caffeine to stay awake, causing a vicious cycle in which you can’t get to sleep at night, because you’ve had too much caffeine. These are just a few of the ways in which stress can keep you up or ruin the quality of your sleep.

How To Lower Stress Levels To Improve Sleep

While there are a few chronic sleep conditions that may require medical intervention, like sleep apnoea and insomnia, if your sleep loss is due to stress, there are some things you can do to help yourself. Check out some of these tips and tricks to relieving stress and incorporate a few of them into your daily life, to see if you notice any difference in sleep quality.

Increase Your Exposure To Daylight

If you work inside a dark office during the day or live in the northern hemisphere, you might not be getting enough daylight and your sleep might be affected.

Studies have shown that exposure to sunlight or bright indoor lights during the morning hours helps people sleep better at night.Adequate daylight is also shown to decrease depression and stress.

Help calibrate your circadian rhythm by making sure you get lots of daylight and if you can’t, consider investing in a light therapy device to keep near you, during the day.

Exercise

Make sure you are giving yourself time to exercise during the day. Exercise is considered by health professionals as one of the best ways to maintain mental health and reduce stress.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that “when stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact, as well.

So, it stands to reason that if your body feels better, so does your mind.” Exercise releases endorphins into the body that not only make you happy but help reduces stress and improve sleep.

Try Some Natural Relaxation And Wellness Techniques

Meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques have all proved effective for stress and sleep disorders. There are plenty of guided meditations and yoga routines geared specifically to those with problems sleeping.

Take some time out of your busy day to wind down at the end of it.Even if you have only 10 minutes for a short meditation before you go to bed, you may see a positive result.

You don’t need any special skills or to follow any religious dogma, so give it a try. No time? Fall asleep to music or nature sounds geared especially for deep sleep. Here are a few of our favourites:

Try Aromatherapy

You might find that incorporating some aromatherapy into your life can help you sleep. One 2017 study showed that patients in intensive care that could not sleep well had an increased quality of sleep and reduced level of anxiety by using lavender oil.

There are many different ways to use essential oils to help you relax and sleep, including air diffusers and pillow sprays. Lavender and camomile are two popular essential oils with relaxing properties.

Have a bath before bed with a few drops of lavender or sleep with an air diffuser on near the bed, to both moisturize the air and infuse it with a relaxing aroma.

Make Your Room A Den Of Zen

Give yourself a chance to relax and calm down before bed. Never bring your work to bed and invest in a good bed with linens in calming colours, like white and grey. Keep your room clear of clutter and other stressors and keep your tablets and other devices out of the bedroom. Establish a relaxing night time routine that starts at least an hour before you try to hit the pillow.

Try Journaling

You might be able to relieve some stress by journaling before bed. The University of Rochester Medical Center says that journaling can help you manage overwhelming emotion and anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression.

It does this by helping you prioritize your problems, fears and concerns as you work out the issues that are causing you stress and can also be used as a tool to track your day to day stressors and triggers, so you can learn better ways to control them.

Sort Out Your Finances

65 percent of Americans lie awake due to money issues. Sometimes easier said than done, sorting out your finances can be a good way to reducing your stress and helping you to get a good night’s sleep.

While it might not always be easy to reduce financial stress, you might be having trouble sleeping because you havebeen avoiding your financial problems and, because they don’t just “disappear”, they will haunt you, at night.

By looking at your finances honestly, consolidating debt and coming up with an actionable plan, you can slowly work to make positive changes and reduce your financial stress. (5 strategies to Deal with Financial Stress) .

Look To Supplements

Before turning to sleeping pills, consider supplements and herbal remedies to help you sleep. While all supplements should be taken under the guidance of a physician, melatonin, tryptophan, B12 and magnesium are some of the useful ones that might help you, as well as herbal teas that contain valerian, passionflower and camomile.

Adjust Your Diet

Apart from making sure you get enough exercise, a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of the stress/sleep equation. Lower your caffeine consumption by the afternoon, so that you aren’t keeping yourself awake.

Don’t eat too close to bedtime and make sure your diet isn’t too heavy in sugar and carbohydrates, which can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and energy levels. Give your body a chance to fast in the evening and cut out late night snacking.

Seek Professional Help

If nothing seems to work and you’ve tried all of the above, you might do well with the help of a sleep specialist. If you have eliminated the possibility of a medical condition, such as apnoea, a sleep specialist can try to determine why you aren’t sleeping and what to do about it.

Sleep clinics can monitor your breathing and heart rate when you are sleeping, to make sure that you don’t have a medical problem and to determine if it is stress related, or something else.

Take charge of your wellness and look into how stress might be affecting your sleep and how lack of sleep is affecting your stress levels! A serious matter, high levels of stress can have lasting consequences on your health and wellness and lead to life threatening diseases and bigger problems than just being tired.

By learning about what is happening inside your body during times of stress, you can better understand how to change or modify your environment and routines and gain some control of your body, inside and out. And, by employing just one or two of the above techniques to manage stress, you might notice a big change in your mental and physical health and sleep quality.

Please check out the interview with Belinda Gore and Mark Palmer giving more in-depth information about building resilience.

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.

Stress Reduction: Relax Like a Boss

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Stress Reduction: Relax Like a Boss

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This guest blog is a guest post provided by John Parrott who runs Relax Like A Boss, a blog that teaches people how to reduce stress and relax in a busy world. It is a companion to the Voice America Interview with Belinda Gore and Mark Palmer, Building Resilience, A Key Foundation for Change on Voice America, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations.

