There’s an old saying in neuroscience: neurons that fire together wire together. This means the more you run a neuro-circuit in your brain, the stronger that circuit becomes. This is why, to quote another old saw, practice makes perfect. The more you practice piano, or speaking a language, or juggling, the stronger those circuits get.
The ability to learn is about more than building and strengthening neural connections. For years this has been the focus for learning new things. But as it turns out, the ability to learn is about more than building and strengthening neural connections. Even more important is our ability to break down the old ones. It's called "synaptic pruning." Here’s how it works.
Using fear to motivate people is cheap leadership. Any two-bit dictator can use fear to get things done. It takes no finesse or intelligence and ultimately works against the leader. The temporary spike in motivation from stoking people’s fears is offset by the long-term impacts of deep resentment, performance-draining anxiety, and ill will. More evolved and thoughtful leaders choose to pull people toward the behaviors they want, instead of pushing them away from the behaviors they don’t want. For example, my wife uses a compliment system to promote good behavior with our kids. Each time one of them finishes a chore they get to put a small stone (a “compliment”) in a jar that’s been set aside just for them. Then, when they’ve gathered enough stones they get a small reward, like dinner at Chuck E. Cheese.
If you want workers to act like adults, you have to lead like an adult. Instead of constantly drawing their attention to the bad things that will happen if they mess up, work with them to identify the actions and priorities that will increase their likelihood of succeeding.
A team of researchers at the University of Michigan’s Steven M. Ross School of Business led by business professor Dr. Gretchen Spreitzer, who also directs the Center for Positive Organizations, has spent the last four years studying coworking. In the process, they've interviewed the founders of coworking companies around the U.S. and surveyed more than 200 workers from dozens of coworking spaces; one team member spent six months as a coworking member.
Their research uncovered two key benefits to the coworking experience, both of which have been linked to improved employee performance. Simplified somewhat, it comes down to flexibility and autonomy without dispensing with meaningful community.
It turns out that coworking spaces' hallmarks—like funky design features—are far less important than their social structures, where workers feel a sense of individual autonomy that's still linked to a sense of collaboration, the Michigan team told me in interviews. Most coworking spaces, for all their variation, tend to strike that careful balance between those crucial needs—in ways that neither solo freelancing nor the traditional office experience usually provide.
Eleven years ago, I reported to a highly emotionally-intelligent and very successful executive -- still my favorite boss to this day.
The greatest lessons Bruce taught me were about how to best serve employees. Not your cup of tea? Well, this was his competitive edge -- Servant-Leadership -- and it's backed by science because it works.
So that became our calling when I founded this company. I even scripted our company video around Bruce's Servant-Leadership style. In it, I tell viewers that he "connected with us on an emotional level -- he engaged us."
But that two-and-a-half minute clip doesn't do Bruce justice.
In short, Bruce did what the best of Servant-Leaders with high emotional intelligence do: He invested in my development, looking after my needs so that I was equipped to succeed and do great work for my clients.
Simon Sinek, author of the best-seller Leaders Eat Last knows about the positive psychology behind Servant-Leadership. He is quoted in this excellent clip as saying,
"There's not a CEO on the planet who is responsible for the customer. You're responsible for the people who are responsible for the customer."
And that describes my former boss to a tee. Bruce knew that to serve our clients well, he had to serve me well first.
For the rest of this article, I will spell out ten traits that made Bruce stand head-and-shoulders above any other executive leader I've known or worked for.
Jack Welch, former chairman of General Electric, sums it up succinctly: “No doubt, emotional intelligence is rarer than book smarts, but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can’t ignore it. Emotional intelligence (EI) a far better predictor of success in a role and with a company than intelligence quotient (IQ) and expertise
Daniel Goleman, renowned author and psychologist, analyzed jobs at 121 organizations and found 67 percent of the 181 competencies that distinguish best performers are EI competencies.
In my more than 20 years of experience as an executive recruiter, I have found the best insights are gleaned through well-worded interview questions. These questions elicit answers that can be compared with your organization’s desired level of EI for the executive team.
