Leading at a Higher level

Leadership done well has an ascendant quality.

Often the reward for doing a good job is getting to do more.

That’s ok, especially if you love what you do.

It’s an opportunity for the leader with the right motives and vision to have a more significant influence and an impact that ultimately helps more people.

Here’s the thing.

Each time you gain altitude with your leadership, you have to figure out how to do more, and do it better, all while steering the ship and responsibly guiding the activities of an increasing number of co-workers.

The adage “what got you here won’t get you there!” rings truer than ever.

For most organizations, replacing the CEO can be a high-stakes gamble.

Unfortunately, not every transition works out, and the failure rate is steep. (up to 46%)

 In situations like this, high-altitude adjustment training becomes necessary for newer CEOs or Senior Execs.

Much like living and working at a high altitude requires preparation, the same is true for a CEO or senior executive elevated to a new role.

The Altitude Factor

There’s a simple reason that Kenyan and Ethiopian runners dominate world records in marathon running.

They live, work and train at high altitudes year round. So when they compete against elite athletes from lower climes, they have a distinct advantage.

Professional sports teams coming into mile-high Denver, Colorado, deliberately schedule an advance acclimation period before match-ups. Without this prep time, they risk getting trounced by the local teams, who have an altitude advantage.

What Happens in Times of Transition

Hardly anything that happens at an organization is more important than a high-level executive transition.

It’s a given that the new leader’s actions or inaction will significantly influence the course of the business, for better or for worse, for years to come.

Nearly 50% of new CEOs I’ve worked with expressed a distinct “not what I expected!” response early on.

Everyone, regardless of experience, finds transition into a senior role challenging. The disconnect between the expectation and the reality of being a CEO could contribute to a disappointing 27-47 % failure rate in the first two years. (Source – McKinsey White-paper Successfully transitioning to new leadership roles)

Backlogs

Quite often, an accumulated backlog of C-level work got deferred during the search and transition period. So it is understandable that some plans get put on hold until the new leader and their team is in place. Adding to the backlog are avoidable issues like lengthy reports, poorly designed meetings, presentations, and a tendency for trivial decisions to be referred upwards.

Overwhelm and the “Too Busy” Trap

Overwhelm is a predictable outcome of the work backlog. The new CEO often feels pressured to do a lot in a compressed timeframe simply because there’s a lot to do, and all eyes are on them. Connecting and interacting has never been easier. While technology has helped us do many things more efficiently, it hasn’t helped us become more effective. It certainly hasn’t slowed down the pace. If anything, the opposite.

There seem to be endless meetings, and we wind up drowning in real-time virtual technology. There’s Zoom, Slack, Teams, group texting, WeChat, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Loom.

The downside is that actual productivity and value creation get sacrificed in the arena of frequent and low-quality virtual interactions.

Expectations Run High

Leadership is all about managing expectations:  Both personally and that of others.

 The new leader’s goals and ambitions must be realistic and appropriate to the circumstances. If they are unrealistic, they will be perpetually stressed and self-critical.

If the timeline for reaching initial goals is unrealistic, consider adjustments that make things more realistic.

Disappointed expectations often stem from flawed assumptions.

It’s crucial for the new leader to constantly check alignment of expectations and assumptions with colleagues, stakeholders, board and staff alike.

Trust and Confidence are Fragile

Winning trust in the early going is key.

Leaders who can foster a climate of openness and welcome genuine dialogue about what’s going on earn respect and trust.

Trust is that “salt of the earth” quality that, over time, can win approval and support from even the most oppositional people. And of course, there will always be those who oppose change.

In Summary

It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that a senior leadership transition is more of a process than an event.

Crafting a “Framework for Action” with an accountability structure that addresses all of the above factors is the best way to approach transition.

Having an experienced advisor along side to guide the process gets the new leader established and the whole  organization can enjoy the long term benefits.

 

 

Until next time…..

Here to help.

 

The Mentor Advantage

What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring? 

It’s a question I often get asked.

This time the question came from a young CEO inquiring about one of my interactive learning sessions.

Much like harvest gold or avocado-coloured appliances, formal mentoring is something one doesn’t see much anymore. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not valid or necessary.

For centuries the idea of mentoring was considered a cultural norm. It was the time-tested way to learn one’s craft and get ahead. But, first, one would go into a line of work under an ‘apprenticeship’ arrangement where they would work under someone with more experience to learn a trade. This was simply a very formal arrangement that holds the seeds of what modern mentorship looks like today.

A quick search reveals that the major business publications like Forbes, McKinsey, and HBR are now touting the superior benefits of finding the right mentor for leaders who want to grow.

If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before. – J Loren Norris

My short answer to the question is that today there are some similarities and overlaps between formal coaching and mentoring approaches.

However, there are also some distinct differences.

Mentoring can be personal and long-term, helping the mentee reach their overall potential as a person and as a professional.

On the other hand, coaching is more likely to be more short-term and aims to improve a specific skill set of the person being coached.

Beyond that, the differences lie in the expertise and skill level needed, overall focus, questions to be answered, and the desired outcomes.

