Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hard – Harder – Hardest
I quit doing the hot yoga program called Bikram Yoga for six months. After faithfully practicing for over two years I got frustrated since I couldn’t hold the balance poses and continually fell out while I watched others beautifully and gracefully hold a one legged pose for the whole allotted time period. And it was not only the balance issues that irritated me, I also found it to be hard work and it did not seem to get any easier the more I practiced. So I quit. I blamed the balance issues on my bad ankles as well as the heat causing me too much trouble. After over 200 classes I still found every class to be hard. I would assess after each class and define it as being a hard class or a harder class or even a hardest class. I cannot remember ever crossing over to the other side of the continuum and calling a class easy. The continuum should actually have six grades to its scale – Easiest – Easier – Easy – Hard – Harder – Hardiest. My scale only had three grades. So because it was always hard, I quit.
A little over a month ago I went back and started again. It really was like starting over. So far every class has fit into the Hardest category. I am determined to stay with it this time and hope to be able to add the three Easy grades to my scale. It took a lot of reflection to realize that I feel embarrassed when something doesn’t come rather easy to me and every time I fell out of a pose or had to take a knee I was not going to be a star yogi. I noticed that I like to try new things as long as I can see ongoing improvement. With yoga, if I wasn’t improving then quit and find something else.
There is one thing I do exceptionally well. That is leadership coaching and teaching leadership skills to leaders. I am regularly reminded of how hard the art of leadership is for many of those I coach or find in our workshops. Many leaders would work from the same side of the continuum I work from when taking yoga classes – it’s hard for them. They did not go to school to be trained as leaders. Most went to school to learn how to be technicians of some sort. Many excelled at their technical craft and were noticed by others as having excellent technical skills. We then played a dirty trick on them. We promoted them to leadership roles.
In our workshops I see many people that put lots of effort into moving their leadership abilities from the hard side of the scale to the easier side. And they don’t quit. They realize they have to see leadership development as a life long practice. These are the people that recognize the impact they have on other people’s lives and they take this work very seriously. We believe leading others is noble work and not to be taken lightly.
My biggest worry is for those that do quit while they continue in their positions of leadership. These are the leaders that are strictly taking up space. The impact they have on others is far more harmful than the developing leader that takes their leadership learning as serious business. Poor leadership still ranks as the number one reason someone leaves his or her organization.
Which leader are you?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Monkey Minds

The Arizona Republic on December 16 had an interesting article by Joelle Hadley titled: Amygdala Will Make Monkey Out Of You. Joelle describes monkey mind as “the inability to focus on a certain thought for very long. It’s been estimated that most humans have about 60,000-70,000 thoughts each day.”
She goes on to breakdown these thoughts:
40 percent are thoughts about the future.
30 percent are thoughts about the past. 

12 percent are thoughts of doubt and negativity.
13 percent are thoughts about our health. 

Only 5 percent of our time is spent on the present moment.
Joelle writes, “Our heads aren’t where they should be most of the time.”
At Leadersearch Executive Coaching Group we do team sessions and individual coaching centered around the neuroscience of the brain including using assessments like the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI). This assessment identifies the dominant quadrants of the brain for each of us. This work really helps our clients take a serious look at their thinking patterns and the impact it has on their leadership and relationships. Not sure I would use Joelle’s Monkey Mind to describe the leaders we work with even if it is quite appropriate. When we are not present with the people we engage with it is obvious to them and negatively impacts the connection. The article goes on to explain: “Not being in the moment certainly affects how we communicate, how we listen and how we connect with others.”
The article suggests that, “We are in monkey mind 70 percent of the day, swinging back and forth from the future branch to the past branch… When we spend time in the past or future, we are usually dwelling on some type of unfairness or ruminating about a relationship or setback. This type of reflection engages a part of our brain called the amygdala ( uhmigd uhl uh), where our flight-or-fight survival response lives. The amygdala doesn’t know the difference between perception and reality: It will fire up and do its job whether something negative is actually happening in real time or is in the past. Unfortunately, when it does its job of protection, it uses precious fuel from our brain, draining up to 75 percent of our cognitive ability. Using only 25 percent of our complex thinking doesn’t make us show our best selves, to say the least. 

In our modern world, we engage our amygdala too often, which is also a health issue. Every time our amygdala engages, it releases cortisol. Cortisol is one of the biggest producers of heart plaque.”
With this it seems that we will lead not only more fruitful relationship lives but healthier ones as well when we increase the percentage of time we spent in the present. Joelle finishes her article writing, “When we stay in the present more than 5 percent, we use the best part of our brain, the neocortex. The neocortex is where perspective, rationale, creativity and problem-solving live. It’s where all the life lessons are stored. I like to call it the captain of our ship. 

