When positive psychologist Dr. Rick Snyder was on sabbatical from his teaching job at the University of Kansas, he went to the library to study the academic research on hope, only to discover that there was none. Why? Because no one had thought hope was a measurable concept.
While it may seem obvious that teams that communicate effectively are apt to be more successful than ones that don’t, the data tells a far richer story than that. Researchers at MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab conducted multiple studies to see how the most successful teams communicate. What they learned may surprise you.
One of their most striking discoveries is that how teams communicate is far more critical in terms of productivity and success than what they communicate. After studying multiple groups, they came to the conclusion that three key determinants affecting communication and, ultimately, team success. Those traits are energy, engagement, and exploration.
Where we might think of energy as strength or vitality, the scientists defined it as the number and nature of shared communications, anything from a head nod to an affirmation to a conversation. What they determined – and you may have observed – is that face-to-face communication is far more effective than any other form, with email and texting the least effective, and video chatting (the fewer people the better) somewhere in between. Teams with a high level of team energy would have numerous interactions, often delivered in face-to-face settings.
The second factor is engagement, which the study authors describe as the “distribution of energy” among teammates. In other words, it’s where team members interact with all other team members with a similar level of frequency and enthusiasm, rather than focusing their communications solely on the leader or one or two other team members. Team success, they found, was far more likely in the highly engaged teams.
The final success factor in team communication is exploration, defined as the practice of engaging with members outside the team, as well as team members. Individuals who sought connections and information outside their immediate circles, and then brought that information back to the group, expanded the knowledge base and problem-solving potential.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place.
- George Bernard Shaw
Here’s how the MIT team summed up the five most critical factors for effective team communication:
1. All team members talk and listen in approximately the same amounts, keeping their contributions succinct and straightforward.
2. Team members physically face each other and their discussions and gestures are lively and energetic.
3. Members connect with one another, not just the team leader.
4. Members carry on side conversations or back-channel discussions within the team. (The old leadership advisory - “Let’s just have one meeting, people” - doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny.)
5. Members meet, break, go exploring outside the team, and bring back information to share with teammates.
Organizations as far flung as a call center in the US and a bank in the Czech Republic that enacted changes based on this data found that communication improved rapidly. By instigating simple solutions, like having an entire team take their coffee break at the same time, or replacing small cafeteria tables with longer community tables to encourage interaction, companies increased engagement significantly, making the way for far greater team success.
What simple changes can you make to encourage lively face-to-face interaction?
“ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM” EXERCISE: To open lines of communication and discuss problems candidly, try this exercise. Ask each team member to spend a few minutes writing about an issue or challenge that can be difficult to discuss with the team, i.e. the elephant in the room. Ask them to identify whether this is an issue over which they have control, one they can influence, or one which they must accept.
Explain that there will be no judgement or reproach and then have each team member share the challenge with the group. Spend 10-15 minutes discussing each elephant and how the issue might be resolved.
Are you suffering from stress creep? Discover how to nip it in the bud!
You know what it’s like when you’re down to the wire on a project and suddenly that jolt of adrenalin kicks in and gets you to the finish line? That’s stress. In small doses, stress can give you a welcome energy boost and the increased focus you need to get the job done. But when you’re dealing with massive doses of stress – especially unrelenting stress with no recovery periods - it can take a physical, mental and emotional toll.
When your brain perceives danger – real or imagined - your natural survival instincts spring to your defense and you go into “fight or flight” mode. Your heart rate speeds up, your muscles tighten, your focus sharpens and your blood starts pumping faster. Stress can protect you by increasing your reaction time so that you’re able to slam on the brakes and avoid hitting a car that suddenly pulls out in front of you. Stress also keeps you sharp when you’re giving a presentation or studying for final exams.
The problem is that the amount of stress in your life can elevate without your even realizing it. I call this stress creep. It’s not hard for our stress to creep up on us in our ultra-driven society where we seem to pride ourselves on being crazy, busy, slammed on a 24/7 basis. And it’s literally 24/7 since our cyber-gadgets and social networking systems have added a right-now urgency and around-the-clock accessibility to our lives like never before.
So how do you know if your stress is under control or off the charts? Get a quick snapshot by answering the questions below with the following scores: 4 always, 3 often, 2 sometimes, and 1 never.
TEST YOUR STRESS CREEP
1. Are you drowning in deadlines?
2. Has your stress increased over the past year?
3. Are you juggling multiple responsibilities?
4. Have you lost or gained more than 10 pounds in the past year?
5. Is achievement important to you?
6. Are you able to relax, nap or enjoy down time?
7. Do your ever feel guilty that your prioritize work over family or friends?
8. Are you impatient or irritable?
9. Have you taken a vacation of more than 2-3 days in the past year?
10. Do you loved ones ever beg you to slow down?
Now, add your scores and see how your stress levels stack up.
10 – 20 TOO LAID BACK
While it’s good to be laid back in moderation, you’ve got so little stress in your life you’re probably not achieving much. You may also lack excitement or stimulation. Could it be that you’ve traded stress for stuck?
21 – 30 UNDER CONTROL
You’ve got a good handle on managing your stress, juggling your responsibilities and living a well-balanced life. Continue to keep your stress under control while you start getting more aggressive about getting unstuck. You can handle it!
31 – 40 OVER THE TOP
You are waaaaay too stressed. Get it under control or you may be heading for some serious repercussions. Start some de-stressing tactics immediately and consider scheduling a full physical. How are you going to get unstuck when you’re recovering from a stroke or heart attack?
