5 Ways to Prime Your Mind for Success©

Lynda’s High 5 for Leaders

5 Ways to Prime Your Mind for Success Tomorrow Morning©
by:  Lynda McNutt Foster

Lynda McNutt Foster

Lynda

Each morning I pick a different video to crawl on the elliptical with.  It’s got to be something interesting or there’s no way I’m pumping for 20 minutes on that thing.  I give videos about one minute to see if they have something that will add to my library of knowledge and have the ability to keep me from checking every 30 seconds about how far I have left to go.

This morning I was priming my mind with material to assist Courtland, one of our executive coaches, prepare for tomorrow night’s forum, The Generational Divide, at the Grandin CoLab in Roanoke.  It starts at 5:15p if you want to attend.  Let me know and I’ll save you a seat.  Anyway, I was watching this video.  It’s real.  It’s raw.  It’s a TEDx Talk by a Millennial who educates Generation Xers and Baby Boomers, like me, about how to best work with that group.  Man, she really made a good case about anything, good or bad, we’re experiencing we created in them.  She’s probably right.

The average American watches about 4 hours of TV a day.  “Watches” is the key word I think as so many people are doing other things while the TV is in the background.  Years ago, now, I used to wake up flipping through Facebook.  I’m off that addiction now, all together, as I realized that it simply primed my mind for drama and there’s plenty of drama in the world without having to scroll through FB looking for it.

So what are you priming your mind with in the morning?  Are you intentionally focused, each morning, on what will create the best you to show up in the world?  Do you have a routine that awakens your prefrontal cortex (that’s the CEO of your brain) and gets your blood pumping through your veins in a way that is not just caffeine induced?

Here’s 5 ways to seriously prime your mind for a focused, productive, and satisfying day ahead:

  1. Watch any of these:  channels on Youtube.  You can seriously feel like you’ve read a book a day in less than like 15 minutes with Brian Johnson channel.  One of my favorites was Your Brain at Work by David Rock OR Evan Carmichael. Believe.  Stuffed full of “Top 10 rules for success” he edits together the best highlights from famous folks to bring you a quick guide to get your day focused on the type of behaviors that lead to their success.  One of my favorites is Will Smith’s Top 10 Rules for Success OR Fightmediocrity is another great channel for condensing books into their biggest themes.  If you haven’t read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People here it is in under 8 minutes.
  1. Listen to any of these:  Audiobooks are great primers.  If you haven’t listened to How Google Works there is a massive amount of useful information for any leader in that book.  It could be worth it to spend some time listening to Carol Dweck’s book,  Mindset. It’s one of the best sellers in leadership circles in the world right now.  And, well, if you want to learn quickly how to design your time for richer outcomes (WARNING:  shameless plug ahead) in less than 111 minutes you can listen to my book on Audible, Time Mastery:  7 Simple Steps to Richer Outcomes.
  1. Do any of these:  Exercise for 12 minutes (the amount of time Dr. Medina wrote about in Brain Rules) to get the blood flowing to all parts of your brain OR  Do stretching exercises for a few minutes to loosen up and prepare your body for the day OR Do a 7-minute gratitude meditation OR Eat a smoothie with spinach and blueberries (big time brain food).
  1. Ritual of appreciation.  Priming your mind, each morning, with appreciation is like setting off fireworks in your brain.  It activates all different parts of your brain and creates the best possible environment for higher level thinking and being for the day.
  1. Be this.   There’s no rewind button on life.  Yesterday is gone.  Today is not here yet.  You’ve got today and even more importantly, right now.  This very moment.  Embrace it.  Be alive in it.

I am asked by clients and participants in my classes what the best books to read are, videos to watch, etc., so I thought it might be helpful if I started sending out what I am reading or listening to each morning on Twitter.  You can start following that feed at @lfosterva.

TEAM EXERCISE

How does your team prime their minds in the morning?  Try some of these practices that can help prepare your team for higher levels of thinking and success each day.

  1. Greet one another pleasantly in the morning.  Nothing throws off people’s day more than when the boss or a co-worker walks right by them without as much as a word.
  2. Review your co-worker to do list. Is there anything you need to respond to a co-worker about that would allow them to have a more productive day?  Is there a task or decision you need to get complete for them so they can finish one of their to-dos that has been pending?
  3. Start with what went right. If you have morning meetings, begin each one with a quick round or announcement of what has gone right.  This type of asset based thinking builds trust and primes your team’s mind for looking for strengths in themselves and others.