Why Use Relaxation Techniques?

We all feel stressed from time to time…

But did you know that this can be incredibly harmful?

The Journal of the American Medical Associationdiscovered that stress can increase the risks of cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment and even obesity.

But that’s how relaxation techniques can help. According to the American Psychological Association, relaxation techniques can dramatically improve your health long-term, as we’ll discuss below…

The Benefits Of Relaxation Techniques.

Here’s a few of the benefits of relaxation techniques…

– Reducing Depression And Anxiety.

Relaxation techniques can be effective in regulating symptoms of depression, anxiety, and many other mental illnesses.

When stressed, the volume of ‘happy’ chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin are reduced.

These are partly responsible for the feelings of sorrow and helplessness commonly associated with depression.

It has even been claimed that ‘meditation works just as well as antidepressants’, which seek to alter serotonin receptors and boost levels in the brain.

Simply practicing relaxation techniques for just half an hour a day can produce effects similar to those of antidepressants, without any side effects.

– Lowers Blood Pressure.

Although researchers aren’t certain of the exact mechanisms involved, chronic stress has been shown to raise blood pressure and worsen heart function.

High blood pressure can create a number of health problems, from insomnia to strokes and cardiac address.

Regulating stress levels with relaxation techniques can significantly reduce this risk.

In one study, patients that underwent just 10 minutes of slow breathing exercises saw a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure.

It is thought that the daily practicing of similar techniques can help to keep stress-related hypertension under control, improving overall health and wellbeing.

– Boosts Immune System.

Prolonged stress has been proven time and again to hamper the function of the immune system.

This is, in part, because the body is less able to fight inflammation when under high-anxiety conditions due to chemical changes in the body.

Simply by reducing overall stress levels, inflammation can be regulated and many diseases, from the common cold to rheumatoid arthritis, avoided.

Physical Relaxation Techniques.

1. Breathing Exercises.

Breathing exercises have been recognised for centuries as a powerful tool for relaxation.

From the towering mountains of Tibet to the humble office of a psychological therapist, breathing is an incredibly versatile, easily-accessible way to reach a state of calmness and serenity.

Breathing exercises, also known as diaphragmatic breathing exercises, involve taking long, deep breaths into the stomach rather than the chest.

  1. Find a comfortable position, seated or lying down.
  2. Breathe slowly into your stomach through the nose, keeping your chest still. It may help to place one hand over your abdomen and the other over your chest, ensuring that only your moves as you inhale.
  3. Exhale through pursed lips, your mouth relaxed. Release tension from all parts of your body as you breathe out.
  4. Continue for 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times daily.

This exercise isn’t limited to the yoga mat, the quietness of your bedroom or a social situation. It can be practiced anywhere, at any time.

Whenever you begin to feel stressed, simply turn your focus to your breathing and continue until calmness is restored.

2. Progress Muscle Relaxation.

Based upon the premise that muscle tension is the body’s response to poor mental health, progressive muscle relaxation has been known to significantly improve symptoms of stress and anxiety.

This technique involves identifying tension in individual muscles by contracting them. This tension is then released slowly and under control.

Practicing muscle relaxation can provide a wealth of psychological benefits, from improving mental health to boosting physical performance.

It is also suggested to lead to increased blood flow, boosting local metabolism and, in turn, reducing pain and muscle spasms.

Progressive muscle relaxation should be practiced whilst lying down. Choose somewhere free from distractions and where you can lie and stretch out comfortably.

  1. Breathe in slowly, tensing the first muscle group you choose – but not to the point of pain. Hold this contraction for 5-10 seconds.
  2. Exhale, relaxing your muscles fully and quickly.
  3. Relax for a further 10-15 seconds before moving onto other muscles. Notice any changes in your state of mind and body as your practice deepns.
  4. Continue to work through the rest of your body, paying attention to every sensation.
  5. Finish by counting to 10, in complete stillness, and bring your awareness back to the present moment.

3. Humming.

The concept of humming for relaxation brings to mind pictures of monks perched atop tall hills, monotonous notes being held for several seconds at a time in a state of total serenity.

In reality, the practice of humming isn’t quite as mystical or spiritual as it is stigmatized to be. It’s an incredibly simple and effective relaxation technique.

Humming can:

  • Dissolve worries by calming the mind.
  • Give time for reflection.
  • Stimulate creativity.
  • Help bring about feelings of peace.
  • Relieve stress and anxiety.

Simply find a quiet place to sit, relax the body, inhale and let out a long ‘hmm’ sound as you exhale.

When you run out of breath, breathe in and repeat. Continue this exercise for 10-15 minutes.

4. Yoga.

Yoga is not only a powerful way to reduce stress and anxiety, but also an excellent form of exercise for the body.

It’s a practice that’s been used for millennia, its roots set in schools of thought like Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

Yoga is an incredibly relaxing practice. As is written in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, ‘Yoga is the suppression of the activities of the mind.’

Many studies have even recognised yoga as an effective intervention for illnesses such as asthma, schizophrenia and heart disease.

Here’s an outline of a basic yoga practice. Be sure to explore the varying branches of yoga, constructing a plan the best suits your physical capabilities and preferences.

  • Begin with a short meditation or humming exercise to calm the mind.
  • Move from warming up with sun salutations to a mixture of standing poses, backbends and forward bends. Be sure to focus on all muscles of the body, from the neck to the feet.
  • End your practice with shavasana, lying still on the floor.
  • Take these final minutes of your practice to relax fully, letting the business of your mind settle with body.

