Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Time Management for 2011--Ruthlessly Protect The Gift of Time

Is "using my time more effectively" on your list of resolutions for the new year? Remember that time management has an emotional component. Make sure to deal with the emotions under your habits. These principles are from my popular "Tenacious Time Management" presentation.

Tenacious Time Management--Principles
 Ruthlessly set priorities.
 Courageously plunge into “A” tasks.
 Heroically hold focus.
 Dare to match tasks to energy cycles.
 Boldly batch tasks.
 Fearlessly decide—touch each task once.
 Face the truth—do a time audit.
 Assertively use smart goals.
 Bravely defeat procrastination.
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Breaking through the Conflict Cycle

I was sitting in Kathy’s office, explaining what I’d done for one of her clients while she was away. For a split second, Kathy looked angry. But when I asked what was wrong, she denied it. I persisted. I knew that look and I trusted my feelings. Kathy again replied, “Nothing’s wrong.” Then, trying to understand her point of view, I wondered aloud—was Kathy afraid I was stealing her clients? Her face changed again. I knew I had found the truth. It took a while for Kathy to admit her fears but as she opened up, I heard her concerns and she heard my explanations. Our relationship grew closer that day.

Conflicts build over time from small events. During a meeting with Amy, we can interpret her tone of voice or facial expression negatively and leave with a vague feeling of discomfort. Over time, we slowly begin to mistrust Amy. Soon we see more evidence of her rudeness. We begin to treat her differently. Soon there is tension in all our interactions. Finally, there is an outburst and the conflict is recognized. Because it has been building over time, it will be much harder to overcome.

Cycle of Conflict
A sense of something wrong-->a small event-->an attitude begins to form-->
More events confirm our attitude-->tension and discomfort-->conflict explodes.

If we can intervene in the cycle earlier, we can prevent attitudes from forming and hardening. We can prevent a growing (if unconscious) cycle of nonverbal behaviors that increase defensiveness and inhibit trust. We can prevent words and actions that we’ll later regret.

Do I recognize the small signs of another’s anger or fear?

Unfortunately, it takes perseverance and skill to intervene at the smaller levels of conflict. Because our society frowns on anger, we’re often tempted (like Kathy) to deny it. Through trial and error we will learn when to trust our own intuitions and when to believe a denial. We will also learn to always check our assumptions about nonverbals.

Team reflection: Do we have explosions of conflict that seem to “come out of the blue?” If so, how can we intervene sooner into the conflict cycle?

Journal prompt: This week in addition to basic journaling, reflect on any conflicts in your life. Can you think back in time and discover when the conflict started? Can you intervene sooner in milder conflicts that may be forming now?
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

To Train or To Coach--That is the Question

Does our team need training or coaching?

Because I specialize in emotional intelligence, companies often contact me when they are having a problem---conflict, poor communication, or lack of healthy assertiveness in the team. But digging deeper, I soon learn that the problems often stem from only a few employees. Then why train everyone? Perhaps there’s a desire to “not single out” these workers. Or the company thinks that the best value comes from getting large numbers into the training room.

Coaching may be a better answer for several reasons.
1. The larger the group, the harder it is to customize training for the needs, learning styles, and questions of every group member. Even if I allow time for questions and pair-sharing, it isn’t possible for each person to tell me their unique issues and concerns. Coaching allows me to give a laser-like focus to the individual. We won’t waste time on irrelevant topics (that may be vital to someone else).

2. Any resentment at “being singled out,” should disappear quickly. Coaching is a profound gift from the company. It demonstrates the company’s commitment to the employee – and shows (through hard earned cash) how much he/she is valued.

3. The workers who most need training will receive more individual time and attention. I will be able to fully teach listening techniques or emotional awareness, without needing to rush through key skills. I’ll be able to answer questions, objections, or confusions.

4. During the coaching session, through intense listening, I can create trust and build a bridge of empathy. I’ll have time to help the employee understand the “whys” of a skill, not just the “how.” The participant will be more motivated, knowing that the session is being tailored just for him/her. Conversely, a large group in training may be less engaged. They may feel that the training isn’t really meant for them. The few employees who really need the training are also less open. They don’t see the need, or they resent the plan.

How much is a calmer, more efficient workplace worth? While it may look more economical to train larger numbers, if our goal is to solve problems at work, one on one coaching may be a better solution.
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Making Training Stick

I presented DDI’s Supporting Leadership Development workshop yesterday. This program offers best practices for how to make training stick. The attendees (a stellar group of manufacturing managers) devoured the materials. They understood how vital their role is—before, during, and after training. We talked about soft and hard measurements of training success, the obstacles within their culture, and some of the core content they could model for their learners.

Training is not a single event. To obtain lasting impact, training must be reinforced and aligned with daily goals. Learners will make mistakes and face anxiety. Managers play a vital role in offering reassurance and support during the learning process.

I admired these managers. They have committed themselves to a great deal of additional work--to mentor a new generation of leaders. It will not be easy. But the rewards are great. With perseverance, they will not only help develop new leaders, but also continue to model an organization that values learning.
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Take Time for Yourself

In this era of technological wonders, accepting our human limitations may be the greatest time management challenge we face

Are you taking time to refresh, recharge, and contemplate?

© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Puzzle of Our Inner Landscape

Staying with feelings is like putting together a puzzle. At first we sit in front of a jumbled mess. But puzzle makers trust that if they contemplate the pieces, they will begin to see patterns and how pieces fit together. Do you remember the feeling of sitting in front of a puzzle and suddenly understanding how the triangle filled with yellow and white fits into the whole? Working with emotions is the same, except that as we observe ourselves, we will have to tolerate both the confusion and the intensity of our feelings. Building a puzzle is fun; feeling our anger, fear, or sadness—not much fun. But the rewards are great.

Don’t doubt your process. You will begin to understand the confusing emotions within you. Write about them, talk to a friend, or simply contemplate while sitting or walking. The puzzle will come together. Maybe not completely, and certainly not quickly, but mindfulness brings clarity. With practice we begin to uncover the different mixtures and intensities of our emotions. We begin to recognize the triggers that produce emotions. We begin to understand our unique inner landscape.
© lewis-barr all rights reserved.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Emotions and Information Overload

Feeling overwhelmed with information and choices?

You're not alone. There is an ever growing mountain of information to consume and a dazzling array of choices in our daily routine. Learning to detect our subtle emotional reactions can help us sift through the competing voices, statistics, and pitches clamoring for our attention. Our emotions can alert us to subtle clues that our conscious mind has overlooked. Then, if we feel trust or distrust, anger, or fear, we can act appropriately. In this age of overwhelm, emotions can play an important role, especially if we analyze our reactions and learn (through experience) when to trust our intuition and when it is fallible.

© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Friday, November 12, 2010

Joy-filled Lessons

Can you take a brief moment right now to do a quick exercise--recalling feelings of joy? (It will help your immune system and your productivity today--I promise.) Read the rest of this paragraph and then close your eyes if it helps you to remember. Imagine a joyful time in your life. Remember the people, place, or event. Recall how you felt inside and the details of the scene. Relish the memory.

In my EI workshops I often focus (in my zeal to help) on the challenging emotions—fear, anger, sadness. It's hard work to explore those feelings. But all emotions have a lesson. Joy reminds us of what we value and hold dear. When we focus on joy we remind ourselves of our priorities and desires. Joyful memories can also remind us of our strengths and talents. Are you sharing your unique aptitudes and gifts with the world (and your co-workers)?
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Are you Paying Attention to Nonverbals at work?

Just for today, watch the nonverbal behaviors around you. Are you heeding the messages being sent to you? Are you aware of them but choosing to ignore them? Or have you been unaware of the joy, frustrations, sadness, or anger in the next cubicle?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What Path are You Creating?

Our habitual reactions create stronger and stronger neural pathways in our brain, like a path through a forest. With each new repetition of a thought or action, we reinforce our automatic perceptions and reactions. Feelings of anger, fear, anxiety—all our emotions-- can be reinforced through practice. Are you happy with the emotional and cognitive paths you are creating in your mind?

© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Monday, November 1, 2010

“The Tech-free Campsite" Rule for Meetings

When was the last time you were disconnected from technology? How did it feel? At your next meeting, try an experiment: have all participants turn off their phones and pretend they are in a gorgeous national forest or on an exotic cruise without phone reception. Can your group allow themselves to focus only on the meeting in progress? How does it feel to be tech-free?

Scientists are reporting that multi-tasking often interferes with our ability to perform well. While our tech habit may be hard to break (even for a short time period), the rewards may be significant: higher productivity, creativity and even better physical and psychological health.
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Mining Meaning from the Stories of Your Life

The daily events in our lives are like holograms. The stories of our strivings and daydreams, or our mishaps and conflicts all reveal our inner core—our personality, our soul. Every event, no matter how minor, can reflect our inner world. We can mine the stories of our lives to extract the gold from them. We may even find that the lessons in our daily lives contain a “gold” (universal truth) for others as well as ourselves. © 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rx for Strong Emotions

What can we do when we are triggered by a very strong emotion?
Rx for Strong Emotions
Release yourself physically--
Go for a walk.
Breathe deeply.
Start a relaxation process to stop a "fight or flight" escalation.
Explore your psychology--
Silently contemplate, journal, or talk to a trusted friend.
What happened?
How come I feel the way I feel? (continue to repeat “how come” until you find out your deepest inner truth.) Don’t judge this truth, just find it.
Determine what needs changing—your inner perceptions or an outer reality.
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Monday, October 25, 2010

Accepting Emotional Reactions--Our Own and Others'

Imagine you’re in a fight with a colleague. You tell your office mate what happened but she only shrugs. She doesn’t understand your point. Perhaps your coworker is furious because he didn't receive more credit for his recent report. In this same situation, you were unaffected. I may seethe when a colleague tells a white lie but this doesn't bother you at all.

We often feel superior to others when we don’t feel angry but anger (like all emotions) is only data. Our anger is telling us something about our inner or outer world.

Accepting all our emotional reactions (not behaviors) is vital in developing emotional Intelligence. Accepting our most embarrassing and confusing emotional reactions will lead to greater self-knowledge and emotional skillfulness. Accepting the emotional reactions (not behavior) of others will help us develop empathy and healthier, happier relationships.

If we can accept our differences in perceptions and emotional reactions we avoid two destructive impulses.

1. If we accept our feelings fully we are less tempted to blame the other person for our reactions. It isn’t accurate to say “you make me so angry….”. When we try to justify our feelings through blame, we only make a difficult situation worse. If I’m angry about a colleague’s behavior, it is my anger. I can describe the behavior and what I wish changed, but the feeling is mine. Other people may not perceive the situation in the same way. They may not feel angry -- but this doesn’t matter.
2.. As we accept our feelings we grow to understand our triggers. As we understand these triggers (a lifelong process), we are more prepared for them and are more able to manage our reactions.

Don’ let anyone criticize your feelings. Someone can question your actions, but never your feelings. Our feelings are data about our inner and outer environment. We need to explore this data--not suppress and deny it. As we explore our emotions we may find that our inner perceptions are based on faulty conclusions from the past. We may work to change dysfunctional thoughts which lead to emotions that don’t accurately reflect outer reality. Or we may find that our emotions are giving us valuable data about our outer environment.
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Thursday, October 21, 2010

An acronym reminder tool

How do we work with less conflict? Here’s a useful acronym that I recently created.

When in conflict --DUEL
Describe—Describe what you need changed in your work situation.
Understand—Work to understand your emotional triggers and those of your co-workers.
Empathize—Can you find a way to imagine how the other person feels?
Listen—Listen for both facts and feelings--to discover their emotional needs.

© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Conflict at Work

When trust is lost how can workers regain it? How can we turn around a poisoned relationship?

Team reflection:
Am I perpetuating a workplace conflict through gossip, my nonverbal behaviors, or silence?

We may feel justified in our feelings about “certain” co-workers but are we correct in our assumptions? Could there be other realities? How might our “opponents” see our behavior?

What is the cost to me when I hold a grudge?

What next:
Team members in conflict may need mediation from a neutral third party. Are you that person? Even if those in conflict aren’t ready to sit down together, “positive gossip” can build bridges and empathy. Can you help other team members understand each other better? Can you relate only positive messages and build trust within your team, instead of division?
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Keeping the flames alive--monitoring the inner world

Rick and I have been enjoying some Fall camping. Sitting by the campfire is one of our favorite rituals. It is a time of relaxation and contemplation. The fire soothes us. But it does require tending.

The key to building a fire is finding the right balance of oxygen and fuel. We’ve learned to balance the logs just…close…enough. We allow space for air but keep the logs close--to build momentum of one flame on another. Then as the fire falls and settles we adjust the logs. We keep bringing fuel and oxygen where it’s needed.

If you leave a fire to itself…it dies. It winds down. A fire needs tending.

How is tending a fire like tending to our emotional and spiritual lives?

© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Monday, October 18, 2010

Guidelines For Expressing Feelings

Recognizing and then expressing feelings is key to a balanced life.