A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability in you than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you. – Bob Proctor 

As an Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach, I incorporate the best elements of coaching and mentoring into my working relationships.

One reason I regularly write about leadership topics is to foster long-term mentoring relationships to share with colleagues and clients.

 In today’s world, we put much value in being a self-starter, getting our own lives in order without help from anyone else.

There are some aspects of life where we feel we might be looked down on if we ask for help.

We have this limiting belief that we should be able to do it all on our own, that asking for help is a sign of weakness. But in fact, just the opposite is true.

The reality is that recognizing you need help usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence. 

But let’s face it. When you first embark on a new journey, whether professionally or personally, you feel much better when you have someone you can approach when you need help.

  • Someone you can talk to about your goals.
  • Someone who not only listens but can ask questions from earned experience when you get stuck
  • Someone with insight and intellect who is there for the sole purpose of helping you to get ahead.

  Finding a good mentor can help you:

  • Boost your leadership and communication skills.
  • Deepen the knowledge you already have.
  • See things in a new way.
  • Become more aware of the needs of others.
  • Feel more self-assured and confident

 You see, mentors are incredible individuals who have a sincere desire to give back to the world.

They want nothing more than to see you succeed and have the tools to help you do it.

Depending on the situation, it’s essential to recognize that mentoring can be a paid or unpaid arrangement.

The truth is that mentorship is necessary if you want to get ahead.

Mentorship could be considered the original life- hack. LE

 It holds all the shortcuts and gets you where you want to go faster than you could in any other way.

So we all need mentors, whether we realize it or not.

In retrospect, I’ve benefitted enormously from the mentors who have spoken into my life.

 I try to recognize and honour them whenever I can.

On the flip side, I’ve also found incredible value in being a mentor. I love sharing my experiences and observations with people eagerly looking to improve themselves or achieve new goals.

That is the beauty of mentoring.

It’s a relationship where we can both give and receive for mutual benefit and advancement in our lives.

Until next time,

Lorne

For more resources on this topic, drop me a line, and I’ll send you my guide:

(Free for the asking)

SEARCHING FOR GUIDANCE

20 Things To Look For When Seeking The Perfect Mentor

When Life Gets Upended

 

 “If things are getting better, why don’t I feel better about things?”

Admittedly, my best leadership articles often flow directly from questions that leaders ask in workshops, webinars, or one-to-one: No fancy fare or clickbait-y headlines. These are just leadership questions that need answers.

This question came from a young woman who had taken on a senior executive role in her organization before the global pandemic.

You may be a long-time reader whom I’ve had the privilege of working with personally.

 Maybe we just haven’t had that opportunity yet, so this is my way to assist, advance, and encourage you in leadership scenarios you now face.

Quality leadership is a deep abiding obsession for me (in a good way). As an ever-learning practitioner, I want to keep getting better at it. I try to live up to what I write about, teach, and coach.

 I write about what it means to lead, communicate, and coach well and the necessary inner work that has to take place for that to happen.

Now back to the question and my shot at the answer.

Effective Self Leadership When Life Gets Upended

As the pandemic-fuelled crisis subsided, my client realized feelings of emptiness and even vague apprehension. She’d weathered the storm quite well throughout the prolonged crisis but was having trouble shifting gears and moving on.

I, too, have sometimes felt that way in recent times.

The pandemic was a wake-up call that life is way too short and fragile to be wasted for many of us. Lockdowns meant we had time to reflect and reassess our priorities, particularly our relationship with work.

We can’t ever avoid the trough of the change curve, but everyone has a distinctly different emotional response to what’s going on.

Fact is, we all get our fair share of life-altering events thrown our way. These could include illness, accidents, business/career failures, relationship failures, and the death of loved ones.

We usually can get through most of these disruptors with relative ease. We adjust, draw on our support networks, and move on.

But what happens when you get a pileup of two, three, or four or them?

Then things can rapidly become disorienting and destabilizing for us.

What’s different about the last two years?

The pandemic represents a massive, collective life quake.

For the first time in a century, you, me, and the entire planet is going through the same disruption at the same time.

Two years of mind-numbing uncertainty, stress, and isolation have had a “piling on” effect that made edgy people edgier, angry people angrier, and crazy folks get even crazier.

How else does one explain the recent rise in hate crimes, mass shootings, and folks being all-around more angst-y.

As a leader, how do you bring clarity, hope, and direction to those you serve through your leadership?

The best way to help your teams, colleagues, and clients who may be in crisis is not to be in crisis mode yourself. So instead, it’s back to the “inner work of leaders” thing.

Some ideas and strategies for effective self-leadership:

  • Adopt the “Just fly the plane” strategy from one of my favorite books the Checklist Manifesto.    

           (What to do in case of engine failure)  I wrote about that here.

In times of extreme crisis, as pilots run through worst-case scenarios,
they need a reminder to focus on the most important job they have, flying the airplane.

  • Don’t try to “boil the ocean” by taking on too much.

Pause for a moment and take your bearings.

Just consider how extraordinary and gloriously unlikely your

circumstances may be right now.