5. T’ai Chi.

The Chinese martial art of t’ai chi is known not only for its value in defense training, but also its numerous health benefits.

T’ai chi has been reported as being beneficial in treating a number of ailments, including Parkinson’s and diabetes. Furthermore, the art of of t’ai chi has been proven to have beneficial effects against a range of mental disorders.

T’ai chi has also been measured to reduce levels of cortisol in the blood, increase endorphins and reduce levels of inflammatory markers in the body.

The practice of t’ai chi is centered around improving the flow of ‘chi’, the Chinese concept of intangible energy. It is an incredibly effective way to calm the mind, practice mindfulness, and reconnect with the here and now.

6. Exercise.

Physical exercise is known to stimulate the release of endorphins – hormones that interact with the brain and trigger positive bodily feelings, similar to those associated with morphine.

For this reason, exercise is known for its ability to alleviate the symptoms of depression, chronic stress, and other mental illnesses.

‘There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people’, says James Blumenthal, PhD of Duke University.

Based on a number of studies, Blumenthal concludes that physical exercise is comparable to antidepressants for patients with major stress and depressive disorders.

Exercise doesn’t have to be grueling and painful. Even light, steady walks can have significant effects in reducing stress and anxiety.

Relaxation Techniques for the Mind.

7. Meditation.

Meditation has been proven time and again to have significant value in boosting not only mental health, but also the function of the immune system.

This is, in part, due to telomere lengthening.

Short caps at the end of DNA called telomeres work to shield our genes from damage. Without telomeres, DNA is exposed to harm from our external environment, wreaking havoc on our bodies and, in many cases, causing cancer and other diseases.

It has been proven in several controlled studiesthat meditation can actually lengthen telomeres in the cells of our immune system.

The result? A body that is not only mentally well, but incredibly resilient to disease, too.

Not only this, but meditation is also incredibly effective in reducing stress and promoting feelings of relaxation.

In one study conducted by Harvard, just an average of 27 minutes of daily meditation over 8 weeks produced profound changes in the brain.

The amygdala, an area of the brain linked with anxiety and stress, was shown to reduce in size. Participants also reported significant improvements in their overall wellbeing.

Here is a brief overview of the practice:

  1. Take a comfortable seat somewhere quiet and free from distraction.
  2. Begin to breathe deeply into the base of the stomach.
  3. Allow your mind to quieten, holding your focus on the breath.
  4. When you find yourself lost in thought, gently return to your breathing.
  5. Continue for 10+ minutes daily.

8. Listen To Nature Sounds.

‘Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind,’ – Amit Ray.

No method of relaxation is quite as overlooked as the simple practice of listening to nature; the sounds of birds singing, rain pattering on the tops of trees, wind whistling, waterfalls…

When you find your mind overrun with anxiety or by stress, simply reconnect with nature.

Step outside, take a deep breath, and embrace the modest beauty of the world around you.

9. Get Into A Routine.

Stress, anxiety, and many forms of emotional turmoil can arise from a lack of order in our day-to-day lives.

Whether it’s being frequently late for meetings or having an untidy bedroom, seemingly harmless areas of our lives can mount up and cause us a great deal of discomfort if left unchecked.

Simply establishing a daily or weekly routine, built to maximise productivity and wellbeing, can have tremendous effects on overall wellbeing.

Take some time out of your day to assess your daily habits.

Ask questions. Do you do enough of the things you love? Does your everyday life lack productivity? Are you acting in accordance with your goals?

When you have considered the areas of your daily routine that could benefit from a little TLC, put together a plan of action to eradicate unnecessary stressors from your life.

10. Listen To Music.

Music has long been recognised for its powerful impact on mood and wellbeing.

However, for the purposes of entertainment, music has become incredibly commonplace in society. It’s everywhere, from the car radio to television to the supermarket.

Rarely do we give music our complete, undivided attention.

Simply sitting and listening to a piece of music in full, free from all other distractions, can be an incredibly relaxing and therapeutic technique.

Choose a peaceful, soothing track or album to enjoy. Perhaps light some candles and enjoy the melody with a hot mug of tea in hand.

Then spend as many seconds, minutes or hours as you please tuning into the sounds you hear, and nothing else.

11. Practice Mindfulness.

Many forms of emotional turmoil result from a lack of mindfulness.

Mindfulness, at its core, is the simple act of focusing our awareness on the present moment, allowing the busy mind to relax into the here and now.

Many causes of day-to-day stress are chained to events of the past or future. Worrying about deadlines, the safety of loved ones, and any event that lies outside of this very moment can be the cause for a great detail of unrest.

By returning our focus to this moment, we free ourselves of unnecessary unhappiness and learn to appreciate every second of being alive.

When you find yourself becoming stressed or anxious, begin to expand your awareness to the this moment and all it contains.

Tune into the sensations inside your body, the sounds, sights and smells around you and the current situation you find yourself in.

12. Self-Hypnosis.

Self-hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, can be a highly successful way to reduce stress and clear the mind of unwanted thoughts.

The foundation of hypnosis is hinged upon the theories of world-renowned psychologist, Sigmund Freud.

Freud suggested that there are three components to consciousness; the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, and the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is the focus of hypnotherapy.

It is believed that the unconscious mind contains all thoughts, values and ideas that we cannot access willingly. Instead, it influences our behaviour and emotions without us knowing.

