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Great 3 Min. Video for Anyone with Nonprofit Connections

Posted by on Feb 20, 2015 in Strategic Planning | 0 comments

Watch this video if you serve on a nonprofit board, work for or with a nonprofit, or know anyone who does. It takes the Business Model Canvas designed for creating a business and applies it to the way nonprofits work with and strategize about their programming and donors.   Even if you don’t have nonprofit involvement you might find it gives you ideas for your own business:   You can download the canvas from the link at the end of the...

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Organizational Tangles: Use a SCARF to untangle them

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in Change, Conflict, Self-awareness, Teams | 0 comments

I have a client in an  “organizational tangle,” as Dr. Marcia Ruben titles a business challenge with multiple causes, diverse stakeholders, conflicting agendas, and charged emotions.  We’ve been using a the SCARF model of understanding five motivators to find a way to untangle the situation. SCARF is an acronym for a relatively new model of human needs developed by David Rock, founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute (where I’m pursuing certification in NeuroLeadership) based on the last ten years of neuroscience.  It is based in part on the research that the brain feels social pain as intensely as physical pain, and we have more memory of our social pain than physical pain.   Research has also shown that our brains are primed to move away from threat or pain and toward reward or pleasure.   So at work, we are motivated to join in or avoid situations based on five domains that our brains have evolved to value for survival purposes. These five social drivers described by SCARF are S:  status (our social standing compared to others) C:  certainty (our ability to anticipate, predict, and prepare) A:  autonomy (our sense of control) R:  relatedness (our connection to others – be they friend or foe) F:  fairness (our perception of the equity of a situation) We’re all different so we have individual SCARF profiles.  There is even an initial assessment so you can discover your rating of the five (although the assessment has yet to be validated.)   Click here if you want to try it.  About 46% of the thousands of people taking the assessment have rated Certainty as their dominant domain, so see how you compare. My client’s role gives him high status in the organization, which can blind him to the impact of his decisions on the status of others in the organization.  Similarly he has a low need for certainty, having lived an entrepreneurial life with a high tolerance for risk and change, so he didn’t foresee how the uncertainty of the change he implemented would impact his staff. Furthermore, since the change was initiated as a top down process, the staff is struggling with a lack of perceived autonomy. The research on the SCARF model shows that the domains interact and  improvement in one domain can offset another.  My client has made use of this as a strategy.  He’s been spending a lot more time walking around his facility, talking with people, jumping in to help with even mundane tasks such as emptying recycling bins holding town hall lunches – building an increased sense of relatedness and reducing the status differential.  He’s created a temporary team of volunteers from each department to bring forward everyone’s ideas about how to implement the details of the change – building an increased perception of autonomy.  (And it’s the perception, not the actual control, that is what matters to the brain.) Using the SCARF model is helping him untangle the tangle.  In the future he will be able to use it in planning so that he has less likelihood of finding himself in an organizational tangle in the first place.    ...

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Perseverance for 2015

Posted by on Jan 13, 2015 in Leadership Priorities | 0 comments

The word perseverance in Latin mean one who sees through to the end, or one who doesn’t yield.  In English it describes one’s ability to maintain momentum, intention, tenacity, doggedness. What’s really interesting to me is that in Chinese, the character for perseverance is often the same as the one used for patience. My word for 2015 is perseverance.  I mean the ability to push through discomfort when trying and then practicing something new.  I mean the mental fortitude to experience being a novice at something, or taking a risk that could result in public failure.  I mean the willingness to try hard things.  I mean the determination to hold people accountable, including myself. What I don’t mean is the grim grasp on a goal even when it should be let go.  I don’t mean holding onto products or service or even people that should be let go.  I don’t mean always choosing and arriving at a particular destination, when maybe it’s appropriate to be going somewhere new. I invite you to take time this January to decide what deserves your perseverance – what is worth your effort and worth your patience?  The goals that are really worth pushing for are in line with your values.  Not ever goal is worth it, not every goal is the right one, and not every goal needs A+ effort. Do find what is worthy of your perseverance and make space and time for it.  ...