Better yet, you get to do this! (the alternative sucks)

  • Make room for the human side (yourself and others)

Trying to be stoic doesn’t help deal with the realities of change.

Be honest with yourself about how change is affecting you.

Make room for a wide range of emotions from others.

Allow yourself to envision some of the possibilities that change can bring.

  • Catch the vision of what could result from all the change.

Thinking forward and daring to dream even a little bit sparks hope in the human spirit.

  • Celebrate the smallest of wins! 

Take things (and days) one at a time.

Focus on the things that truly matter and bring you joy

Find ways to help and support others less fortunate.

Our choice to lead means an opportunity to take on more responsibility.

Why? There’s something worthwhile that needs doing. You have the skill and the will to do it.

When a long-term challenge happens quickly, it helps to have some short-term strategies to get you through to the good stuff.

You’ve got this!

Until next time- Lorne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Strategies to Combat That “Not Doing Enough”Feeling

The Unhealthy Comparison Merry Go Round 

Face it. We all play the comparison game. It’s how our caveman software works.

The grand illusion you and I are subjected to each time we spend time online is what success supposedly looks like.

When you scroll through social media posts, you may feel compelled to compare to a perception you see.

Unfortunately, people mostly share the shiniest version of what they want you to see. Skills are highlighted, and flaws are hidden. Wins are exaggerated, and losses are downplayed. Doubt and anxiety are rarely featured in social media posts. Defeated heroes and failed CEOs rarely sit for interviews.

Reality dictates that most things are more challenging than they look and not as fun as they seem. It’s also true that everyone has bad days, and no one has a picture-perfect life. We get a highlight reel of what people want you to know about themselves to increase their own chances of success. Unfortunately, we tend to compare that to the worst parts of ours.

When you compare others’ portrayal of success to yours (or lack thereof), you do yourself a disservice. Revisit what you want to get out of life and go for it. Success to you may be freelance writing from your van as you travel the country. That is perfectly ok and worth pursuing.

Antidote: Recognize when you find yourself on the unhealthy comparison Merry Go Round. Then just hop off it! 

Expectation Management

Leadership is all about managing expectations: Your own and that of others.

Your goals and ambitions need to be based on reality. If they are unrealistic, you will be perpetually stressed and criticizing yourself.

If the timeline for reaching your goal is unrealistic, consider adjusting things to be more realistic.

Consider what you want to get out of life and go for it.

When It comes to having expectations of others, I’ve learned to definitely have them and hold them loosely. When others perpetually disappoint us, it’s easy to grow frustrated. If your team or colleagues are underperforming against your expectations, it’s time to ask yourself how you expected them to act and why. People can only give you what they’ve got.

Disappointed expectations often stem from flawed assumptions. For example, I might assume someone understands what I’m conveying and what I expect, only to discover I’m dead wrong.

Proceeding without an agreed-upon assumption checklist is a sure-fire way to have things go wrong later. On the other hand, you will rarely be disappointed if you go into every situation with well-informed assumptions.

Antidote: Have a robust feedback eco-system. Every good leader I know has their own pipeline to reality. This allows for well-informed assumptions, decision-making, and planning.

Shorten the To-Do List

This might be too simple, but as we know, simple isn’t always easy.

So, often we feel inadequate simply because our to-do list has grown too long.

Learn to divvy things up according to priorities. Then, choose three items that you would feel accomplished if you could only get those tasks done today.

Why three? Well, two’s not enough, and four often is too many.

But hey, – you do you and decide what works.

It helps to remember that life is a journey. So we often get caught up in attaining the goals, and we fail to enjoy the detours and scenic viewpoints along the way. It might be time for you to look back at how you have grown as a person while pursuing goals, even if you haven’t quite reached them.

I’ve found it helpful to journal accomplishments that I can be quietly proud of.

Not in a “hey look at me” kind of way but in a “yeah, I got to do that, and it’s pretty cool !” kind of way.

Even small achievements are worth celebrating. Celebrating how far you have come will boost your morale and set you up for more success. For example, maybe you got in a 30 min daily walk for the last two weeks after being a couch potato for months. That’s an activity win to get excited about.

Antidote: Keep a viable running to-do list but make sure it’s not stressing you out. Journal the good things and accomplishments you’ve been privileged to be a part of.

Until next time,

Lorne

 

Rolling With Resistance

As a leader, I bet you already know a thing or two about resistance.

It usually involves people balking at change.

It can be a new strategy, a new board policy, changing market conditions or even a new person on your team.

Circumstances unexpectedly change, and plans become come unravelled.

Everything slows down or, worse yet, comes to a screeching halt.

In physics, this is known as “Rolling Friction.”

In rough terrain, a mountain bike with fat knobby tires encounters much more rolling resistance than a racing bike with skinny tires on a paved surface.

My truck gets much worse fuel mileage when I’m on a steep incline hauling a heavy load. But, conversely, it sips fuel and goes like stink on a straight-away with no load.

Why? Because there is less rolling friction. This frees the truck to move with greater ease.

The next time a big rig goes flying by you on the highway, this is something to think about.

The dynamics of rolling friction can be just as easily applied in business leadership and life.

“You can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs.”