 

5 Ways to Optimize the Calculators on Your Team©

Lynda’s High 5 for Leaders

5 Ways to Optimize the Calculators on Your Team©
By:  Lynda McNutt Foster

Melody and AllenI am a big fan of people who love to analyze data and thoroughly think through things.  My behavioral type as a high Driver/Influencer requires that if I am going to be successful, long term, I need Calculators.  It’s taken me quite a long time to learn the best ways to communicate with them.  I’ve had a big incentive though, my two favorite people on the planet, my husband, Allen and daughter, Melody are both screaming high C’s.

Calculators (the final letter in the DISC behavioral type we’ve been discussing for the last 3 articles in the series) tend to move at a slower pace.  They can be highly analytical.  Their strength on a team is that they ask good questions and normally are wonderful “theme masters”.  Ask them what the themes of a meeting they were just in were and they can usually boil it down to a sentence or two, no matter how long it was.  They are all about what is just and fair.  Their body language tends to be reserved and their tone, if challenged in an area that they feel educated and certain in, can be argumentative and direct like a Driver’s would be.  They will focus on your words, rather than your body language or tone during a conversation.

A Calculator type will frequently ask for more time to process information.  Their question tends to be “why”.  When given tasks to complete they would wonder why they are being assigned to them, why those tasks need to be completed by the deadline, and if there is a change, why the change is occurring.  They are perfectionists, so they will be hesitant to accept tasks unless they feel they are being given enough time and resources to get them done well.  Their motto is, “measure twice, cut once.”

  1. JUST THE FACTS:  Calculator behavioral types like data…raw, unfiltered data.  C’s like to let the data tell them what is true and what is not true.  When getting feedback from a Calculator, give them as many objective facts as possible.  They certainly are OK with reasonable opinions, but tend to start to tune people out who are giving them wild exaggerations or jumping to what they would consider unfounded conclusions.
  1. KEEP ITEMS RELATED:  Calculators tend to want to give a lot of thought to what you are saying.  That’s a good thing, but the side effect of that is that Calculators tend to have a harder time when you throw multiple unrelated items at them in a hurry.  You might be on item 3 and they’re still giving serious thought to number 2!  For getting the best results of a C’s logical thinking, give them a chance to think about one thing at a time, if possible.
  1. DON’T LET YOUR HANDS DO THE TALKING:  Calculators are not generally known for being outspoken and gregarious.  Think Mr. Spock from Star Trek.  They tend to be very good listeners, but if you are talking very fast or quickly moving to different topics, it doesn’t give them a chance to think about what you are saying (which they like to do).  Also, if you make a lot of gestures with your hands or are being demonstrative, it can be distracting to a Calculator who is trying to listen to what you are saying.
  1. BE PREPARED FOR THEIR FAMOUS “RESTING FACE”:  As stated earlier, C’s are fairly good listeners, and they like to think about what you are saying.  Unfortunately, the high C may listen so intently that they get what we call “the resting face”  This is the face that you get when you are focused on the conversation.  While a High “I” may have a smile on their face while they are listening, a High “C” might give you the furrowed brow or have their arms folded.  Also, remember that some C’s do not make eye contact as much when you are talking.  Often, this isn’t personally  directed at you, they are just trying to not be distracted, as they listen.  Try not to be offended or take the body language of the High C to personally.  They actually may be listening.
  1. KEEP A SAFE ZONE: Many Calculators may not like to be touched.  That is certainly not universal and if a C is very comfortable with you, it may be OK, but as a general rule, C’s will not appreciate someone putting their hand on their shoulder or hugging as a greeting.  They may not like it if you stand directly behind them and hover.   Also, for you Seinfeld fans, Calculators would not be appreciative of the “Close Talker”!

