Byron's Babbles

Neuroscience Savvy Leadership Practices

This guest post is an excerpt from The New Leadership Literacies (Johansen, 2017).

Neuroscience Savvy Leadership PracticesBy Bob Johansen

David Rock is the founder the Neuroleaderhip Institute in New York, the first research group that is integrating neuroscience and leadership principles. They are studying things like job performance.

They argue that many of the classic performance review systems trigger fight or flight mechanism in our brain and have exactly opposite effect from what we like to have. They draw upon neuroscience research and bridge to what they research means in a work environment.

David Rock’s book Your Brain at Work is a practical handbook for applying neuroscience lessons to specific daily work activities. Using detailed scenarios from days in the life of a young working couple, he makes the research practical. For example:

“I noticed a surprising pattern while putting this book together. I saw that there are five domains of social experience that your brain treats the same as survival issues. These domains form a model, which I call the SCARF model, which stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness. The model describes the interpersonal primary rewards or threats that are important to the brain.”

The SCARF model suggests that, in order to be balanced and productive, our brains need to feel a sense of status, some certainty that provides grounding, autonomy to for self strength, balanced with a sense of relatedness to others, and finally a sense of fairness in the system. Without these brain balance basics, we feel sapped of energy.

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About Bob Johansen:

Bob Johansen is a distinguished fellow with the Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley. For more than 30 years, Bob has helped organizations around the world prepare for and shape the future, including corporations such as P&G, Walmart, McKinsey, United Rentals, and Syngenta, as well as major universities and nonprofits.
The author or co-author of ten books, Bob is a frequent keynote speaker. His best-selling book Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present was selected as one of the top business books of 2007. His latest book is The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a Future of Extreme Disruption and Distributed Everything discusses five new leadership literacies—combinations of disciplines, practices, and worldviews—that will be needed to thrive in a VUCA world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. 

 
 

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Wildly Adaptive

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 12.41.40 PMToday, during our first Harvard University Learning Innovation Lab (LILA) session of the year we discussed many of the commonalities of what is going on in the worlds of all the members of our consortium of leading researchers and practitioners in the field of organizational learning and change. Our theme for the year is “Emergence in Organizations.” During our discussion the phrase “wildly adaptive” really resonated with me. I have always been a person who believes in and strives to practice adaptive leadership, but the thought of being wildly adaptive struck a chord.

We need to remember that we do not have to be, or need to hold ourselves, or those organizations or individuals we lead to a certain niche or existing reality. As humans, we are designed with the ability to think through situations and conclude that the current reality is not sufficient. It is easy to be complacent and stay in a state if status quo for a long period of time. We need, however, to pay attention to the contexts and environments in which we lead for changes that should be triggering us to adapt or lead a wildly adaptive change. FullSizeRender 4

To master adaptive change we must help people to learn new ways, change behavior, achieve new understandings, and see the world through new filters. We and those we lead must do all of these things in a collective and collaborative way. This topic has caused me to reflect on a meeting on Graduation Pathways I chaired this week where the comment was made, “The pathways already exist we just need to find a way to make them work in a new graduation pathways structure.” This reminded me that we must not always look to make wholesale or technical changes but must also be adaptive.

Let’s remember to practice adaptive leadership with our initiatives as they are happening to understand how today’s turns in the road will affect tomorrow’s plans.

 

 

8 Tips for Riding the Mood Elevator

MoodElevator-Floors-LarrySenn 2This is a guest post from Larry Senn:

The Mood Elevator is an illustration of the human condition; it is our moment-to-moment experience of life. We all ride the Mood Elevator every day, take a moment and identify what floor you are on right now.

The Mood Elevator map is based on my own experience, as well as input from hundreds of groups and tens of thousands of people who have attended seminars that Senn Delaney, the culture shaping firm has put on over the past few decades.

