Thursday, December 24, 2009

Around the Holiday Table

Here's an experiment. Listen for (as Peter Drucker reminds us) "what isn't being said."

Could make the holidays much more interesting....

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Factoid Re: Men and Emotions

Does this seem true? I haven't read the book.

"Men can take up to 7 hours longer [than women] to process complex emotive data. [They] will not know what they feel at the moment of feeling and will take longer to figure it out. [They] may not be able to put their feelings in words - if they choose a verbal strategy at all."
~Michael Gurian, author of "What Could He Be Thinking" ~

Monday, December 21, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Christmas Workplace Carol (A true story)

One of my clients recently had a breakthrough at work. Karen struggled with several colleagues who were allied against her. Because she depended on these other women, Karen often felt stressed and angry. As we examined her interactions, Karen saw her negative patterns of self-defensive behaviors. She wanted to be lighthearted and kind. She wanted to laugh, joke, and smile as she did with others at work. But when she encountered Debra or Elaine, her face stiffened. As Karen grew cold, Debra and Elaine retaliated. Prolonged silence soon led to ignoring each other and even ignoring legitimate work requests. Karen felt scared, sick, and embarrassed. Why did they hate her so much? Each new day added deeper injuries and destroyed trust. Although she prided herself on her “people skills,” Karen felt trapped in her suspicions. She couldn’t talk to either Debra or Elaine. She had to quit. There was no other way out.

When other co-workers realized the depth of Karen’s despair, they began to see their own complicity. The office gossip and intrigues had made Karen a departmental scapegoat. But most of the group loved Karen and didn’t want to lose her. They began to speak to Elaine and Debra on Karen’s behalf.

Before too long, Karen felt a shift. As Debra and Elaine relaxed, she relaxed, until one day all three women spontaneously apologized to each other.

A happy ending? Yes. But more than that…. Several weeks later, Karen asked Debra for a favor and Debra, feeling stressed, snapped back with irritation. In the past, Karen might have snapped back or glared--beginning a new sequence of passive-aggressive withdrawal. But the exhausting struggles of the past months had softened Karen. She was willing to grant Debra some slack. Karen had seen her own imperfections and, most importantly, she didn’t want to go back to a warfare mentality. Her struggles with Debra and Elaine had diminished her need for revenge. She was willing to forgive, not for Debra’s sake, but for her own. Carrying a grunge was hard work! With gratitude at this lesson, she smiled (sincerely) to Debra. What joy! Karen felt freed from her need to retaliate. And instead of feeling guilty for her own rude reactions, Karen now felt proud of her response. It was a wonderful moment. She knew that her corner of the workplace could (and would) stay peaceful. © 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Power of Optimism

Thank you to for posting this story. A great reminder of self-fulling prophecies and the power of positive thoughts and words.

A landscape gardener ran a business that had been in the family for two or three generations. The staff were happy, and customers loved to visit the store, or to have the staff work on their gardens or make deliveries - anything from bedding plants to ride-on mowers.

For as long as anyone could remember, the current owner and previous generations of owners were extremely positive happy people.

Most folk assumed it was because they ran a successful business.

In fact it was the other way around...

A tradition in the business was that the owner always wore a big lapel badge, saying Business Is Great!

The business was indeed generally great, although it went through tough times like any other. What never changed however was the owner's attitude, and the badge saying Business Is Great!
Everyone who saw the badge for the first time invariably asked, "What's so great about business?" Sometimes people would also comment that their own business was miserable, or even that they personally were miserable or stressed.

Anyhow, the Business Is Great! badge always tended to start a conversation, which typically involved the owner talking about lots of positive aspects of business and work, for example:
· the pleasure of meeting and talking with different people every day
· the reward that comes from helping staff take on new challenges and experiences
· the fun and laughter in a relaxed and healthy work environment
· the fascination in the work itself, and in the other people's work and businesses
· the great feeling when you finish a job and do it to the best of your capabilities
· the new things you learn every day - even without looking to do so
· and the thought that everyone in business is blessed - because there are many millions of people who would swap their own situation to have the same opportunities of doing a productive meaningful job, in a civilized well-fed country, where we have no real worries.

And so the list went on. And no matter how miserable a person was, they'd usually end up feeling a lot happier after just a couple of minutes listening to all this infectious enthusiasm and positivity.

