Your brain is not designed to hold ideas, your brain is designed to have ideas.” – Robert Allen, ‘Getting Things Done”
An informal survey of 150 senior managers who participated in the most recent Sustainable Leaders Strategic Planning workshop revealed the biggest challenge they faced was “having too much to do in too little time with fewer resources than ever before… and having to make the right decisions quickly.”
The often unbelievable demands to be both highly productive and accurate bombard us daily. What’s different? The speed with which business must get done today is light years faster than even 15 or 20 years ago. In many industries (technology), change happens too quickly and if you only strive to keep up, you will be out of business faster than you can say “Buck Rogers.”
There are only 24 hours in a day and you cannot create “more time” in a day. The solution for most is to work longer and harder to get the job done. The only problem with that solution is that it is a recipe for burn out.
Let’s break the rules and shift your perspective consider this: Time is a limited resource and energy is an infinitely unlimited resource. You cannot create more time. You can, however, create more energy by taking control not only of your time, but where your attention is within that time frame.
My personal observation is that productive and sustainable leaders who feel happy and satisfied at the end of each day actively focus on BOTH how much they DO and DON’T DO to conserve brain power and leverage energy successfully.
Say “No” 100 times for every time you say “Yes.” If saying “No” is hard for you (as it is for most people), add “No, thank you” so you can get the added benefit of being grateful and appreciative, if not polite.
The latest studies in brain based learning prove that multitasking is not only impossible (we switch attention, our brains are incapable of focusing on two things at once), but to make matters worse, the reduction in accuracy for even the “best multi-tasker” doing the simplest of tasks is almost 50%. Pretty scary when you think about the complex tasks you do simultaneously (driving a car, talking on a cell phone or talking on the phone and typing an email response). Try to focus on doing one thing at a time. Notice how much less time it takes, especially because you don’t run the risk of hitting “send” prematurely then spending time on damage control.
Bottom line, people will feel heard and be able to find their own solutions more easily without unnecessary interference from you. And, you will conserve your brain power for more important challenges that lie ahead.
When you delegate, trust and offer challenges to people, not only will it benefit you, but also they’ll feel better about you if you do. We all know the importance of delegating so that you aren’t seen as the control freak in the corner office. But did you know that when you delegate responsibilities and tasks (with their buy in of course), the meta-message (as long as the deadline is reasonable or they are involved in setting the deadline) or message under the message, is “trust.” The receiver feels you believe in them enough to give them the opportunity to rise to the challenge. Win win.
Indecision happens when we have too many thoughts getting stuck in or out of sequence in the cognitive pipeline. Often we can get thoughts flowing again when we ask ourselves “What’s the one most important thing that needs to be decided and acted upon before that decision can be made?”
Whether you are a list maker or mind map fan, get every thought bouncing around inside of your head OUT of your head and onto paper, a whiteboard or computer program you are in the habit of checking or using regularly (“Freemind” is a simple and free example). Robert Allen’s “Getting Things Done” is a must read for “How To’s” when it comes to being more productive so you can take quick, effective action.
The Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC for short) is the part of your brain responsible for your ability to avoid distraction, make decisions, reason, understand and memorize. Think of it as powered by rechargeable batteries, not a 220v power cord plugged into an outlet in the wall. It needs frequent recharging (among other ingredients) in order for high performance. Taking a short 20 minute walk inside or outside your office building at the most hectic time of day will not only benefit your metabolism and your waistline, but also your brain. Try shutting off your brain for 5 minutes just two or three times a day, talk to a co-worker about a non-related subject (this is probably why gossip is so enticing), play a game of angry birds or juggle.
Think of how many “mindless” automatic patterns you have every day. Repeatedly doing routine tasks (like shaving, putting on your pants or brushing your teeth) the same way every day, doesn’t do your brain any favors. You are just deepening the same brain groove over and over. You are wasting valuable real estate! If you normally put your right leg in your pants first, put your left leg in first instead. If you begin shaving your face left side first, try starting your first swipe on a different part of your face. Do you have stairs in your office building? Which leg do you typically start with as you start up a flight of stairs? Try what you think I’m going to suggest next ….
If you are paid to think, treat your brain and your energy as precious commodities that need daily TLC to function most effectively and with ease. Pick one of these 7 Tips to practice each day and notice what happens to your mind and your mood; you too will become a Sustainable Leader one small step at a time.
Sustainability: the capacity to endure; to conserve resources; built to last.
