Author Archives: admin

Cravings

Ty was a participant in one of my leadership development classes. In our session on effective meetings, I’d shared research on how much more efficient meetings could be if people refrained from attempts to “multi-task” while in the meeting. The buzzes and beeps from our smartphones, tablets and laptops are addictive. We crave the distraction and the potential reward that comes with an exciting or important text message, social media alert or email.

So Ty set out to curb his craving for distraction.

It was harder than he thought.

“I keep looking at my phone to see if there are any new messages,” Ty told me, “I have it silenced, not even on vibrate, and I am so addicted I keep looking.  I can hardly last 10 minutes!”

I empathized. I’d been there myself a couple of years ago when I broke up with email. It is simple, but it certainly isn’t easy.

I explained to Ty that his smartphone habit was based on the repeated and predictable pattern of Cue –> Routine –> Reward.

The cue was his boredom.

When his mind would drift, whether in a meeting or doing independent work at his desk, that was his cue to reach for his phone. Maybe a juicy reward (interesting message) just arrived.

What makes the smartphone habit stick is the craving for the reward.

We all want the kudos email from a customer, the confirmation of a new project with your best client, or a note from your sweetheart.

But more often it is a notice that the cable bill is due, Amazon would like you to rate your recent purchase or Target alerts you to a sale curtains.

Ty’s anticipation for a reward, in fact his craving for a reward, was what made the habit stick.

Once he understood that the craving for the reward was driving his behavior, he understood, and he relaxed a bit. “I get a little hit of that craving when I’m just looking at my phone on my desk, trying to will myself not to look at it,” he said. “I’m going to leave it in my pocket or put it in my desk drawer when I need to concentrate so that I’m not triggering the craving just by looking at it.”

When I last spoke with Ty, he was making good progress on delaying the reward. He’d decided that kicking the smartphone habit altogether wasn’t in the cards for him, but he could at least delay the eventual reward . . . be it a text from his sweetie or a sale on curtains.

What strong cues draw you in?

Share yours below and I’ll reply with some tips to curb them.

  • 0

    Cue Routine Reward

    Passed over for a promotion yet again, Sandra came to me frustrated and angry.  After we talked for a bit, I asked her how her morning at the office started each day. She explained that she came into the office each morning, head down and aiming straight for her office. She made little eye contact with others and usually had no specific interactions with people apart from the occasional “Excuse me” or “Third floor, please,” in the elevator.

    Sandra spent the first 45 minutes of her day catching up on email. With colleagues in other time zones (and local colleagues who seemed to work around the clock), email felt like the bane of Sandra’s existence. If she could at least get her inbox to a manageable size before the day of meetings and project work began, she felt a sense of accomplishment. It was good to start the day ahead of the game, she thought.

    Shortly after she started working for her current employer, Sandra felt continuously behind on her work, especially email. She resolved one day, years ago, to get caught up one morning. She came in with absolute focus, spoke to no one on the way to her desk, and churned through several hundred emails before coming up for air. When she was done, she felt a rush of accomplishment. And she began to repeat the pattern.

    What Sandra didn’t realize was that this habit of “head’s down” approach first thing in the day was impeding her relationships with her co-workers, even the ones she worked the most closely with.  In the absence of even a smile or a quick hello, people thought of Sandra as aloof and standoffish, hardly material for a promotion.

    Sandra’s pattern follows the routine researchers at MIT have discovered when it comes to habit: it starts with a cue or a trigger.  For Sandra, that was hundreds of unread and unanswered emails in her inbox. Prompted by the cue, she implemented a routine: a head’s down approach to clearing her inbox, complete with the absolute focus while walking to her desk. And finally, reward. For Sandra, the reward was the sense of accomplishment she felt heading off to her first meeting with her inbox at zero.

    Cue –> Routine –> Reward.

    Those are the makings of a habit.

    Left unchecked, our repeated behaviors develop into habits with no conscious effort on our part.

    Or habits can be deliberately designed to support who you are and what you want to create for yourself professionally.

    What do your habits say about you?

    Let me know in the comments below.