By tapping into the subconscious mind through hypnosis, individuals and therapists attempt to rewrite its contents and improve mental health by deleting negative thinking patterns.

Here’s how to practice self-hypnosis:

(Before you begin your practice, create 2-3 statements that you wish to revisit during your practice. Theoretically, these statements will be planted into your subconscious once a state of hypnosis is reached. Examples mind include ‘I am stress free’, ‘I am not my thoughts’, ‘I am relaxed at work’.)

  1. Begin by feeling physically relaxed and comfortable. Put on comfortable clothes, perhaps practice some yoga or take a warm bath, and enter your practice feeling relaxed and at ease.
  2. Identify an object to focus on. Ideally, choose an object that will require you to look slightly upwards or directly in front of you.
  3. Attempt to clear your mind of thoughts. Focus intently on your chosen object, allowing all other thoughts to gently fade away. This may take some time, and it isn’t easy. If your mind wanders, simply return it to the object.
  4. Expand your awareness to your eyes, feeling them become heavier and slowly closing.
  5. Relax your muscles further with every exhalation. Slow your breathing as you settle deeper with each out-breath.
  6. Visualise an object swaying slowly back and forth. This may be a pendulum swinging or a pocket watch moving from side to side – anything with a slow, regular pace.
  7. Begin to count slowly down from 10 in your head. Tell yourself that you are relaxing deeper and deeper after every number.
  8. Believe and remind yourself that, when your countdown is complete, you will have reached a hypnotic state.
  9. Once in a state of hypnosis, return to the statements you prepared before your practice. Focus on each, visualising it intently and repeating it over and over, maintaining a state of total relaxation.
  10. Slowly count back up to 10. As you progress, become more energetic and alert; reverse the process you used before to reach a state of hypnosis.
  11. When you reach 10, return to your day with a renewed sense of calm.

Social Relaxation Techniques.

13 Practice Gratitude.

Taking just a few moments out of our day to practice gratitude, cultivating appreciation for what we have, is an effective way to reduce stress and encourage feelings of contentment.

When you find yourself consumed in thought and emotion, simply turn your focus to that which you’re grateful for.

That may be family or friends, your job, health, freedom, or even just life itself. Often these modest blessings are overlooked. Reminding ourselves of all that we are fortunate to have can bring us happiness and peace of mind.

14. Reflect On What Makes You Happy.

Humans have a troublesome propensity to focus on the negative of every situation. And there’s a good reason for this.

Many years ago, pessimism served a handy survival mechanism. Our cave-dwelling ancestors developed a tendency to identify problems and hazards rather than contemplating that which made them happy.

As a result, they’d strive for more – more food, better shelter, larger families, and these desires would serve the purpose of helping our species to survive.

Those that sought more increased their chances of survival. Thus, they passed their character traits through many generations.

What was once an evolutionary blessing, however, now manifests itself as a scourge on our mental health.

It can be easy to focus on the negative aspects of our lives; to desire more than we currently have and become disheartened and stressed as a result.

Simply switching your focus to the things that make you happy, whether that be a delicious food, cherished memories or loving family members, can work wonders on our stress levels.

When plagued by pessimism, make a conscious effort to list off 5 things that make you happy. If your mind reverts back to negativity, recenter your awareness on that which fills you with joy.

15. Random Acts Of Kindness.

Executing random acts of kindness is a quick, easy and extremely powerful way to reduce stress and promote feelings of joy and contentment.

Here are some examples:

  • Complimenting a stranger.
  • Buying a meal for a homeless person.
  • Expressing your love to a friend.
  • Donating to charity.
  • Smiling at passersby in the street.

These small, seemingly trivial acts of kindness have the power to lift your own mood whilst brightening other people’s day.

How To Make The Most Out Of These Techniques.

Here’s a few ways to make the most out of these relaxation techniques…

– Be Persistent. 

While a one-off relaxation session won’t do you any harm, in order to feel the full benefits of your practice you should aim to engage in it as often as possible.

– Be Consistent. 

In order to be persistent, it helps to be consistent with your timings.

Whether it be yoga every weeknight, meditating at 7am every morning or writing in a journal before bed every evening, consistency will ensure that you stay committed to your practice and set aside enough time to engage in it.

– Find The Techniques That Work For You.  

T’ai chi may not be for you, and that’s okay. Finding relaxation techniques that you actually enjoy will increase the chances that you stay committed to your habits.

– Optimise Your Environment. 

Practicing these techniques in a quiet, peaceful setting with minimal distractions will ensure that you get the most out of the time you spend.

 

Please check out the interview with Belinda and Mark giving more in-depth information about building resilience.

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.

10 Disruptive Leadership Trends for 2018

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10 Disruptive Leadership Trends for 2018

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This post is the companion to a Voice America interview with Tracy Wilenresearcher and speaker on the impact of technology on society, work, and careers on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” Digital Disruption: The future of Work, Skills and Leadership airing on April 17, 2018.

The world is in disruption! You are at the forefront of change. Increasingly, everything we do is impacted by technology from how we communicate with others, connect at work, learn at school, and live our lives. As technology continues to seep into our lives we become accustomed to it and dependent on it, putting pressure on workplace leaders, education systems, and even ourselves to rethink how we approach this divergent world of work, leadership, lifelong learning, skill development, and careers. The

continuing accelerated pace of technology and competitive forces is causing workplace environments to become more technical, diverse, and in need of leaders who understand how to deal with disruption.