According to Deloitte, many millennials around the world are planning near-term exits from their employers. Many have expressed their belief that businesses have few motivations beyond profit and they would prefer to place their own values ahead of organizational goals. For millennials searching for new employment opportunities, a good work/life balance is their top priority in any future career. The reputation of a company and its leaders is not considered important by young workers today.
Sometimes leaders get in the way, and when they do, damaging things can happen.
They bottleneck decisions – people get frustrated They block communication – people turn cynical They put process before progress – people quit stretching They issue orders – people start resisting They punish mistakes – people avoid creativity They approve everything – people relinquish responsibility And so on.
When leaders get out-of-the-way, beautiful things can happen.
When the theory of emotional intelligence at work began to receive widespread attention, we frequently heard executives say—in the same breath, mind you—“That’s incredible,” and, “Well, I’ve known that all along.” They were responding to our research that showed an incontrovertible link between an executive’s emotional maturity, exemplified by such capabilities as self-awareness and empathy, and his or her financial performance. Simply put, the research showed that “good guys”—that is, emotionally intelligent men and women—finish first.
We’ve recently compiled two years of new research that, we suspect, will elicit the same kind of reaction. People will first exclaim, “No way,” then quickly add, “But of course.” We found that of all the elements affecting bottom-line performance, the importance of the leader’s mood and its attendant behaviors are most surprising. That powerful pair set off a chain reaction: The leader’s mood and behaviors drive the moods and behaviors of everyone else. A cranky and ruthless boss creates a toxic organization filled with negative underachievers who ignore opportunities; an inspirational, inclusive leader spawns acolytes for whom any challenge is surmountable. The final link in the chain is performance: profit or loss.
While many CEOs decry bureaucracy, few can claim success in defeating it. In practice, tactical victories—like cutting out a layer of management, trimming head office staff, or simplifying a cumbersome process—are usually small and quickly reversed. In this regard, look again at Figure 1. Notice how rapidly the thicket of bureaucracy grew back after being pruned in the wake of the 2008 recession.
It could be argued that in a world characterized by increasing complexity, the growth of bureaucracy is inevitable. Who but senior executives is going to address all those vexing new issues, like globalization, digitization, and social responsibility? Who else is going to meet all those new compliance requirements around diversity, risk mitigation and sustainability? This mindset has produced a surge in new C-level roles: Chief Analytics Officer, Chief Collaboration Officer, Chief Customer Officer, Chief Digital Officer, Chief Ethics Officer, Chief Learning Officer, Chief Sustainability Officer and even Chief Happiness Officer. And more prosaically, who, if not managers, is going to do the everyday work of planning, prioritizing, allocating, reviewing, coordinating, controlling, scheduling, and rewarding?
The red flags and marching songs of Syriza during the Greek crisis, plus the expectation that the banks would be nationalised, revived briefly a 20th-century dream: the forced destruction of the market from above. For much of the 20th century this was how the left conceived the first stage of an economy beyond capitalism. The force would be applied by the working class, either at the ballot box or on the barricades. The lever would be the state. The opportunity would come through frequent episodes of economic collapse.
Instead over the past 25 years it has been the left’s project that has collapsed. The market destroyed the plan; individualism replaced collectivism and solidarity; the hugely expanded workforce of the world looks like a “proletariat”, but no longer thinks or behaves as it once did.
If you lived through all this, and disliked capitalism, it was traumatic. But in the process technology has created a new route out, which the remnants of the old left – and all other forces influenced by it – have either to embrace or die. Capitalism, it turns out, will not be abolished by forced-march techniques. It will be abolished by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviours. I call this postcapitalism.
According to Shawn Achor, positive psychology expert and New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage, "data now abounds showing that happy workers produce higher sales, perform better in leadership, and earn higher job performance ratings and pay. Study after study shows that feelings of happiness lead people to excel in their jobs."
I recently had the opportunity to meet with Achor and asked him to share some of the best ways workplace managers can directly influence greater happiness in their teams. Here are three leadership practices I found to be the most uncommon and useful:
These roadblocks keep us stuck in the depression loop: caught up in negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as the brain anxiously rehashes past events and simultaneously rehearses a hopeless, catastrophic future. Here are some ways to avoid falling into these traps.