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Expressing feelings begins with an “I statement” --keeping the focus on me.
  2. Formula: “I feel ____ (adjective follows: happy, sad, embarrassed, elated, etc.) about...”
  3. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, good nor bad, they just are.
  4. Saying, “I feel THAT...,” is probably not expressing a feeling.
  5. If I can substitute “I think” for “I feel,” then I am expressing a thought.
Expressing our feelings allows us to share our needs without needing to judge another. We can help others understand our unique perceptions and requirements.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Emotional Intelligence and Time

Daniel Goleman writes in Working with Emotional Intelligence,

"The rhythm and pace of modern life give us too little time to assimilate, reflect, and react...We need time to be introspective, but we don't get it - or don't take it."

How do you take the time to be introspective, and process your emotions?
What form do your moments of quietude take? Meditation? Gardening? Walks?
How might you find additional opportunities to listen to your "inner voice"?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Managing emotions through the NOTICE technique.

In an effort to continually create practical tools to enhance emotional intelligence, I’ve created my own acronym for the daily work of managing emotions. I’d be happy to talk with you further about this memory aid. My participants have valued this tool since I started presenting it in my workshops.

Managing emotions through the NOTICE technique.

-Name. What emotion is this?

-Origin. When did I start feeling this emotion?

-Trigger. What was the trigger that started this emotion in me?

(These first three are “tracking back” steps that are detective work, taking us back in time.)

-I. Does this emotion give me information about myself and my habitual patterns or about the outer environment?

-Check. Is there another explanation other than the one I’m assuming? Can I check my assumptions about this event?

-Essential. Is this important enough to discuss with the other party now? Do I need to discuss this at all?

© lewis-barr 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An Impact Map Helps Clarify Training Goals.

The map is designed to help clarify the goals of EI training, including the specific skills targeted and uses of these skills on the job. It is a tool that can be used in several ways:
· to keep my own training designs focused
· to help anyone explain/understand the value of this training
· to help managers both explain the value to their staff (pre-training) and also monitor/support the growth of these skills over time (post training).
I'd be happy to send you a copy of this map or create a customized one for your training needs.
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Let me Talk so I can Learn....

Long, long ago, when I lived in San Diego, I worked part time teaching English to foreign tourists. The school hired many theatre artists-thinking we were more dramatic and likely to keep our adult students enthralled while learning nouns, verbs, and adverbs. Still, when I was hired, I was told to talk only one third of the class time. I was to encourage my reticent students to not passively listen to me but practice their English through their own conversation.

I've found that talking one third and listening two thirds is a great formula for any kind of teaching. When facilitating meetings, I expect to talk even less.

But often, when I’m hired as a subject matter expert, I’m expected to share lots of content. I do love to share high-quality information. (A recent participant called my EI presentation full of "good brain food" --thank you, Paula.) When I’m the SME, how can I speak less and listen more?

A good question. One that causes me to reflect on the power of questions.

A thoughtful question allows participants to grapple with and more deeply understand any content.

I’ve been thinking a lot about questions lately. Here are a few that come to mind this morning. Perhaps they might be useful during your next team meeting?

--What current projects feel most satisfying? Do you know why?

--What projects or processes are working well?

--If we had more time, what are some projects or processes you'd like to change or implement?

--Where would you like this team to be in a year? In 5 years?
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Empathy--A cure for the common cold?

Scientists continue to find great power in our emotional reactions. Here's a new fact re: empathy from Jennifer Ackerman’s book Ah-Choo! The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold.

Empathy is a powerful treatment: one study found that if cold sufferers feel that their doctor is truly empathetic—friendly, reassuring, making them feel at ease—their cold is reduced by a full day, compared to those who didn’t get such TLC at the doctor’s office.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Embracing the Creative Process--at Work, In Life

“If you already knew it, it would not be creation but
Gertrude Stein

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Gallup Research Confirms the Importance of Employee Engagement and how to Achieve it.

To identify the elements of worker engagement, research firm Gallup conducted many thousands of interviews in all kinds of organizations, at all levels, in most industries, and in many countries.

These 12 statements -- The Gallup Q12 -- emerged from Gallup's pioneering research as those that best predict employee and workgroup performance.The 12 elements of great managing are:

1. I know what is expected of me.

2. I have the materials and equipment to do a job right.

3. I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

4. In the last week I have received recognition or praise.

5. Someone at work seems to care about me.

6. Someone at work encourages my development.

7. My opinions seem to count.

8. I am connected with the mission of my organization.

9. My co-workers are committed to doing quality work.

10. I have a best friend at work.

11. In the last six months, someone has talked to me about my progress.

12. In the last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Read full article here.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Are we Leveraging our Time Well?

“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask. For once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”

—Albert Einstein

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Some examples of September offerings

Do you need a speaker for an upcoming event? My presentations on Emotional Intelligence won't change your workplace overnight, but they may be a first step in starting a dialogue. Do we recognize the intelligence of our emotions? Do we know how to manage them intelligently?

Here's a sample of my September offerings. How might I serve your team?

"Emotions at Work: Learning from our feelings while managing their power." September 16, Library Administrators Conference of Northern Illinois.

“Emotional Intelligence—Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors.”
GWHRA SHRM Chapter, Wednesday, September 22, 2010, Joliet Junior College

Here's an open enrollment class outside of Chicago--
Understanding Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace
September 29, 6:30-9:30 APC 158, Waubonsee Community College, $99

Friday, August 27, 2010

Where Emotions Come From--Excerpt from "Police Chief Magazine"

This excerpt beautifully describes both the promise and challenge of EI programs.

How Can We Train EI?
Emotional competencies can change, but only through positive development by experiential learning, habitual self-reflection, and long-term meditative work. Intellectual exercises or reading assignments by themselves are unlikely to work, because emotional responses do not emerge from the part of the brain where higher-level mental functions occur, like reasoning and language. Instead, they come from the interior limbic system in the brain, where emotions like anger and fear emerge.

Goleman calls this the “primal brain,” and according to him we often unknowingly act according to these primal emotions. This process is called negative habituation, and is why, without positive, habitual self-awareness training, changing EI competencies is difficult.

You can read the entire article here.

For example, a stress management class can have some impact but may not suffice in the long term. These workshops typically target learning skills at the cognitive, exterior level. Skills at that level are highly perishable. They do not become a positive habit.

The trick to learning EI skills is to become competent and aware of emotional responses as they happen. Unfortunately, our own responses, often invisible to us, emerge from the primal brain. Students will not just learn these skills or pick them up on their own; they need to learn how to practice emotional self-awareness.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Excellent Article by Tony Schwartz

This reserach has many implications for trainers and those who hire us.

Here's an excerpt. You can read the entire article here.