If you landed in the “too laid back” category, maybe you’ve already written yourself off as an unmotivated, low-energy loser. Or, perhaps, you’re at the “over the top” end of the spectrum, but think your headaches, nausea and sleeplessness are just part of being a high-achiever. Wake up and smell the cortisol! We’re fooling ourselves to think that feeling bad is causing our stress when, in fact, it’s the other way around. It’s often our stress that’s making us feel bad. Lots of us, apparently, because numerous studies have indicated that between 60-90% of doctor’s visits are stress-related.
Not convinced yet that stress could be creeping up on you right this minute? Let’s go a little deeper into how stress presents itself in your life physically, behaviorally and emotionally. While it may not be unusual to suffer from some, or even many, of the symptoms from time to time, ask yourself if yours have become more pronounced or prolonged in the past year. If so, that could be a sign of unchecked stress creep. Look over the checklist below and circle any of the symptoms that you experience on a regular basis. Take this list to your next check-up or, if you’re concerned, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away to discuss your stress levels.
Constipation/Diarrhea Sleep problems
Back pain/tension Clenched jaw/teeth-grinding
Weight loss or gain High blood pressure
Sex problems/lack of drive Fatigue
Increased sweating Skin breakouts/rashes
Mood swings Constant negative thinking
Restlessness Guilt feelings
Sudden job dissatisfaction Resentment
Anxiety/Insecurity Inability to concentrate
Burnout Feelings of anger
Drug use Increased smoking
Excessive drinking Outbursts of anger or blaming
Lack of productivity Irritability
Crying bouts Relationship problems
Stress robs you of the energy, focus and enthusiasm you need to change your life. But stress doesn’t just keep you stuck, stress kills. It can elevate your blood pressure, raise your risk of heart disease and stroke, and suppress your immune system. In the most stressful year of my life, I went through a divorce, left the corporate world, started my own business, published my first book, bought a house and my dad passed away. I ended up with at least half of the symptoms on that checklist and wouldn’t wish a year like that on anyone.
I’d always thought my tolerance for stress was fairly high, but I definitely hit my ceiling that year. We all have different levels of stress tolerance, or course. Some people thrive on the high-pressure lifestyle, while others have a much lower threshold. It’s important to recognize your personal tolerance level so you don’t go beyond it, at least not on a regular basis. Luckily, there are some inherent conditions that enhance people’s ability to handle stress. See if you are fortunate enough to possess any of the following factors:
- A solid network of supportive friends and family
- Openness to change and an ability to roll with the punches
- An optimistic outlook about life
- A sense of humor and cheerful attitude
- A belief in a higher power or life purpose
- Self-control and confidence in your ability to cope
Recognizing how much stress you’ve let creep into your life is your first line of defense for creating a de-stressed lifestyle!
It’s time to rediscover the lost art of listening.
As an executive coach specializing in leadership, I conduct a lot of 360 assessments. If you’re unfamiliar with that process, it’s a development tool that gathers feedback from a client’s supervisor, colleagues, and direct reports to see what’s working – and what’s not – in terms of their performance and productivity.
Although some jaded types look askance at the 360 process I find it incredibly valuable. Given that most people are far more comfortable sharing candid feedback with an objective outsider (i.e. me) than they are with the colleague who needs the feedback, it’s a powerful way to identify areas for improvement.
After seventeen years in this field, it no longer surprises me that one of the biggest areas of complaint from employees is that their leaders are not great listeners. Granted, those leaders may be juggling huge projects and managing lots of people, but that’s no excuse when your hard-working team deserves your time, energy, and respect. And your ear.
See how you’re doing with basic listening skills by asking yourself the following:
· Do you maintain appropriate eye contact with the person who’s speaking?
· Do you lean in, mirror body language, and show the speaker that you are actively engaged in what he/she is saying?
· Do you refrain from interrupting until a break in the speaker’s thoughts?
· Do you summarize or reflect the speaker’s ideas in positive ways back to them?
· Do you ask thoughtful questions that encourage further dialogue?
· Do you put your phone, computer, and other distractions away until the conversation has been completed?
If you said yes to all or most of the questions, good for you. You’re a good listener. But there’s a deeper level of listening that the best leaders demonstrate - the kind that makes the speaker feel like the most important person in the room. It is called “focused listening.” The listener’s caring attitude can encourage the speaker to share openly without feeling judged or chastised.
Dating back to tribal times, when we had to quickly distinguish friend from foe, people can tell pretty quickly whether you genuinely care about them simply by your level of attentiveness. Focused listening requires a deeper discipline than basic listening; it calls for commitment, concentration and caring. When you routinely practice focused listening, you can create a culture based on trust, respect, and an open flow of information.
Try the following to take your listening skills to a deeper level:
· Experiment with A-B-A communication - I witnessed this when I toured a nuclear enrichment plant a few years ago. A technician initiated a process with a verbal announcement of the procedure about to take place, the other technician echoed back a confirmation of the announcement and then the originating tech, confirmed the confirmation. In other words, it was an A-B-A check-and-balance scenario - A: I say something, B: you confirm what I just said, and A: I confirm your confirmation. If this works in a nuclear power plant, you can be pretty sure it will work in your office.
· Before attending a function where you’ll meet a lot of new people, make the conscious commitment to remember the names of as many attendees as possible. When you’re in “the zone” and you’ve shut out distractions it’s a lot easier to remember names. And as they say, a person’s own name is the sweetest music.
