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Four Key Traits of Conscious Leaders

Four Key Traits of Conscious Leaders

Leaders who have an effect for good or ill hold three common attributes: vision, discipline, and passion. The differentiation is conscience. When conscience governs, leadership endures and changes the world for good. Moral authority prepares formal authority work. When conscience does not oversee, leadership does not prevail, nor do the institutions created by that leadership. Formal authority without moral authority collapses.

Leadership for good lifts and lasts. Mahatma Gandhi’s vision, discipline, and passion were driven by conscience, and he became a servant to the cause and the people. He had only moral authority, no formal authority, and yet he was the father of the second largest country in the world. When vision, discipline and passion are governed by formal authority void of conscience, it changes things for the worse. Rather than elevating, it rescinds; rather than last, it fails.

Key Traits of Conscious Leaders #1: Vision

Seeing a potential state with the mind’s eye is vision. It’s applied imagination. All things are created twice: first, a mental creation; second, a physical creation. Vision starts the process of reinvention. It signifies desire, dreams, hopes, goals, and plans. These dreams are not just whims—they are reality without physicality, like a building blueprint.

Most of us don’t envision or appreciate our potential, even though we all have the power, energy, and capacity to reinvent our lives. Memory is past. It is finite. Vision is future. It is infinite.

'The Conscious Leader' by Shelley Reciniello (ISBN 098528644X) The most important vision is having a sense of self, a sense of your own destiny, mission, role, purpose and meaning. When testing your own personal vision, first ask: Does the vision tap into my voice, energy, and talent? Does it give me a sense of “calling,” a cause worthy of my obligation? Acquiring such meaning requires overwhelming personal reflection to rise above our autobiography, rise above our memory, and create a high-mindedness of spirit toward others.

We need to consider not only the vision of what’s possible “out there” but also the vision of what we see in other people, their unseen potential. Vision is about more than just getting things done; it is about unearthing and enlarging our view of others, affirming them, believing in them, and helping them discover their voice and realize their potential.

Seeing people through the lens of their potential and their best actions, rather than through the lens of their current behavior or weaknesses, produces positive energy. This affirming action is also a key to rebuilding broken relationships. There is great power in viewing people apart from their behavior and upholding their inherent worth. When we acknowledge the potential of others, we hold up a mirror to them, reflecting the best within them. This affirming vision unshackles them to become their best and frees us from reacting to bad behavior.

Key Traits of Conscious Leaders #2: Discipline

Discipline represents the second creation. It’s executing, making it happen, doing whatever it takes to realize that vision. Discipline is willpower personified. Peter Drucker noted that the first duty of a manager is to define realism. Discipline defines reality, acknowledges things as they are, and gets totally immersed in solutions. Without vision and hope, accepting reality may be discouraging. Happiness results from subordinating or foregoing immediate pleasure for a greater good.

Most people associate discipline with an absence of freedom, with coercion or duty. In fact, only the disciplined are truly free. The undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites, and passions. What about the freedom to forgive, to ask forgiveness, to love unreservedly, to be a light, not a judge—a model, not a critic? Discipline comes from being “discipled” to a person or a cause, often subduing an impulse in obedience to a principle or sacrificing present for future good. Successful people may not like doing things that failures don’t like to do, but their hate is subordinated by the strength of their purpose.

Key Traits of Conscious Leaders #3: Passion

Passion comes from the heart and is discernible as optimism, excitement, emotional connection, and determination. It fires remorseless drive. Enthusiasm is deeply rooted in the power of choice rather than circumstance. Enthusiasts believe that the best way to foresee the future is to create it. In fact, enthusiasm becomes a moral imperative, making the person part of the solution rather than part of the problem of feeling hopeless and helpless.

'The Conscious And Courageous Leader' by Tracy Tomasky (ISBN 0692725229) Aristotle said, “Where talents and the needs of the world cross, therein lies your vocation.” I say, “Therein lies your passion, your voice, your energy, your drive. It keeps you at it when everything else may say “quit.” When life, work, play, and love all revolve around the same thing, you’ve got passion! The secret to creating passion is finding your unique talents and your special role and purpose.

Courage is the crux of passion, and is, as Harold B. Lee once said, “the quality of every virtue and acting at its highest testing point.”

