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Authentic Leadership For Progress, Peace And Prosperity

This post is a report from the December 5, 2018 Forbes.com article Authentic Leadership for Peace and Prosperity. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview to air on January 29, 2019 with Dr. Gama Perruci, Dr. Sadhana Warty Hall, and Dr. Karen Ford, Evidence Based Practices for Leadership Development. This interview is particularly important because companies are investing large amounts of money and time to build strong leaders and some programs provide much better returns than others. Programs that teach leaders to be better leaders rather than those that teach leader about leadership provide different results. Programs that offer 1. strong frameworks (including the knowledge of how context and culture play a role in leading and following), 2. teach leaders to become more self-aware, and 3. perform better using the new frameworks and self-awareness provide the highest returns. The interview is part of our partnership with the International Leadership Association to bring you the latest and most relevant leadership information.

The following section is from Forbes. I am keenly interested in understanding how leaders progress their business agendas as well as the global agenda in times of significant geopolitical shifts. I attended the International Leadership Association’s conference, Authentic Leadership for Progress, Peace & Prosperity, in West Palm Beach, Florida, where keynote speakers, academics, award recipients and leaders across industries and the globe discussed their perspectives on the subject. This article summarizes my key takeaways.

With 39 countries represented at the conference, the focus on the volume, complexity and rate of change in the current climate continued to inform the conversations. So too did the political landscape, particularly the disillusionment with democracy and the move toward populism. The conversation was also impacted by several events happening in the background, such as a bomber delivering 14 bombs to democratic leadersand supporters, who was actually apprehended near West Palm Beach, where the conference was being held. There was also a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in the morning of the final day at the conference.

These events called to question what more we, as members of an international association, can do to focus on the intersection of leadership, scholarship and practice at a conference that focuses on progress, peace and prosperity.

The following themes are based on my discussions with thought leaders around the world and sessions I attended.

1. Leadership certification needs to be a strong consideration.

Many professions require certification before performing a job, like realtors, massage therapists, electricians, attorneys and certified public accountants. This is in strong contrast to the number of leaders holding key roles with no education and, in some cases, little experience.

While hiring is always complicated, certification can reduce the risk of costly hiring mistakes. Certification is important for leaders who want to stand out by demonstrating their competence. And organizations will have a greater degree of assurance that the person they are hiring is competent based on an objective standard and a rigorous certification process.

2. Leadership is the interplay between the organization’s internal environment and external ecosystem.

We train leaders in leadership concepts but don’t address the importance of helping leaders understand how they need to flex their leadership approach based on their context and their followers. The most effective leaders “sense” the needs of their followers and adapt their leadership accordingly. They help followers understand their leadership style and set clear expectations as well take into account their followers styles, so everyone can focus their energy on accomplishing goals.

3. Leaders need new tools to solve highly complex problems.

Many of the problems organizations face are emergent, and they may not have faced them before. Therefore, leaders must have the tools to address them. The most effective leaders balance inner knowing with strong analytics and collaboration. 

4. Leadership ethics are key. 

There are questions about leaders learning ethics versus gaining ethics as part of the process of maturing. Are ethics the guidelines people comply with? Is there a call for leaders to develop a strong inner compass that ensures they follow the spirit of ethics as the rules change? I believe it’s important for leaders to have a strong inner sense of both the impact you want to make on the world as well as the “guardrails” you use to accomplish that impact.

5. Leaders operate in an interconnected system and need to consider the broader impact they make.

Conference participants were clear about the importance of profit as the fuel for the business and that businesses are among the most powerful institutions across the planet. They are positioned to enact important changes that involve issues such as climate change, for example.

During the conference last year, there were many discussions on identifying leadership values. This year, speakers reminded us of the mandate for leaders to live their values and pay attention to how their actions impact their organizations, and by extension, the world.

6. Resilience remains a key concern.

It was acknowledged that everyone is now or will soon be impacted by some level of change to their organization, their climate, their community and their government. These changes require that we deliberately tend to the resilience (ability to absorb change and remain highly functional) of our people, our organizations, our communities and our governments. It is important to ensure these have the capacity to metabolize change without going into crisis mode.

7. Learning to harness the power of women and a diverse workforce is critical to addressing the upcoming talent gap.

Even with artificial intelligence and other forms of workforce augmentation, participants projected a huge talent shortage now through 2030 and beyond. The size of this change is expected to grow from 2020 to 2030.

Companies need to leverage the best talent to thrive. It will be important for companies to find ways to identify the right people and create a work environment that fosters attraction and retention and expands the old norms that caused talented people who wanted to work but not within restricted bounds to leave. 

As leaders in this era of turbulence, if we want to create a more prosperous and peaceful world, we need to look at new ways of leading and of identifying and developing leaders of the future. This is a call to action to revisit what you are doing now and how you can evolve your own approaches that enhance your ability to lead from a stance of authenticity.

Are you learning from thought leaders, academics and practitioners? Each holds a piece of the complex solution we all need to thrive in the short and long term.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Author: Maureen Metcalf, CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, coach and consultant.

 

Leadership Lessons from Star Wars

You don’t need to be a Star Wars devotee to recognize the franchise’s most iconic characters and moments. They’re so well-known that they became memes long before the internet was a thing. Talk about staying power!

While intergalactic adventures might not be for everyone, the themes and messages that creator and director George Lucas instilled in every leap to hyperdrive are. They’re particularly important for leaders of all stripes to take to heart, even if they’re more Team Trekkie than gaga over one Leia Organa.

Ready to soak up some knowledge straight from the stars? Read on for our favorite leadership lessons from Star Wars.

Know When to Ask for Help

One of the hallmarks of a great leader isn’t that they have all the answers; it’s that they know what they don’t know and they’re not afraid to ask for help. Case in point: Leia, princess of Alderaan and general in the Resistance.

Our introduction to Leia as a character is through her holographic SOS call to Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. While she seems like a damsel in distress, that illusion is quickly destroyed. Instead, Leia is revealed to be a fierce leader who can and does join the fight. Still, she knows she won’t win without assistance—and neither will you. Go ahead, raise your hand and make the ask, already!

Put Your Plans into Action – Remember, Real Leadership is More Experimentation than Certainty

The most effective Leaders know that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. Sound familiar? It’s Murphy’s Law, and 99 percent of the time, it’s right on the money. Just because you’re worried about your next great idea taking a nosedive, though, it doesn’t mean you should stay in perpetual planning mode. At some point, you need to leap. You need to do.

When leaders take the on the “mindset of a scientist” they don’t expect to be right. They will be directionally correct and take action that is scaled appropriately for an experiment or proof of concept before they take big action that could increase the organizational risk profile.

Leadership is about the right balance between thinking, preparing and. This iconic Yoda moment says it all: Do or do not. There is no try.

A leader doesn’t pussyfoot around an issue. Leaders minimize risk—that’s where the preparation comes in. When they’re reasonably sure they have a handle on a situation (good at developing experiments), they go for it, knowing that the results won’t be perfect. There will be course corrections. There will be mistakes. There will be starts and stops and learning along the way. But if you don’t start—if you don’t push that big red button—you’re never going to move forward. And, as a leader, that’s your job.

Trust Your Instincts and Verify

Our instincts have evolved over 200,000 years to become highly accurate sensors for risky situations. That gut instinct we talk about is valuable because it tells you instantly when something is a no-go and when you should proceed with caution. Whether you live in the Star Wars universe or your feet are firmly planted on planet Earth, this sort of heads-up system is essential to making good choices for the future.

Of the original trio of Star Wars characters, Luke is the most emotional. He’s the most in touch with his feelings and his instincts, which makes sense, given his natural talent for channeling the Force. And, goodness knows, he needs it! From the moment Luke Skywalker encounters R2D2 and C3PO, his life is a wild ride packed with death traps, rescue missions, and daredevil stunts. He relies on his instincts the way any leader or future leader should: to let him know when he should proceed and to decide if he needs more preparation. The best leaders balance the ability to trust their instincts with a highly developed ability to analyze situations and get input from others. Luke looked to Yoda and others as he honed this ability. By balancing inner wisdom (the force) with strong reliance on data and trusted others who will see your blind spots, you will be well prepared to act and learn.

Give Prompt Feedback

Saving up all your dos and don’ts for an end-of-year review isn’t an effective management strategy. To get the most out of your team, you should offer in-the-moment feedback when it’s most useful—and when they can apply your corrections and make changes on the fly. Sitting on your complaints and stewing over pet peeves isn’t good for anyone, and it won’t result in a top-notch project.

