Category Archives: Relationships

Stand Out From the Crowd-sized

Have You Noticed That No One Is Noticing?

One of my favorite Youtube videos was shot in the Washington DC subway.

In the video, Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians alive today, plays one of the greatest pieces of music of all time on a priceless instrument during rush hour one January morning. More than 1000 people rushed by and yet hardly anyone notices the incredible performance unfolding before them.

Later, he played a concert again in the subway, this time to a crowd of thousands.

Why You Need To Get Noticed

Maybe you’re not performing on a violin, but you do need to get noticed. When you get people’s attention, they admire your work, want to be around you, and want to learn from you. Getting noticed will make your life and relationships better at work, with your friends, and with your family.

Successful brands get people to notice them. We can do a few simple things to “brand ourselves” and get noticed.

What We Can Learn From Joshua Bell

Why didn’t anyone notice Joshua’s exquisite performance the first time?

There are probably several reasons, but let me mention the main reason that apply to us and our personal branding: distraction.

Distraction takes attention away from us. People are busy. It’s a preoccupied world and everything from Youtube videos, to email, to advertising draw people’s attention and keep them from noticing us.

3 Ways to Get Noticed (Besides Standing on Your Head and Spitting Quarters Out Of Your Mouth)

There are at least 3 ways that you excel and get noticed by your coworkers, friends, and family.

1. Live and work with passion.
We are all drawn to a person who is passionate about their life and work. Communicate your passion by the things you do and say, and people will take notice.

2. Learn the language of listening.
Everyone needs to be heard, but most of us like to talk. If you can learn to be a good listener, people will be drawn to you and will seek your attention and company. Your relationships will be more intimate.

3. Create loyalty and build trust.
By doing what you say you will do and being consistent, people will begin and trust you. Dependability is a strong magnet for others—especial in difficult times. Walk the talk, be consistent, and live out your values. People will take notice and want to be near you.

The people of Washington DC did get a do-over. The second time, the performer, the music, and the instrument were noticed—thousands came to hear Joshua Bell’s concert in the subway.

If you will live with passion, listen well, and build trust with those you love and work with, they will observe it and you will get noticed.

smiley_faces-1600x900-Sized

You Are Different Than the Rest of the World

You are unique, you little snowflake!

How many times have we heard that from our grammar school teachers and the motivational speakers. The truth is that we are not really all that unique when we think about it. Our DNA is 99.5% exactly like every other human on the planet. We all need about the same amount of sleep, food, and water to live. We all feel the same emotions and feel them from most of the same causes.

But the problem is that we all think we are different from everyone else. Other people should wear a motorcycle helmet, but we don’t really need to. The government should set speed limits, but it is okay for me to go faster than that.

In the USA, nearly everyone says that it is very bad to text while driving a car, yet more than 40% admit to texting while driving and probably more than that do it, but will not admit to it.

Here is a sad fact: The rules don’t apply to us, because we deceive ourselves into feeling safer than we actually are. We want to operate as an individual snowflake.

How Can We, as Leaders, Turn This Around and Use It To Our Advantage?

There are many possibilities, but let me mention one today.

The Two-Step Buy-In Technique

Let’s suppose you are a team leader and you need to get buy-in from your team members. You want them to join the team and work for a common goal.

By using a simple psychological technique, you can get much greater buy-in from your team. In fact, in one study* researchers used this technique to increase voter turnout for an election by more than 25%—no small feat!

The first step is to set up a socially desirably behavior and then ask your team if they will engage or not. Nearly all will agree because it would be socially awkward not to.

The second step is to have them give a justification as to why they will perform this socially desirable behavior.

After we as human snowflakes melt by admitting in public that we are going to do something, we rarely go against society and fail to perform what we say we will do.

A Real Life Example

If you are starting  a new team project and you need to get buy-in from every team member, in your first meeting describe why this is such a great project. Then, ask each team member if they are going to commit to helping with the project (Step One). After they say, “Yes” ask them to give one reason why they are going to participate (Step Two). Nearly all of us as human beings will perform a task that we agree to do in a public setting.