Look at the top of the Mood Elevator and think of the times you’re more likely to be at those levels. It could be when you hug your children at the end of the day, it could be spending quality time with your significant other, or it could be when you accomplish something at work. We all, of course, would love to live on the higher levels but that’s just not realistic. As part of the human condition we will experience loss, stress, financial insecurity and other events that will cause us to drop down to depression, anger, and stress.51zlHThxx6L._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_

In my new book The Mood Elevator, I provide a variety of tips and tools that will help you better understand your human dashboard as well as help you navigate the daily up and down ride of the Mood Elevator.

Here are 8 tips to help you better ride The Mood Elevator:

  1. Know that to be human means you will ride the Mood Elevator and visit each and every floor. Don’t expect to live at the top of the Mood Elevator all of the time, cut yourself some slack when you drop down.
  2. Learn to recognize the feelings that accompany any unhealthy normal thinking or thought patterns, and make them a loud bell. When you start experiencing feelings like: impatience, anger, anxiety, excessive intensity, neediness, disconnection, and self-righteousness it’s a good indication that you’re sliding down the Mood Elevator. When you recognize this, you can take some corrective action to avoid an unhealthy normal.
  3. Use pattern interrupts to change your thinking and your feelings. Pattern interrupts are anything healthy tactics that can help you escape your spiraling negative thoughts. They can include exercise, calling a good friend, watching a funny YouTube video, or getting a good night sleep.
  4. Feed the thoughts you favor, not those that drop you to the lower floors on the Mood Elevator. If you find yourself reminiscing on a negative event in the past, or fixating on a mistake you made at work or might make at work in the future- recognize that your thoughts are going negative. You can identify your thoughts based on your feelings, if you’re feeling worried- it’s probably because you’re having worried thoughts. Use a pattern interrupt or think about something you are grateful for to break that train of thought.
  5. Take better care of yourself and remember to stretch and recover with exercise, sleep, and time off. We are more likely to catch colds if we are run down physically, and we are also more likely to catch bad moods when we are run down physically. Exercise has many mood boosting benefits and eating the right foods can help keep our energy levels up which improves our moods. Have you ever noticed how life can look so much better after a good night sleep? Getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night can drastically help us stay up the Mood Elevator.
  6. Maintain a gratitude perspective, count your blessings daily and be grateful for life itself. Even when life doesn’t look as good as we would like it to, there are always things to be grateful for. Those who choose to look at life with gratitude are happier than those who don’t. Try starting a gratitude practice by making a daily list of what you are grateful for.
  7. Remember that your thinking is unreliable in the lower mood states; delay important conversations and decisions; don’t act on your unreliable thinking, and don’t take your lower mood state out on other people.
  8. Have faith that when you are down the Mood Elevator; this too shall pass-just like the weather. The sun is always up there; the clouds can obscure it, but they will pass as will your low mood.

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About Dr. Larry Senn

Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator (August 2017), the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator. You can learn more about Larry and his work at his website, www.themoodelevator.com.

 

 

 

Growth Vs. A Fixed Mindset

MoodElevator-Floors-LarrySennThe following is a guest post by Dr. Larry Senn:

The Mood Elevator is an illustration of the human condition; it is our moment-to-moment experience of life. We all ride the Mood Elevator every day, take a moment and identify what floor you are on right now.

Of course, the goal is to stay at the top of the Mood Elevator more often and there are some techniques that can help you do that. Most of those tricks involve a switch in thinking and changing your perspective.

One of those perspective shifts is focusing on having a growth mindset versus having a fixed mindset. This was researched by Carol Dweck and written about extensively in her book called Mindset. In her writing she explains that if someone has a fixed mindset they believe that their intelligence and talents are fixed traits and they won’t get any better. Compare that to someone with a growth mindset who believes that they can always improve through hard work and dedication. They believe they can always be learning something new and where they are right now doesn’t need to be where they are forever.

This growth mindset can help tremendously in getting you out of the basement of the Mood Elevator. Let’s take a look at the bottom floors and see how you might apply this:

Impatient/frustrated: Let’s say you’re stuck in traffic or waiting for your turn at the DMV. Most people will sit there frustrated at the time wasted waiting, but if you take on a growth mindset you could be catching up on reading that article or listening to that podcast that you claim you never have time for.