Feedback can and should take the form of learning from your action/experiments in the form of “after action analysis” for the team and project. It should also include personal learning – what was each individual’s role in the success and contribution to the short falls? Having the courage as a leader and as a participant to build on strengths and correct mistakes and short falls is necessary. This also assumes you as the leader have created a culture where mistakes are the fuel of learning not torture. Think of the many hours Jedi’s trained with Yoda. With each success and each failure, they took the feedback as an opportunity to build skills. If Yoda was not brutally honest, the Jedi would die in battle. Withholding honest feedback reflects weakness in the leader. Yes, it is hard and required to create a world class organization.

To be clear: Do not Force-choke or otherwise torture, assault, or threaten your employees. Whether you have thousands of followers awaiting your command or not, it’s better to lead by respect rather than fear like Darth Vader. Still, we appreciate that he … ahem … nips problems in the bud instead of lets them fester.

Always Look for Silver Linings – Positivity is Contagious

Cynicism and snark might be popular, but they won’t do you any good when you’re leading a group of people. Hope inspires. Optimism motivates. Purpose inspires. Results inspire. Opportunities for growth inspire.

You don’t have to go around like a modern-day Pollyanna but do try to keep one eye on the good in every situation, even while you take stock of the bad. As we build a culture of action and experimentation, each action will have successes and failures. It is the leader and the organization that can honestly learn and grow that will win. This is only possible by finding the success along with the course correction. Everyone’s favorite bad boy does it, so can you!

It always seems a little incongruous that someone so rough-around-the-edges and practical as Han is also so positive when the Rebels, and, later, the Resistance, are fighting a seemingly unwinnable war against the Dark Side. The hope he has is what keeps him pushing forward, and that’s something we could all do with a little more of.

At the end of every Star Wars movie, the prevailing lesson is that a win doesn’t come straight from the top. While leadership is essential, it’s a team exercise—and that’s a lesson George Lucas and his cast of characters never let us forget.

As you apply these Star Wars leadership lessons to real-world situations, we have one more tidbit to share: May the Force be with you.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

Leadership Trends to Watch for 2019 and Beyond

With 2018 coming to a close, many of us are looking to 2019 and beyond. This article was originally published on Forbes.com in August 2018 summarizing the trends that emerged from the last 100 interviews conducted on Voice America Radio, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations interview series.  It is the companion to an interview between Christopher Washington, PhD and Maureen Metcalf Top Leadership Trends in 2018 and beyond.

I host a weekly radio show that helps leaders update how they lead. The interviews are with key business leaders, global leaders, thought leaders, authors and academics. Each year, I publish the main themes we discuss on the show as well as in my consulting work with senior executives around the world.

I have now completed more than 150 interviews, and volatility was a recurring theme. This article is a synthesis of what we can take away as key factors for leaders and executives to focus on for the next four years.

1. Leaders must pay attention to trends and predictions.

As the rate of change accelerates, if you take a “wait and see” stance, you will be caught unprepared. The intersection of volatility, changes in technology and global interconnection means there are threats and opportunities on all fronts and a large pool of organizations poised to leverage both. Speed continues to matter.

2. Leaders and their organizations are becoming agiler.

A McKinsey survey of more than 2,500 organizations of different sizes, specialties and regions reported that “37 percent of respondents said their organizations are carrying out company-wide agile transformations, and another 4 percent said their companies have fully implemented such transformations. The shift is driven by proof that small, multidisciplinary teams of agile organizations can respond swiftly and promptly to rapidly changing market opportunities and customer demands.”

As leaders, it’s important to adopt a nimble mindset and culture. Being nimble means paying attention to trends and identifying small “experiments” you can run to keep up with or even ahead of the changes happening around you. Once you are clear about what will work for you and how it will work, pilot that change. Truly agile companies are always experimenting.

3. Organizations and their people must accelerate their pace of learning.

With an increase in agility, people and organizations will need to accelerate learning. In 1978, Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus Chris Argyris wrote Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective. This work continues to evolve and increase in importance, as learning provides a competitive advantage.

Take, for example, how organizations are automating more work. Employees who continue to learn and update their skills will be able to find new roles, while others who are not continually learning will be left unemployed or underemployed as their roles diminish.

4. Age range in the workforce will continue to expand.

As life expectancy continues to increase, many people will want to and need to work longer. Organizations will need to find ways to attract and engage older workers. They will also need to address the dynamics created when multiple generations of employees are working together on the same team.

With the decrease of age-based seniority, leadership will be taken by the best person for the role and will likely shift frequently in an agile environment. Organizations need to be creative in promoting engagement and teamwork across multiple generations.

5. Leaders need to identify and build talent at an increasing rate.

As technology evolves and organizations change more quickly, employees need to learn faster, and organizations need to identify workers to fill changing talent needs. Some of these needs will fall in the technology space, but not all.

We referenced older employees remaining in the workforce and returning. We also need to find ways to engage talent who have been previously overlooked. This could mean people leaving incarceration, people with disabilities who would, in fact, be great fits for certain roles, or adults who work from home because they are caregivers to their children or parents, to name a few.

6. Employee engagement will continue to be important in volatile times.

The importance of human interaction will continue to increase even as more of the workforce is working remotely – many rarely, if ever, meeting their colleagues. Leaders and organizations need to focus on soft skills such as emotional intelligence that have a strong impact on engagement and the effort employees put into communicating.

7. Communities must come together to solve quality-of-life and economic issues.

With the level of change, segments of the economy can easily be excluded from the workforce. The gap between economic haves (those with education, access and resources) and have-nots can increase, and the cost can be significant for the individuals, families and businesses impacted by a worker shortage.

Successful regions create organizations to tackle these challenges. This means organizations that traditionally compete for resources and clients also need to work together to solve challenges that impact them.

8. Effective leaders are conscious of their impact across a broad range of factors and stakeholders.

As we talk about conscious capitalism, the main idea is that “conscious” organizations tend to the health of a broad range of stakeholders. It becomes increasingly important to pay attention to the needs of competing stakeholders and balance these demands. Conscious capitalism is one mechanism that helps leaders explore the broader range of stakeholders and understand their drivers.

Business is getting more complicated and requires leaders to continually update their skills as well as their mindset and focus. This article summarizes some of my key learnings.

As a leader, are you seeing similar trends? What’s missing? What are you doing to prepare yourself and your organization to succeed during the next four years?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO of Metcalf & Associates is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, coach and consultant.

Team Effectiveness, Brexit and Theresa May

This blog is a guest post by Simon Mac Rory as a companion to the November, 27 Voice America interview where he talks about his latest book, Wake-up and Smell the Coffee: An Imperative for Teams.

While writing my recent book “Wake up and smell the coffee – the imperative of teams” all around me was the Brexit discussion. I could not pick up a news feed and not see something on the negotiations in terms of the UK position, the EU position and the Irish question. I must admit, despite a keen interest in the outcome, both as business person and an EU/Irish national living in the UK, I remain in a confused state as to what is happening. I cannot make head nor tail of the UK position!

Observing the UK Brexit team and the confused narrative that emerges, I got to wondering how effective are they as a team? Do they have the capability for success? Brexit is such a critical issue for the UK overall and can even be viewed as the greatest existential threat to the UK since World War II, if the negotiations are not a success.

To be effective there are a number of critical issues that teams need to address. If they can improve on these through their own efforts, they can drive their overall effectiveness substantially. I define team effectiveness as – “The ability of a work team to be successful and produce the intended results. For the team, success is achieving the results, but effectiveness is about capability for success.”

I have attempted to map the Brexit team to the factors and criteria for an effective team. These are my views and generated as a distant observer (as I can only be). What do others think – does Theresa May and her Brexit team have the capabilities for success? The model I use is displayed below and is comprised of six factors. Each factor in turn contains two criteria that impact team effectiveness. In the table that follows I have given a brief definition of each criteria and my opinion of the Brexit team in relation to same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Author

Simon Mac Rory is a specialist in team development. He works with senior staff leaders to help them discover that edge to becoming a truly high performing team. Over his 30-year career he has worked globally with a blue-chip client base in both the private and public sectors.

He founded The ODD Company in 2011 to deliver TDP (a cloud-based team development tool and methodology) to the international markets. Simon
operates the business from London with a Dublin-based development and support office.

Simon received a doctoral degree for his work on the application of generic frameworks in organizational development and is a Visiting Research Fellow at Nottingham Business School.