This new landscape requires contemporary styles of leadership and new techniques for managing organizations. Today, there are unique pressures on company leaders, workers, and educators to change the ways they prepare and plan for modern-day jobs and careers. This interview and Tracey’s book, Digital Disruption: The Future of Work, Skills, Leadership, Education and Careers in a Digital World, offer educators, executives, and students a fresh approach for how to navigate the future to ensure success. They cover the key forces impacting the future of work, industries, leadership styles, skills, and education with a focus on how to remain relevant in an ever-increasingly complex digital world.

Here are the 10 disruptive predictions for 2018.

  1. Disrupted Society. Society is hyper‐connected, dependent and, in some cases, addicted to continuously being “connected.” And the expectation is that this will be increasingly the case. If you sleep with your phone, panic if it is missing, text numerous times a day, have numerous apps you use daily, frequently post selfies on social media, and buy most items on‐line, and are an Amazon prime member, it is a seamless part of your life. This is you.

 

  1. Disrupted Work. There are many shifts in the work place. One is extreme longevity, meaning many people will work 60 years to afford to retire. This also means a multi‐generational workforce. How we work together will need to change, in addition to how many years we work.

 

  1. Disrupted industry. We often hear about Uber, Air BNB and Amazon. Traditional industries are being disrupted at an accelerated rate. It is imperative that leaders pay attention to not only their industry but also those tangentially connected to monitor trends—and anticipate the impacts they will have on you.

 

  1. Disruptive Leadership. If work and industry are disrupted, do we need disruptive leaders? To compete, leadership needs to change because a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world requires new kinds of leaders.

 

  1. Women as disruptive leaders. Women are Corporate America’s killer app. Women are skilled, educated, have modern-day leadership skills, collaborate, trust, see the big picture, promote employee engagement, and have in-demand skills.

 

  1. Disruptive Diversity. Diversity is strategic for disruption. Innovation and diversity go hand-in- hand invest in 2018. Delivering products and services to a diverse customer base means having a diverse design team and workforce.

 

  1. Disrupted Careers. With all the changes to work and industry, jobs will most certainly change. It is important to keep current with technology, make lateral moves and continually build skills.

 

  1. Disruptive skills. Everyone will need additional and new skills, for some people, Social Intelligence will need to increase, in a digital world. Do you see how you are perceived as a leader or team mate? Can you read the room and get a feel for what people think of you? Others will need to increase their ability to make sense of the increasing volume of data and turn the insights into action.

 

  1. Disrupted Education. Education must supply the world with capable people who can work, think and be relevant in the digital world they will work in. Integrated work and learning strategies is a path many colleges are taking with employer Internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, and summer jobs.

 

  1. Disrupted selves. Are you taking time for a “career selfie”? Have you mapped out your career trajectory? Do you collect data and review your progress on a regular basis? If not, you are likely to be missing opportunities to make the series of small changes that will keep you current and relevant.

Disruption is on top of everyone’s mind. As technology rapidly accelerates, so does fear of the future. People are worrying about the impact of future technologies on our lives, how we lead firms in the digital era, our personal careers, and future jobs. Some people are tackling this head on and some are somewhat resistant or frozen in their track because the newness and pace of change. What are you doing in each of these areas to ensure you manage the disruption rather than being disrupted?

About the author

Dr. Tracey Wilen is a researcher and speaker on the impact of technology on society, work, leadership, education, and careers. A former visiting scholar at Stanford University, she has held leadership positions at Apple, HP, and Cisco Systems. She was an adjunct professor at several Bay Area colleges, teaching classes in business, technology, and women’s workforce topics. Dr. Wilen has authored or co-authored twelve books including Employed for Life (2014), Women Lead (2013) and Society 3.0 (2012). She has appeared on CNN, Fox, and CBS News and is a regular guest on radio and TV shows across the US as an expert contributor. Dr. Wilen was honored by the San Francisco Business Times as the Most Influential Woman in Bay Area Business.

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.

 

Top Skills to Lead For the Future!

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Top Skills to Lead For the Future!

Top Skills to Lead For the Future!

February 6, 2018/0 Comments/in  /by 

Be-highly-authentic-and-reflective-450x257.pngThis post is a companion to the interview with Mike Sayre, President and Chief Operating Officer of Metcalf & Associates on  VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on May 16, 2017: Seven Characteristics of Leadership 2020: A CEO Story. An abbreviated version of this post appeared in Columbus CEO on January 25, Preparing Aspiring Leaders for Key Roles. The following article is an article published in Forbes March 2017.

Technology, innovation, and geopolitical change are accelerating the need for U.S. companies to get (or stay) ahead of the competition. But for companies to fully evolve, attract the best people, and produce the best products and services, their leaders must evolve too. Leaders who don’t keep up will slowly be overtaken by those who continue to keep up with the changing tides.

Take technology, for example, and the evolution of flip phones to smartphones. While this evolution has been widely noticeable, many leaders don’t think of themselves as the “flip phones” of leadership.

Kate worked for a financial services company. The company occupied a competitive market space in a complex environment that was changing quickly. She began consulting as their CFO to address profitability and controls, and after a couple of months, she was asked to join the company as president.

Kate’s leadership skills and extensive business experience enabled the company to address some internal challenges as well as position it to be a much more valuable player in the industry. Specifically, she revised financial processes to ensure accurate payments, addressed organizational structure and moved people into roles where they would have a greater impact. Within three years of Kate joining the firm, the company was sold at a substantial increase in valuation.

