Helping leaders emerge

Blog - 2019

The Science Behind Gratitude

Our family has a Thanksgiving tradition where each person shares around the dinner table what they are grateful for and why.

If you don't have this tradition, you might consider it because research suggests gratitude activates our parasympathetic (rest and digest) system and positively impacts our brains:

  • Improving general well-being,
  • Increasing resilience,
  • Strengthening social relationships,
  • Facilitating more efficient sleep, and
  • Reducing stress and depression.

Shawn Achor, a Harvard educated happiness researcher who works with Fortune 100 companies, suggests the following tips for cultivating gratitude.

  • Journal – Each day, journal about one meaningful experience by writing down three specific details about it. It's called the doubler because the brain doubles the experience, and you get to relive the experience. And, according to Achor, you only need one positive memory to judge the overall day as meaningful!
     
  • Express Gratitude – Each day find three new things you are grateful for and why. Achor calls this the 45–second disrupter, claiming the practice of spending 45–seconds (about the amount of time it takes to brush your teeth) on what you are grateful for and why, three times a day, has the power to transform someone from being a low level pessimist to low level optimist in just 21 days! The key is to find new things (which retrains your brain to scan the environment for positive experiences) and the why (which attaches positive meaning to everyday experiences that could be overlooked or taken for granted).
     
  • Write a Two Minute Note – Each day praise, recognize, or thank someone by writing them a short email note or text. Achor claims this is the most powerful habit.

For more information, I recommend listening to The 10% Happier Podcast #156: The Science Behind Gratitude with Shawn Achor and Dan Harris.

Tough Conversations

Being able to have tough conversations is an important part of being an effective leader – whether at work, in our communities, or at home with family members. Most people shy away from engaging in difficult conversations because it often feels uncomfortable and/or like they are being unkind. But to quote Brene' Brown: clear is kind and unclear is unkind.

The key to being able to have tough conversations is being clear about what you want to say and how you are want to say it, and having a set of thoughtful questions makes the process more effective and easier – and will help manage anxiety around having the conversation. 

Recently, a client struggled with one of his direct reports who was gaining a reputation for taking over meetings, not listening to other colleagues, and shutting down discussions. As a result, team members did not feel like their opinions were heard or valued, not committed to final decisions and not fully engaged in their work.

My client decided to provide the tough feedback to his direct report – he wanted to see if he could help her shift her behavior from thinking she always knew the best solution on her own to one where she was being more collaborative through active listening, asking questions, and engaging others for their point of view.

My client used the following framework to prepare himself for having the tough conversation with his direct report (see below for his process). This framework was developed over a series of workshops I led for an organization on having critical conversations. Personally, I have used this framework successfully whether at work, at home, and in the school system with teachers as I've advocated for my son and daughter.

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Aimless Love by Billy Collins

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door—
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor—
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

Boundaries and Trust

Setting boundaries and establishing trust are a challenging and important part of being an effective leader – whether at work, in the community, or in our families.

An executive client recently found these video clips by Brene' Brown inspiring and helpful, so I’m sharing in this month’s blog. In case you don't know her, Brene' Brown, PhD LMSW, is a research professor at the University of Houston and an author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness, and Dare to Lead.

Setting Boundaries
Brown shares why boundaries matter and how research suggests that the most compassionate people have the best boundaries. Brown defines boundaries as what’s okay versus what’s not okay. And that boundaries enable us to be loving and generous versus being resentful and hateful. Click here to learn more and watch Boundaries by Brene' Brown (six minute video clip).

The Anatomy of Trust and Braving Connection
Brown defines trust as choosing to make something that is important to you vulnerable to the actions of someone else and that trust is built in very small moments throughout our lives.

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Consider The Generosity Of The One-Year-Old

Consider The Generosity Of The One-Year-Old

who has no words to exchange with you yet
and instead offers up her favorite drooled-on blanket,
her green rhinoceros as big as she is,
her cloth doll with the long blond pigtails,
her battered cardboard books, swung open on their soggy pages.

If you were outdoors she would hand you a dead beetle,
a fistful of grass, a pebble,
by way of introduction or just because.
And if, a moment later, she wanted it back,
it would be for the joy of the game
that makes of every simple object an offering:
This is me. Here is who I am.