Possible reasons for conflicts with a Calculator:

Influencers are usually good with people, like to use their hands when they talk and many enjoy constant conversation. They have energy and enthusiasm which makes them exaggerate some times.  They also take cues of acceptance or rejection from other people’s body language.  This can come in direct conflict with a Calculator type who has a “resting face” that seems to indicate disinterest in what the Influencer is saying.  The Influencer type can feel like the C is not listening and is aloof.  That may not be the case, but the I may feel like it is.  The Calculator, on the other hand, can think that an Influencer type jumps around when giving information, is distracting with their high energy body language, and may come across to the C as emotional.  The C may literally look away, during a conversation, in order to filter out just the facts that are being conveyed.

TEAM EXERCISE:

Utilizing your smart Calculator types to create appropriate and relevant agendas for a meeting, keeping the meeting on time and on task, along with reporting out themes are strengths of a Calculator in these types of settings.

 

What will you lose because of your executive brand this week?©

Your executive brand (or your unique executive value of you) is communicating something about you as a professional, all the time, whether you are conscious of it or not.  It may be working for you, or against you.

Whether you want to get promoted, negotiate for a raise, land that dream job, start your own entrepreneurial adventure, or lead your industry’s most prestigious organization, your executive brand is the key to your success or failure.  Unfortunately, you aren’t graded on your executive brand out loud.  Your customers, co-workers, bosses, partners and vendors are grading you constantly in the little bubbles over their heads and rarely will you get the opportunity to know what they are thinking about you until it is too late to do anything about.

The following percentages generally represent where others are placing emphasis during a live conversation with you:

7% to words
33% tone of voice
55% non-verbal body language

Basically, as you are communicating, others are more focused on your tone and how you are looking back at them (or not looking) than they are the words you are using.  For that reason, you can lose standing quickly, with who you want to influence the most, if your tone of voice and your “resting face” or body language indicates a disinterest or harsh nature.

For those of you familiar with DISC behavioral styles, Drivers can come across with a harsh and dismissive tone and intense body language under stress.  Influencers can come across as unfocused and “too jovial” under stress.  Supporters, could be too quiet or even shy when the situation may call for a more assertive tone or body posture.  Calculators, on the other hand, may look away when someone is talking to them and seem uninterested which could come across as arrogant when that is not their intention at all.

The great thing about your executive brand is that building it is within your control.  Repairing it, if it is damaged, is imperative if you want to advance.  How do you know if you have an issue with your executive brand?  A good place to start is by doing some self evaluation with these 3 questions:

  1. How quickly do your emails, phone calls, or texts get returned by others and especially those that you want to influence and connect with the most?
  2. In meetings, do the people you report to, your partners, or peers listen to you when you speak or do they talk over you and rarely “give you the floor” to present your thoughts, concepts, ideas or vision?
  3. How often are you asked for your opinion on high level decisions in your organization or department?

Research indicates that there is a wide range of opinions on what creates the optimal executive brand.  One of the simplest models focuses on 5 key areas of executive presence, or brand as many of us call it.

  1. Communication

“Communication is the business currency of today”, says Raymond A. Mason in his video webinar:  Attaining an Executive Presence.  Building your skills in listening for information rather than confirmation is essential.  Most people I study are listening for others to prove that what they believe is accurate and on track.  The highest level leaders I have worked with and coached listen for information.  They want their beliefs, thoughts, concepts, and data to be disputed and debated so they can be sure they are solving the right problems, at the right times, using the smallest amount of resources.

Raymond breaks down communication in these 6 ways:

  • Active Listening
  • Speaking, presenting, delivering
  • Verbal communication
  • Empathy
  • Cross Cultural Sensitivity
  • How are you perceived?
  1. Substance

Know your stuff.  Read.  Read books, articles, and white papers on your industry and new technologies that will be effecting your industry 5-10 years from now.  Be knowledgeable about what you have been assigned to do within your organization.  Competency and standards build trust.  Executives that put forth little effort to be well educated and up to date in their field can quickly fall out of favor.  The challenges facing most organizations today are robust with complex issues.  Being well read and studying topics at hand, before group meetings and key one-on-ones will put you way ahead of your internal and external competitors… and trust me, you are ALWAYS COMPETING with someone whether you are aware of it or not.  You are rarely the only one that can do your job or hold your position.