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Managing Your Anxiety in the Workplace

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Mindfulness, Self-awareness | 0 comments

A client called me from a trip to San Francisco for a job interview, experiencing heightened anxiety. She doesn’t need the job as she already has a good one on the East Coast. Plus, since she has been recruited by several organizations and has had multiple phone interviews with no anxiety, we discussed where the increased emotional response came from. Based on my reading about the brain, we have highly developed sensors for novelty, as novelty or ambiguous situations can be threatening. Threat arouses the amygdala, and any previous similar threat that has been encoded in memory in the hippocampus adds to the fear response. The hypothalamus then sends messages to the pituitary glad where most hormones are governed. Cortisol and oxytocin flood our system, along with the neurotransmitters adrenaline and noradreniline, speeding up our heart and shutting down clear thinking. In my client’s case, she has moved several times, and finds moving emotionally challenging and administratively complicated, stories encoded in her hippocampus. Being in San Francisco, as opposed to the telephone interviews, heightened her awareness of the moving aspect of taking another job, and increased her anxiety. What can she do to control the anxiety, especially before and during her interview? She can use a technique called reappraisal, where she uses the cognitive or executive functions of her brain to reinterpret the experience, actually reducing limbic activity. She can remember that part of the nervousness of each move is excitement, and that after the initial challenges, she has enjoyed discovering each new place. In the interview itself if anxiety surfaces, trying to suppress it doesn’t work, as that actually can heighten limbic arousal, and surprisingly, can throw off the person interviewing her. Simply naming the feeling can help her, as labeling it takes it to the abstract, engaging the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and moving the brain activity away from the amygdala. In the moment, if she is overcome by anxiety (especially if thoughts of past moves intrude), she can refocus her attention and divert activity in her brain by attending to the present and noticing sounds in the room, or the feeling of her feet on the carpet. Everything has a social emotional context, as much as we want to think of ourselves as thinking logical beings. Our responses to threat to move away are so quick because they help us survive. We can experience threat all the time at work, whether from real threat, or perceived threat both of which have the same impact on our limbic system, sending our hearts racing, and shutting down our thinking.  Our brains  give us an opportunity to reassess and control that automatic response, and we can learn techniques to practice and get better at emotional...

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Five Career Benefits of Gratitude (Say Thank You)

Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I  love to celebrate with family and friends, love turkey and all the other stuff, and enjoy having a reason to be intentional about being grateful. Now I’ve found that gratitude is good for my business, as well as a whole bunch of other things it’s good for, like health… and sleep. Better Management:  While most managers are familiar with being critical of their employees, gratitude has been found to be an agent of change.  Multiple research studies indicate that specific and directed praise and gratitude for a job well done is a powerful motivator. Better Networks:  Gratitude has shown up in the research as increasing our ability to connect with others.  Those demonstrating more gratitude were able to build more social capital, important in today’s world of collaboration, job change and interwoven business webs. Goal Achievement:  People who keep gratitude journals are more likely to achieve set goals, according to research.  Gratitude journals may focus attention and build motivation by seeing what’s possible, rather than what’s not. Decision Making:  Gratitude has been demonstrated to increase the diagnostic skill of doctors in several research studies.  Decision making requires brain energy and has been shown to be improved by positive moods.  In one study giving doctors  a lollipop has increased their ability to be more attentive and consider more diagnostic choices (even though they weren’t able to eat the lollipop until afterwards, so it wasn’t the sugar.) Productivity:  Gratitude improves self-esteem and confidence, which in turn improves our ability to focus and get things done. I had a practice of keeping a gratitude journal before I went to bed – 10 things I was grateful for that day.  I haven’t done it recently, but writing this blog post is motivating me to start again. If these aren’t enough reasons to consciously practice gratitude, look at this diagram of the benefits from The Happier...

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What do Email, Pot, and Lost Sleep Share?

Posted by on Nov 18, 2014 in Competence, Fatigue, Mindfulness, Problem Solving | 0 comments

I have been checking my email frequently, and the more I do it, the more I experience the compulsion to check it even more often, in spite of the constant interruptions causing wasted time getting back into my work, and it makes me somewhat agitated.  I am discovering it has a significant consequence in my loss of brain function – as  much or more than missing sleep or smoking pot, according to research. A study done at the University of London found constant email and text-messaging to drop IQ points an average of 10 points, the effect similar to missing a whole night’s sleep and or smoking pot.  It has an even more significant impact on men than women. One of the reasons is that the brain is being forced to be on alert far too much.  It increases your allostatic load, a reading of stress hormones and other factors relating to a sense of threat.  There is a real detrimental impact on the brain.   It puts it in the constant fight or flight mode, like constantly under attack by saber tooth tigers.  So my brain wants to be on alert even more – check that email again! Furthermore, multi-tasking or switching my focus of attention from my primary task to my email, negatively impacts my ability to learn and remember.  Even if I think I am good at multi-tasking, evidence shows that it actually deteriorates my performance, and also my awareness of my performance.  In other words, I think I am doing better and I am actually doing worse. So no matter how important I think my email is, I have been inhibiting my ability to think creatively, to problem solve, and to work efficiently and effectively. Instead,  I am going to experiment with breaking the pattern of checking email and texts frequently, and treating my brain with more care.  So if you don’t hear from me right away, congratulate me!  ...