Skills are not talents. Talents, however, require skills. People can have skills and knowledge in areas where their talents do not lie. If they have a job that requires their skills but not their talents, they’ll never tap into their passion. They’ll go through the motions, but need external supervision and motivation.

If you can hire people whose passion intersects with the job, they will manage themselves better than anyone could ever manage them. Their fire comes from within. Their motivation is internal.

When you can give yourself to work that brings together a need, your talent, passion, and power will be unlocked.

Key Traits of Conscious Leaders #4: Conscience

'Awakening Corporate Soul' by Eric Klein (ISBN 0968214932) Conscience, this moral sense, this inner light, is universal and independent of religion, culture, geography, nationality, or race. All major traditions are unified when it comes to basic underlying principles or values.

The thesis developed by authors Eric Klein and John Izzo in Awakening Corporate Soul begins to explain how leadership and working with conscience, compassion, and commitment are relevant to individuals. They write,

There is, at this time, both a crisis and a longing that permeates organizations across North America. We call one the commitment crisis, the struggle of organizations and their leaders to discover ways to ignite commitment and performance in a rapidly changing insecure climate. The other is an awakening that is slowly occurring within traditional businesses—the awakening of the Corporate Soul. It is a nascent movement that seeks to reclaim the spiritual impulse that is at the heart of work. It is about people wanting work to have meaning and even more, to engage more of them at the deepest levels of their capacity and desire.

  • Conscience is the moral law within—the voice of God to his children. Hence, there is an innate sense of fairness and justice, of right and wrong, of what contributes and what detracts, of what beautifies and what destroys, of what is true and what is false. Culture translates this basic moral sense into different practices and words, but this translation does not negate the underlying sense of right and wrong. There is a set of values, a sense of fairness, honesty, respect and contribution that transcends culture—something that is timeless, which transcends the ages and is also self-evident. Conscience is the still, small voice within. It is quiet and peaceful.
  • Conscience is sacrifice—the subordinating of one’s self or ego to a higher purpose, cause or principle. Sacrifice means giving up something good for something better. Sacrifice can take many forms: making physical and economic sacrifices (the body); cultivating an open, inquisitive mind and purging oneself of prejudices (the mind); showing deep respect and love to others (the heart); and subordinating one’s own will to a higher will for the greater good (the spirit). In business, you know those who are honest with you and who keep their promises and commitments. You also know those who are duplicitous, deceitful, and dishonest. Even when you reach a legal agreement with those who are dishonest, do you trust they’ll come through and keep their word?
  • Conscience tells us the value of both ends and means. Ego tells us that the end justifies the means, unaware that a worthy end can never be achieved with unworthy means. It may appear that it can be, but unintended consequences that are not seen or evident at first will eventually destroy the end.
  • Conscience transforms passion into compassion. It engenders sincere caring—a combination of sympathy and empathy where one’s pain is snared and received.

People who do not live by their conscience will not experience this internal integrity and peace of mind. Their ego will try to control relationships. Even though they might pretend or feign kindness and empathy, they will use subtle forms of manipulation.

The private victory of integrity is the foundation for the public victories of establishing a common vision, discipline and passion. Leadership becomes an interdependent work rather than an immature interplay between strong, independent, ego-driven rulers and compliant, dependent followers.

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Stress: A Catalyst for Change

Stress: A Catalyst for Change “People don’t like change.” I perhaps hear this statement at least once a week. Regrettably, it perpetuates the thinking that people will try to avoid change. The reality is quite the opposite.

Change is an essential part of our living experience. We change to live. But we don’t live to be changed. When you understand this difference, you can use the stress of change as a potential energy source.

Hans Seyle originally defined stress in the 1930s. He identified it as a biological and psychological response or condition brought on by events outside of the person, such as a marriage, a divorce, getting a new job or losing a job.

Stress is often characterized in terms of “good” (eustress) and “bad” (dis-stress). This view of stress limits its potential as a catalyst for enabling change in your organization. To unlock your organization’s change energy you need to shift your thinking away from stress as an end state toward stress as an energy source. As energy, stress is needed to ignite and propel your change forward.

