Congratulations & Celebrations

work team congratulations

One of my LinkedIn connections just posted a post starting with the phrase, “I wouldn’t normally post something like this on LinkedIn but…”

They then proceeded to praise their team for their huge efforts in recent times, including a celebratory photo of the team in better times. All the comments were super positive, as they should be. I did too but I had a nagging question – why the #$@% would they think it wasn’t OK?

We’ve probably all got different ideas of what LinkedIn is for. I know I do. It’s broadly a business / professional networking site. So, whatever you think networking is, is what LinkedIn is for, for you.If people don’t like it or don’t agree, they can disconnect. As can you.

I would like to do business with people who are expert, innovative, easy to work with, push me to develop, help me make money. Someone who shouts out and stands up for their team publicly via whatever channel is definitely someone I’d like to work with. If a superstar potential job applicant in that person’s industry saw that post, it could only add to their magnetism as an employer of choice. Not only was their post a good idea now, it’s always been, and always will be, a good idea. You have a go…

What can you do tomorrow to publicly, proportionately, and appropriately shout out for your team?

leadership feedback celebrateyourteam

I’m trialling a self-directed course I’ve developed on personal effectiveness. One of the ten lessons within it is on influence, a critical element of which is building and maintaining rapport. You get all five of my books (in eBook format) when you sign up. If that sounds of interest, you can learn more at www.lifesuccesslearning.com .

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Expert trainer / coach / speaker. Interactively online or in-person. Fast-track your personal & professional effectiveness or leadership development with practical business tools and thought leadership.

How Can You Get ‘In The Zone’?

flow

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi once lamented that society has plenty of one-minute managers and not enough 100-year managers.

Aside from deep witticisms about leadership and a famously difficult-to-pronounce surname (it’s pronounced “Cheeks sent me high”) he is most renowned as the developer of the concept of ‘Flow’.

Flow is a mental state in which a person, in the process of an activity, is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus and full involvement. You’re ‘in the zone’.

It happens sometimes by random chance and it’s a powerfully productive state. What can leaders do to promote it within themselves and their teams?

Flow results from activities in which you’re already highly skilled but you’re on the edge of that competence, experiencing high-challenge. We currently have plenty of the ‘high-challenge’ bit. What organisations have to do, now more than ever, is maintain and develop that ‘high skill’ bit. Training is obviously one path (and as a seller of my own services as a trainer, I agree with me on that). But, with conditions uncertain and changing underfoot, an essential addition to training specific technical and people skills, is upping your people’s ability to learn how to learn. How are you doing that? leadingteams virtualcoaching leadershipdevelopment

I’m trialling a self-directed course I’ve developed on personal effectiveness. One of the ten lessons within it is on resilience, a critical element of which is increasing our time when we’re in a state of flow. You get all five of my books (in eBook format) when you sign up. If that sounds of interest, you can learn more at www.lifesuccesslearning.com .

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Expert trainer / coach / speaker. Interactively online or in-person. Fast-track your personal & professional effectiveness or leadership development with practical business tools and thought leadership.

Hidden Talents & Hidden Talent Needs

super squirrel1

As a trainer, at this time, I’m in conversations around what people need to learn now. What does ‘new normal’ and ‘business as unusual’ mean for non-technical people-skill demand?

I’ll listen to my market but they don’t know everything they need because they are so focused on the ‘right now’ (sales, resilience, remote teams) and miss the ‘right next’. And they (and I) need to get an early handle on what is ‘right next’.

I float. I’m not tied to one company or one industry. As an outsider, I observe. I look for clues – partly out of natural curiousity and partly out of self-serving research on what might be needed next and how can I develop that. Trainers conduct needs analyses which are great for assessing gaps between the skills you have and the skills you need but if the need isn’t known, documented, or quantified, imminent needs can fall between the cracks.

One of the clues I look for is a pattern of outlier requests by individuals. This week, I’ve led online training sessions on managing difficult conversations & assertiveness. Productivity can be affected by a nervous workforce. People FEEL they need to step up and stand out in this economy. What needs, like these, do you think are going to be needed ‘right next’?