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Hot Stove Method of Using Time Well

Posted by on Oct 30, 2014 in Time Management | 0 comments

Prioritizing your activities is the best way to use your time well.  But meetings, email, and interruptions gobble your day and task lists lengthen.  The hot stove method builds on the fact that visualization is a highly effective organizational tool, Using Visual Imagery:  Apparently, a former White House chief of staff would start the day by imagining all of the issues and events to come as dishes being prepared on the top of a big stove in a kitchen.  He would place the important critical issues on the front burners, and others would be moved to the back, and still others would be on the side being prepared. Prioritizing: The process provided an intentional comparison of priorities, weighing the importance of one issue or event against another, and the visualization allowed him to remember the whole day.  It’s quick.  It’s easy.  In one way it reminds me of that bestselling book about a process of increasing  your memory that has you mentally place things to remember in rooms in your house. The front burner/back burner imagery, however, creates an immediate hierarchy of urgency.  It is a powerful metaphor, and a clear visual image that’s easy to hold in your head as the day wears on.  Our brains are highly developed for visual stimuli. Creating Boundaries:  This method could also counter that fallacy we all seem to operate with – that time is elastic and we can keep stretching it to stuff more into our day.  The hot stove method provides a sense of time being bounded – the stove only has so many burners.  If something new has to be inserted on a front burner, something else would have to be shuffled to the back, or off to the side.  This requires immediate re-prioritization, rather than just adding something to the list of things that need to get done. Try the hot stove method tomorrow and see if it allows you to better organize your day.  You may still be sidetracked, but you’ll be more aware of what’s using up your time that doesn’t belong “on the stove.” With practice, you can protect those “front burners” more effectively for what really...

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Training and Empowering New Employees

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in Competence, Performance Management | 0 comments

I had an interesting discussion this week about how to train new employees to act exactly how you want them to in certain tasks or responsibilities when it is crucial, at the same time empowering them to act independently when it is okay to give them freedom.  But even there you still have to provide the guidelines and values so they act as you would want them to. It starts with you deciding what has to be done just your way, and knowing why that’s true so you can explain it.  Maybe it’s how employees answer the phone, or complete a form, that needs to be exact.  But maybe you want to empower them to solve problems for customers within certain bounds so that they have the ability to act in situations that will likely have great variation. In either case, employees need to have a fully developed understanding of the expectations, the way their work relates to bigger goals, and the values that underly the expectations and culture they are part of.    That work can start before they are employees – in the interviewing and hiring process.  One organization I know weeds people out with the application that requires them to read, understand, and agree to the company mission statement and organizational values. Then what?  I’m not an HR person and there are many more expert people than I who can talk about designing a training program.  But for a small company, how do you codify it?  How does it get from in your head to written down so your managers or others can take over the process? I recently received an ad for some software to help organize that information.  I don’t know or recommend the software (even the article says you can do it with Word documents).  But the blog has enough interesting process for me to include some of it here: 1.  Make a list of all of the tasks that the new hire must perform as part of the job. A hub-and-spoke diagram is the most effective way to show this. It allows both the trainer and trainee to see, at a glance, what tasks need to be done. This visual should also include internal systems that an employee must learn, like the timecard system, the email system and the phone system. 2. For each regular task, carefully document the steps that must be performed. The easiest way to record these steps is a flowchart, rather than a text document. A flowchart more easily shows the different steps that occur as the result of a decision. 3. Create a simple access system to this information using a hub-and-spoke diagram. A hub is a place where you can group large amounts of information electronically. Link the task documentation to each shape in the hub and link to useful documents. The manuals for the phone, copiers and other internal systems are examples of this. The hub becomes an on-boarding reference for a new employee, providing easy access to all the information they need. Once in place, it is available as a permanent reference. Cross-training another employee to do the job, or replacing this employee in the future, will be much easier. All your new hire has to do is open the hub then point, click and learn. It...