· If you feel your attention getting diverted, zero in on the eyes. Whether in a social or business situation, concentrating on a speaker’s face as she talks will keep you present in the conversation.
· Connect with the speaker by genuinely caring about what he/she has to say. Listen to the intent behind the words and observe body language and demeanor. Fuel your focused listening with compassion and curiosity about the other person’s point of view, even if it’s completely different from your own.
· Choose 5-7 words that the speaker has said and repeat those back in your own way. When we pick up on others’ words, phrases, and themes, we create a powerful unconscious connection.
· Use focused listening to pose tough questions including, are we solving the right problem? What are next steps? What’s my/your role in the process? Only through listening deeply can you create the type of meaningful exchange that leads to positive action. And isn’t that what we really want?
As part of my work, I’ve helped name products, book titles, service packages and a couple of companies. Although it’s likely that your business or the company you work for already has a name, that doesn’t mean that you’re through with the naming process. You may be charged with naming a project, team, corporate initiative, blog, campaign, community activity, book, TED talk or just about anything else at some point in your career. Names can be critically important and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Some names not only tell you who the company is and what they do, but they also provide an attitude, a tone, even a specific promise.
Although there are few hard and fast rules for naming - and often you don’t know if you’ve got a great name until it’s stood the test of time - there are some things you can do to increase your odds of landing on a name that backs up your brand. Check out these suggestions:
- Say who you are. When possible, it’s a great idea to encapsulate the value proposition of the enterprise into the name. We immediately get the gist, if not the whole picture, of Whole Foods or Boston Consulting Group. Even company names that play with words like Zappos (a pun on the Spanish word zapatos for shoes) or Italiatour, can say a lot about their business with just their names.
- Combine clarity and cleverness. Although I almost always advocate for being clear over being clever, you don’t want your name to be dull or boring. Conveying a sense of energy, enthusiasm, and personality can lay the groundwork for telling your clients how to feel about you, like Krispy Kreme or CharityBuzz. When you make your name aspirational in a way that connects with people's emotions like Operation Smile or Save the Children, it can make a huge difference in building followership.
- Make it sticky. Think about how memorable your name is. Can people recall it a day or two after you’ve told them what it is? Can they spell it? Does it make sense when spoken and written? How about when you add a dotcom or other web extension after it? Once you’ve done some brainstorming, think back to your list of proposed names - including the good, the bad and the ugly - and see how you feel about them. You may be surprised to see what names have stuck with you or sparked additional usable ideas.
- Short is sweet. When it comes to naming, size matters and short is better. Short names are generally easier to remember than long ones and often look better on websites and printed materials. Be sure to check BetterWhoIs.com or other domain buying websites to find out if the URL of your name is available. I recommend that you buy several variations of it, including misspellings, so you can redirect users to your site if online searchers get the name wrong.
- Create a word. Eventually, you’ll be creating a whole brand language so why not start with your name? The advantages of creating a name from scratch are that it can be easier to acquire a URL and trademark (you’ll need to clear it with copyright attorney or through USPTO.gov), since it’s unlikely a made-up word will already be in use. The disadvantage is that it may require some ongoing explanation and awareness-building before it sticks, since it may be unfamiliar or obscure to potential users. Some well-known businesses like Google, Verizon and Skype created unique names by combining words in unusual ways. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin joked that their online search engine could search for a googol of information, or the equivalent of the number 1 followed by 100 zeros. Verizon was a combination of the word veritas, Latin for truth, and horizon. And Skype was originally dubbed Sky-Peer-to-Peer and eventually shortened to the relatively sticky Skype. Enjoy your name game!
Learn more about naming, positioning and branding in Capture the Mindshare and the Market Share Will Follow!
Love this "Flowered by Howard" sign I spotted in a neighbor's front yard. The name says it all!
First Kate Spade. Then Anthony Bourdain. Then the report released by the CDC saying that suicide has increased by 25% since 1999, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the US. If we learn anything from these losses – including the non-celebrities among them – it’s that the conversation about addiction, mental illness, and suicide needs to come into the light.
Mental illness is an issue that hits close to home for me. My stepmother, who suffered from chronic depression, committed suicide when I was young and my brother, a retired college professor, is schizophrenic. He was gracious enough to let me interview him for my latest book, where I talk about “radical hopefulness” and the extreme challenges of health, homelessness, and mental illness.
Here are some eye-opening stats from the World Health Organization and the National Alliance on Mental Illness that I discovered when I was researching my book:
- 1 in 5 adults in the US suffers from mental illness every year
- 1 in 25 adults in the US suffers from a mental illness so severe that it limits one or more major life activities
- Of the 20.2 million people in the US who have experienced a substance abuse problem, half of them also have a mental disorder
- 26% of people living in homeless shelters suffer from a mental illness
- An estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide each day
- More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.
The Awesome Quote
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” — Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
The Righteous Challenge
Learn the signs of mental illness and know who to call when you or a friend, family member, or co-worker needs help. While it can be hard to tell if someone has a serious mental problem, especially if you’re not a trained healthcare clinician, there are some warning signs. Changes in emotions or actions, especially sudden ones, can be an indication that your loved one needs assessment and support. Look for the following signs in adults and adolescents:
- Depression, sadness, or irritability
- Extreme high and low moods
- Withdrawal from normally pleasurable social activities
- Changes in eating and sleeping
- Auditory or visual hallucinations
- Strange or paranoid thoughts or delusions
- Anger or excessive fear
- Substance abuse or self-medication
- Suicidal thoughts
If you are concerned that your loved one could be a danger to him/herself or others, call 911 and be prepared to describe the symptoms that prompted your call. Contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline or National Institute for Mental Health for more help. Here are links:
Praise for The Hope-Driven Leader
"Having HOPE is something we all struggle with at some point in our lives. It’s comforting to know that others have fought this same battle and have come out the other side, happier, healthier and yes, more hopeful. This is a book for anyone who fearlessly tackles each day as it comes." - Tracey Noonan, CEO & Co-Founder of Wicked Good Cupcakes, Inc.