In today’s quickly changing and complex environment, Kate exhibited the competencies leaders need both now and well into the future to succeed. In our book, Leadership 2050, Mike Morrow-Fox, Susan Cannon and I discuss the following qualities leaders should possess as the rates of technological and geopolitical change in our world increase exponentially more.

1. Be professionally humble. In the above example, Kate not only identified the company’s purpose and guiding principles but actually used them daily when communicating with people so they understood what she expected them to produce and how she expected them to behave. When everyone was aligned, they made the right decisions and took credit for the organization’s success.

2. Have an unwavering commitment to the right action. Everything Kate did was driven by the company mission and Kate’s personal values. On one occasion, she told a major customer they could no longer talk to her people because he continually berated them. As a leader, it’s important for your followers to understand the goal of difficult actions and their purpose.

3. Be a 360-degree thinker. It is imperative for leaders to understand their industry and trends driving future success. The changes Kate led the company through involved updating processes to position the organization as a bigger competitor in the industry. She needed to understand the company, the industry, and best practices from other industries. She invested in growing business units while defunding the commodity businesses.

4. Be intellectually versatile. Leaders who can draw from a broad range of knowledge are better equipped to anticipate and lead change. Kate was highly committed to the company she was transforming, yet she made time to continue to learn. She values her professional network and is highly involved with her family and the arts. These outside interests allow her to recharge and remain resilient, which is crucial when work becomes very demanding.

5. Be highly authentic and reflective. Leaders who continually seek feedback and model growth promote change-friendly cultures. Kate is authentic in that she not only lived her personal mission and values, but also sought feedback. Though she works long hours and delivers results, she also takes the time to think about how her actions will ripple through her business and how her partners, clients and competitors will respond and be impacted. It is this focus that sets leaders apart over time.

6. Be able to inspire followership. During this and other turnarounds, Kate’s attrition rate was minimal — even during layoffs. She was as transparent as possible in explaining the company’s challenges and the opportunities they were pursuing. She dealt with challenging issues head on in ways that aligned with her values. Her humility and commitment to the right action were also highly inspirational; her team knew she was working for the best interest of the organization and all its stakeholders — not her personal gain.

7. Be innately collaborative. Kate continually sought input from across the business, her board and her customers. Her goal was to create a highly successful organization, and she knew that she could only do it if she created an environment where everyone worked together. By hearing different points of views based on different roles, there is a better focus on solving problems and creating market-leading solutions.

It is imperative that leaders continue to develop their mindset as well as their skills and behaviors to stay ahead of the accelerating pace of change. Kate models the mindset and behaviors required to transform a company working in a highly complex, ever-changing and competitive space. These mindsets and behaviors are the foundation for leaders. By going through a structured leadership development process, leaders can build the skills necessary to create continual innovation in their organizations.

So don’t become the outdated “flip phone” of leadership. Invest in your development to help you evolve at the rate you and your company need to thrive.

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.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

BS in Business: Why Biological Blindspots Matter in Business

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BS in Business: Why Biological Blindspots Matter in Business

This blog is a companion to an interview with Rebecca Heiss on Voice America airing on November 28, 2017, What You Don’t See Can Hurt You focusing on implicit bias! This blog was written by Rebecca Heiss.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “what do biological blind spots and bias have to do with business?” In other words, “why should I care if I’m subconsciously a bit biased like everyone else?”

The short answer is that without awareness of your blind spots, you could be undermining your performance as well as the performance of your colleagues. When people first think about implicit bias, most default to a discussion around skin color, but your biological blind spots go far beyond black and white (and all of the other skin variations we leave out of the discussion).

Your brain has a pre-programmed bias for race, gender, age, class, thinking style… you name it!  Whatever the bias, your brain has categorized it and made associations that “fit,” based upon an archaic formula that still primes you to crave fats and sugars despite the insane abundance in the modern environment.

Our stone-aged brain and the biases it subconsciously creates which drive our behaviors is, to put it mildly, out of touch.

The result is that your team suffers from these micro-level inter-company level competitions ultimately hurting your ability to compete where you want to – on the bigger market. The worst part is, your team (and you personally) won’t even recognize that you are doing it.

Aside from team efficacy, productivity and collaborative efforts, one of the biggest risks to business is homogeneity. While the ability to create a homogeneous product may be beneficial, a lack of diversity on the  team doing the creating can be hugely detrimental to the health and sustainability of a business.

I like to make an analogy to the stability of an environment based on biodiversity. If you as a company are established like Ireland in 1845 and only have a single crop, you’ve made yourself extraordinarily vulnerable to any blind spot, or disease, wiping you off the face of the map. To avoid mass starvation in your company, plant some other crops. New perspectives.

Obviously, diversity can produce an influx of new ideas and approaches to problems, but more interesting to me is that the mere presence of a diverse work team creates an air of discomfort. Our brains were programmed to be happy with our ingroups – people who looked, acted, behaved and were essentially carbon copies of us. When you put people together who don’t fit that mold, our brains get….well….nervous.

Uncomfortable.

Low level discomfort like this actually promotes better problem solving as tensions are discussed openly. A recent study demonstrates that homogeneous groups, are more confident in their decisions, even though they are more often wrong in their conclusions, while a diverse group’s members will feel less confident despite being more accurate in their conclusions.

Confirmation bias and squelching of new ideas in homogeneous groups produces a false “feel-good we are all in this together” perspective that can render disastrous outcomes.