Follow Simon on Twitter @SimomMacRory

How Hiking Supports Strategic Thinking and Reflection

This post is written by guest Damian Taylor as a companion to interview with Ken Wylie, Outdoor Adventures, A School for Leadership and Discovery his interview, on the Voice America Radio Show, “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on July 24, 2018.

As leaders, many of us struggle to find time to refresh our bodies, minds and spirits. I have been a hiker now for decades. Some of my most interesting vacations involved what were for me epic hiking trips such as climbing Kilimanjaro and hiking the Incan Trail. My next target is hiking a portion of the Camino.

As a leader, someone who is generally over committed with tasks and who values taking time to reflect, I find that waking daily and periodic hikes really support my overall success. I have engaged in walking meetings for years and on occasion actually do more hiking that walking meetings. These are with people I want to have indepth interactions with, often of a strategic nature.

This article talks about the benefit of hiking to address anxiety and depression along with building resilience. I want to point out that a significant percentage of our workforce struggles with these issues and we know that being out in the natural world can help address some of the symptoms. Whether you are attending to anxiety or taking time for reflection and strategic thinking, or doing both, hiking is a great option!

Anxiety and depression are incredibly common ailments of 21st Century humans. But while there are a number of different treatments for these illnesses (and you should always discuss your symptoms with your doctor and seek the treatment he or she recommends), too many people overlook one of the best: hiking.

Hiking is often very effective for easing anxiety and depression, and it is a treatment option that is accessible to the vast majority of people. In fact, there are a number of reasons hiking is such an excellent way to feel better, which we’ll outline below.

Exercise Promotes Brain Health

Hiking is a fantastic form of exercise that provides a variety of benefits for your body. It’ll help you lose weight while simultaneously strengthening your muscles. And if you keep at it for long enough, it’ll likely help lower your blood pressure and reduce your chances of suffering from strokes, diabetes or heart disease.

But while these benefits are all clearly valuable, exercise also helps to promote a healthy brain too. If your hikes are strenuous enough to elevate your heart rate and cause you to sweat a bit, they’ll likely help increase the size of your hippocampus – the portion of the brain associated with verbal memory and learning.

Exercise also causes the body to release growth factors – chemicals that help encourage blood vessel development in the brain and support the production of healthy brain cells. And don’t worry, you needn’t hike for very long to start enjoying improved brain health; research shows that even a 20-minute hike can improve the way your brain processes information.

Hiking Is Easy to Do and Affordable

Unlike so many other treatments for anxiety and depression, hiking is available to just about everyone, regardless of your location or tax bracket.

Most Americans probably live within a short drive of at least one hiking trail, even if it is nothing more than a 1-mile loop around the local park. You may have to do a bit of digging to find longer, more challenging or more scenic trails, but you’ll still likely find multiple options within driving distance.

Additionally, hiking rarely costs much – if anything – at all. Some trails require you to pay for parking or for entry to the park, but even these typically offer “frequent use” passes, which will allow you to enjoy the park or trails for very little money. You may also have to purchase a water bottle and pair of hiking boots, but with a bit of effort, you can likely find these things at very affordable prices.

Hiking Helps You to Disconnect from Day-to-Day Life

Chances are, you are constantly barraged by stimuli from the moment you wake up until the moment your head hits the pillow. Your phone, TV and radio constantly buzz with messages, information and entertainment, and you probably don’t have much time to quietly reflect on your thoughts.

But to get away from all of this, all you need to do is strap on your hiking boots and hit the trail. In contrast to our neighborhoods, homes and offices, wilderness areas are generally quiet and peaceful. This helps you to shed some of the stress caused by daily life. Disconnecting from your day-to-day life in this way can be very restorative and help reduce your anxiety and depression.

Obviously, you should still bring your phone along with you for safety’s sake, but maybe you should turn off the ringer for a while – at least until you get back to your car.

Hiking Provides Perspective

Often, anxiety and depression cause people to lose sight of the big picture. Instead of enjoying life, people struggling with depression or anxiety become stuck focusing on the small challenges, failures and disappointments that happen on a daily basis. But hiking in natural settings can help you bust out of this rut and gain a bit of perspective.

If, for example, you find yourself overwhelmed by a big work project coming up, you may find that a hike through your local mountains will help you remember that the project is just a tiny part of your life, and that there is a big beautiful world out there waiting for you to enjoy it.

Hiking Helps You to Build Resilience and Self-Confidence

If you hike for long enough, you’ll surely experience a tough day on the trail. Your feet may blister, you may get lost, or you may find that the trail you chose was a bit too strenuous. But chances are, you’ll find some way to tough out the hike, and overcome these challenges.

This will help build resilience and boost your self-confidence in profound ways. In truth, any challenge you face and overcome will help in both of these respects, but doing so in the natural world often provides the most profound results.

Just be sure that you don’t take this concept too far. It’s always good to challenge yourself and set increasingly difficult goals as you progress, but you must keep safety in mind. Always keep a cell phone on you so you can contact help if you need it and let someone know when you’ll be returning.

You Only Compete Against Yourself: There’s No Pressure to Perform

Many people understand the health benefits that exercise provides, but they aren’t interested in engaging in an implicitly or explicitly competitive pursuit, such as joining the local softball league or gym. This is certainly understandable – especially when you are already feeling depressed or anxious.

But hiking is a fantastic exercise, that lacks the competitive aspects that many of these other types of exercise feature. You are only competing against yourself and – to a lesser extent – Mother Nature. You get to celebrate those times you hike a bit further or complete a loop a bit faster; and yet your tough days, when you don’t perform quite as well, will remain your secret.

Additionally, it doesn’t matter if you go out and hike 1 mile a week or 50 miles a week – the only person you have to impress while you’re hiking is yourself.

Hiking Relieves Stress

Stress is often a contributing factor to anxiety and depression, so anything you can do to help relieve stress should help you feel a bit better. Hiking definitely fits this bill, as it not only provides great exercise (which helps to relieve stress too), but it takes place in gorgeous natural settings.

Scientists have even found that spending time in nature – even simply looking at nature – helps relieve stress and recharge your mind, body and soul. In fact, looking at a natural setting helps reduce pain and accelerate the healing process. And if you hike with a friend or loved one, you’ll often find this helps alleviate your stress even more thoroughly.

As you can see, hiking provides myriad benefits to those battling with anxiety or depression. So, find your closest trail and start trekking. Don’t forget to discuss your anxiety and depression with your doctor (and make sure you are healthy enough to begin hiking if you aren’t normally active), but you’ll likely find that regular hikes are exactly what the doctor ordered.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

The Difference Between Entitlement and Awareness

This post is written by guest Eric Termuende as a companion to his interview, Changing the Way We Think About Work on the Voice America Radio Show, “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on July 3, 2018.

We’ve all heard the stereotypes around the Millennial generation. They’re narcissistic, job-hop, aren’t loyal, and most of all, entitled. They think they deserve more than they work for, and have unrealistic expectations. Right? Isn’t that what we’re lead to believe when we talk about a generation that populates such a large portion of the workplace? It seems like it, but doesn’t necessarily have to.

The Millennial demographic, as big as it is, is brought up in a technological world that didn’t exist for the generation the preceded it. This generation has better access to internet, cell phones, social media, and information that simply wasn’t nearly as accessible as it was 15-20 years ago. Job postings aren’t posted on a cork board and the resumé is only a small portion of what educating a potential employer looks like.

This means that the expectations are bigger because this next generation knows what can, and is being done.

Let’s take fairly recent news that came out of Sweden, for example. In Sweden, there is talk about moving to a 6 hour work day. Now, as someone in Canada who may not like their job, there are two options. The first is to apply for a job in Sweden with the hopes that the application will be accepted and I can work only six hours a day. The second is that I could ask my employer or government why it is that Sweden is the only country that is doing this, and why we can’t look at a similar practice here in our hometown.

Another example would be around office aesthetics. One office may have a beautiful open concept style and another may be stuck in the ‘70’s with cubicles that limit communication and interaction between employees. Because of the hyper-connected world we live in, information about these great places to work is spreading faster than it ever has before. As a result, people are asking ‘why not me too?’.

No, things haven’t changed around what people need to do to progress another step in the organization, or to work in a more efficient manner by changing the structure and aesthetics of the office, but the way we talk about it might. People need to know that the grass will always be greener, the story is always bigger than the one that is being told, and that there are always exceptions. It is too easy for a story to be posted and go viral, only to be the flavor of the hour and forgotten about shortly after, while still having impact on the people in the office and what they are aware could be taking place.

