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.”