FEELING GOOD IN BUSINESS IS OVERRATED.

Just like working out the muscles in our body, having those uncomfortable discussions that hurt our brains a bit is the only way we grow and the only we can can start to uncover our own BS.

About the Author

Dr. Rebecca Heiss is an expert in human behavior and physiology and the founder/ CEO of a measurable stress reduction company, Instinctive Cognition. Working in the speaking and consulting industry Rebecca has developed a passion for helping others overcome blind spots to become their best biological selves. After earning a PhD with research designated as “transformative” by the National Science Foundation, Rebecca went on to hold multiple appointments in academia, applying her research to solve practical problems in overcoming what she refers to as “biological ghosts”—subconscious behaviors that haunt modern life. Described as a creative thought leader, she was honored to deliver a TEDx on a portion of her work and has built her career on helping others break through their evolutionary ethical “blind spots.” Having conquered the business of biology, Dr. Heiss has turned her focus to revolutionizing the biology of business.

Authenticity and Reflection are Keys to Leadership Success

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Authenticity and Reflection are Keys to Leadership Success

This blog is a collaboration between guest blogger, BirchReports and Maureen Metcalf, CEO Metcalf & Associates and Voice America show host. It is a companion to the Voice America Interview Building Leadership Self-Awareness using Leadership Type with Belinda Gore.

Abraham Lincoln is known for the emancipation of slaves and preserving the Union during the Civil Was. However, did you know that before he entered politics and was elected president, he experienced two business venture failures and lost eight different elections? If not for his persistence, humility, and ability to learn from his mistakes, he would not have managed to continue after multiple defeats, and the America we know today may be entirely different.

What does this story tell us? It’s that self-awareness and self-confidence demand that you learn from everything you do and are the drivers pushing you forward in pursuit of your dreams. Self-awareness and self-confidence allow you to build on successes as well as turn failures into future successes. Humility is a result of being aware of your own foibles.

When you can look honestly at your strengths as well as your weaknesses, you’re able to focus on the organization’s greater good rather than personal gain. It is vital in business where change is rapid and ongoing, and where what worked in the past often doesn’t work in the same way it once did. Your future success requires authenticity and your ability to learn from every interaction, and it largely depends on your capacity to build relationships with a broad range of people—whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur. Authenticity and relationships evolve from a sense of self—from self-awareness, self-confidence—and a healthy dose of humility. While self-confidence and humility can seem in opposition, they need to be balanced with finesse because they show up as two sides of the image you project.

We recommend using assessments to help leaders build self-awareness. Metcalf + Associates offers an Innovative Leadership assessment and a Resilience assessment. In addition, the Sofia Wellness Clinic offers a wide range of self-scoring tools to promote self-awareness and wellbeing.

In the Leader 2050 blog, we talked about competency model for leaders of the future, the details about specific behaviors associated with humility, authenticity, and self-awareness, and the importance of collaboration.
To initiate contact with like-minded individuals, you need to put yourself forward, out there—and this requires self-confidence.

So, the next question might be, how do you build your confidence? As with other skills, it does not develop overnight. Instead, you need to build it over time. Below are some things to remember in building self-confidence.
Confidence starts from within and with self-awareness. Confidence is anchored in how you see yourself. In many instances, lack of confidence is rooted in self-doubt. Inc magazine says that having a negative mindset may lead to self-sabotage because you are effectively telling yourself that you cannot accomplish a goal even before you start working toward it. To put it simply, you’re setting yourself up for failure. By developing a practice such as mindfulness, you will be able to increase your self-awareness and increase your capacity to replace self-sabotage with confident self-perception. The video, “Building Resilience: Six Steps to Managing Negative Thinking” is a tool to help you identify and effectively navigate self-destructive thinking when it occurs.

Another option to build self-awareness is a self-evaluation in which you explore the areas in which you lack confidence—and the reasons for your lack of self-assurance. Once you recognize the reasons, determine which ones you can address through mindfulness and managing your thinking. One of the recommendations in the video includes shifting from negative thinking to gratitude. By focusing on what is working and what you’re grateful for—a solid intellect, a well-prepared presentation, the love you feel from friends, family, and colleagues who support you—you will have a more positive outlook. Every time you start to have negative thoughts, use the process in this video to minimize the impact of negative thinking and to increase your self-confidence. This shift requires constant self-awareness and management of your thought process. It is astounding how a small change in mindset and thinking can contribute significantly to your ability to learn from every interaction rather than getting discouraged and losing confidence.

What is often perceived as confidence has to do with how other people perceive you. Networking Times published an anecdote about a woman who gained self-confidence by acting like a confident person. Eventually, she managed to be the same person inside as she appeared on the outside. Being able to act with confidence and manage inner conversations that undermine your image starts with self-awareness and self-management. The concept is not a new one. For years we’re heard about the value of role-playing. It is a process that can take a significant amount of inner work, particularly during those times when self-doubt ebbs and flows.

How can someone’s perception make another more confident? A great portion of what people consider confidence has to do with how you project yourself to others around you. Your appearance, body language, and tone of voice already give others an idea of how you are feeling and what you are thinking, even without listening to the words you are saying. If all three do not inspire trust, then it’s less likely that the person you are conversing with will not hear what you have to say—because you may be giving the message that you are not confident with an idea, service, or product that you are trying to get others to buy in to. In a nutshell, we project to each other. If I present myself as confident and capable, and you perceive me as such, it is mirrored back to me and gives me greater confidence.