  • 0

    GrowthMindset

    Ever wish you could just sit back, relax and let change wash over you? What if I told you that one of the most powerful techniques Olympic athletes, blockbuster actors and top sales performers use to seal the deal on their success was readily available for you to use, too?

    Good news!  It is.

    The secret?  The easiest way to shift your mindset is to visualize yourself having a growth mindset.  Visualization is the process of seeing in your mind’s eye the behavior you wish to have, in the moment you wish to have it.

    Sound woo-woo?  Esoteric?  Consider Michael Phelps who has earned 28 Olympic medals in swimming. His coach trained him to “watch a movie” in his mind of him winning every race. His coach told him to do the visualization (watch the movie) every night before he fell asleep and every morning upon waking. The more detailed, the better. Every stroke, every movement, in precise detail.

    How will it work for you? Imagine you’re at the start of your work day. See every challenge that comes your way as an opportunity for personal and professional growth. Fill your “movie” with some of the more challenging scenes from a typical day: getting less-than-stellar feedback from your boss, learning a new software program, a difficult conversation with a colleague.  In each of the situations in your visualization, see yourself responding with a growth mindset: see yourself asking questions like, “What’s the most effective thing I can do right now? How can learn from this? And how can I improve based on what I now know?”

    Or, I’ll make it even easier for you:  Watch this guided meditation. I’ve narrated the movie for you. Review it at the start of your day, imagining your day lived through a growth mindset.

    After you’ve listened to it, share your thought in the comments below.

    Like it? Send it to a friend.

  • 2

    changetheirmind

    You know the difference between growth mindset and fixed mindset. You’ve been working on it. You can spot a fixed mindset a mile away.  And it bugs the heck out of you when you hear your colleague/spouse/best friend/child responding to life with a fixed mindset.

    Ever wish you could (quite literally) change their mind?

    Okay, so you can’t necessarily change their mind. But you can change their mindset.

    Here’s how:

    1) Look for an opportunity.  Find something they did well (project work, yard work, helping you with something).

    2) Show appreciation for their effort. It sounds like this: “Thank you for helping me host the client dinner/party/garage sale.  Your effort and help is noticed and appreciated.”

    Research on mindset shows that when people are praised for their effort they are subsequently more willing to take on more challenging tasks. On the other hand, those who are praised for their intelligence or their innate talent (i.e., “You’re so good at hosting client dinners/parties/garage sales.”), were less likely to perform well on more challenging tasks.  Moreover, those who were praised for their intelligence or innate talent were less likely to even want to take on more challenging tasks!

    3) Rinse and repeat. Continue to find opportunities to praise or show appreciation for a job well done.
    Show your appreciation for the effort, not the person’s intelligence or talent.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that you issue false praise or thank someone for meeting minimum expectations. Instead, look for the gems. They may be few and far between at first, but the more you cultivate them, the more they will emerge.

    The steps:

    1. Find an opportunity.
    2. Appreciate/praise the effort.
    3. Repeat.

    Give it a try and then share your results in the comments below.

    Like this post?  Share it with a friend.

  • 0

    mindset_brain

    Ever wish you could catch yourself in a moment of fixed mindset (see The Secret to Success) and do a 180-degree turn, flipping yourself into a growth mindset quickly?

    Our brains will fall back on what they know best until they are conditioned to respond differently. It is possible to retrain your brain to switch to a growth mindset. You can do so more quickly if you use a framework or pattern that you’re already familiar with. Remember the “Stop, drop and roll” technique you learned in elementary school, in case of a fire?  The process for shifting to a growth mindset I designed is built on that simple three-step process.

    1. Stop.  Monitor your thoughts (think: self-awareness) and listen for fixed-mindset thinking.  You’ll notice it because it includes absolutes like never, always, everybody and anybody.  It sounds like this: “Everybody else always loses weight/gets promoted/has a great relationship.” When you catch yourself in a fixed-mindset thought, the first thing to do is stop.

    2.  Drop.  Drop into a reflective state of mind. Take a deep breath. Ask yourself the question, “Is that thought true? 100% of the time?” Make a conscious effort to evaluate your thought pattern and ask yourself if it is the mindset that will serve you best. Hint: if it’s a fixed-mindset, it probably isn’t serving you.