The world of work is ever changing and the ways we work and the environments we work in are changing just as quickly. Telling stories of the newest office space are nice, but rarely do they paint a full picture of what the office culture is, or what it is like to work there. The next generation is right to ask about the opportunity to advance the workplace they are in, but shouldn’t have expectations to do so. There needs to be open communication within the office from the top-down and from the bottom-up to ensure that the environment created is one the provides the tools necessary and the environment that allows people to naturally do the best work they possible can. This awareness and hyper connectivity, paired with curiosity and desire to change, adapt, and grow, shouldn’t be confused with entitlement, which is a completely different topic.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the author

Eric Termuende is on a mission to change the way we talk about work and get fulfillment from it. A bestselling author, speaker, and entrepreneur, Eric is co-founder of NoW Innovations, and Lead Content Strategist for True Calling Canada., Eric has been featured in Forbes, Inc., Thrive Global, the Huffington Post and many others. In 2015, Eric was recognized as a Top 100 Emerging Innovators under 35 globally by American Express. Eric sat as Community Integration Chair for Global Shapers Calgary, a community that functions under the World Economic Forum. He is a former Canadian G20 YEA Delegate, representing Canada in Sydney in 2014. Eric is currently signed by the National Speakers Bureau and travels the world talking about the future of work and multiple generations in the workplace. In 2016, Eric spoke at TEDxBCIT in Vancouver giving his presentation entitled ‘Bigger than Work.’ Eric has worked and spoken with clients across the world. His new book, Rethink Work is now available on Amazon.

Who is really in Control: Neuroscience and Reimagining Leadership

This blog is a guest post from Gary Weber, Author of Happiness Beyond Thought: Brain’s Software. It is the companion to the interview between Maureen Metcalf and Gary Weber on Voice America Radio, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations, Who is really in Control: Neuroscience and Reimagining Leadership that aired July 10, 2018.

Recent blogposts “Can we survive w/our outdated OS and buggy programs?…” and “Aleppo, Trump, Berlin, Orlandos, Nice…what can you do?“, discussed the evolving global dystopian situation, largely due to our 75,000 yr old ego/I Operating System (OS) and its programs that developed in very different times. 

New information will help us “right size” the weighting assigned to the “I”, and understand confirmation bias from an experiential and scientific standpoint.


What is our “conscious” I’s OS’s operating capability vis-a-vis the brain’s “off-line” processor?

The focus of this work is on deconstructing or at least de-energizing the “ego/I-based OS”.  Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could take a global ego/I dimmer switch, and dial them down about 30%?


In looking at different ways to illustrate the problems with the ego/I-based OS, a useful metaphor is that of an elephant and a rider. 

The “rider” is the ego/I, and our “conscious” processor that generates the problematic, self-referential internal narrative (SRIN) “blah, blah” about everything and nothing.

The “elephant” is the massively-interconnected, “off line” brain of 800 billion neurons which does all of the “heavy lifting” and most of everything else.

Some powerful comparisons have emerged from neuroscience to define the capabilities of the “rider” and the “elephant”. 

The “rider” can handle 7 +/- 2 pieces of data at a time and solve one problem at a time.  Its processor runs at 40 to 60 bits/second.

The “elephant” has something like 100 trillionsynaptic interconnections (latest research) for handling and storing information and operates at about 25,000,000 bits/second, depending on applications and assumptions.

The total computing power of the brain is determined by how many discrete areas are operating at the same time.   

Obviously, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching can go on with talking, texting (not so much), walking, driving, digesting food, breathing and pumping of blood, hauling away waste and sending energy-bearing glucose and oxygen to working areas, problem solving,etc. 

Comparing the speed of silicon switching in computers (lightning fast) to our brain’s synaptic switching speed (not so fast), and how much information is stored in the computer’s silicon (none) compared to the information stored in existing synaptic networks (a lot) is complex. Estimates for this parallel processing put the entire brain’s capacity as high as 320 Gigabits (billion bits)/second for the entire brain, > 99.9999+ % of which we are, thankfully, unable to perceive.

There is also a great difference in how parallel processing “assignments” are done in computers vs how the brain likely does it. 

However, the bottom line, for our purposes, is that the “rider” is Uber-microscopic, (get it, “Uber” and “rider”?) both in size and capability, compared to the “elephant” is roughly 500,000 to 1. 

Why do we listen to it?  It’s just a confused press-secretary, disconnected CEO, apologist, critic, etc. contributing little beyond endless “blah, blah”, like many “talking heads” debating a tweet.

As Wei Wu Wei says:

             “Why are you so unhappy?

              Because ninety-nine percent of what you think,

              And everything you do,

              Is for your self,

             And there isn’t one.”


Confirmation bias – What it feels like  

Confirmation bias is simply the tendency to search for, interpret, favor and recall information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs.  Rather than theorize about it, it is important to get a sense of just how strong our bias is.  It is how “fake news” works, as no matter how bizarre or false the story is, we will select the parts that confirm how we already feel.

Reading this, how does this make you feel?   Take a minute or two and just get in touch with how/what you feel about the first President of the United States having wooden teeth…good, bad or indifferent.
This exercise is about George Washington, the first President of the United States, who had wooden teeth, as he lost most of his teeth in his twenties.

Write down a few descriptive words about it.

OK, what do you feel if i tell you that it isn’t true

Write/type a few descriptive words. 


A 2016 fMRI study published in Nature, a top-tier journal, “Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counter evidence”, showed politically-active participants some contradictory and irrational statements by their candidate. Scientists 
@ the National Museum of Dentistry found that George Washington’s wooden teeth were replaced with gold, lead, hippopotamus or elephant ivory, horse and donkey teeth.  Another source included cow teeth, and silver and copper alloys.

Take a minute or two. 

Now how do you feel about George Washington?

Write/type a few descriptive words.


Finally, it was revealed from third and fourth sources that George Washington also had many teeth in his dentures from the slaves on his plantation.

Take a minute. 

Now how do you feel about George Washington? 

Write down some descriptive words.

These stories are all true, but did you see how different your feelings were toward George Washington as the different scenarios were considered?

This confirmation bias exercise is from a “the Oatmeal” cartoon which also uses Napoleon, Thomas Crapper, house flies, Jesus, and Roe v Wade, etc. and is strongly recommended.  The link came from Saima Yousuf.

Confirmation bias – research


The scanner showed that to create separation from the information, the Default Mode Network was activated  to create isolation from the external world and increase internal focus. To actively reduce the emotional conflict, the emotional center, the amygdala, was deactivated.

Other studies have found similar problems with shifting any beliefs that are “directly challenged, especially when these beliefs are central to their identity.  In some cases, exposure to counter-evidence may even increase a person’s confidence that his or her cherished beliefs are true.”  (many references).  

A new Harvard study pointed out just how strong the major media bias in the US and Europe is against the world’s most famous tweeter, reflecting their own confirmation bias. 

Confirmation bias is a real world problem, particularly in an era of  “fake news” and social media with little/no source credentialing, validation or “fact checking”.  IME, this is acute in spiritual/religious arenas.

As the authors point out “the inability to change another person’s mind through evidence and argument, or to have one’s own mind changed in turn, stands out as a problem of great societal importance”.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

Author bio:

Gary is a Subject/collaborator in neuroscience studies at Yale, Institute Of Noetic Sciences, Baumann Institute, Center for Study of Non-Symbolic Consciousness, Johns Hopkins, Penn State.

From 2000 – 2004 he was Associate VP of research for Penn State responsible for all technology transfer operations of University including angel investing, venture capital, licensing, patenting and start-up support. Responsible for external industrial R&D contracts and interfaces with the University.

In the late 90’s Gary was SVP Science and Technology for PPG responsible for all corporate R&D w/four research laboratories, approx. 1000 engineers, scientists and technical folk, and $260MM budget. Member of Executive Committee.  Since then he has been researching and writing about happiness beyond thought. He is applying his extensive research skills to helping leaders.

Stress And Sleep – How To Master Stress And Recharge

This guest blog is a guest post provided by Nestmaven, a blog focused on helping people sleep. We selected this specific blog because it ties rest to stress and effectiveness. If you are not sleeping well, your resilience will be lower and it will, over time, impact your ability to lead. It is a companion to the Voice America Interview with MaryAnna Klatt, PhD, Mindfulness: Manage Stress to Improve Performance on Voice America, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations.

The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that approximately 40 million Americans have some kind of sleep disorder. This encompasses a wide range of illnesses and conditions that include insomniasleep apnoea and restless leg syndrome.