  1. Appearance

This is about being appropriate for your organization and industry.  If your boss wears a suit to work every day it’s highly possible you are expected to.  Ask about dress codes.  Ask others, that you respect and who will give you direct feedback that you may not like sometimes, what they think about your attire, your hair, and if you’re a woman…or want to be one…about your make-up choices.  I feel like I’ve seen this enough to have to say it:  Holes in your clothes – even small ones, wrinkles in your shirts, highly scuffed and worn out shoes, ungroomed hair, can all be a non-verbal sign to those you report to or work with that you “don’t care.”  Don’t fight the appearance aspect of executive brand.  Let the rebel in you dress however it wants on off hours.

  1. Poise

Refer to a previous article I wrote on emotional discipline.

  1. Surroundings

What does your office look like?  If you Skype, what’s in the background?  What does your conference room communicate to potential hires, to vendors who call on all your competitors, to peers from your industry, and most importantly, to your customers?

One aspect of executive presence/brand I would add to this list is originality.  Copying other’s original ideas, thoughts, and concepts, without giving them credit, as opposed to building on them, will not lead to optimal outcomes.  You are smart, capable, and probably more creative than you give yourself credit for.  Collaborate, don’t copy.

TEAM EXERCISE FOR THIS WEEK:

Assign team members to read or watch any of the following webinars, videos or articles and have them report out on what they learned about creating a strong executive brand for themselves.  Each member could choose a different one and then report out at a session you schedule together.

Have each team member answer the following questions at the meeting:

  1. What was your biggest take-a-way from what you read or watched?
  2. What were the top 3 themes from what you watched or read?
  3. What is one aspect, of your executive brand, you would like to focus on to improve?

Webinar: Attaining an Executive Presence with Raymond A. Mason School of Business Alumni

7 Steps to Developing Your Presence as a Leader article

Executive Presence Learning article

The 7 Traits of Executive Presence

5 Ways to Optimize Your Executive Presence

Look Like A Leader:  Secrets to Executive Presence

Executive Presence – Talks at Google with Sylvia Ann Hewlett

 

Will you read a short letter from Lynda and get hooked this week?

Just passing along some love to you, the leaders, executives and managers I admire the most. Thank you for making the choice to receive this article series, “Lynda’s Launch List” each week.  You and I have been creating this content together, because it is based on your feedback in classes and coaching sessions, since the Launch List was first published in December 13, 2007.  It cracked me up to see the first one I ever posted and distributed on that date.  http://lyndamcnuttfoster.com/today/  We’ve had quite the journey together to build a subscriber base that reaches more than 2,000 executives and their teams each week.

I am grateful for the support so many of you have shown, over the last year, as my husband, Allen Foster and I, launched Cortex Leadership Consulting, which was the merger of a consulting firm I founded more than 20 years ago, McNutt & Associates, Inc.

Our team at Cortex has already coached and trained more than 120 participants in our leadership classes, Leading a Winning Team, and given keynote note speeches about my newest ebooks and audiobook to more than 750 in the last 6 months alone.  Our diverse team of professionals work hard to listen to you, hear your feedback and biggest challenges and respond with content and programs that appear to be transforming you and the teams you lead.  I am hooked on working hard to serve you.  I love what I do and wouldn’t be able to without you!  So, onto what you read this article for each week.

So, will you be hooked on what I discovered for you this week?

Hooked Nir EyalI have not been able to put down Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products, by Nir Eyal.  It started when I watched a short video on YouTube one morning when I was on the elliptical.  Then I bought the 30-minute audio summary.  Next came the Kindle version and the hard copy is on the way.  Why am I devouring every piece of material available on this book?  Simple.  It provides a clear path to how people get hooked on things and then build habits around them. The work Eyal has done focuses on products and services.  A previous article from “Lynda’s Launch List” focused on the book The Power of Habit.   Why I am so interested in the formation of habits is that I want to discover easier and simpler paths for leaders to be hooked on the types of behaviors that lead to their, and their team member’s successes.  Eyal talks about wanting to produce products and services that use what know about getting hooked for the betterment of people rather than simply manipulating them.

Consider some of the book’s key take-a-ways:

Behaviors = Motivation + Ability + Trigger

A behavior is created when there is sufficient motivation, an ability to complete the desired action and a trigger to spark the fuse.

