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.

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*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

Urgent

How Can You Do the Really Important Stuff?

Today’s post is about how to get the really important stuff done. It is especially important for people who are involved in creative jobs.

Think over your day yesterday and what you did. Probably you finished a lot of tasks. The real question is: How many of those tasks were vitally important? The truth is, if you are like most people, you will have to admit not so many were actually that important.

Yet, we really do want to accomplish important things that really do matter.

But how?

By understanding the difference between the urgent and the important. One thing to remember: the urgent is rarely important and the important is rarely urgent.

The problem is that the urgent is almost always what grabs our attention. (For an in-depth look at this problem, please read Tyranny of the Urgent by Charles E. Hummel.

Definitions

The urgent tasks: short-term, functional items, arise daily, don’t take deep thought, quick to do. Examples include answering email, problems that pop up in daily work, daily questions from clients and co-workers, and paying bills.

The important tasks: long-term, almost never pressing, need deep thought, on your plate for a long time, take a long time to finish. Examples include strategic planning, goal-setting, and solving major problems.

Part of the problem is that it feels good to get things done and check them off our To-Do List, but that good feeling comes at the price of getting the really important things finished. It is impossible to solve a long-term goal when you are answering email.

How Do You Get The Really Important Stuff Done?

  • First, understand the problem and decide to defeat it.
  • Second, two lists. One list will be the important things and the other list will be the urgent things.
  • When urgent things come up each day, add them to your urgent list and forget about them until the proper time.
  • Figure out when your best time to work is, whether that is morning, noon, or in the afternoon. For me, it is the morning from about 7:00 until 10:00. I call this my “prime time.”
  • Set a side a nice block of time (maybe 2-4 hours, if possible) during your prime time. Make it a time of non-stimulation where you cannot be distracted by email or colleagues. If an urgent item pops into your mind (and it will!) just add it to the urgent list and forget it for a while. Spend this time in deep thought about things that are truly important.
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.

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“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!

How Do You Keep Going After A Setback?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Setbacks motivate me.”
— Lindsey Vonn, 4-time World Cup champion.

Perhaps it is time for you to consider the option of giving up.
— Dr. Ana Nogales, from “ The Wisdom in Giving Up”

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
― Mark Twain, American humorist

I still remember the terrible feeling I had many years ago when I was working as a music director and had to tell several people that they did not win the adulation for a solo part. It’s hard to deliver bad news that you know will sting. How was I going to deliver that news without discouraging them enough to quit singing all together?

We all receive bad news from time to time and all of us react differently. A disappointment, like a poor job review or some form of rejection, makes some people vow to work harder and others give up. Why? What’s the difference?

Two Parts of the Brain At Work

When people are faced with a similar setback, researchers in a new study* found that two different parts of the brain became engaged when a person determined to keep trying rather than give up. One part of the brain that was stimulated when subjects decided to try harder was an area of the brain that scientists know guides goals based on the history of decisions made in the past. Another area of the brain that was stimulated when the subjects decided to keep struggling on was the part of the brain which controls complex emotions and regulates those emotions in flexible ways.

In other words, the decision to continue on after receiving bad news is a very complicated decision and involves engaging two areas of the brain that otherwise would not be stimulated.

What Makes the Difference?

The researchers found that the difference in the stimulation of the different areas of the brain depended largely on how much the subjects felt they had control over the situation. If they felt like they failed because they didn’t try hard enough or didn’t do things the proper way, they most often determined not to give up and to try harder the next time. If they felt like the boss was just mean or things were out of their control, they usually decided just to give up and quit. The feeling of control was the key determiner.

What Does That Mean to Us and What Should We Do?

For ourselves personally, we should decided whether it is best to give up or not based on the situation and not our feeling of control. There are times when it is best to quit. We should not keep trying in those situations just because we feel like we have control and could do better the next time. Or, if it is actually best to keep going, we should not give up just because we feel like we don’t have total control in the situation.

When working with others, remember to shape the way you deliver the bad news and the total situation will determine whether or not the person you are informing keeps going or quits. When you have to give a poor job review to a co-worker, you might make the offer to help guide them to a better review next time. This will help give them the feeling of control and will help them persist.

So, when I was giving bad news to the would-be soloists, I should have given them a method of improvement at the same time. As is often the case, I wish I knew then what I know now!

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Jamil P. Bhanji, Mauricio R. Delgado. Perceived Control Influences Neural Responses to Setbacks and Promotes Persistence. Neuron, 2014 DOI: 10.1016

Are You Making Good Decisions?

good decisionWhen I’m working with a client we will often talk about decision-making strategies and how to make better decisions. It is an important subject and a surprising one for many people.

For instance, did you know that as logical as you think you are when you make decisions, you mostly make decisions based on emotions?

If You Don’t Believe Me? Try This…

Make the best choice here.

