Managing Your Mind

Doorway to Consciousness

Before you can effectively manage your career, relationships, home, hobbies, and the pursuit of your dreams, you’ll first need to master the skill of managing your mind. Yes, it is a skill. Yes, it can be learned and strengthened through the practice of meditation. Essentially meditation is mental training. Mindfulness—my preferred form of mental training—is the practice of focusing on present-moment experience. As simple as it sounds, it certainly is not easy! Mindfulness is learned experientially and getting a firm grasp on it takes time, but not as much as you might think. In this popular TED talk, Andrew Puddicombe explains it best:

The mind is the seat of consciousness, the realm of all mental and emotional processing, somatic sensation and perception, and the intricate combination of moment-to-moment experiences we call life. That’s where it all plays out, in your mind. Knowing that, you can see why a calm and well-functioning mind is the foundation for health and happiness.

How can mindfulness help? Focus. Blanchard consultants and coaches will attest that in order to sustain learning after training, focus is key. Without focus the untrained mind is like a puppy, distracted by anything that moves. Training a puppy takes energy and discipline. The process can be frustrating and it won’t work without consistency and patience. Mental training is similar. In its natural state the mind is like a puppy, running in circles and sometimes colliding with walls because it can’t stop. Frantic mental activity perpetuates stress, anxiety, pain, and struggle. When we lack focus, we lack control over our experience. We cannot always change the events that occur but we can change how we experience them. Mindfulness is a way of redirecting attention and thus acting with greater intention and less struggle. It starts with noticing what you are experiencing in the present moment and simply observing without judging it—Sort of just sitting with it rather than reacting to it. Mindfulness is the space between stimulus and response.

mindfulness_poster_UK

A common misconception about mindfulness, as Puddicombe explains, is that “people assume that meditation is all about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind. But actually it’s…about stepping back, seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going.” Did you know that we spend nearly half of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing? Astounding! Cognitive neuroscientists have shown that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind, and an unhappy mind is an unproductive one. Instead we can choose, in any moment, to sit with reality by mindfully bringing our attention back to here and now.

TNH_Meditation

Looking for an introduction to the practice of mindfulness and how it can improve your wellbeing? Here are some resources to get you started:

Mind full, or mindful? The choice is yours.

About the Author: Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology, and her research is based on mindfulness. Contact: sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

Motivation: What’s Yours?

I was asked a question today: “What motivates you?”

I immediately thought about context: Motivations for work-related tasks? For my own personal goals? And then I thought about life in general. What motivates me to get up every day?

1

This is such a powerful question. The answer says so much about who you are as a person. Whether you are internally or externally motivated, and your reasoning for why you are motivated in that way can shed light on your values and morals. Even how you frame the answer conveys what you find most important in your life.

And yet, despite the wealth of information this simple question could provide, many leaders don’t ask this of themselves and of their direct reports. Leaders can uncover why they’ve become leaders and what strengths and weaknesses they possess. They can also discover how engaged their workforce is and how to better inspire their employees.

So go ask yourself and those around you, “What motivates you?”

motivation

Image Credit: 1 | 2

Are you a Travel Agent or Tour Guide Manager?

If you are like me, all you want to do is “see everything” once you get to a new country or city. I just want to go out and explore every inch of the city and get a feel for the people, the food, and the culture. On my last trip Travel agentto Venice I ended up getting lost and seeing the same tall buildings for 2 straight hours as I kept going in circles through the buildings that divide the canals. At times in my career I’ve been doing the same thing wandering aimlessly throughout my day to day tasks.  Often Ken Blanchard tells us that “Leadership is a partnership” and that we must work together to accomplish tasks. If you have ever had a bad manager or a bad travel agent, you know how important this collaboration is.

Take a look at these descriptions to see what kind of manager fits your description:

Travel Agent: He has never done the job before that he is asking you to do, and probably will never end up doing it himself. He has tons of tips of ways to accomplish the task but has never even stepped onto the job site. He doesn’t speak the business language at all, but tries to act like he does, while continuously mispronouncing business terminology. He also keeps repeating the word “synergy” because he thinks it sounds great but has no idea what it means. He also thinks SCRUM is a type of Norwegian cheese spread.

Tour Guide: Knows the job really well and has extensive experience in the field. He speaks the business language fluently and often teaches these classes at night to new comers. He knows the job site in and out and can tell you the best places to meet new peopactivite-loisirs-gap-saut-parachute-biplace-au-dessus-alpes-10le and who to learn from. He’s often seen walking around the office and getting acquainted with the culture and knows the real players in the organization. He guides his direct reports every day and helps them navigate the business while providing them with the best information possible. He doesn’t accept tips at the end of the day because he genuinely loves to do his work.