Sleep-related disorders are on the rise and many illnesses that people are suffering from during the day, may be connected to poor sleep, at night.

Depression, weight gain and high blood pressure are just a few of the health issues that can be related to insufficient sleep and the connection between poor sleep and stress can be a cyclical one.

Too much stress can cause you to have a bad sleep, leading to mental and physical health issues which can, in turn, cause stress in daily life, leading to poor sleep at night.

Understanding how stress and sleep are connected is the path to getting a handle on the problem and learning how to manage stress during the day can only help improve your overall health and wellness and, hopefully, lead to better sleep, too.

Your Body On Stress – What Exactly Is Stress And How Does Your Body Handle It?

Stress is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.”

In short, it is the way by which your body experiences and manages external pressures, whether they are mental or physical.

A normal level of stress can actually be good for the body and can motivate you to work harder, focus and even improve performance.

But, this is only the case when the cause of the stress is short term. Too much stress can have the opposite effect and lead to chronic health problems. To understand why, it is important to know how exactly your body responds to stress on a physiological level.

Normally, when faced with a situation of stress, your nervous system causes your body to release stress hormones, particularly cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline.

This is part of what is known as the “fight or flight” response in the body and it’s the system that gets you ready to fight or flee your challenge or dangerous situation. These hormones subside once the external threat is removed and the body begins to relax again.

But, when you are under stress continuously, this aggravation to the nervous system doesn’t subside and it can have a devastating effect on your overall health.

Incessant stress causes your blood pressure to be continuously raised, putting a strain on your heart and circulatory system. Breathing is affected, heartbeat becomes rapid and you might be in a near constant state of holding your breath or hyperventilation.

With long term stress, muscles are continuously tense, which might cause headaches and neck strain and continued, heightened levels of cortisol can cause weight gain and inflammation in the body, leading to a suppressed immune system.

Digestion is also affected, as raised cortisol levels cause you to crave and eat more fatty foods, as it helps your body prepare for a dangerous and threatening situation and you might start to suffer from heartburn and acid reflux, as your stomach produces more acid during times of stress.

Your endocrine system, regulated by the brain, is also affected. This can have an effect on everything from mood and tissue health to blood sugar metabolism and reproduction.

It’s no wonder you can’t sleep when your stress levels are raised, as your body is in an ever-ready fight mode on a physiological level, ready to tackle whatever danger is coming your way.

5 Ways In Which Stress Affects Your Body

  • Endocrine system – Stress causes the adrenal gland to release epinephrine, or adrenaline and norepinephrine, or noradrenaline, into the body, which helps your body respond to danger by increasing heart rate, constricting blood vessels and converting fat to energy. Your body also releases cortisol during stress, which has many damaging effects on the body when unregulated. The increase in hormones causes the liver to produce more glucose and strains the body’s ability to reabsorb the sugar, causing diabetes. Even more frightening, an Australian study showed that chronic stress increases the rate and volume at which lymphatic vessels drain cancerous tumours, helping them to spread throughout the body.
  • Respiratory system – Stress can cause increased and shallow breathing or holding of your breath, meaning that cells don’t get enough oxygen. This can lead to dizziness, lack of concentration and you could even temporarily lose consciousness.
  • Circulatory system – When you are under stress, your heart beats faster, working to pump blood quickly around your body to get it ready for action. Blood pressure is raised and when under stress and it can be raised for too long, causing long-term problems for the body.
  • Digestive system – Heartburn, acid reflux, ulcers and esophageal spasms are all health issues that can be tied to stress in the body, as your body produces more acid and controls what nutrients you absorb during times of high stress. This can also cause constipation and diarrhoea.
  • Musculoskeletal system – During times of high stress, muscles are constantly tightened, leading to pain, injury and chronic issues like migraines and tension headaches.

5 Top Causes Of Stress

The American Psychological Association conducts an annual “Stress in America” survey, in which they determine how stressed Americans feel and what exactly keeps them up at night.

Released in November 2017, the most recent poll shows the most common sources of stress are as seen in this infographic.

While this report showed that American’s stress levels in 2017 were at levels consistent to those in 2016, nearly half (46 percent) of Americans polled reported that lying awake at night in the past night was one outcome of their stress levels.

This is a marked increase from 2016, when 40 percent of Americans reported sleeplessness due to their stress levels.

Further to this, 34 percent of people polled reported that they felt fatigue due to their stress.

How Stress Keeps You Awake At Night – The Vicious Cycle Of Bad Sleep And Stress

There are many ways in which the above mentioned physiological changes can make for a poor sleep. Heightened adrenaline levels and increased heart rate can cause tossing and turning and a feeling of restlessness.

When your body is experiencing chronic stress, it thinks it’s in a state of perpetual danger and that it shouldn’t be sleeping! You might be able to fall asleep but not stay asleep and you might wake up frequently in the night.

You might find it hard to calm your thoughts and lay awake at night, worrying about your finances, relationship, work or whatever else is bothering you.

Overwork or being too busy during the day can also lead to stress and leave yourself with not enough time to get a good sleep. If you find yourself with not enough hours to sleep, you might not fall asleep easily when you finally do go, because you are overstimulated and overworked.

With no time to wind down at the end of your day, your body forgets which is rest time and which is time for action.

Not enough time and too much stress in your day might also mean that you don’t have enough time to exercise, make time for friends and family or do otherwise relaxing and healthy activities that relieve stress, leading to a poor sleep at night.

After a bad sleep, you might need more caffeine to stay awake, causing a vicious cycle in which you can’t get to sleep at night, because you’ve had too much caffeine. These are just a few of the ways in which stress can keep you up or ruin the quality of your sleep.

How To Lower Stress Levels To Improve Sleep

While there are a few chronic sleep conditions that may require medical intervention, like sleep apnoea and insomnia, if your sleep loss is due to stress, there are some things you can do to help yourself. Check out some of these tips and tricks to relieving stress and incorporate a few of them into your daily life, to see if you notice any difference in sleep quality.

Increase Your Exposure To Daylight

If you work inside a dark office during the day or live in the northern hemisphere, you might not be getting enough daylight and your sleep might be affected.

Studies have shown that exposure to sunlight or bright indoor lights during the morning hours helps people sleep better at night.Adequate daylight is also shown to decrease depression and stress.

Help calibrate your circadian rhythm by making sure you get lots of daylight and if you can’t, consider investing in a light therapy device to keep near you, during the day.

Exercise

Make sure you are giving yourself time to exercise during the day. Exercise is considered by health professionals as one of the best ways to maintain mental health and reduce stress.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says that “when stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact, as well.

So, it stands to reason that if your body feels better, so does your mind.” Exercise releases endorphins into the body that not only make you happy but help reduces stress and improve sleep.

Try Some Natural Relaxation And Wellness Techniques

Meditation, yoga and other relaxation techniques have all proved effective for stress and sleep disorders. There are plenty of guided meditations and yoga routines geared specifically to those with problems sleeping.

Take some time out of your busy day to wind down at the end of it.Even if you have only 10 minutes for a short meditation before you go to bed, you may see a positive result.

You don’t need any special skills or to follow any religious dogma, so give it a try. No time? Fall asleep to music or nature sounds geared especially for deep sleep. Here are a few of our favourites:

Try Aromatherapy

You might find that incorporating some aromatherapy into your life can help you sleep. One 2017 study showed that patients in intensive care that could not sleep well had an increased quality of sleep and reduced level of anxiety by using lavender oil.

There are many different ways to use essential oils to help you relax and sleep, including air diffusers and pillow sprays. Lavender and camomile are two popular essential oils with relaxing properties.

Have a bath before bed with a few drops of lavender or sleep with an air diffuser on near the bed, to both moisturize the air and infuse it with a relaxing aroma.

Make Your Room A Den Of Zen

Give yourself a chance to relax and calm down before bed. Never bring your work to bed and invest in a good bed with linens in calming colours, like white and grey. Keep your room clear of clutter and other stressors and keep your tablets and other devices out of the bedroom. Establish a relaxing night time routine that starts at least an hour before you try to hit the pillow.

Try Journaling

You might be able to relieve some stress by journaling before bed. The University of Rochester Medical Center says that journaling can help you manage overwhelming emotion and anxiety, reduce stress and cope with depression.

It does this by helping you prioritize your problems, fears and concerns as you work out the issues that are causing you stress and can also be used as a tool to track your day to day stressors and triggers, so you can learn better ways to control them.