    3.  Roll.  Imagine doing a somersault (or a roll in a kayak if that’s more your speed) and rolling out the other side with a different mindset. Roll yourself into a different state of mind by trying on a growth mindset thought. It might sound like this: “If I apply myself and learn some new techniques I can lose weight/get promoted/improve my relationship.”

    Everybody slips into a fixed mindset occasionally.  Even the most optimistic, growth-oriented people have moments where a fixed mindset stalls their progress.

    The next time you hear your self-talk going down a fixed mindset path, remember to stop, drop and roll.

    Like this? Send it to a friend.

  • 0

    fixed vs growth mindset

    Bill was frustrated.  His manager Eric was well known and liked across the organization and it seemed like everything he touched turned to gold.  Eric was also 10 years Bill’s junior and had a similar college education and background. Bill was always trying to prove himself and show everyone how much he knew, to no avail. It seemed to backfire. Bill’s frustration boiled down to this: Why was Eric so successful and why wasn’t he experiencing the same success in his career?

    Turns out, Eric has a growth mindset and Bill has a fixed mindset.

    A growth mindset, says researcher and Stanford professor Carol Dweck who coined the term, is the belief that qualities and abilities can be developed or improved through effort and dedication. People with a growth mindset love learning and have resilience that helps them accomplish great things.  That description fits Eric like a glove. Eric is open to constructive feedback, always looking for a better way . . . in everything from how to keep his email manageable to how to be a better spouse and parent.

    Bill on the other hand, exhibits a fixed mindset.  People with a fixed mindset tend to believe their basic qualities and abilities, like their intelligence or talent, are fixed traits. They often believe that talent alone creates success (without effort). They spend their time proving their skills or intelligence instead of developing them. Bill was always striving to sound like an expert and show everyone how much he knew; key signs of a fixed mindset.

    Is it possible for Bill to shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?  Absolutely! But first he needs to catch his fixed mindset thinking in the act and change his attitude and beliefs. If he can do that he can change his mind. Literally.

    When he hears his self-talk (or thinking, if you like that term better) say something like, “I’ll never get promoted,” Bill will need to catch himself and reframe the thought to something like, “If I work hard and continue to learn, I will be ready for a promotion.”

    Then, he will be able to tap into the secret to Eric’s success: his growth mindset.

    How about you?  Could you amp up your success by taking on a growth mindset?

    Listen to your own self-talk today. Do you hear fixed-mindset or growth mindset thoughts?

    Take action: when you hear a fixed-mindset thought, stop yourself and reframe it to a growth mindset thought.

    Like this? Send it to a friend.

  • 0

    Generation Z

    You’re a manager and you’ve finally got a handle on Millennials. Or maybe you’re one of the Millennials yourself. Look out. Here comes the next generation, Gen Z.
    And they’re nothing like Millennials.
    Here are six things every manager needs to know about Generation Z.

    1. How they want their workplace structured is different.

    Only 9% will want to work from home. Unlike Gen Xers and Millennials who have been adamant about working to live, Gen Zers will be more likely to want to come into the office, with a clearer separation of work and home. A mere 17% of them think an open office environment would support them in doing their best work. The overwhelming majority of them want their own private work space, be that an office or a cubicle. They are hard workers with a strong work ethic, and they want their own space in which to perform that work.

    2. They are a resilient bunch.

    Millennials were raised to think they are special. Meanwhile, Gen Z, raised during the Great Recession, were raised to be resilient. They watched their parents navigate banks failing, retirement accounts tanking and figuring out how to make ends meet. Learning through osmosis and sometimes direct mentoring from their parents, this generation has mastered resilience. That doesn’t mean they enjoy punishing assignments or long hours, but if they are on board with the big picture, they will figure out how to make it work.

    3. Entrepreneurship is in their blood.

    With IPO heroes like Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel, they’ve come of age in a time when tech start-ups, bloggers and YouTube sensations have become independently wealthy under their noses. That successful start-up mentality has influenced what they think is possible. Capitalize on their entrepreneurship, showing how they can be intrapreneurial if you are part of a large organization or where they can most effectively apply their entrepreneurial efforts in a smaller or mid-sized organization.