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Don’t Network. Try this instead.

Posted by on Oct 16, 2014 in Influence, Meetings, Sales | 0 comments

I hate the term networking.  Network building is an improvement.  Community building is even better.  It’s about mutual benefits, and ongoing connection. It’s not about acquisition of assets.  Sure, it can be distant connection, not best buddies.  But it’s not a one and done. My daughter sent me a blog post this week on improving your networking skills from “meh” to “killer.”  Although I also hate the term killer,  I excerpted some of the tips below, which talk to the idea of community building, even if from a different slant. This is something to cultivate as a life long process, not just when you need something.  It’s nurturing the community of colleagues through what you can offer them, and turning to them when you need something.  There’s reciprocity of value, there is good citizenship. It’s also important to go beyond the familiar (which of course is where we are most comfortable, so this takes some stretching.)  Research shows that benefits often come from the second and third level connections, not your inner circle.  WHY?  Your inner circle often has the same connections you do.  Those second and third level connections offer you far more of the unknown. And if the awkwardness of entering a room of unknown people stops or slows you, try to focus your attention on putting others at ease, rather than how awkward you feel.  Think about how you can help them, rather than how they can help you. Good luck! Tips from the Web:  Take Your Networking Skills from “Meh” to Pro With This Killer Strategy With a little coaching and guidance, any reluctant networker can be turned into a pro. Be proactive. Don’t wait until you’re looking for a job to connect with your network. It should be part of a proactive career management strategy. Devote time to nurturing a strong career network of contacts. Be ready to offer assistance, share articles and professional insights, participate in groups and attend professional meetings. Engage in discovery. Seek out new networking contacts. LinkedIn can be incredibly helpful in finding new connections. But don’t rely solely on social networks. Be active in professional associations and/or industry groups. People hire people they know, so it’s important to make potential networking contacts in person at live events. Have a plan. Identify targeted companies and the competencies and experience you want to promote. This will help you focus on the right networking activities and conversations. Connect. Use your referral’s name up front: “Richard Smith thought you’d be a great resource for me as I explore career opportunities in the financial services industry.” Ask if you could discuss your targeted companies, probing for others that should be included and for names of possible contacts. Build your networking confidence. Practice networking at a variety of events. Arrive early — it’s easier to initiate one-on-one conversations during the first 10 minutes when the group is still small. Prepare open-ended questions to keep conversations going. Confidence is developed by becoming skilled; becoming skilled requires practice....

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Project Planning & Roll-Out with Sanity

Posted by on Oct 2, 2014 in Project Planning, Time Management | 0 comments

You are running a project.  You have a project plan of what people have to do.  Do you have a project plan for yourself?  For your own actions?  Two clients were swirling with all that they had to do until they created a simple matrix for themselves. First start with the high level goals of the project.  It’s all too easy when you’re caught in the details of execution to lose sight of the reasons the project is being done – what needs to be accomplished and even more important – why. Then list all the areas that are impacted.  What do YOU have to do in relation to these areas? Who are the most important people for you to work with?  What is the outcome necessary in each area for the whole project to work? What is the timeframe for the whole project, and therefore what is the timeframe for each piece and each area that YOU have to meet – not just the team, but you specifically.  Make sure you’ve taken into account the domino effect of one area or task in relation to the others.  Allow for failure.  In fact, plan for it. What communication is necessary?  What part do YOU have to play in the communications?  Triple whatever you think is necessary – when we’re in the trenches and our project in all we see, we forget how little it’s visible to others. Write down all of the above simply in a quick matrix or table – don’t spend a lot of time making it fancy or perfect, a handwritten single page is fine.  Perfect is your enemy and tends to gnaw at you when you’re down in the details of a project roll-out. Once you’ve gotten in all down for yourself, make sure you schedule time in your calendar to accomplish these activities . And try a pre-mortem.  (I described it here before I’ve tried it.  I’ve now tried it and really really liked it!  We came up with things that significantly changed our plan and significantly improved it.  I suggested it to a client who tried it and found it invaluable, as well.) In manufacturing terms, you have to be ready to ship – get the product/project out, so as the British say, keep calm and carry on.  ...

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