But it needs fuel to work. In this case the gas for the brain is blood, oxygen and hormones. They will stay there fueling the best part of your brain as long as you don’t engage your amygdala. Remember that the amygdala is activated with any negative emotions, especially fear and anger. And those often live in our monkey mind of past, future and doubt. 

So make a commitment to be more present in your life. Paying attention is a valuable skill that impacts the quality of your life immensely.”

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Tribute To Bob Sr

My father died today. Ironic as it seems, I was out riding my motorcycle today when I got the call. My father always hated the idea of me riding motorcycles. Now I sit and remember him and the times I put my parents on the edge as I ventured out into life and many of the dangers life presents as well as the worry I am sure I caused them as I think about my children and grandchildren and the perils that life places in front of them. What I would do to keep them safe. And knowing all along that keeping them safe is only provided by the love we have for them and the hope we have for them to have a life full of nothing but love and adventure.
Bob Sr was a very good man. In the workshops that I have the joy to teach in many parts of the world, I often speak of my father as one of the people that has had a significant impact on my life. Few people can place an indelible mark on our lives and impact the way we show up as much as a parent can. My father was one of those people that I will forever fondly remember as a parent that did the best he could with the knowledge he had. He wasn’t the best parent in the world. He became a parent with little training and no one provided him with the Idiots Guide To Effective Parenting and he did not always get it right. But one thing that has stuck with me for all these years is that I can now always see that whenever he did what he could to teach me, whether right or wrong, it was always clear to see that he always did what he could with love and care. He was a master at helping me understand that we will always be perfect works in progress.
I know that from this moment forward that whenever I speak of my father as someone that taught me to be kind to everyone and contributed to me being the kind of human being that I have turned out to be that it will have deeper and more meaningful impact on me as well as the people I come into contact with in this world. If I can be, even in a small percentage, as caring and loving as he was to everyone he came in contact with then I will be honored to be Bob Jr and carry on the legacy of my father.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

You Tell My Wife That Multitasking Is A Myth
We do a lot of our coaching work using the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument that is an assessment that determines what are the dominant preferences in your brain for the way you think. The neuroscience of the brain has become quite popular recently and has also crept into the world of coaching and leadership.
With neuroscience comes the concept of multitasking. I remember the conversation with Mary, as well as my daughter Megan, about the research that suggests that multitasking is a myth. They both were quite adamant when I shared the research that it must have been written by a man. Much of the early material written on multitasking suggests that women are better at multitasking than men. And with two granddaughters this family may have added two more believers to the multitasking myth.
A book by Dave Crenshaw titled “The Myth of Multitasking: How ‘Doing It All’ Gets Nothing Done” further supports the perspective that any multitasking takes longer than if we did each task individually. In the book, we are introduced to the concept of "switchtasking." This happens when we try to perform two or more tasks at the same time that require mental effort. We tend to believe that we can do more than one thing at a time. This is the lie. The human mind can consciously concentrate on only one thing at a time. Of course my wife and daughter would remind me that I am just another male writing about multitasking.
Switchtasking is the process of switching between tasks. This is what we are doing when we think we are multi-tasking. Jumping from one task to another (Switchtasking) is a less effective and efficient way to get things done. This adds to our inability to focus.
William Stixrud a Neuropsychologist suggests, “The brain is a lot like a computer. You may have several screens open on your desktop, but you’re able to think about only one at a time.” Next time you find yourself in multitasking mode add to the multiple tasks you believe you are doing simultaneously and analyze if you are truly doing multiple tasks at once or maybe just inefficiently switching from one task to another.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Charlie’s Aunt

