Posts Tagged ‘ self-development ’

Who can you trust?

Last week I took my car to a tyre garage to get two new tyres on my car. Whilst they were putting them on they said my front brakes were completely worn. I would need to spend £260 to get them fixed because the car was unsafe to drive. I was a bit wary about what he said, because I haven’t had any problems with them in the past. So I decided to take them to my mechanic who I have known for years and trust. It turned out there was nothing wrong with my brakes and they didn’t need fixing.

Why am I telling you this? Because the guy at the tyre garage who lied to me made me think, who can you trust? That one person at a garage has made me question the whole reliability and trustworthiness of all mechanics. Now I know that isn’t fair, and there are many trustworthy mechanics, but that’s what happens. Once someone has eroded your trust you start questioning everything around it, and put people into boxes.

Let’s put this into a business context.

Have you had one leader in the past that you didn’t trust, and then this made you question other leaders/the whole organisation. Distrust breeds distrust. According to CIPD research 1 in 3 employees say their trust in senior management is weak. The training zone research shows that less than 30% of UK employees have complete trust in their manager. In order for a business to thrive people need to work together, if there isn’t trust it makes it almost impossible.

A few things to think about

  • Have you ever done anything to erode trust, what happened as a consequence? – We have to take a look at ourselves and what trust means to us before we can start looking outwardly.
  • Who don’t you trust and why? – Sometimes when we look at why we don’t trust others we can make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes that others make to us.
  • Who do you trust and why?

This is just a starting point, to get you thinking about what trust means to you. To build trust you need to demonstrate competence, integrity, care and when you say you are going to do something – do it. Eroding trust isn’t as black and white as my experience with the mechanic, trust is a tricky thing.

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.

Top 3 Reasons Why Being a Great Leader Isn’t Easy

A few months back, I asked a group of leaders for a show of hands on who had experienced either oversupervision or undersupervision. Almost every hand went up. But then I asked how many had themselves oversupervised or undersupervised their direct reports. Only one or two hands shyly peeked out from the crowd.

So what’s going on? Well, leaders can sometimes be unaware of what they should and should not be doing. And this lack of awareness separates good leaders from great leaders. Great leaders know that leading is a never-ending journey that can be filled with treacherous obstacles.

So what do you need to know to become a great leader?
 
Continue reading

Leadership Advice: Words of Wisdom for My Younger Self

Child in suite

I don’t have regrets and I know what my mum would say if I comment on how lucky I have been at work. The line ‘you create your own luck’ normally rears its head. I won’t tell her, but she’s right! I do wish at times I had more confidence in my ability though and wasn’t so hard on myself.

I have pondered over the last week what I would tell my younger self if I had the chance, but also what I would tell other young or aspiring leaders.

You can influence others without authority

You may not be a manager or have direct responsibility for making a decision, but you can contribute and you should. You thoughts, ideas and input are valuable and may have a huge impact on an individual, department, business unit or even a whole company.

You will have a job as a Project Assistant for a local authority in your Summer holidays whilst studying at university. You will be brought in to do the project team’s filing, but you need to show interest in the ‘bigger picture’, learn the team’s objectives and how you can help them. A number of small projects later and you will find yourself on an away-day working on a transformation strategy with the heads of service. Imagine that! Never think you can’t influence others.

You will get knocked down, but you will get up again

It was Winston Churchill who said ‘Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm’.

Your career won’t all be plain sailing, there will be set backs and challenges. Just remember that everyone needs these challenges and to make small mistakes in order to learn.

You wouldn’t have the length and breadth of knowledge years down the line without a period of learning and we all gain that from ‘doing’ and making errors. It’s a hard fact of life, but don’t beat yourself up over it. You’ll be a stronger person as a result.

Be inquisitive

I was talking to my team this week on the topic of ‘thinking like a child’ and I wanted to tell my younger self to always ask questions. You are a sponge when you are younger and have a creative, out –of-the box thinking that often gets lost as we get older. We have more responsibilities and the stresses and strains of life take over.

So, my advice is to be inquisitive, ask questions and soak up as much information as you can. You have a great opportunity to learn from everyone around you, the good bosses and the bad. Treat it as a gift.

Take all opportunities available to you

When we progress in our careers there’s the tendency to take on too much and to have to learn the art of delegation and sometimes just saying ‘no’.

My advice to the younger me is to take every opportunity that comes your way. Everything is an experience, a learning curve and some will be a marvellous adventure. People will admire your enthusiasm and are more likely to offer you other opportunities in the future.

There’s a lovely quote from Mario Testino, he said ‘my favourite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity. I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities’.

The challenge of youth; earn the respect of others and be positive

It’s going to be a bitter pill to swallow; but the reality is that when you are young people will judge and question your ability. The best thing you will ever do it to remain positive and plough your energy into proving your worth and earning the respect of others.