Try it. I think you’ll find you can make a pretty good snowball when all of your snowflakes come together.

================

*Greenwald, A. G., Carnot, C. G., Beach, R., and Young, B. (1987). Increasing voting behavior by asking people if they expect to vote. Journal of Applied Psychology, 72: 315– 18.

Businessman Idea- Creative-AdobeStock_90523174-Sized

How Can You Lead to Help Your Team Be Giants in Creativity?

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
― Walt Disney Company

Creativity is the lifeblood of modern business. People who are creative excel in their work and get promotions. But how can you become more creative?

The Secret of Creativity

A recently released *study from the University of Texas in San Antonio helps us understand some other things that are behind creativity in the workplace. They tell us one thing that hurts creativity and then share three things that help it.

First the Bad: Necessity Is Not the Mother of Good Invention

This research backs up what many have known for a long time: stress is the killer of creativity. Yes, if a new solution is necessary we will try to find a solution, but the more stressed we are about it, the less creative we become. Scientists think that this is because the creative process is chaotic process and stress has always been known to limit our solutions to problems.

What Helps Creativity?

According to this study, three things will help creativity.

1.) To be creative, people need the proper experience. If people have been creative in the past, they will be more creative in the future. Success breeds success and this is certainly true with creativity.

2.) To be creative, people need confidence. I have spoken before about self-efficacy in this post, this post, and this post, so I won’t go into detail here. The quick and dirty point here is that if you think you are creative you probably are creative and if you think you can find a creative solution, you probably can find a creative solution.

3.) To be creative, people need the help of their boss. This is one of the most surprising things about the study. Leaders who recognize and encourage great creativity will receive it from their co-workers. This is created especially through excellent interpersonal relationships. The authors say this should include “an emphasis on trust, loyalty and mutual professional respect.”

If you are interested in more of this, I deliver several excellent workshops on how to improve these leadership qualities.

So What Should I Do?

Here are four things that will help your team become more creative.

1.) Create a work atmosphere that is safe and free from stress.

2.) Think back and remember times when you were creative in the past and recall those experiences.

3.) Use those experiences to purposely build your self confidence in your creative abilities.

4.) If you are a leader, recognize and encourage creativity in the team when you see it. If you are not the leader, give them this post so they will start encouraging you!

Follow these 4 suggestions, and your team will be on their way to growing in the their creativity and becoming creative giants!

=======================
*Lei Huang, Dina V. Krasikova, Dong Liu. I can do it, so can you: The role of leader creative self-efficacy in facilitating follower creativity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 2016; 132: 49

Skills Education

Why It Takes More than Education Or Job Experience—The Good and Bad News

When most companies decide things like hiring, promotions, and other advancements, education and work experience are usually the deciding factors. Not a good choice, according to a new study* released by the British Psychological Society.

The Bad News

Why shouldn’t we rely on college education or work experience for these issues? Because neither university study nor work experience prepare an employee for the soft skills necessary to perform at the highest level with other coworkers.

What Are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are “a cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people,” according to Wikipedia. Basically, they are skills that all of us need to cooperate and function well in a work environment and a team.

Several of the most important abilities are to effectively:

  • communicate
  • cooperate
  • be flexible
  • work in a team
  • think critically
  • make good decisions

These are the skills that move good companies to great companies by not only improving the bottom line, but also making the work environment more positive. This leads to more productivity and lower employee turnover rates.

The Good News

If you can’t learn these skills at college or by getting work experience, how can you learn these things?

I am so glad you asked! This is where your company’s HR department and consultants like me come in. The truth is that these skills can be taught and employees can develop these abilities with training.

(Warning! Shameless self-promotion) Professional Gulf Consulting can provide top-notch training to:

  • take your company to the next level,
  • help your employees to perform better and feel better,
  • decrease employee turnover, and
  • create a better work environment

Visit our website to see how we can help you! Besides, it’s cheaper than a college education and faster than gaining work experience.

=======================
*British Psychological Society (BPS). “University or University of Life?