More than thirty years after moving away from Chatham, New Jersey I had the opportunity to facilitate a Leader As Coach workshop for a client organization in Summit, the town next door to Chatham. For dinner one evening I chose to go into Chatham for dinner at Charley’s Aunt. This restaurant was a favorite for my wife and I during the days of our young married life. Nostalgia drew me back and off I went walking back in time to have a solo dinner.
A woman, whose name I later discovered was Jill, sat me at a table for two and I ordered off the menu that looked much like it did over 30 years ago. While casually watching the soccer game on the TV as I waited for my dinner to arrive I noticed Jill starting to draw a flower on a board that advertised the new web address for the restaurant. Before she finished drawing the first leaf I said to myself that this woman was very good and judged that she likely missed her calling. Instead of working at this restaurant she should have become an artist. Her natural talent was very easy to see. Jill proceeded to draw a beautiful picture that surrounded the words about the website.
Thoughts of my own artist son, Casey ran through me as I saw Jill draw with passion and energy that flowed through her hands to the board. It was natural and you could see the artist she was just came out of her with total ease. I have always marveled at the ease Casey shows when he is completely immersed in his art.
After I finished my dinner I rose to leave the restaurant and as I got to the door I turned and went back in. I felt I wanted to tell Jill how much I liked her art and how it brought thoughts of my son as well as thoughts of the natural gifts we all have, including the gifts we have as leaders. I think Jill thought I was a little weird having all these thoughts from just watching her draw and I assured her that I regularly have a myriad of mixed thoughts going through my head as normal course. And Jill shared with me that she was an artist and gave me her card. She has spent many years working at Charley’s Aunt and loves this place like a home. She still works there while working as a professional artist.
Having been in the middle of a two-day leadership workshop I thought of the leaders I had in the room and how often I see some leaders that are naturals, like Jill and Casey are as artists. Other leaders have to work really hard at it. I have played and coached team sports throughout most of my life and I always marvel at the natural athletes that seem like they effortlessly flow through a practice or game with such ease. And I also remember that I had to work very hard at any of these sports because I was not a natural. There were many times I wished for the natural talents many of my teammates seemed to possess.
Artists, athletes and leaders alike all work tirelessly at their skills and the naturals just seem to have that something extra. The answer to the age-old question of “are leaders born or made?” is simply yes. Some leaders will have that seemingly natural ability and others will have to work harder to achieve leadership success. Whichever one you are, keep working at it as this world needs more great leaders.
And remember, they won’t care about what you know until they know that you care.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Do You Whistle While You Work?

Watching Snow White with my granddaughter this morning I was reacquainted with the Seven Dwarfs signing the Whistle While You Work song. The fairy tale of the princess and prince seemed to keep Reese engrossed while I found myself wandering off to thoughts of many of the leaders and executives that our company coaches. I reached over to the shelf next to me and pulled out a report I had printed related to happiness at work.
The study found that 65 percent of those surveyed, including employees of all ages and generations, would choose a new boss over a pay raise. The study also found:
   Only 36% reported being happy at their job
·      65% said a better boss would make them happy leaving 35% that chose a pay raise
·      Almost 60% said they would do a better job if they got along better with their boss
Happiness at work may be as much a fairy tale as Snow White. Considering how much time most North Americans spend at work I am reassured that our work at developing leaders will have a long shelf life.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Without Comparison Everything Loses It’s Meaning
There is great joy that I experience whenever my granddaughter sits on my lap and we watch one of her movies together. She has not yet outgrown the bright eyed curiosity that goes with being four years old. Therefore I find myself regularly responding to an ample number of WHY questions. The latest question appeared as we watched a movie and she curiously asked why there are always good guys and bad guys. My answer was as philosophical as I could be with a four year old. It rang something like, “we need the bad guys in the world in order for us to know what a good guy looks like. If we had no bad guys we would never know how good a god guy was.” That answer brought a confused look from my granddaughter and an even more interesting look from my wife sitting on the other end of the couch.
I recently saw the quote – Without Comparison Everything Loses It’s Meaning, and it caught my attention enough that I wrote it on a post-it note and stuck it where I would see it every day as I sat at my computer. I have noticed it many times and found that each time it caused me to pause, even for just an instant, to reflect on my own perspective about comparison. Recently the note has lost most of its stickiness and falls to the floor causing me to pick it up and spend more than a passing moment in reflection. I count it as coincidence that it happened again as I offered the bad guy, good guy explanation to Reese.
I grew up with the challenge of distain for comparison and a quiet, reserved desire for it. How was I doing in comparison to those around me? I recognize that I have spent most of my life running right down the middle with most everything. Never really standing out at either end of the bell curve. I clearly remember graduating from high school ranked number 202 out of a class of 404, a perfect example of being hidden in the middle of the curve. When I started this new year afresh and back on the treadmill at my gym I caught myself glancing at the guys on either side of me checking to make sure my screen was not advertising weak numbers. If it was I was ready to kick it up a few notches in case either of them were to notice and compare.
I wonder if the world is overly focused on comparing or that comparison may be the lifeblood of our existence. I believe I am moving slightly off the middle toward the end that suggests - that without comparison everything loses its meaning. How does comparing serve you? Is it serving the good or the evil in you?