Emotional Intelligence Can Make Your Career

EI

How much of an impact does Emotional Intelligence have on your career?

The research says (in a nutshell) ‘a lot!’

Decades of research has been pointing to high emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets high performers apart from their colleagues. Numerous studies of top performers in the workplace have found that 90% of these high performing individuals are also high in emotional intelligence.

Another fascinating finding is that people with a high degree of emotional intelligence make more money (quite a bit more money actually) at an average of $39,385 more per year than people with a low degree of emotional intelligence. The link between emotional intelligence and salary is so direct that every EQ point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1,765 to an annual salary. These findings have been found to be true for people in all industries, at all job levels, in every region of the world.

Interestingly, a recent Career Builder Survey covering over 2600 Hiring Managers and Human Resource Managers found:

  • 71% value emotional intelligence over an employee’s IQ
  • 75% more likely to promote an employee with high emotional intelligence
  • 59% would pass up a candidate with high IQ but low emotional intelligence

So, with that in mind, you might be asking yourself; what exactly is emotional intelligence and what does it look like?

There are a range of definitions, but one I like is the GENOS definition which states:

Emotional intelligence is the ability to; perceive, understand, express, reason with, and, manage emotions within oneself and others.

Importantly, when applied at work, emotional intelligence is about how intelligently you use emotions to get positive results.

There are a range of models and frameworks which articulate the range of emotionally intelligent competencies, however when you read through the scientific literature, they can all be covered by the following:

1. Noticing and understanding emotions in oneself.

This involves the ability to understand one’s deep emotions and to be able to express them naturally. A person with high ability in this area will be better than most people in sensing and acknowledging his or her emotions.

2. Noticing and understanding emotions in others.

This relates to the ability to perceive and understand emotions in other people. A person with high ability in this area will be better than most people at noticing and understanding other people’s emotions.

3. Effective regulation of emotion in oneself.

This involves the ability to effectively deal with one’s own emotions. A person with high capability in this aspect will be better than most people in preventing his or her emotions from automatically influencing his behaviour. For instance, when a person with high emotion regulation skills experiences anger, he will be able to manage the anger in such a way that he does not say or do anything that he may regret.

4. Using emotions to facilitate performance.

This relates to the ability to make use of emotions by directing them toward constructive activities and personal performance. A person who is highly capable in this aspect is able to encourage him- or herself to continuously do better. He or she is able to direct his or her emotions in positive and productive directions

Emotionally intelligent competencies are elements of human behaviour that are different from your intellect. From all the research to date, there is no known connection between IQ and emotional intelligence. What this means, is that you cannot predict emotional intelligence based on how smart someone is.

Intelligence is your ability to learn, and regardless of how many facts and figures you learn, your IQ is the same at age 15 as it is at age 50. Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, is a flexible set of skills that can be acquired and improved with practice. Although some people are naturally more emotionally intelligent than others, anyone can develop a high level of emotional intelligence if they want to.

How Emotionally Intelligent are you? Your future boss wants to know

Recently I was interviewed by Future Amp, on the role of Emotional Intelligence in our careers. This is their article:

“Anyone can be angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not easy.”

Aristotle

According to experts, the above quote sums up the power of Emotional Intelligence (EI), a universal, age-old human skill that often goes unnoticed.

But increasingly, EI is surfacing as a skill we all need to purposefully cultivate to enable future success in both our personal lives and professional careers. In fact, in order to successfully gain employment and work effectively in diverse teams both in person and remotely, we all need to know how to read other people’s signals and react appropriately to them. To do this, we need EI skills to better understand, empathise and negotiate with people around us.

But how do you develop emotional intelligence? And what is it?

Rachel Moore, an EI Practitioner, Trainer and Author, says research shows that our emotional intelligence begins to develop in childhood and continues into our adult years, and that everyone has the ability to improve their emotional intelligence.

“Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, understand, express, reason with and manage emotions within oneself and others. When applied in our careers, emotional intelligence is about how intelligently you use emotions to get positive results – for both yourself and others,” she says.

Justine Lomas, Programs Coordinator and PhD Candidate in the Emotional Intelligence Research Unit at Swinburne University, agrees, but says EI is more than just a set of skills to do with emotions.

“These skills relate to identifying, using and managing emotions. It sounds simple when you think of it like that, but emotions are part of everything we do in life,” she says.

“Emotional intelligence skills include identifying emotions and expressing them accurately, understanding emotions of others, using emotions to solve problems and make decisions, adapting emotions from moment to moment – and controlling our strong emotions.

“Our research in schools shows that emotional intelligence is an important determinant of a range of life outcomes including scholastic success, healthy relationships, leadership, mental health, resilience, well-being and life satisfaction.”