I’m talking about change.

As a leader, you can’t change things without upsetting a few people.

After all, a core leadership function is bringing about change.

Resistance is only natural. It’s human nature to resist change.

Bottom line up front! There is no way to make people like change.

You can only make them feel less threatened by it.

From experience, I find it best to just assume resistance exists. It may not manifest immediately.

There can be “issue” resistance that might require people to change a pattern or learn something new.

There’s “emotional’ resistance.

It’s entirely predictable and typical to come up against a wide range of intense emotions around a proposed change.

It often isn’t logical.

There’s “political” resistance.

Somebody for sure will feel that their authority is being threatened or questioned. Someone might think that personal or professional freedom is being lost.

Rolling With Resistance – What Doesn’t Work

Ramping up persuasions usually backfires and increases resistance.

Stressing the urgency of making a change or highlighting benefits can be equally ineffective.

Arguing or pushing back – forget it.

Rolling With Resistance – What Does Work

Override the strong urge to “set things right.”

Listen intently to understand any barriers or fears the other party is expressing.

Empathize with the concern and explore in a non-judgemental way.

Revisit the agreed-upon goals that brought you together in the first place.

Present the possibility that goals and attitudes don’t mesh with agreed-upon goals.

Identify the gap between “where we are now” and “where we want to be.”

People will only commit to a change if there’s a degree of readiness on their part.

Sometimes it just takes a bit of patience for others to pick up what you’re laying down.

Don’t be afraid to kindly say your piece, and then let silence do the heavy lifting.

Does it always work? No guarantees.

It will get you a bit down the road together in a way that’s better informed.

Until next time.

 

Yikes!

A whopping 27% of my LinkedIn connections have made big career moves or quit altogether in the last 20 months.


A lot of unplanned successions are taking place.

As coach and consultant to mid – market CEO’s, I sometimes get a front row seat to some of these moves.

One CEO stated:” I’m usually OK leaning into a certain amount of unknown, but COVID has pushed things to whole new level.

It has everyone a bit freaked out”

Another CEO confided: “Yeah it’s very weird. Usually, I have a sense of plans and direction, but suddenly all my reference points have been wiped out. It’s hard to know if we’re even moving in the right direction.”

My colleague who headed up a high performing social enterprise for 13 years, very suddenly quit. The main reason ? ” I’m just plain tired and need some space right now. It’s the kind of fatigue that doesn’t go away with a good nights rest.”

Does this sound like you ?

It doesn’t have to be!

There’s no doubt that the worldwide pandemic has forever changed our relationship with work. A lot of fierce questions are being asked.

One thing I recommend in situations like this, is to work through five questions with at least one knowledgeable and trusted friend or colleague.

1. Why do I want to make this change?
2. Is my goal in doing this concrete and measurable?
3. What exactly is my plan?
4. Who will be my support network as I work through change?
5. What am I looking forward to at the end of this process?

Are YOU thinking about a workplace change?

A big move may be the right thing for you. Then again maybe not.

I’ve helped a lot of folks through big changes.

If you need a confidential, experienced advisor to work through some of these things I’d very much welcome your call.

Book a complimentary call with me here.

Early in my career, I was a 6th-grade teacher in an inner-city school that was politely ranked as “difficult.”

One of my early moves was to make homework optional.

My learning agreement with students was that they would have to put in the work if they actually wanted to learn anything.

While I could teach them almost anything, I couldn’t actually make them learn anything.

It helped if I could spark sufficient interest and curiosity to kindle inner motivation. Then suddenly, students were delving into topic areas on their own and enjoying it.

While I couldn’t force kids to learn, it was up to me to provide a positive learning culture and present opportunities. One little guy who struggled to read suddenly became an avid reader. He was keen on hot-rod cars. I accidentally (on purpose) left a couple of hot rod magazines lying on my desk. He asked to take them home. I said he could bring them back and read to me the parts he liked the best.

And a reading program was born!

While there’s some overlap in the understanding of these terms, it’s generally known as unstructured learning, leveraged learning, and self-directed learning.

One enormous benefit of my stint in the teaching profession was that I became steeped in the “Socratic Method” learning system. This allowed me to perpetually channel my inner 4-year-old to ask questions. That’s something I cherish to this day.

This learning approach has worked well in becoming a leadership practitioner in Project Management and then as a Founder and CEO.

How It Works

Everything we learn in formal education is well structured and predefined.

First, teachers and professors tell us what they think we need to know. Then at regular intervals, we cram to prove that we understand what they’ve been saying all along.

The process takes anywhere from 12-20 years, and we compete with peers to get good grades.

When we hit the real world, many of us hardly apply what we’ve spent years learning in a formal setting.

That’s unless we pursue specific things for what we currently do or intend to do. (I.E., Accounting, Law, or Medicine)

 

“We have sold ourselves into a fast-food model of education, and it’s impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies,”  Ken Robinson, the author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

How It Can Work

The real question is, how do you learn the hard, essential things that matter to your success in life and career? How do you explore and dig deeper into complex topics you deeply care about?