If you are a Travel Agent manager, don’t feel bad. Get out there, explore the sites, and get familiar with the “culture”. Sip the wine, mingle, and help your direct reports through their workplace experience. Really do your best to partner with them and guide them through their role and tasks.

The workplace needs more leaders who can partner with their direct reports for success. No travel agents needed.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

A Tale of Two Leaders

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

Best of Times, Worst of Times

Best of Times, Worst of Times

The opening lines of Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, hints at the central tension throughout the classic novel—the growing struggle between a thriving and oppressed society. The tension between two worlds of existence builds throughout the story and leads to the dawn of the French Revolution.

A familiar narrative is playing out in today’s workplace and society—the growing tension between good leadership and bad leadership. Organizations around the world are either thriving or struggling under the effective, or ineffective, leadership at all levels of an organization.

While delivering a recent virtual presentation to individual contributors and managers from diverse locations that spanned from the United States to the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and Iran, I asked participants to consider two scenarios during their careers. “Consider a time when it was the best of times at work. Then consider a season where you’ve experienced the worst of times at work.”

During the Best of Times at work participants described an environment where they felt energized by going to work. They were alive and thriving. Individuals were empowered to bring their best ideas to the table of collaboration in an open and trustworthy environment. Conflicts were resolved with fairness and efficiency. They felt as if their personal goals and responsibilities where aligned with that of the organization.

During the Worst of Times, the list grew longer and darker. Participants described a workplace that was stressful and frightening. People were not open to collaborating or sharing new ideas out of fear for being reprimanded or dismissed, or even the threat of loosing their jobs. Conflicts went unresolved, and in some instances, escalated to threats and bullying by other employees, managers, and executives.

No matter what the circumstances were, or the country or culture they experienced in, the environment was unanimously driven by the presence, or lack there of, good leadership.

Effective leadership is the most critical asset in the health and happiness of an organization, family, community, nation, or organization. Though organizations may be thriving finically, or having an amazing mission, the most important factor in sustained and meaningful success is founded on the way the leaders act and behave, in public and through interpersonal relationships at every level of the organization they are leading.

How would you describe your work environment today? Is it the Best of Times for you at work? Is it the Worst of Times? Are you leading and being led in the most effective manner that leads to personal and organizational health and happiness? The best of times at work are created when people at every level of the organization are committed to learning, growing, and living effective leadership behaviors.

 

Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is also passionate about developing leadership in youth through The Blanchard Institute, a youth leadership development program that teaches core leadership concepts to young people all around the world.

Are You Blind to Change?

The video below by Derren Brown demonstrates a phenomenon called “change blindness,” where a change that should be obvious goes unnoticed.

You can find a similar experiment here, which was done at Harvard. How resilient to change blindness are you? Let’s try an experiment of our own. Something is changing between the flashes in a very obvious way in the picture below. Can you spot it?

Change Blindness - Market

How about in this picture?

Change Blindness - Soldiers

Was it difficult for you to spot the change in each picture? Don’t worry, it takes a while for most people. The longer the flash or delay between the slightly different images, the harder it is to see the change.

This can be the same with people. For instance, you may not notice a change in the demeanor of your direct report until much later, after which might you ask, “has he/she always been like that?” And by then, it may be difficult to understand exactly when the change happened and why. Even small changes in the organization can go unnoticed, until someone checks in on how things are going.

To combat this blindness, ensure that you are checking in frequently enough with your direct report. But, of course, there’s the risk of looking like a micromanager. When you meet, explain that you are simply there to support his/her success and allow the conversation to flow from your direct report (“Is there anything you need from me?” or “Is there anything I can do to support your work?” are great ways to quickly check in). If he/she is a novice on the task, provide more direction. If not, provide encouragement and autonomy while focusing on the positives.

When it comes to keeping an eye on the organization as a whole, metrics can provide insight on what changes are occurring. But instead of pulling every available metric, focus on the top 3-5 metrics that relate back to your business strategy and goals for the organization.

Since big changes may be happening without your knowledge, dedicate time to discovering these changes and their causes. This can provide valuable insight into what is happening now and what you can do to promote the growth and betterment of your organization.

Images Credit: User jbitel on Imgur

1 Secret of High Performing Teams

We’ve started doing this accountability group around the office and it seems to be working. Recently, the boss man had this idea that if we put up our goals for everyone to see and kept each other in check for a 30-day challenge, the added accountability would help us stay committed tPic Calorieo reach our goal. Our goal was to start with 10 pushups at the beginning of the month and increase that number by 1 every day. As a result, we decided to continue this trend, and now we are participating in a daily calorie challenge where we log our meals and maintain a certain caloric intake. As you can see, so far so good and we have included 4 cheat days as good measure. I’ll probably eat a whole bucket of churros on my first cheat day.

