Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How Successful People Create Their Own Future

Guest post from Shawn Hunter:

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better?”
– Carol Dweck

Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can change our brain.

There is a scene in the new movie Dr. Strange in which a character describes how he healed an impossible injury through the strength of his own thinking. True, that’s a Marvel Comics movie, but growing research suggests this isn’t entirely fiction, and that it’s possible that the words we use not only affect those around us, but also affect our mind and body.

Joe Dispenza shattered several vertebrae after getting hit by a car while on his bicycle. As a chiropractor, he knew that the recommended solution of fusing vertebrae together would lead to a lifetime of limited mobility and pain. Instead, he thought his way to healing.

Nine months later, he was able to walk and function as well as he had before the accident, and he credits a large amount of that recovery to the power of his own mind.

“Every time you learn something new, your mind physically and chemically changes.”
– Joe Dispenza

Where we place our attention and focus defines who we are. The words we choose to speak, the thoughts we visit and revisit over and over in our mind reinforce those ideas and affect the words we choose to say out loud. Those words and ideas not only affect those around us, but they affect who we are and how we think about the world around us.

Feelings of unworthiness, or ineptitude, can creep into our consciousness. It’s easy to recognize those same thoughts over and over as we repeat and again reinforce them. Neuroplasticity is the term used to describe how the brain continues to reinvent itself, constantly changing over time depending on what we focus on, while older, unused pathways shrink and become abandoned, and new ones, with repetition and focus, emerge.

Not that long ago, many scientists believed that our brains were fixed, hard-wired, and unchanging. Now we know instead, that what we think about actually rewires our brain.

“Angry words send alarm messages through the brain, and they partially shut down the logic-and-reasoning centers located in the frontal lobes.”
– Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman

Our brain is an artifact of our past experiences and emotions. If we do the same routines, and spend our time with the same people, who push our same emotional buttons, we cannot honestly expect anything to change. In order to truly change the way we think, and the way we interact with the world, we need to exercise new neural pathways in our brain.

To create new neural pathways requires that we envision a new and powerful future experience. Our minds will then begin to change, and form new neural pathways, to align with the envisioned future. And when we practice those envisioned outcomes regularly, our brain will begin to believe these dreams are not simply possibilities, but destiny.

Right now in Sao Paulo Brazil, the Walk Again project is using virtual reality therapy, working with paraplegic patients to help build new neural pathways which can reactivate dormant fibers in their spinal cord, and miraculously allow them to move and feel their extremities again for the first time in years.

Eight patients, each with a long-term spinal cord injury and no lower extremity sensation, performed 2000 hours of virtual reality brain training. Results varied with each patient, but for the most part they all went from a total absence of touch sensation to some capacity to sense pain, pressure and vibration. One patient has progressed to walking without the aid of a therapist, using only the aid of crutches and braces.

Try envisioning a better version of you and your world. Over time, your mind will begin to build the language and habits which will make it destiny.

Shawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. His new book is Small Acts of Leadership: 12 Intentional Behaviors That Lead to Big Impact, (2016). Please visit for more information.

Twitter: @gshunter

Say hello:

Thursday, November 17, 2016

“But, are they Happy?”

Guest post from T.J. Jones:

Does happiness at work matter?

Is there value in a fun workplace?

In a twenty-year career, I had eighteen different bosses. Do that math, please. I experienced eight acquisitions (and thus, culture) changes in that timeframe. Cheerleading each time for the “new reality” through all the uncertainty, when I too had fears and uncertainties, was exhausting—like lost sleep you never catch up on.

We all know that change is the real world of today’s work-life, but it feels personal. As I see it, all change is personal. We want to feel safe. We want to be happy.
“Let’s talk about culture,” said the new VP at our first leadership meeting after acquisition number eight.

Great, I thought. We’ll talk about people and a positive future. Next slide please. He spent 45 minutes telling us how things would be and how lucky the people are, including several of us in the room, who were not laid off. Not valued and worthy. Lucky.
Energy and effort are discretionary

I raised my hand and said, “I’m on board with a high-performance culture. People have been worried about the status of their jobs for months. Many of their teammates and friends lost their jobs. They’re still anxious even though they were asked to stay. It’s going to be hard to get them focused until we can redirect how they think and feel. We can’t underestimate their happiness. Since we’re talking about culture, is there something as a leadership team that we can do to excite, reengage, and empower them? Can we do something fun?”
Silence. Everyone looked at me like I was from another planet. Or maybe they were speechless imagining me as a carcass being eaten for breakfast by a leopard on the savannah? Crickets. Awkwardness. Sweaty brow. Horror. If a can of gasoline had been within reach, I would have lit myself on fire.  Of course, many of my colleagues patted me on the back afterward extolling my bravery (albeit risky) and truth-telling.