In the mid 90’s, I came across an article published by the Center for Creative Leadership that put forward some bold ideas about how people learn at work.

70% of what we learn is from hands-on, on-the-job training, problem-solving, and just plain doing it.  20% is from trial and error, failure, peer learning, and observing others, and 10% from formal classroom training and courses.

Much like your daily weather forecast, it’s not highly prescriptive. The great thing about this model was that it recognized that up to 90% of our work-related learning can happen very informally.

This new way of looking at things spawned a whole new movement of “learning organizations” characterized by strong teamwork, and a high capacity to solve problems.

“Being a student is easy. Learning requires actual work.”
— William Crawford

I embraced this style of unstructured learning many years ago. I followed curiosities, read many books, and reached out to experts I knew who succeeded in the things I was interested in.

Many significant achievements that I’ve been a part of over the past decades are directly attributable to unstructured, self-directed learning.

It’s also important to recognize that everything necessary we’ve learned or accomplished is because of a teacher or a guide. In my instance, many teachers. It just wasn’t formal. Quite often, they didn’t even realize they were teaching me.

Consider this: If you or I set about to climb Everest, where conditions are harsh, and every step could be a life or death decision, we’d definitely want a Sherpa guide.

Hard skills don’t lend themselves to some YouTube instruction or easy hacks. I’d like someone experienced to show me that way and teach me step-by-step on the path forward. Right?

While mastery is the goal, I consider myself an ever-learning practitioner in the topics of Leadership, Human Behavior, Faith and Spirituality, Organizational Development, Investing, Coaching, Consulting, Writing, and Film Making, to name a few.

 “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” Richard P. Feynman

Unstructured learners find and stick to learning methods that work best for them.  They find a “flow” that creates an environment and routine to sustain the creative learning process.

Build your own “learning scaffold” that can be used over and over again.

I’m amazed watching my grandson assemble complex and functional Lego creations from a bucket of random pieces. He has a personal creative learning process that he developed, follows, and repeats with every new product he produces.

 “Perseverance, pleasure, and the ability to retain what you learn are among the wonderful byproducts of getting to learn using methods that suit you best and in contexts that keep you going,” Kio Stark Handbook for Learning Anything.

If you don’t love the process of learning, this probably won’t work. Sometimes, it’s necessary to master a new skill or topic to advance your career, but this is when you find your bigger why and hold on to that motivation to keep learning.

The Basics

Here are some of the basics that can help you become a successful unstructured learner:

  1. There’ll be core content and foundational basics to whatever topic or discipline you pursue. So, immerse yourself in the basics first.
  2.  Find topics that augment and support your life’s purpose — it’s fundamental for sustaining the process.
  3.  Know what learning methods work the best for you and then explore, search, and discover. Build a personal learning scaffold that you can re-use.
  4.  Channel your inner four-year-old and ask endless questions. It takes at least 5 “why’s” to start getting to the bottom of things. Ignorance can help you dig deeper and learn faster.
  5.  Know what you don’t know — and use that to ask the basic questions. It’s astounding to me how ordinarily smart leaders deflect and B.S. their way through stuff when all that is needed is a simple “I don’t know.”
  6. Find a guide and/or cohort of like-minded people who share your interest.
  7.  Create your own feedback process. Double down on what’s working

Every unstructured learner invests in their unique process. Build your learning method and make it your own. Tricky things, topics, domains, and skills take time to master.

If you’re curious enough, don’t be afraid to invest in hard skills that will serve you for life. Commit to a process you can sustain.

Don’t rush it and burn out. Learning anything new will probably change your life for good.

The joy of mastering new skills or figuring things out on your own is a fantastic and worthwhile experience.

Until next time.

P.S. This October, I’ll once again be offering LeaderLab TM, a high-value blend of Executive Training and Coaching for successful applicants.

Watch for details in your inbox in the coming weeks. 

 

                                                      Photo by Author 

Recent times have given us the opportunity to pause, reflect, perhaps change direction, or clarify what matters.

Pandemic restrictions have fostered an imposed simplicity of life and lifestyle that many were never previously accustomed to.

One outcome has been a resurgence of Minimalism. This countercultural movement has been around for centuries.

Minimalism has influenced art, music, design, architecture, science, business systems, and personal lifestyles.

I love it when an ancient concept comes roaring back with new relevance.

Wholesale changes in our lifestyle include spending less, saving more, working more simply from home, and rediscovering the great outdoors.

Me?  I loved it and lived it long before Marie Kondo started cleaning up, Elon Musk decided to sell all his houses, or some guys made a Netflix movie about it.

The recent past has allowed us some head-space to evaluate everything. I mean everything from how we “do life” and how we do “do business.”

If you hold vague negative feelings about things like consumerism, clutter, debt, and all forms of distraction, you’re well on the way toward a minimalist lifestyle.

Don’t freak out. It doesn’t mean you have to toss it all and adopt a monastic existence.

The basic tenets are to combat the chaotic excesses of modern-day living.

History abounds with minimalists who adopted a simple living lifestyle in support of a greater life mission.

JESUS OF NAZARETH   Rabbi | Prophet | Healer

“What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul.”