In the real world, leaders come in many forms. The same is true in HBO's "Game of Thrones." Every major player has had their own style of doing things, from the Usurper to the Young Wolf to the Blackfish to the Queen of Thorns.
However, in his book Primal Leadership, David Goleman (along with co-authors Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee) argues that people tend to fit into one of six key leadership styles.
These are the "Game of Thrones" characters that best exemplify the best — and worst — of each style. Read through and consider what category you'd fit into if you were vying for power in Westeros and Essos.
For some people, the question of whether leaders are born or made is truly intellectual – fodder for a good classroom or dinner party debate. But for people in front-line positions to hire, promote, and fire, the question, “Who has the right stuff to lead?” definitely has more urgency. Getting the answer right can drive an organization’s culture and performance to new levels. Getting it wrong can too — downwards.
So what’s the answer? Of course, since we’re talking about real life here, it isn’t neat or simple. The facts are, some leadership traits are inborn, and they’re big whoppers. They matter a lot. On the other hand, two key leadership traits can be developed with training and experience – in fact, they need to be.
Today, the traditional paradigm in which a charismatic executive leads an adoring, less-senior employee where power is often misaligned won’t do, explained executive coaching expert Wendy Mantel of Mantel Coaching Inc. Millennials want close, meaningful relationships with mentors. They also want to feel empowered to be authentic, to create and embody their own career brands.
“Engagement, learning, growth, visibility, relevance and opportunity are watchwords for this generation,” Mantel said in an email. These needs are also important guiding words for learning organizations developing new, or rethinking, established, mentoring approaches.
A look at middle managers’ role in a massive company restructuring and how their shifting, often judgmental and emotion-laden relationship with top management is a critical factor in the success of the strategic change process.
The research was conducted over a three-year period when a new CEO, who appeared to tick all the right boxes, was brought in to inject fresh life into an international IT and communications company that had fallen into a deep performance crisis in the wake of changes in its competitive and technological environment. Contrary to usual stories on resistance to change, the CEO was well received to implement radical changes in the organisation; but ultimately provoked a mutiny which saw the top team leave at the end of three years. Middle managers’ perceptions of the CEO and his top team evolved through four types of legitimacy judgments which eventually broke top managers’ credibility as leaders of strategic change.
A group of 21 youth climate activists scored a major victory in the courts on Friday: The plaintiffs, aged 8 to 19, allege unconstitutional discrimination by a federal government more interested in burning fossil fuels than protecting the rights to life, liberty, and property of young people. The Oregon federal judge hearing the case, Thomas Coffin, said they have a point.
Denying the federal government’s motion to dismiss the “relatively unprecedented lawsuit,” Judge Coffin wrote:
The court must accept the allegations as true and those allegations plausibly allege harm, though widespread, that is concrete. … the intractability of the debates before Congress and state legislatures and the alleged valuing of short term economic interest despite the cost to human life, necessitates a need for the courts to evaluate the constitutional parameters of the action or inaction taken by the government.
In other words, given the ultra-polarized political stalemate on climate change, a bunch of kids suing the government over decades of unnecessarily slow action may be the best shot humanity has left at addressing the problem before dangerous changes are locked in. The suit is a radical challenge to the status quo in an era of radical environmental change.
“The future of our generation is at stake,” said 16-year-old plaintiff Victoria Barrett in a statement. “People label our generation as dreamers, but hope is not the only tool we have.”
When it comes to workplace stress, I’ve got both bad news and good news.
The bad news? If your work stresses you, you’re not alone. A 2013 study by Harris Interactive for Everest College showed that 83% of American workers experience stress about their jobs. That was an increase from 73% in 2012. Low pay topped the list of work stressors, with unreasonable workload, annoying coworkers, and commuting also named as major sources of stress. The World Health Organization has estimated that stress costs American businesses up to $300 billion a year.
The good news? You can manage your response to stress. As with many things, the first step to taming stress is to understand it. With that awareness, you can choose strategies to reduce stress factors and improve how you handle the stress you face.
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