Friday, December 17, 2010

why a happy brain performs better

Here's an interesting interview. One caveat: he's not talking about happy as in, "joy" or "fun". He's using it to mean "open to positive possibilities". I wish those who studied this field would use a word other than "happy", which generates skepticisim. I took the Positive Psychology course with Tal Ben-Shahar and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning how to develop their own and others' abilities to open the mind, develop new neural pathways, and develop more positive relationships.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

When spiderwebs unite . . .

. . . they can halt even the lion.*

So many of my workshop participants say, "Everyone agrees we need to make that change but no one will stand up and say so." What we often fail to realize is that one person speaking alone is rarely able to make major changes within an organization but several voices together can turn it in a new direction.

Who are your natural allies -- who already agrees but hasn't said anything publicly? Who shares your interests and hasn't given much thought to the change you seek? Who has the ear of the powers that be?

Gather allies and make a coordinated effort to achieve your change goals. Use numerous influence techniques -- don't just talk, take action. Show results. Demonstrate the quantitative and qualitative cost of not making changes and the quantitative and qualitative benefits of the change. Don't hide the risks or you'll limit your credibility, but offer mitigation strategies. Tie the change to the organization's mission, vision, or strategic goals. Gather your spiderwebs together.

* Ethiopian proverb, according to various web sources

Saturday, December 11, 2010

We have to expand the pie, even if only in imagination

Do you know the story of the man who left 17 camels to his three sons upon his death? To his eldest he left half, to the next boy 1/3 and to the youngest son 1/9th. Unfortunately 17 cannot be divided by half, 1/3 nor 1/9 and the sons began to bicker.

Nearly giving up, they brought their plight to the wise woman of the village who said, "I don't have an answer for you, but if you'd like you can have one of my camels."

Now they had 18 camels: the oldest took half or 9, the middle boy took a third or 6, and the youngest took a 9th or 2. What to do with the camel left over? Give it to the wise woman, of course.

Over what resource are you bickering with others? Can you expand the pie, even momentarily, to see if doing so gives everyone enough of what they want?

What is needed to see the possibilities is either 1) an outsider, such as the wise woman or 2) one member of the group to step outside. A wise woman is not always available. We have to be able to step aside from the emotionality of our situation and look around to say, "what are the possibilities? In what way are we seeing this in black and white -- where is the gray? If no gray is obvious, can we create it?"

I was in a class once where the teacher asked, "what is impossible to do today that if it were possible would make a significant positive impact on your achievement of your goals." What is surprising about that is that once one lists the impossibilities and their impact, suddenly ways of gaining even small parts of those previous impossibilities become visible.

Can you step outside your current negotiations or conflicts and see a third way?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Purpose, passion and humility

Moses is on my mind these days -- my son has been studying the bible chapter beginning with Moses' birth and ending with his first meeting with Pharoah -- so it's no surprise that Moses was first to come to my mind when I read Bill Taylor's blog today:

"if money, power, and fame aren't all they're cracked up to be, what are the resources that allow leaders to make real change and have an enduring impact? I'd nominate purpose, passion, and humility . . . leaders who stand for something more than themselves."

Moses had all three. But, his purpose and passion came from a higher power. How do those of us not in constant contact with the Divine develop purpose and passion in our work? I'm lucky because I am able to do work I love, which enables me to follow my purpose in life, which in turn helps me maintain my passion.

What about you?

And humility? There is a difference between humility and subservience that I think gets lost in educating our children. Many parents fear their child will be walked all over by others and/or will lack self-confidence if he is not frequently praised, rescued from his own errors, and reminded to be a "winner". What do we do to develop humility in ourselves and in our children?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Managing your boss may mean managing yourself

In its Management Tip of the Day, Harvard Business Review editors advise those whose boss's style doesn't work well for them to look elsewhere for direction and inspiration. Not every manager knows how to coach employees. If yours doesn't, search for inspiration in the work itself and seek out mentors who can guide you in the right direction. Communicate upward to your manager, letting him or her know what you've accomplished. While you should not expect a "great job" to come from that direction, you never know what positive outcome may arise from the boss seeing your work outcomes.

If your boss is a micromanager, they suggest preempting that involvement by inviting it. "He's likely to include himself anyway, and bringing him in increases the likelihood he will support your work."