It’s much harder to motivate someone to do something than it is to simply make it easier for them to do it.  In Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Switch, they researched and wrote about how important it is to make the “path” easier during any change you want to see.  Eyal found the same thing to be true.  Simply the steps one needs to follow to get to their reward and they are much more likely to get there.  It works the opposite way as well.  If you want to break a habit, make it WAY more difficult to get to the reward and you will be less likely to chase after it.  For example, it’s much easier to collaborate on a project if you have set days and times to meet and everyone is in attendance.  The harder it is to communicate with one another the more likely it won’t happen.

In other words, if you want to not eat ice cream, don’t buy it in the first place.  If you want to exercise more, make your desk sit on top of your treadmill.  Stop trying to motivate yourself and others and simply make it easy for them to do what you want them to do and connect it with one of the 3 types of rewards people seek.

The 3 types of rewards that people seek are:

Rewards of the tribe…people want to feel connected to others.

Rewards of the hunt…people want information or tangible goods and they like to make a small effort to get them.  They like to complete tasks.

Rewards of the self…this one is about our desire for learning and mastering new skills.

Social media sites have been genius at getting many of us and I dare say most of a young generation of folks, hooked on their products.  The sites appear free of cost, yet that is only true when users are not valuing the time they are investing in those platforms.  The emotional reward comes when we go to the site and “hunt” to see what is available to us as far as information.  Once we are invested in the sites by having connected and invited our friends to join we become less likely to disconnect from them, even if a better site comes along.

What if we used the principles and practices described in Hooked to get ourselves and our team members hooked on the types of actions that we know lead to lasting results?

What do you want your team to be hooked on?

Sticking to agendas in meetings?

Meeting deadlines?

Having higher quality conversations?

Lower levels of drama between team members?

  1. Start by determining, as a team, one habit you want to create.
  2. Next, discuss the types of rewards (tribe, hunt, self) team members would achieve if they were to create that habit.
  3. Determine what reward team members are getting now from their current behaviors. (Trust me, there’s always a reward or they wouldn’t be doing it.)
  4. Brainstorm what type of external trigger you can create to help cue people to take action on the behavior. If you want meetings to stay on time and on agenda, agree to send agenda’s ahead of time, get agreement to follow it during the session and have a time keeper of the meeting to ensure they stay on track of what has been agreed upon.
  5. Determine how people will be invested, over time, in the new behavior. Maybe team members receive points each time a meeting starts and ends on time and those points add up to rewards.

Footnote:  I hope that each of you have someone in your life, on this Valentine’s Day, that you are hooked on the way I am my amazing, brilliant, and supportive husband, Allen Foster.  I am deeply, madly in love with him and appreciate him for what he has done to make the last 17 years joyful.

 

Will leaders exhibit emotional discipline this week?©

There’s a part of being emotionally intelligent that is key to leaders successfully creating collaborative outcomes and it would appear, from my experience with thousands of them in training and executive coaching sessions, to be the portion know as “self management.”

Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability of individuals to recognize their own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.  Basically, it’s your “people” skills.  The characteristics include self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.  Daniel Goleman, a psychologist, developed the framework for it.  Many organizations use assessments that measure your level of development in each of the skills.  Studies of indicated that emotional intelligence is a higher indicator of success, in many areas, than even a person’s IQ.  Here’s a nice article to compare the two for you.

Discipline is defined as:  the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.  Discipline used to be something that was coveted.  The concept was honored and honorable.  It still is when it applies to having a perfectly sculpted body (one thing I may never see in the mirror).  Everyone seems to want one of those these days and will go to great lengths to have one.

Emotional discipline, though, is something that we may not be focusing quite enough on, right now, and could be the missing key that unlocks the outcomes we want to achieve.  The leaders I have coached and admired have emotional discipline, which I have found to mean that they don’t always do what they want to do, or say what they want to say, when they want to say it.  They don’t always react in anger when they have full justification to do so.  They don’t do tasks when they feel like it, but rather when they have them scheduled to happen.

Leaders that possess emotional discipline have an impulse, quite frequently, to run the other way when the super tough decisions need to be made, and yet they don’t.  They stand up, when others sit down, and they speak their truth in the face of criticism and sometimes serious consequences.

For those of you that are familiar with the DISC behavioral styles here are some areas that each of us may have an opportunity to develop emotional discipline in regard to:

Drivers – may have an impulse to over-confidently say exactly what’s on their mind, with little contemplation. They may speak from the “gut” and may not give consideration to how it lands on peers and team members.