“Hope. That ethereal and ever-elusive component we seek. Libby Gill’s The Hope-Driven Leader guides the reader through the maze and to that place where hope dwells, how to collaborate with hope, and open up to the possibilities that hope will bring. The Hope-Driven Leader is a guide for all leaders, may they lead at work, at home, or at heart. - Catherine Carr, Humanitarian, Doctors Without Borders
My thanks to the brave people who shared their stories about dealing with issues of mental and physical health and homelessness in The Hope-Driven Leader. Although it may seem overwhelming, I share simple strategies in my book for helping those who are struggling with these crippling conditions. Please read it and be ready to take action!
I just returned from keynoting at the Arizona Leading Age conference for people who work in the elder care space. These dedicated experts have such an abundance of compassion for the seniors in their care, I was inspired to share this information from my new book, The Hope-Driven Leader: Harness the Power of Positivity at Work.
Having coached leaders in elder services, I’ve observed that (acute illness aside) some seniors maintain incredible enthusiasm well into their later years, while others seem to fade prematurely. My mother Barbara has been a bundle of energy her entire life, learning to fly a plane in her twenties, play golf in her thirties, and race sailboats in her sixties, all while working in healthcare. Now 97 years old, she still takes a daily walk, is a voracious reader, and occasionally contemplates writing a book about what 90-year-olds could be doing with their remaining time.
Curious about longevity around the globe, as well as my own life expectancy, I consulted the Blue Zones project for my book. Founded by explorer, author, and educator Dan Buettner, he teamed up with National Geographic demographers to locate the world’s longest-living people and figure out what gave them not only their longevity but their youthful spirit. They identified five geographical locations with the greatest proportions of people who lived to age 100 or more: the highlands of inner Sardinia; the Aegean Island of Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica; Loma Linda, California (home to a large group of Seventh Day Adventists); and Okinawa, Japan.
I learned that the average life expectancy in the US for someone born today is 78.2 years. When I took the Blue Zones Test, I discovered that my healthy life expectancy is 88.2 years, my actual life expectancy is 95.5, and my potential life expectancy - if I make a few changes - is 97.8 years. Here’s what Blue Zones, and other experts, say are critical to maintaining a positive spirit.
1. Move naturally. Forget the gym and throw out your weed-whacker. Do house and garden work under your own steam and reap the physical rewards.
2. Purpose. As I discuss in my this book, having a deep sense of purpose gives you something to live for, potentially adding seven years to your life.
3. De-stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation and other age-related diseases. Find routines and rituals like the Blue Zone folks, from prayer to naps to happy hour.
4. Stop eating when you’re 80% full. Okinawans recite a Confucian saying before meals to remind them to stop eating when they are 80% full. Blue Zone seniors eat their biggest meal in the morning and their smallest in the early evening, eating nothing after that.
5. Be plant-centric. Beans, including fava, lentils, black, and soy, are the number one choice among centenarians. They favor vegetables in general, typically eating only five portions of meat per month. That’s less than many of us eat in a week.
6. Wine. Here’s some good news. People in Blue Zones drink moderately, but regularly. One or two glasses of wine per day maximum is suggested, preferably taken with meals and friends.
7. Practice your faith. Almost all of the centenarians belong to a faith-based community of some sort. You can add 4-14 years to your life by attending a weekly service. It doesn’t much matter, apparently, what the denomination is.
8. Family first. Living with or near loved ones and relatives can add years to your life. Interestingly, having elders living with you also reduces disease and mortality rates for kids in the home, too. Commit to a life partner and you can add three years to your expectancy.
9. Choose your tribe carefully. Supportive social groups, whether friends or family, that reinforce healthy habits can also add years to your life. Research, such as the Framingham Study, has shown that both healthy and unhealthy behaviors are contagious, so choose carefully. The Okinawans select groups of five friends, called “moais,” that commit to support each other for life. How’s that for an accountability group?
There’s a common misconception that you can form a habit in 21 days. Like lots of other urban legends, this one is rooted in a little bit of truth. Dr. Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon who wrote the blockbuster self-help book Psycho-Cybernetics in 1960. Dr. Maltz noticed that when he performed plastic surgery on patients, it took most of them approximately 21 days to become accustomed to their new nose, chin, or implants. Over the years, his message got twisted and restated by his many fans, among them teachers, coaches and self-help gurus, who insisted that it took 21 days to form a habit. But research tells us that it can take up to 66 days to form a habit that sticks.
While we tend to think of habits as behaviors that get repeated, in psychological terms, habits are actions that are automatically triggered in the context of a specific situation. For example, putting on your seatbelt after getting in the car or washing your hands after using the bathroom. When the action is repeated based on the contextual cue that triggers it, it becomes a habit.