EI is the new IQ

While IQ, short for intelligence quotient, has historically been an identifiable and widely used measure of a person’s professional qualifications and employability profile, increasingly EI is overtaking IQ as the key skill required in the rapidly evolving modern workforce.

“Without a doubt, EI has overtaken IQ as a measure of success. This has been recognised for some time now, and first became a focus area in employment with the release of Daniel Goleman’s book, Emotional Intelligence, Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, which was first published in 1995,” Rachel says.

The World Economic Forum currently has Emotional Intelligence listed in the Top 10 critical career skills for our time, and a 2012 Career Builder Survey covering 2600 Human Resource and Hiring Managers found that:

 71% value an employee’s EI over IQ

75% are more likely to promote an employee with high EI

59% would pass up a candidate with high IQ but low EI

 “Workplaces have become aware of the importance of EI in the last 20 years and I think that the focus on EI in this context is increasing,” Justine says.

 “IQ is an important predictor of a person’s capacity to master the basic skills of a particular job, but that simply isn’t enough these days.

Employers want people on their team who can work well with others, foster a positive and collaborative work environment, be adaptive, think creatively, communicate well, manage stress, stay positive under pressure and be a leader.

All of these things depend on your EI and it is what will make a candidate stand out above others who have the same educational qualifications.”

How do you upskill in EI?

The good news is that EI can be learned. The first step in that learning is making the decision to continue developing and improving your EI as a lifelong learning commitment.

“EI is most definitely a learnable skill. I strongly believe that everyone can, and everyone should spend time developing their emotional intelligence. That being said, it is a lifelong practice. One does not simply achieve a plateau of emotional intelligence and remain there,” Rachel says.

Justine suggests the best way to improve your EI is to start by observing others, asking for feedback about your own behaviours, and exercising greater self-awareness by reflecting on your emotional experiences and how they shape your thoughts and actions.

Future Amp’s Top 5 Tips for Upskilling in EI

LANGUAGE: Start by extending your emotional vocabulary. Emotions give us important information about our experience of the world around us, and when we only have a few emotions in our repertoire, it’s like seeing the world in black and white instead of colour. Grab a piece of paper and a marker and brainstorm a list of all the feelings and emotions you can think of.

LIST: Group list into 10 Basic Emotions – Happiness, Sadness, Anger, Anticipation, Fear, Loneliness, Jealousy, Disgust, Surprise, Trust.

STUDY: Choose a new emotion each week to look out for in yourself and others. When you recognise it, think about the meaning and consequences it has for you, and those around you, as it shows up in your personal or professional situations.

MESSAGES: Learn more about the messages emotions give you. All emotions have a purpose – even the ones that don’t feel so nice, like jealousy, anger or fear! So pay special attention to the purpose or message each emotion might send, and try to recognise patterns or how the emotion plays out in you. Is it constructive? Destructive? Short-lived? Long-lasting?

OBSERVE: Observe others who you think effectively regulate and manage emotions. How do they appear to deal with their moods and emotions? Ask yourself if any of their coping or emotional regulation strategies would be useful to you.

Reference: https://www.futureamp.co/blog/how-emotionally-intelligent-are-you-your-future-boss-wants-to-know

Supporting Remote Workers

WFH

In 2020, things have changed. For the most part, the work we do, the way we work, and where we work has changed suddenly and unexpectedly. Many people are now working remotely, and this was not something that they had planned for or had access to previously. As you would expect, some people are loving remote working and some people are not enjoying it at all.  
One of the biggest changes that has occurred in this new environment has been the removal of incidental communication. This incidental communication in the usual workplace includes asking your colleague who sits near you a quick question, catching up with a colleague in the lunchroom, having a hallway conversation which sparks an idea or solution to a problem or simply asking someone how their day is going while you get your coffee,…
With the removal of this incidental communication, intentional communication is needed more than ever. When your team were working together in the same office, fortnightly team meetings and one on one meetings with a manager would have been fine. When working remotely from home, if people are only communicating meaningfully with their team or colleagues once a fortnight, the feeling of isolation is going to become even greater. People need connection, and in this new world of remote work, even the strongest introverts are starting to wonder if maybe they like people after all…. 😊
So what needs to change? Well, in a nutshell, communication in this new environment needs to be intentional, frequent, and face to face (virtually) as often as possible. I would recommend short daily team meetings (such as 15 minutes) and quick one on one check-ins with direct reports if possible. Naturally, if you have a really large team, a daily check-in with every team member is not going to be practicable, so consider your own context and adjust accordingly.
I have been truly amazed by the innovation and proactive problem solving undertaken by so many people in the last few months. People have shown resilience, flexibility, and adaptability and are taking on new challenges with gusto. However, the impact of the lack of incidental communication might be going unnoticed by some, so remember; for everyone’s health and wellbeing; Social Distancing is good, Social Isolation is not.

