mindfulness

I’m on my way to a client meeting. After inching through traffic and driving around and around looking for a parking space, I’m now walking towards her office. I take out my mobile, glance at the screen and put it back in my pocket. But…what time is it? I get my mobile out again, read a Whatsapp that I’ve just received, and put it back.  Hang on, what time was it? I check my phone yet again and see that I’ve got ten minutes spare.

I start going over my notes from our last meeting, but suddenly remember I was supposed to call the painter. While dialing I fumble in my pocket for a coin for the vending machine. With the rush this morning I didn’t have time for breakfast and my stomach is grumbling. Phone jammed against my shoulder, I stir my coffee and push the button for some biscuits which promptly get stuck. I give the machine a hard nudge to make the biscuits fall, but only manage to spill my coffee, drop the phone and crack the screen. What a disaster!

Stress affects our work, family and health

Home at last, worn out from an exhausting day, I’m longing to relax. But not a chance! My 8 year-old son comes crying because he’s just fallen, and his 10 year-old brother wants me to help him revise for an exam tomorrow. Meanwhile, my wife grabs her bag and announces that she’s on her way out to dinner with some friends (“I told you. Don’t you remember?”). My stomach is starting to churn,  my head is starting to throb and I think out loud, “What did I do to deserve this?”

Sound familiar? Lack of concentration; failed multitasking; unexpected situations that overwhelm you… It happens to all of us.  It all adds up to stress that over time can seriously affect our physical and mental wellbeing.

Retrain your brain

Faced with the challenges that every day brings, our thought patterns are often unhelpful. According to an article from the US National Science Foundation, 80% of our daily thoughts are negative, and 95% are repetitive and identical to those of the previous day. And in the words of Mahatma Gandhi:“A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes”.

So, what can we do? Retrain our brains of course! As Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Nobel prize winner for Medicine, once said: “If we try, we can all can become sculptors of our brains”. Neuroplasticity is the term neurologists use for the capacity our brain has to evolve if we train and stimulate it in certain manner.

So how can I retrain my brain? A simple and effective way  to do this is via the practice of Mindfulness or full attention. Mindfulness is a type of body and mind training that helps reduce stress, boost concentration, and improve our wellbeing. It’s all about focusing our attention in a non-judgmental way on the present moment. Our goal is to calmly decide on the correct course of action and avoid getting carried away by automatic responses.

Address your daily challenges more effectively with Mindfulness

Mindfulness can help us work more effectively on our daily challenges—whatever they may be.  It helps us to regulate our emotions, get things in perspective and take better decision, for instance. Like a ‘steroid’ for the mind, mindfulness allows  us to find the best versions of ourselves and boost our performance. Incredibly, as outlined in the Harvard Business Review, researchers from the University of British Columbia showed that Mindfulness can literally change our brains and even increase the density of our grey matter.

From Ronaldo, Federer and Madonna to Elon Musk and LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner, many sports stars, artists and entrepreneurs have incorporated Mindfulness and meditation techniques into their daily routines. As Bill Gates says, “I now see that meditation is simply exercise for the mind, similar to the way we exercise our muscles when we play sports. It’s about taking a few minutes out of my day, learning how to pay attention to the thoughts in my head, and gaining a little bit of distance from them”.

Mindfulness in the workplace

But how can I do this in the office (which is where I most need it!)? Easy!

Although Mindfulness is “a recent science”, it is based on age-old techniques of meditation. You don’t need to shut yourself away in a monastery to practise it, however! Simple meditation or full attention exercises are all you need to do to enjoy the benefits of Mindfulness.

In recent years, firms such as Google, SAP, Apple, Bosch, Goldman Sachs—even the Bank of England and the US military—have been using Mindfulness to improve work performance, as described in this report by the Boston Consulting Group. Likewise, 64% of 102 firms certified as Top Employers in Spain have already launched Mindfulness programmes.

Practise Mindfulness with the STOP Exercise

If you want to practise a simple Mindfulness technique that you can do anywhere, try the STOP Exercise. You only need a couple of minutes to do it – just find a quiet place and follow these steps:

S: Stop.

T: Take some deep breaths: Breathe in; Breathe out.

O: Observe yourself. How do you feel? What emotion are you feeling? What thoughts come to your mind? How does your body feel?

P: Proceed. Continue doing what you were doing before performing this consciousness exercise.

You’ll see that investing just two minutes of your time in this way will make you feel calmer and better able to choose the appropriate response to the situation you are facing. Practised regularly, Mindfulness can strengthen our capacity to adapt to change and learn new things. It makes our minds more agile and helps us find answers within ourselves. Vaccinate yourself against stress with Mindfulness!