As a leader, exhibiting low confidence may also decrease your employees’ self-assurance in their performance of tasks as well. In contrast, if you demonstrate appropriate self-confidence—holding your head high, sitting or standing straight, and speaking assertively instead of haltingly—you are more likely to catch the attention of other people, and you are also more likely to be heard. Self-confidence is an interesting topic when combined with professional humility. In the blog focusing on the Leadership 2050 competencies, we talk about the first competency being professional humility. Like many facets of leadership, it is imperative for leaders to find the best balance between appropriate humility and self-confidence. As we prove ourselves over the course of our careers, it is easier to be humble and self-confident because we already have a strong reputation—and because we have a better understanding of the mistakes we’ve made and can measure our growth over time. Entrepreneur provides some tips that you can follow to help you present yourself with confidence to other people.

Confidence requires preparation. Think about public speakers you hold in high regard. Chances are, you admire them for their confidence and for being knowledgeable about the topics they discuss. The thing is, these speakers did a lot of preparation, including intensive studying, to become well-informed about the subject they approach. It is hard to manage how we are going to feel (self-confident) in a stressful situation, and preparation is a great countermeasure to reduce the number of things that could potentially go wrong. It is tough to be confident when you are running late, get lost, spill coffee on yourself, or realize you don’t know as much about your topic or the audience as you should. Allowing appropriate time to prepare pays great dividends in bolstering confidence. Investing time in preparation will allow you to become more knowledgeable about the topics and people with whom you are talking.

Get Feedback. Lincoln was a man of integrity who used a journal for self-reflection and sought the opinions of others. If there are areas where you believe you may need to build skills to feel confident and perform well, seek feedback from your mentors or colleagues. Often, we build our skills before we feel confident. It takes skill to see ourselves the way others see us, so getting ongoing feedback allows us to calibrate our sense of self with how others see us. Accurate self-awareness is one of the most important skills in leadership because if we are unaware of how others see us, we miss important cues. Self-awareness, self-confidence, and humility are intertwined. As leaders, we need to continually practice and evolve these skills.

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.

HOW TO LEAD WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR EMOTIONS by Hemda Mizrahi and Pat Baxter

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HOW TO LEAD WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR EMOTIONS by Hemda Mizrahi and Pat Baxter

Pat Baxter Head Shot VA

Pat Baxter, Ed.D., MS, CSA, author of “Cool Change: Turning Emotions Into Leadership Strengths,” joined me on “Turn the Page”  to discuss how emotions help us to be guided by our experiences, better manage relationships, and take productive action. Listen to our conversation about engaging the benefits, and minimizing the liabilities of expressing feelings at work.

The ability to regulate one’s emotions is an important marker of performing well in high-pressure situations. The more limber you are in responding to stress, the more access you’ll be granted to influence others.

Dr. Baxter expanded on our discussion after the show, by sharing additional tactics for constructively engaging emotions:

EMPATHY IS A CRITICAL SKILL IN BUILDING STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS.
Research shows that women are likely to have higher scores in certain Emotional Intelligence competencies (which can make them strong leaders!), especially empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and relate to another’s feelings. Both empathy and emotional awareness are skills that can be learned. One of the most effective actions you can take to establish an empathetic relationship is to listen carefully and closely. When the person pauses or becomes quiet, repeat back what you heard (not word for word), using your own words to convey what you understood. Image Relationship Therapy, pioneered by Harville Hendrix, encourages the listener to then ask, “did I get it?” and “is there anything else?” This type of approach is foundational to coaching, counseling, and mediation given how supported, respected, and cared for the person speaking feels. It is a great strategy for deescalating a heated situation.

BEING EMOTIONALLY AWARE ENABLES YOU TO GET “UNSTUCK” IN YOUR EMOTIONS. Emotional awareness invites you to pinpoint the triggers and other factors that contribute to your emotions, and to be empowered by the insights that can liberate you from recurring traps. You also have the option to choose where you focus your attention. Instead of getting “stuck” feeling a certain way for days or longer, get unstuck by focusing on something you want to expand, like joy, peace, and confidence!

EMOTIONS ARE CONTAGIOUS.
Do you believe you can “catch” an emotion, as you would a cold? According to dictionary.com, “emotional contagion” is “the tendency to feel and express emotions similar to and influenced by those of others.” Recall a time when you were on a team or part of group that experienced a disappointment or a loss; how many of your fellow members felt the same way? Dr. Baxter suggests this tactic: Designate someone to help the group get unstuck by asking, “what good things have happened lately?” or “how can this situation help us?” This is precisely the tactic that research has shown distinguishes stress-resilient people from those who are prone to the adverse effects of stress (that is, those who view stress as helpful rather than “bad”).

KEEPING YOU ALIVE — AND FEELING ALIVE ARE THE GIFTS OF EMOTION.
Dr. Baxter advises, “Suppressing “bad” emotions, such as rage, fear, and sadness can function like a dam, and keep you from positives, like love and connection. Giving credence to your emotions can help to ensure your safety, health, and productivity.’

LEARN ABOUT THE LATEST RESEARCH ON EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE.
The Society of Emotional Intelligence (SoEI) hosts its annual global conference to share the must current research and practices related to emotional intelligence. SoEI also provides training and certification, which you can implement to enhance your organization’s success in areas such as engagement, selection, leadership development, sales training, and coaching.

Listen to our conversation, and read Dr. Baxter’s book to strengthen your leadership and personal effectiveness through the guidance of your emotions.

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