When I was a kid, people rarely used seatbelts. Changing people’s seatbelt-wearing habits required a long-term, multi-pronged effort including legislation, advertising, and even the cooperation of film and television studios showing the stars buckling up. I was part of the effort to lobby TV producers to portray their lead characters buckling up. The goal wasn’t just to educate people about safety, it was to make seatbelt wearing automatic. Now, if you try to back out of your driveway without giving your kids the necessary time to buckle their belts, you’re likely to hear them holler. Most people don’t even think about it anymore – they just secure the belt. That’s automaticity.
The beauty of automaticity is two-fold. First, the action requires so little thought on your part that your brain is free to focus on other things, like that bike in the driveway, or the truck that’s pulling out behind you. Secondly, when your willpower or motivation starts to wane, the habit still sticks because it takes so little effort that it’s become reflexive. Further, if you fail to perform the action (take, for example, not wearing your seatbelt, or missing your workout), it just feels weird. Eventually, it takes more effort not to perform the task you’ve worked so hard to program into your mind and life.
I’ve broken down what I consider to be the four essential steps to habit formation. If you approach them in order, one step at a time, forming positive habits will be easier than you think.
Step #1 of habit formation is selection phase, where you choose the behavior and the context in which it will be performed. For example, if you’ve decided you need to incorporate more fruit into your diet, you make it part of your daily breakfast. If you want to make walking a part of your exercise routine, you leave your shoes beside your bed at night and head out every morning at 6:30. When you repeat the behavior in the same context – fruit for breakfast, walking at 6:30 - it’s more likely to stick.
Step #2 is the repetition phase, where you perform the chosen behavior linked to the appropriate context over a length of time. For some people, this might be as few as 66 days (again, let go of the 21-day notion) or it could be as long as nine months before automaticity kicks in. Once the behavior becomes automatic, it’s just a matter of keeping it going, especially when your lifestyle or routine changes. Missing the chosen behavior once in a while doesn’t seem to affect the overall process of habit-formation. So don’t give up on the action if your routine gets disrupted – which it inevitably will. Just get right back on the habit horse.
Step #3 is the expansion phase, where you increase the intensity, time, or strength of the habit you’re forming. For example, say you’ve started walking (action) at 6:30 each morning (context) for 20 minutes. After a week, add a little bit to the time or intensity. Maybe you increase your 20 minutes to 25 or you add an uphill stretch to your walk. When you ramp up your time, pace, or intensity in small increments, you’ll hardly even notice that you’ve increased the effort needed. Do this for a week, then add on a little more. If it’s a strain, back it down to your prior level and work your way up again. The idea is to add micro-increases slowly over time. Trust me, the small wins will add up to big results.
Step 4 is the automaticity phase, where the habit has become so routine that you rarely even think about it – you just do it. At this point, you’ve achieved solid habit strength and the action has become a normal part of your life, requiring very little effort on your part. In case you’re wondering, stopping a habit is far more difficult than forming a habit. It’s hard to make a habit out of not doing something. If you’re trying to stop smoking or overeating or overdrinking, I applaud you. But you may want to try forming a new habit that slowly replaces the old one.
A word of caution: variation is the enemy of automaticity. Even though many experts suggest that you “mix it up” to stave off the boredom of repetition, it’s actually the repetition – in context – that builds automaticity. So be wary of switching up the context in which you perform the action. Even if your schedule gets hectic or you’re traveling, you’re still likely to be able to find a piece of fruit for breakfast or take a walk at your usual time. And, as I said before, a miss or two won’t affect your overall habit formation, so don’t even try to tell yourself you might as well give it up if your routine gets thrown off.
Let’s recap the process of habit formation:
- Choose a goal that you'd like to achieve. Make it count. If you don’t care about it, you’re not likely to stick with it.
- Select a simple daily action that will move you toward your goal.
- Decide when and where you will practice that action consistently. This provides the context for the action.
- Repeat the action each day.
- Expand the intensity, time, or effort in tiny increments.
- Keep going until you’ve achieved automaticity. Remember the 66-day rule and cut yourself some slack until it becomes effortless.
- You’ve formed a positive habit. Time to celebrate!
Want to spread hope? Help me get the word out by logging onto the Thunderclap link below. Sign in (free and easy), pick the social media platforms you use, and add your quote or use the ones I’ve pre-loaded. All the posts will blast out on April 10th, launch day for my new book The Hope-Driven Leader!
P.S. If you want to read the first chapter before you comment, download it on my homepage. Thanks a million!
While most of us consider selfishness an unsavory trait, there are times that it’s absolutely critical to watch out for number one. Like in your career!
If you want to stay happy and hopeful in your current position while you pave the way for an even better professional future it’s essential that you learn to be selfish. Not in a mean curmudgeonly kind of way – nobody likes that person – but in an appropriately self-protective manner. After all, if you’re constantly putting everyone else’s priorities above yours, not only will you fail to do your best work, but you may also unconsciously be sending the message that you’re incapable of being a strong leader.
In a later post, I’ll address 10 Ways to Say No and Make It Feel Like Yes so you don’t give people the perception that you’re uncooperative and non-collaborative. But right now, let’s look at the key five reasons you need to develop a selfish streak.
1. You know your priorities better than anyone. Granted, you’ve probably got a boss who dictates roles and assigns tasks, but you have the ultimate control of when and how you execute on those deliverables. If you let too many people get in the way of what you need to accomplish, you’re handing over your power and allowing them to decide what’s important and what’s not. Don’t cave when it counts.