If you’re a leader, you need to take your team’s pulse, not just on potentially hidden training needs but generally on morale, engagement, and so forth. You’re probably already doing it on KPIs and targets. It doesn’t take long to check in on a few other leading indicators at a human level.

trainingcourses learninganddevelopment onlinetraining

I’m trialling a self-directed course I’ve developed on personal effectiveness. One of the ten lessons within it is on emotional intelligence, a critical element of which is observation and checking in. You get all five of my books (in eBook format) when you sign up. If that sounds of interest, you can learn more at www.lifesuccesslearning.com .

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Terry Williams: Expert trainer / coach / speaker. Interactively online or in-person. Fast-track your personal & professional effectiveness or leadership development with practical business tools and thought leadership.

Future Nostalgia (Controlling Your Focus)

blondie 1979

I consider 1979, 1985, & 1992 to be great years in pop music. I will fight you on this.

This is due to my age, the evidence I chose to notice (& later to selectively recall), & the evidence I chose to disregard. Logically and objectively, I know there was some dross then but I will cherry-pick music, movies, memories & evidence from the past to make me feel better. (Note: If you’re going to show your kids ‘Top Gun’ as the epitome of cool, have a support dog handy & be prepared to send them to bed & lose them forever. As a possible counter, check out the #1,2,4,10 songs of 2005 in the pic).

2005 chart

The year of woodstock, the summer of love, & general grooviness might still be on your gran’s turntable but there was some heinous music & news going on that year too. By choice, most of us are very able to control our focus on things past. I reckon we can (& should) do it about the present and the future. Our memories of the past aren’t real, complete, or objective. We made them like we made cinnamon scrolls during lockdown & for the same reasons. One way or another, what deliberate & purposeful constructs for your present & future would help you, your team, & your family add meaning right now? Add a soundtrack…

engagingteams motivation inspiringteams

I’m trialling a self-directed course I’ve developed on personal effectiveness. One of the ten lessons within it is on maintaining a continuous improvement mindset, a critical element of which is controlling our focus and attention. You get all five of my books (in eBook format) when you sign up. If that sounds of interest, you can learn more at www.lifesuccesslearning.com .

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Expert trainer / coach / speaker. Interactively online or in-person. Fast-track your personal & professional effectiveness or leadership development with practical business tools and thought leadership.

Questioning Our Assumptions & Instinctive Reactions

wild-goose

I had to shoo some geese off my garden this morning. I don’t know if they were wild but they were certainly unruly. And, ultimately, I never caught them, nor am I confident that it will disincentify future incursions, so I guess it was both literally and figuratively a wild goose chase.

I tell the story now in my blog because earlier I’d posted it on FaceBook. A comedy buddy of mine commented. He is a fascinating chap, a tad alternative but with multiple degrees, at least one PhD and a penchant for poetry. He knows flora and fauna. Turns out it’s very likely the geese were after bugs and not veges. As my friend described them, “a clean-up crew not a wrecking crew”.

At work or in business, how often do we leap to incorrect assumptions because we are protecting our patch? And, as in this case, how often are we not just off-target but 180 degrees off-target.

I’m trialling a self-directed course I’ve developed on personal effectiveness. One of the ten lessons within it is on critical thinking, a critical element of which is testing our assumptions and instinctive reactions. You get all five of my books (in eBook format) when you sign up. If that sounds of interest, you can learn more at www.lifesuccesslearning.com .

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Expert trainer / coach / speaker. Interactively online or in-person. Fast-track your personal & professional effectiveness or leadership development with practical business tools and thought leadership.

Dry Times In Your Resilience Reservoir?

low reservoir

Rob Hopkins in his book ‘The Power of Just Doing Stuff’ wrote that resilience is the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to essentially retain the same function, structure, and feedbacks. I’ve metaphorically called our resilience our ‘Change Muscles’.

change evolution plus terry

Hopkins cites seven principles of resilience:

  1. Diversity (don’t put all your eggs in one basket)
  2. Modularity (one missed domino shouldn’t mess up the whole process)
  3. Social capital
  4. Innovation
  5. Overlap (messy is better than streamlined)
  6. Tight feedback loops (so you know ASAP when there’s a problem)
  7. Ecosystem services (don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs)

Ultimately, resilience is fueled by a belief that we have options – possibilities not probabilities. The best way to believe something is to generate or seek evidence supporting that belief. What evidence do you have right now – before you need it, before that ‘Behavioural Physics’ asteroid of change comes into sight – of the options at your disposal?

