Tasty Tidbits from Social Neuroscience

I got the opportunity to attend the 14th NeuroLeadership summit in San Francisco last week. So many wonderful insights from social neuroscientists about how the newest brain research is shedding light on our behaviour. A couple of nuggets for you, our faithful blog readers:

  • Brain exercises do not increase your brain power, despite what Luminosity spends on marketing. Use that time to learn a new language, develop new skills or exercise your body; your brain will reap more benefits.
  • Collaboration does often yield better problem solving and more creative decisions, but it slows things down and the best companies reserve it for special occasions, not as a default.
  • The “in group/out group” response by the brain is constant and pretty much random. This means that the brain is constantly assessing whether other people are “on our team” or “not on our team” and this effect can be created by scientists merely telling you that some people are on your team and others are not. You will instinctively see those on the other team as adversaries.
  • Understanding one’s values, articulating them, writing about them and repeating them increases emotional resilience. Not sure how or why yet, but wow, who knew? The best argument ever for engaging in our Leadership Point of View exercise.
  • One of the most robust findings about learning is that the more “spacing” is used while learning – breaking the content into small chunks and repeating it a couple of times over a period of days with sleep between times – the better. Spacing ensures that the content is encoded into long term memory. Cramming information – learning it quickly right before an exam, for example – will result in the information staying in short term memory and then disappearing. A terrific support for Blended Learning!

Who me…? I don’t need a Coach!!

Man ThinkingLet’s be real… Coaching is not for everyone! AND…I challenge anyone who believes he or she will not receive any value by working with a Professional Coach by answering the following questions:

  • Do you feel stagnant in your role?
  • Have you thought about how to get to the next level in your career?
  • Do you know how to increase your effectiveness as a ______________?
  • Do you know your greater potential and purpose?

If you answer yes to any of the above questions, I strongly believe you will benefit from partnering with a Professional Coach. A coach is skilled at creating a safe and confidential environment so you can fully discuss your goals and aspirations. A coach will help you uncover what is needed to make a change and move forward.

How often does someone take time out to work with a “thought-partner” in moving towards accomplishing personal and professional goals?

Since I am keeping it real…You will be doing the work in a coaching relationship. Self reflection is key. Being truthful with yourself (and your coach) about your behaviors and the effectiveness of them will move you toward your goals. You will experience some “aha” moments as well as some unpleasant awareness with your Coach. The ultimate goal is to increase self-awareness and intentionally decide how to move forward.

Below are questions to consider to get the most value from partnering with a coach:

  • Are you ready to self-reflect and look in the mirror?
  • Are you ready to be open and truthful?
  • Are you ready to do the work to accomplish your goals?
  • Are you ready to take the time to uncover the answers for yourself (A coach does not have the answers. A coach helps you uncover the answers.)?
  • Is the timing right for coaching?

The benefits of partnering with a coach can be very impactful and rewarding. Some benefits may be experienced several months after the coaching has ended. As stated on the International Coach Federation website (http://www.coachfederation.org/need/landing.cfm?ItemNumber=747&navItemNumber=565),

Professional coaching brings many wonderful benefits: fresh perspectives on personal challenges, enhanced decision-making skills, greater interpersonal effectiveness, and increased confidence. And, the list does not end there. Those who undertake coaching also can expect appreciable improvement in productivity, satisfaction with life and work, and the attainment of relevant goals.”

I challenge you to partner with a Coach to move toward reaching your full potential!

 

Leader of What?