2. You need to protect your calendar. If you let other people determine how you should spend your time, your calendar will fill up faster than you can say time is money. While your colleagues may think you’re really nice (or a total pushover) for saying yes to every request that comes along, you will soon discover that your day or quarter has been used up on other people’s priorities while you haven’t been able to accomplish what’s important to you. Stick to your scheduling guns.
3. You’ll teach others how to treat you. I helped launch the Dr. Phil Show and I must have heard him say, “You teach people how to treat you,” about a million times. And it’s so true. If you refuse (politely, of course) to give in to others’ demands when you’ve got your hands full, people will soon learn not to bother you with extraneous requests or time-wasting busywork. Nip those non-productive behaviors in the bud.
4. You can develop new skills and grow your network. Assuming you want to continue to grow professionally, you need to focus on learning new skills and expanding your contact base. The best way to do that is to protect your time and energy so you can do a great job in your current role. Only then will you be in a position to request additional coaching or training, or even the funds to help you continue your education. Remember, the most valuable employees are the lifelong learners.
5. You can reduce stress, improve health, and maintain your sanity. This may be the most important reason of all to be selfish at work. Even when things are going well, work can be emotionally and physically draining. Only by staying true to yourself - meaning that you hold your time, energy, and resources sacred – can you serve others at the highest level. And that includes serving you.
So go forth and be selfish in work and life. You’ll be happier and healthier. If you have a favorite tip for being appropriately selfish in the workplace, comment below or send it to me at Libby@LibbyGill.com.
We often hear the term “settling” regarding romantic relationships. Did you settle for your significant other because you didn’t want to be alone? Did you settle because it was simply too frightening to go out and find someone new? Or did you settle because you didn’t want to put yourself under the microscope and see what you needed to fix?
But settling can happen in any part of your life: work, family, health, finances. Not that you can control every event. Bad things really do happen to good people. But if you know there’s more you can do, have, or become and you don’t strive for it, then, perhaps, you deserve what you get it. Harsh, I know, but that’s the reality. Ask yourself if you have ever experienced any of these signals that you’re settling.
Seven Signals That You’re Settling
1. You have a dream or goal stuck way in the back of your head, but you never seem to take any action toward it. Maybe it’s changing careers, starting a business, having a child, or running a marathon. It’s like an earworm, also known as stuck song syndrome or musical imagery repetition (and, no, I didn’t make up those terms), that catchy melody or unforgettable lyric that you can’t get out of your mind long after the music stops playing. You try to ignore it, but it’s always in the background, drumming that beat in your head and heart.
2. You’re living the someday syndrome, keeping your goal in the later-on-in-life category. Guess what? You don’t know how long you have on this earth. Do you really want to wait around to see if you manage to squeeze in something you know in your heart of hearts is truly meaningful to you?
3. You’ve let the green-eyed monster of envy and jealousy take up permanent residence in your gut. When you see other people succeeding, you find some way to attribute it to their education, money, nepotism or just dumb luck. You tell yourself that they have all the advantages that you don’t. Even if some or all of those beliefs are true, so what? By convincing yourself that if only you had all the great stuff those successful people do, you’re be successful, too, you’re letting yourself off the hook from facing the reality of your situation – whatever it is – and doing the work that will get you where you want to be.
4. You’ve got a shrink-to-fit personality. You may have big dreams, but you tell yourself they’re just not realistic. Instead, it’s okay to keep plugging away at this safe, boring, little job. Or to stick with playing small rather than risk ruffling anyone else’s feathers –or worse, risk failing at something. You’re like those amusement park Whack-a-Moles: if you just stay safely underground, no one can ever smack you back down.
5. You’re a substitution junkie. Rather than get your high by fulfilling your dreams, you become obsessed with food, alcohol, television, news, social media or other diversions. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a food and wine person of the first order, but I don’t kid myself that earthly pleasures (including TV and movies, two more of my favs) are any kind of substitute for purposeful work or meaningful relationships.
6. You’re a perpetual blamer of others. If you can’t have what you really want, it’s somebody else’s fault. It’s your boss holding you back. Or the government, the job market, your childhood or spouse. You can find a million excuses outside yourself for not getting what you want, but you know that the only one to blame is you.
7. You’re hope-starved. Rather than feeding on positive ideas and inspiring people, you let the negatives of the world – and there are plenty of them – become your constant diet. You tell yourself that you don’t have what it takes, you don’t know how to get ahead, you don’t have the right skills or certifications, you're too old, too young, too dumb, too smart, or too whatever. The truth is, you’ve let your positive vision of the future get buried under other people’s negative rubble. It’s time to start digging out.
Awareness that you’re settling for less than you deserve could be the kick in the rear end you need to start focusing on what you really want. And even if you don’t particularly feel like you’re settling, let’s see how the practice of mentally connecting our present to our future can help us realize our vision.
Libby’s new book is available on Amazon.com, BN.com and anywhere books are sold. Order your copy now!
- Do you lead by ordering or inspiring?
- Do you 'walk your talk' or expect others to 'do as I say, not as I do?'
- Do you blend kindness with candor when providing feedback?
It’s easy to overlook the significance of likeability in the workplace, but research tells us that likeable leaders create more loyalty, engagement, and collaboration.
So what makes a likeable leader? Depends who you ask, of course, but most human resource and leadership experts agree that it starts with self-awareness. Among the traits that likeable leaders have in common are humility and approachability; generosity of spirit; stability and sound judgment; the ability to connect emotionally; passion and a sense of purposefulness; and character.