Who cares if they’re happy? What does that have to do with anything? Everything. On life’s battleground of culture, leadership influence and environment affect others’ livelihoods, family-life, stress, and general health. Human beings live in the continuum of pain and pleasure.  Happy people perform better. Ask our friends at the Gallup organization. Have a look at Fortune’s top companies to work for.
·      Roughly 7 out of 10 people are disengaged at work – 6 out of 10 managers are disengaged.

·      81% of workers in the top Companies to work for rated their workplace as “Fun”
·      Fun (short-term “happiness” shocks) is best delivered in short and consistent doses.

·      Extrinsic and intrinsic happiness are indicative of productivity.
·      Happiness at work leads to 300% more innovation, 44% higher retention, and a 37% increase in sales (references below).

I guess the VP missed the opportunity to set the right tone for culture. Within 12 months, there was approximately 35% turn-over including me, my team, and several other “lucky ones.”
From the start:

·      Appreciate that people are humans first, and workers (“employees”) second – they remember how they feel more than they remember specific projects, details, and data.
·      Know that workplace happiness is not only “the right thing to do,” but that it has an impact on your bottom-line.

·      Engage and connect people with more fun. Get creative. Have a little fun yourself.
·      Who ever said work wasn’t supposed to be fun? Or that happiness isn’t a priority?  

Fun need not be an expensive scavenger hunt in Times Square, 36 holes of golf, or a paint-ball extravaganza in the woods. A little fun at work bonds people, enhances happiness neurochemical release, and positively impacts your bottom line. So ask yourself, “Are they happy?”
Fun is underrated. Happiness is everything.

TJ Jones is an author, speaker, coach and leadership crusader. He works with organizations, teams, individual experienced and emerging leaders to enhance their effectiveness and fulfillment. He is the author of the forthcoming book, “The Caring Warrior: Awaken Your Power to Lead, Influence and Inspire,” available November 2016. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Manager’s Guide to Preventing and Dealing with Workplace Conflict

Most people can handle just about any amount and type of work that comes their way. It’s not the work that puts them over the edge – its conflict with coworkers!

Conflict in the workplace – or anywhere - is inevitable. Conflict is part of being human. Some people are more comfortable with it than others, and some people tend to be “conflict carriers”.

Ultimately, it’s part of a manager’s job to deal with workplace conflict head-on. Ignoring it will only make matters worse, and will eventually impact team productivity, results, employee satisfaction, and the manager’s reputation.

Here are some ways to manage workplace conflict, so that little problems don’t fester into BIG problems:

1. Make the ability to collaborate an expectation. Establishing expectations start with the hiring process. Are you looking to hire lone wolfs, or employees that can collaborate with others? If it’s the latter, than you need to ask questions that uncover how well the candidate gets along with their co-workers. Look for red flag answers like, “Well, I have very high standards, and sometimes get frustrated with others if they don’t meet those standards”. Which often translates to: “I thought my co-workers were idiots and we fought like cats and dogs.”

Make the ability to collaborate a job expectation for all employees, reward it, and make it a condition for advancement. 
2. Recognize the difference between healthy and destructive conflict. Healthy conflict is making it OK to disagree, to debate the issue, challenge the process, and speak up. Destructive conflict is when it gets personal, gets in the way of working effectively, and has a negative impact on productivity, innovation, and ultimately, results.

3. Don’t ignore it – look for little signs that can turn into big problems. A manager needs to be having regular one-on-ones with all direct reports, as well as regular team meetings. These are the opportunities to ask questions, listen, and watch for subtle clues of unhealthy conflict. Most employees won’t want to tattle of their co-workers or be seen as a complainer – but you might pick up that they are going out of their way to work with another employee. Point out your observation, and ask why.

4. Be a role model with your peers. Many managers don’t understand the connection between how well they work with and talk about their fellow managers, and how well their own employees work together. Employees learn more from watching a manager’s behaviors than they do from what the manager says.

5. Learn a conflict resolution methodology. Most people shy away from conflict because it’s often messy and painful. If you’re not good at something, or you don’t like it, you’ll most likely avoid it.

However, if you learn and practice a consistent approach, you get good at it, and your world gets better as a result of dealing with it, then you’ll be more likely to seek out opportunities to deal with conflict.

I’d recommend taking a course in conflict management or reading a good book, like Crucial Conversations. A good course or book will give you a framework and set of tools, which gives you the confidence to confront conflict in a constructive, deliberate way. You’ll also be able to coach employees how to handle their own conflicts.