If asked about the badge in a quiet moment, the business owner would confide:
"The badge came first. The great business followed."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An EI Poem

I love this poem. It succinctly explains the work of Emotional Intelligence.

by Portia Nelson

I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk I fall in. I am lost ... I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes me forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I am in the same place but, it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in ... it's a habit. my eyes are open I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Motivation in the Workplace. Who's to Blame?

I'm not close with one of my sisters. This is a painful truth. I could give you theories to explain why we've grown distant but that could take days. When family (or workplace) relationships disintegrate, it takes time. Trust is lost and then more trust is lost until a canyon of suspicion separates us and obliterates bridges of empathy and understanding.

I've been getting requests for training in motivation. Many employers seem mystified-how can they get their workers to care? A complex question! And I'm reminded of my struggles with my sister. It's tempting to blame her but I know that we have both created our relationship. Workplace dynamics are equally complicated. Employers often hope for a magic wand to transform their “lazy” workers into enthusiastic employees. But, unless a disengaged worker is simply unwilling to work (rare), the employer is probably contributing to the problem. To motivate workers, employers may need to start with changing themselves. Have they taken the time to know the employee and see what intrinsically motivates him/her? Is the company creating a product or service that the employee can offer with pride? Has the employee received enough feedback and training to do his/her job? Is this employee the right person for the job?

The bad news is that recovering lost trust and interpersonal harmony is hard work. The good news is--each side has the ability to improve the frustrating situation. For my sister and I--we may achieve only a truce. But at least we know we're both responsible for our struggles. We begin with that knowledge.

Nurturing a positive workplace culture unleashes creativity and enthusiasm. Such a transformation will not be instant, but it can happen if employers seek to change not only their employees, but also themselves.© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Blaming at Work Creates More Blame

Research from the University of Southern California has great suggestions for managers on creating healthier atmosphere's at work. Here's the article and an excerpt below.

“Blame creates a culture of fear,” Fast said, “and this leads to a host of negative consequences for individuals and for groups.”

A manager can keep a lid on the behavior by rewarding employees who learn from their mistakes and by making a point to publicly acknowledge his or her own mistakes, Fast said. Managers may also want to assign blame, when necessary, in private and offer praise in public to create a positive attitude in the workplace.
© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Common Sense Checklist for Health.

I’ve adapted this list from others I’ve seen. Not rocket science, but how successful are you at maintaining success in all 5 areas? During this holiday season, make the tough choices to care for yourself, NO MATTER WHAT. Daily pressures will tempt you to deny your true needs but remember: you can’t help anyone else if you are depleted physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally.

1. Be kind to yourself. Respect your own needs, emotions, and desires, no matter how “crazy or irrational” they may seem.
2. Take care of your health so you’re ready for any challenge the day may bring.
3. Create work and home environments that nurture you.
4. Create a supportive network of friends and colleagues.
5. Spend time daily in recharging activities--quiet time, exercise, hobbies etc.
© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Friday, December 4, 2009

Practicing Mindfulness--a Rerun of Previous Post. In time for the Holidays.

I love it when “soft” skills (emotional literacy) are confirmed by hard science. I recently discovered more brain research confirming EI principles and the benefits of “mindfulness” (a form of meditation).

David Creswell and Matthew D. Lieberman, from UCLA, conducted brain scans of adults. Their studies found that naming emotions decreases activity in the amygdala (the emotional sentinel of the brain) and increases activity in the prefrontal cortex.

This explains a lot!

When our amygdala is aroused, our body sends out chemicals and hormones that create our emotions. This happens so fast that we may act inappropriately and respond with a fight, flight, or freeze reaction—called an “amygdala hijack.” Conversely, the prefrontal area of the brain is associated with “executive functions,” i.e. the ability to manage emotions and make well-reasoned decisions. Naming emotions then, can calm us down and help us think more rationally. This may be why journaling or talking through our reactions with a friend is often very helpful. Such self-awareness and "affect labeling” is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence competencies.

The study also measured the impact of mindfulness and found that this practice creates the same effect. This isn’t surprising since mindfulness leads to recognizing all our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. When practicing mindfulness, I'm naming my emotions in each moment--“I’m feeling upset, now I’m feeling relaxed, etc.”

Even five minutes a day of this "being in the moment" can have profound effects on our health and well-being. During this holiday season, give it a try!

For an abstract of the original study seek link below. Lieberman MD, Eisenberger NI, Crockett MJ, et al. Putting Feelings Into Words: Affect Labeling Disrupts Amygdala Activity in Response to Affective Stimuli Psychol Sci. 2007 May;18(5):421-8. [Abstract] © 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved