Archive for the ‘ Self-Awareness ’ Category

Emotional Technology: Innovations That Could Change Leaders

There’s currently some fantastic technology out there, from wearables and self-lacing shoes (yes, like the ones in Back to the Future) to VR and spectacular advances in science that will someday make it to consumer products. But what about beyond the current advances? And what about tech that can help us become better leaders?

Currently, there doesn’t seem to be any fancy tech piece that can suddenly make you a better leader. And with more and more Millennials entering the workforce who are tech dependent, it’s becoming harder and harder for them to perform when they are promoted.

And yet, the technology is on its way. One such prediction is the rise of “Emotional Technology”, as outlined in the following:


Particularly with the the first (mood reader) and third (Socrates) pieces of tech, leaders will better be able to understand themselves and regulate their responses. This will drastically improve their leadership skills by providing on-the-spot feedback, insight, and recommendations.

What do you think? Would you find technology like this useful as a leader?

If You Were a First Time Manager Again, What Would You Do Differently?

As we grow and learn as human beings we come across things in life which make us wonder how different things could have been if we knew then, what we know now. Working for a leadership company now, I often think about my first time manager role and how I really wasn’t as good of a manager as I could/should have been.  I wasn’t equipped with the right skills that I needed.

I want to share with you my experience about becoming a first time manager, here goes…..

I was 21 years old and worked for a very well known UK bank insurance call center,  I managed a team of 10-15 employees. I had previously worked as part of this team before I went to university and during  my holidays, so the team were my friends. I climbed up the ranks from individual contributor to team lead. When I became a manager of the team, needless to say things changed.  I was still everyone’s friend and I still went out with my close friends on the team Saturday nights, but at work there was a bit of “them versus me.” When people were performing I thought things were great, but when they weren’t being a first time manager was really tough. I remember many a night, going home and crying wondering what I had done to deserve people being so horrible to me, and thinking I never want to be a manager again.

Looking back, I brought some of it on myself. Below are some of the mistakes I made…..

  • I thought I needed to have all of the answers
  • I thought I needed to be authoritative and hard otherwise people wouldn’t respect me
  • I followed all of the rules & guidelines the company set to the T, 100% of the time
  • I never really listened or was open to be persuaded
  • I shied away from conflict, until it blew up in my face
  • The company set the goals which were very day-to-day focused, e.g., call handling times, etc. I never as a manager set any long term goals for my team or development goals, I simply followed the script, mainly because I didn’t know any different.
  • We didn’t celebrate achievements enough.

Knowing what I know now, there are lots of things I would have done differently in my first time manager role. I won’t write them all, because I could be here for days but I’ve noted just a few a below.

  • Breathe – You don’t have to answer everybody’s questions straight away. Take five minutes to reflect and stay calm even when stressed.
  • Listen – Not just for the sake of letting others talk, but really listen to what people are saying. Be open to being persuaded.
  • I wouldn’t have pretended to be something I wasn’t. I am not hard faced and authoritative, quite the opposite. People see through masks, I would have told my truth about who I am, and what I expect from the team.
  • I would have set clear expectations and goals for my team, to help them grow and develop. Worked hard to create growth opportunities for my team.
  • I would have told myself – Don’t take things so personally! I know that’s easier said than done but I used to beat myself up about not being everything to everyone. Remember you are only human.
  • When things weren’t going to plan with the team or team member, I would’ve dealt with the situation there and then and thought about my words very carefully. Asked them about what went wrong, ensure no judgement or blame.
  • Asked for help. Quite often in life, we are ashamed to ask for help. I don’t know why, because everyone in life at some point needs direction and or support.

My experience of being a first time manager, and feeling completely overwhelmed happens all of the time. People are promoted because they are good at what they do, many forget that a manager’s role requires a completely different skill set to that of an individual contributor.

What would you have done differently in your first time manager role?  Or if you haven’t been a manager yet, but looking to become one, what is your greatest concern about being a first time manager?