BehavioralPhysics2 transparent background

Have your options displayed, shared, and keep them fresh and updated. I use a small whiteboard with sketched flowcharts. Nothing NASA would be jealous of but a constant reminder that you’re not painted into a corner or backing towards a cliff. Choice is control, and control is power, enabling you. And, powerful or empowered people have little problem with change. (They might have a problem with being changed though)…

* An excerpt from my book ‘2 Dangerous Things A Year’, available at www.terrywilliamsbooks.com

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I’m trialling a self-directed course I’ve developed on personal effectiveness. One of the ten lessons within it is on influence, a critical element of which is the above idea of ‘nudging’. You get all five of my books (in eBook format) when you sign up. If that sounds of interest, you can learn more at www.lifesuccesslearning.com .

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Expert trainer / coach / speaker. Interactively online or in-person. Fast-track your personal & professional effectiveness or leadership development with practical business tools and thought leadership.

Challenge Assumptions

6 vs 9

Psychologist Jonah Lehrer noted, “When the brain is exposed to anything random, like a slot machine or the shape of a cloud, it automatically imposes a pattern onto the noise.” Thomas Gilovich agreed, “Nature abhors a vacuum. People spot patterns where only the vagaries of chance are operating.” That’s what pattern recognition is for, although often the brain’s motto is, ‘Close enough is good enough.’ Chabris and Simons agree that our minds are built to detect meaning in patterns, to infer causal relationships from coincidences and to believe that earlier events cause later ones.

In his article ‘Becoming Famous Overnight’, Larry Jacoby wrote of his research into memory illusions caused by this cognitive convenience. Remember, cognitive processing is hard work and anything the brain can do to ease that strain, it’ll try doing. Participants were shown some names of people, including David Stenbill. Sometime later, and in a supposedly unrelated activity, they were shown a list of names and asked to tick those that were celebrities. David Stenbill, despite being fictitious and not in a celebrity way, was ticked more often than not. If they thought about Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, or Margaret Thatcher, they could probably find a few facts in their memory about them and why they were celebrities. There’s no genuine way they could do that for David Stenbill. All they’d have was a sense of familiarity. And for people, that’s all we need. Words, and anything else we’ve seen before, become easier to see again. And it’s not just seeing; it’s any kind of experience.

If years ago you had a conflict-ridden relationship with an employee named Toby and tomorrow you’re being assigned a new employee whose name also happens to be Toby, that’s not going to affect your impressions of Toby II, is it? Maybe you should give him a nickname as soon as possible?

Psychologist Robert Zajonc did a study on whether old married couples start to look like each other. This section is not about that study but it is quite interesting. It was suggested that, given the empathy couples must have shown each other over the years, much of which is conveyed through facial expressions, they develop similar wrinkle patterns. Be sure and mention this the next time you’re at Gran and Pop’s place.

The other Zajonc study I’m looking at here is on the mere exposure effect and links nicely with Jacoby’s familiarity work. He ran newspaper advertisements on the front pages of two Michigan universities using five made-up words:

 

Word Times Used
kadirga 1
saricik 2
biwonjni 5
nansoma 10
iktitaf 25

He then surveyed the student population with a simple question: Were each of these words bad or good? The words used more often were considered good more often. He replicated the study using symbols, shapes, and faces with the same result. Familiar was perceived as good. Familiar is safe. Zajonc suggests this may be a result of evolution as the survival prospects were poor for animals not suspicious of novelty. New things could eat you. Maybe the anti-change person you’re leading isn’t being bloody-minded? Maybe they’re being safety conscious?

