Monday, February 27, 2017

Thinking Backward to Move Forward

When it comes to Personal Development you likely have a laundry list of things you'd like to do, things you think you should do and things you think you'd better do. There is seemingly never a shortage of actions we could take that would 'improve' us, our careers, our lives in some way. The challenge, of course, is that we can't actively work on them all. In which case, we need to choose what to focus on to move us forward.

The best way to move through the clutter of improvement projects is to consider...

If you were looking back at your life two years from now, what would you have done over those two years for you to feel good about yourself and your achievements?

This question is designed to help you clear your way through all of the mind-clutter and to hone in on those actions that will net you the result you desire. The reason this technique works so well is that looking forward is difficult while looking backward is easy. Looking forward means that we are peering into the unknown, which can cause us to hesitate in making choices in case we choose wrong. We don't want to waste the next two years working on something that doesn't move us in the desired direction and we therefore fail to commit to taking action.

However, when we look backward we are typically reviewing fact. We are able to discern what actions we took that led to the results we achieved. Placing ourselves two years into the future and directing our minds to look back over the past two years, to review what actions we would have taken to achieve what we did, plays upon that fact-based mind-set we expect to have when looking backward. It again helps us to reduce the list of possible actions to those that will make the difference for us.

Being in that fact-based mind-set also helps us to recognise the actions we need to take from those we are comfortable in taking. This technique therefore helps to shift us out of our comfort zone by acknowledging the actions we need to take to reach our desired goal.

When we look forward to our desired goal we may be able to identify the steps we need to take but we are then also faced with doubts as to our capability.  However, when we start at the end and look back our mind is already viewing those same actions as steps we have already taken and therefore builds our confidence and capability. This simple redirection of thought breaks down our barriers and self-doubts rather than building them up.

We know that our mind is a powerful tool that will help us to achieve what we can conceive and believe.  Starting with a vision of the successful future you desire, and then looking backward at what you have done to get there, trains your mind to believe in the possibility.

  1. What does your desired future look like 2 years from now?
  2. What steps did you take to get there?
  3. You've got your action list, start making it happen.

Three steps to ensuring that you are doing what you need today to have the life that you want and envision tomorrow. There's really nothing like thinking backward to help you in moving forward.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tip Thursday - Negotiations

A great little tip comes to us from a top Former FBI Negotiator, Chris Voss. He says that the key to mastering negotiations is to create empathy. Specifically... to get the other party to empathize with your position.

By getting the other party to recognise the position they are putting you in, and its impact, they are far more likely to offer you concessions. The trick to doing this is to use 7 words - "How am I supposed to do that?"

You put the ball back in their court and force them to think about the situation from your perspective. As soon as they do it becomes more difficult for them to hold a firm line on their position. 7 simple little words that can make all the difference to the outcome of your next negotiation.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Play Your Way to Success

Play is not a word often used within the business landscape. It is generally viewed as unproductive
and even purposeless. However, more companies are coming to recognise not only the benefits of play to the health and well being of their employees, but to the bottom line.

Many dot-com companies are ahead of the learning curve on this one, embracing the benefits of play as a productivity boost. Many offer free art or yoga classes during the day, provide games like ping-pong or Foosball, or even encouraging recess-like breaks.

Research has demonstrated repeatedly the benefits of play for relieving stress, boosting creativity, and improving overall brain functioning. Play is fun and can serve to release endorphins which are the body's natural feel-good chemicals, serving to promote an overall sense of well-being.

The fact that most organizations cultivate an environment where play is seen as counter-productive and 'breaks' are viewed as time-wasters helps to explain the lack of energy, focus and interest expressed and experienced by many employees. If these are the over-riding feelings of your employees each day, what does this say to the quality of work they likely are producing?

Stuart Brown is a psychiatrist that has studied Play and its purpose and importance in our lives. He is the founder of the National Institute of Play in Carmel and the author of  Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.  He studied the play histories of 6,000 people ranging from Nobel prize winners to Texas murderers and found that the two main distinguishers between the two were abusive childhoods and a lack of play.

As our economy begins to shape our work environments further, forcing us to work harder in offices with fewer staff to accomplish a growing work pile, we are left with even less time to ourselves and definitely less we feel we can devote to play. However as Dr. Brown points out...
Play is particularly important during periods that we are sustainedly stressful.
In order to become more play-full, Brown recommends getting back in touch with your inner child and how you played as that child. What activities engaged you most, brought you the most joy? He has identified 8 Play Personalities that help to shape the type of play activities you might enjoy most...

  • Joking - A little improv? A little stand-up? Clown school? There is a reason people gravitate to laughter clinics.
  • Moving - This could include athletic activities but really involves anyone who enjoys moving whether dancing, swimming or even walking
  • Exploring - Brown says that this could be physical but it could be emotional as well, with a search into deepening your understanding of music, movement or...
  • Competing -  This is for all of you that love to play games and keep score.  Your stack of games on the shelf is likely testament to your engagement with this one already!
  • Directing - These are the planners of the world - those that enjoy planning parties or vacations.
  • Collecting - Anything is fair game here, referring to people's joy in collecting things whether comic books, shoes, tea pots or model trains.
  • Storytelling - This could refer to those who actually physically enjoy writing stories to share, but could simply be those that like documenting aspects of their life in video, blogging about an interest or mocking up cooking shows in their kitchen.
  • Creating Art - Whether you draw or paint, sculpt, redecorate, rebuild engines or wood work... it's the creation aspect that appeals to you.
Most professional athletes recognise the importance of down time to their success. They can't possibly sustain a high level of performance on 'game day' without giving their muscles and minds a break in between. Those of us with 9 to 5 jobs need to sustain our performance 5 days a week with only 2-3 weeks a year to recover.  This is not sufficient and goes a long way to explaining why we struggle to keep up and stay motivated.  

Instead, introduce a little play into your life. Build in time to relax, have fun and de-stress. Your mind will be that much clearer when you re-engage on the work tasks before you. A clear and focused mind can accomplish more in less time than a tired, distracted one ever could. You just might find that a recess-break becomes your best productivity and success tip!

For those looking for some simple and discrete ways to introduce small little fun-sized breaks into their work schedule, consider some of the following as a way to de-stress while on-the-job!


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tip Thursday - Body Language

Yes, I understand that having crossed arms may simply indicate that you are cold, or that it's a
comfortable position for you to hold your arms. However, your audience will unconsciously take your folded arms to mean that you are closing yourself off from the conversations. Having your arms crossed in front of your body effectively creates a barrier signifying to others that you are distancing yourself from the conversation.

If you want to appear open and interested then this is a gesture you should avoid. Interestingly, studies have shown that audience members sitting with crossed arms were far less likely to think favourably of a presenter (or what they present) than those with a more open posture.

If you want to 'be' open you must ensure that your body language is open. Apparently we not only signal our openness to our audience, but to our brains as well!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Dissatisfied with Work? Get a Hobby!

We all experience frustration and a sense of dissatisfaction with our work from time to time. However, when we find that those become the pervasive feelings we experience on the job, we may find those feelings spilling over into other aspects of our life leaving us feeling disheartened and perhaps even depressed.

We may feel that the answer is to move to a new job but are frustrated by the lack of opportunities available, or feel trapped because we can't afford to walk away from the salary or benefits we have, or even perhaps because we've trained and studied to do what we're doing and are reluctant to call it quits and move on to something else.

However, the solution may not require us to change our jobs or switch companies. Often the problem with what we are experiencing rests far more with our perspective than it does with the job itself. Too many people expect their work to satisfy too many aspects of their needs. When we are not feeling fully satisfied with our lives we put the blame on our work not being challenging or fulfilling enough. I can't count the number of people I've met that shift jobs every 2 years on the search for the 'right' role, never stopping to consider that their search will be fruitless if they don't first shift their thinking.

The important mental shift to make is to stop thinking that your 'work' must be 100% responsible for your level of satisfaction with your life.  I will often get my coaching clients to complete a satisfaction exercise that you can complete quite easily on your own.

  • Take a piece of paper and draw a chart with three columns.  
  • In column one list everything that matters to you in life.  Start by listing all of the things that a 'perfect' job would provide or contain (financial requirements, achievement, learning, etc.) but go on to include other 'life' elements that matter to you also that might not arise when you think of work (Spirituality, community, adventure, etc.)
  • In the top of Column 2 write the word Work and then go down the list of elements in Column 1 indicating how well Work is currently satisfying each element for you.  Use a 1 to 10 scale with 1 being not at all and 10 indicating you are fully satisfied.
  • In the top of Column 3 write the work Personal and do exactly the same thing assessing (using the 1 to 10 scale) how well your non-work life satisfies each of the dimensions.
  • Review the results... look for elements that score high at either work or in your personal sphere. These are elements where you are being satisfied either in one sphere or another.  Recognise that work isn't meant to satisfy all dimensions all the time.  The key is to build in satisfaction somewhere.  These high scores indicate you are doing that. Celebrate that rather than berating work for perhaps not doing it enough.  
  • Look for elements that have low scores within both spheres.  This indicates an area that you could benefit from improving. Put on your creativity hat and begin brainstorming ideas and ways that you could improve this score but ensure that you consider ways and means both inside and outside of work.
  • Look for elements that matter to you most and, regardless of your score, brainstorm some ideas for building in even greater levels of satisfaction.  If it's an element that matters a great deal to you then even a small shift upward in your levels, even if they aren't bad to start with, will go a long way to heightening your overall level of satisfaction.
  • Review your list of generated ideas, highlight the one or two that really resonate with you and implement those.
What this exercise does is to force you to recognise and acknowledge that dissatisfaction with our work is sometimes a reflection of just an overall sense of dissatisfaction. All too often we expect our 'work' to make us happy without considering that it cannot possibly satisfy us in all aspects of our lives.  Looking for ways we can strengthen our out-of-work activities and experiences can serve to heighten our overall sense of satisfaction and lead us to feeling much more positively about our job.

So, rather than cursing the job you have or feeling that you need to find a 'better' one, maybe you need to consider boosting your outside-of-work activities. If you are feeling a lack of engagement, satisfaction and energy then look to your hobbies.  If they are comprised primarily of watching television and scrolling through social media then you can definitely use a boost!.  

A true hobby is one that requires active and mindful engagement, an activity that serves to heighten your mood and build your skills. Any hobby can do this; explore which ones will serve you.  From biking or hiking, to ballroom or hip hop dance, to quilting or painting, to woodworking or rebuilding cars. All that matters is that it is something that interests and engages you.

The moment you stop looking for work to serve as the sole source of satisfaction in your life, and find other outside sources of satisfaction, the happier you are going to find yourself at work. Outside interests can go a long way to cultivating your interest in the work you are doing.

Maybe the next time you are thinking you need a new job, stop and think about whether you need a new hobby!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Tip Thursday - Creativity

It can sometimes be challenging to come up with new and creative solutions to things.

Psychology professor Nicola Baumann found, in an experiment she conducted, that clenching your left hand into a fist (versus clenching your right) triggered a brain circuit associated with creativity.

Clenching your left fist may be all that you need to activate your innovation and creativity. Certainly worth trying the next time you're feeling a little stuck!

Monday, February 6, 2017

But That's Not What I Meant!

How often have you caught yourself protesting...  'That's not what I meant'?
How often have you found others misunderstanding, misinterpreting or simply missing your messages? Unfortunately for most of us, a misunderstanding on the part of the audience is most often due to poor communication on the part of the speaker.  Us.