A Sustainable Leader is resilient and an agile learner, built to last through uncertain and rapidly changing economic conditions.
A Sustainable Leader intentionally develops the potential in others, so they too can develop into exceptional leaders who can carry through the company’s mission and vision.
“In today’s fast-paced, high-demand and global business environment, being a Sustainable Leader™ who can stay focused, think creatively, easily manage stress and emotions, communicate effectively and set the standard in their organization will make the difference between a healthy, thriving and resilient company and an ineffective or worse, a non-existent one.” – Christina Haxton, CEO & Founder, Sustainable Leadership, Inc.
What steps does your company take to ensure it’s leaders and managers are Sustainable Leaders?
Did you know that 47% of newly hired or recently promoted Senior Executives get fired or quit within the first 18 months on the job? But I”m not a Senior Executive or “Leader” … you say. Why would you let that stop you from learning from their mistakes?
Why? One reason is poor performance, another is burn up and burn out caused by the stress from the inability to get onboard with the “human side” of the success equation fast enough: Connecting and building trust with your new team!
Not just any stress is the culprit … Power Stress*, a unique type of stress experienced by those who are responsible for the well being of others – your team, your employees and possibly even your clients.
Unrecognized and unresolved stress Power Stress will paralyze your ability to think quickly and use your intuition to make the right decisions? Because stress is contagious, your team suffers, too … especially when you need then the most!
If you are a newly hired or recently promoted leader building trust with your new team is essential for success in your new role.
Beware … awareness is overrated!
If you don’t have an executable accountability plan for WHAT, WHEN & HOW TO you could find that the fall down the corporate ladder is much swifter than the climb up …
What if you had a 3 Step Approach to Leverage Power Stress so you can reduce, manage and yes, even leverage the inevitable people challenges that come with your new position …
If you don’t yet have an executable plan for making lasting change – make one. To qualify for a complimentary, no obligation Leadership Strategy Session click here.
To Your Sustainable Leadership!
P.S. Now booking for 2014 for keynote or meeting presentations. Contact Christina to inquire about her most popular presentations or to book your event today: 3 Steps to Leverage Stress for Leadership Success!
As the boss, have you ever “lost it” in a meeting? Even if your answer is “Of course not!” would your team agree with you?
The way we communicate determines our ability to engage, motivate and inspire creativity in our team.
Unfortunately, the skills needed to communicate effectively are sometimes lost because what we see and hear in ourselves as a leader is not always the same as what our employees experience during conversations and meetings.
By using Brain Based Learning Strategies we can develop a new understanding of our approach and the impact it has on results.
Coming to terms with how we lead is the first step to improving our effectiveness and ability to develop into a Sustainable Leader, one that can face challenges and drive his or her team to success over the long haul.
I wrote a post describing an executive coaching session with “Jeff” (not his real name) where you can see Brain Based Learning, self evaluation and creating a new mindset for improved leadership effectiveness in action:
It was “Jeff’s” (not his real name) third team meeting this week, and after this particularly long meeting he was beyond frustrated. “Why can’t they just get it right? How many times do I have to tell them what I want? Why don’t they get it? Are they that stupid? Or do they just not give a damn?” Click here to read the entire blog post at ManagingAmericans
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I’m excited to be a co-author and announce the upcoming publication of:
What are the new rules of leadership development today?
Go ahead and throw out the long list of “leadership competencies” espoused by the company or the latest leadership self-help book. Successful leaders are character based leaders. The new (old) rules to become an extraordinary leader who is respected and trusted is when you operate from your values, your character and develop others to do the same, THAT will be your foundation from which your leadership success is based. ~ Christina Haxton, MA LMFT, co-author The Character-Based Leader
Get your free chapter here or sign up in the box on the lower right of this page:
Enjoy & Share!
Christina Haxton, Leadership Speaker, Author & Consultant
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As leaders and change-agents, we walk a daily tight-rope between how we “should” do things because that’s how they’ve always been done … which may be contrary to what believe matters today and tomorrow. Leadership is no different.
To be a true leader, we must walk this tightrope in our daily actions. While most people would not want to be in our leadership shoes for fear of ridicule, being ostracized or publicly called out … they secretly and silently cheer us on. One day you are a hero … the next day you are a zero. Read more here on Walking the Tightrope of Leadership …on the LeadChange Group Blog to see if you have the guts (or not).
Enjoy and leave your comments below!
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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.
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
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:
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.
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!