Sarah-Jane Kenny – EMEA Channel Solutions Consultant at the Ken Blanchard Companies

Lower Your Standards of Praise

“Perfectionist”
pəˈfɛkʃ(ə)nɪst
noun
1.  a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection, e.g. “he was a perfectionist who worked slowly”
adjective
2.  refusing to accept any standard short of perfection

I am a perfectionist. I mean, I’m not obsessive. The volume on the radio can be odd or even – that doesn’t matter. I do, however, like things to be right, and if I think someone won’t do a very good job, I’d rather just do things myself. I’m the kind of person that will ask their other half to make the bed; and then if the cushions aren’t in the right order, I’ll re-make it.

I’m also practically minded; and I know to be an effective team member, and – more importantly – to be a good leader, I need to overcome my perfectionist tendencies, because in reality not everyone I work with or lead will be able to reach the high standards that I set for myself. Trying to impose my own high standards on the people working with me is likely to frustrate them, and frustrate me. That won’t get us anywhere fast – we’ll be heading downhill in a spiral of “not-quite-right” annoyance. Alternatively, I’ll end up doing it myself, and that’s not an effective use of my time.

NotQuiteWhatIHadInMind

I struggled with the concept of letting people ‘get on with it’ a lot, until someone on a training course recently summed this up in one short phrase: “lower your standards of praise”.

Lowering your standards of praise means, instead of only giving people positive feedback when they get things exactly right, you lower the standard of achievement that merits reward to encourage the behavior you want, and then you can work on improving things gradually over time.

Think about when parents bring up children, and they try to teach their toddlers to talk. Of course, if someone wants to ask for a glass of water in adult life, we’d expect to hear “can I have a glass of water, please?”, but a two-year-old isn’t going to go from “mama” and “dada” to asking coherently for a glass of water overnight. Instead, parents start with the basics: “Water”. They’ll repeat the word, and encourage speech, until they get something that closely resembles the result: “Wa-wa”. Close enough! This behavior will be rewarded: the toddler will get the glass of water, and probably plenty of applause and kisses; but they can’t grow up using “wa-wa” every time they’re thirsty, so the development continues, and parents work on changing “wa-wa” to “water”; “water” to “water, please”, and so on.

A blog post on AJATT speaks about lowering our standards in every day life, and learning to appreciate the ‘baby steps’ we take to get to places in life, and then putting that into practice with our more long-term goals. It talks about how you shouldn’t ‘try to arrive at your goal. Just try to go there — and congratulate yourself for it: give yourself credit for only getting it partially right, partially done’. When you appreciate the little achievements, the bigger picture will fall into place.

Ken Blanchard, in his best-selling book, The One Minute Manager, talks about how the manager relies on catching people doing things right – which involves praising people immediately (and not waiting until they’ve achieved the whole); being specific about what they’ve done right – emphasizing how what they did right makes you feel, and how it benefits the organization; and encouraging more of the same.

By lowering your standards of praise, you’re not waiting for people to get all the way to the end of a project, only to be disappointed in the end-result. Instead, you can give positive feedback when they get things partially right, and slowly work your way to the desirable outcome, whilst keeping your relationship frustration-free. It doesn’t mean your end-result is going to be less-than-perfect, but it means that you’re not expecting perfection in the first instance.

Listening – Easy Right!?

Ever been in a really bad mood , you air some frustration and everyone wants to give you advice? You don’t want to hear about what ‘they would have done ‘or ‘in their experience’. Sometimes you just want to vent and be heard.

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Not sure whether it is because I am an extrovert or that I love the sound of my own voice (probably a bit of both),  but I just can’t help but talk. When someone tells me a problem, I find a way of talking about myself and my experiences. I try so hard to stop myself but it just comes out. I am not alone I pick up on a lot of others doing exactly the same. I am not a natural listener,  but I do try and make a conscious effort when listening. I find the below help’s gear me in the right direction.

When you are listening

  • Listen intently and ask yourself what are they asking from you? Sometimes people just need to air their thoughts, sometimes they want some direction from you.
  • Make it about them not you! Ask questions to get a better understanding, show you are listening.
  • Only speak and share your experiences if it adds value to them. Think, is what you’re about to say going to add value or is it just a way for you to talk about yourself.

