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Professional Intimacy: The Secret of Sustainable Leaders

3 Keys to Becoming a Leader Who Will Last for the Long Haul

cbl christinas quote

My first opportunity to consciously stand up for my professional and philosophical beliefs about Professional Intimacy occurred in 1994. In the last year of my Master’s program, my thesis involved research on the process of creating a successful business partnership.

Using Appreciative Inquiry, our process resulted in a model of a synergistic triangle consisting of three equally key ingredients, where 1 + 1 = 3 (I was never good at math, but this makes sense … read on):

  • An Understanding and appreciation of self, as in intra-personal or emotional intelligence;
  • An Understanding and appreciation of other, as in interpersonal or social intelligence;
  • The resulting relationship system then gets created and continually loops around, offering each person the opportunity to develop as individuals and therefore re-contribute, thus co-create, a dynamic, complex system that becomes the unique, dynamic business partnership.

Leave your feelings at the door

In the early 1990′s the unspoken, unwritten rule in the business world was “Don’t Talk About Relationships, feelings or any of the soft, fluffy stuff humans were made of when delivering leadership or management training or when speaking to  businesses, managers or executive leaders about improving productivity or performance. I was directed to leave that stuff at the door and talk about “real” skills.  Don’t feel … just get to work!

I followed this advice for a while and felt my hands (and credibility) were tied behind my back.

Then I ignoring that advice.  After 12 years in business, our design resulted in not only building our own successful business and partnership, but also served as a model for our clients to build sustainable partnerships.

Through the process of developing Professional Intimacy as defined in my thesis in 1994 and even to  this day, I continued to learn and grow both intra-personally and inter-personally as a result.

The truth is this:  We learn and grow in relationship, not in isolation. Following the old rule and disregarding the complex and dynamic relationship systems we create through all of our relationships, however brief, is ridiculous.

Here’s the point: My thesis was nominated for publication in the college journal … an honor, for sure.  However, the committee stated it would only be considered for publication only if I changed the title.

Professional Intimacy was born

They objected to the phrase I used to symbolize our design for a successful business partnership: Professional Intimacy.

Because sexual harassment in the workplace was such a touchy (pun intended) topic in the early 90′s, the committee frowned upon my use of the phrase in the title. I stood my ground on principle because even though the rule was “Don’t talk about RELATIONSHIPS and WORK in the same sentence.”  I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) in good conscience back down. Besides, I have a strong oppositional reflex.

I ran across the dusty, bound thesis years later and wondered …

“Did I do the right thing in standing up for my values?”

“Would my career path have changed had I decided to belly up?”

“Would I have been able to help more people sooner?”

I suppose I’ll never know… What would you have done?

PS.  Check out  Chapter 19: “Professional Intimacy:  The key to being a Sustainable Leader” in the book “The Character Based Leader: Instigating a leadership revolution one person at a time” on Amazon or your favorite bookseller.

 

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Are you paid to think? 5 Strategies to make better decisions, solve problems and get more done!

Are you paid to think?  Sustainable Leaders® know that the secret to success is not only managing time, but also managing energy, is an essential practice to making great decisions, especially under stress.

Are you paid to think?

Successful leaders also know being efficient with their energy is critical to their success.

The latest research in the field of neuroscience (how our brain works) describes our pre-frontal cortex as the part of the brain that’s responsible for thinking.  However, since it’s relatively newly evolved, it is also very inefficient as compared to the basal ganglia, the part of the brain that stores our hard-wiring,  what we can do “automatically” without too much thinking power.

David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, describes the pre-frontal cortex as “powered by rechargeable batteries” and needs frequent re-charging, in the form of sleep, glucose (and Ill add play and fun!).