Here, then, are six keys to achieving excellence:
1. Pursue what you love. Passion is an incredible motivator. It fuels focus, resilience, and perseverance.

2. Do the hardest work first. We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers, Ericsson and others have found, delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice in the mornings, before they do anything else. That's when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.

3. Practice intensely, without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break. Ninety minutes appears to be the maximum amount of time that we can bring the highest level of focus to any given activity. You may even have to start with 45 or 60 minutes. The evidence is equally strong that great performers practice no more than 4 ½ hours a day.

4. Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses. The simpler and more precise the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments. Too much feedback, too continuously, can create cognitive overload, increase anxiety, and interfere with learning.

5. Take regular renewal breaks. Relaxing after intense effort not only provides an opportunity to rejuvenate, but also to metabolize and embed learning. It's also during rest that the right hemisphere becomes more dominant, which can lead to creative breakthroughs.

6. Ritualize practice. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. As the researcher Roy Baumeister has found, none of us have very much of it. The best way to insure you'll take on difficult tasks is to ritualize them - build specific, inviolable times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to squander energy thinking about them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Open Enrollment class--Chicago

Do you give presentations? Isn’t it time to upgrade your skills?

Fearless, Dynamic Speaking-–creating powerful presentations.

Monday, September 27, 8:30-4:30, Embassy Suites Chicago-Rosemont, 5500 North River Road. $249 includes snacks and materials.

Register by September 10 for a $50 discount.

(I just presented this program at ALDI foods—we had a great time!)

Are you using your voice effectively?

Participants will be:

  • Changing nervousness into an energized presentation.
  • Organizing ideas.
  • Creating a powerful, charismatic presence
  • Developing a voice with authority.
  • Discovering how to use PowerPoint to engage audiences.
  • Using storytelling and narrative to make your presentations come alive.
  • Eliminating vocal fillers.
  • Learning to deliver content without memorizing.

Call 630-531-0000 to reserve your spot.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Importance of Cohesive Teams –a fable adapted from Aesop

A father had sons who constantly quarreled. This caused him great distress. He ordered them to bring him a bundle of sticks, and said to his eldest son: "Break this."
The son strained and strained, but with all his efforts was unable to break the bundle. The other sons also tried, but none succeeded.
"Untie the bundle," said the father, "and each of you take a stick." When they had done so, he told them: "Now, break," and each stick was easily broken.
“Your constant fighting makes you weak and vulnerable to your opponents,” he said, "be united and gain strength.”
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Passive Aggressive Thought Patterns

Do you recognize any of these thoughts? These unproductive assumptions help create a negative cycle of poor communication, upsetting emotions, and erratic behaviors. Changing our thoughts can change our emotions and the disruptive actions they produce.

Here are some common thoughts that create passive-aggressive behavior traps.

* I must avoid an argument or conflict at all costs.
* I never "win'' in confrontation.
* There is no use opposing them, they are much more powerful.
* I must please people by telling them what they want to hear.
* It's bad to get angry.
* No one wants to know how I feel.
* My feelings are weird; I need to hide them--no one will understand.
* I'd rather back down right away to minimize the damage of a confrontation.
* It's more important for people to like me than hear the truth.
* It is better to deny my feelings than upset someone.
* If I lie, others will never know the truth.
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Proven Method for an Effective Debrief

Want to help your team understand a workshop—or any important event at work? Use the ORID method for leading discussions:

Have participants:
Describe what they Observed during the event.
Relate to it--remembering how they felt or what memories it aroused.
Interpret the meaning of the event.
Decide what action to take or what they have learned that will alter their future actions.
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Monday, August 16, 2010

Metaphor for managing thoughts--Passengers on the Bus

Your thoughts are like commuters on a bus. You are the driver of the bus. The passengers may make critical, abusive, intrusive, distracting, and shouting directions as you drive. You can ignore these comments. You can allow these passengers to shout noisily while keeping your attention focused on the road ahead. You can focus on keeping the bus heading towards your goal or value. ©lewis-barr (Adapted from Hayes et al 1999 and Carol Vivyan 2009)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Are you a worrier?

Emotional Intelligence explores how thoughts create feelings. Here’s a deceptively simple tool. When I’m caught in a worry cycle, I can use this flowchart as a good reminder. I can examine my situation and take action. One action is changing my thoughts --which will change my feelings.

© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Quote that Reminds--There are no Quick Fixes

Good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

EI = Likeablility

I'm always struck, as a consultant, to see how people follow those they "like." To be likeable is to be able to influence others, manage, and lead them. Emotional Intelligence competencies make us likeable. Even if we are angry or needing to discipline a team member, EI skills create an atmosphere of trust and respect for all parties. People with strong EI are admired, not feared. They inspire and engage others.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I’m now certified to deliver the TESI assessment!

The TESI® Report provides a display with numerous graphs and descriptions of the current levels of emotional and social functioning in the team, The report offers unique insights and suggests ways for understanding current strengths and weakness of the team and to strategically choose where to enhance team skills.

Use the TESI to:
--Enhance your understanding of your team’s dynamics.
--Provide data to support deeper discussions about and within the team.
--Focus training goals.
--Measure the impact of a training workshop—6 months, 1 year, or more after the event.

I’d love to talk with you further about this great assessment tool.
Visit for more details.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Anatomy of an Emotional Hijack

My favorite part of Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, is Appendix B that outlines the "Hallmarks of an Emotional Mind." Here is my own summary of his ideas. If you've had a reaction and wonder if your emotions have "hijacked" you, look to see if your reactions fit this list:
1. A quick but sloppy response: an accurate perception is sacrificed for speed. Speed is what makes our emotions so helpful at protecting us from danger, and so harmful (when the danger is imagined).

2. Feelings come first: then we realize what happened. Our feelings seem to happen to us. We can practice ways of intervening but strong feelings have biological pathways that will always precede thought.

3. Our emotions often have a childlike logic and can contain symbolic meanings. This is why it is impossible to argue with someone "possessed" by an emotion. It is also why deciphering the meaning of an emotion can be so difficult.

4. Strong feelings are often a reaction to past events-- not present realities. Taking time to understand these emotions can help us identify the unconscious thoughts (from the past) that are still driving our behavior (and reactions).

5. Our perception of reality is based on the emotion we are feeling. Even our memories can shift as we seek "proof" and "justification" for our reactions. Even though we may be very wrong in our assessments, strong feelings can persuade us.

We can't use willpower against our emotions but we can learn to work with both our thoughts and emotions to acheive healthier living.

How would you describe the experience of being overtaken by an emotion?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

5 steps to manage defensiveness or attacks from others.

