Mindfulness starts with monotasking

 Mindful Leaders or mindfulness in leadership is seen as the current leadership behaviour most in demand.

‘Some of the recent difficulties of Hewlett-Packard, British Petroleum, CEOs of failed Wall Street firms, and dozens of leaders who failed in the post-Enron era are examples of this.(lack of mindfulness)’*

Q: What is mindful leadership, and what are its benefits?

A: Mindfulness is a state of being fully present, aware of oneself and other people, and sensitive to one’s reactions to stressful situations. Leaders who are mindful tend to be more effective in understanding and relating to others, and motivating them toward shared goals. Hence, they become more effective in leadership roles.*
Mindfulness isn’t new, many cultures have used it for hundreds of years and even in western businesses it has been celebrated. Daniel Goleman wrote about it in 1990 although he called it Emotional Intelligence and many now see this as more important in a leader than IQ.
Now cast you mind back to your working day; did you or people around you?
  • check emails when talking to someone on the phone
  • constantly think about all the work you had to get through when you were at a meeting
  • do work when on a conference call
  • Flick between tasks due to interruptions
  • eat lunch,work, text, check social media
  • MY FAVOURITE sit in a course or meeting glued to your blackberry only engaging when it suited you

This is not an exhaustive list of multitasking, please add your own examples

What’s more is that Clifford Nass, a researcher at Stanford assumed that those who multitask heavily will nonetheless develop some other outstanding skills. He thought that they will be amazing at 1. filtering information, 2. being very fast at switching between the tasks and 3. keeping a high working memory.

He found that none of these 3 points are true:

We were absolutely shocked. We all lost our bets. It turns out multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking.

People who multitask a lot are in fact a lot worse at filtering irrelevant information and also perform significantly worse at switching between task, compared to singletaskers.

Now most studies all point towards the fact that multitasking is very bad for us. We get less productive and skills like filtering out irrelevant information decline.

So before you book your meditation classes (I thoroughly recommend meditation but that’s another post). its back to basics. Plan our tasks. Be present. Complete one thing at a time and do it well. Pay attention to the people around us that we are interacting with…really listen and observe before taking action or speaking.

The number 1 complaint I have on Change courses is that people don’t feel they are being listened to. Such a simple habit / behaviour to help people through change.

If you would like to know more about mindfulness you could start here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wherever-You-There-Are-Mindfulness/dp/0749925485

* extract from HBR

Let me know your thoughts in the comments box

A great TED video about monotasking is below.

Positive Politics at work

Tips on positive politics at work.

‘Politics is showbusiness for ugly people’. No matter how ‘ugly’ it is and how frustrating it may be for you as a leader politics at work is something that you are going to have to deal with like any other challenge at work.

Why work politics are inevitable:

  • Some people have more power than others, either through hierarchy or                 other basis of influence.
  • For many people, gaining promotion is important, and this can create competition between individuals, or misalignment between the team’s objectives and those of individuals within it.
  • Most people care passionately about decisions at work and this encourages political behavior as they seek to get their way .
  • Decisions at work are impacted by both work-related goals and personal factors, so there is further scope for goal conflict.
  • People and teams within organizations often have to compete for limited resources; this can lead to a kind of “tribal conflict” where teams compete to satisfy their needs and objectives, even when this is against the greater good.

People Power not Pay Grades

Office Politics often circumvent the formal Hierarchy. Sit back and watch for a while and then note who has the most people power as well as traditional grades and job titles.

  • Who are the real influencers?
  • Who has authority but doesn’t exercise it?
  • Who is respected?
  • Who champions or mentors others?
  • Who is “the brains behind the organisation”?

Social Networks at work

Ever wonderred why social networking is so popular today? Well before the internet it was happening in work and life and it is an intrinsic part of human nature. In order to use positive politics well at work you need to understand the social networks present.

  • Who gets along with whom?
  • Are there groups or cliques that have formed?
  • Who is involved in interpersonal conflict?
  • Who has the most trouble getting along with others?
  • What is the basis for the interrelationship? Friendship, respect, manipulation?
  • How does the influence flow between the parties?

Build Your Social Network

Now that you know how the existing relationships work, you need to build your own social network accordingly.

  • Do not be afraid of politically powerful people in the organization. Get to know them.
  • Ensure you have relationships that cross the formal hierarchy in all directions (peers, bosses, executives).
  • Start to build relationships with those who have the informal power.
  • Build your relationships on trust and respect – avoid empty flattery.
  • Be friendly with everyone but don’t align yourself with one group or another.
  • Be a part of multiple networks – so you have a wider picture of how things work and make more informed choices

Listen Carefully
When you spend more time listening, you are less likely to say  something that will come back to bite you later. Also, people  like people who listen to them.

Make the Most of Your Network

As you build your relationships, you need to learn to use them  to stay clear of negative politicking, and also to promote yourself  and your team positively. It is up to you to communicate your  own and your team’s abilities and successes to the right people,  and you do this through positive political action. Use your network  to:

  • Gain access to information.
  • Build visibility of your achievements.
  • Improve difficult relationships.
  • Attract opportunities where you can to shine.
  • Seek out ways to make yourself, your team  and your boss look good.

Neutralize Negative Play

Get to know these people better and be courteous to them, but always be very careful what you say to them.

  • Understand what motivates these people and what their goals are, and so learn how to avoid or counter the impact of their negative politicking.
  • Be aware that these people typically don’t think much of their talents (that’s why they rely on aggressive politicking to get ahead).

Govern Your Own Behavior

Don’t pass on gossip, questionable judgments, spread rumors – when you hear something, take a day to consider how much credibility it has.

  • Rise above interpersonal conflicts – do not get sucked into arguments.
  • Maintain your integrity at all times – always remain professional
  • Be positive – avoid whining and complaining.
  • Be confident and assertive but not aggressive.
  • When voicing objections or criticism, make sure you take an organisational perspective not a personal one.
  • Don’t rely on confidentiality – assume things will be disclosed and so decide what you should reveal accordingly.
  • Be a model of integrity to your team, and discourage politics within it.

I would love to hear about how you deal with politics at work, please use the comment box to let me know your experiences with it.

Some help when making those networks… a great TED Video

Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions

High Performing Teams – My Top 12 Characteristics

 

 

 

There are many versions of what makes a high performing team and I thought I would write down my top 12. I plan to expand on the characteristics in another post

If you want to use this at a team meeting, let me know and I will also explain how to do an exercise in a future post.

Let me know what you think – what you would add or subtract from the list?

  1. Shared Goals, Vision & Rewards
  2. Open communication
  3. Detailed Responsibilities
  4. Feedback given and accepted as the intent is to make things better
  5. Awareness of individual values and respect shown for these
  6. Awareness of each individuals skills and how they can be utilised within the team
  7. Sharing of business network and knowledge base
  8. Individual autonomy to make decisions
  9. Innovation, creativity given equality with process and detail
  10. Agreed methods for conflict resolution
  11. Positive outlook
  12. Participative Leadership Styles

You know I love TED videos so I have attached:

At TEDxUSC, David Logan talks about the five kinds of tribes that humans naturally form — in schools, workplaces, even the driver’s license bureau. By understanding our shared tribal tendencies, we can help lead each other to become better individuals

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not about the coach

 

When running and observing coaching sessions I am asked ‘what would make me a better coach?’. In the majority of the situations I give the feedback… listen more, use silence more and stop asking leading questions which lead to the coach giving advice.

This usually happens as the coach is a leader or manager and they have an agenda, genuinely want to help or dare I say it… let their ego get in the way

Direct or Push style coaching can be useful if the coachee is inexperienced, however too much use of this style can result in:

  • Coach becoming a ‘knowledge crutch’ for the coachee; with the coach / manager being continually asked for advice when the coachee encounters challenges
  • If the advice doesn’t work out the coachee can blame the advice rather than the way it was put into practice
  • As coaches we cannot know all the answers so it puts pressure on us to be the expert

So to increase the effectiveness of your coaching try a few things

 

  • 70 / 30 or 80 /20 percentage of the coachee talking
  • Hold back on suggestions unless the coachee asks you directly for them
  • The coachee tends to have lots of ideas on how to improve, take time to explore these so they have a plan b or c if the plan a doesn’t work out
  • The coachee may have a reflective personality so let them think in silence, dont assume that you need to ask another question or offer an answer
  • Let them take responsibility, replace ‘we’ with ‘you’ e.g. what can you do to….?
  • If asked for feedback, reverse the question and ask them what they thought of their performance
  • At suitable stages in the session get the coachee to summarise the points coverred rather than you do it.

 

To identify what your style of coaching is, have a look at the coaching spectrum below and note down the techniques you currently use. Try using some of techniques you dont use when applicable.

 

 

If you have any questions or want to share your thoughts on coaching, feel free to use the comment box below.

 

 

Rework your development

I love reading books that inspire me and my most recent is rework. This book is aimed at businesses, however I wanted to write about how some of the controversial ideas could be adapted for your leadership development

The book has essentially 7 chapters (I am only going to look at a few in this post)

  1. Ignore the real world
  2. Planning is guessing
  3. Start making something
  4. Embrace constraints
  5. Make tiny decisions
  6. Underdo your competition
  7. Build an audience

Ignore the real world

Many of us unfortunately work in enviroments where the atmosphere is less than positive and new ideas are greeted with ‘that wont work in the real world’, however, if you look at the truly innovative ideas and products of the last 20 years they probably met with the same response.

Routine will severley damage you as a creative, thought leader. If you make the same noises at work as everyone else then be prepared to be seen as part of the group not a leader and individual

Planning is guessing

Now the book controversially advises against long term business plan and as a executive coach you may be surprised that I kind of agree when it comes to development. I have met people that have 5 year plans and that works out for them but it isn’t for everyone.

To test the theory ask yourself, am I where I wanted to be after the last 5 years? Has the business stuck to its long term plan?

Have a Vision of where you want to be eventually, however concentrate on what needs to be done now take action to meet to immediate needs, stay flexible so that you are open to unexpected opportunities.

We all change as people as we get older we should acknowledge this and change our plan as appropriate.

Start making something

Leaders hate problems and love solutions… so if your call to arms to change something in the workplace falls on deaf ears it is because you aren’t presenting solutions.

Start making the solution, this could be a short presentation, run a pilot using your ideas, putting an unofficial mentoring programme in place etc.

Then when you have the facts and can show success then people will be more open to your ideas. I am always amazed when there is a success then people start talking about how they were involved, when they weren’t that interested in the first place.

Embrace Constraints

Learning& development budgets are currently been slashed in spite of recent research showing that companies that spend on development have better productivity, but rather than dwell on this it is time to be more creative.

Development that costs nothing but a little time

  • Coaching, mentoring and shadowing – eitheir ask for it or put yourself forward to help other people
  • Challenge people to get involved in projects outwith their job role
  • Introduce ‘stretch’ concept into 1:1’s, talk about the added value you bring or challenge people to bring added value to their role
  • Access to the internet – you be amazed how much free stuff is on here e.g. follow a leadership blog! ;)
  • Give groups of employees time to work on anything apart from their existing role to come up with ideas that will increase efficiency, productivity,reduce costs,increase employee engagement etc (it worked at google)

Make Tiny Decisions

Sometimes wholesale change in your life can be overwhelming and it allows our inner critic to step in an scupper our motivation. Also if things go wrong on what you see as a massive goal it can become a source of embarassment, the critics in our reality have won.

So, make small changes in your life and stick to them and once it has become the norm add another before long you will have made a massive change.

Another tip is not to talk to much about the changes as it may lessen the energy of the idea, just keep doing it and you will start to hear people commenting on your positive change.

You can find more on rework here (I am in no way related to the authors or publishers, I just liked the book)

http://changethis.com/manifesto/68.01.37Signals/pdf/68.01.37Signals.pdf

http://www.amazon.co.uk/ReWork-Change-Way-Work-Forever/dp/0091929784

Please let me know what you think for or against this book

If your are thinking about buying a new book, here is a link to someone who read 200 and his thoughts.

http://inoveryourhead.net/lessons-i-learned-reading-over-200-books/

The Sisyphus Trap

‘In Greek mythology was a king punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity.’

‘In experiments that test how workers respond when the meaning of their task is diminished, the test condition is referred to as the Sisyphusian condition. The two main conclusions of the experiment are that people work harder when their work seems more meaningful, and that people underestimate the relationship between meaning and motivation’

Sometimes as individuals and leaders we fall into this trap, we tried to change things and it didn’t work, this caused us to be fearful so we resolved not to let that happen again and took the safe route. We make compromises with our values, we start saying things like ‘another day another dollar’ (or equivalent currency), ‘I wish I had a job that I enjoyed’

I wish means: wouldn’t it be nice if … If you always make the right decision, the safe decision, the one most people make, you will be the same as everyone else. Always wishing life was different. (just like Sisphus) Paul Arden

In fact our brain is hardwired to seek stability and not change as it takes more energy to build new synapsis that are required to retain new information and ways of doing things. Don’t believe me, then think back to when you had to study some new process or qualification, did you feel tired?

To start avoiding the Sisyphus Trap you need to consider

Values & Beliefs Attitude Behaviour

Your values and beliefs influence your attitude and these manifests in your behaviour to yourself and others. When you compromise these too much your attitude will become less positive and this will affect your behaviour.

So step 1 is for you to identify your values e.g. honesty, being creative, team player, recognition, autonomy etc.

Then look at how many you have given up in your current work / home environment. Then plan how you can start to overcome barriers to being ‘valued’ in your life and work. Start with small steps e.g. talking with your boss about other opportunities to be more creative or greater autonomy. When you start planning solutions on how to create links from what you do to your values, you will notice your attitude and behaviour will start to change.

If you are a leader and you notice that your teams attitude, behaviour and motivation is not where it should be then it maybe down to their values being overly compromised. Find out their individual values and help them to see links to what they do. I have run a values exercise with leadership teams many times and it is amazing what sharing values in a safe environment can do.

Summary to escape the Sisyphus Trap

  1. Re-identify your values
  2. Make a plan to connect your values to what you do and take action
  3. Bring meaning and purpose back into what you do in your life through your values
  4. Recognise and appreciate that people’s values are different
  5. Be tenacious and recognise the successes you make

Please use the comment box if you have any questions or have experience of this happening in your working world.

If you would like to talk to me about coaching or team development please contact me at mcdougallmartin@aol.com

It’s Better to Regret What You Have Done Than What You Haven’t

I wanted to leave you with this great Ted video

Tony Robbins discusses the “invisible forces” that motivate everyone’s actions

Listen your way to success

You are probably thinking that I have lost my marbles with the title of this post, however stay with me.

We put so much emphasis on clever pitches, presentations and influencing people (all important) in meetings or waxing lyrical to our partners and family about our day that we tend not to consider our listening skills.

Are we truly listening or are we just waiting for our chance to put across our point of view that matches our agenda / objective, maybe even satisfying our ego?

Test yourself; do you do any of these in

Important meetings

  • Think about the amount of work you have already on your desk
  • Think about the previous meeting that didn’t go so well
  • Check your blackberry etc.?
  • Concentrate solely on what you want or your ideas
  • On telephone conferences put yourself on mute and work your way through emails
  • Take copious amounts of notes

At home

  • Talk about your day in front of the telly, computer or whilst doing something else

If you have mentally ticked yes to any of these then you may not be ‘living in the moment’ and truly listening and have the potential to miss important chances to communicate or influence someone in the most effective way. You may be treating symptoms not the root cause and so they are less likely to see the merits in your solution. Switch off any ‘interference’ that can affect your listening.

‘I have so much work and so many meetings that I need to multi-task’ is a common objection to this, however this is more about saying yes rather than no which I will cover in future post.

Listening effectively will help time management as you will not have to cover the same ground again; you have closed the sale or articulated your point or feelings in a persuasive way.

Stephen covey said ‘seek to understand before being understood’ – 7 Habits of Highly Effective people. https://www.stephencovey.com/ (his new 8th habit is great too)

He talks about listening with your ears, eyes and heart

5 levels of listening

5. Empathetic – as active however, you are putting yourself in their shoes, noting body language, tone, pace and volume of speech

4. Active – Verbal and non-verbal nods, asking pertinent questions, recapping offering relevant insights or challenges

3. Selective – Hearing what you want to hear

2. Pretending – Nodding dog syndrome

1. Ignoring – off in your own wee world – lights are on but nobody is home

Ok so sometimes I am in the zones of 1 – 3 (clothes shopping springs to mind!) I am not perfect. It does take hard work and effort to listen well

If you have an important meeting then you need to be in zone 5 as sometimes… what is not being said is as important as what is.

Ever heard someone say ‘I dont need solutions or help I just want someone to listen’

So my challenge is to practice empathetic listening at least once a day and record how you get on. You might want to start with family members or friends, remove any distractions TV etc. sit down and ask them about their day and stay in zone 5!

Feel free to post results in the comments box. Hope you are having a great week