When you want to be listened to

  • Firstly no one is going to be able to listen attentively to someone who is highly emotional and talks all the time. Emotions can alter the way people listen to you. So if something has immediately annoyed you, take 10 minutes to gather your thoughts before talking about it.
  • What do you want to achieve from the conversation? – Tell the person you are speaking too ie.) ‘I just need to vent’, or ‘I need your advice’.
  • Ever been in a meeting , walked out and forgotten to say something really important. Write down a couple of key bullet points that you want to discuss to make sure you don’t miss something out.

One last tip – With the world at our fingertips it’s easy to get distracted and try and http://cliparts.co/cell-phone-clip-artmultitask when someone is talking to you. Don’t do it. There is nothing worse than talking to someone and they are typing away or checking their phone. It’s just rude.

Listening isn’t easy, the first step is awareness: Ask yourself, colleagues, friends and family – Are you a good listener?

Sarah-Jane Kenny – Channel Solutions Consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies

Remember Your Worth

Self Worth

I first heard this story a few years ago – my Granddad sent me it in an e-mail. He sends me a lot of things, as it’s his way of letting me know that I’m thought about, but for some reason, this story stuck in my mind.

I can’t be sure who this should be credited to – I’ve seen this shared in a few places, but if anyone knows the author I’ll be more than happy to add credits.

I don’t know whether it’s a true story, or if it started out as a made-up tale, but either way, the author inspired me, with this thought-provoking, and touching piece:

————————

One day, a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.

It took the remainder of the class period to finish their assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed in the papers.

That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his or her list.

Before long, the entire class was smiling. “Really?” she heard whispered. “I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!” and, “I didn’t know others liked me so much,” were most of the comments.

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. The teacher never found out if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn’t matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another.

That group of students moved on.

Several years later, one of the students was killed in Vietnam and his teacher attended the funeral of that student.  She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature. The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin. The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.

As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her. “Were you Mark’s math teacher?” he asked. She nodded: “Yes.” Then he said: “Mark talked about you a lot.”

After the funeral, most of Mark’s former classmates went together to lunch. Mark’s mother and father were also there, wanting to speak with his teacher. “We want to show you something,” his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.”

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times.

The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him.

“Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can see, Mark treasured it.”

All of Mark’s former classmates started to gather around. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home.”

Chuck’s wife said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.”

“I have mine too,” Marilyn said. “It’s in my diary”

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. “I carry this with me at all times,” Vicki said.  Without batting an eyelash, she continued, “I think we all saved our lists.”

Tears rolled down the eyes of the humble teacher.  We encounter so many people in our lives, and it’s a precious joy to see the good in all those journeys.

————————

I shared this story, and my thoughts, with my team in the office – and we had a go at the activity in the story; and what we found in doing so was that people valued the things about us that we often overlook in ourselves. It reminded us all to take the time to appreciate our cooperation, and remember our own worth at the same time.

This story always reminds me that it’s important to value the small things that you like about individuals – we don’t always get along; tensions appear, and friendships can be frayed – but it’s important not to let what’s happening in your life to overshadow, or even color, the way you view other people around you. It reminds me that, even where people don’t get along, you can find something good in someone’s personality; and it also reminds me that sometimes, we’re so busy focusing on doing our jobs, trying to please other people, that we forget to take a step back and see our own value.

Top 5 Things People Don’t Know About Virtual Workers

The Mindfulness Revolution

Mindfulness Revolution

The Mindfulness revolution is here!

Even if you don’t practice Mindfulness or haven’t been on a Mindfulness course the chances are you have heard of the term.

It is now being taught in some schools, workplaces are using it to de-stress employees and it’s even being ‘prescribed’ by health authorities to reduce anxiety and relieve symptoms of depression.

For about a year and a half I have practiced mindfulness – it is part of my daily life and I get so much out of it. It is not for everyone – a colleague lately mentioned my interest in things that were a bit different and called it ‘fluffy’. That may be some people’s thoughts, but I have reaped the benefits of using various practices that work for me and discarded others that don’t. That’s the great thing about mindfulness, it is different things to different people and you take the pieces you like and leave the ones you don’t.

