Leaders who work with me know that I am forever advocating for the practice of Mindfulness, yes, sometimes ad nauseum. We’ve known for some time that great leaders require higher levels of emotional intelligence as they pursue career advancement. What I have learned over 15 years of working with leaders is that emotional intelligence remains a powerful component of good leadership but the lack of capacity, in terms of brain bandwidth and plain old free time on the calendar, are currently the most chronic pain points for executives in high functioning business environments. There is a lot of accumulating evidence that is becoming a focal area for high-achieving leaders. I see Mindfulness and one of the most capacity enhancing tools we have at our disposal but there are many others, I must admit. There are thousands of books about the brain’s function, but only a handful focus on how leaders can harness its powers in a business world that’s increasingly complex. We now know a lot more about how the brain functions, and that we can keep it healthy and even strengthen it in the face of stress and crises. But how exactly do leaders become more mentally fit on-the-job? [...]
In my previous posts here and here, I explained why so many people fail to keep New Year’s Resolutions. In spite of sincere desires to change, after a few weeks, many goal-setters go back to their old habits. Unhealthy habits like overeating, smoking, excessive drinking and being a couch potato are not 100% bad. They make us feel good temporarily. Because the body and mind are pleasure-seeking vehicles, it’s hard to ignore our hard-wired excuse systems—but not impossible. Awareness heralds change. Let’s take a typical goal of some of my coaching clients. This is a composite of several people who want to become better listeners over the coming year. Like for most goals, there are some pretty solid competing commitments that interfere with becoming a better listener. Here is how a commitment grid would look for that goal: Visible Commitment: Improvement goal – “One Big Thing” What’s the One Big Thing that if you could change it, would make your work more satisfying? Doing/ Not doing instead What are my behaviors that work against the attainment of this goal? Hidden competing commitments If you imagine doing the opposite of the undermining behavior, [...]
In our most recent newsletter I introduced the idea of competing commitments and how they interfere with accomplishing goals and making the changes we want. Since many of my coaching clients come to me in January with resolutions to work on and it’s important to understand why change is sometimes so hard. Take the following example: Many people set New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and go to the gym. They may do fine for the first month. At week 5, they revert to last year’s status quo. As much as they want to lose weight and get fit, they also want to have fun, go out, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy life. Voilà! Competing commitments in action! It’s human nature to achieve equilibrium and balance through practiced habits and routines. When we try to change these routines, we’re unprepared to face the powerful magnet of our previous habits. Yet, when we’re aware of this force’s strength, we can inoculate ourselves. We can push back. By acknowledging our competing commitments, we can make a more balanced decision about maintaining new goals and changing old habits and routines. Most of us think it’s just a matter of willpower, but we [...]
Best Holiday Wishes from the Daymark Group! As we approach the Holiday Season and New Year, many begin to review and reflect on this year while planning and making resolutions for the next. I have often wondered why resolutions fall by the wayside, and how we can positively support each other for success. I heard Harvard Professor Robert Kegan address this topic at a recent Institute of Coaching conference. The brain is tricky, he explained. No matter how sincerely we want to break a habit or set a goal such as weight loss, we have an inherent immunity to change. Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey explain that we’re physiologically “lured” into doing what we’ve always done, no matter how strong our intentions. And yet, some people do succeed! We all know ex-smokers, nail biters and formerly obese people. Kegan explained that you cannot fix an adaptive problem with a technical solution. A diet, for example, is a technical solution to being overweight: To lose weight, eat less and exercise more. But the problem is more complex. Unless you change your mindset (an adaptive solution), you won’t sustain new habits. According to Ron Heifetz, author and leadership expert, one of the [...]
For years, TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) has given the world access to thought- conversations from some of the greatest minds of our day. Interesting though the videos may be, rarely does a manager have 25 minutes to spare for something that doesn’t directly tie into their day-to-day. Inspired by TED’s recently published list of the 20 most-watched TED Talks to date, I’ve curated three videos that I feel offer valuable insights on how to lead, motivate and inspire employees. What can an orchestra conductor teach you about micromanagement? Quite a bit, actually. Using the unique styles of six 20th-century conductors, conductor Itay Talgam illustrates a compelling lesson in leadership. “Authority is not enough to make them your partners,” says Talgam. Partnership–which makes the best music–requires a conductor to adopt a more balanced leadership style: As Talgam sees it, it’s the ability to establish partnerships is what makes good conductors (and leaders) great. While a conductor must give players direction (which requires a certain degree of control) a great conductor treats his players as partners. Focusing on making music together, rather than on controlling each note–they will achieve greater success. What does Al Gore’s speechwriter want you to know about [...]
I’ve been learning a lot about how we use habits and routines throughout the day from New York Times staff writer Charles Duhigg in his book in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Random House, 2012) Here’s what happens in a habit loop: A cue triggers both a routine and a reward (i.e., a rush of endorphins or sense of accomplishment from engaging in a positive habit). If, for example, you’re tired or bored, you may automatically reach for a snack. Or, if you want to avoid the calories and improve your overall health, you can choose to exercise instead. Both solutions relieve boredom and chemically reward the brain, but one is the smarter option. To change a habit, identify the underlying craving; then, reward the brain with a more healthful behavior. You cannot extinguish a bad habit; you must learn to modify it. Here’s what author Duhigg calls “The Golden Rule for Changing Habits:” Use the same cue. Provide the same physiological or emotional reward. Change the routine. In the work I do coaching people (Daymark Group), I’ve also found two other elements are necessary for making changes. Other studies support [...]
Habits emerge because the brain is constantly seeking ways to conserve energy. It looks for a cue that becomes the trigger for a habitual response. We are then rewarded with a blast of the pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine plays a major role in the brain system that is responsible for reward-driven learning. The process is a three-step physiological loop: 1. A trigger event or cue occurs. 2. There’s an automatic response (physical, mental or emotional). 3. A reward helps the brain decide that this loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time, the habit loop becomes increasingly automatic. The cue and reward become intertwined until a powerful sense of anticipation emerges. This explains why habits are so powerful: They create neurological cravings. Most of the time, these cravings form so gradually that we’re not even aware they exist. We’re often blind to their influence. New York Times staff writer Charles Duhigg reveals in The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Random House, 2012) that all habits are neural connections formed in the brain. Habits never really disappear. They’re encoded into the brain’s structures—a huge advantage because we don’t have to relearn things [...]
Much of the Executive Coaching work I do relates to working with people who are examining ongoing patterns and habits and making conscious choices about which to keep and which to eliminate. “Any act often repeated soon forms a habit; and habit allowed, steadily gains in strength. At first it may be but as a spider’s web, easily broken through, but if not resisted it soon binds us with chains of steel”. ~ American theologian Tryon Edwards (1809–1894) How much of what you do is wise? Most of the choices we make each day feel like well-considered decisions. In reality, ingrained habits drive us to act. Research has shown that the average person has approximately 40,000 thoughts per day, but 95% are the same ones experienced the day before. Other studies support the notion that 40% of our daily actions are based on habits and routines, not newly formed decisions. Our habits—what we say, eat and do, and how we organize our thoughts and work routines— have an enormous impact on our health, productivity, financial security and happiness. As someone who works with people to help them improve, I know this is true. People can be highly motivated to achieve [...]
Are leaders born or made? I could argue for both positions.
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