1. Disengage from my own emotional reaction—take a deep breath.
2. Depersonalize their attack--focus on behaviors not people.
3. (Try to) Empathize--they are distraught.
4. Disclose my thoughts and feelings--use an I statement to maintain a healthy boundary.
5. Inquire into their thoughts and feelings.

© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Time for a Challenging Reminder from Thomas Merton

Why are we always so busy? Too busy for friends. Too busy to relax or have a moment to reflect on our lives. Does our busyness protect us from loneliness? Does it make us feel important?

I've shared this provocative quote before but it seems worth repeating. Written in the 1950's and ever more pertinent as life accelerates every year.

"There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence…overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form of innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone and everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy...destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
Thomas Merton

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Quote for the day--Aristotle on Anger

Anyone can become angry - that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way - this is not easy.
from The Nicomachean Ethics

Friday, July 2, 2010

MMM….. The 3 Ms to Emotional Mastery

1. Manage your body’s reactions.
2. Manage your mind’s perceptions.
3. Manage your habitual reactions.

So easy to say but so hard to do! Training in Emotional Intelligence aims to offer insights and tools to achieve these goals—everyday.

© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Time Management and Storytelling--The Beginning, Middle, End

People crave stories. We learn most effectively through stories and some researchers even believe that they have a therapeutic effect on the listener.

I’ve been studying storytelling for most of my life. I’ve used this knowledge to write plays, screenplays, and speeches and to teach public speaking. Recently a client asked me to define “story.” I gave her the simplest definition: a story contains a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Even professional storytellers and screenwriters begin their work from this deceptively simple goal. Today I’ve also noticed how this structure might explain good time management tactics.

I’ve been juggling lots of different balls lately: my training business, my writing, a film project, training research and more. I’ve noticed that I’m at my best when I can follow a project to a logical place of completion: a beginning, middle, and end. I’m far less effective if I jump from idea to idea, or if I’m interrupted in the middle of a project.

Do you ever find yourself confused and overwhelmed by the number of projects on your desk? See if you can construct some uninterrupted time and follow the course of your project from beginning-middle-end. You don’t have to complete the task to find a natural and satisfying place to end. Not only will your work be smarter and more efficient, you’ll also feel more energized and productive. © 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Are you Emotionally Intelligent? A checklist

People who are emotionally aware:

---Are able to recognize their own emotions and the effects of those emotions on others.

---Learn information about themselves and their environment from their emotional reactions.

---Understand how their feelings are related to their thoughts.

---Recognize how their feelings affect their performance.

Are you able to utilize the data from your emotions to enhance your life?

© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


These may seem overly obvious but, in today's world, don't we need these regular reminders to slow down? Are you following these guidelines for a more balanced life?

Here are several practical tips to reduce stress:
(1) Be realistic and don't try to be perfect, or expect others to be so.
(2) Don't over-schedule; cut out an activity or two when you start to feel overwhelmed.
(3) Get a good night's sleep.
(4) Get regular exercise to manage stress -- just not excessive or compulsive exercise -- and follow a healthy diet.
(5) Build time into your schedule for reading or a nice long bath.
--Adapted from Science Daily

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What's a Breakthrough for you?

I’ve been coaching a client recently and we explored what a “breakthrough” would look like to her. Here’s what she had to say:

A breakthrough would be moving through my recurring emotional impasse so I am finally free of it. I would breakthrough into a freedom to create, to be passionate about my work, and to feel righteous indignation (when appropriate) without the whiplash of fear and shame. I could allow myself to soar without fear of being struck down and allow myself to fail without fear of ultimate destruction.

Such a great list! I wish all of us this breakthrough. Ready for a breakthrough? What would that look like to you?
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mystery of the Left Turn—A true story (because I can’t make this stuff up!)

I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. Still, in some situations, my brain doesn’t work well. I struggle with simple math calculations. And I get lost. A lot. Yesterday I walked a mile in the wrong direction until I slowly understood my error. At first, I denied the possibility. I’ve always turned left at that intersection. I know I turn left. If the street looks different today, it’s because I’m walking instead of driving.

I plodded along looking for landmarks. Finally, I asked for help, but when the driver pointed in the opposite direction, I didn’t believe him! My brain couldn’t compute that I was going in the wrong direction. (Can we say cognitive dissonance?) I continued walking. But after several others confirmed my error, I stopped. I stood still, in the middle of the urban jungle, trying to comprehend how my sense of direction could be so wrong. I was only duplicating my previous travel to this site.

If only I could understand what happened. But even without understanding, I now had to face the truth. I had walked at least a mile in the hot sun. Now I was even further from my goal. I had given myself ample travel time but now I would be late. I couldn’t be late—I was the one with the key ! I am never late! That is why I gave myself 2 hours to reach this appointment.

I trudged along. I had just missed the bus (of course).

As I walked in dismay, I suddenly realized my simple error. It is the error I always make when I get lost and it is the error I never see or anticipate. I had made an assumption. My assumption was so rapid and unconscious I didn’t even know it was there. I had assumed that I was coming from the same direction but now I wondered--had the train left me off at the same spot as my car route? It had looked the same. The train ran along the same highway I had taken previously. I had scanned the intersection, confirming my route. I had exited at this spot many times. But there were no buildings as landmarks. And then I remembered! The “Blue Line” train moves in a “U” shape. My inaccurate assumption: visualizing myself coming from home (west), when in fact, I had been turned around downtown.

I have a bad habit of making these kind of assumptions when I travel in unfamiliar places. I always see myself as coming from the North or West and never think to question this.

Do I also make similar (unconscious) assumptions when I talk or listen to others?

One more realization emerged from this adventure. Although I was traveling to an unfamiliar place, I had chosen trains I had taken before. Later, I realized that other routes, using buses, would have been far easier and more direct. I had followed the most familiar path available, never questioning other options.

It was a strange, woozy feeling to suddenly see my assumptions—the “sea I swim in.” It was both embarrassing and exhilarating. The world suddenly opened up, past my pre-conceptions.

When the events in your life attempt to point you in another direction, are you willing to question your assumptions? © 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Cab Ride Disaster: Seeing through another’s Eyes: A True Story

It had been a long grueling day at a conference. I was happy to see taxis waiting just outside and rushed to grab one. But I was also a Chicago gal, and I feared getting stung on an unknown rate. I always ask cabbies what they charge before I get into their car. I marched up to the first cabbie.

He mumbled, “I’m not sure, it’s a meter.”

Nope. I wasn’t going to do that. I walked down the row to the next cab. He was asking too much money. I moved to the next cab. His fare sounded reasonable but as I moved to get into the car, he moved slowly forward to follow the line of cabs. I followed him. Finally, a ride toward home!