How do you know when you’re pre-frontal cortex is running on empty?  Here are some common signs:

1.  (More) easily distracted by sounds, visual stimuli

2.  Difficulty focusing

3.  Irritability

4.  Unable to make a decision

5.  Unable to remember things you “should” be able to remember (like your bosses’ name)

Here’s an ironic conflict of interest.  The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for higher order thinking or “executive functions” such as:

  • Inhibiting (keeping out distractions, both internal and external)
  • Decision-making (comparing two or more possibilities)
  • Reasoning (if-then thinking)
  • Understanding (listening, reading or watching a new idea and integrating it into existing knowledge base)
  • Memorizing (learning or hard wiring new ideas, concepts)

In order for us to increase the odds we are being most economical with our brain’s limited brain-power, we must take time to recharge, and make time for our self, and preserve our limited brain power.

5 Strategies to make better decisions, easily solve problems and get more done:

1. Unplug/Disconnect for 10 minutes a day no cell, no tv, no radio, no computer – Turn off notifications on your phone, your Blackberry, your computer email program.  Go for a walk without your phone. This is completely doable even if you are marginally neurotic.

2. Give up on perfectionism in areas where you don’t need perfection – What if you can get away with a C instead of an A?  Let your friends know from now on when they receive a return email from you and see: a   that means “I like it!”  This might not fly for business emails.  For work, do your response emails really need to win a Nobel Prize?  Will “C” work be satisfactory for some things so you can save “A” work for the really important things?

3. Schedule a one minute break every hour during the busiest time of the day – Set a timer/bell at the end of every hour or pick a number between 0 to 59 and at that minute in that hour, take a one minute  “bathroom” break.  Take 20 deep breaths, pay attention to your breath, nothing else.

4. Practice saying “I’ll check my calendar and get back to you” instead of “Yes.”  Think about how responsible you’ll feel saying this rather than irresponsible because you’ve over committed, again.

5. Schedule a 10 minute session with yourself (yes, put it in your calendar) once a day (with no deliverables) and totally unplugged.  Early mornings or right before bedtime is a perfect time to reflect and think.

How do you recharge in 1 to 3 minutes at work?  Reply to this blog with your suggestions and … Thanks for playing.

… I’m off to recharge with a 5 minute walk!

If you like this, click the link to sign up and get more free tools to become a leader who will be built to last here:  Sustainable Leadership, Inc.

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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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Are you a mindless leader or a mindful leader?

 

A drop of water frozen by flash

Image via Wikipedia

 

Leaders are responsible for making quick  yet “correct” decisions about critical issues and executing those decisions.

It is critical for leaders to be non-judgmental or neutral in evaluating, deciding and taking action.  “Judgment” is often paired with a negative emotion (which our brain interprets as “pain”), which then closes doors to insight, awareness, empathy and solutions.

When we are mindful, or aware without judgment, we have a greater opportunity to evaluate our thoughts, feelings and beliefs without judgment. Being able to label or re-frame these “mindless” assertions, also allows us the opportunity to neutralize the negative charge that comes with the judgment associated with our reactions, painful feelings and “shoulds.”

At that point of awareness and reframing, we then have a choice, and thus an opportunity to execute that choice, try it out and see what happens, instead of being held hostage by the past. Labeling events and feelings, as well as an increased awareness at the levels of sensing, observation and knowing integrates and balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain (Badenoch, 2000).

Leaders can develop the skills to be intentionally mindful, sustainable leaders by developing the muscle of mindfulness in their brain.  As a leadership coach who is an expert in the combination of relationships, communication and neuroscience, I have seen leaders whose peers and subordinates describe as “mindless” and “socially inept” be able to ramp up and learn the skills pretty quickly, and see a noticeable difference in their effectiveness at work, but also significantly lowering their stress level in the process.

Why can’t Gen Y just grow up?

Animation of an MRI brain scan, starting at th...

Image via Wikipedia

I hear the complaints every day … from managers, from parents and most people in their 40’s on up … “They are lazy, entitled, spoiled …. why can’t this younger generation ‘just grow up?'”  Well, if you did a functional MRI of the brain of a Millennial or Gen Y employee, and a functional MRI of your brain (provided you are of an older generation, a Gen X, a Baby Boomer or a Traditionalist), that Gen Y employee’s brain would look like it belonged to an entirely different species. It’s not going to change because you want it to, or because of the concrete logic you offer … that brain is wired completely differently than your brain.