Sort Out Your Finances

65 percent of Americans lie awake due to money issues. Sometimes easier said than done, sorting out your finances can be a good way to reducing your stress and helping you to get a good night’s sleep.

While it might not always be easy to reduce financial stress, you might be having trouble sleeping because you havebeen avoiding your financial problems and, because they don’t just “disappear”, they will haunt you, at night.

By looking at your finances honestly, consolidating debt and coming up with an actionable plan, you can slowly work to make positive changes and reduce your financial stress. (5 strategies to Deal with Financial Stress) .

Look To Supplements

Before turning to sleeping pills, consider supplements and herbal remedies to help you sleep. While all supplements should be taken under the guidance of a physician, melatonin, tryptophan, B12 and magnesium are some of the useful ones that might help you, as well as herbal teas that contain valerian, passionflower and camomile.

Adjust Your Diet

Apart from making sure you get enough exercise, a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of the stress/sleep equation. Lower your caffeine consumption by the afternoon, so that you aren’t keeping yourself awake.

Don’t eat too close to bedtime and make sure your diet isn’t too heavy in sugar and carbohydrates, which can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and energy levels. Give your body a chance to fast in the evening and cut out late night snacking.

Seek Professional Help

If nothing seems to work and you’ve tried all of the above, you might do well with the help of a sleep specialist. If you have eliminated the possibility of a medical condition, such as apnoea, a sleep specialist can try to determine why you aren’t sleeping and what to do about it.

Sleep clinics can monitor your breathing and heart rate when you are sleeping, to make sure that you don’t have a medical problem and to determine if it is stress related, or something else.

Take charge of your wellness and look into how stress might be affecting your sleep and how lack of sleep is affecting your stress levels! A serious matter, high levels of stress can have lasting consequences on your health and wellness and lead to life threatening diseases and bigger problems than just being tired.

By learning about what is happening inside your body during times of stress, you can better understand how to change or modify your environment and routines and gain some control of your body, inside and out. And, by employing just one or two of the above techniques to manage stress, you might notice a big change in your mental and physical health and sleep quality.

Please check out the interview with Belinda Gore and Mark Palmer giving more in-depth information about building resilience.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

Stress Reduction: Relax Like a Boss

This guest blog is a guest post provided by John Parrott who runs Relax Like A Boss, a blog that teaches people how to reduce stress and relax in a busy world. It is a companion to the Voice America Interview with Belinda Gore and Mark Palmer, Building Resilience, A Key Foundation for Change on Voice America, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations. 

Why Use Relaxation Techniques?

We all feel stressed from time to time…

But did you know that this can be incredibly harmful?

The Journal of the American Medical Associationdiscovered that stress can increase the risks of cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment and even obesity.

But that’s how relaxation techniques can help. According to the American Psychological Association, relaxation techniques can dramatically improve your health long-term, as we’ll discuss below…

The Benefits Of Relaxation Techniques.

Here’s a few of the benefits of relaxation techniques…

– Reducing Depression And Anxiety.

Relaxation techniques can be effective in regulating symptoms of depression, anxiety, and many other mental illnesses.

When stressed, the volume of ‘happy’ chemicals in the brain such as dopamine and serotonin are reduced.

These are partly responsible for the feelings of sorrow and helplessness commonly associated with depression.

It has even been claimed that ‘meditation works just as well as antidepressants’, which seek to alter serotonin receptors and boost levels in the brain.

Simply practicing relaxation techniques for just half an hour a day can produce effects similar to those of antidepressants, without any side effects.

– Lowers Blood Pressure.

Although researchers aren’t certain of the exact mechanisms involved, chronic stress has been shown to raise blood pressure and worsen heart function.

High blood pressure can create a number of health problems, from insomnia to strokes and cardiac address.

Regulating stress levels with relaxation techniques can significantly reduce this risk.

In one study, patients that underwent just 10 minutes of slow breathing exercises saw a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure.

It is thought that the daily practicing of similar techniques can help to keep stress-related hypertension under control, improving overall health and wellbeing.

– Boosts Immune System.

Prolonged stress has been proven time and again to hamper the function of the immune system.

This is, in part, because the body is less able to fight inflammation when under high-anxiety conditions due to chemical changes in the body.

Simply by reducing overall stress levels, inflammation can be regulated and many diseases, from the common cold to rheumatoid arthritis, avoided.

Physical Relaxation Techniques.

1. Breathing Exercises.

Breathing exercises have been recognised for centuries as a powerful tool for relaxation.

From the towering mountains of Tibet to the humble office of a psychological therapist, breathing is an incredibly versatile, easily-accessible way to reach a state of calmness and serenity.

Breathing exercises, also known as diaphragmatic breathing exercises, involve taking long, deep breaths into the stomach rather than the chest.

  1. Find a comfortable position, seated or lying down.
  2. Breathe slowly into your stomach through the nose, keeping your chest still. It may help to place one hand over your abdomen and the other over your chest, ensuring that only your moves as you inhale.
  3. Exhale through pursed lips, your mouth relaxed. Release tension from all parts of your body as you breathe out.
  4. Continue for 5-10 minutes, 2-3 times daily.

This exercise isn’t limited to the yoga mat, the quietness of your bedroom or a social situation. It can be practiced anywhere, at any time.

Whenever you begin to feel stressed, simply turn your focus to your breathing and continue until calmness is restored.

2. Progress Muscle Relaxation.

Based upon the premise that muscle tension is the body’s response to poor mental health, progressive muscle relaxation has been known to significantly improve symptoms of stress and anxiety.

This technique involves identifying tension in individual muscles by contracting them. This tension is then released slowly and under control.

Practicing muscle relaxation can provide a wealth of psychological benefits, from improving mental health to boosting physical performance.

It is also suggested to lead to increased blood flow, boosting local metabolism and, in turn, reducing pain and muscle spasms.

Progressive muscle relaxation should be practiced whilst lying down. Choose somewhere free from distractions and where you can lie and stretch out comfortably.

  1. Breathe in slowly, tensing the first muscle group you choose – but not to the point of pain. Hold this contraction for 5-10 seconds.
  2. Exhale, relaxing your muscles fully and quickly.
  3. Relax for a further 10-15 seconds before moving onto other muscles. Notice any changes in your state of mind and body as your practice deepns.
  4. Continue to work through the rest of your body, paying attention to every sensation.
  5. Finish by counting to 10, in complete stillness, and bring your awareness back to the present moment.

3. Humming.

The concept of humming for relaxation brings to mind pictures of monks perched atop tall hills, monotonous notes being held for several seconds at a time in a state of total serenity.

In reality, the practice of humming isn’t quite as mystical or spiritual as it is stigmatized to be. It’s an incredibly simple and effective relaxation technique.

Humming can:

  • Dissolve worries by calming the mind.
  • Give time for reflection.
  • Stimulate creativity.
  • Help bring about feelings of peace.
  • Relieve stress and anxiety.

Simply find a quiet place to sit, relax the body, inhale and let out a long ‘hmm’ sound as you exhale.

When you run out of breath, breathe in and repeat. Continue this exercise for 10-15 minutes.

4. Yoga.

Yoga is not only a powerful way to reduce stress and anxiety, but also an excellent form of exercise for the body.

It’s a practice that’s been used for millennia, its roots set in schools of thought like Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.

Yoga is an incredibly relaxing practice. As is written in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, ‘Yoga is the suppression of the activities of the mind.’

Many studies have even recognised yoga as an effective intervention for illnesses such as asthma, schizophrenia and heart disease.

Here’s an outline of a basic yoga practice. Be sure to explore the varying branches of yoga, constructing a plan the best suits your physical capabilities and preferences.

  • Begin with a short meditation or humming exercise to calm the mind.
  • Move from warming up with sun salutations to a mixture of standing poses, backbends and forward bends. Be sure to focus on all muscles of the body, from the neck to the feet.
  • End your practice with shavasana, lying still on the floor.
  • Take these final minutes of your practice to relax fully, letting the business of your mind settle with body.

5. T’ai Chi.

The Chinese martial art of t’ai chi is known not only for its value in defense training, but also its numerous health benefits.

T’ai chi has been reported as being beneficial in treating a number of ailments, including Parkinson’s and diabetes. Furthermore, the art of of t’ai chi has been proven to have beneficial effects against a range of mental disorders.

T’ai chi has also been measured to reduce levels of cortisol in the blood, increase endorphins and reduce levels of inflammatory markers in the body.