2020 Resilience

2020

Without a doubt, (and not surprisingly) the most common request I have received in recent months has been for programs to help with Resilience and Stress Management. In 2020, the world of work has changed significantly, and we need to ensure that we are adapting to it and looking after ourselves and the people we work with.

The road to enhanced resilience is certainly paved with adversity. It is a misconception to think that resilient people are happy and positive all of the time. The reality is that the most resilient individuals have experienced a great deal of difficulty or trauma and worked through it. Examples that come to mind for me are usually; Nelson Mandela, Rosie Batty and Malala Yousafzai. However, my personal favourite is Ernest Shackleton.

If you don’t know Shackleton’s story, I genuinely think it is one of the most incredible stories ever told. In a nutshell, he wanted to be the first to cross Antarctica on foot. Within weeks of arriving, his ship was crushed. There was no contact with the outside world. This was 1914, so no satellite phones! Incredibly, it took nearly two years, however he ensured that everyone in his crew got home safe and well. It is truly the most remarkable story. In the most challenging of circumstances, he was able to keep everyone engaged, safe and focused. I often hear from people who express frustration with having to work with limited resources. Well, for Shackleton and his crew this was a serious lack of resources over an extended period of time such as limited food, insufficient clothing and inadequate shelter in below freezing conditions!

Sometimes unexpected events come out of the blue, that change things for us overnight. COVID has certainly done this for many people. For many people, things changed dramatically and quickly with little or no warning at all. As a leader, Shackleton had a strong and clear vision, which he had to change in the instant that his ship was crushed and sank. He stepped away from his personal goal of crossing Antarctica and instead focused on getting every one of his crew home safely. Like Shackleton (though hopefully in less dangerous circumstances) sometimes we have to let go of a vision for our life, work and family and recognise that there are things that may change which are outside of our influence. When this happens (because this is life and it will happen), focusing on what we can influence is vital.

Remember: ‘While we cannot control the pandemic and all that it brings, most of us actually do have a tremendous sphere of control. We CAN control who we are and what we want to stand for in the face of it. We can control what we read and what we share. We can control how we listen to and support the people around us.’

Everyone is resilient, albeit to differing degrees based on life experiences. Resilience is not fixed and we can all enhance our ability to not only adapt, but to thrive, and just as importantly, to look after others when life throws us a curve ball.

In the words of Charles Darwin: ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change’. 

www.successwithlessstress.com.au

Working from Home

DiSC Preferences

Supporting the DiSC Styles

In what has been a very uncertain and new time for many of us, we are have been facing an environment where a number of us are working from home and many of our teams are working remotely. However, this does not have to mean the end of teamwork and great communication.
Many of you have undertaken DiSC training with me in the past, and you may be curious to understand how your style and the style of your team members will influence what working from home may be like.
Each of the styles is listed below along with productivity tips to help you and your team. I hope you enjoy this and find it useful.

D Style – Dominance (I prefer to call the D style Drivers): 

Considerations:

  • Need for Action will mean they need to know things are getting done.
  • Willing to take risks and like the freedom to make their own choices.
  • Willing to speak up about issues so you don’t have to worry about them sitting on problems while you can’t see them.
  • May struggle to have patience for the change and transition period where productivity could dip.

Tips to work productively from home:

  • Set new challenges for them to work towards, this will be a great time for them to learn and finesse new skills.
  • Provide clear guidelines and expectations of what they can and cannot do, and the results that are expected of them. That way they have a sense of autonomy, but you both know where the line is and when they need to reach out for advice/consideration.
  • Create healthy competitions and targets to motivate and drive your D-Style employees. This can even be in the form of fun, inter-team challenges such as the most clients contacted in a day, opportunities raised etc.-use your imagination!
  • Always reward their successes with recognition of a job well done and provide them with the reward of a new task to demonstrate the value you place on them.
  • Make sure they are clear on the team goals and the importance of these, so that they do not get too caught up in their own tasks and forget the importance of collective results.

i Style – Influence:

Considerations:

  • Their need for Collaboration and enjoyment of social settings will mean this is a tough situation for them, working remotely, as they prefer regular interaction to feel engaged and remain most productive in the team.
  • The i-Style does not like predictability so try to pose this as a new and positive experience. Harness their enthusiasm for the benefit of the team in maintaining an upbeat attitude.

Tips to work productively from home:

  • Check in regularly to ensure they are staying motivated and also as a way to engage socially with their staff.
  • Set up video conferencing to enable more interactive conversations and embrace their enthusiasm, the team will appreciate this during uncertain times.
  • Always set new goals for i-Style staff to work towards to continue their momentum and enthusiasm.
  • Don’t forget, lots of praise for a job well done! Public recognition is typically embraced by the i-Style so a team email probably won’t go astray!
  • i-Styles love socialising so use this desire for networking to task them with engaging your customers and clients-unleash their social abilities which will benefit your clients and staff!
  • Make sure you set clear guidelines for work as their enthusiasm may initially cover up a lack of clarity, and they may be prone to lose track of final goals.

S Style – Steadiness:

Considerations:

  • This may be a tricky time for those who place a high priority on Stability, as the disruption to routine will require adjustment.
  • They have a need for the approval of others so regular check ins, clear communication and ongoing support are musts!
  • The S-Style has a tendency to hold back their opinions, so managers should make sure they are directly asking for feedback and clarity, otherwise it may not be given freely.
  • May work effectively alone but over time could struggle with the lack of personal connection, as S-Style people do place more importance on being warm and outgoing.

Tips to work productively from home:

  • Maintain open lines of communication.
  • Set up regular check-ins and provide constructive feedback or confirmation of their good work. Alternatively, if they are struggling, clearly outline why/ how this is happening and how you will work to help them change this.
  • Ensure they are properly set up to work from home as the sooner they find a new routine, the sooner they will feel a sense of stability.
  • Provide clear step-by-step instructions and ask questions to make sure they understand tasks.
  • Avoid rushing them to complete tasks and instead set clear, agreed upon deadlines. On the other hand, if they are not getting the job done, then you should address this in a clear manner and be firm about your expectations.
  • Offer sincere praise for any job well done, but unlike the i-style, one-to-one or private praise is typically more appreciated, they don’t want the limelight.
  • Provide long-term, overarching goals to satisfy their comfort with working steadily towards a goal, show them how they fit into the bigger picture.
  • The S-Style will be great at supporting their co-workers during this time and providing a supportive environment, similarly, they will appreciate the same from others!

C Style – Conscientiousness 

Considerations:

  • The C-Style prefers working independently and so will most likely thrive working from home, provided they have the information required to do so effectively.
  • C-Styles like to ensure streamlined processes so if you are unsure about setting new policies and guidelines for working from home, feel free to reach out for their thoughts.

Tips to work productively from home:

  • Provide them with as much factual information and detail as possible so that they are clear on tasks and expectations.
  • Minimise micromanaging by setting scheduled check ins and sticking to them.
  • Set clear deadlines so that they do not spend too long obsessing over single projects or tasks, trying to get them perfect. On a similar note, avoid rushing them to complete tasks as they will feel pressured and stressed by this.
  • Ensure that you are asking for their opinions that they may not express openly and that there are no underlying feelings of discontent that may cause them to become resentful and reduce productivity.
  • Provide specific feedback and praise on tasks well done, in a private setting. This will be more meaningful than generic compliments which may be perceived as empty.
  • Reward them by asking for their input and providing them with opportunities to manage tasks autonomously.
  • Ensure they are aware of team goals as well as their own so that they do not loose perspective since they may be less likely to check in regularly with coworkers.

Tips for all styles:

  • Create a daily routine.
  • Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise in daily.
  • Create a dedicated workspace so that you can concentrate during work and switch off afterwards. Don’t work from bed and ensure your set up is comfortable for extended periods of time.
  • Make to-do lists and regularly check in with your team.
  • Stay focused, maybe have some music in the background but leave the TV off!
  • Ensure some level of social interaction, Zoom calls with co-workers are great, or call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
  • Get comfy for the day, if you do your best work in active wear that’s fine, others may like the routine of getting dressed and doing their hair/ makeup to feel ready for work.
  • Do what works for you! Everyone is different and we all need to respect those differences, tune into what you need to be most effective, and give yourself every chance to be productive.

The Voice in Your Head…

Thinking

I want to talk with you about that voice in your head. You know the one, it’s always there. The one that reminds you that you ‘cannot’ do something, or that you have never been any good at something else… It reminds you that; ‘I can’t sing, I can’t dance, I can’t lose weight, I am useless at maths, I have a terrible sense of direction’, and so it goes…

Our brain is quite incredible. We tell ourselves stories all the time and our brain accepts these stories as true or fact, until or unless, we tell it otherwise. Mostly we do not even recognise that we are telling ourselves these stories. The thing is, these stories can be holding us back from achieving our potential or being able to do the things we really would like to be doing.

To this end, we end up creating our own versions of ‘reality’.

But what is reality, really?

In any given moment, reality can be changed because reality is based on the observer or individual. We know that through the varying accounts of eyewitnesses provided at any given crime scene. Five different witnesses can mean five different accounts of what did or did not happen. Our reality is merely our brain’s understanding of the world, which is based on our own and individual experiences, beliefs and self-talk. 