Influencers – may have an impulse to avoid needed conversations and situations if they feel like they could result in a possible conflict, or deterioration of a relationship or a how much a person likes them.

Supporters – may have an impulse to hold back on their opinion or believe that their opinion isn’t as important.  They may also have an impulse to take all of the work onto themselves instead of burdening someone else which may sometimes lead to not delegating well.

Calculators – may have an impulse to NOT communicate instead of communicating.  Calculators can sometimes be more comfortable in their office with “time to think” instead of seeking others’ opinions.

When the rules of emotional discipline aren’t followed there are consequences for the leader, their team and their organization.  They might include and certainly aren’t limited to their team loosing respect and trust in them.  A lack of emotional discipline may lead to lack luster results because a leader did what they felt like doing in meetings and during important interactions with others, rather than calling out unproductive behaviors. Maybe customer centric standards aren’t kept because it’s easier to overlook poor performance than it is to inspire excellence every day.

We all have work to do to right this ship and make emotional discipline as sexy and common place again as it used to be, when we celebrated and were more attracted to a leader taking a moment to quietly contemplate their answer than blurting out the first thing that came to their mind before the other person was even finished talking.

Here are some things to discuss with your team this week:

  1. In which areas of their work do they feel they are exhibiting strong aspects of emotional discipline?  Do they hit deadlines regardless of the internal or external obstacles they are dealing with?
  2. In which areas of their work do they need a higher level of emotional discipline? Do they need to lean into meaningful conversations that can move themselves and the team forward rather than leaning away because it’s more comfortable and familiar?
  3. Where do team members need help in being more disciplined? Is it hard for them to get fired up in the morning and do the toughest tasks they need to get done, first?  Who can help motivate them and keep them on track?

At Cortex Leadership Consulting (www.cortexleadership.com) we provide DISC, Motivators, Leadership Competency, Stress, 360 degree and Team Accountability assessments along with workshops and leadership programs to assist you and your team to reach your peak performance.  You can contact us at lynda@cortexleadership.com or (540) 776-9219 to book a workshop for your team, a customized leadership program for your organization or schedule a keynote speech.

If you would like to receive the Leader’s Launch List, each week, in your email inbox, go to www.lyndamcnuttfoster.com.

How smart will your failures be this week?©

My big sister, when I used to call her crying over some huge failure I thought I had just experienced used to tell me, “It’s a million-dollar day, Lynda!”  I wanted to hurt her.  She was trying to get me to see that the lesson I just learned was going to make me a million dollars one day.

Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Blah, blah, blah, right?  We all know that things can not always work out.  Yes, we know it intellectually, but do we embrace failure in ourselves?  Do we encourage others to fail?  Do we really lead our teams by looking at it’s members and saying, “If no one is failing then no one is probably trying anything new.”   After all, like Edison found, the faster you fail the sooner you find the right answer or solution.

Failure due to laziness, lack of accountability and effort or just being sloppy and uncommitted is not what I am talking about here.

I’m talking about innovation which can not happen without failure.  If you’re not willing to risk you are not going to innovate.  Lack of innovation is going to be the real failure for many organizations in the coming years.

In the article, Why you should encourage failure in the workplace, they explain why failure is necessary in today’s organizations:

  1. Encouraging risk-taking appears to top talent
  2. Risky behavior can yield huge success
  3. Mistakes are great learning tools

In Harvard Business Review’s article, To Increase Innovation, Take the Sting Out of Failure, Doug Sundheim suggests the following questions to help you and your team define if something was a smart failure in order to determine the right and wrong way to fail:

  1. What makes a failure smart in our organization?
  2. What makes a failure dumb?
  3. What guidelines, approaches, or processes characterize smart risk taking?
  4. What clear examples can we point to, to demonstrate smart failures?

How will you reward smart failures on your team or in your organization this year?  Will you only reward successes or can you create a “Dare to Try Award” which would go to the most thoughtful and well-executed failures?

Will you schedule a power hour for you and your team this week?©

In my new ebook entitled Time Mastery: 7 Simple Steps to Richer Outcomes I discuss the process of planning and executing a Sprint for you and your team.  These are 2-week long periods in which you hyper focus on a major deliverable that you want to accomplish.  These can be highly effective if you have defined the outcomes you want to achieve, have the authority to properly execute them and stay accountable the results you obtain.