  • Scenario One: You can choose between a free gift of $8 or $10.
  • Scenario Two: You can choose between a free gift of $8 (and a stranger will receive $8) or a gift of $10 (and a stranger will receive $12). Notice that the result is the same for you—in both scenarios you either get $8 or $10.

Which do people choose most of the time?

Well, as you might guess, in Scenario One, nearly everybody chooses the $10 option. However, in Scenario Two, there is a difference in what people choose.

Why would people choose to receive $8 instead of $10?

Alas, the answer is those pesky emotions sometimes make us settle on an illogical choice.

Experimenters* found that people who feel threatened or are concerned with their social status will often choose to receive $8 if the stranger will also receive $8 rather than receive $10 if the stranger will receive $12.

Here’s the bottom line: When people focus on security (an emotional need) they rely on “relative outcomes” ($10 to me, but $12 to a stranger) rather than “absolute outcomes” ($8 to me or $10 to me). Our decision-making brain is influenced that strongly by emotions. In the first case, people wanted to protect themselves from being assigned a lower rank. In the second, they were looking for the best and most positive overall result.

So What Should We Do?

Personally

Be aware of when we feel threatened and be careful about making decisions in that condition.
Try to focus on total value and overall growth.

As leaders and managers

Set an atmosphere of safety in the workplace so that coworkers and subordinates do not feel threatened and make bad decisions based on safety.
Be aware of you own feelings of insecurity and make decisions based more on growth and value rather than protection.

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*Jun Gu, Vanessa K. Bohns, Geoffrey J. Leonardelli. Regulatory focus and interdependent economic decision-making. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.11.008

Wait For It…

Sad BulldogWe talked last time about the marshmallow experiment where children were tested for their ability to delay gratification. As you may remember, children who were able to wait a few minutes in order to receive a greater reward, also had higher social skills, higher emotional skills, were more self-confident, had higher IQ’s, and higher scores on the SAT test.

We also mentioned last time that greater success in relationships, business, and leadership is associated with the proper mix of time orientation. That mix seems to be a positive view of the past (without concentrating on past events), a focus on the present, with a moderately high focus on the future.

Today we will apply these insights and talk about how to better delay gratification and live in a better time orientation mix.

Delaying Gratification

As with most things, the ability to delay gratification is somewhat inside and outside our control. Two studies point to the fact that our personality and social setting can make it harder for us to wait for a reward. One study* found that extroverts have a harder time with delayed gratification and another study** found that nearly all people are less likely to wait for a reward in a negative social setting. That is, it is harder to wait for a reward if the person giving the reward is not considered trustworthy.

But, even if you are an extrovert and are in a poor social setting, there are some things you can do to improve your ability to delay gratification.

Three of the most important things you can do are:

1. Know what you want to do. Think of things that are important to you and may be difficult to achieve, then set a goal to reach that objective.

2. Make a plan. Figure out the best way reach that goal and write it down. The “writing it down” part is much more important than you might think.

3. Make decisions in advance. Before you get into a situation where you might want to trade something smaller now for something better in the future, make your decision ahead of time.

Here’s an example. I remember in the months before my wife and I got married, we wanted to make a downpayment on a home (#1—what we wanted to do—our goal). We figured out how much we would need and how much we needed to save each week in order to have enough (#2—our plan). Unfortunately, we had nothing to spare in our budget. We determined ahead of time to save what we needed for the downpayment each week no matter what (#3—made a decision in advance). I remember many times when I wanted to buy a candy bar on the way home from work or we wanted to go out to eat, but those things weren’t in our budget. We delayed many short-term goals in order to achieve what we really wanted—the downpayment on the house we would live in our first few years of marriage.

Achieving the Best Time Orientation Mix

Remember that the best mix of time orientation is positive view of the past without concentrating on it, with a focus on the present and a moderately high focus on the future. How can we do that better?

To keep this short, I’ll just list bullet points here.

To lessen an emphasis on the negative past:
Don’t blame yourself
Decide that it is in the past and done, and remind yourself of that when you start to think about the past

To live more in the present (if you think too much about the future):
Do less, not more
Waste time on purpose
Be spontaneous sometimes
Take time enjoy eating, drinking your coffee or tea, listening to music, or reading a good book
Play with children

To be more future oriented:
Wear a watch
Make a habit of delaying gratification
Make a to-do list
Make appointments and stick to them

So, wait for your marshmallows and enjoy the journey!

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*Society for Personality and Social Psychology (2013, January 17). Understanding personality for decision-making, longevity, and mental health.

**Laura Michaelson, Alejandro de la Vega, Christopher H. Chatham, Yuko Munakata. Delaying gratification depends on social trust. Frontiers in Psychology, 2013; 4 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00355

Why Wouldn’t You Take Time To Read This?

Buying TimeDo you want to be happier in relationships, more successful in business, and be a better leader? Your attitude towards time has a lot to do with success in those areas.