Viewed from yet another angle, it can be a spur for personal growth and enlightenment. Stress can be used as a justification to play the victim card, and it can also be the force that thrusts you forward into a better existence. Stress can be used as the motivation you choose to become numb through drugs, medication or alcohol, and it can also be the reason you are led to education, exercise and nutrition.

Successful Change Needs Stress

'Thinking for a Change' by John C. Maxwell (ISBN 0446692883) In his book Thinking for a Change, John Maxwell notes that all change feels awkward and uncomfortable, and if it doesn’t it probably isn’t really a change. Organizational change can only happen when people feel a strong disconnect between where the organization wants to be and where it is now.

It is the tension between the current state and the desired state that creates the stress necessary for change. At this critical point where new meets old you have the chance to excite people with the prospect of the new opportunities or paralyze them with the fear of uncertainty. It all depends on the beliefs your organization holds about change and the actions you take based on those beliefs.

Being under stress truly is an absolute growth-opportunity—none better. Rather than numb it or suppress it with drugs and alcohol, or run from it in denial or as a victim, why not use it as a catalyst for learning and change. During my life, my moments of intelligibility as well as my biggest achievements, individually and in business, demonstrated themselves just after the most stressful and painful times in my life. No matter how bad it can get, something good can always come from it. You just have to be open enough to see it through all the pain, misunderstanding or upset.

Enabling organizational change requires you to create enough stress to allow people to act on the need to let go of their current state without generating so much stress that they are immobilized with dis-stress.

'The Tao of Personal Leadership' by Diane Dreher (ISBN 0887308376) Diane Dreher compared conflict to electricity in her book The Tao of Leadership. The same comparison could be made about change; like electricity, change can either light up your world or destroy it. It all depends on the appropriate and careful use of stress.

Here are a few tips to help you balance the stress to dis-stress continuum:

  1. Enable the time and opportunity for people to recognize the need for change.
  2. Encourage and guide people’s need to make the change meaningful for them.
  3. Enable active participation in the “creation of their destiny”.
  4. Talk about the change and its transition (especially) when you think you have nothing to talk about.
  5. Recognize and acknowledge the discomfort of the change process—support people’s journeys.

Using Stress as a Catalyst for Change

Profound organizational change unavoidably produces stress. Those who lead change often try to suppress stress in an effort to sustain positive energy and forward movement.

Nevertheless, attempting to squash stress is a mistake. Successful leaders actively use stress to help transform organizations. To turn stress into a catalyst for change, implement these four practices:

  1. Build a shared mission to hold the core group together;
  2. Leverage the power of dissident voices;
  3. Give the work back: let others resolve conflicts;
  4. Raise the heat to uncover conflicts that need to be addressed.

Recognizing that employee engagement can help build a deeper sense of purpose, your team can develop a one-of-a-kind strategy that encourages employees to spend four hours a month, during the business day, volunteering on creating change.

Stress may not be pleasurable, but it can be beneficial.

Posted in Uncategorized

Glimpses of History #3: Prehistoric Migration out of Africa

Glimpses of History: Prehistoric Migration out of Africa

The spreading out of modern human populations in Africa 80,000 to 60,000 years ago and their initial exodus out of Africa have been uncertainly linked to two phases of technological and behavioral innovation within the Middle Stone Age of southern Africa.

The genus Homo evolved in Africa a little less than 2.5 million years ago, characterized by increasingly large brains that equipped them better for survival—their predecessors, the australopithecines, became extinct soon thereafter. Mary and Louis Leakey became famous for their discovery of the Homo habilis site in Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge—a small ape—like biped that was skilled with stone tools (hence the name).

'Africa History Migrations' by Akan Takruri (ISBN 1976711592) These include surface and buried soils, windborne dispersal, human motion, excavation techniques and toolkits, and field attire has on archaeological sample quality. The announcement of Homo habilis was a defining moment in palaeoanthropology. It shifted the pursuit for the first humans from Asia to Africa and began a debate that persists to this day. Even with all the fossil evidence and analytical techniques from the past 50 years, a convincing hypothesis for the origin of Homo remains elusive.

Later hominids were larger, stronger and more anthropomorphic. The fossil record shows that hominids spread from Africa to Europe and Asia in multiple waves beginning about 2 million years ago (exactly how many species were involved, and how recently some survived, remains uncertain). They appear to have developed vocalization, hunter-gatherer social groups and the use of fire over the next million years.