CONFUCIUS  Philosopher | Chinese Mystic

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

 

LEONARDO DA VINCI – Inventor | Painter | Sculptor

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

More recent examples include:

 HENRY DAVID THOREAU – Writer | Philosopher

“Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify, simplify! … Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.”

LEO TOLSTOY – Author | Essayist | Educational Reformer

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity.”

ALBERT EINSTEIN – Physicist | Nuclear Scientist | Scholar

“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

More importantly, Minimalism has become a viable antidote to what I’ll call the info-demic. Never before have we been carpet-bombed with so much information. So often, the data is conflicting and confusing.

Like guard rails on a mountain road, or radar in the fog, there’s a measure of wisdom in functional Simplicity.

There’s really no manual or rulebook for adopting Minimalism.

Here’s my take on how it works in real life.

Desires and Expectations; Deliberately expecting less from those around me and the world, in general, allows me to appreciate what I have. That doesn’t mean I stop striving for better. I can only do the best I can, and others can only give what they’ve got. Often that leaves gaps of unmet expectations. Approaching those gaps with a measure of grace and understanding smooths the bumps. Sometimes you find pockets of joy along the way.

Possessions; This means being intentional about owning only what you really need. I’ve started ditching stuff that no longer serves a purpose and stopped buying things for the sake of ownership.  This frees up resources for me to be generous with the people and the causes that I love.

Relationships;  Minimalism in this realm is brutal to explain but here goes.

Relationships have different degrees of value. I think of them as relationship “buckets.”

Some are purely transactional– like the guy who cuts my hair. We have some friendly chit-chat about family and life, but that’s about it.

Then there’s the relational bucket. Here’s where I relate and stay in touch with many folks, but it’s more at the “acquaintance” level.

My standard Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram Disclaimer:

Hi Ray! Great to hear from you, and I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for your Invitation to connect, but it was probably an algorithm suggestion – right?  Fair warning – I’m a minimalist FaceBook contributor. I do enjoy staying in touch with what’s going on for others (minus cute cats and what so and so had for breakfast)  So – just so you know – my FB “friend” bar is pretty low. You don’t have to loan me money, bail me out of jail, or visit when I’m in “The Home” or anything.

This usually gets a good response and opens the door for further conversations.

Thirdly, there’s the transformational bucket. These are my “spark” people who inspire me with their intellect, wisdom, care, love, and humor. Time together is always an energizing, uplifting, and nourishing experience. Hopefully, I do the same for them.

In the end, it’s about discerning which relationships add genuine value and making enough time for those who mean the most to you.

Thought Life;  Thought life minimalism involves confidence to not over-think (worry), underthink (neglect), or race ahead to check off as many boxes as possible. It’s being present and engaged while keeping the bigger picture in mind. Each day is a chance to engage fully in the joys, triumphs, sorrows, fears, faults, and near misses that make up a life.  Each day is a chance to do better and make a difference for yourself and others.

A Myriad of Benefits

Go ahead. Google “Benefits of Minimalism,” and you’ll quickly get the picture.

Personally, I enjoy the less stress, more freedom aspect of Minimalism. The additional freedom allows me more time to be productive. It leaves more room for people and causes I care about. Decision making becomes much easier because either it fits my value system or it doesn’t

Wrap Up

You see, simplifying, and removing clutter, whether it’s figurative or literal, isn’t the end result – it’s merely the first step. Understanding why you’re doing this gives you the traction to keep going.

Until next time,

Lorne

 

 

 

Resilience

Photo by Biegen Wschodni on Unsplash

I love this time of the year. The unmistakable scent of damp earth, cut grass, and fresh pollen evoke the real prospect of new growth and possibility.

Knowing that it’s getting warmer and lighter every day here in the northern hemisphere is such an appropriate metaphor for coming out of the darkness and hibernation of this past year.

It’s a great time to be alive.

An operative word for this time is resilience.

Our world has changed in ways we haven’t fully processed yet. A lot of strong conversations are taking place.

I believe that resilience is our current best response.

Resilience buys us time to adapt!

 

“More than education, more than experience, more than training, a person’s level of resilience will determine who succeeds and who fails. That’s true in the cancer ward, it’s true in the Olympics, and it’s true in the boardroom.” Dean Becker

 

Foolproof planning these days requires a more perfect knowledge of the future.

That’s just not available to anyone right now.

Resilience is that deep commitment to a mindset and a skill set that builds and rebuilds ecosystems that work even when things don’t work out as planned. Especially when things don’t work out!

Resilience buys us time to adapt.

Flexibility in the face of change is where resilience comes from.

As leaders, some look to us and rely on us.

I’ve often wondered why building resilience isn’t a key business imperative. My observation is that quite often just being human is at odds with work life.

Work can routinely bring stress, negativity, setbacks, and outright failures — and most of us are challenged to combat the effects.

We often equate resilience with overcoming extreme hardship or impossible odds.

Adequately understood, resilience can serve as an ever-present, daily mentor, helping us rebound from the collected frictions and pressures of work life.

Most of us just motor on— unaware of the increasing toll of emotional depletion — and building resilience isn’t considered.

I’ve been fortunate to have highly resilient people to learn from in my life.

I’ve also had personal challenges and circumstances where I could apply what I learned.

Here are seven observable characteristics of my resilient friends and mentors.

Networks of Support

Having a robust support system is an integral part of resilience. It really doesn’t matter who has your back in life – parents, friends, relatives, teachers, coaches, or colleagues. Real friends (not the Facebook kind) will give you understanding, guidance, and comfort when you’re struggling with a problem. They help you define your priorities and provide honest feedback just when you may need it the most.

Asking for help or counsel from the people who support you is a valuable life skill.

From my decades of work with marginalized populations, having a solid network always was a key determinant of capacity to rebound from the impact of life trauma.

“Others” Mindset

Resilient people aren’t very self-absorbed. They give freely of themselves to those around them. It may appear counterintuitive, but being generous or devoting time to a worthy cause (like volunteering) are helpful strategies to take the focus off your problems.

Helping others can help expand your life skills and problem-solving abilities. Giving back to yourself is also helpful. Proper care of your health and periodically rewarding yourself contribute to thinking and acting “resiliently.”

Stick -to -itiveness

Doggedness, grit, hardiness, stamina – call it what you will. Resilient people learn to accept emotional pain and stress as part of life.  They don’t allow their difficulties to define them. All the resilient people I know avoid personal pity parties. Instead, they recognize their feelings, acknowledge the problems being faced facing, trust that their ability to meet their problems, and believe they have the strength to maintain their emotional balance.

Change Happens

Accepting the fact that things are going to change is a fundamental part of resilience. When your goals, plans, ideas, or hopes are ruined because of unavoidable circumstances, a flexible and positive attitude will allow you to focus on new projects or new hopes. If you accept the things you can’t change or control, you’re free to put your effort into the things you can change and control.

Choice of Attitude

Most of the time, we don’t get to choose the obstacles and difficulties that life puts in our way. We always get to choose our attitude toward adversity. During hard times, it’s helpful to find something positive to think about and imagine a positive outcome. Even if you don’t have all the answers and even if the solution to your problems isn’t apparent, you can choose to believe that things will work out. You can tell yourself that your issues are manageable. You can choose to see yourself as a fighter, not a victim.

Reframe Perspective

When a resilient person faces adversity, they’re likely to avoid making things worse by jumping to extremes. Resilient people tell themselves that their troubles won’t last forever. They don’t see every bump in the road as a catastrophe; they understand that things can’t be perfect. Having realistic expectations of themselves, others, and what can be achieved is the answer.

Humor

It’s been said that “laughter is the best medicine.” And really, if you can drum up some self-deprecating  humor and laugh with others, you will lighten your load and lighten up!

Appropriate laughter and humor are beautiful ways to connect to others. They help release the feeling of stress that adversity causes you.

Laughter is also good for your body – it changes your body’s response to stress.

Conclusion

Can we strengthen our capacity to think and act more “resiliently”?

Absolutely, yes.

Think how a trainer at the gym helps you concentrate on certain muscle groups for strength and endurance. Similarly the various components of resilience can be exercised and strengthened.

Check the work of Dr. Fred Luthans. It points to evidence that resilience can be learned.

Another helpful article from Harvard Business Review – How Resilience Works 

Have a great month!

 

 

 

Photo by Steve Harris on Unsplash

Amazing Ways We Fool Ourselves

Historically, April 1st should be the most light-hearted day of the year.

If ever we needed a splash of levity in our sea of seriousness, it’s now.

It’s a day of hoaxes, pranks, and practical jokes with people we love. The best part is nobody gets offended, at least they’re not supposed to. If the recipient responds with cursing or tears, you know things have gone too far.

It’s a chance for self-deprecating humor. It acknowledges that there’s a certain amount of folly that resides in each of us.

Back on April 1st,1976, the BBC nailed it. British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 AM, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur. Listeners could experience this in their very own homes.

Due to this unique alignment of planets, the earth’s gravity would be reduced by a certain level. Whoever jumped with all their might at just the right time could possibly float in the air! People worldwide who hadn’t noticed the date were jumping up and down, hoping that they could achieve levitation. Other classics are the penguins of King George Island taking flight and the great spaghetti harvest.

Special day aside, there some amazing ways we fool ourselves year-round. Sometimes this comes with tragic consequences. It’s become more evident and rampant over this past year. That’s what I’m writing about this month.

Nobel prize-winning economist and social psychologist Daniel Kahneman states that we have two thinking systems. One thinking system is “fast” and the other, “slow.”

Fast thinking is the area where we can often fool ourselves.

We apply mental shortcuts, “hacks,” or biases when problem-solving or deciding things. It’s the realm of gut instincts, snap judgments, and hardwired systemic flaws in our thinking.

Slow thinking is a more deliberate examination of thoughts and motives.

We need both systems.

Biases are those deeply ingrained codes in our caveman software that can’t be quickly unlearned.

They have a profound impact on the following:

  • Our Perception – how we see people and perceive reality.
  • Our Attitude – how we react towards certain people.
  • Our Beliefs – how we interpret and respond to events
  • Our Behaviours – how receptive/friendly we are towards certain people.
  • Our Attention – which aspects of a person we pay most attention to.
  • Our Listening Skills – how much we actively listen to what certain people say.

It’s helpful to think of them as optical illusions. You know- things that appear to be there but really aren’t. Or that photo distortion app that makes for a very unflattering selfie.

Here are just five of the biases I’ve run into recently.

Negativity Bias (Good Plus Bad=Bad)

We want to think we’re rational, well-adjusted human beings, but our brains are naturally hardwired toward the negative.

Have you ever found yourself over-thinking a mistake you made a while ago? Are you replaying in your head a conversation that didn’t go so well?

That’s the negativity bias at play: not only do we register negative stimuli more readily, but we also tend to dwell on these events for longer.

A Queen’s University research study estimates the average person has about 6,200 thoughts per day. Other studies indicate that a high percentage (67%- 80%) are negative, and up to 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.

So…if 80% of our thoughts are negative and 95% of them are repetitive, we have a serious “built-in” flawed perception problem.

Quite simply, negative events have a more significant impact on our mental state than positive ones.

Kahneman suggests an end-of-day exercise where we intentionally reflect on at least three good things that happened that day to bring positive counterbalance to our natural tendencies.

While the negativity bias may have been a helpful survival mechanism for our ancestors, today, it has a powerful—and often unconscious—impact on how we behave, think, and make decisions.

Groupthink Bias

Groupthink is a genuine phenomenon that happens when a group of well-meaning people makes dumb decisions to identify or belong to a particular group.

Another term for this is conformity bias.

In this scenario, any kind of dissent is unwelcome. Any reasoned questioning automatically makes one a social leper.

This bias is often fueled by a particular agenda—plus the fact that group members value harmony and coherence above critical thinking.

This bias causes people to simply “follow the herd” rather than thinking things through and using their own independent ethical judgment.

History is riddled with tragic examples of groupthink. The mass suicide known as the  Jonestown Massacre is just one of them. Hence the dark meme “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.”

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the strong tendency of people to seek out information that exclusively supports views they already hold.  Evidence and information get interpreted in ways that affirm their pre-existing beliefs, expectations, and hypotheses.

Any contradicting evidence or information that may lead to a different conclusion is ignored.

A humorous illustration of this is the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy, where the cowboy unloads his pistol at the fence and then paints a bullseye around the closest cluster. He wants to believe he’s a good shot and manufactures proof to support that notion.

A close cousin to this is the Belief bias. If I believe something strongly enough, it must be true.

The question to be asked. Is this really true? Or do I just want it to be?

This thought pattern can easily lead to conclusions that are inaccurate or even unethical.

 

Diffusion of Responsibility Bias

Diffusion of responsibility occurs when a leader needs to decide but then waits for someone else to act instead. It becomes a ripple effect. The greater the number of people that are aware or involved, the more likely it is that each person will do nothing, believing someone else from the group will probably respond.

Psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latané set up a Bystander Apathy experiment where a distress call made it appear that a person nearby had suffered an injury. When subjects heard the cry, and though they were the only ones who heard it, 85% of them helped.  But if subjects thought there was another person who heard the call too, only 62% helped. And if subjects thought that four other people also listened to the cry for help, just 31% took action.

Diffusion of responsibility makes us feel less pressure to act because we believe, correctly or incorrectly, that someone else will do it. When we don’t feel responsible for a situation, we feel less guilty when we do nothing to help.

In this way, diffusion of responsibility keeps us from paying attention to doing the right thing or ignoring our own conscience.

It’s complicated, but there is hope. Here’s a TEDx explainer.

Self-Serving Bias

The self-serving bias is where we seek out information and use it in ways that advance personal self-interest. We often unconsciously make selfish decisions other people might view as questionable.

It can also take the form of a person taking credit for positive events or outcomes, but blaming outside factors for negative events.

The irony is that we can easily spot this trait in others, but we have difficulty seeing it in ourselves.

An example might be doctors who believe that they are immune from the influence of gifts they receive from pharmaceutical companies. Studies show those gifts have a significant effect on what medications doctors prescribe. One study found that 64% of doctors believed that the freebies they received from suppliers influenced other doctors. However, only 16% of doctors thought it affected their own actions.

So, the self-serving bias often blinds us to how we are prejudice in favor of ourselves. Indeed, it can cause even the most well-intentioned of us to overlook our own wrong actions completely.

To summarize, these five biases are just a small random sampling. The good news is that when we encounter them, we can switch to “think slow “ mode and ask some questions.

Here are some helpful questions the I borrowed from Annie Duke’s book THINKING IN BETS

  • Why might my belief not be true?
  • What other evidence might be out there bearing on my belief?
  • Are there similar areas I can look toward to gauge whether similar beliefs to mine are true?
  • What sources of information could I have missed or minimized on the way to reaching my belief?
  • What are the reasons someone else could have a different belief, what’s their support, and why might they be right instead of me?
  • What other perspectives are there as to why things turned out the way they did?

Hope this helps,

Until next time,

 

Lorne