As the holidays approach, you may find it helpful to schedule some Power Hours that are like mini-Sprints.  These microbursts of productivity, packed tightly into one hour of time, can help you and your team enter the holiday season with a clear task list and mind.

Here’s how:

  1. Schedule an hour of time this week that you are able to “rope off” completely.  If need be, you can let your team members know so that they can make arrangements to find assistance elsewhere during that hour.  An option is for you and a set of team members to schedule the Power Hour at the same time.  That way you are working in unison to get as much accomplished in one hour as possible.
  2. Determine which activities or tasks have been lingering around for days, weeks, or months that really need to get completed and haven’t. Things like clearing my inbox, scheduling health maintenance appointments, filing, running multiple small errands, and any number of things that have sat on the “side” of my desk fall into this category for me.  Which tasks do you have that you never seem to get around to doing, but that are not going to go away?  That’s your list.
  3. Schedule the hour for a time of the day and week that gives you the best chance at successfully executing it. When are the phones the quietest?  When do you have the least amount of interruptions?
  4. Celebrate when you have completed your Power Hour. Doesn’t have to be big.  Eat a Hershey’s Kiss if you like chocolate.   Declare to the world with fists in the air “I rock!”  The important thing is that you anchor the positive aspect of getting something done that you really didn’t want to do…and you had the discipline and fortitude to do it ANYWAY!

These Power Hours can be fun.  Put in your headphones and listen to music from the best times you can remember.  Challenge yourself to see just how many of the items on your list you can blast through with the laser focus of a Jedi warrior.

How will you manage silos in your workplace this week?©

Silos are naturally and necessarily created in work environments to house team members into groups that form departments and that are designed to lead to the alignment of authority, responsibility, and accountability.  Silos allow for executives to manage smaller teams that allow for them to create communities that focus on areas of expertise and specific work product creation and implementation.

All sounds great, right? Yep, until you need to innovate or become customer centric and organizationally focused.

A silo mentality can be defined as: A mind-set present in some companies when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company. This type of mentality will reduce the efficiency of the overall operation, reduce morale, and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture.

 

Three aspects to consider in the organizational silo barrier are:

  • Non-aligned priorities
  • Lack of information flow
  • Lack of coordinated decision making across silos

When these aspects are occurring it will be difficult to make the changes necessary to remain competitive and get the ultimate results you may need to achieve.

What's your strategy?

In the Harvard Business Review Article, The First Two Steps Toward Breaking Down Silos in Your Organization, Vijay Govindarajan makes the statement, “Companies don’t change because they want to. They change because they are forced to by customers, by competition, by advances in science and technology, and by government regulation. Only when change is being forced upon the enterprise will people seek, give, and accept help.”

So if you need team members who currently operate in silos to begin operating in a way that will lead to the results you want to achieve, you’ll need to:

  1. Make a compelling case for why innovation is necessary to the organization and for each of its members. It will need to be an interactive experience for the leader and team member’s that occurs in as many different forums and formats as possible. Change can’t be “someone else’s” job or need to happen because it was posted in an email or there was one tell and sell group gathering that happened. Nope, you are going to need to lead the campaign throughout the organization and take some serious time to connect with other leaders and their team members to make the message and vision stick.
  1. Create an agenda that develops a step-by-step guide that team member’s can follow to reach the vision you will communicate. You need to not only communicate the vision for better communications you need to demonstrate it by clearly articulating, in multiple ways, what you want to see in the culture of your organization. You need to be the catalyst by being the change you want to see. If you don’t start crossing the silo lines by being more transparent with information that can be shared, being inclusive in your mindset and more effectively interactive in meetings, don’t expect others to execute what you aren’t doing yourself.

TEAM EXERCISE this week:

Before your next team meeting, distribute these questions so that your team members have an opportunity, as do you, to consider their answers. When you get together do a round and allow each member to comment on the one that they think is affecting your organizational progress the most.

  1. What priorities do you or your department have that are not aligned with another’s?
  1. Put yourself in the place of the other silo—what would make that silo realize that your need was a priority?
  1. What information do you or your department have that could be useful to others?
  1. What information or assistance do you need from another silo that you are not getting?
  1. In what areas would increased collaboration and giving up some autonomy be more beneficial for the company than maintaining your individuality?