A downside of familiarity is the illusion of representativeness and how that bias impacts our thinking. We expect a librarian to look like one. The regression fallacy is where we sometimes choose to believe that non-typical results will continue. Over time, results regress to the mean. A workplace example might be when a slightly below-average performer performs especially poorly. You respond by yelling at them. Their next performance is better therefore you assume that yelling at them improved their performance. Far more likely is that their performance regressed to the mean. Golfers, you know what I’m talking about.

[An excerpt from my book ‘The Brain-Based Boss: Adding serious value through employee engagement’ terrywilliamsbooks.com ]

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I’m trialling a self-directed course I’ve developed on personal effectiveness. One of the ten lessons within it is on critical thinking, an essential element of which is challenging assumptions. You get all five of my books (in eBook format) when you sign up. If that sounds of interest, you can learn more at www.lifesuccesslearning.com .

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#onlinelearning #onlinetraining #personaleffectiveness #criticalthinking

Expert trainer / coach / speaker. Interactively online or in-person. Fast-track your personal & professional effectiveness or leadership development with practical business tools and thought leadership.

What Resilience Needs Do You Observe?

simon-berger-_a1lA5Ti_1I-unsplash

Hi team. Pick your brain for a moment?

I’m teaming up with a project developing a series of short-burst online self-directed training. The sort of thing time-scarce but highly self-motivated people in the workplace can turn to where and when they need it for practical solutions to real-world problems. It won’t be ‘micro’. It’ll be substantive but not a scheduling nightmare. They can check in and out as they need.

Unsurprisingly, we’re starting with the topic of resilience – bouncing back better. That is a broad topic and we need to slice it up. We have our views and we’re certainly checking with our clients and target market. I thought I’d also check out the wisdom of crowds ie y’all.

Within resilience, what issues do you think people face:

– first,

– most?

Any and all suggestions appreciated via terry@terrywilliams.info. Remain awesome!

virtualcoaching onlinetraining resilience

What To Do With An Employee Nicknamed ‘Sleepy’? (Five Tips For Encouraging Self-Motivation).

motivating icons

Employers are starting to catch on to the research that shows that having a predominantly engaged workforce can double a company’s return on assets and contribute to a 36% increase in sales revenue. It varies a little bit over time, depending on your country, industry and a few other variables but the evidence says that it’s worth the effort.

It’s not even as if the engaged are mythological superstars. The generally accepted definition of engagement is merely applying discretionary effort – simply choosing to do more than you have to.

The engagement conversation is overly focused on the top and the bottom – how to attract and retain the transient talent who are truly actively and impressively engaged whilst preventing or discarding those who have become cancerously actively disengaged. Both are lots of work and risk. Not enough of the conversation is about the bulk of the people, the quiet middle. Fifty to sixty percent of employees show up and do what they have to and no more. They show up, maintain a pulse, consume oxygen and tick their performance boxes. This is the area where leaders amongst employers can make the greatest gains, the biggest bang for their bucks. But how?

I delivered a presentation recently to a group of successful dairy farmers. This whole engagement potential issue was summarised simply and effectively with one question to me from one of the farmers, “What do I do with an employee nicknamed ‘Sleepy’?”

Sleepy did what he had to but he possessed untapped potential. The farmer could see this and was frustrated at how Sleepy wouldn’t tap into it. Sure, the farmer would love to have greater productivity for the same wages but his frustration was borne out of a want for Sleepy to achieve more personally. Maybe you’ve got a Sleepy? Maybe you’ve got lots of Sleepies? Maybe you are a Sleepy? What can you do?

1. Ask what they think.

Big organisations with HR departments and money sloshing around can conduct surveys and commission consultants. Sometimes it’s easier, smarter, quicker and more accurate to ask a few direct questions of the affected person. Even if no answers are forthcoming, the very fact that you asked is a positive influence.

2. Leverage social conformity.

Websites selling movies and books know their best marketing tool is the recommendations of others just like us. The same is true of career paths and discretionary effort. Find people like Sleepy who have chosen a better path and present them, or their stories, as models.

3. Create an autonomy supportive environment.

Dairy workers might not have a great deal of choice in what they do. (The cows seem to be in charge much of the time.) But, as the boss, what can you do to diminish any sense of powerlessness? Could there be discretion in how, when and with who the work gets done?