All In a State of Mind

It’s all in a State of Mind

Since we talked last time about how superstition can improve performance because it can increase self efficacy, I wanted to share my favorite poem on the subject. I memorized this poem as a teenager and quote it to myself often when needed right up until today.

It was written over 60 years ago—long before Albert Bandura  developed the concept of self efficacy, but that is exactly what it is talking about.

Enjoy!

It’s all in a State of Mind

If you think you are beaten, you are:
If you think you dare not, you won’t
If you like to win, but don’t think you can
It’s almost certain you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost;
For out in the world you’ll find
Success begins with a fellow’s will;
It’s all in a state of mind.

For many a game is lost,
Ere even a play is run,
And many a coward fails
Ere even his work begun.

Think big and your deeds will grow,
Think small and you’ll fall behind;
Think that you CAN and you WILL;
It’s all in a state of mind.

If you think you are out-classed, you are;
You’ve got to think high to rise;
You’ve got to be sure of yourself before
You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go
To the stronger or faster man,
But sooner or later, the man who wins
Is the fellow who thinks he can.

Verbal Abuse

Is Your Motivation Motivational?

I still remember parts of the first halftime “pep talk” from my American football coach my senior year in high school. Many of the words could not be repeated here and the finale came to a crescendo as he kicked the film projector and sent it flying across the room. That little move set him back a few hundred dollars because the principal (who later became my father-in-law) made him pay for that bit of destruction from his own pocket.

Coaches, and periodically managers at work, sometimes yell, scream, criticize, or belittle in order to motivate employees and players to higher performance. But does it work as expected? Does it help motivate players and workers to perform better.

The answer seems to be “no.”

In a recent study*, researchers asked employees how often their supervisors verbally abused them by putting them down or deriding them. They also asked them if the supervisors were trying to motivate them to do better by doing the ridiculing.

One month later, they asked the same employees if they had done any undermining behaviors such as stealing from the company or purposely wasting work time. The employees who felt abused acted in counterproductive behaviors much more often.

The interesting thing is that even if the employees felt like the supervisor meant it for good—that is to motivate—it still produced bad behavior. The undermining behaviors were aimed at the supervisor and at the organization as a whole.

It is important to remember that employees who are happy and feel valued will be more productive and will stay with a company longer. A kind and compassionate workplace is a winning situation for the organization and the employees.

Verbal abuse, no matter what the intent, causes harm and negatively impacts the organization in tangible ways.

So whether you are a football coach, a team leader, or a line supervisor: Be kind to improve the bottom line.

===========
*Kevin J. Eschleman, Nathan A. Bowling, Jesse S. Michel, Gary N. Burns. Perceived intent of supervisor as a moderator of the relationships between abusive supervision and counterproductive work behaviours. Work & Stress, 2014; 1

Strong Personality2

Is Your Strong Personality Hurting The Team?

It’s no secret that businesses in today’s environment must be agile. “Business agility” is defined as the ability to make quick changes as customer demands and the business environment change.

It is also known that many successful management teams are made up of individuals with strong personalities.

What happens when these two dynamics clash?

In a word: trouble.

In real life they do often clash.

What happens when they do clash? A recent study* found that people with strong personalities are less able to adapt to rapid changes in the business environment.

What Makes A Strong Personality?

Many see strong personality traits as being the same as “talent” or just being good at something. This is, obviously, a good thing and a great asset in certain cases.

What makes it a liability is that talent and strong ability in an area tends to make people rely on that strength too much. The strong personality becomes inflexible.

For example, an extroverted person has trouble sitting back and letting others talk in a meeting even when she is not being helpful to the discussion, while the introvert prefers to be quiet in a meeting, even when he has a great and helpful idea.

Also, when we have a strong personality (talent) in an area, we want to use that talent to solve every problem, even though many times there may be better ways to tackle the issue.

Why This Is a Problem

The study found that as we might guess, teams with stronger personalities were more rigid and less able to adjust to changing environments. As one of the researchers said, “Teams that had markedly strong personality traits were more inflexible than teams with less markedly strong traits.”

How Can We Solve This Problem?