Because of neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change and form neural pathways in response to information), this brain is hardwired to engage with what is familiar, what it knows … this generation grew up with video games, computers, cell phones … it knows not a life without an electronic device that gives it what it wants when it wants, and if this brain doesn’t like the information …”Control+Alt+Delete” works every time.  Otherwise known as “I’m outta here.”  And that employee doesn’t come back from lunch … no explanation, nothing.

Human beings just do what works … and repeat that behavior in the face of anxiety, discomfort or just the plain “unknown.”

So next time you feel frustrated at your Gen Y employee’s behavior … perhaps you might instead be inspired by the brilliance of the human brain’s deep desire to avoid pain … and it’s willingness to just “do what works. Now.”  Better yet, first seek to understand, then seek to be understood …

Do You Manage People or Are You “Just In Charge?”

You know the ones:  the managers who ignore the fact that human beings don’t  (actually can’t) “leave their feelings at the door” when they come to work.  These managers ignore conflict and avoid confrontation … especially when there’s a “pot-stirrer” in the office and everyone is just wishing the boss would step up and deal with him or her, but they just ignore the issue.

This boss will suffer the consequences … a slow, painful erosion of the trust he has been given by his employees, all because he is unaware of the forces of emotions at work … the contagion of anxiety, worry, frustration, stress  and more, that will eventually erode the trust of the most loyal employee.  And need I mention the negative impact on the quality of their work … the customer or client suffers in the end.

According to Mayer and Salovey, emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive emotions, to access and generate emotions so as to assist thought, to understand emotions and emotional knowledge, and to reflectively regulate emotions so as to promote emotional and intellectual growth (Mayer & Salovey, 1997).

Dr. David R. Caruso (1999) describes how emotional intelligence can be broken into four, related parts:

Identifying Emotions – the ability to correctly identify how people are feeling.

Using Emotions – the ability to create emotions and to integrate your feelings into the way you think.

Understanding Emotions – the ability to understand the causes of emotions.

Managing Emotions – the ability to figure out effective strategies that use

Managers who ignore emotions in the workplace are just “in charge.”  Managers who understand, appreciate, acknowledge and use emotions (their own and others’) actually engage in management.

The good news is … most of us are born with emotional intelligence (there’s actually part of the brain that can be seen on a fMRI scan when we are engaged in this fashion), and this strength and skill can be developed and grown with practice.

As a leadership coach, this is probably the most critical skill my clients desire to improve … and is critical to not only manage others, but most of all to lead others to accomplish great outcomes.

How are emotions handled in your organization?  Are their cultural “rules” (spoken or unspoken) when it comes to how emotions are handled (or not)?

Are you paid to think? 5 Strategies to make better decisions, solve problems and get more done!

Are you paid to think?  Leaders who are sustainable, or “built to last,” are paid to think and to do so effectively and efficiently, also know that being efficient with their energy is critical to their success.

The latest research in the field of neuroscience (how our brain works) describes our pre-frontal cortex as the part of the brain that’s responsible for thinking.  However, since it’s relatively newly evolved, it is also very inefficient as compared to the basal ganglia, the part of the brain that stores our hard-wiring,  what we can do “automatically” without too much thinking power.

David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, describes the pre-frontal cortex as “powered by rechargeable batteries” and needs frequent re-charging, in the form of sleep, glucose and I’d add play.

How do you know when you’re pre-frontal cortex is running on empty?  Here are some common signs:

1.  (More) easily distracted by sounds, visual stimuli

2.  Difficulty focusing

3.  Irritability

4.  Unable to make a decision

5.  Unable to remember things you “should” be able to remember (like your bosses’ name)

Unfortunately, this pre-frontal cortex is responsible for higher order thinking or “executive functions” such as:

Inhibiting (keeping out distractions, both internal and external)

Decision-making (comparing two or more possibilities)

Reasoning (if-then thinking)

Understanding (listening, reading or watching a new idea and integrating it into existing knowledge base)

Memorizing (learning or hard wiring new ideas, concepts)

In order for us to increase the odds we are being most economical with our brain’s limited brain-power, we must take time to recharge, and make time for our self, and preserve our limited brain power.