Finally, we can’t solve all your problems, but we can promise that an introductory session of Mindfulness in the workplace will set you on the right path to finding solutions that work for you!

 

 

dar y recibir feedback, give and receive feedback

I saw her coming from the back of the room. She had looked disengaged throughout my presentation. Try as I might to stir up the audience, a disquieting air of Sunday sermon had slowly but surely crept over my talk on diversity. And now my boss was making a beeline in my direction.

“Can I give you some feedback?” she said when she reached me.

“Hell no!” I thought. “Of course you can” I replied brightly, bracing myself. Maybe she could enlighten me as to how and when I had lost my initially enthusiastic audience. It sure as hell wasn’t going to be a fun conversation.

I am not alone in welcoming feedback about as much as a visit to the dentist. Receiving “constructive” feedback is something most of us struggle with.

And yet, leadership experts and successful business people the world over seem to unite around the words of Daniel Goleman, best-selling author of “Emotional Intelligence”, who famously asserted that “feedback is the breakfast of champions”. But what do the real champions have to say about that?

Feedback, key ingredient to success for word-class athletes

Acclaimed tennis champion Rafael Nadal, who boasts no fewer than 19 Grand Slam victories, still seeks constant feedback. Says Nadal: “It’s important to have people around you with enough confidence to say if you are acting in a good way. Normally, when you are at the top, people say everything is fantastic. Probably in that moment it is what you want to hear, but it’s best to be reminded how to act properly.”

Similarly, world number 1 tennis champ Selena Williams surrounds herself with a team to help her in all aspects of her game: “I tell my coach and my image team, don’t tell me what I’m doing right. I want to hear what I’m doing wrong so I can improve and become better”.

The world famous All Blacks rugby team also embraces frank feedback as a key ingredient to success. Win or lose, following each match, every player watches the recording  of their individual performance before a team review to discuss performance. Following their shock defeat to England in the 2019 World Cup, coach Steve Hansen said, “I don’t think you gain anything by not looking at it (failure) closely. You might think you’ll feel better, but you really don’t. The only way to move on is to be clear in your mind what the solutions are. That’s a mindset we’ve always had as an All Black group”.

“Aha!” I hear you say. “So feedback for breakfast = victory. And back in the world of business, I can tell it like it is to my colleagues. And of course, the more we need to learn, the more we welcome feedback, right?” Well no actually!

What type of feedback works best?

However, according to a study by the Journal of Consumer Research, “Tell Me What I did Wrong: Experts Seek and Respond to Negative Feedback”, we need to be careful about what breakfast we are dishing up to whom. The study reveals that how people react to feedback depends on their level of knowledge and experience. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people just starting out, or with less knowledge, are more likely to prefer positive comments. For this group, positive feedback is an important tool to build confidence and reinforce the desired behavior. Sometimes constructive feedback can trigger defensiveness and excuses rather than reflection and progress. Take a look at Nadal and Federer talking with Fabio Fognini in the 2019 Laver Cup.

On the other hand, people who are experts on a subject tend to be more open to hearing negative feedback and advice. Just compare Roger Federer taking on board the advice of friend and rival Nadal to snatch victory during the same tournament. For experienced veterans, negative feedback is important to advance and move their skills to the next level. As Nadal says: “Even if I have already peaked, I have to believe I can improve. I wake up every day and go to practise with the belief that I’m going to get better that day.”

So champions present and future should welcome feedback, but how should we dish it up?

The truth is that while positive feedback can motivate people to continue to do what they are doing well and gain confidence, negative feedback delivered in the right way and with the right people can generate powerful change. We’re talking different strokes for different folks—bacon and eggs and waffles for some, just a quick coffee for others.

Apart from balancing praise and criticism, we need to deliver our feedback with care—particularly when it’s negative. And while receiving feedback doesn’t always feel great (sometimes triggering the brain’s defense mechanisms), giving it doesn’t always feel much better.

Quick Feedback model

So to help you successfully serve your feedback, here’s a simple four-part formula recommended by LeeAnn Renninger, TED speaker, social psychologist and author

  1. Obtain the ‘micro-yes’: Begin by asking the other person for permission to give them some feedback. For example: “Do you have five minutes to talk about how that last meeting went?”
  2. Give your data point: Describe specifically what you saw or heard, avoiding any language that is not objective. For example: Instead of saying, “You need to be more reliable”, say, “You said you’d deliver the report by 12 and I still don’t have it yet”.
  3. Show impact: Explain exactly how your data point impacted you. For example: “Because I didn’t get the report on time, I couldn’t move forward with my work”.
  4. End on a question: Excellent givers of feedback end with a question to involve the other person. For example: “This is how I see it. What do you think?” Or “ I think one way around this could be X or Y. What do you think?” Renninger believes that finishing with a question like this helps build commitment rather than simple compliance.

Practise giving feedback

Finally, whether you’re a budding world champion or you make the best coffee in the office, it’s clear we can all benefit from effective feedback to be more successful. So, start putting these tips into practice and you’ll soon start to feel more comfortable and see the results. Bon appetit!

And as for the feedback from my boss? Well I learned from my boss that I need to use a little more intonation and smile a bit more to keep my audience engaged. Actually pretty useful tips for next time around!

If you’d like to learn more on giving and receiving feedback with the help of our expert coaches, then sign up for our new Skills Pill SMART objectives & Giving feedback.

 

 

líder, leadership, team , decisions, líder, equipo, decisiones

On 13 January 1982 Air Florida Flight 90 from Washington D.C. to Fort Lauderdale crashed into the Potomac river, killing 74 people.  As often occurs in airplane crashes, human error played a major part in this avoidable disaster.  In this case, it was down to poor communication between Captain Larry Wheaton and his First Officer Roger Pettit.

Crash investigators listening to the cockpit conversations between Wheaton and Pettit heard the following final exchange:

First Officer Pettit          God, look at that thing. That doesn’t seem right, does it? Uh, that’s not right.

Captain Wheaton           Yes it is…

First Officer Pettit          No, I don’t think that’s right. Ah, maybe it is.

And moments later:

First Officer Pettit          Larry, we’re going down Larry.

Captain Wheaton           I know it.

So what went wrong?

What exactly happened in the cockpit of Flight 90 that day? First Officer Pettit clearly saw something on an instrument that didn’t look right to him, but quickly deferred to the greater experience of his captain. Unfortunately, he was right and his captain was wrong – a classic example of how members of teams often ‘follow the leader’. And how leaders often fail to see how their perceived status and expertise can influence those around them.

Research indicates that ‘follow the leader’ is not confined to air travel. It frequently occurs in hospitals, where nurses often defer to the instructions of senior doctors, even when all their experience and knowledge tells them that the doctor can’t be right. And, of course, it happens in offices with managers and their team members.

Good leaders know when to keep quiet

Managers need to be aware that team members often stay silent and follow their leaders. Good leaders know that an important part of their job is asking for and listening to the opinions of others . They need to create an environment where people feel comfortable giving their points of view. In offices where managers do not receive or listen to this input, poor decisions and avoidable errors quickly multiply. Two pairs of eyes are always likely to see more than a single pair.

Great leaders have never been afraid to surround themselves with the best and brightest talent available – or with people who may disagree with them. Managers, then, should not see collaborative leadership as a threat to their authority, but rather as the mark of a competent and confident leader. And it also happens to be the best way of getting most decisions right!

Discover how to be a great leader with our leadership development learning suite.

Feedback

Every evening the owner of the restaurant asked me and the rest of the regulars: ‘How was your meal?’ And despite the slow service, cold food and mistaken orders, every evening we lied and replied: ‘Very good, thank you.’ When the restaurant went out of business at the end of the year, the owner was mystified. ‘I just can’t understand it!’ he exclaimed.”Whenever I asked you and the rest of the regulars for feedback, you all always said, ‘It’s great, thank you.’

Sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind and tell people what you really think. After all, it’s hard to get better at anything if no one tells you where you are going wrong. But most of us don’t enjoy receiving feedback, unless it’s entirely positive! Participants on our courses, for example, are always invited to give us their comments. Although the positive comments far outnumber the negative, it’s the less favourable ones that stick in the mind and help us improve! Without these, we’d never know what people really think and would run the risk of going out of business just like my mystified restaurant owner.

Feedback is a gift

And feedback, of course, doesn’t always need to be solicited. It’s quite alright to offer friends and colleagues unsolicited feedback, as long as the reason for it is a genuine desire to help the other improve. Just remember to follow these rules:

  1. Be immediate: The best time to give feedback is as soon as possible after the event.
  1. Be direct, but not rude: Tell people clearly what you think –this is not rude, it’s honest.
  1. Focus on something fixable: Don’t ask the impossible (No pidas peras al olmo).
  1. Offer specific suggestions: Make sure the other person knows exactly what they can do to improve.

So, the next time I see someone in need of some honest feedback, I’m going for it. Be cruel to be kind! I don’t want to be responsible for closing any more restaurants!

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, then why not sign up for our new Skills Pills workshop: SMART Objectives and Giving Feedback ?