Irritated/bothered: When you’re working from home or doing chores around the house and your child keeps bugging you to listen to a story they want to tell you or to go play with them outside- instead of going to irritation or bother, take 5 minutes and listen to them or play with them, you never know what you might learn about them (or yourself) in that short time.

Worried/anxious: Imagine your boss just asked you to take on a new project you’ve never done before and you’re worried you’ll mess it up. Instead think about all that you’ll learn by doing this and how you can translate that to your next project and you might even be able to add a new skill to your resume.

Defensive/insecure: Many of us tend to shut down or get defensive when we’re offered constructive criticism. Instead, take a deep breath, set your ego aside, and look at it through the growth mindset lens. Focus on what you can learn from it and how you can improve.

Judgmental/blaming: Your spouse is driving and is taking (in your eyes) the “wrong way” to the restaurant you’re having dinner. Instead of immediately telling them how wrong they are, don’t give unsolicited advice and just relax. You might learn a new and faster way to your favorite restaurant.

Self-righteous: When you’re talking with a friend and they say something wrong about a current event happening (at least in your head it’s wrong). Instead of pointing that out to them, you might ask why they see it that way. Part of growing it hearing new perspectives on things, and again you’ll probably learn something new.

Stressed/burned out: Stressed with an upcoming deadline at work? Chances are this isn’t the first deadline you’ve been stressed about. Think back to a time this happened before and remember how you grew from it and what you learned.

Angry/hostile: Is someone you know being rude or mean towards you? Instead of getting angry back at them, try asking them how they’re doing. You might learn something they’re going through and you’ll grow more as an empathetic person.

Depressed: If you’re going through something that is tough and seems unfair, ask yourself “why is this happening for me?” instead of “why is this happening to me?” You probably have a great growth opportunity or a blessing in disguise coming out of this tough situation. Focus on how you can grow from it instead of sitting in the discomfort.

51zlHThxx6L._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_Changing floors on our Mood Elevator is a matter of simply changing the way we think or having a change in perspective. It is simple, but by no means easy. It will take time to start automatically thinking like this but with enough time it will come!

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About Dr. Larry Senn
Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator (August 2017), the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator. You can learn more about Larry and his work at his website, www.themoodelevator.com.

Leading Like A Platypus 

We need to be able to form our organizations to be platypus-like. Think about this: platypus; a new ‘critter’ combined of various parts to accomplish a specific task. This morning I read Lesson #46 entitled “The Nose Knows” in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart. In this story Stewart explained the platypus and what we can learn from this amazing animal. Here is what my own study and reflection revealed after being inspired by this story.

Without a doubt, a cool animal to act as a leadership example is the duck-billed platypus. It appeals to my nonconformist instincts because it breaks so many rules of biology. Consider this: the platypus has a flat, rubbery bill, no teeth, and webbed feet, like a duck. Yet it has a furry body and beaverlike tail, and nurses its young like a mammal. But wait; it walks with a lizard gait and lays leathery eggs like a reptile! And the male can use venomous hind-leg spurs to strike like a snake. The platypus holds a certain charm precisely because it does break all the rules. Somehow or other, it still works as an animal.

“Your ‘unconventional’ skill set may be exactly what your challenges call for.” ~ John Parker Stewart 

Since flaps cover its eyes, ears, and nose, how can the platypus find food? Its bill is equipped with sensitive electroreceptors, pinpointing prey like shrimp and crayfish (by sensing muscle contractions in it’s prey) as the platypus digs through mud and pebbles. With its catch stored in cheek pouches, the platypus comes up to the surface to grind the food between its toothless jaws.img_2189-1

We need to learn from the platypus and challenge the norm. Regardless of what people thought in the 1700s, and as we know today, the platypus is not the result of different parts of the otter, beaver, and duck sewn together. Yes, when one platypus was sent from Australia to Britain, scientists could not believe that the species existed. Thus, be like a platypus and be who you are regardless of any judgement or criticism; be true to your unique self.

We need to build our organizations to be platypus-like and develop a model for collaboration where we assist our team members with varying and unconventional skills in developing boundary-spanning behaviors which in turn make our organizations effective for our states and nations.

Harmonic Leadership

Today I read Lesson #44 entitled “Harmonic Persistence” in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart. In this story Stewart described how Alexander Graham Bell did not just sit back and coast on the life of being born into to an influencial and affluent family. He had a drive for innovating and inventing. From a very young age he had the drive to create things that would make the world a better place. 

During my own research on Bell today I found that he was an early student of sound. In his early 20s, Bell himself taught deaf children to speak and gave speech lessons at schools in his community. This is further proof of not only his drive to make the world a better place, but his persistent quest for innovating. 

I am sure that Bell was certainly influenced by his surroundings, but his obsessive interest in science and unyielding work ethic impelled him to become a great inventor. He spent his time exploring, experimenting and devising ways to improve existing technologies and people’s everyday lives. When he was 12, Bell built a corn de-husking machine for a local miller who had complained that manual de-husking was laborious and time consuming.

“A man, as a general rule, owes very little to what he is born with — a man is what he makes of himself.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

Like many innovators, Bell indulged all of his passions. If he had an interest, he explored it. Doesn’t this sound like what great leaders do? In fact his varied interests often led to new inventions. His success with minor mechanical inventions like the de-husker and his understanding of the way ventriloquism and music manipulate sound all led to his eventual creation of the telephone.
While Bell is best known for his telephone invention, he worked on hundreds of projects throughout his life and received a number of patents in various fields.

After developing what he called the harmonic telegraph, Bell developed an acoustic telegraph (one that transmitted vocal notes) and embarked upon a patent race with Elisha Gray, who was working on an acoustic telegraph that relied on a water transmitter. The two got their patent applications in on the same date in 1876, but Bell won the patent, leading many to claim he stole Gray’s design. Critics not only tore apart Bell’s successes, they also celebrated his failures. As leaders and innovators we mid be ready for the critics. They will be there. Bell did not let this distract him. In fact it motivated him.  

It amazes me that Bell’s notebooks are still available for public consultation. Researchers believe his early ideas may still hold clues that can help provide the solutions for modern technological problems. Is that not the ultimate legacy to leave behind?

As leaders we need to stay laser focused and be persistent on bringing about harmonic and persistent innovation and growth in our organizations and those we serve. 

Hands On & Hands In Leadership

While doing my doctoral dissertation I had the occasion to do an in-depth review of the academic and practical literature on leadership. Make no mistake it is impossible to read it all. There have been tens of thousands of books written on leadership and there are several academic journals devoted entirely to the subject. The task of reviewing the leadership literature, and acting on it as leader, isn’t to understand it all (that is impossible). It is up to us, as leaders, to develop a point of view on the few themes that matter most.

One of the phrases that has always stuck with me from my leadership studies is from the brilliant Warren Bennis. He said, “Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing.” Furthermore, in Learning to Lead: A Workbook on Becoming a Leader he asserted, “There is a profound difference between management and leadership, and both are important. To manage means to bring about, to accomplish, to have charge of or responsibility for, to conduct. Leading is influencing, guiding in a direction, course, action, opinion. The distinction is crucial.” I believe there is a distinction between leadership and management, but I also believe that the best leaders do something that might properly be called a mix of leadership and management. 

Lesson #42 entitled “The Right Job, Done Right” in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader by John Parker Stewart really drove home the fact that we must make sure the tasks we are doing are the best use of our and our team’s time. Being efficient does not mean anything if we are not doing the right things, or more importantly, things that matter. Remember, the content matters more than the form. 

So, to be a great leader I would argue we need to understand what it takes to do things right, and to make sure they actually get done. It’s really a balance of mastering seeing the big picture and selecting the right strategies. I always say my job is to know what to have my hands on and what to have my hands in. 

I Have Paid For An Education With My Mistakes

This past week was one of my favorite weeks of the year. I spent the week at the Boone County Fair (Lebanon, Indiana) showing Jersey dairy cows with my son. This is incredible dad and lad time. The county fair is the time of year when I get to see friends and visit with former students. It is great to catch up. One visit I look forward to every year is with Andy Clark, a Lebanon graduate I had in many classes and one of my favorites and great ones. This year, like clock work, Andy showed up with his wife and kids and we sat at our dairy stalls and talked for a couple of hours. I blogged about last year’s visit in “Matching School Work To Real Work.” Click here to read that post. 

During our conversation this year I was struck by his comment of “I Have Paid For An Education With My Mistakes.” This is the true mindset of a lifelong learner and someone who has a growth mindset. Andy supplies chopped hay and straw to Fair Oaks Dairy in northern Indiana as part of his farming operation. We talked a lot about how he learns, researches, experiments, and iterates to make his operation successful, efficient, and profitable. I could not be prouder of what Andy has accomplished and the great leader he has become.

Andy really gets what it means to be continually learning and to work toward continual improvement. He is an example of what we must be making sure we prepare our students to be ready for. As we work in Indiana to create worthwhile graduation pathways we must make sure we are providing the correct avenues for students, like Andy, who are going straight into he workforce with careers. Research shows that students are nervous about making any mistakes — but with a little encouragement by teachers, they begin to take risks, and growth by leaps and bounds. On the other hand, other students who were so anxious about making mistakes they would not take any risks at all, and the research showed their anxiety slowed the process of their learning.

Mistakes play a powerful role in learning, as well as the huge influence that the teacher’s attitude and feedback play on a child’s perspective on mistakes. We need to help students become comfortable with mistakes and help them learn how to grow from them. This is difficult to do for some because despite the fact that making mistakes seems to be a part of who we are, mistakes are still not readily accepted. We act like they didn’t happen. We blame someone else. We feel embarrassed. But this isn’t how mistakes should be viewed — especially in schools. I would assert that Andy should be an example for adults, too.

I would argue whether you are a grown adult or are a school age child and you don’t make any mistakes, then you aren’t really learning anything new. School, especially, is the one place that’s all about learning. It’s the one place where mistakes should be not only accepted, but expected.

Why should mistakes be an expected part of learning? If students, who then become our workforce, entrepreneurs, and future leaders, don’t learn early on how to handle them on their own, if they are regularly rescued by well-meaning teachers and parents, then they won’t develop the skills needed to tackle difficult things or bounce back from setbacks. Skills like perseverance and gumption. 

Despite the rhetoric around mistakes being necessary for learning, I believe it is rare that you truly see mistakes embraced and celebrated as learning opportunities. We must learn from individuals like Andy that learning from mistakes is an important part of being successful. In most schools, “success” is defined as getting high marks on tests, with results (and minimal or no mistakes) mattering more than the process of learning or the process of getting to the answer. And when the results aren’t good? Students feel embarrassed or shamed. We need to change this. 

We must create environments in our schools, businesses, and organizations where everyone see mistakes not as impenetrable roadblocks, but rather as a natural part of the learning process. Have you received an education from your mistakes? 

Living & Leading Like A Lobster

As a believer in lifelong learning, I believe we must all find ways to expand and grow. As leaders, it is also one of our most important duties to provide these opportunities for others. Otherwise we become stunted and are not able to grow as a person or professional. In Lesson #33, “Lobsters and Egos,” in 52 Leadership Lessons: Timeless Stories For The Modern Leader, author John Parker Stewart points out that we can learn from the lobster. 

Additionally, Stewart pointed out that we can use the stress and discomfort of growing and learning to help us cast off the old and make way for the new; just as the lobster goes through a process called ecdysis. Stewart also compared the lobster’s shell to our egos. Here is my spin on what I learned from this story:

As the lobster grows its hard shell begins not to fit. If the lobster does not get rid of this shell growth will be stunted. Therefore, the lobster goes deep among the rocks and finds a safe place to go through this molting process of losing the old shell and growing a new one that fits. Obviously the lobster is very vulnerable during this time. Just as Stewart compares this to our ego during times of learning, trying or taking on new things, or taking on new and expanded responsibilities. Furthermore, just as the lobster must shed its shell, we must drop our ego and become vulnerable to learning and growing. 