(Questions excerpted from How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things by Neil Smith with Patricia O’Connell. Copyright © 2012)

Will your brain be on dopamine this week?©

It’s hard to ignore (well, I guess you could if you wanted to) the mounting brain and other research that is proving that appreciation, recognition and gratitude increases workplace engagement, motivation and retention.

One study from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania found this:

“Researchers randomly divided university fund-raisers into two groups. One group made phone calls to solicit alumni donations in the same way they always had. The second group—assigned to work on a different day—received a pep talk from the director of annual giving, who told the fund-raisers she was grateful for their efforts. During the following week, the university employees who heard her message of gratitude made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who did not.”

 The part of the brain that is affected by appreciation and gratitude is the hypothalamus which controls dopamine – the “reward neurotransmitter”. Basically, when we show appreciation or receive it our brain make us feel good. 

Here are some ideas I found from a Forbes article entitled, 25 Low-Cost Ways to Reward Employees:

 

  • Just say thank you for the effort a team member as made recently.
  • Throw a pizza, cake or hummus (ha, I added that one) in their honor.
  • Grant a long lunch break, extra break or comp time.
  • Post a thank you note in the lobby with their name on it.
  • Have the entire team sign a framed certificate of appreciation.
  • Have the whole team give them a standing ovation at the beginning of the next meeting.

If you really want to know what will ring the appreciation bell for someone that you care about, try asking your spouse, child, friend or other family member to take the 5 Languages of Love free assessment. It will help you understand which of these 5 languages make them feel the best when they receive it:  

  • Quality time
  • Gifts
  • Words of Affirmation (that’s mine!)
  • Acts of Service
  • Physical Touch

It was incredibly helpful to our family when we realized that each one of us had a different language of love, but were constantly trying to give what we wanted to get from the other. I wanted words of affirmation so I gave those all the time whereas my daughter was happy with the most minor gift (even a cup cake counted) and my husband Allen, we found out, was all about quality time and couldn’t give a hoot about acts of service. The knowledge we got from one another, after taking the assessment, helped us more effectively give and receive appreciation to one another.

Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace could be just the right gift for yourself and your team this holiday season. 

 

How will you stay focused this week?©

Okay, folks. There’s only 7 weeks left of 2015. You still have time to make things happen for you and your team, but you are going to need to stay focused on the most important action steps that will help you arrive at the desired outcome you set for yourself this year.

Maybe you have reached that 2015 outcome already. Woohoo! Congratulations. It’s smooth sailing from here. Enjoy the holiday season and rest up for an amazing 2016. A relaxed brain discovers all kinds of amazing solutions.

If there are still a few things you want to accomplish, or that you are required to, you might find helpful a video from Brendon Burchard (about 12 minutes long). It points out some key ways to remain focused.

  1. Make fewer decisions. You want to be sure to remove any decision making from your plate that you can. Are there small decisions that are you making everyday that you can take off your plate and off your mind?   He points out that “mindlessly browsing consumes an incredible amount of brainpower; every new link and every new piece of information to pay attention to eats up your mental energy and reserves.” Save your brainpower for the highest-level thinking that really matters.
  1. Define mission. This one goes back to always start with the end in mind. What is your desired outcome today? This week? This year? 3 years from now?
  1. Say NO to everything immediately, as a first response, from now on. Rather than saying, “sure”, perhaps you could answer with, “That sounds great, but I need to check the other commitments I’ve made and get back to you tomorrow with an answer.”

The amount of binging and dinging that goes on in our world is endless, it seems. I don’t think Steve Jobs created some of the coolest technology every invented so it could control us. In fact, I’m quite sure it was so that we could use it to reach our best outcomes. What distractions can you remove tomorrow that will allow you to focus on the things you know that matter most to you, your team, and your organization?

TEAM EXERCISE:

At your next team meeting you could do a few rounds where each person discusses these three items:

  1. What decisions are they making everyday that they don’t need to be?
  2. What is their desired outcome for the coming year?
  3. What do they keep saying yes to that they need to be saying no to, instead?

Another good reference on this topic is an article from Harvard Business Review entitled, Train Your Brain to Focus.

 

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