The fault rests on the focus of speakers on the development and delivery of their message, rather than on its receipt.  Most speakers are very content focused, wanting to ensure that the content of the messages they share is accurate and direct. However, they typically fall short on working to ensure that their message delivery systems are aligned with their content. In short, they focus solely on the messages they are delivering with their words and do not take into account the messages being simultaneously delivered through their voice or body.
"More miscommunication and misunderstandings arise simply through a misalignment of messages between 'what' you say and 'how' you say it than any other communication error"
When someone misinterprets your desired message it will most likely be due to a failure on your part to align your spoken words with your non-verbal messages than it will be due to your audience's failure to listen appropriately. Our expectation that others will listen to our words, without our message being influenced by any sub textual messages we are sending, is unrealistic at best and destined for misunderstanding and misinterpretation at worst.

We know that the messages that others receive from us are based 50-95% on our non-verbal messaging, not upon the words we choose to share with them.  At a minimum then half of the messages we deliver to others, in any given situation, are driven by our non-verbal messages. Half.

Now consider how much time you have invested in understanding those messages, in studying what your voice and behaviours are telling people about you, about your content. What are your non-verbal messages doing to heighten your credibility? What are your non-verbals doing to diminish it?

It is not enough for us to 'know' what we are talking about if we cannot get others to understand it, accept it, believe in it or... believe in us. Powerful and successful communicators understand this. Top influencers study this. Those of us that want our messages to be heard and understood need to as well.

In this pursuit audio recordings are your best friend.  With the accessibility to recording devices on every cell phone out there you have no excuse to not record key messages and review them for clarity of communications.  The following are some of the main things you might want to look and listen for...

  • Think first of what you are attempting to do with the message you intend to deliver.  Are you trying to explain, persuade, motivate?  The goal of your message will have an impact on the 'how' of your delivery.  Be clear about this before reviewing your recording, providing a measure to review your messages against.
  • Pay attention to the speed of your delivery - both voice and body. Neither should appear manic! Too much speed will seem out-of-control and decrease the credibility of both you and your message.  However, if you are looking to motivate and excite your audience your voice and movements should be a little faster than normal, that heightened energy helping to drive them to also feel excited. If your message is more thoughtful or serious then your movements and voice should be slightly slower than is usual for you, providing a little more gravitas, generating a message that you are in control of the situation and affording the audience a little more time to take in the information and process it.
  • Ensure that your gestures are sized in proportion to the message and the audience. If you are delivering to smaller audiences your gestures will occur within your own personal space. If speaking to a larger audience then you will have to extend your gestures further for them to be seen. 
  • Your voice must project and drive the emotional response that you want from your audience and needs to fit the message you are delivering.  You cannot expect to motivate and inspire the crowd if you sound bored with what you are sharing. Lead and model the response you want them to emulate.
  • Pay attention to the direction of your hands. Gesturing up is positive while downward is negative.  Both have their uses but each must support the content. Gesturing downward while attempting to convince your audience that good days are ahead will lead your audience to distrust you and to believe the situation is worse than they thought. 
  • Use your eye contact to connect your audience to you and your message. There is no better tool to use, to show you are interested in them (and not just on you and your message,) than connecting with them at a personal level. Your eye contact is a primary tool for doing this.
Watch for the above points while reviewing your video recordings, working to strengthen the alignment between your spoken and unspoken messages.  The closer you come to ensuring they are all saying the same thing, the stronger your messages, the greater your credibility and less often you will find yourself feeling the need to protest 'but... that's not what I meant'!

(and... if you require further direction or support in learning more about your body language and how to use it to greater advantage, just let us know!  That is, after all... what we do!)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Tip Thursday - Sales

When selling it is easy to get caught up in hyping the 'what' of your product or service by outlining all of its features.  However, you need to speak to customers about the 'why' of what you do, of what you offer, of what your product can help them with.

The language you use is critical.

Instead of speaking using a lot of nouns, describing what your product or service is, shift to more verb-based descriptions of how people use your product (or you)! Talk about 'why' they need it (or you), 'what' it does for them, 'how' they can use it (you).

Verbs, not nouns, to increase sales.