    4. Optimism about the future.

    Whereas their Millennial counterparts tend to be more pessimistic (and entitled, many have said), Gen Z sees the glass as half full, and even more than half full when they work hard and apply themselves. Don’t douse their optimism if you want to get their best work from them.

    5. They are accustomed to freedom.

    Raised like mini-adults by their Gen X parents coupled with being able to explore the world in a device in the palm of their hand, they are accustomed to freedom unknown to previous generations. While their parents might know where they are in the physical world at all times, they have no idea where in the digital world they are. This is the generation that outsmarted the parental controls on their devices, not because they wanted to visit nefarious websites, but just to see if they could, and to see what lies beyond the fire wall. Your coaching skills as a manager might be put to the limit as you navigate giving them their freedom while supervising their work.

    6. Keep it real.

    Generation Z is more influenced by real, non-airbrushed personalities on YouTube than they are by celebrity endorsements. From their casual unkempt (men) or simple (women) hair styles to their tastes in music and fashion, this generation more than the few generations that immediately preceded them are all about keeping things real. Let their individuality shine through. Reciprocate and show your authentic self and you will win their trust and respect.

    Take these six dynamics into account as you onboard Generation Z into your organization and you will be rewarded with optimistic, resilient, entrepreneurial employees who will soon become the next generation of leaders in your organization.

  • 0

    Generation Z

    Given that Gen Z is estimated to be one third of the population by 2020 and will outnumber their Millennial counterparts by more than one million, it is time to take notice of them.

    Generation Zers will be the first to tell you they feel like their smartphone is as indispensable as a body part. Despite this, they are not entirely clueless about how to communicate. A full 78% feel that face-to-face communication is best when expressing feelings.

    Still, there are a number of things you can plan on teaching Gen Z employees as they begin to join your ranks.

    1. When to pick up the phone.

    74% admit communication in person or over the phone doesn’t come naturally to them, according to a recent BridgeWorks study. Consequently, many routine matters will get bogged down in email that takes much more time to process than a quick phone call.

    2. How to focus.

    Raised in a world of six-second Vine videos, Gen Zers have limited attention spans. Passive attention measures a mere eight seconds and active attention 12 minutes, according to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The upshot? They can handle, and will expect, working on multiple projects with competing priorities.

    3. How to ask for help.

    They are a self-reliant bunch. Raised like mini-adults by their Gen X parents, it may not naturally occur to them to ask for help. Even when they are stuck. Model asking for help and show them that it is perfectly okay for them to reach out.

    4. Patience.

    Growing up in a world of Amazon, Zappos and other next-day and same-day delivery services, this generation expects that things will be delivered (at work and elsewhere) nearly instantaneously. And in working order. If they have to wait or if the product or service does not meet their high standards, they will take it as a sign of disrespect. Teaching them that the world of work does not deliver in the same way as Amazon will help them be more tolerant and understanding.

    5. How to make small talk.

    As they note about themselves, communicating in person does not come naturally to them. Courting clients, making friends at work and networking in their professional field will inevitably involve small talk, a staple of in-person communication. Make small talk with them by asking what they did on the weekend, how their commute was and what’s happening on the music scene (or whatever their area of interest) and you will model this important skill.

    Follow these tips and you will get the most out these optimistic, resilient, entrepreneurial young adults.

  • 0

    Generation Z

    Just when you’ve started to get your head around what makes the Millennials tick, the conversation on generations is changing.

    Say hello to Gen Z.

    Generation Z are those born after 1995.  It’s tempting to think that they are like Millennials on steroids. But that is far from the truth. Gen Zers were raised in the midst of the Great Recession. They came of age in a time when the norm was same-day or next-day delivery of just about anything. True digital natives, they learned to swipe before they learned to talk. For half their lives, they’ve experienced an African American President.

    Meanwhile, their older counterparts, the Millennials (born between 1980 and 1994) came of age in a time marked by 9/11 and other terrorist attacks, political scandals and computer technology starting to become second-nature.