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Listening as a Radical Act

               

Active listening is something that everyone struggles with and most executives include as part of their leadership coaching plan.

In the age of iPhones, email, texts, constant notifications, and Twitter “shouting contests,” truly listening can be a tremendous a gift, both for the speaker and listener.

I think listening starts with desire to be a better listener and also includes an ability to turn down our internal chatter so we are able to be present, engaged, and focused on what the other person is trying to communicate. Not a simple task.

Yoga, meditation, journaling, and exercise are excellent ways to settle and calm our minds, show up more present, and ultimately listen better.

Tools to Become a Better Listener

  • Click here to hear Jon Kabat-Zinn talk about Listening as a Radical Act of Love (six minutes). JKZ, a PhD in molecular biologist from MIT, is a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher who is known for bringing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) into the mainstream of medicine and society.
     
  • Click here to watch a short clip by Simon Sinek on Why Effective Leaders Speak Last, especially in the boardroom (< two minutes)
     
  • Click here to read A Simple and Powerful Technique for Better Listening

The Benefits of Meditation

SIGN UP FOR THE JUNE 21ST 28 DAY MEDITATION CHALLENGE!

Participants from previous meditation challenges shared receiving the following immediate benefits from meditating eight minutes per day over a 28 day period: 

  • General Health and Well Being 
  • Emotional Regulation
  • Kinder Nature to Self and Others
  • Positive Change in Mindset
  • Enhanced Productivity

More details below....

General Health and Well Being:

  • Better Sleep
  • Time of Refuge
  • Less Loneliness
  • Provides more daily healing and comfort

Emotional Regulation – managing stress and changing the nervous system:

  • Better able to deal with situations where others might push my buttons – I am able to step away and respond more constructively
  • I am able to remain more focused and calm during difficult situations

Kinder Nature – self and others – leads to better relationships:

  • More patient and thoughtful
  • More accepting of self and others
  • Kinder to myself and others

Change in Mindset:

  • Allows my brain to relax
  • In terms of managing disappointment, I’m able to acknowledge pain, accept the situation, let go of what I can’t control, and feel more grateful (versus blocking things out and numbing myself).
  • Provides perspective and philosophy
  • Pay more attention to beauty around me – like noticing a beautiful sunset

Enhanced Productivity – more effective life:

  • Improved memory
  • Focused on a singular task versus multi-tasking
  • Fresh perspective: bring a beginner’s mind approach to my work
  • Able to handle life’s daily pressures better
  • More accepting of unexpected situations that are given to me

SIGN UP FOR THE MEDITATION CHALLENGE TODAY!

The 28 Day Meditation Challenge*

Strengthen Your Existing Practice or Learn How to Meditate!

Starts June 21st

CLICK HERE to learn more and sign up!

Includes: mindfulness welcome kit, daily email with inspiring quotes, videos, and meditations, and a Google tracking sheet for accountability and community.

Be part of a virtual community: can be done from anywhere in the world!

Build up to 8 minutes per day, enough to create short term changes to your brain!

Entire $28 fee goes to Sheltered Yoga, a wonderful nonprofit whose mission is to improve emotional health and wellbeing of underserved communities.

SIGN UP FOR THE MEDITATION CHALLENGE TODAY!

7 Practices of a Mindful Leader

 

Recently I listened to Marc Lesser, The Zen Priest with an MBA, speak with Dan Harris on 10% Happier podcast episode #184 (click to listen). I enjoyed the podcast so much, I bought Lesser’s book, The Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader that evolved out of his work helping create Search Inside Yourself Leadership, a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence program at Google.

And this is why – Marc Lesser speaks about the tension between being and doing; his love of work; the importance of cultivating compassion, clarity, self–awareness, and a deeper connection to others – and how a mindfulness practice can decrease anxiety and increases one’s ability to lead with the ever–increasing complexity and demands that all leaders face both at work and at home.

The Seven Practices of a Mindful Leader by Marc Lesser

1. Love the work. Start with inspiration, with what is most essential. Acknowledge and cultivate aspiration – your deepest, most heartfelt intentions.

2. Do the work. Have a regular meditation and mindfulness practice. Learn to respond appropriately at work and in all parts of your life. Lesser recommends meditation, walking meditation, and journal writing – emphasizing the importance of spending some amount of time just sitting, without any of the activity or stimulation of exercise.

Read more >

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