4. Map out a path to increased mastery.

An ever-upwardly developing balance between skill and challenge is a fundamental need of the human mind. The alternative is boredom, apathy and that is the devil’s cakemix. How can you provide some, but not too much, incremental challenge and skill development for Sleepy, even if it is seemingly beyond their current role?

5. Connect to their future selves.

Studies using clever computer-generated imagery show that people will save more for their retirement when an older version of themselves advise them to. A powerful influencer to give up smoking is to be there for your grandkids. If, like Sleepy’s boss, you can get them not just thinking about but feeling beyond tomorrow, you can nudge them towards doing more than they have to today. The way to do that is by asking them and providing examples of others, like them, who have gone on to great things.

Ultimately there is no one-right-way to deal with employees like Sleepy. It depends and, no doubt, some trial and error will be needed. As you’re giving these tips a try, just console yourself that dealing with a Sleepy is preferable to dealing with a Dopey or a Grumpy.

We’re all in this together?: Social leverage, projection and ‘loafing’​

pushing car in mud

How are people behaving right now? How are your people behaving? How are you behaving? I remember my first trip to a supermarket during the lockdown. It was clearly abnormally busy but people were behaving chill. I don’t know how they were feeling or what they were thinking but they were behaving chill. This contrasts with scenes in the media and online of non-chill behaviour in supermarkets at this time. Why? I think it was the behaviour being modeled by the well-led staff. This might be their first pandemic rodeo but it was day 6 of their first pandemic rodeo, and they’ve learned what to display and not display. And, at the top of the heap of what not to display is uncertainty and ambiguity.

Doctor Nicholas Christaki of the Harvard Medical School concluded that we are 171 percent more likely to gain weight if our closest friends do. We don’t even have to be geographically close, just emotionally close. He describes this as “an emotional contagion”.

Sunstein and Thaler write about a study conducted in restaurants measuring how much individuals eat when in groups of different sizes:

Group Size – Impact On Average Individual Consumption

2 +35%

4 +75%

7+ +96%

Slow down people; it is not a contest. Think about this aspect of human behaviour in a potential panic-buying context. Think about the illogic of toilet paper hoarding.

Solomon Asch back in the 1950s conducted some classic trials on conformity. It was a series where everyone was in on it except the actual participant. People were put into groups of five to seven people. All but one of the group were confederates of the researcher. The group was shown a card with a line on it, then another card with three lines on it of differing lengths. Everyone was then asked which line matched the length of the line on the first card. They had three rounds of this activity. In the first two rounds, all the confederates gave the correct (and quite obvious) answer, as did the subject. In the third round, the confederates, as scripted, gave an obviously incorrect answer. 37 percent of the subjects gave the wrong answer, agreeing with the blatantly wrong confederates of the researcher. This compared to a control group of people where the wrong answer was given 1 percent of the time.

Online retailers will tell you that other people who bought what you just bought, also bought these other three items. People just like you. The movie website IMDB and others will let you rate movies and based on your assessments, recommend other movies to you based on the ratings of people just like you.

The flipside of social proof is social projection, where what’s going on in your world distorts your view of the world outside. People who are having relationship problems notice evidence (or think they do) of discord in everyone else’s relationships.

As long as I’m talking flipsides, let’s look at a downside – social loafing. Have you ever been peer pressured into a tug-of-war contest at a company picnic or school fair? You must have helped someone shift house at some point. Maybe it took two or three people to carry the big fridge or couch? Or push a broken-down car? Did you get the feeling that maybe not everyone was giving it their maximum effort? That’s social loafing in action. (Um, inaction.) OK, now think about those people who aren’t physically distancing themselves etc during the pandemic. They’ll reap benefits, possibly take credit but didn’t actually help much, or possibly hindered or harmed the collective effort and goal. You’re very unlikely to be leading a country but you do lead or influence some people. What are you doing to manage, motivate and mitigate the potential for social loafing in your sphere of influence?

* Extracted and adapted from my book ‘The Brain-Based Boss’, available for free as an eBook (readable on any browser) during this period at terrywilliamsbooks dot com.

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