Ask yourself the following questions to see how you score as a Likeable Leader. Note your responses and the corresponding points using the following key:
· Yep, I’ve got this. Score 3 points
· Kinda sorta. Score 2 points
· I could do a LOT better. Score 1 point
1. If you make a promise to someone in your group, do you keep it?
2. Do you promote easy collaboration and open communication?
3. Are you trusted and respected by your team?
4. Do you give feedback that is both candid and constructive, without belittling the receiver?
5. Do you share the credit with others when things go well?
6. Do you take the blame when things go wrong?
7. Do you consciously set a good examples through your words and actions?
8. Are you aware when your team members feel stressed or overloaded?
9. Do you know your employees as people, and not just as professionals?
10. Do you attempt to keep a level playing field among your team members, and avoid playing favorites unfairly?
11. Do you show vulnerability when appropriate?
12. Do you have a sense of humor, encouraging fun and laughter among your team?
Check below to get your Leadership Likeability score:
1-12 Barely Likeable Boss: Chances are you put your own needs before others, failing to give your teammates the encouragement and support they need to grow. Warm up your communication and make sure you treat people with respect and kindness.
13-24 Fair to Middling Manager: You’re doing a decent job of demonstrating care and kindness to others, but it still leaves a lot to be desire. Fine-tune your leadership likeability with deep listening, positive role modeling, and direct feedback.
24-36 Inspirational Leader: Bravo! You’re showing genuine care and concern for team members, an authentic desire to connect, and the ability to inspire others to grow and develop. Continue to help others as you build a culture of collaboration, trust, and respect.
One of the biggest complaints I hear from clients is that they have to attend too many meetings. It’s a totally fair gripe: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Time Use Survey (yep, they survey this stuff), American workers spend an average of 8.7 hours per week in meetings.
And I know plenty of people who would argue that that number is way too low. So here are some timely tips for making your meetings more meaningful, productive, and, yes, even fun.
1. Ask yourself if a meeting is the right way to get the job done. Would a focused work session be a better alternative? A brainstorming group? A conversation with one or two colleagues? If you’ve ruled out all the other ways to accomplish your goal, then go ahead – schedule your meeting.
2. State the purpose of the meeting and back it up with a written agenda. All meetings should have a clear objective that’s easily measured by the meeting’s end, meaning you either achieved the goal (decision made, information gathered, etc.) or you didn’t. If you didn’t get what you wanted, schedule another meeting or find another way to get the desired result. But never go into a meeting winging it.
3. Invite attendees selectively. It’s become a backwards sort of corporate status symbol to get invited to lots of meetings. When you’re the inviter, determine whether you really need a cast of thousands or if four or five people would accomplish more. At Amazon, Jeff Bezos has declared that no meeting should require more than two pizzas to feed all attendees. While that sounds like a breezy rule of thumb, there’s solid evidence that the more people invited to a meeting, the more productivity goes down. Think about those calendar invites before you send them.
4. Watch the timing. Just because a meeting is long, doesn’t mean it’s effective. Choose a timeframe that sends a “we mean business” message, like a 22-minute meeting. Or consider a 10-15 minute “standing meeting” or a “morning huddle” where everyone stays on their feet, literally, for the duration. Try an unusual start time like 9:19 am to get people’s attention. Then, start on time, resist the urge to backtrack to fill in late-comers (shame on them), and end on time, resolution or not. People will not only be more willing to attend your meetings, but they’ll come prepared.
5. Set strict guidelines and enforce them consistently. Once you’ve stated the meeting’s purpose in a written agenda, invited the right people, and started the meeting on time, make sure you adhere to the objectives at hand, preferably three or less. If anything is off-topic, park it by writing it down on a “parking lot list” and assign ownership to someone to follow up at a later time. Consider parking your devices outside the conference room door, too.
6. Have a little fun. Start your meetings with something unexpected once in a while: ask everyone to share a personal tidbit, bring some food, tell a joke, start with an icebreaker, give away some swag, or do a quick go-round about the upcoming weekend. Send a message that says while you mean business, you can still have a good time together!
Stay tuned for the launch of my new book, The Hope-Driven Leader: Harness the Power of Positivity at Work. You can pre-order it on Amazon now!
You’ve heard of servant leadership, but do you practice it? Check out the lengths to which these leaders at Abbott went to bring the concept to life.
No doubt you’ve heard the term servant leadership buzzing around your workplace. While the concept likely started as far back as 500 BC with Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu, others have popularized the notion in more recent times. Businessman Robert Greenleaf started the modern servant leadership movement in 1970 with his seminal essay which suggested that leaders should put others’ needs before their own quest for power or material gain. Pretty radical, right?
In my 17 years as an executive coach and leadership consultant, I’ve discovered how rare – and precious - it is to meet leaders who are as genuinely dedicated to their individual workers as they are to the organization. Or, for that matter, to their own climb up the corporate ladder.
I find myself constantly explaining that servant leadership is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do. When we treat our team members with trust, respect, and compassion – in other words, like most of us want to be treated –that positive experience is often passed along directly to the end user. Zappos, Southwest Airlines and Ritz-Carlton are famous for taking care of staff the way they want them to care of customers. And it works.
But one leadership team blew me away with their commitment and creativity when it comes to servant leadership. I recently conducted a day-long strategy session with the Central Plains Sales Team for Abbott, a global medical device company. From our very first conversation, I could see the level of dedication. Led by Abbott VP of Sales Gray Fleming, the entire senior team was on the phone for every one of our calls in preparation for the interactive seminar. They were determined to make the day meaningful and memorable, and so was I.
As Gray told me, “In our organization, we try to make servant leadership as straightforward as possible: Lead from the back and remember to say thank you. When the opportunity was realized that we could actually serve our teams, it was a no-brainer as there is no better way to demonstrate that thank you. In my opinion, the easiest way to find these opportunities is to focus on your “role” in leadership versus your “title” in the corporation.”
The event was a great success, with lively participation, free-flowing ideas, and solid next-step action plans. But it was what happened after the workshop that really drove home the concept of servant leadership. Gray and his senior team, comprised of Dan Stephens, Charlie Robins, Brent Temple, and Gail Carlock, planned a surprise awards banquet dinner cruise around Lake Michigan.
As the group of nearly 100 sales representatives walked up the gangplank and boarded the boat, they were greeted by the guys – their own supervisors – in waiters’ uniforms bearing trays of wine and champagne. And it wasn’t just for show. Gray and his leadership team waited on their team for the entire cocktail hour and on into dinner. It didn’t stop there: after handing out beautiful crystal awards and bottles of Veuve Clicquot in recognition of the years’ sales superstars, the gentlemen invited award winners to sign their waiter jackets with markers. A wearable wall of good wishes for future success.
While seeing these leaders literally serving was the cleverest demonstration of servant leadership I’ve ever seen, there are plenty of things you can do sans champagne or waiters’ jackets. See which of these expressions of servant leadership would feed your folks:
- Recognize excellence. In between the big awards functions and formal recognition events, remember to cite people who’ve exceeded expectations. Celebrate even the small wins with flowers, books, or $5 Starbucks cards. Send a personal thank you email, copying the entire team for a job well done. Or do something really special, like Graham Weston, one of the founders of hosting company Rackspace, who used to give not only his parking space but the use of his personal vehicle to a standout employee every month.
- Offer ongoing education. Nothing says “I value you” more than investing in someone’s growth and development. When time and budget allow, identify staff members to send to conferences, stipulating that they share takeaways with the rest of the team upon their return. Help people chart out their career paths, offering skills training and support to get them to the next level. Remember that life-long learners are the new gold standard for top talent.
- Nurture your network. Make sure you’re giving back to the people who helped you get where you are today. Along with current employees who’ve had your back, reach out to former bosses, teachers, and coaches who have invested time and energy toward your success. A hand-written card, a friendly phone call, or a lunch invitation are easy ways to acknowledge that others have served you. After I gave a young staff member his first contract and encouraged him to buy the house he was considering, he called me every year for more than a decade on the anniversary of his closing date. Twenty years later, we’re still buddies.
- Hold informal outings. While the company holiday party or annual retreat are great occasions to have on the calendar, don’t overlook the opportunity for more casual connections. Gather everyone for a Friday afternoon happy hour or invite them to your house for a backyard barbecue. Like Gray and his gang, wait on them hand and foot and they’ll know you really mean it when you talk about service.
- Remember the small niceties. Finally, just like your mother told you when you were a kid – and Gray reiterated - a simple please and thank you goes a long way. (Especially in email, where tone is notoriously absent.) As James Taylor sang, “Shower the people you love with love.” You betcha!
I’ve seen it happen again and again. A talented executive is brought into an organization to “shake things up,” only to discover that most people don’t want shaking up. They want to keep on doing exactly what they did the day before.
Here’s what happened to a former client I’ll call James. James was a manufacturing executive who was hired by a global engineering firm to overhaul their supply chain. He was thrilled, expecting the work to be an exciting challenge. What he didn’t expect was that people would be so resistant to change that they actually avoided getting to know him.
What James quickly realized was that he couldn’t just be a change manager, implementing efficiencies and making system updates. He had to be a change leader, creating a compelling vision of the future and helping colleagues connect the dots so they could see exactly where they fit into the picture.
James started his change leadership process with informal walk-around meetings, getting to know people and building their trust over time. Through constant communication and ongoing education, James helped his colleagues see not only where the company was headed, but also the opportunities that awaited them as individuals.It wasn’t an easy process and James would be the first to tell you that change didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. Just eighteen months later, his supply chain overhaul completed, James was moved to another location so he work his magic there.
Here are some tips for all you change leaders:
- Create emotional connections with formal and informal followers. Spend the time finding out what’s on people’s minds and what changes they feel are important. Once your coworkers know, like, and trust you, change gets a lot easier.
- Change is not a project, it’s a mindset. While it's okay to acknowledge people’s doubts and insecurities, it’s your job as a change leader to role model that change is not a death sentence, it’s an opportunity for growth.
- Be patient. Real change takes time and effort which can take a toll on those who are constantly beating the drum for new ideas. But hang in there, stay positive, solicit the support of like-minded people - and let everyone else catch up!
We often think of settling in terms of romance, but are you settling for less in your career?
For a little pre-summer fun, let’s take a look at your leadership superpowers through the lens of those actual (okay, fictional) superheroes.
Learning to "go with the flow," isn't just a New Age catch-phrase.
Ever noticed how much easier it is to forgive someone else than to forgive yourself?
I had the good fortune to present to two very dynamic groups of women leaders recently. First, Medtronic's women in technical field sales who provide medical devices like pacemakers and diabetes supplies to hospitals around the world.
As a leadership speaker, it's such a joy to work with people making a real difference in the world. Meet two organizations helping seniors, foster families, farmers, and more!