The current scientific consensus, supported by DNA studies, is that modern humans arose in Africa 200,000 years ago, before spreading out, replacing and interbreeding with other hominids.

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Posted in Hobbies and Pursuits

Glimpses of History #2: The Origin of Tools, Arts, and Belief

While many animals have learned to manipulate objects such as twigs to release food from inaccessible places, humans are the clearest example of what psychologists call “theory of mind.” People’s instinctive identification of their own and other people’s minds or mental states, including beliefs and thoughts. The ability to attribute mental states to oneself and to other individuals and thereby to be able to predict the behavior of others develops from a very early age in humans.

The Origin of Tools, Arts, and Belief

Early art indicates that this is as old as humanity—depictions of people and events are physical manifestations of mental processes, made to look recognizable to others, and with this came other significant abilities.

Studies of the sociocultural backgrounds of particular art objects, forms, and styles center judiciously upon the art as part of a larger system. In other words, dedicated, anthropologically based study of art is desired, which would try to find data about art and its environments from a number of different societies and pull out all the stops to station such studies in a equivalent conceptual framework.

One is that an individual can imagine what another individual might do; verbal communication can go beyond information and orders into storytelling and attempts to guess another’s reactions: associated regions of the brain developed rapidly in this period (some have suggested that civilization began with the ability to gossip). Another is that composite and abstract notions can be communicated, containing plans for hunts or future projects—things that cannot be seen. A third significance is an awareness that this ability ends when an individual dies: surprisingly early, we find humans buried with personal objects.

Venus of Willendorf

Archaeology as a branch of learning endeavors to reconstruct the origin, prehistory, and history of the human race using objects remains such as relics, settlements, ramparts, burials, and skeletal remains. The Venus of Willendorf is an 11.1-centimeter-tall Venus limestone figurine assessed to have been made between about 28,000 and 25,000 BCE. It was unearthed by Josef Szombathy on August 7, 1908 near Willendorf in Austria. It is now housed in the Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum,) Vienna. Such figures are acknowledged to have been made as representations of fertility or fecundity, intended to bestow or ensure fruitfulness in some form.

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Posted in Hobbies and Pursuits

God is the Great Healer

Time May Be a Great Healer, but it’s a Terrible Beautician.

Time May Be a Great Healer “Time is a great healer.” You have often heard that, but have you ever paused to think how absurd a statement it is?

Time itself does not act. Only one who has a will, only one who has a mind and purpose of his own, can act. A healer is one who knows what pain is, who loves life and seeks to prolong and improve it. Time is an abstraction, the span of moments or of days within which actions occur. Therefore, time itself cannot heal us.

When we say, “Time is a great healer” we mean that apparently without man’s intervention our bodies and our spirits are mended. This is true. However, while man does not intervene, a great doctor, unseen to the human eye, does the work of healing. Our grief gradually recedes, the bruises in our skin disappear, and the ache in our hearts gives way. God who formed life endowed it with amazing recuperative powers. The process of recuperation takes time, but the restorer of health is He who is also the giver of life—Almighty God.

God is the great Healer and He heals in time.

Have you ever met a perfectly healthy person? I am certain that you have not, because such a person does not exist. Everyone suffers from some deficiency, from some impairment of one organ or another.

In addition, what is true of physical health is true of mental health. No life is perfectly serene, without some distress, without some grief.

We have already said that the air contained a variety of different substances, salts, metals, sculptures, and such-like; these when uniting with the surfaces of planetary bodies must naturally corrode them, as we see aqua forties, which is made of a mineral acid, rust iron.

Success Cannot Be Pursued; it Must Ensue

Success Cannot Be Pursued All the same, our failure to recognize this necessity often causes far more pain in the end. It prevents us from mourning our losses properly, submitting to uncomfortable medical tests and treatments, and removing splinters. In fact, our power to endure necessary pain and to delay satisfaction in general has been shown to be more strongly correlated with success than high IQ or even educational layer. Resiliency of this kind may, in fact, be the key to happiness.

Separate scales were created to ascertain for these apparent gender differences and, using the two separate scales, men and women did not differ in hostility. Even so, before we begin to assess the efforts of this flexible power, it will not be wrong to inquire from whence the power itself proceeds. The thing indeed recommends itself, and must do so to every person, whose heart is adequate two of the least tincture of compassion for such vast numbers of poor forlorn Indians.

Fledged affection, homage, devotion, does not easily convey itself. Its vocalization is low. It is modest and self-effacing; it lays in lying in wait and waits. Such is the mature fruit. Sometimes a life glides away, and finds it still ripening in the shade. The light inclinations of very young people are as dust compared to rocks. The Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl wrote about success in his treatise Man’s Search for Meaning:

Again and again I therefore admonish my students in Europe and America: Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.

That is encouraging to people who are afraid to start the recitation—to know that relating directly with your suffering is a doorway to welfare for yourself and others, rather than some kind of masochism. Thus then, continues Leibnitz, we have two kinds of forces; dead forces, which are as the weight multiplied by the velocity; and animated forces, which are as the weight multiplied by the squares of the velocity. Moreover, the people are powerless to do anything about it. Only people enjoying affluence, people on a run of good luck, make fun of such fallacies.

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Posted in Faith and Religion

Glimpses of History #1: Early Humans

Australopithecus - Fossils of Early Humans The term australopithecine refers to any member of the extinct genus of human-like hominids Australopithecus, supposed to have existed between 4 million and 1 million years ago in southern and eastern Africa.

The most compete fossil material is known from the Ethiopian archaeological spot of Hadar, about 50 km (30 mi) north of Aramis, where deposits returned fossils dating between 3.4 and 2.9 Ma. In 1974, an incomplete skeleton was found and recognized as a female by its pelvic bones (and small size compared to other fossils) and nicknamed Lucy. This person would have stood only 3.5 ft (106 cm) tall and weighed possibly 65 lb (30 kg). In Ethiopia, the assembly is also known as Dinkinesh, which suggests “you are marvelous” in the Amharic language.

The history of human evolution expands both onwards and backwards from this point. Hominidae, the taxonomic ancestors that humans share with their closest living relatives, the great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos, the latter controversially proposed to be closer to Lucy than modern humans) shared a mutual ancestry up until rather recently in evolutionary terms, possibly distinguishing 6 million years or so ago. The first beings to walk erect easily seem to have been the Australopithecus genus, developing around 4 million years ago; they had smaller brains than even modern apes, and became destroyed perhaps 2 million years ago. However, they were capable of developing tools, and genus Homo (which involves contemporary humans) evolved from them.

Members of the family Hominidae, including our own species Homo sapiens, our supposed ancestors Homo erectus and Homo habilis, and forms believed to be intimately related called collectively the australopithecines. Many scientists now also incorporate the African great apes—the two chimpanzees and gorilla—in the human family, instead of grouping them with the more vaguely related Asian apes. The outmoded way of grouping the large apes (chimpanzees, gorilla, and orang-utan) is in their own family, Pongidae. Approximations of the date of divergence of the ape and human lineages vary.

The Asian apes undoubtedly branched off 8–12 million years ago and the African apes 10–5 million years ago. The stages of progress in which humans departed from ape-like ancestors and took on their current form required no less than five million years.

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Posted in Hobbies and Pursuits

How to Build Up Your Confidence in Presentations

How to Build Up Your Confidence in Presentations

Confidence is the main component of a successful presentation. This premise is easy to state and accept—it is not so easy to work out how to build up your confidence. However, it is worth a try.