There are a lot of different conflict resolution models, but most of them have the following 5 elements:

            1. Stay calm and dealing with the emotions first
            2. State what is bothering you in a respectful and specific way
            3. Listen to the other person’s perspective for complete understanding
            4. Problem solving – look for root causes and win-win solutions
            5. Agree on actions to be taken, and making mutual commitments

Any new skill takes time and practice before we get comfortable with it. The important thing is to have the right intention – which is to resolve the conflict, not to punish the other person.

6. Help your employees with their conflicts. Once you’ve learned how to handle your own conflicts, you can help your employees deal with their conflicts. There are two ways to do this – teach them a methodology (or have them learn the same way you did) so that they can handle on their own. In fact, some managers and experts say this is the only approach a manager should take – that is, they should never get involved in a conflict between two of their employees. While I can see the value of encouraging employees to handle their own conflicts without having to “run to Dad or Mom”, I still think are times when a manager needs to step in.

However – it’s important that the manager doesn’t get caught in the middle by having individual conversations with each employee and trying to mediate. Instead, the manager should sit down with both employees and coach the employees through the conflict resolution process.

Learn to proactively eliminate destructive conflict and deal with it before it gets out of control and everyone will be able to focus on their work, and not get caught up in unproductive and stressful workplace drama.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Free Individual Development Plan (IDP) Template

The most popular post on this blog continues to be one of my first posts written in 2008 called How to Write a Great Individual Development Plan (IDP).

In one of the earlier versions of that post I had offered to send readers an IDP template. With the growth of my blog, the volume of requests got to be unmanageable so those requests now get an auto-response directing them to my eBook, which includes a copy of the template, along with a 9-Box Performance and Potential Grid.

For those of you that may have landed here as a result of a search, this post serves as another option for you. Consider it to be a menu of elements often found in IDPs and feel free to copy and paste it into your own template and adapt it as you please.

Individual Development Plan

Name: The employee’s name
Position: The employee’s current position
Department: The employee’s department, unit, or function
Location: City, country, building, etc…
Manager: The employee’s immediate manager
Time period: The development planning period, usually one year

Development Focus: Development in current role, preparation for a future role, or both

Potential Next Position(s): If applicable, list possible next positions, could be lateral or vertical

Top 3 Strengths: List the employee’s top 3 strengths, from last performance review or other assessments. It’s important to acknowledge strengths in a development discussion as they often can be used to help overcome development needs.

Top 3 Development Goals: Development goals are areas in which if strengthened, the employee’s performance would improve in their current role or they would help prepare the employee for potential future positions. They can come from performance reviews and/or other assessments. Organizations often use competency models and 360 assessments as a way to identity strengths and development needs.



See Top 12 Development Goals for Leaders for some examples.

Development Actions: This section is the heart of the development plan. It should include specific actions that will enable the employee to learn and practice skills related to their development goals or leverage their strength’s.
Development actions should include a combination of projects, assignments, courses, reading, learning from others, coaching, and mentoring.
Some development actions, like a stretch assignment, may end up addressing multiple development needs – in fact, they usually do.

Current Challenges: What challenges is the employee currently facing that would provide an opportunity to learn new skills tied to the development needs?

New Challenges: What new challenges will the employee be facing that would provide an opportunity to learn new skills tied to the development needs?

Ongoing Feedback: How can the employee receive ongoing feedback in order to check progress on development goals or identify new development needs?

Specific Tasks: Projects, stretch assignments, task forces, delegated responsibilities from the manager, etc…

Role Models, Coaches, and Mentors: Role models are other employees that the employee sees as highly skilled in the areas in which they to improve. Often, they may not be able to identify anyone, so the manager can be a resource in helping to identify subject matter experts.
Coaching can come from the manager, or an external executive coach.
Mentors are often other managers, sometimes 1-2 levels above the employee’s manager, who can provide career advice and assistance.



Timing: Start date for each action

Cost: cost, if any.

Desired results: List what will change or improve, and how the improvements will benefit the employee and the organization. When you take the time to discuss and document the benefits of development, it helps provide context and continuous motivation.

Notes on Progress, Lessons Learned: A development plan should be a living document that is discussed throughout the year and updated as needed. It’s important to track progress and adjust as needed. Use this space to make notes on progress or obstacles, and to reflect on lessons learned from completed development actions.

Start date of plan: when the first development action should start

Agreement — This plan is agreed to as indicated by the signatures below.

Plan Participant:                                 Date:   
Manager:                                             Date:

While it may seem overly formal, having the employee and manager sign the plan represents a two-way commitment.