Taking this concept past a simple pushup or calorie contest, in my own experience and what much of the research has to say is this:

  • In the weakest teams, there is no accountability
  • In mediocre teams, bosses are the source of accountability
  • In high performance teams, peers manage the vast majority of performance problems with one another

If you are on the first two teams, look for a trade or try to resolve the problem. None of these options are really that easy, but the latter option is probably the most feasible. Here’s what you need to know about accountability. Don’t be scared of it. If accountability is seen as negative and punitive in the office, do what you can to change that perspective for everyone. Put up a challenge for the various task goals that everyone has and create accountability for one another.

Here’s a distinction that you need to be aware of: there is a critical difference between “holding someone accountable” and “creating accountability” in your team. The first creates a culture of fear and brings potentially significant, negative connotations and impact. The second allows the team to be mutually invested in the success of oneself and others. Decide for yourself what environment you want to create in your office and see what outcomes you get as a result.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

You Are Always Hypothesizing

One simple statement really stood out to me from a conversation this week: “remember that you are always hypothesizing.” During an executive coaching class, my colleagues and I were role-playing coaching scenarios around dealing with perceived resistance from a client. Note the key word, “perceived.” The group discussion and activity were meant to illustrate the fact that in coaching relationships, what we perceive as resistance might actually be indicative of something else. If we can acknowledge that our perceptions are just our interpretations of what we are experiencing as we interact with another person, then we open ourselves to the possibility that our interpretations might not be accurate. It’s easy to misinterpret because we are, in fact, always hypothesizing.

According to Merriam-Webster, a hypothesis may be defined as:

  • “An idea or theory that is not proven but that leads to further study or discussion”
  • “An assumption or concession made for the sake of argument”
  • “A tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test the logical or empirical consequences”

Notice that a commonality across these definitions is the element of making an assertion for the purpose of verifying or validating it. A hypothesis is ground for further action; it is an antecedent and not an end result. Miscommunication is often attributable to misinterpretation, but we can avoid this fundamental error by noticing our assumptions and investigating them with a sense of openness and curiosity. The challenge in any interaction—whether your role is a coach, manager, advisor, teacher, peer, or friend—is to become truly curious about the other person’s experience so that testing our assumptions is an act of gaining clarity about that individual’s experience from their perspective rather than from our own.

TNH_Understanding

Contrary to common belief, hypothesis testing is not a function of proving our theory, but rather it is a function of trying to uncover whatever truth exists. Yes, in scientific pursuits, we hope to furnish evidence in support of our hypothesis, but this is not the case in pursuits of human relations. True communication and connection with others requires humility and acceptance of the fact that our assertions and conclusions may be incorrect. If we are always hypothesizing then we must also be ever curious and open to alternatives, asking, “What else might explain this? What might I not be aware of?”

Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tick-Naught-Han), is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, author, teacher, Zen Master, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his activism and advocacy of nonviolent solutions to conflict. You do not need to endorse Buddhist philosophy in order to appreciate Thich Nhat Hanh’s approachable writing style and germane messaging. In one of his seminal books, Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh uses the quote above to explain what is needed in order to achieve true understanding in communication. If we only seek to validate our own preconceived notions without acknowledging that our way of thinking might be flawed, then we will not be able to truly understand whatever we are facing.

ansel_adams_quote

Each interaction, each conversation, each moment of life is associated with some image in our minds. We create a story about that image, and Ansel Adams reminds us that we are not the only ones looking at our pictures. Others are involved in those interactions, conversations, and moments.  Two photographers can stand aside one another taking in the same landscape, but the images they see and capture through their lenses will be different depending on what and where they choose to focus. Two viewers may look upon the same photograph and see or describe it in very different ways depending upon their interpretation and the meaning they assign to what they see. It’s all about how you make sense of what you observe.

ansel adams_fuzzy concept_quote

In the art of communication, the skilled performer is ever conscious that the image seen may not reflect the one captured, and the story created by the viewer may not match the one being projected by the sender. If you truly seek to understand another person’s point of view, you must be willing to see the world through their lens. Like photography and all fine arts, perspective-taking is a skill which is developed over time through diligent practice, keen observation, acute trial and error, and endless wonder about the natural world. You are always creating images and painting pictures from your own pallet of interpretation. How might someone else see it differently? What would it be like to view the world through another lens? What is the potential benefit and beauty of considering another point of view? What else might be present? What else could sharpen your image? What are you not seeing? In what other ways could this situation being conceptualized or understood?

Remember that you are always hypothesizing, so ask yourself, “what am I not yet aware of?”

ansel_adams_awareness_quote

About the Author: Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology, and her research is based on mindfulness. Contact: sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

Image Credit: 1, 2, 3, 4

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,341 other followers

%d bloggers like this: