Category Archives for positive psychology

Who is more likely to be in denial when it comes to feeling stress, a man or a woman?

STRESS:  The un-discussable in the room (for men, anyway)professional intimacy sketchnotes heather martinez

I recently had the pleasure to be invited to be the keynote speaker for the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) Women in Business Leadership Conference (“Women Redefining Business”) where the keynote message was about communication, connection and courage as a pathway to Professional Intimacy:  The Key to Sustainable Leadership.  

The breakout session piggybacked on how business owners can leverage stress by learning how to have authentic conversations with their employees in order to avoid entrepreneurial burn out.

When I give this talk, I usually ask the audience for a raise of hands if they consider stress a problem for them at work (i.e., negative effect on productivity, experience physical stress-related symptoms and relationship problems like irritability).

When the audience is predominantly male, only about 30% of the men in the audience raise their hands.

This audience was 98% female, and about 80% of the audience raised said “Yes!” to is stress a problem for you at work.

Why such a large difference between men and women?

According to research published by the the American Psychological Association on gender and stress:

” … Men and women report different reactions to stress, both physically and mentally. They attempt to manage stress in very different ways and also perceive their ability to do so — and the things that stand in their way — in markedly different ways. Findings suggest that while women are more likely to report physical symptoms associated with stress, they are doing a better job connecting with others in their lives and, at times, these connections are important to their stress management strategies.”

The bottom line is whether you are a man or a woman, an entrepreneur, a senior manager or CEO, your unrecognized and untreated stress could quickly be the end of your career, your relationships and quite possibly your life as long as you ignore the symptoms or refuse to change your behavior.

While work/life balance is a good solution, I’m not convinced it’s the only solution.  There is another most surprising solution, that can be executed at work just about any time of the day and there’s zero financial cost.

A process I have developed over many years of working with highly successful business people whose steps are backed by scientific research and will reduce stress and prevent burn out.  Simply stated, you can execute the steps in quick and simple conversations and relationships at work.  I call it “Professional Intimacy: The key to becoming a Sustainable Leader (one who is built to last for the long haul).

There are three simple steps to Professional Intimacy … (a special thank you to Heather Martinez, who crafted the Story Map of my Keynote )

1. Connection – Know the answer to these four questions asked by Kevin Cashman, Author of Leadership from the Inside Out:

Who Am I?    Where Am I Going?  Why Am I Going There? and I’ll add Who is Going With Me?

2. Curiosity – When it comes to brain science, the truth is the same chemicals that are involved in a fearful are also involved when we feel curious or excited.  What’s the difference?  The story I tell myself to explain the situation, why it’s happening and what’ll be the result.  Asking better questions when it comes to making meaning of my environment will result in my responding rather than automatically reacting because I’ve assumed the worst case scenario (which is likely not the case, anyhow).

3. Communicate – Have the courage to communicate you care when it comes to your team.  Be a real human being, not some ivory-tower-untouchable-walk-on-water-CXO.  Vulnerability, letting people see you sweat, showing your emotions (I didn’t say wear your heart on your sleeve), asking someone “How are you doing?  What do you need right now?” when they appear to be having a rough day.  Oh yes, then shut up and listen … the most important part.  Doing this will build trust and respect, which will go both ways.  Try it, I dare you.

If you would like more information on how you can reduce, manage or leverage stress and avoid burning up or burning out in your career by using the 3 Key Principals of Professional Intimacy, join me for a free webinar replay available for two more days:    You can get more information or register here to get immediate access:  Free Webinar “What Your Brain Wishes You Knew About Leadership Stress:  Myths & Solutions”  – This full video is packed with practical strategies to reduce stress and feel happier and more satisfied at work  AND a special announcement at the end!


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If you don’t consider yourself a “leader” … you will after you see this!

This post was recently one of the the top 5 most popular posts to my LinkedIn groups last week …

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Everyday leadership:  You don’t need a title to be a leader (and see what lollipops have to do with making the biggest difference)! By Drew Dudley.
You can watch the 6 minute TedX video here:  Sustainable Leadership News & Articles …
PS.  If you find this video as powerful as I did, post your action/response below!

Leaders, Mangers & Supervisors: Why “Feedback” is a ‘four letter word’ …

“Feedback” is a ‘four letter word’ and our brain reacts defensively when we simply hear the word. We put on the brakes and stop listening (see post on “Lizard Brain”)and our defenses go up automatically.


Are you listening?

So how can you offer negative information so that someone can hear it, consider it and take action with a positive attitude instead of resentment?

First, starting with the positive, describe one or two recent actions that the person is doing right and well. Be specific about what they did or are doing and the difference it made for you, the team or the company.

Second, get permission to offer input with a question such as, “Would it be all right to give you some information (not feedback) I hope will be helpful for you?” Of course, they’ll say ‘yes’ especially if you are the boss, but the point is you are looking for a ‘head nod’ which indicates they are listening, and more open to hearing the information.

Third, ask “What are your thoughts about it?” Now you are separating the person from the behavior, engaging their brain into thinking about action and the future, rather than leaving them feeling judged or criticized.

If we start with the positive and believe that mistakes aren’t a sign of failure, but an opportunity to get information and adjust course accordingly, we are more open to hearing “feedback” and much more inspired to go forward with enthusiasm and get more done!

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Leaders: Productive Meetings Start with the Positive

Because most people will work hard to avoid conflict, productive meetings prepare participants for “what we are doing today” and encourage them to think out loud.

Bottom line is the leader must facilitate a psychologically safe environment for people to take risks.

How do you start your team meetings?

“All ideas are accepted” and we start with only positive statements or strengths will create such an environment.

Brain science research has proven there’s an optimum 5:1 ratio: when we start a conversation with the positive, then our brain will be more open to accepting the “negative” or different opinions.

It’s like merging onto a freeway … start by going with the flow of traffic, then merge lane by lane into the fast lane is a better strategy than getting on the freeway going the wrong direction!

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Leaders & Influence: It is within a relationship and in conversation we learn and grow

If you are a leader in your organization (and anyone who makes a difference can be a leader), what if you were to notice opportunities to make a positive difference in another person’s self-image.  What difference could you make today?

Common sense and now recent discoveries in brain science of social intelligence research, proves it:  It is within a conversation in a relationship we learn and grow and our minds are shaped (ideally) to become more of who we are supposed to be.   However, in many conversations we end up feeling criticized, deflated and unmotivated.  Especially   if that conversation happens with the boss or where there is an imbalance of power, as in a leader vs. direct report relationship.

Let’s make this practical and now take it a step further.  We communicate through language (verbal, non-verbal).  Stay with me now … In our conversations we influence and change our minds and subsequently our neural connections.  When new neural networks and connections in our brain are made, due to neuroplasticity,  our self-identity is constantly shaped and re-shaped and in turn we influence the self-identity of others.  Oh, and many of us are in contact with more people and have more conversations with people at work … therefore many opportunities to create positive, constructive neural connections in not only their brain, but our own.

ScienceDaily (2010-08-27) — In the first study of its kind, researchers have found compelling evidence that our best and worst experiences in life are likely to involve not individual accomplishments, but interaction with other people and the fulfillment of an urge for social connection.

What if you were to notice opportunities to make a positive difference in someone else’s brain … what difference could you make today?  Go ahead, I dare you.

Leader’s Survey: The 5 Fail Points in Leadership Training

Center for Creative Leadership, Colorado Sprin...

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Do you wonder why leadership training programs fail to prepare leaders of today for tomorrow’s challenges?  The survey says …. “Avoid 5 Fail Points in Leadership TrainingDownload or listen now to the webinar on how to avoid wasting time and money on your personal or company’s leadership training and three key strategies to make your coaching or leadership development program truly pay off for the leader, for constituents and for the entire organization.

The bottom line is developing Sustainable Leaders:  Developing authentic leaders happens from the inside out and from the outside in … for more information go to Sustainable Leadership, Inc.

Leaders: What is trust?

It’s about time caring and trust, those emotions that make us human, inspire us and motivate us, are recognized and acknowledged by leaders who are capable (and responsible) of leveraging human potential for the greater good (not just for the bottom line).

Can insubordination be a path to success? Seth Godin says so …

It seems to me that ever since I was a kid, whenever someone told me I couldn’t do something, that it wasn’t possible, my “oppositional reflex” would kick in.  You know the one … the voice that says “Nuh uh … I CAN DO THAT!!”

Even though I wasn’t sure exactly how (yet), but just because someone said so it was a challenge enough for me for my brain to start figuring out the “how” part.

And, it worked.  It’s still working for me … and many others, too.  In fact, Seth Godin wrote a short (free) e-book about all of us for whom insubordination was the energy, the drive and the passion to do the opposite of what the “experts” said we should to be successful or who didn’t believe (or see how it was possible).

Check out other successful, “insubordinate” entrepreneurs by downloading Seth’s free e-book here: Pass on this link via Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to your friends and colleagues!!

I say Embrace your oppositional reflex! Insubordinates unite!

How has insubordination worked for you?  If you’ve ever wanted to be insubordinate, but weren’t sure how … contact me for a FREE COACHING SESSION to find out how, you, too, can join the Insubordinates Club!