  • Knowledge. Know your material thoroughly and take time to check the facts and verify source. Do not agree to present subjects you only half know about, no matter how tempting and persuasive others are. Be clear about the one big issue you are going to present. Get the scope right so you are not sidetracked and go off on aimless tangents when researching and compiling likely material to support your ideas. It is not just knowledge, it’s ‘knowledge of what exactly?’ that you should be asking yourself at the outset.
  • Time. Put enough time into the task of preparing your material—“It always takes longer than you expect’ (Hofstadter’s Law)—and aim to complete your rough script/slides with a couple of days to spare. You need time to ‘sit on it’ without doing anything, to let it sink into your mind naturally. Remember how you used to cram for exams right up to the last minute and how you later felt?
  • Congruity. Make sure your words, tone of voice and body language are congruent, particularly if taking a strong position and expressing your own feelings and attitudes. According to Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus of psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, people rely more on the combination of what they see and hear than on any text alone. They look at slides, so do not read your slides—the audience does that—refer them to the point you are making and talk them through it. Always aim for simple structures so listeners find it easy to follow. Reiterate points in a different form of words to reinforce your message.
  • 'How to Speak with Confidence in Public' by Edie Lush (ISBN 1509814531) Practice. Take an example from theatre actors who learn their lines and rehearse their actions. Although you don’t memories your lines, practicing them out loud nevertheless builds a familiarity, not only with the words and ideas themselves, but also with how each part links with the next. Good linking controls the pace of your performance. This constant working through also helps you measure the timing of the presentation—and being aware of these invisible clues leads you seamlessly through your mental script. Only Icarus was dumb enough to “wing it on the day.”
  • Attitude. You are not going out there to fail. You are not there by chance and you have not left anything to chance. Everyone in the audience wants to hear a good presentation, to be entertained and stimulated. Start from that premise and believe in your ability to deliver it. You have agreed to present in order to demonstrate that you can communicate your ideas clearly to others—allow this simple idea to lodge in your mind.
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Posted in Education and Career Life Hacks and Productivity

We Are What We Repeatedly Do

We Are What We Repeatedly Do

How do we come to be strong as people? How do we come to be brave, patient or persistent? Are we born that way?

Sayings such as “Practice makes perfect” exemplify the well-known fact that repetition improves learning. This was discussed by abundant ancient and medieval philosophers and was demonstrated empirically by Hermann Ebbinghaus, the first academic to carry out a protracted series of experiments on human memory. In a classic 1885 book, Ebbinghaus showed that retaining of information improves as a function of the number of times the information has been studied. Since the time of Ebbinghaus, innumerable investigators have used repetition to examine learning and memory.

Without any knowledge of how the brain works, about 2,500 years ago Greek philosopher-scientist Aristotle pretty much nailed it by using common sense to explain what he observed in human behavior:

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

It may sound a lot like the truism, “Practice makes perfect,” but Aristotle is accurate that being who we are comes from repetition of performance to form behavior patterns.

These days, neuroscientists explain that behavior patterns happen when the brain cells concerned in the behavior become physically connected to each other in a network called a neural pathway. We aren’t born with this efficient hard-wiring. More exactly, the separate brain cells involved in the behavior are stimulated by usage to grow tiny filaments called dendrites. By reiterating the behavior over and over, the dendrites ultimately connect the cells with each other into a network called a neural pathway. At this stage the behavior pattern is said to be entrenched, meaning the mental processing is so efficient it feels effortless and automatic. Indeed, the behavior may be implemented even without conscious thought.

We use words like skills, habits and personal strengths to describe these behavior patterns. We can learn bad habits as well as good habits—any kind of behavior pattern at all. All it takes is replication over time. We can develop addictions as well as character strengths. As Aristotle said it so well so long ago, “We are what we repeatedly do.”

Thus, repetition need not lead to enhanced learning. Rather, repetition leads to increased opportunities for learning to occur. Whether learning takes place will depend on the type of information that has to be recollected and the amount and nature of dispensation that a person carries out.

Because the brain cell connections are physical, the patterns they enable are hard-wired…and everlasting. So if you want to break a bad habit, your challenge is to grow a new substitute neural pathway. You don’t actually get rid of old, undesirable behavior patterns. You learn new ones that give you more satisfaction, which means you’ll use them more and the old ones less.

The good news is that once you learn how to swim or ride a bicycle, the skill will stay with you for the rest of your life, even without using the ability for years.

More good news for people practicing a learning journey: You can grow stronger by simply doing the right things constantly over time. The behavior may seem awkward and clumsy at first, but it becomes easier the more you do it.

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Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom

Disentangle All of Your Mixed Messages to Diminish Anxiety

Disentangle All of Your Mixed Messages to Diminish Anxiety

Anxiety somehow touches almost every aspect of our lives. It is woven invisibly into the fabric of our existence and often sets into motion a chain of reactions and circumstances.

As leaders, we need to ensure that anxiety does not consume our workplaces and degrade the performance of our people. The key to reducing anxiety at work is direct and clear communication that eliminates mixed messages—the catalytic driver of anxiety.