5 Strategies to make better decisions, easily solve problems and get more done:

1. Unplug/Disconnect for 10 minutes a day no cell, no tv, no radio, no computer – Turn off notifications on your phone, your Blackberry, your computer email program.  Go for a walk without your phone. This is completely doable even if you are marginally neurotic.

2. Give up on perfectionism in areas where you don’t need perfection – What if you can get away with a C instead of an A?  Let your friends know from now on when they receive a return email from you and see: a  that means “I like it!”  This might not fly for business emails.  For work, do your response emails really need to win a Nobel Prize?  Will “C” work be satisfactory for some things so you can save “A” work for the really important things?

3. Schedule a one minute break every hour during the busiest time of the day – Set a timer/bell at the end of every hour or pick a number between 0 to 59 and at that minute in that hour, take a one minute  “bathroom” break.  Take 20 deep breaths, pay attention to your breath, nothing else.

4. Practice saying “I’ll check my calendar and get back to you” instead of “Yes.”  Think about how responsible you’ll feel saying this rather than irresponsible because you’ve over committed, again.

5. Schedule a 10 minute session with yourself (yes, put it in your calendar) once a day (with no deliverables) and totally unplugged.  Early mornings or right before bedtime is a perfect time to reflect and think.

How do you recharge in 1 to 3 minutes at work?  Reply to this blog with your suggestions and … Thanks for playing.

… I’m off to recharge with a quick walk!

Free tools for Sustainable Leaders at Sustainable Leadership, Inc.

Why Your Brain Hates Change

It’s 6:00 AM on Sunday morning and I am visiting my old house in Pine, CO,
the one I lived in two years ago before we changed our whole lives 180
degrees and moved to the resort town of Steamboat Springs (to establish a
corporate headquarters for Experience HORSEsense Team Building and
Leadership Retreats
).

I am sipping tea in the room that used to be my home office, appreciating
the familiar sounds of the hot tub whirring, the refrigerator humming.
I forgot how gorgeous the sunrises were as the sun streams through the
ponderosa pines and reflects on Lion’s Head Mountain to the East.

And I’m wondering if I’d want to move back here. Wondering if we made
the right decision to change everything and leave what we’d known for
14 years to start over in a new place … I wonder ..

Then I realize, it’s not me . it’s just my brain. Our brains thrive on
what’s familiar, certain, and known. Our brains do not like change.
Even change for the good, for better possibilities. It’s similar to the experience
of being back in high school, and breaking up with our girlfriend or boyfriend,
feeling lonely the first Friday night as a single person, and wondering
if breaking up was the best decision after all.

Understanding the strengths and limitations of our brain at the time might
have kept some of us from going back into those old patterns, only to discover it
wasn’t such a good idea after all. What if we could have said then, “it’s
okay, it’s not me it’s just my brain” and rode out the discomfort of the change, knowing it
was temporary and our brains needed time to adjust to the “unknown” until it
became the new normal .

Recent discoveries in the field of neuroscience about the strengths
and limitations of our brain can not only help us in our personal lives, but
can also help us in our business lives as entrepreneurs, as managers and as
leaders a gain a very competitive edge.

As Peter F. Drucker said, “We now accept the fact
that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of
change. And the most pressing task is to teach people
how to learn.”

Our businesses operate in a knowledge economy, where people
are being paid to think to solve problems to be creative and innovative.
Combine this with information overload and constant change, and
no surprise there is more pressure than ever to improve how we learn.

As David Rock of the Neuroleadership Institute states,
“Perhaps these findings about the brain can start to pull
back the curtain on a new world of productivity
improvement: in our ability to bring about positive, lasting
change in ourselves, in our families, in our workplaces,
and in society itself.”

So I’m going to smile and say . “it’s not me, it’s just my brain” and get
on with my business here . and when I’m done, say “goodbye” to the old
neighborhood and go back to the new one in Steamboat!

Free resources for Developing Sustainable Leaders at Sustainable Leadership, Inc.