There are two things that will help us out of this situation.

1. Knowledge. Usually, personality traits are the strongest when people are unaware of them and just work and interact on “autopilot.” Understanding yourself and your team will help reduce this risk.

2. Teamwork Training. If a team can learn to work together instead of being dominated by a few members who have stronger personalities, they will usually be more flexible and able to change more rapidly. Teams can be trained to function at a high level.

At Professional Gulf Consulting, we can offer the tools your team needs to understand themselves better, work together better, and function at a higher level. We are passionate about helping teams achieve their best performance.

===========
*Jan Ketil Arnulf. Organizational change capacity and composition of management teams: A
visualization of how personality traits may restrain team adaptability. Team Performance Management, 2012; 18 (7): 433

Kidding Ourselves

Do You Want to Receive Free Books?

Believe it or not, there are people who want to give you free books. It’s true!

All you have to do is sign up at a website called “Blogging For Books” and promise to write at least a 3-paragraph review of the book, and they will send you a free book or ebook. The topics include fiction; non-fiction; cooking & food; business; entertainment; faith; crafts, home, & hobbies; and better living.

I requested the book “Fooling Ourselves—The Hidden Power of Self-Deception” by Joseph T. Hallinan. I think you will enjoy some of the great insights from the book.

The review is below.

===========

“Fooling Ourselves—The Hidden Power of Self-Deception” by Joseph T. Hallinan.

I had heard a lot of very positive things about this book before I read it, so I was greatly looking forward to the read. Unfortunately, I was mildly disappointed. Already having a familiarity with the subject, I expected Hallinan to make a scientific case for several points and then back these points up with stories and illustrations. Instead, the book mostly seemed to be stories with little scientific basis and few points drawn.

That said, I do think the book will be helpful to me in my consulting business and I will refer to it again for illustrations and lecture topics. The main point of the book is that every day, in many ways, we lie to ourselves. That is the reason why many people don’t wear seat belts despite the risk of a car accident and why they know that other human beings have heart attacks, get cancer, and get divorced, but they believe they never will. It is also why smokers who smoked 40 cigarettes a day believed that they were at no increased risk of lung cancer.

Superstitions Can Be Helpful

One of the unexpected and most interesting ideas in the book was the fact that this self-deception is not alway wrong. Take the example of superstitions. We tend to think superstitions are always harmful, but sometimes they are helpful. To cite one example, consider athletes. It is no secret that athletes exhibit some of  the most superstitious behavior in the Western world. Michael Jordan wore a pair of shorts from his college days every game he played in the NBA because he thought it would give him good luck. Coaches and players often have a ritual they will follow before every game to get an “edge.”

That doesn’t mean that good luck charms don’t work. Superstitions often are beneficial. They increase the feeling of control and self-efficacy—both of which increase outcomes. So, if the athlete believes that his or her ritual will help his of her performance, chances are that it actually will. Ad Hallinan says,“So why would superstition be good for us? In a word, it works. Not always and not for everything: it won’t make you tall if you are short, and it won’t stop speeding bullets or runaway trains. But when what we seek to accomplish lies within the realm of our abilities—when it is, in other words, doable—superstitious beliefs can tip the scales in our favor.”

Two laughable insights

  • In almost all elevators built after 1990, the “close door” button doesn’t actually do anything. It simply gives us a feeling of control.
  • At most busy intersections, the button we push to cross the street also is not functional. Again, we have more of a sense of control and are willing to wait for the crossing signal if we push a button.

In summary, if you are willing to wade through a long stream of stories to find a few actionable insights, you will like Fooling Ourselves.

Deceiving ourselves is often beneficial, and Hallinan helps us understand that. As he says, “My goal here has been simply to point out that self-deception, for all its obvious downsides, is an inherent human trait. It has been around a long time, and it endures for a reason: under limited but crucial circumstances, it helps us persevere. It does this, chiefly, by affording us that key piece of psychological scaffolding: a sense of control. This sense may ultimately prove to be a mirage, but the results it yields are very real. People with a high sense of control tend to live happier, healthier, longer lives. Viewed from this vantage, a little self-deception is not only helpful, it’s essential.”