The practice of t’ai chi is centered around improving the flow of ‘chi’, the Chinese concept of intangible energy. It is an incredibly effective way to calm the mind, practice mindfulness, and reconnect with the here and now.

6. Exercise.

Physical exercise is known to stimulate the release of endorphins – hormones that interact with the brain and trigger positive bodily feelings, similar to those associated with morphine.

For this reason, exercise is known for its ability to alleviate the symptoms of depression, chronic stress, and other mental illnesses.

‘There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people’, says James Blumenthal, PhD of Duke University.

Based on a number of studies, Blumenthal concludes that physical exercise is comparable to antidepressants for patients with major stress and depressive disorders.

Exercise doesn’t have to be grueling and painful. Even light, steady walks can have significant effects in reducing stress and anxiety.

Relaxation Techniques for the Mind.

7. Meditation.

Meditation has been proven time and again to have significant value in boosting not only mental health, but also the function of the immune system.

This is, in part, due to telomere lengthening.

Short caps at the end of DNA called telomeres work to shield our genes from damage. Without telomeres, DNA is exposed to harm from our external environment, wreaking havoc on our bodies and, in many cases, causing cancer and other diseases.

It has been proven in several controlled studiesthat meditation can actually lengthen telomeres in the cells of our immune system.

The result? A body that is not only mentally well, but incredibly resilient to disease, too.

Not only this, but meditation is also incredibly effective in reducing stress and promoting feelings of relaxation.

In one study conducted by Harvard, just an average of 27 minutes of daily meditation over 8 weeks produced profound changes in the brain.

The amygdala, an area of the brain linked with anxiety and stress, was shown to reduce in size. Participants also reported significant improvements in their overall wellbeing.

Here is a brief overview of the practice:

  1. Take a comfortable seat somewhere quiet and free from distraction.
  2. Begin to breathe deeply into the base of the stomach.
  3. Allow your mind to quieten, holding your focus on the breath.
  4. When you find yourself lost in thought, gently return to your breathing.
  5. Continue for 10+ minutes daily.

8. Listen To Nature Sounds.

‘Looking at beauty in the world, is the first step of purifying the mind,’ – Amit Ray.

No method of relaxation is quite as overlooked as the simple practice of listening to nature; the sounds of birds singing, rain pattering on the tops of trees, wind whistling, waterfalls…

When you find your mind overrun with anxiety or by stress, simply reconnect with nature.

Step outside, take a deep breath, and embrace the modest beauty of the world around you.

9. Get Into A Routine.

Stress, anxiety, and many forms of emotional turmoil can arise from a lack of order in our day-to-day lives.

Whether it’s being frequently late for meetings or having an untidy bedroom, seemingly harmless areas of our lives can mount up and cause us a great deal of discomfort if left unchecked.

Simply establishing a daily or weekly routine, built to maximise productivity and wellbeing, can have tremendous effects on overall wellbeing.

Take some time out of your day to assess your daily habits.

Ask questions. Do you do enough of the things you love? Does your everyday life lack productivity? Are you acting in accordance with your goals?

When you have considered the areas of your daily routine that could benefit from a little TLC, put together a plan of action to eradicate unnecessary stressors from your life.

10. Listen To Music.

Music has long been recognised for its powerful impact on mood and wellbeing.

However, for the purposes of entertainment, music has become incredibly commonplace in society. It’s everywhere, from the car radio to television to the supermarket.

Rarely do we give music our complete, undivided attention.

Simply sitting and listening to a piece of music in full, free from all other distractions, can be an incredibly relaxing and therapeutic technique.

Choose a peaceful, soothing track or album to enjoy. Perhaps light some candles and enjoy the melody with a hot mug of tea in hand.

Then spend as many seconds, minutes or hours as you please tuning into the sounds you hear, and nothing else.

11. Practice Mindfulness.

Many forms of emotional turmoil result from a lack of mindfulness.

Mindfulness, at its core, is the simple act of focusing our awareness on the present moment, allowing the busy mind to relax into the here and now.

Many causes of day-to-day stress are chained to events of the past or future. Worrying about deadlines, the safety of loved ones, and any event that lies outside of this very moment can be the cause for a great detail of unrest.

By returning our focus to this moment, we free ourselves of unnecessary unhappiness and learn to appreciate every second of being alive.

When you find yourself becoming stressed or anxious, begin to expand your awareness to the this moment and all it contains.

Tune into the sensations inside your body, the sounds, sights and smells around you and the current situation you find yourself in.

12. Self-Hypnosis.

Self-hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, can be a highly successful way to reduce stress and clear the mind of unwanted thoughts.

The foundation of hypnosis is hinged upon the theories of world-renowned psychologist, Sigmund Freud.

Freud suggested that there are three components to consciousness; the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, and the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is the focus of hypnotherapy.

It is believed that the unconscious mind contains all thoughts, values and ideas that we cannot access willingly. Instead, it influences our behaviour and emotions without us knowing.

By tapping into the subconscious mind through hypnosis, individuals and therapists attempt to rewrite its contents and improve mental health by deleting negative thinking patterns.

Here’s how to practice self-hypnosis:

(Before you begin your practice, create 2-3 statements that you wish to revisit during your practice. Theoretically, these statements will be planted into your subconscious once a state of hypnosis is reached. Examples mind include ‘I am stress free’, ‘I am not my thoughts’, ‘I am relaxed at work’.)

  1. Begin by feeling physically relaxed and comfortable. Put on comfortable clothes, perhaps practice some yoga or take a warm bath, and enter your practice feeling relaxed and at ease.
  2. Identify an object to focus on. Ideally, choose an object that will require you to look slightly upwards or directly in front of you.
  3. Attempt to clear your mind of thoughts. Focus intently on your chosen object, allowing all other thoughts to gently fade away. This may take some time, and it isn’t easy. If your mind wanders, simply return it to the object.
  4. Expand your awareness to your eyes, feeling them become heavier and slowly closing.
  5. Relax your muscles further with every exhalation. Slow your breathing as you settle deeper with each out-breath.
  6. Visualise an object swaying slowly back and forth. This may be a pendulum swinging or a pocket watch moving from side to side – anything with a slow, regular pace.
  7. Begin to count slowly down from 10 in your head. Tell yourself that you are relaxing deeper and deeper after every number.
  8. Believe and remind yourself that, when your countdown is complete, you will have reached a hypnotic state.
  9. Once in a state of hypnosis, return to the statements you prepared before your practice. Focus on each, visualising it intently and repeating it over and over, maintaining a state of total relaxation.
  10. Slowly count back up to 10. As you progress, become more energetic and alert; reverse the process you used before to reach a state of hypnosis.
  11. When you reach 10, return to your day with a renewed sense of calm.

Social Relaxation Techniques.

13 Practice Gratitude.

Taking just a few moments out of our day to practice gratitude, cultivating appreciation for what we have, is an effective way to reduce stress and encourage feelings of contentment.

When you find yourself consumed in thought and emotion, simply turn your focus to that which you’re grateful for.

That may be family or friends, your job, health, freedom, or even just life itself. Often these modest blessings are overlooked. Reminding ourselves of all that we are fortunate to have can bring us happiness and peace of mind.

14. Reflect On What Makes You Happy.

Humans have a troublesome propensity to focus on the negative of every situation. And there’s a good reason for this.

Many years ago, pessimism served a handy survival mechanism. Our cave-dwelling ancestors developed a tendency to identify problems and hazards rather than contemplating that which made them happy.

As a result, they’d strive for more – more food, better shelter, larger families, and these desires would serve the purpose of helping our species to survive.

Those that sought more increased their chances of survival. Thus, they passed their character traits through many generations.

What was once an evolutionary blessing, however, now manifests itself as a scourge on our mental health.

It can be easy to focus on the negative aspects of our lives; to desire more than we currently have and become disheartened and stressed as a result.

Simply switching your focus to the things that make you happy, whether that be a delicious food, cherished memories or loving family members, can work wonders on our stress levels.

When plagued by pessimism, make a conscious effort to list off 5 things that make you happy. If your mind reverts back to negativity, recenter your awareness on that which fills you with joy.

15. Random Acts Of Kindness.

Executing random acts of kindness is a quick, easy and extremely powerful way to reduce stress and promote feelings of joy and contentment.

Here are some examples:

  • Complimenting a stranger.
  • Buying a meal for a homeless person.
  • Expressing your love to a friend.
  • Donating to charity.
  • Smiling at passersby in the street.

These small, seemingly trivial acts of kindness have the power to lift your own mood whilst brightening other people’s day.