Congratulations, Leader. You’ve done it! You have the title you wanted, and an amazing amount of responsibilities too. Are you ready for the big shift from managing deliverables to leading people? Because that is the heart of the matter…you really are NOT the leader of the team, or the division, or the company. You are a leader of people.
Why would anyone follow you? If I asked your direct reports, what would they answer? Do they know what you expect of them? Have you told them what they can expect from you? Do they know what you value? What have you done to earn their trust?
Engendering followership is the responsibility of the leader, not the other way around. Purposefully sharing your Leadership Point of View will accelerate the process. Over the years, this blog has discussed the steps involved in crafting the LPOV, most recently last October. Beyond the LPOV steps of “how” is the “why.”
For over fourteen years, Blanchard Coaching has supported leaders in the process of crafting their LPOVs and the impact is astonishing. Reflecting on the powerful events in your life with a coach will illuminate the essence of your perspective on leadership, and help you understand yourself better. Doing the hard work of “excavating” your LPOV, and then sharing it, accelerates trust between you and the people you lead. As a new CEO told his executive team when introducing this coaching process, “There is no better way for us to build trust than to create and share our Leadership Points of View.”
Hearing the story of why honesty matters to you, or why fairness is paramount in your life, will personalize what you value and stay with your direct reports. Personal stories stick with people in ways power points never can.
Build confidence in those you lead by revealing yourself to be an intentional leader: Create and share your Leadership Point of View.

Failing is Good

I am sure no one wants to fail. Failing is not pretty or fun. I know if I fail at something what usually follows is a feeling of disappointment and shame. The speculated thoughts of what others are thinking about me clouds my mind. I mentally beat myself up. This feeling is unpleasant and very distracting. Have you ever experienced these feelings?

Failure-imagesA66EGFIRFor example, I was coaching a senior manager who expressed she no longer wanted to continue the coaching engagement. The coaching, which I interpreted “I,” was not meeting her expectations and she needed something different. My internal voice immediately yelled, “You failed! You are not a skilled Coach! You will not have another executive assignment again! You did not meet your client’s expectation!” My internal voice was beating me up! Of course, I had to get a handle on it while speaking to my client.

As a coach, I know clients are not always open to coaching, expect the coach to be more of a consultant, and may resist action/accountability. I also know my role as a coach is to ensure clients have a clear understanding of coaching and to design the coaching relationship in the beginning. Even if I followed every detail in creating a perfect coaching relationship (note the word ‘perfect’ – nothing is perfect!) and it appears to be unsuccessful, my internal voice will tell me I failed.

I know the key is to quiet the internal negative voice and learn from the experience. In the above example, I responded to the client with questions such as “What do you need to move forward? What do I need to do differently to serve you?” During our discussion, I believe we both learned from this experience and gained increased self-awareness that will lead to professional growth.

Through my training as a coach and hearing and reading Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability, I know with confidence that one must fail to grow. One must be vulnerable and courageous knowing there will be unsuccessful times. What sets the strong from the weak are those who brush themselves off when they fall, look for the learning, and are willing to jump in again.Failure Key to Success

Note…I am being vulnerable with sharing this story. I am quieting my negative self talk about how others may be judging me as they read this blog and choosing to think about how my story may help others. I am brushing myself off and jumping in.

 

Be The Goat

Goat

“Goat” is short for scapegoat, which is a person or thing that is given all the blame or responsibility for a negative event. A “goat” is the opposite of a hero. Suffice it to say, a goat is someone who is blamed when things go wrong.

Rather than a focus on the historical, religious or etymological connotations of a goat, I instead want you to consider the species itself. A goat is agile, a goat is intelligent. Goats are social creatures who can also work well independently, as long as they frequently return to their herd. Here’s something: goats will not move away from pressure, they move into it! Hmmmm. Sounds like I’m listing the traits of a confident and successful professional!

It was in observing a neighbor’s goats that I thought of the “be the goat” concept. The goats were removing poison ivy and invasive vines from her yard. Rather than just nibble at the choicest leaves, the goats were completely devouring the plants. They were committed to removing the leaves, the vines, and the roots of each plant.

With a number of my coaching clients, the concept of completely handling something is new to them. Rather than giving 89% of effort, or 76% feedback, I ask them what would it be like to fully engage? To be complete in their endeavors and communications? To “be complete” is powerful! Incompletions drain energy, require maintenance of the façade, and never address the issue.

The goats are all about completely consuming the vines. To the root. And when a new shoot emerges, it will be swiftly eradicated. Completely. Because of this, my neighbor can spend her energy on her flower and vegetable gardens.

What issue or challenge do you need to completely handle? What pressures have you been avoiding, when moving into the pressure would actually eradicate it? What requires your agility and intelligence? What opportunity will become available to you once the challenge is vanquished? Go ahead now, and be the goat!

Goat: “Greatest of all time.” Thank you, Muhammad Ali!

Never Underestimate the Effect of Change

I recently shared a laugh with a client – we’ll call him Jon – because as he so eloquently said, “You just can’t win.” Here’s what happened.

Jon, by profession an accountant, is head of tax for a global manufacturing company. A lovely human being, he is nevertheless analytical and cerebral, and a 360-degree feedback process revealed that his people perceived him to be cold and unapproachable.

We worked together on practicing some new behaviors: making the effort to get to know folks, stopping to say hello to people in his area – all of whom report to people who report to him.

He worked on and shared his Leadership Point of View (his beliefs about leadership and his leadership values) which his people told him made him much more accessible.

Jon was really enjoying letting people see a little more of him, he was having more fun at work, he was literally wondering what took him so long to experience this very important side of himself.

You would think this could only be good right?

I certainly did.

3D Hand Giving Thumbs DownBut, you can never underestimate the power of change, even good change, to distress someone. Not everyone was thrilled with the change. One of Jon’s direct reports, Emilia, asked for a private meeting during which she reported that she was upset with this new softer, friendlier Jon.

He was shocked – of all people he had thought she would appreciate it the most.

It turns out that she was enjoying the change for herself, but she was worried that Jon’s new accessibility was “undermining” her position with her direct reports. She was concerned that people might feel comfortable going straight to Jon instead of having to get things done through her.

Of course this presented a great coaching opportunity for Jon. But we had to laugh…I had thought in 25 years of coaching that I had heard everything, but this was a first.

Appreciative Leadership

ai vs prob

The problem with becoming known as a good “problem solver” is that you get really good at looking at situations as, well, problems!   Your focus is on what has failed.   Your goal is to correct, save, or restore a broken system to a state where it will again provide acceptable results.  You get a reputation as the “fixer,” and are dispatched again and again to solve different problems.  Where is the fun in that?

There is a better way to contribute to organizations.

David Cooperrider invented Appreciative Inquiry when he was a graduate student studying Organizational Development at Case Western Reserve University in the late 1980’s.  You can read all about him, and the AI Movement, at http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/.  (The work he began with Professor Suresh Srivastva transformed me and my leadership research.  I cited their initial work in my 1990 dissertation when I posited that having dialogue rather than debate can help groups work together to come to better decisions.)

I have continued to follow AI in the ensuing 25 years, and unabashedly say the reason coaching works is because the inquiry of the coach uncovers the wisdom in the leader.  Appreciative Inquiry is the underpinning of Positive Psychology, a theoretical foundation in the Coaching Profession, and is essential in understanding the impact of language in the field of Neuroscience.

Here is why Appreciative Inquiry matters for leaders:

  • Appreciative Inquiry has a positive core:  it focuses on the strengths and peak experiences in an organization.  AI focuses on the best of what is, and then stretches further to imagine the ideal future state.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is co-creative:  Rather than one “Mr. Fixit,” with AI everyone can be involved in the discovery, the dream, the design, and the destiny of the ideal state of the organization.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is generative:  with a focus on “what works,” a leader is aligned towards new possibilities for the organization.

You don’t have to wait for an AI intervention in your organization to benefit from this approach.  Simply shifting your focus from seeking problems to seeking what works well has an immediate, positive, and generative effect:  on you, on your group, and on your effectiveness.  Have at it!