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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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...

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My Obituary Photo and Leadership Growth

Posted by on Jul 11, 2014 in Change, Competence, Self-awareness, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I’ve noticed that my local paper often contains obituary photos of young people… who have died in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Why use a photo so separate from today’s reality?  That got me thinking about who I am today versus the person I was in my twenties, when I first became a leader. Please don’t put her photo on my obituary. She is not me, anymore. Coincidentally, this week I ran into a person I knew some years ago, when I owned my real estate brokerage business called The Property Shop, and a land development business called Sterling Tern Realty Trust. She asked me if I am still with the builders association. I have remained that person to her, for my changes are more visible to me and not, perhaps, so visible to others.  And yet, that is not me, anymore, though she is still a part of me. I have saved my old business cards over the years.  The ones from my real estate days all have photos.  Over the course of a decade, I started out working for others and then for myself.  These cards and their photos provide me a physical representation of my growth in competency and maturity.  I treasure them for that.  But I am not those people anymore, though they are a part of me. The learning came with bumps and bruises – both my own and others.  I was not a good leader at first, although certainly I tried. Last week someone said to me that leadership cannot be taught.  The situation did not allow for a rebuttal but oh how I disagreed, and how well I articulated why in my head.   I know clearly what I have learned, and how hard won those learnings were. I finished a coaching engagement with a C-suite executive client this week and during our closing assessment together when I asked him what he wished I had done differently.  He said “I wish you had come into my career twenty years ago.”  He had learned an enormous amount about himself as a leader and about leadership in general in the time we worked together.  Will his bosses be open to seeing that growth?  Or are the changes more visible to him and in spite of how he interacts with the organization and his staff will his bosses have a fixed view and see him as he was?  Does he need to tell them?  He is not that man, anymore. In another instance this week, a client who has been in her role less than a year was frustrated with her lack of clarity about the large organization she had joined, part of an industry that was new for her.  But after she shared the reactions of others to her vision and her plan for the future, I was certain she had great clarity.  She could articulate her vision clearly, and everyone with whom she had communicated had agreed with it.  She had clarity, but...

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Major Changes at a Hospital Occur from Walking in Their Shoes

Posted by on Oct 10, 2013 in Change, Competence, Problem Solving | 0 comments

If you are a company of more than one person, do you really know how customers, clients or patients have to navigate through doing business with you?  That goes for internal customers as well – getting IT help for example? Extraordinary benefits resulted from a careful examination in a hospital reported in this Harvard Business Review blog on leading healthcare innovattion. They called it “discovery.”  Though each department knew how the patient navigated their area, no one seemed to know the whole process.  They created a cross-functional team, took off their white coats and walked the walked – from the time the patient walked in.  It was an eye opener for them, and subsequently drove major improvements, patient outcomes, staff satisfaction, etc..  It could be for you if you try it in your company.  Read more here: How Micro-Moves Can Drive Health Care...

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Back-to-work Shopping List 8 Tools for Productivity & Success

Posted by on Aug 27, 2013 in Competence, Time Management | 1 comment

  As we transition from the lazy heat of summer to the crisp, productive days of fall here is a shopping list of eight tech, non-tech, and free tools to get you ready for greater success:  Stop hunting for passwords or inventing new ones.  This highly rated program (CNet 5 stars) will be the last password you’ll ever need with greater security than you’ve probably ever had Meeting notes template:  Download this free template I designed for a client to take meeting notes in a format that promotes easier follow up:  Meeting Note Template Action Book:  Here’s another way to make meeting and project follow up easier:  a spiral notebook designed by a creative company with pages segmented for multiple action steps, a smaller section for “backburner” items for later action, and large “think beyond the lines” blank areas printed with a dot matrix for writing and sketching without lines:  Creative Outfitters Bigger computer screen:  Apparently Microsoft did some research on worker productivity and found that a larger computer screen (or two) was pretty much the only thing that made a significant difference. Mindfulness CD or iTunes download:  Brain research shows that as little as 20 minutes of mindfulness practice a day increases your ability to manage yourself – moving yourself beyond default responses, helping you control emotional responses, providing space and time for choosing responses to challenges from people and from your environment, improving creative and innovative thinking.  Here’s a simple one I like that gives you choice of eyes closed (17 minutes) or eyes open (14 minutes):  Just Being APPS: super simple for time tracking; for free for up to 12 users)CRM (Customer Relationship Management), file and doc sharing, calendar; – easy individual or group project management, for taking searchable notes; Followup.ccfor sending yourself  email reminders to follow up.  Just remember, the tool doesn’t manage you, you’re learning to manage yourself – which takes time, effort, and practice Reflection time:  Your brain and your ability to think is your best tool, and you need to give yourself time to think.  Consider how you can “buy” time by paying  (by hiring or by delegating) someone else to do things that you don’t need to be doing.  Then schedule reflection time into each day to focus on what’s most important. You need to think before you act. The Awareness Paradigm:  Shameless plug for my book, but it’s a quick and entertaining read that will support you in becoming more successful and more productive, whether you’d like to run more productive meetings, lead change, manage others for the first time or after many years, or manage yourself more effectively. It’s now available on and on Amazon, in both paperback and ebook versions. (If you want an autographed copy, order on my website only then email me at  and I’ll personalize your order.)...

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Year-End Self Assessment Tool

Posted by on Dec 28, 2012 in Competence, Leadership Priorities, Measurement, Self-awareness | 0 comments

Evaluate your own performance in 2012 before you move into 2013.  The following downloadable assessment tool will help you reflect on the year, and can be used for you as an individual, team, or company.  It’s easy to forget all you’ve accomplished and all you’ve had to overcome so take time to reflect back over the year, and perhaps review your calendar or journal before completing the survey. Financial results are a key measure of success for any business or non-profit (no money, no mission).  You should have a fairly accurate idea of how you performed against budget throughout the year, so even though your year-end financials aren’t complete you should be able to think about your financial success.  However, financial performance is not the only measure you should use.  Look at your goals.  Look at your strategic plan.  Think about training and engagement, technology, customer satisfaction, marketing and branding, team development, leadership, new markets, satisfaction, fun.  Whatever matters to you! Finally… …. be generous to yourself. We do enough beating ourselves up for failing to reach our potential.  So leave that behind and take time to celebrate your success.  Even if it wasn’t the best year, noticing and honoring your specific achievements creates important neurological reinforcement that leads to future success!     This tool is a starting point, so use it as such, adding any questions or unique areas on which to reflect that fit your business: YEAR-END SELF ASSESSMENT TOOL    ...

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