Think of it this way: times of stress, learning, growth, and times of questioning the old ways are the stimulus for growth. The rigid shell of old ways of responding needs to be cast off to produce new ways of responding and being.

The good news about your friendly lobster is that when the new shell is in place the lobster is, once again, strong and can go do whatever lobsters do in the ocean. I really believe that being uncomfortable and having some are the best ways to learn. This is a good signal that it’s time to learn and grow. Break free from outdated patterns and find new meaning in your career and life. As leaders we must do this for ourselves and provide this for those we lead. We must, however, provide the safe place, just as the lobster finds for itself during ecdysis, for our people to do this learning.

Are you making space for healthy and adventurous way to live, learn, and grow for yourself and your team?

Inspiration of Herbert Hoover Leadership

Today, my family and I had the privilege of visiting the Hoover Historic Site in his birthplace of West Branch, Iowa. The historic site is well done with the home Herbert Hoover was born in, his dad’s blacksmith shop, his one room schoolhouse, the Quaker Meeting House, and many other buildings set to the time of his birth on August 10, 1874. He was born in a two-room cottage and could have been any small town boy. Orphaned at age nine, he left West Branch, never to live here again. 

We also visited the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa, and we took the opportunity to learn some leadership lessons from our 31st president. Values learned in his hometown of rural West Branch guided Herbert Hoover throughout his life of service to the nation and the world.

Herbert Hoover was President during the early years of the Great Depression, others may know him as a complex public servant, the “Great Humanitarian” whose career spanned a remarkable seven decades. A graduate of the Pioneer Class of Stanford University, Hoover became a successful mining engineer before organizing relief programs for the starving victims of World War I.

Herbert Hoover was a man of action. When he saw a need, he took action to meet it; when he saw a wrong, he did his best to rectify it. Hoover didn’t wait to see if someone else would take care of it – he recognized need and took initiative to resolve it. Hoover was a responsive leader.

In addition to being responsive, Hoover was also understanding and compassionate. Though later in life he became a millionaire, Hoover was born into poverty and orphaned as a young boy. It was only through hard work and determination that he was able to make a better life for himself. Because of his personal experience with poverty and hardships as a boy, Hoover empathized with the less fortunate. Turning his attention to the woes of the world, Hoover used his wealth and influence to become an international humanitarian; under his charge, millions of starving men, women and children were fed and lives saved.

As Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, he helped to create safer highways and aircraft, better health care for children, and the standardization of commercial products. And, in 1927, he mustered a fleet of 600 boats and 60 airplanes to rescue 325,000 Americans who were left homeless during the catastrophic Mississippi River flood.

“There is no joy to be had from retirement, except in some type of productive work. Otherwise you degenerate into talking to everybody about your pains and pills. The point is not to retire from work or you will shrivel up into a nuisance to all mankind.” ~ Herbert Hoover

President Truman chose Hoover to help the hungry people of Europe at the end of World War II, and he spent his “retirement” years as an amazingly prolific author, speaker, and government adviser. Continuing his life-long desire to help needy children, he also served as chairman of the Boys’ Clubs of America, helping to open 500 new chapters throuhgout the United States.
Hoover really never retired. I admire him for that. Hoover really understood that significance is much more important than success. With success leaders add value to themselves. Make no mistake we have to work toward success innour careers, but I believe significance comes when you add value to others—and you can’t have true success without significance.  Hoover truly worked toward significance, where he asked himself, “What else is there in life beyond professional, political, and monetary success? He, in my opinion, made the world a better place. 

It also strikes me how Hoover did not make ideological differences personal. He always said to attack the problems and differences, not the person. We need to take this lesson and apply it to our world today. Especially in the field I am in of education. We always make differences so personal. We all want the same ends for our children; we just have different means by which to get there. 

As you can see there are many leadership lessons to take from the historical leadership playbook of Herbert Hoover. What areas do you want to work on? What would you like to have as a legacy for your family and country? How does Herbert Hoover’s life inspire you?