Communicative people are less anxious and more secure because they know where they stand. They are less afraid to ask the awkward questions and less intimidated to have difficult conversations. They know that “meta-messages” live inside of every communication, and they strive to create clarity and understanding.

For example, if you seek new business, you may fail to keep your team in the loop. As time passes, you leave your team without a leader. Soon your people feel disconnected from your activities. Worst-case scenarios seem to be whispered, and one-on-one side conversations echo the halls. As a result, anxiety starts to dominate your team. It shows up as people start distrusting your leadership capability, turning to other leaders outside the team for advice and information, creating concentric circles of communication with others, and building mountains out of molehills.

Our sense of security and well-being are profoundly affected by how well we are kept in the vital loop, how well our leaders interpret and integrate the dynamics and complexities of workplace life for us.

Interpreting Meta-Messages

Anxiety is a natural response to a perception about the future. Employee anxiety often becomes the ever-present fabric when their managers and leaders are suddenly behind dosed doors, speaking in hushed tones, and refusing to address rumors directly. This sends a very direct message. Great leaders put themselves in someone else’s shoes temporarily in an effort to interpret these events for them in a straightforward and truthful way. In doing so, they create a sense of calmness, control, forward movement, security, and direction. Unless leaders set a dear and explicit context for this communication, employees create their own worst-case scenarios.

Anxiety elevates under certain conditions. Lack of shared focus, purpose, and vision creates confusion. Lack of communication opens the door to paranoia (the ultimate anxiety response). Lack of interpersonal communication causes more emotion, misunderstanding, and anxiety.

Emotions have a dramatic effect on our success. Positive emotional connection is good for business. Lack of respect for others undermines security, which causes resentment-another form of anxiety. Failure to tap the inner talent and creativity causes deeper isolation and anxiety. Failure to develop team agreements, strategies, and decision-making policies enhances isolation. Management’s self-serving and exclusionary approaches cause isolation and anxiety among employees. Negativity and complaining become both the cause and effect of anxiety. Low morale due to leadership’s inability to acknowledge the truth causes anxiety.

Tips for Leaders to Diminish Anxiety

'13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do' by Amy Morin (ISBN 0062358308) How can you as a leader build an environment where people feel safe? Mixed messages cause employees to retreat into anxiety. For example, when you say you care about keeping people in the loop, yet fail to do so, you send meta-messages. When you talk at employees and give directives, but do not ask questions to clarify understanding, you set the context for mixed messages. Predictably, employees will think one thing while you say something else, and confusion will result. Mixed messages create a metaphorical moat. We don’t know which side of the river we are standing on, and without the security of knowing where we stand, we can’t do our best.

Instead of allowing mixed-messages and worst-case scenarios to take over, enhance your commendation and set the context for inclusion:

  • Don’t be afraid to stand up for your people. Create a safe environment so they know that you are there for them. When having vital conversations about the future direction, minimize misunderstandings. Repeat what employees say and ask questions to uncover hidden implications. Be sure that reviews are realistic so that people know exactly where they stand at all times. Be genuinely interested and acknowledge good effort and accomplishments for others to see. Clarify what employees are saying before drawing conclusions or making assumptions.
  • Keep an open mind even if you disagree with what is being said so you can understand employee concerns. Remember emotions don’t always reside in logic; they reside in anxiety, and that’s what you want to release, not amplify. Evaluate information without bias. Ask questions to hear concerns.
  • Respond rather than react. Acknowledge employees’ issues and points of view; listen actively so that you can respond. Listen to the logic and the emotion-convey that you hear what is being said at all levels.
  • Accept responsibility for the impact of the way you are communicating. Walk the talk-people will know that they can trust you. Say what you mean and mean what you say!
  • Don’t be a people pleaser—speak the truth. Be a change agent. Take timely action. Give constructive feedback.

Understanding how unspoken anxiety is affecting your business and dealing with it by straightening out mixed messages will have a big bottom-line payoff.

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Posted in Management and Leadership

A Life Frittered Away by Detail

'Walden' by Henry David Thoreau (ISBN 1505297729) From Henry David Thoreau’s Walden,

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify.

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Posted in Philosophy and Wisdom