Self-awareness

Take the Shape Quiz to learn about yourself and colleagues

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in Communication, Conflict, Creativity, Effective conversations, Leadership, Self-awareness, Teams | 3 comments

This fun quiz is designed to get you thinking about how different we are.  It’s important to understand that you approach your work with a style and perspective that varies from your colleagues.  Understanding and appreciating the strengths within those differences allows you to become more successful.  You can start to work with the differences rather than against them.  It’s not meant to be a label – people are far too interesting and multi-dimensional for that.   Still, for the purposes of the quiz you’ll pick from four shapes. If it isn’t apparent already, there is no value judgment connected with which shape category people fall in. None of them are better than the other ones. Each one has qualities that are good for certain purposes and it has qualities that aren’t so good for other purposes. So here’s the quiz:  pick the figure you like most of these four shapes – a square, a triangle, a circle or a squiggle.  Then you can scroll to the bottom for a description of that type, including tips for your own improvement and tips for others to work better with you.  For a more complete picture you can even pick the figure you like the best and then the figure you like the second best.     The purpose of the quiz is not just self-understanding, but better communication.  You need to orient toward the style of the other person. A square will want specifics or perhaps details in writing. A triangle won’t appreciate indecisiveness. You may have to remove distractions before getting a squiggle’s attention. A circle needs to connect and have a conversation. In handling conflict, circles tend to accommodate or compromise. Triangles tend to compete, or, if they see how they can gain, compromise. Squiggles may not even perceive there’s an issue, but they can be competitive in defense of an idea. Avoidance is characteristic of squares because they don’t like dealing with emotion, or they may dig in until they get more information. Groups tend to take on a personality of their own.   Good teamwork needs all the shapes – triangles to focus on decisions and results, circles for harmony, squiggles for ideas, and squares to create the systems to get the details done. THE SHAPES QUIZ SQUARE:
 Details & Data & Systems People Characteristics: Hardest workers; task oriented Loyal Structured; organized Think sequentially, logically May be stubborn with opinions based on their data Value details and data; analytical Know policies & rules Not fond of change, prefer a stable environment Prefer to working alone to teamwork May see fun as unnecessary or a luxury Trouble saying “I’ve got enough information” Conservative, regular, orderly Meeting behavior:  well prepared, lots of notes, gets right down to work Motto: “Give me a job and a deadline and I’ll get it done” If you are a square it might help help you to: Be less picky with people Create your own routines Allow yourself to make a few mistakes so you...

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The Powerful Can’t Feel Your Pain or Hear Your Perspective

Posted by on Oct 21, 2016 in Communication, Leadership, Self-awareness |

A client recently asked me why powerful leaders often don’t take feedback well.  A board asked me why their president wanted coaching in conflict management when they felt he needed compassion training. And then there’s our X-rated presidential race. I saw two studies recently that might give us all something to think about.  Increased power diminishes our ability to be empathetic and compassionate because of its impact on the “mirror system” – how we are able to experience what someone else experiences, according to a Canadian research study.  Amazingly, even a small bit of power shuts down that part of the brain!  Scary stuff! Another study conducted at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management by Adam Galinsky and his colleagues found that increasing power increases self-assurance and confidence but in a way that makes one prone to dismiss viewpoints of those lacking authority.   As we get more powerful, according to Galinsky, we have increasing difficult in correctly perceiving others’ perspectives. So power leaves leaders somewhat isolated – stuck in their own perspective of themselves and the world, and unable to feel or see the “plight of the little guy” or even the view from the frontlines. Maybe that’s why all those leaders on the TV show Undercover Boss see things differently when they go into their companies in disguise.  It’s not just what others are willing to tell them, maybe it’s what they are able to take in when they are even temporarily sitting in a less powerful role. Empathy, compassion, self-awareness, and the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes are all qualities of a mature mind – one that can lead… and lead well. The good news is that other studies show you can grow these qualities with conscious effort.  That, of course, presupposes that you recognize that you need to grow those characteristics.  If you are willing, then you have to be all ears!  You have put off your mantle of power and seek out and listen to the feedback and perspectives of others.   This is when coaches can be really useful, or honest colleagues, board members, peers, friends, and even your...

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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...

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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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Take the Color Quiz – Read the science behind it’s value

Posted by on Sep 25, 2014 in Self-awareness, Teams | 0 comments

When my ideas are challenged it stretches me to think and re-evaluate.  A scientist questioned the validity of the Shape Quiz when I presented it at an engineering firm recently.  I answered that it’s a vehicle to talk about differences, but the question kept me thinking. I offer the Color Quiz below to learn about yourself, to learn about others, and to learn how to manage the space between more successfully.  Does it fit you?  If not, are you sure it doesn’t?  Would others think it fit you?  What can you learn? It may not be scientific, but it seems to resonate with people that have tried it. We each  have elements of all these characteristics, just as we do the four work styles defined in the Shape Quiz.  It makes little sense to divide the whole human race into just 4 different types in the case of the Shapes, or eight different colors.   We are more like snowflakes with infinite variety. I used to be resentful and resistant to all personality or behavioral assessments (although I studied them all in grad school).  I didn’t want to be defined by them.  I never remember my Meyers Briggs letters and maybe that’s my remaining resistance. What I do find useful is to explore my preferred behaviors, and how they may limit me. If the shape or the color tells me something I don’t agree with, who can I check with to see if I’m in denial, or blind to that in me.  If I read about you, how can it help me?  I find it useful to be curious about how we are different, and how we might see and approach our work together from varying perspectives.  How we might form better teams and create better collaborations.  But it can be  awkward to talk about.  If we’re good smart people, shouldn’t it just work? These simple quizzes have no scientific pretense, and are not verified statistically at the .01 level, which allows them to be a bit more fun and playful, and therefore a lighter, safe way to have conversations about our differences, and how those differences contribute to success and also get in our way.  We also might discover that we are so much the same that we’ll have blind spots, or gaps in our process and we’ll have to compensate or get others on our team to provide what we miss. These quizzes  provide an entrance point to conversations that might otherwise not happen because we might be stuck in judgment about our way being the right way.  Conversations that could be uncomfortable if they do happen. Differences can be hard to talk about. Let’s find ways to make it easier. Thank you to the scientist who asked the question.  It helped me gain clarity about how I’ll present these quizzes in the future. COLOR QUIZ: Pick the color  that is most appealing: Red White Blue Purple Black Green Orange Yellow Now read on to see what it...

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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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