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(Originally written and published for the LeadChange Blog)
Leaders: How are your people skills? The better question is “How would your team describe your people skills?” While you may be able to acknowledge this is an area you could use some improvement, setting “soft skill” goals may feel like trying to grab a handful of jello.
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If you were my client and I asked, “Do you have your goals to be a better leader (or communicator) clearly defined, written down and measurable?” I will probably hear your eyes roll into the back of their head. Perhaps you may have set goals in the past and not achieved lasting change. Not because you lacked understanding or even desire to change, but because of failure to follow Steps #2 and #3 of the change process. (Click here to read Step #1 and #2 and #3 in the previous post on Leadership, Frogs & Goals).
Understanding alone is overrated. We’ve all decided taking action is a good idea. But we are still sitting on the log. Change requires ACTION. Understanding or having the awareness of why your sarcastic tone is caustic , or why you should quit smoking, drinking too much is a necessary first step, after you announce your intention to change to others, you must now jump off the log.
The key to making lasting behavioral change is simple: small actions over a period of time result in SIGNIFICANT LONG TERM CHANGE. You’re not perfect; you are going to slip up. When you do, ACKNOWLEDGE IT OUT LOUD and MOVE FORWARD.
#1. Small change counts more than you think. While you may think you have a problem finishing something, I will propose you may actually have a STARTING problem instead. Here’s your challenge: Can you do anything for 5 minutes? Sure you can, so start there.
Here are a few idea starters: Walk, ride a bike, stretch, meditate, breathe, listen deeply, play with your kids, hang out with your partner with your cell phone off, plan a goal or project with paper and pencil, organize your desk. Try doing whatever “it” is for 5 minutes (because if you can’t do something for 5 minutes, trust me, you have bigger problems).
Make an appointment with yourself and put it in the calendar to do one or two times a week for the first week and build slowly. Exercise, quitting smoking, practice being a better listener all lend themselves to the “Do it for 5 minutes” strategy. Preparing your taxes is another. Yes, you have a few months, but what difference will it make if you start now with 5 minutes a week? April 14th might just be a more relaxing day! Like shampoo: Rinse, lather, repeat.
Then, repeat Step #1: Ask. Ask again by following up with the family, friends (and if you really want to be transparent include your staff) and ask “How am I doing?” Then LISTEN. Say “Thank you” in response to their answers. As Marshall Goldsmith says, we can’t go wrong if we respond with a genuine “Thank you” to any information, negative or positive, someone offers us.
Why should I ask again? Two reasons. Ask others with the intention of to simply gather information, as if you are on your own personal recognizance mission. Because you will use what you hear people say to accomplish two things:
#1. To adjust course. Like a pilot in an airplane getting feedback from the instrument panel who is flying from New York to Los Angeles, simply adjust what you are doing, a little to the left, a little to the right, toward your destination. Just view it as information, not right or wrong, good or bad, no big deal. Adjust course as needed.
#2. To build trust. Remember how I said this step is critical? Here’s why … by announcing publically your are human and are working on improving yourself and by following up and asking “How am I doing with ______?” and really listening to their response, you will build trust by showing you really care. That is as long as you do really care, because when you are genuine it is FELT. If you don’t really care, well, that’s palpable, too. If you really don’t care, don’t ask.
AAA: The key to becoming a Sustainable Leader and exceeding your personal development goals.
If you truly desire to be an exceptional leader of people, you will earn more trust by following up with this step exactly as written, than with anything else you ever have the guts to do, which is be human.
So if two frogs were sitting on a log, and you were one of the frogs, and you decide to jump off, what’s the answer now?
Leadership Doesn’t Rest on Your Title nytimes.com
Terri Ludwig, a Wall Street veteran who now leads a nonprofit organization, says that all employees can learn to influence its direction. Do you have what it takes to lead from your seat? Read more …
I posted a question asking what Senior Leaders do to recharge on the LinkedIn Group Developing the Leader within You. Below is a quick summary of great suggestions and ideas for creativity, solution-finding and recharging from senior leaders from around the world, and included:
The consensus seems to be in order to recharge or to find solutions, we can get there easier and in less time when we switch off the thinking brain and switch on the the being and doing brain and “mindless” (preferably enjoyable) activity.
Activities in which we enjoy and lose track of time (the state of flow) also may encourage alignment of our heart waves and brain waves, which will clear the clutter and allow you to recharge your thinking brain (which is why we have Aha! moments doing these very things).
The evidence in the latest brain-science research proves it. Now … go forth and play (and of course, shower)!