    Oddly enough, Gen Z has far more in common with their great grandparents, who came of age just after the Great Depression. And at 26% of the US population and outnumbering their Millennial counterparts by more than 1 million, Generation Z is important to get to know.

    Just what exactly are the top priorities of this generation that is about to enter the workforce?

    1. They are intent on finishing college and finding a stable job.

    We might see more students graduate in the desirable four-year window, something colleges and universities will delight in.  Their interest in finishing college is driven by practical motives. Most Gen Z college students are seeing college as a route to get a skill set that will enable them to be gainfully employed rather than a time to pursue a topic they are passionate about.

     

    Many in this generation have seen their parents and close family friends lose investments, lose their homes and lose their jobs during the 2008 recession and its aftermath. According to a  Goldman Sachs poll, Generation Z reported that finding a stable job was one of their top priorities and ranks job stability above travel, working out and spending time with family and friends.

    2. They are thrifty and they save.

    The same Goldman Sachs poll showed that Gen Zers are concerned with saving for the future and coming out of college with as little debt as possible. 71% of them report being focused on saving for the future and a full 60% of them have savings accounts. Their largely Gen X parents have taught them to save, much as their great-grandparents did with their children in a post-Depression world.  Their focus on the future is backed up by their actions. A Youthlogix study reported that two thirds of Gen Z said they will take the time to go online and find a coupon for a purchase, compared with only 46% of Millennials.

    3. They are inherently entrepreneurial.

    From role models like Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel to YouTube stars such as Meg DeAngelis and Tyler Oakley, Generation Z was raised on entrepreneurial icons. One study cites as many as 72% of teens surveyed want to start their own business. Coming of age during the Great Recession has created an impetus to take control of their employment and financial future in an action-oriented manner. A 2015 US Census Bureau report indicated one third of Millennials were living with their parents. Generation Z is taking matters into their own hands and don’t want to be living in mom and dad’s basement. Ever.

    In the coming weeks, the Working Conversation blog will continue its exploration of Generation Z, helping you communicate better with this generation and teaching them what they need to know to succeed at work. They’ll be joining your ranks before you know it.

  • 0

    virtual team communication

    Communication in virtual teams may not feel as fluid and dynamic as it does in face to face teams, especially if you’ve spent most of your time working in collocated teams.  Here are four ways to improve communication in virtual teams:

    1. Develop communication norms.

    Email. Texting. SharePoint. Phone calls. Workfront. Jira. Slack. Sales Force. Instant messaging. And the list goes on (and on!).

    There are so many communication technologies available for virtual teams these days, it can be hard to figure out which one is best used for which type of task.

    The more you can establish norms for communicating through certain media for specific tasks, it will make it easier for your virtual team members to find what they need and communicate effectively.

    2. Be available as much as possible.

    When a collocated team member walks by and sees your door open and that you’re not on the phone, it is easy and comfortable for them to stop by and ask a quick question, get clarification or simply say hello.

    Virtual team members don’t have access to those same physical and visual cues, so they will need other means to know when you are available.  Whether it is through using an onscreen status indicator or regularly scheduling office hours where virtual team members can “drop by” via phone or video conference, make yourself available to your virtual team members in a regular and dependable way.

    3. Strategically over-communicate.

    Communicate your expectations through multiple means (project plans, documents and meetings to name a few). Over-communicate the things that you feel are the most important, being mindful to keep it at an expectations level rather than at a task level in order to avoid micromanaging team members.  Additionally, do your best to preempt any side conversations with individual team members in which important or critical information is exchanged. This will help to ensure that team members who are not present don’t feel out of the loop or disenfranchised because they were not part of the discussion.

    4. Communicate the story of the team and how it fits into big picture

    As I’ve discussed elsewhere, virtual team members need to hear the story of their team (why it was formed, what it’s goals are and how it fits into the mission of the broader organization) regularly and told with conviction. When team members understand the broader context for the team’s existence and their specific role on it and that they are fulfilling a critical role in the organization, they will be more likely to be committed and engaged.

    These four steps, taken together, can make significant strides toward bringing more cohesion and connection to your virtual team. These steps are meaningless if you don’t act on them.  Pick one and start doing it today.

  • 0