Benjamin Franklin said that time is money. Actually, time is more important than money.

Here are 3 reasons why time is more important than money:

  • We are willing to give more money for better time. A consultant who receives $400 per hour is better than a consultant who receives $150 per hour. We are willing to give more money for time that is more valuable.
  • We can save money, but not time. You can choose to spend or not spend money; time is spent no matter what at exactly the same rate as everyone in the world.
  • Three of the 5 most commonly used words in the English language (time, person, year, way, day) concern time.

Even though we are technically forced to live only in the present time, we actually deal with the past, the present, and the future at all times in our attitudes and feelings. Scientists have studied this phenomenon a lot, and for more happiness, success in business, and better leadership, the best mixture of past/present/future seems to be:

  • A positive view of the past, but not much attention given to it,
  • A focus on the present, and
  • A moderately high focus on the future.

This attitude of living in the present but having an eye on the future was shown to be important even by young children by the famous marshmallow experiment. If you want to see a video of a modern duplication of the experiment, click here.

The experiment was designed to test the children’s ability to delay gratification. In the experiment, 4-year-olds were placed in a room by themselves and told that they could eat the marshmallow in front of them now, or could wait until later. If they waited, they could have another marshmallow and would have two marshmallows to eat instead of one. Only 1/3 of the children valued delayed gratification enough to receive the reward of the second marshmallow.

When the two groups of children were compared at age 18, the children who waited:

  • had superior emotional and social skills
  • handled stress better
  • were more self-confident, diligent, and self-reliant
  • had higher IQs
  • scored higher in verbal and math skills on the SAT by 210 total points.

I’m out of time for now, so I’ll take my marshmallows and go home. Next time, in Part 2, I’ll talk a bit more about delayed gratification and how to change your time perspective to be more successful in relationships, business, and leadership.

A Category Allegory

Janet- Sized for InternetTry to see if you can put a label on Janet.

Janet was great member of our team a few years ago. She was born in Taiwan and spoke the Fujian dialect of Chinese in her home. At age one, her family moved to Brazil and Portuguese became her first language. When she was 12, she moved to California and started speaking English primarily. Wanting to find some new friends, she started visiting the Chinese-speaking church across the street from her house and learned Mandarin Chinese. She had a passion for teaching and graduated from college with a degree in teaching Spanish. (That’s her 5th language, in case you weren’t counting.)

So, if you wanted to describe Janet in one or two words, how would you do it? Is she a studious Chinese? A laid-back Brazilian? A liberal Californian?

It’s hard, isn’t it?

We are going to look at categories today in the second and last part of this short series on perception in culture. In the first part of this series, we talked about two important facts:

1.) we have too much information coming into our brains, so have to notice only certain things; and

2.) many of the things we do notice are determined by culture.

Why Are Categories Important?

Every time we see something new or meet someone for the fist time, we must put the thing or the person into a category. This has to do with the “too much information problem” we talked about earlier. Categories are one way that our brains help us make sense of the world by making the world a simpler place.

Are Categories Good or Bad?

Are categories good ro bad? The answer is yes and no. Categories can be good (and are absolutely necessary) to help us make sense of the world. They can be bad because they also are the root of prejudice and negative stereotyping.

Whenever we meet someone for the first time, we are forced to put them into a category in order to make sense of the world. Those categories are largely based on our experience. If the new coworker is Korean and we have had good experiences with Koreans in the past, we are very likely to begin the relationship with a positive view. Unfortunately, the reverse is true. If we have had bad experiences with Koreans in the past, even though we have never met the new employee, we very likely will have a negative view of him or her. We can’t help it; we are humans and that is what humans do to deal with the flood of information hitting our brains every moment.

Two Extremely Important Points About Categories

Firm Categories

People tend to either have firmer or looser categories and this distinction is based both on personality and culture. Some people by nature have very firm categories and some cultures also tend to have categories that are fixed and inflexible. In other personality types and cultures, the categories are looser. The firmer the category, the less likely we are to change our opinion and feelings about the new person or experience.

Category Width

In every category there are 3 areas: “good,” “bad,” and not good or bad, just “different.” When psychologists talk about category width, they are talking about how wide the “different” part in the middle of the category is.

Narrow Categories

Practical Help

If you really want to be effective as part of a multicultural team and communicate well in a multicultural environment, you can do 2 important things.

  • Be less firm in your categories. Be open to new ideas and feelings about new people you meet and the actions of others from different cultures. Expand your mind and be open to change.
  • Expand your category width. Try to see fewer things as either “good” or “bad” based on your cultural perspective and increase the middle part—the “just different” part—of your categories.

Not as good:

Narrow Categories

 

 

Better:

Wide Categories

 

 

So, how do you put a label on Janet? The answer is that we can’t. Neither can we put a strict label on anybody. We are all a mixture of cultures and personalities. Expand your categories and your mind and enjoy the beautiful diversity of this beautiful world.