Think about this: it is said that on average we verbalise about 16,000 words a day and that we have anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. Now think about all those thoughts. How many of those do you think are factual, and how many of them are really assumptions, judgements or stories we are telling ourselves. Just think about that for a moment.

To add to our assumptions, judgements and stories, all of these thoughts are interlaced with complex emotions. Some are positive and helpful, such as: ‘I’ve worked hard on this report and will ace the presentation at today’s Board Meeting’. Others are negative and less helpful, such as: ‘She doesn’t like me, I am useless at data analysis, why am I always the one who (insert your own, why does this always happen to me here)?’

It is important to recognise that we can change that perspective at any moment. One of my all-time favourite TED Talks is The Happy Secret to Better Work, by Shawn Achor. In that talk, he says: ‘We’re finding it’s not necessarily reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality. And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.’

Let me give you an example of when I saw this in action. It is an example that most people will relate too, as many people have a strong aversion to the idea of speaking in public.

I had a colleague approach me once and ask ‘who was the worst-case scenario I had ever worked with, in terms of a person not being able to speak in public, and who then went on to become a public speaker.’ I laughed and said ‘well, that would have been me’. I then went on to explain my story to her. Up until my mid-twenties, the mere thought of speaking to a group of people terrified me. If I had to speak to a group, I would physically sweat and shake and my voice would stammer so much, I could barely get words out. It was awful. I can still see the looks on people’s faces, which tended to be more horror than pity. I couldn’t even sit with a group of people at a table and contribute to a conversation. Fortunately for me, I recognised that this wasn’t helping me at all, and (long story short), I attended a public speaking program and learned how to speak in public.

It certainly wasn’t easy and the only way to learn how to do speak in public is to actually speak in public. However, I then went on (a very short time after that) to start a career that required me to speak in front of groups of people every single day and I loved it and continue to love it. In fact, I couldn’t have had the career I have had and all the wonderful experiences I have enjoyed without having learned to speak in public.

Having said that, my story is not the example I want to highlight in this article. Rather it is my colleague’s story of when she approached me and what followed. After I gave her a brief overview of my own story, she said to me. ‘I know that in order to progress in my career I need to learn how to speak in public.’ She then went on to say in a very strong and certain voice, ‘However, I will never be able to speak in public’.

I stopped her right there. Can you see what she was doing? Did you hear what she said? Every time she thought to herself or said out loud ‘I will never be able to speak in public’ her mind replied ‘OK’. She was giving herself permission to not even try, because she ‘knew’ she would never be able to do it.

I asked her to simply change what she was telling herself. Instead of saying ‘I will never be able to speak in public’ I suggested she say, ‘I am not comfortable speaking in public yet’. That simple rewording, and in particular, adding ‘yet’, can be very powerful. It tells your mind that this thing (you used to say you could never do) is now a possibility and maybe you will be able to do it in the future.

I was so proud of my colleague. Not only did she take my suggestion on board, but three weeks later she came to see me and told me that she had enrolled in Toastmasters (an organisation that teaches public speaking skills). Naturally, she was still very nervous about public speaking and told me that she planned to attend a few meetings and give herself permission to get up and speak when she felt ready.

Notice the ‘when’ rather than ‘if’? It was less than a month later that she came to see me and excitedly told me that she had spoken to the group at her meeting the night before. Honestly, I could not have been happier for her. In less than two months, she had gone from someone who ‘would never’ be able to speak in public, to someone who had spoken in public and would go on to learn to become very comfortable with it and end up enjoying it.

So think for a moment. What are the stories you are telling yourself? Are you: not creative, can’t dance, can’t sing, terrible at maths, no good at sport? Maybe it is time to change the story you are telling yourself and possibly even change your life 🙂

Death by Meetings?

For those of you that work in any sort of business environment, how much do you love meetings?

Ok, ok, I can almost hear the groans and see the eye rolls 😊

Recently I took the opportunity to see Patrick Lencioni speak live in Melbourne. If you do not know who he is; Patrick is an American writer of books on business management, particularly in relation to team management. He is best known as the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, a popular business fable that explores work team dynamics and offers solutions to help teams perform better. I use his model quite regularly in my programs which is why I wanted to hear him speak in person, however it was what he said about meetings that really grabbed my attention and changed my perspective.

Most people will talk about meetings in a manner that suggests they feel they have too many of them and they are not an effective use of their time. Some people will say that they spend so much time in meetings that they don’t have time to get their real work done, or that if they didn’t have to spend so much time in meetings, then they would actually be able to enjoy their job. The sad thing is that this has really become quite socially acceptable and many people will be nodding in agreement as a colleague laments the meetings they attend.