As I approached the car door, a large union worker barked at me.

“There’s a line here! You need to get in line!”

Was it my great fatigue, or was it anger at the accusation? I wasn’t the type to cut in line. I hadn’t noticed any line. My voice was strong and fierce.

“I’ve been here! I was here before the others!”

I moved to the cab again.

“You need to get in line!”

I wasn’t going to fight with the burly union worker. There was one woman waiting for a cab. I stood behind her.

“Go ahead,” she said kindly.

Again, I moved to the cab.

“You need to—“ The union worker was yelling now.

“She told me to take this cab!” I was almost pleading. What was going on?

“How should I know that?” He bellowed and continued to complain to himself and others.

Finally, I got into the cab.

I told the driver my destination. He repeated it, using a slightly different name. I confirmed. We drove in silence.

I’ve always been nervous taking cabs. I prefer to walk if I can. Now we were driving in an unknown part of town. I repeated my destination.

“I know where I’m going,” he said, “just let me drive!”

I was shocked by his angry tone. Chicago cabbies could be tough but this seemed extreme. We continued through unknown streets. He wanted me to be quiet but I wasn’t going to risk a misunderstanding and an unwanted destination.

“I’m sorry,” I started, “but I want to make sure we’re going to Union Station. I don’t recognize where we’re going.”

“I know where we are going. This is the route I always take. If you want to get out of the cab now, I can stop now. Don’t tell me how to drive.”

What could I do? I was driving with an enraged cabbie in a dodgy, unfamiliar neighborhood. Still, I had learned to be strong in the city and not let myself be a victim. Also, my taxi ride that morning had taken me to the wrong spot.

“I just want to make sure that---“

“Listen lady, just because you’re having a hard day and you’re screaming at everyone else, doesn’t mean that you get to scream at me. I won’t take it. I won’t. You don’t get to throw your garbage at me.”

I sat stunned. This was a bad dream. Yelled at by the union worker, and now this cabbie. Even though my tone had been soft and civil, he assumed I was a raving witch. How had I seemed to him earlier, as I struggled outside his cab?

I kept quiet. The cabbie continued to berate me, and then also grew quiet. I saw we were nearing Union Station. I gathered my bags.

“Have a good day, lady.” He said. Was he feeling sorry for his tirade or just sorry for the angry woman with a bad attitude?

I hesitated. I had a choice: create more anger or seek peace?

I took a deep breath. “You have a good day too.”

We see all events through a prism of our history, our current mood, and our beliefs. I saw myself as a tired commuter, unaware of the taxi line protocol. To the cabbie, I was a pushy woman who abused his friend, the union enforcer. Our communication was further complicated by my fears of taxi rides and (probably) the cabbie’s own challenging day.

My cab “disaster” was a vivid lesson showing me how all interactions are a complex mix of conscious and unconscious attitudes and assumptions. Even though I felt mistreated by the cabbie and the enforcer, I suddenly realized that they were only trying to do their jobs and each saw me as a rule-breaker.

I doubt that I’ll ever see either Chicagoan again. But the event helps me remember that we each see the world differently. Keeping this in mind can help me communicate with more compassion and help bring more harmony to my tiny corner of world.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Best Practices of Experts

The Habits of Experts
* Experts ask good questions.
* Experts break problems into parts.
* Experts rely on evidence.
* Experts look for patterns.
* Experts consider other perspectives.
* Experts follow hunches.
* Experts use familiar ideas in new ways.
* Experts collaborate.
* Experts welcome critique.
* Experts revise repeatedly.
* Experts persist.
* Experts seek out new challenges.
* Experts know their own best work styles.

from Fires in the Mind: What Kids Can Tell Us About Motivation and Mastery,
by Kathleen Cushman and the students of What Kids Can Do. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2008. For more information, go to

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Positive Psychology Experiment

Martin Seligman and colleagues have found that people can increase their well-being by writing about a time when they were at their best and reflecting on this daily for a week.
The study demonstrated that people reported increased happiness. Doing this exercise also allows you to see what you are good at.

Think of a time when you were at your best, a time when you may have felt productive or happy. What were you doing? Who were you with? Recreate this time by writing about it in detail. If you don’t enjoy writing you could record yourself describing this time. For the next week review the story once every day and reflect on the strength/s identified. This may help you to use the particular strength to maximize your engagement at work and increase your well-being. You are also priming yourself to recreate a ‘at your best’ moment more often

(Seligman 2005 in Positive Psychology Progress. )

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Developing Optimistic Thinking Habits May Also Help You Think More Effectively.

This is a excerpt from a longer blog post. MRI tests are allowing us to learn so much about our brains, behavior, emotions, and thought.

Optimism activates both the amygdala (emotions) and the rostral anterior cingulate cortex. an area important for motivation and reward, and error detection. So there may also be direct connections between brain areas important for an optimistic outlook and thinking efficiency.

from Eide Neurolearning Blog

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Great Quote for a Challenging Day

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”

—M. Scott Peck(1936-2005); Psychiatrist, Author

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tool for the Day--Co-workers Serenity Prayer

List qualities or actions of your co-worker that drive you crazy. Put items in the appropriate column--actions that you believe your co-worker can change, and actions or attributes that they probably cannot change. Once completed, you may seek to speak with your co-worker about the items in column 1 and work on accepting the items in column 2.

1. May Improve Somewhat 2. Unlikely to Change

Adapted from Quality of Life Therapy: Applying a Life Satisfaction Approach to Positive Psychology and Cognitive Therapy by Michael B. Frisch

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Facial Expressions Reveal and also Help the Brain Understand Emotional Signals

So what happens if you undergo botox treatment?

Here's an excerpt from a recent study:

In the new study, Botox-induced paralysis slowed down participants' response to angry and sad sentences by about a tenth of a second, on average. But such effects can snowball when communicating with others. "Language is highly interactive, and we're very, very sensitive to all kinds of cues that happen on the order of milliseconds," says Arizona State University psychologist Arthur Glenberg, one of the study's authors.

Timing is crucial, for example, in the ritual of taking turns during conversation. Let's say that, in a marital disagreement, your spouse is repeatedly just a tenth of a second too slow in responding, leaving the mounting impression of disinterest or failure to comprehend. If such delays were chronic, Glenberg says, "That's enough time for a person to get really (ticked) off."

Read the entire article here.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

How do we quantify emotional intelligence training?