Motorcycle

Can 20 Seconds Change Your Life?

My wife and I got some tragic news yesterday. Our brother-in-law was stopped at a light while riding his motorcycle and was hit by a car. The injuries are not life-threatening, but he has 6 broken ribs, a punctured lung, and had some internal bleeding. I’m sure he’ll make a full recovery, but his life for the next few months was certainly changed in 20 seconds.

As it turns out, you also can change your life daily for the better in just 20 seconds. We’ve talked about how to make positive changes in your private and work life before. We mentioned that it is important to have the correct time perspective and a whole series on multitasking. (Blog- 14-07-01-Multitasking Part 1-“Multitasking Part 1-Are You Really As Good As You Think You Are?”)

Today is about a very simple strategy to increase your “willpower.”

All of us have areas where we want to do less of one bad thing and start doing more of a good thing. It can be in the area of online distractions (to increase productivity) or health (to eat more heathy food and less junk food) or safety (stop talking on the phone while driving). I wish the person who hit my brother-in-law would have done that one!

Shawn Achor, in his book The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work has a great idea of how to do those things. We should lower the cost of doing the right thing and raise the cost of doing the “bad” thing.

For example, if you have a weight problem because you are snacking too much, put the snacks in a locked drawer and put the key for the drawer in a difficult to reach location. Do you want to read more books and watch less TV? Unplug the TV each time after you are done, wind up and tie up the power cord, and put it behind the TV where it is hard to reach.

How Much “Cost” Do You Need To Add?
The exciting part about following this  technique is that research shows that for most people, only 20 seconds is the “Cost barrier” that makes the difference between good habits and bad ones. Only 20 seconds! You really can change your life in 20 seconds.

How Can You Do it?
There are two simple steps to changing bad habits this way.

1. Decide what you want to change

2. Put a 20-second barrier in your way to doing the bad habit and make it easier to do the good habit.

Do you want to read 20 books this year?

Do you want to learn how to play the piano?

Do you want to complete some big project that you have not finished in several months or years.

Take 20 seconds and get it done!

Motorcycle

Can 20 Seconds Change Your Life?

My wife and I got some tragic news yesterday. Our brother-in-law was stopped at a light while riding his motorcycle and was hit by a car. The injuries are not life-threatening, but he has 6 broken ribs, a punctured lung, and had some internal bleeding. I’m sure he’ll make a full recovery, but his life for the next few months was certainly changed in 20 seconds.

As it turns out, you also can change your life daily for the better in just 20 seconds. We’ve talked about how to make positive changes in your private and work life before. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that it is important to have the correct time perspective  and I did a whole a whole series on multitasking.

Today is about a very simple strategy to increase your “willpower.”

All of us have areas where we want to do less of one bad thing and start doing more of another good thing. It can be in the area of online distractions (to increase productivity) or health (to eat more heathy food and less junk food) or safety (stop texting while driving). I wish the person who hit my brother-in-law would have done the last one!

Shawn Achor, in his book The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, has a great idea of how to do those things. We should lower the cost of doing the right thing and raise the cost of doing the “bad” thing.

For example, if you have a weight problem because you are snacking too much, put the snacks in a locked drawer and put the key for the drawer in a difficult to reach location. Do you want to read more books and watch less TV? Unplug the TV each time after you are done, wind up and tie up the power cord, and put it behind the TV where it is hard to reach.

How Much “Cost” Do You Need To Add?

The exciting part about following this exciting technique is that research shows that for most people, only 20 seconds is the “cost barrier” that makes the difference between good habits and bad ones. Only 20 seconds! You really can change your life in 20 seconds.

How Can You Do it?

There are two simple steps to changing bad habits this way.

1. Decide what you want to change

2. Put a 20-second barrier in your way to doing the bad habit and make it easier to do the good habit.

Do you want to read 20 books this year?

Do you want to learn how to play the piano?

Do you want to complete some big project that you have not finished in several months or years.

Take 20 seconds and get it done!