This is not a bad hand you have been dealt, it’s an opportunity to prove your worth and to shine. Every manager you will have will admire your determination and perseverance; it’s up to you to gain their respect.

Be confident about your value

This last piece of advice is not about strolling into your bosses’ office and asking for a pay rise, but it is about giving yourself a pep-talk when things aren’t going so well.

Always be confident in your ability and know your worth. We are all different and that means we are have unique strengths that add value to a workplace – know what your value is and bring it to the table.

Lastly, keep a phrase, quote or mantra in your pocket for the tough times. I will give you a start with the latin phrase ‘Carpe Diem’!

carpe diem

5 Things People Do To Look Really, Really Busy

Moral Courage

“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


Courage is a well-admired human trait; but when asked what courage is, what do you think of?

Is it a soldier, fighting a battle far from home against a fierce, unknown enemy?
What about a fire-fighting hero running in to save someone from a burning building?
Perhaps your imagination stretches to a fictional hero, rushing in to save the day?

All of these are an example of physical courage – someone’s life is in imminent danger, and our courageous hero puts everything right again.

But forget about your cape-wearing, pants-on the-outside, lycra-clad hero. What about normal, average people?  The British have a wonderful phrase for this: “The man on the Clapham Omnibus” – people going about their everyday business.

This could encompass individuals who blow the whistle on corporate corruption, at risk of losing their job; or – an example from one of my favourite books (Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”); a Lawyer, who stands up to defend someone who is innocent, even though society condemns them for doing so. Could these people be described as ‘courageous’?

In a word: yes!

The courage demonstrated by holding on to one’s own values – regardless of whether this is on the battlefield, or in the boardroom – is Moral Courage.

Lisa Dungate defines Moral Courage perfectly in her blog on Lions Whiskers, where she explains that: “Moral courage means doing the right thing, even at the risk of inconvenience, ridicule, punishment, loss of job or security or social status”.

Novelist, J.K. Rowling’s Harvard Commencement Speech for the Class of 2008 provides some moving examples. The  video of her speech, from TED.com, is 21 minutes long; but at 12 minutes she gives an emotional recollection of her time working at Amnesty International, with people who risked their own lives to speak out about the persecution, abuse, and torture taking place in their home lands.

Everyday moral courage often isn’t this extreme, but that does not mean that it is any easier to practice: moral courage might mean being different or disagreeing publicly.

As difficult as it is – displaying moral courage can earn respect, trust, and admiralty; and by practicing moral courage very day it gradually will become easier.

Let’s take moral courage away from the corporate setting, for a moment; and consider practicing in every day situations:

  • You and your friends are deciding what movie to see, or where to get dinner, but you don’t like the choice they all prefer. Instead of going along silently, or pretending to agree, say, “Well, it wouldn’t be my first choice, but if you all like it, that’s OK with me.”
  • One of your friends has gotten a tattoo, and everyone is admiring it, but you don’t like tattoos. Instead of letting everyone believe that you also think tattoos are really cool, have the courage to express a different view. “I’m glad you like his tattoo, but personally, I just don’t see the appeal.”

You don’t need to be being rude; or enforcing your own opinions on others, to demonstrate moral courage.

But, as professionals, how can we use these skills to make values-driven decisions consistently?

The Ivey Business Journal gives examples of moral courage in leadership: In August 2008, when Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, stood in front of the press to accept responsibility for the contaminated meat scandal that resulted in numerous deaths, he undoubtedly needed courage.  Southwest Airlines CEO, James Parker, would have needed courage when he went against the industry job-slashing trend following 9/11 when he courageously announced that he would keep all employees

Why is moral courage important in leadership?

Moral courage is crucial in developing authenticity – it empowers individuals to discover and demonstrate what they stand for – even if this is at the disapproval of others. By developing self leadership through action in moral dilemmas, professionals and leaders can ensure both integrity and impact.

Actions speak louder than words.  Leaders at all levels need to act out their expectations, behave honestly and openly, and demonstrate loyalty. They need to establish and maintain open communications, so that those working with them know that their suggestions will be listened to – that they have a voice. People need to know that their leader isn’t going to act on a whim, just because it’s the majority decision. All of these qualities are facilitated by a leader who has courage.

Leaders with moral courage can be trusted by colleagues to do the right thing. It takes courage to tell the boss something that they do not necessarily want to hear; or to redirect an employee; or to make unpopular decisions.

An awareness of the importance of doing the right thing – which is not necessarily the popular thing – can help leaders demonstrate moral courage when they face ethical challenges in the workplace, and uphold ethical working environments and business standards.

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.

%d bloggers like this: