Forgive the indulgence, the blog is of a very personal nature this week.
One of my “Best” friends died five days ago and it puts everything into perspective. What is the definition of “Best”. The dictionary says exceptional or outstanding which I think is perfect to define what you get from a really brilliant friendship.
The list is endless:-
- Best listener
- Best times to be had and full of laughter
- Best walker – with knowledge of all the Surrey Hills
- Best organiser – parties, events and fund raiser
- Best at giving an honest opinion
- Best advice – on parenting and life
- Best in giving – whether it be plants, time and numerous coffees
The synopsis stills feels inadequate in terms of the void it leaves. Think about what are the best things about you that you give your friends. Your self worth will grow knowing what your best attributes are and what you give others.
Cherish the best in friends and family as you may well be robbed without ever telling them what the best was.
What does “press the button” actually mean?
In classic experiments on stress, people performed tasks that required concentration, like solving puzzles, whilst being blasted at random intervals with uncomfortably loud sounds. The individuals started sweating and their heart rates and blood pressure climbed. They struggled to concentrate and made mistakes and many just gave up. Searching for a way to reduce the anxiety, researchers gave the participants an escape. If the noise became too unpleasant they could press a button and make the noise stop. The button allowed them to stay calmer and make fewer mistakes. The most surprising result was that no-one pressed the button. Knowing they could stop the noise gave them a sense of control and allowed them to endure the stress.
This story comes from the book Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. In the book they put the button into another context. Grant a lecturer sadly had a student who committed suicide and he regretted he had not spotted the signs of stress earlier. He struggled for a long time to overcome any guilt. To move forward he started every lecture by ensuring his mobile number was clearly displayed in the class, in effect this was the button.
Do you provide a button to your team, do they know that support is there. Think how you can instigate the button within your organisation. Coaching and mentoring being formalised could provide buttons. Buddy schemes for new recruits, and always ensuring your team members have a line manager who conducts regular 1:1 meetings. Larger organisations have well being help lines and by ensuring the number is displayed provides the button security.
At home we now all have our mobile numbers, however do we provide a “button’ service in other ways. How often do you sit around a table and ensure you really listen to each other? This is the best “button” you can ever provide.
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Is the environment you work in demonstrating a good balance.
Balance could include gender, skills, and experience. The first stage is to look at your existing culture, do you welcome balance by having the right set of values.
If you are focusing purely on results then you might not be attracting the right employees. Everyone wants to be part of something successful, however if they realise that there is nothing underneath the figures and they will feel unsupported and they will not care for the organisation.
Values have to come to life, with rituals and habits attached to them. If you promote collaboration what does it look like? Cross functional teams working together and meeting on a regular basis.
The balance of giving back to your team and your team giving back to others. You have the people you want to work with and you are proud to work with others.
The Swedish football team Ostersunds believed in giving its team members so much more than just football skills. They wanted to open their minds to theatre, art and literature. These experiences were shared and putting them in unfamiliar situations grew their minds and enabled them to think differently. The team have written book, created art and worked with local refugee centres and put on a stage show of Swan Lake. They are now in the top league and won the Swedish cup in 2017.
Balance does not have to be seen through the lens of automatically assuming that means a gender match. We have many layers to our personalities that need to be uncovered whether we are male or female. The answer is fostering the environment that means you are able to be truly authentic.
An open atmosphere where there is no blame and mistakes are learnt from.
Creating balance is about identifying the things that matter most to you as team and investing together to make them come to life.
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We unconsciously committ to life within a comfort zone as there are no guarantees in a stretch zone. However the more time we step into stretch the more comfortable it gets at doing its job and the more it stretches.
Has there been an occasion recently when you were forced to stretch and make that leap out of your comfort zone. It is often at times where we have no control and we have not made the choice that we grow.
For anyone who has attended a nuggets workshop will know I surround the room with flip charts and I have a mind map that I work from for the agenda. I arrived at a Clients without the flip charts luckily the trusted mind map was there. Not only were the flip charts not packed but also one of the key exercises a set of laminated headlines.
I was in stretch for the next 3 hours. The first job was to recreate the flip charts I had prepared. The exercise of headlines turned out better than the original, I asked delegates to use their phones to find sensational headlines. Of course trainers are always advocating phones on silent, however the liberation of using a phone was brilliant and also made the exercise far more current and relevant.
It is not a place that we choose to step into, however we adapt and survive, so try and step out more often of your comfort zone as stretch is there ready and waiting to grow.
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Listening is a skill that needs to be practised and refined. We often think we are listening, however have we truly connected and deployed the skill required.
There are five levels of listening:-
Hopefully ignoring does not happen too often. Pretending can be easily slipped into, you can have all the right facial expressions however the button for listening has not been pressed.
Selective is the one that we save especially for the ones we love the most. Currently my husband loves nothing more than to tell me the latest on US politics. I tune in and out, bit like when you are trying to find the right radio station, every so often he relays something amazing and the rest of the time it is that annoying buzz you get from an untuned radio.
In work we are often actively listening which means we know we have to concentrate so we expertly follow and reflect the facts. It is a place of comfort however you are using a skill and need to practice regularly to check that you are not interrupting with direct questions and hijacking the other person’s agenda.
The top listening is empathetic which takes the most skill. You are not only attending, following and reflecting, you are also calibrating any non verbal indicators. As a coach I need to listen at this level and I know if it has been a good session when I feel exhausted and exhilarated. It is a privilege to listen and follow some-one else’s agenda however it is tiring if done correctly. The joy of being listened to often means you say the things you really want to say. We so rarely get a dam good listening.
As with any new skill keep practising…
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It is true that daydreaming and being bored can ignite our best thinking. I have always had my best ideas in the shower or on that walk in the sun.
Manoush Zomorodi author of “Bored and Brilliant” explains in her Ted Talk how boredom can lead to brilliance. She asks the question imagine if you never got bored. Some of your best ideas come from, folding the washing or walking to work. We enter a default mode, the brain goes from conscious to sub conscious. The brain begins to create different connections, even tapping into autobiographical planning.
Good boredom is staring out of the window when the mind can get into the default mode. Bad boredom is when you are multi tasking, checking your phone whilst staring out the window or on that beautiful walk. Everytime we look at that phone we are depleting the neurological resource we have. Even chilling out on the sofa while watching TV and checking email is still bad boredom. The purity of the chill is the good boredom.
Doing nothing is being creative, and boredom can lead to brilliance.
Please do get in touch for a workshop on creative thinking or 1:1 coaching firstname.lastname@example.org
How much do rituals and superstitions influence performance?
It is a clever deflection from performance as in the example of Serena Williams in the French Open in 2008. She made her exit in a shock third round defeat, and when she was asked what went wrong, she gave the surprise answer:-
“I didn’t tie my laces right and I didn’t bounce the ball five times and I didn’t bring my shower sandals to the court with me. I didn’t have my extra dress. I just knew it was fate; it wasn’t going to happen.”
Why are so many top sports people deeply superstitious?
The answer is to be found in the world of pigeons. B F Skinner the man widely regarded as the father of modern psychology studied the behaviour of pigeons. In 1947 Skinner placed some hungry pigeons in a cage attached to an automated mechanism that delivered food at regular intervals. He discovered that the pigeons associated the delivery of food with whatever chance actions they happened to be performing at the moment it was first delivered. They kept on performing the same actions even though it had no effect on whether the food was delivered.
The pigeons were acting as if they could influence the mechanism, a random connection between a particular kind of behaviour and a desired outcome.
If superstition does not influence the outcome, why are we all so keen to ritualise are actions. The routine may help people relax and feel comfortable so therefore aiding clear thinking and reducing anxiety. The actions may therefore influence the performance and not actually secure the outcome.