How To Make The Most Out Of These Techniques.

Here’s a few ways to make the most out of these relaxation techniques…

– Be Persistent. 

While a one-off relaxation session won’t do you any harm, in order to feel the full benefits of your practice you should aim to engage in it as often as possible.

– Be Consistent. 

In order to be persistent, it helps to be consistent with your timings.

Whether it be yoga every weeknight, meditating at 7am every morning or writing in a journal before bed every evening, consistency will ensure that you stay committed to your practice and set aside enough time to engage in it.

– Find The Techniques That Work For You.  

T’ai chi may not be for you, and that’s okay. Finding relaxation techniques that you actually enjoy will increase the chances that you stay committed to your habits.

– Optimise Your Environment. 

Practicing these techniques in a quiet, peaceful setting with minimal distractions will ensure that you get the most out of the time you spend.

 

Please check out the interview with Belinda and Mark giving more in-depth information about building resilience.

As a reader of this blog and listener to the interviews, please consider enrolling in one of the innovative leadership online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching through our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

The Mind of a Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People and Your Organization

This guest post is an excerpt from The Mind of the Leader: How to Lead Yourself, Your People, and Your Organization for Extraordinary Results by Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview with Jacqueline Carter, The Mind of The Leader, Driving Extraordinary Results.

During the summer of 2015, Pierre Nanterme, Accenture’s CEO, announced that the global professional services company would reimagine its performance management system. The company found that after decades of serving its purpose, the system had become massively demotivating. Accenture’s global workforce had changed. Their people— and your people— are not motivated by being a number on a performance rating scale. Rather, today’s workforce is increasingly looking for meaning, human connectedness, true happiness, and a desire to contribute positively to the world. Nanterme and his leadership team realized Accenture needed a better way to lead for these foundational human desires and better engage their 425,000-plus employees— to speak to their intrinsic motivation.

Accenture is no outlier. A global movement is taking place in the C- suites of thousands of progressive organizations like Marriott, Starbucks, and LinkedIn. The question the leaders of these organizations ask themselves is, “How can we create more human leadership and people- centered cultures where employees and leaders are more fulfilled and more fully engaged?”

As human beings, we are all driven by basic needs for meaning, happiness, human connectedness, and a desire to contribute positively to society. That’s true whether we’re at home, out in the world, or at work. But it’s one thing to realize this and another to act on it. Speaking to our people’s intrinsic motivation calls for leadership and organizations that cater to these desires. It is something that forward- thinking organizations and leaders are increasingly realizing and addressing. As Javier Pladevall, CEO of Audi Volkswagen, Spain, reflected in our conversation: “Leadership today is about unlearning management and relearning being human.” (1)

THE MIND OF THE LEADER

The Mind of the Leader provides a way to do this. It outlines how leaders can lead themselves, their people, and their organizations to unlock intrinsic motivation, create real people- centered cultures, and ultimately deliver extraordinary results.

How important is the message of this book? Consider this: In a 2016 McKinsey & Company study of more than fifty- two thousand managers, 86 percent rated themselves as inspiring and good role models (2). But this stands in stark contrast to how employees perceive their leaders. A 2016 Gallup engagement survey found that 82 percent of employees see their leaders as fundamentally uninspiring. In fact, the same survey found that only 13 percent of the global workforce is engaged, while 24 percent are actively disengaged (3).

This seeming lack of good leadership is not because of a lack of effort. According to a recent report, organizations around the globe invest approximately $46 billion annually on leadership development programs. (4)

That’s a lot of money for seemingly little return. What is going wrong? In part, the system is broken: According to research by Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, when many leaders start to feel powerful, their more benevolent qualities start to decline.

Corporate leaders are three times more likely than lower- level employees to interrupt coworkers, multitask during meetings, raise their voices, and say insulting things. He also found that leaders are more likely than other people to engage in rude, selfish, and unethical behavior. (5)

None of this is going to speak to the intrinsic motivation that we all share. While the $46 billion spent on leadership training might improve leaders’ effectiveness— at least in a strictly business sense of focusing on the bottom line— something more is needed: Leadership that truly engages employees, leadership that is truly human and speaks to the basic human needs any employee has.

And it starts in the mind of the leader. Leadership pioneer Peter Drucker said, “You cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first,” (6). If this is true, the majority of leadership education and training programs have it backward. Most leadership education starts with skills like strategy, people management, and finance. But from Drucker’s point of view, this approach starts at the end and misses the beginning: it’s like building a house by starting with the roof.

Like Drucker, we argue that leadership starts with yourself. More specifically, it starts in your mind. By understanding how your mind works, you can lead yourself effectively. By understanding and leading yourself effectively, you can understand others and be able to lead them more effectively.

And by understanding and leading others more effectively, you can understand and lead your organization more effectively— and by “more effectively,” we mean in a way that’s going to tap into your own and your people’s intrinsic motivations and sense of purpose. If you’re able to do that— and we have witnessed that with practice and persistence, anyone can— you’ll have a more engaged and productive workforce. And perhaps more importantly, you’ll be part of creating more happiness, stronger human connectedness, and better social cohesion within and beyond your organization.

For over a decade, we and our colleagues at Potential Project have trained tens of thousands of leaders in hundreds of companies like Microsoft, LEGO, Danone, and Accenture, utilizing the practice of mindfulness. The outcomes have been thoroughly researched and proven to deliver remarkable results. But with the emerging movement of employees looking for more meaning, happiness, and connectedness, we have asked ourselves what else leaders need for leading themselves, their people, and their organizations for extraordinary results.

As part of this research, we and our research team have surveyed and assessed more than thirty thousand leaders from thousands of companies in more than a hundred countries. We have conducted in- depth interviews with hundreds of C- suite executives. And we have reviewed thousands of studies on leadership in the fields of neuroscience, leadership, organizational development, and psychology.

Based on this research, we have conclusively found that three mental qualities stand out as being foundational for leaders today: mindfulness (M), selflessness (S), and compassion (C). Together, we call these foundational skills MSC leadership.

So how do you as a leader achieve MSC leadership, to better engage your people at their intrinsic level and unleash better performance? By applying mindfulness, selflessness, and compassion first to yourself, then to your people, and then to your organization The Mind of the Leader takes you step by step through this process.

Since MSC leadership begins inwardly, with your own mind, and then projects outward to your people and your organization, the book is structured to take you on that journey. By understanding yourself— your mind— you can lead yourself effectively. By leading yourself, you’ll be able to lead others effectively. And by leading others, you can better lead your organization. This is the overarching structure of the book.

Please check out the interview with Jacqueline giving more in-depth information about the Mind of the Leader and MSC leadership.

As a reader of this blog and listener to the interviews, please consider enrolling in one of the innovative leadership online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About Jacqueline Carter book co-author and radio show guest

Jacqueline Carter is an International Partner and North American Director for Potential Project. She has over twenty years of experience working with organizations around the globe to enhance effectiveness and improve performance. Jacqueline is a regular contributor to business publications including Harvard Business Review, and is a sought-after speaker for her thought leadership, knowledge, and engaging facilitation skills. She holds a master’s degree in organizational behavior and undergraduate degrees in labor management relations and mathematics. Before joining Potential Project Jacqueline held a number of senior leadership roles. She also worked for Deloitte in the US, Canada and Australia in their Change Leadership practice.

References:

  1. Unless otherwise noted, quotations in this book are from our interviews conducted between September 2016 and June 2017.
  2. M. Bazigos and E. Caruso, “Why Frontline Workers Are Disengaged,” McKinsey Quarterly , March 2016, http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why– frontline- workers- are- disengaged.
  3. B. Rigoni and B. Nelson, “Do Employees Really Know What’s Expected of Them?” Business Journal , September 27, 2016, http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/195803/employees – really- know- expected.aspx?g_source=EMPLOYEE_ENGAGEMENT&g_medium=topic&g_campaign=tiles.
  4. B. Carroll, R. Singaraju, and E. Park, Corporate Learning Factbook 2015: Benchmarks, Trends, and Analysis of the U.S. Training Market , Bersin by Deloitte, August 8, 2015, https://www.bersin.com/Login.aspx?p=http://bersinone.bersin.com/resources/research/?docid=19202&h=1.
  5. J. C. Magee et al., “Leadership and the Psychology of Power,” in The Psychology of Leadership: New Perspectives and Research , ed. D. M. Messick and R. M. Kramer (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005).
  6. P. Drucker, “Managing Oneself,” in The Drucker Lectures: Essential