I have adapted this article from a post I wrote on the Silver Lining blog site.

What is Mindfulness and what is it not?

It is not daydreaming or thinking about the past or future. It’s definitely not hocus pocus and you don’t have to become a hippy to practice it.

Although scientists need to do more research into the benefits of Mindfulness, it is recognised by some neuroscientists and health providers as a way of reducing anxiety and stress. You can even do a Masters in Mindfulness now!

Mindfulness is about being in the present, being mindful of what you are doing here and now; this includes how your body feels, what emotions are you experiencing and just letting yourself ‘be’.

It can involve meditating as part of the practice of mindfulness, but the meditations are very much about shutting off distractions and focusing solely on ourselves.

Auto-Pilot – If you have ever driven or walked to work and seeming got there in ‘autopilot’, you are well aware of not being present. We can feel like our days slip away from us and we don’t fully enjoy the time we have. We also have stresses and commitments that keep us busy and don’t make time to think about our own health and wellbeing.

Taking time to be in the ‘here and now’ and examine how we are feeling is part of Mindfulness. It’s actually very simple!

The Neuroscience

When looking at the brain, scans have shown that the metabolic activity changes when we meditate. The active parts of the brain (shown in red on a scan) increase during meditation. This shows not only that meditation affects our minds, but it also affects how our brain works.

Dr. Michael Baim from the University of Pennsylvania says in his paper called ‘This Is Your Brain on Mindfulness’:

‘Several neuroscientists have shown that some of the brain regions activated during meditation are actually different in people who meditate regularly, and the most recent evidence suggests that the changes can occur in as little as eight weeks. This finding is at odds with what we think we know about brain structure in adults…’

‘ We used to believe that sometime shortly after twenty-five or thirty years of age the brain was finished with growth and development. From then on, the brain became progressively impaired by age and injury, and it was all downhill from there. But recent meditation research suggests that this glum outcome may not be inevitable.’

Using mindfulness meditation can be compared to going to the gym – the more you work out your muscles (in this case brain muscle) the stronger you get.

Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar, a researcher in the psychiatry department at Massachusetts General Hospital, looked at the brain’s cortex (the outermost surface of the brain). She found that when brain images of two groups were compared, meditators and non-meditators, some cortical areas in the brains of the meditators were significantly thicker than the same areas in non-meditators.

The cortex wastes away with age; but in Lazar’s meditating subjects, these enlarged areas were the same thickness as what was measured in non-meditators twenty years younger.

Areas of the brain that are important within this region of the brain are the prefrontal cortex which manages higher cognitive “executive” functions like planning, decision making, and judgment, and keeps us out of trouble by facilitating socially appropriate behavior. Also, the insula which controls sensation and emotion, and processes social emotions such as empathy and love. It is thought to be essential for the capacity for self-awareness.

Practice

Mindfulness practice, also referred to as Mindfulness meditation, takes time to master. Here’s a few ways you can practice…

  1. Chocolate Meditation

We all eat without thinking. Get a piece of chocolate (I prefer dark chocolate because of its health benefits and greate range of flavours!) and put it on your tongue. Spend a few minutes letting it melt – think about the texture and all the flavours you experience.

  1. Noting – Using Your Breath

I use this regularly; when I feel stressed or need to take the emotion out of a situation. I also used in recently when I had to take 6 flights within a space of 2 weeks – for those who know me well, you know I passionately dislike flying!

If you have ever studied Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) you will understand that thoughts lead to emotions and potentially negative actions. This is a great way to break that cycle.

Breath in slowly and whilst doing so say (in your head) ‘breathing in’. Then, on your slow out-breath say ‘breathing out’. Repeat just focusing on the breath.

This noting will help you avoid distractions and get in tune with your breath. It will give you a great sense of calm.

  1. Happiness – Taking The Time To Be Present

With all the stresses and strains of daily life, we forget about what makes us happy and what we are grateful for. Take 10-15mins to write down what makes you happy and what you are grateful for.

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