This is what Patrick said; complaining about meetings, particularly if you are a leader is actually quite ironic. It would be like a surgeon saying, as he wheeled someone into the operating theatre, ‘You know, I would love this job if I didn’t have to operate on all these people’.

Think about what it means in an organisation to be a leader. Where do Leaders do their leading? Is it from their office or from behind their computers? (Sadly, I do see Leaders who try to do that…… you can imagine how successful they are – not). No, Leaders lead when they are with their people….and in organisations, Leaders are with their people in meetings.

Meetings are where you lead. So, in a nutshell, this is where you do your job. 

The thing about meetings is that meetings themselves are not inherently bad, it is the way we are conducting them that is the issue. If you listen to Patrick talk about the issues with meetings, he explains what most meetings lack; Context and Conflict.

Context

With context, there can be two issues; either trying to fit too many different topics into one meeting or holding meetings without a clear purpose. I remember attending a meeting as an external stakeholder, to learn more about the team. For about 45 minutes or so the team chatted and talked in general terms about things that were going on. There seemed to be no agenda for the meeting or specific outcome to be achieved. At the end of the meeting I asked a couple of participants, ‘why do you have this meeting?’ They looked at me with genuine confusion and said they didn’t know why. It turned out that they had been having a Monday morning meeting at 0900 every Monday for more than 10 years and yet they didn’t know why!

If this is happening in your team or organisation, perhaps you might like to try something along the lines of what Google and One Drive did and cancel all ongoing or recurring meetings from everyone’s diary for a month. This can really help people work out which meetings they need to have and which they don’t.

Conflict

There is so much to say about encouraging conflict or tension in meetings, but to cover it all, this article would become an essay. So, I do suggest reading Patrick Lencioni’s book; Death by Meetings or watching one of his many talks available on YouTube.

Think about the meetings you attend. Now be honest, what are people really doing in these meetings?  What are you doing in these meetings? Some people may be engaged and participating, but you will notice many who are reading and responding to emails, texting on their phones or planning their day or evening.  

What we need to be doing is creating an environment that engages people emotionally, and enables discussion and debate, so they actually want to fully participate.

“When a group of intelligent people come together to talk about issues that matter, it is both natural and productive for disagreement to occur. Resolving those issues is what makes a meeting productive, engaging, even fun.”  Patrick Lencioni

A simple change you might like to make is how you open your meetings. Think about this; if I were to ask you, what is the most important part of a movie, what would you say? Some people will say the ending or the climax, however the most important part of a movie is the first ten minutes. That is because, it is in the first ten minutes that we decide if we like the movie or not. If the first ten minutes of a movie doesn’t grab our attention, we tend to think this movie is boring, and then we don’t end up watching it or we don’t really engage with it. We do other things while it is playing ‘in the background’.

Think about the first ten minutes of your meetings. Are you giving people a reason to care about the meeting or are you sending a signal that this is going to be boring? Picture this, it’s 3pm, you are starting to feel the afternoon slump, and you are called into a 2 hour budgeting meeting that opens with; John, could you give us an overview of last years numbers…. Or Sarah, could you read the minutes from the last meeting…… yawn….

What is the actual purpose of the meeting? If it is to set this year’s budget and allocate funds, then that is what is going to engage the participants in healthy discussion and debate, and not reviewing the numbers or reading the minutes (both of which could have been passed on in other ways). Try starting with, ‘Ok, the decisions that we make in the next 2 hours are going to impact everything we do for the next 12 months. It will impact team/division/organisational resources and the ability for us and our team members to do their jobs.’

Much more engaging and now you have my attention.

May the Force be with you

obi-wan

Did you know, when George Lucas first wrote the script for the movie series Star Wars; that its most famous line, ‘May the force be with you’ was not written as we have come to know it? Apparently, the earliest versions of the script read ‘May the force of others be with you’.

I find that change in wording quite fascinating.

Naturally, Hollywood likes to promote its individual hero’s, hence I suspect the reasoning for the wording change. However the reality is that even the best Hollywood hero or superstar, would not and could not achieve success without the support, advice and opportunities provided by others. When you think about it, is there anyone that you can name who has succeeded completely on their own? I am sure you have read or watched many an interview where the subject in question was being asked about their success or achievements and they have said something along the lines of ‘I couldn’t have done it without…’

Many people are raised to compete or to be the best in their field which can often spur on remarkable, seemingly individual, achievements. Think of an Olympic swimmer who wins the gold medal, and then think about that individual’s family members and loved ones who may have sacrificed sleep and family holidays or even moved cities or (in some cases) States in order to get that person to the training pool every morning at 5 am and to engage the best coaches.

No matter how capable you may be, you simply do not have all the answers. Even ‘geniuses’ do not innovate, discover or problem solve on their own. Interesting side note; Thomas Edison was a prolific inventor with over 1900 patents. Yet, historians have struggled to determine if he ever actually invented anything himself. It seems that most of the inventions credited to Edison were created in collaboration with the team of inventors who worked with him.

In the workplace and our careers, we need other people to inspire us and coax out our creativity. The key is surrounding ourselves with people who bring out the best in us and not the stress in us.

You may have heard Jim Rohn’s famous statement, that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Now, I suspect five isn’t actually a magic number, just like some may say ‘it takes 21 days to form a habit’, or that ’10,000 hours of practice/application makes you an expert’. I would suggest that the numbers are arbitrary, rather it is a matter of consistency, and regularly applying yourself to something. In this case, consistently surrounding yourself with people who support you, lift you up, encourage you and in particular, challenge you to think differently.

Think about the people in your life that you spend most of your time with.  Now consider the impact they have on you. Is it positive? Do they challenge and develop you, and if so, to what extent? The height of your potential is predicted by the people who surround you. This doesn’t mean that these people are always positive. There are times when we really need to hear constructive criticism. It can be a brilliant opportunity to learn and to grow.

Now consider yourself and how your behaviour and actions impact those around you. As Aristotle famously stated; The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Are you as positive and inspiring as you could be? Are you lifting others up? Remember, in order to have others bring out the best in you, you need to be able to bring out the best in them too.

Should you say No?

How does it make you feel? How does it feel when someone asks you to do something, and you want or need to say no?

I know that for myself it felt really uncomfortable, until quite recently. Then I read a book by Rory Vaden, called Procrastinate on Purpose and it opened my eyes and changed my perspective. Two concepts specifically resonated with me. Saying ‘no’ and The Tyranny of the Urgent.

Saying ‘No’

If you are like many people (like me for example), you might really dislike saying no to people. Others may come to you with needs or requests for assistance and you want to be helpful and supportive, so you find yourself saying yes. You say ‘Yes’ even when you know (deep down) that you really do not have the capacity to do both what they are asking, as well as what it is that you need to do for yourself.

Interestingly, we might think we don’t like saying no, but in reality, we are saying no all the time. As Rory explains; anytime you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. You simply cannot say ‘yes’ to something without implicitly saying ‘no’. By way of example, by taking the time to read this blog, you are saying no to something else you could be doing at this moment.  Other examples are, when you say yes to:

  • Doing other people’s work
  • Attending unnecessary meetings
  • A perception of immediate service (like responding to that ‘urgent’ email that arrives in your inbox at 4.59pm)
  • Reading subscription emails
  • Over-volunteering
  • Engaging in email conversations (email wasn’t designed as a chat service!)
  • Watching a Netflix binge (a startling statistic – the average person will spend nine years of their life watching television)

You just said no to:

  • Getting home on time
  • More time with your kids
  • Being ‘present’ with your spouse or friends
  • Engaging in activities or hobbies that are meaningful to you (such as exercise, cooking, reading)
  • Taking a break to rest and recharge
  • Getting a good night’s sleep

The Tyranny of the Urgent

Stephen Covey was a brilliant man, there is no doubting that. And many people use his Urgent and Important matrix as a time management tool. The issue with this (as Rory explains) is that this matrix was developed by Covey in 1989* (or even earlier by US President Eisenhower in the 1950’s), in worlds quite different to today. These matrices were developed before emails, before mobile phones, before text messages, instant messages and 24/7 availability…and unfortunately, today, ‘everything’ is urgent (or at least that is how our brains are responding to every little alert that occurs on our various devices).

This was a big insight for me – how other people’s ‘urgent’ has been impacting me, how I have been responding (or reacting) to other people’s ‘urgent’ requests, to the detriment of my own time and the things that are important to me.

I will give you one small example. One of my roles is marking student assessments for various qualifications. As a general rule, students have six weeks (42 days) to complete and submit their assignments. I then have three weeks (21 days) to mark their submission and provide the student with their results. At any one time, I could have a dozen or more students submitting and awaiting their results.

Often, a student will submit their assessment, on the 42nd day, and then email me at the same time and ask me if I can mark it immediately, today or ASAP! There is a sense of urgency in these email requests, which are often punctuated with a good amount of exclamation marks!!! The requests usually seem quite reasonable; the student wants to ‘know their result’, ‘let their manager know they passed’, or, ‘book a holiday once they know their result’ etc… Wanting to help and be supportive, I would respond to these ‘urgent’ requests by putting other things to the side and completing what had been requested. (Interestingly, I am yet to hear back from any of these students with so much as a thank you!)

After recognising that in these situations (and many others) that I am responding to the Tyranny of the Urgent, I have changed my response. Just recently, I received an email from a student (and in this case, their submission was actually late. It was overdue by several days). They advised me that they had just submitted their assessment and asked if I could ‘mark it straight away!’ It was about 4.30pm on a Friday and I had other things planned. So, I said no. I explained that I was marking other student assessments and that I had put aside some time the following week to do further marking and they should expect their result toward the end of that week.

It was a relief to say no, and I spent a truly lovely weekend with my daughter without feeling the guilt that often comes with feeling that you are ‘letting others down’. The reality is, that if I had said yes to that student, I would have been saying no to my daughter.

Now, when ‘urgent’ requests are coming in, I am viewing them with a different perspective. Are they really urgent? Or is it someone else’s perceived urgency?

Now, I am not suggesting that we all get super comfortable with saying no to everything (I doubt I could ever get super comfortable with it myself), or that we ignore other people’s ‘urgent’ requests. But maybe take a step back for a moment and ask ourselves; ‘If I say yes to this right now, what will I be saying no to?’

And on the flip-side, maybe we could be considerate of other people’s time and reconsider the ‘urgent’ request we are sending other people (I know I have been guilty of it). We could ask ourselves ‘is this request really urgent?’ or am I also contributing to The Tyranny of the Urgent?

*Scary fact, for those of us that remember 1989 as adults, that was 30 years ago!

Less is More…

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.’ Greg McKeown – Author of Essentialism

Leading up to Christmas, I thought about it being a good time to refocus on why I started exploring Minimalism. My initial goal was to have an uncluttered home, however I have found greater benefits through having an uncluttered life and a lot less distractions. Having fewer distractions naturally gives me more time to focus on the areas of my life that I truly want to focus on.

Minimalism is not about owning nothing. It is about being purposeful about your possessions. What do you really need and love? And then, basically removing the excess.

The reason I am talking with you about minimalism is not to say that you need to own less stuff (though, trust me, it does actually make things easier). It is to suggest that minimalism frees up our lives and our time so that we can achieve more. What I am suggesting is to adopt a minimalist mindset.

When I started to minimalise, I cleared on average at least two full garbage bags of unnecessary clutter each week from my home over a three-month period. And you know what? So far, I haven’t missed any of it! Life is simpler and there is a lot less housework! Which naturally means, more time. More time for the things I want to do and love to do. The purposeful choices I started to make about what we have in our home, transferred into making much more purposeful choices about how and where I spend my money, time and energy.

Did you realise that you are potentially exposed to over 5,000 advertisements a day? Yes, 5,000! Between digital and social media, print (magazines/newspapers) and billboards or signs. That’s 5,000 times a day you consciously or unconsciously get a message to buy something. Do you want some really scary stats? Maybe not, but here they are anyway…..

In 2012, Australians spent: $8 billion (yes that is billion) on beauty, $9.5 billion on gadgets and $5.1 billion on fashion. Wow! For those of us living in Australia, you might have seen the series, The War on Waste on the ABC television network. I don’t know about you, but I found the series equally fascinating and horrifying in terms of how much unnecessary waste we all mindlessly create.

Affluenza is a term that you may have heard in recent times. It is used to describe the need to strive for ever-increasing material wealth. It describes that unfulfilling feeling we get when trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. In a world that these days seems to quantify success by a persons’ fame, wealth and status, it can be described as a socially transmitted condition with the symptoms being an almost uncontrollable quest to own and have more material objects. Just think about the queues outside the Apple stores every time a new iPhone is released. The reality is that the pleasure of a new purchase quickly fades following the rush of adrenaline from the acquisition. I mean, just how life-changing do you think the purchase of the latest iPhone really was for those early adopters? Much really? I doubt it. Whatever it was that you ‘just had to have’, the pleasure fades quickly, so how convenient is it that then each year there is a newer model of car or phone or TV that you can purchase and each season a new trend in fashion that you can fall in love with and just ‘have to have’? This short-term pleasure fades even more quickly when you have the realisation that this purchase does not link with, or even has moved you further away from, your goals.

Every single day we are offered innumerable opportunities and choices as to how to spend our money, our energy and our time. They key here is recognising that we do have a choice and do not have to buy, participate in or contribute to everything. With a minimalist mindset, you can learn to say ‘no’ to the things that do not align with your vision of success. Now, I am not suggesting you become so absorbed with your own goals that you say ‘no’ to everything else. What I am suggesting is that you become more aware of the activities and actions that are cluttering up your mind and try a bit of a spring clean. You will feel so much better for it.

‘Maybe the life you have always wanted is buried under everything you own!’. Joshua Becker – Author of The More of Less