One strategy is to use anecdotal evidence—asking managers and team members to describe the state of their company culture before training and after training. We can also use a more objective measure—an assessment of team functioning before and after training. This assessment would ask team members and managers to rate communication, problem-solving, conflict management, overall morale and other dimensions of their workplace. Comparing the pre and post-training results could help prove the value of the training.

The training should not be judged solely on the glowing reviews of participants. Training is worthwhile if it creates the desired change in the workplace.

At the end of training, managers and participants need to ask themselves—how can we take the concepts and techniques presented today and make them a lasting part of our company culture?
© 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Daily Work of Emotional Intelligence

The first step is to allow myself to feel my emotions and examine them without judgment. I must trust that, while behavior can be labeled good or bad--all feelings are valid and acceptable. This is crucial since most of us learn, at a very early age, to judge emotions as good or bad. Then we dissociate from the “bad” emotions. We push them out of our conscious awareness and lose sight of our emotional impact on others.

The next step is even more difficult--to determine if my emotional “data” reflects outer reality.

If I think my coworker, “Beth,” is sabotaging me at work, I will feel angry. Is Beth really undermining me? It may be clear that her actions are wrong and hurtful to me. In this case, my emotions have helped me recognize the situation. Then I need to determine my action. Based on my needs and circumstances I can choose to do any of the following:
• talk to Beth,
• talk to my boss,
• look for a new job,
• or not take any large action but “simply” recognize the truth of the situation and adjust my expectations and future actions accordingly.

But, while emotions always provide important information, they don’t always give us accurate info about the outside world. What if I think that all my coworkers are seeking to undermine me? It may be true, but more likely it is my thinking that is distorted, not my workplace. Or, is it my own behavior that creates distrust in my coworkers?

Feelings provide initial information but interpreting this information is hard! I must be brave and honest with myself. The lessons I learn from my emotional data must (eventually) be consistent with feedback from the outer world.

If I find that Beth is truly undermining me, I will need to take action. If I discover that my own thoughts are distorted, I’ll need to adjust my inner dialogue (self-talk). (There are wonderful tools to help us do this work).

It is emotionally intelligent to remember that we can take actions to change our circumstances, inside and out, but we cannot change another person. Still, since our actions affect others, when we change our actions, their reactions may change too. If I decide to talk to Beth, we might be able to communicate well and resolve a misunderstanding. Or, if I work to change a distorted thought pattern in myself, Beth may sense less hostility in my voice. She too will relax and use a friendlier tone. I’ll sense this change and act with more kindness. Our interactions may now build off each other in a positive cycle. © 2010 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Is training needed?

This is a familiar tool but thought it may be time for a reminder.....

1. Employee can and is willing to do the work:
• Look for another cause for deficient performance
• Support with time and resources
• Provide coaching
2. Employee can’t but is willing:
• Provide skills training
• Conduct on-the-job training
• Could be lack of resources, equipment, tools, etc.
• Look for another cause
3. Employee can but won’t:
• Discuss poor attitude
• Identify consequences
• Provide feedback
• Provide coaching
• Supervise practice
4. Employee can’t and won’t:
• Provide skills training
• Supervise practice
• Discuss poor attitude
• Identify benefits
• Investigate possible other problem
1995 Carolyn Balling and Jean Barbazette. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What EI Training Can Do--An Impact Map of Specifics

If you'd like a word doc (easier to read), please email me...

I recently left my part time position at Elgin Community College to pursue my training business full time. I’ve needed time to more fully develop products and processes to make my offerings even more solid and impactful. The Impact Map is a step in that direction.

The map is designed to help clarify the goals of EI training, including the specific skills targeted and uses of these skills on the job. It is a tool that can be used in several ways:
• to keep my own training designs focused
• to help anyone explain/understand the value of this training
• to help managers both explain the value to their staff (pre-training) and also monitor/support the growth of these skills over time (post training).

In the months ahead, I hope to start a newsletter and eventually more tools that companies might be able to use, in person or virtually. I hope in the future that I might be able to offer further training or consulting. My goal is to continue to improve my offerings and customize them to each company.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Leaders Need Emotional Intelligence

Dave is a star technician who has been promoted several times. If Dave is to advance any further, he must solicit help from others. Now he must learn how to listen, persuade, be patient, contain his emotions, offer sympathy, feel empathy, and recover from the emotional onslaughts that come with group give-and-take.

Research has shown that supervisors and managers need even more expertise in emotional intelligence to do their daily work. Is your workplace filled with emotionally intelligent leaders?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Perception: Always subjective

We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are. - Anais Niin

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Do you know the messages you're sending?

I recently met a manager, “Ingrid,” who had alienated her entire team. Ingrid was a kind person but she had facial expressions that upset and agitated others. When she was thinking her face became a blank stare. This stare seemed like an angry glare to her staff. Soon, every attempt at communication was colored by mistrust and assumptions. Her staff saw hostile motives in Ingrid’s every action. Meanwhile, Ingrid felt her team’s resistance and soon her facial expressions grew even sterner.

Are you aware of the messages your sending to others? Do you find that other people often misinterpret your words or moods?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Taking the Temperature of a Work Culture--Spent the day at Monsanto in Waterman, IL

Spent the day interviewing staff at Monsanto to prepare for our training event next week. What a great way to hone in on the true needs of the group! I'm also using Survey Monkey for surveying needs but today was extra special. I feel connected to these great folks who bared their souls to me today....

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Job Crafting Brings Higher Motivation to Work

Have you heard about job crafting? I'm now offering workshops in this terrific paradigm-shifter. While many of us already find ways to tweak our jobs to make them more satisfying, Job Crafting is a technique that helps us change small aspects of our current jobs. These changes can bring us much more satisfaction at work. This excerpt, from a Time Magazine article on the subject, also highlights the importance of our emotions in this process.

Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity and a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says it's crucial for people to pay attention to their workday emotions. "Doing so," she says, "will help you discover which aspects of your work are most life-giving — and most life-draining."

Many of us get stuck in ruts. Berg, a Ph.D. student at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania who helped develop the job-crafting methodology, says we all benefit from periodically rethinking what we do. "Even in the most constraining jobs, people have a certain amount of wiggle room," he says. "Small changes can have a real impact on life at work."

Here's the full article.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Motivation through Increasing Autonomy at Work

Yesterday's Positive Psychology News Daily had a great article on how to foster an engaging workplace. Here's an excerpt.

Autonomy-supported leaders create the environment that fosters choice, giving people opportunities for success and for developing feelings of competence. According to science, self-motivation thrives in the medium of choice.

How do we build choice into jobs? Helping employees recraft their jobs around reaching specified goals by exercising their strengths, passions and skills is likely to result in more engagement and a better outcome for everyone. Employees are more energized when their actions emanate from choice rather than external control. The vitality that comes from caring about the work itself and relationships with colleagues can be, as they say, priceless.

Here's the entire article.

Monday, April 5, 2010

How to Become More Creative.

Here's an excerpt from a great article in today's Positive Psychology News Daily.

Do you ever wish you were more creative? New research has shown that adults can be primed to become more creative simply by being asked to think like children. There are many kinds of creativity, including flexible thinking, elaboration of existing ideas, fluency of ideas, and originality.
For the purposes of the study conducted at North Dakota State University, college students were asked to imagine and write about what they would do if school was canceled for the day. In the experimental condition, they were primed in advance of writing to imagine that they were seven years old. Merely being primed to think like a child resulted in the production of more original responses on a subsequent measure of creativity.

What Happens to Creativity as We Grow?
There are numerous benefits to being more creative. However in school, creativity is usually valued less than conventional thinking, whether you are a student or a teacher. It may be that formal education discourages divergent thinking, and that school may also coincide with a natural brain development shift in students from more impulsive and less self-conscious thought to less spontaneous and more rule-bound thought.
Since both ways of thinking are important (imagine if we were all child-like all the time), it is intriguing to think about interventions that would enable you to be more creative at least some of the time. You might try thinking like a 7-year-old right before you have to do something that requires original thinking.

Here's the entire article.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dear Amy, Nonverbals and Emotional Intelligence

I appreciated reading this story from today's Chicago Tribune.

Dear Amy: A mom who wrote to you was concerned about her teenage daughter being sarcastic and unpleasant, and losing friends.
My daughter also has issues relating to her peers in a way that isn't sarcastic. She is also very straightforward, even if it's not always nice.
We had been working with her on this, but she was resisting. She thought she didn't need to change.
Her counselor suggested that we videotape her and let her see it.
She was relaying a story from school with us, and we had her say it again on tape. When we showed it to her, she was shocked. She couldn't believe how her face looked and how she sounded. We are now having a much easier time working with her on reframing her statements.
Sometimes a picture (or video) is worth a thousand arguments.
— Relieved Mom

Dear Relieved: People who have trouble reading social cues often need training to learn this important skill. Viewing photos or video of other people's facial expressions can actually teach recognition.
Your daughter's therapist had a great idea — to show your daughter her own face.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sometimes it's hard to choose between two great things.....

Instead of choosing, I'm seeking to strike a balance between the worlds of fiction and nonfiction. I want both. In addition to my training work, one of my plays is now turning into a film. I'll be helping to direct. Fun!

Monday, March 29, 2010

"The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Small Business Owners"

Here's an excerpt from the article "The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in Small Business Owners"

Emotional intelligence helps you:
-Deal with conflicts and problem solving
-Offer better customer service
-Hire the best people for the job
-Trust your business instincts and intuition
-Listen to others, understand them, and make them feel appreciated
-Control your reactions to challenges, and stay positive when mistakes happen
-Market to your customer because you’re better able to empathize with them
-Write better, more emotionally driven, content
-Connect with potential partners and build business relationships

You can read the entire article here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two Powerful Questions for Leaders (or anyone seeking to leave the world a better place)

  1. How do people experience you?
  2. How do people experience themselves when they are with you?
From “Remember Who You Are” by Daisy Wademan

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Brain favors even a bad habit. Ugh.

An April issue of Wired offers some bad news. When we make poor decisions, these behaviors can become part of the “blueprint” for future actions. Scientists are proving that our brains seek easy answers and may look only to a precedent of what we have done before and repeat that action—even if the decision was regrettable.

This is another illustration of how our brain structure favors habitual behaviors and why changing behavior can be so difficult!

For the complete article click here.

© 2009 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What Skills Are Associated with Emotional Intelligence?

These 8 skills will make you happier, healthier, more productive. They will improve your relationships and your efficiency at work. They may take a lifetime to fully develop but all these skills CAN be learned!

Distinguishing Emotions and Thoughts
Recognizing Patterns of Behaviors
Recognizing Destructive Thought Patterns
Navigating Emotions
Discovering Motivation
Utilizing Optimistic Thinking
Developing Empathy
Discovering Meaning and Purpose

These are my descriptions of the core competencies developed by 6seconds. For more info on their EI research, visit

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The value of emotional data

If I’m speaking to manufacturers or other “no-nonsense” groups, I sometimes worry that my EI workshops might be too “touchy feely.” An ironic concern, yes? But my fears illustrate our culture’s discomfort with emotions. I need to remind myself and my participants that emotions provide powerful information that we can’t access in any other way. Isn’t it time to look more deeply (and take more seriously) this unknown territory in ourselves?

Here’s one more irony: companies pour over financial data and shop floor statistics. Experts try to find any small area to leverage and improve performance. But we still ignore the most important element of workplace efficiency-- employees’ relationships and communication in the workplace. How much more could performance improve if we perceived, understood, and managed the emotions that underlie our everyday thoughts and actions?

Monday, March 15, 2010

What are Your Emotional Abilities?

This “Ability Model” from researchers, Caruso, Mayer and Salovey, is a great summary and reminder of the many skills we must develop to use our emotions well. Each level illustrates the many benefits of our emotions. We can use our emotions to: access others’ states of mind, assist in decision making, understand what a situation means to us, and problem solve. How are your skills in each of these areas?

Table 1 Ability Model (Caruso, Mayer and Salovey. 2000: 57)
Level 1--Perceiving
Identify emotions in thoughts
Identify emotions in other people
Express emotions accurately
Discriminate between accurate and inaccurate feelings

Level 2 Using
Prioritize thinking by directing attention
Generate emotions to assist judgment
Mood swings to change perspective
Emotional states to encourage problem solving

Level 3 Understanding
Label and recognize relations among emotions
Interpret meanings that emotions convey
Understand complex emotions
Recognize emotional transitions

Level 4 Management
Stay Open to feelings
Engage/detach from an emotion
Monitor emotions reflectively

Friday, January 15, 2010

Results from 6 Seconds Workplace Issues Survey

6 Seconds is one of the premier organizations bringing EI training to schools and corporations (full disclosure-I trained with them). Here are some results from their recent workplace survey. Would you be surprised to note that --despite current economic pressure--the vast majority of responses still focus on the “people side?"

89% say employee’s feelings are “important” or “essential” to solving the issues the organization faces
91% report that “emotional intelligence” skills are “important” or “essential” to solving the issues the organization faces
The “people issues” are perceived to be about 63% more significant than “technical issues”

You can find more info on this survey here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Quote for the Day

Every human has four endowments - self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom... The power to choose, to respond, to change."
-- Stephen R. Covey© 2009