“Bueller? … Bueller? … Bueller?”

Remember Ben Stein as the über-dull economics teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? He was the quintessence of uninspiring. His students slept with their eyes open while he answered his own questions addressed to no one.

Failure to capture your audience will quickly sour a leader to his or her team. The paycheck is no longer the inspirational force it once was. The uninspiring leader may wonder, “What else do I have to do to get people to work hard if money is not enough?”

It’s a fair question as not every entrepreneur or boss thought anything more would be required of him or her. Unfortunately, more is required; at least if you want to get the most out of the people working for you.

Extrinsic motivation, such as paycheck, bonuses and such only go so far when it comes to motivating people and can, in fact, serve as demotivating forces in certain circumstances.

Influence requires winning the minds and hearts of your audience and thus inspires action. Thus intrinsic motivation, coming from within, is how you truly inspire a workforce.

But how do you motivate intrinsically? How do you ultimately know if you’re inspiring your people?

The first indication would be if this is even a question you’ve ever asked yourself. Do you care if you’re inspiring anyone? If you’ve never been curious, chances are you’re not as inspiring as you could be.

Here is a short list of other signs that you might not be so inspiring:

  • Do people buy into the vision you have created and does it play out in the day-to-day behaviors?
  • Are you happy when you arrive to work?
  • Is the tone of the office upbeat or dead?
  • Is anyone presenting new ideas? Or is it status quo 24/7/365?
  • Is there a high turnover rate?
  • Are you resistant to new ideas? Are others resistant to your ideas?
  • Are your people curious? Are you curious?
  • Do people go above and beyond? Do you?

Leaders Need to Self-examine Their Brand of Creativity

We all have our own personal drivers that inspire us to create, to hop out of bed in the morning. It might be money, charity, art, or collaboration on a project.

Think back to when you last popped out of bed excited. What was it that got you going? What puts a pep in your step? Re-ignite your creative force.

If your own creativity is not burning from within you will not be able to inspire others to tap into their creative potential. A lack of energy and creativity will spread like wildfire in an organization. Never underestimate the power of emotional contagion.

There isn’t a panacea for self-energizing, but exercise, diet, sleep, laughter, and friends are a few typical means to boost your energy levels and get you revved up for what life holds.

Once you are energized, you can then focus on your team: figure out what drives your people. It’s not a leader’s job to be the creative impetus for his or her people, but it is your job to know what excites them.

To bolster your creative force, it’s imperative to cultivate an attitude of resilience. Leaders serve as a beacon of hope and you can easily fail to inspire with incessant negativity and a focus on events you can’t control. Therefore:

  • Focus on events you can control
  • View setbacks as impermanent and as growth opportunities
  • Don’t fall prey to victim mentality
  • Have a positive outlook of the future

Leaders Need to Self-examine their Brand of Curiosity

When we stop being curious about life we stagnate. The uninspiring leader needs to pinpoint when and why he/she stopped being curious. Another way to describe a lack of curiosity is laziness, which is boredom’s best friend. If the leader is bored so will everyone else be.

Boredom, laziness, and a lack of curiosity about what could be build a protective wall around status quo thinking.

A company – and its people – needs to feel like it is moving forward. Nothing gets in the way of momentum like adhering to the status quo out of fear of the unknown and a lack of energy for new ideas. A leader needs to be open to new ideas, ready to travel down unpaved roads for growth potential.

Challenging the status quo is where innovation lives, it is how companies like Apple and Amazon became monolithic. When you feel yourself slipping into fear mode and/or favoring the way it’s always been done (particularly when the way it’s always been done is currently failing) that’s the signal to step outside of your comfort zone. Get curious!

Get a pulse on the level of curiosity in others. Cultivate a free flow of ideas. Just because you’ve been doing something one way since the beginning doesn’t mean it’s the right way.

Leaders Need to Self-examine Their Brand of Connection

Are you moving toward or away from people? Are your people moving toward or away from you (and each other)? Spend time with your ear to the ground rather than in the clouds.

To create an inclusive environment, make an effort to heighten your social awareness. Rather than go through your days on automatic pilot, be aware of how you are communicating and relating to others, what is called having a relational philosophy.

A relational philosophy means thinking of others every time you interact with them, not just some of the time. It requires opening your ears and mind to what is being said to you. It involves using body language that invites rather than discourages. It promotes a team identity over a “me” identity so that everyone is one important piece of the puzzle.

For example, do you listen to others or is your mind elsewhere as people talk to you? Do you look up from your computer when people speak to you? When you are speaking do people seem interested?

It is about promoting empathy, collaboration, creativity, and enthusiasm. It can’t be faked. Building a relational philosophy takes energy, effort, mindfulness, and a genuine interest in the people who work for and around you.

You won’t experience a 180-degree shift in your rapport with others overnight, but day-by-day, with a conscious effort on building relationships you can increase your influence.

Leaders Need to be Conscious

The ability to inspire should be a top priority for a leader. Hire a coach to work on the areas of your personality that need improvement. Everyone is a work in progress. We are all weak in some area and the best leaders have all sought counsel at one time or another.

I highly recommend a 360˚ evaluation to get a sense of your impact. Assessments show you exactly how others feel about you. It also never hurts to ask a trusted ally or advisor, someone who won’t honey coat the truth.

The key point is to remain open to suggestions and new ideas. Arrogance and fear kill inspiration. A little arrogance is necessary otherwise why would anyone think they should lead in the first place but it’s important to keep arrogance in check.

When you open up your mind to change and growth, not only will your work life improve but so will all other areas of life as well. It’s all connected.

0 Comment
1588 Views

It’s going to be 2017 in a couple weeks and we all know what that means: an influx of New Year’s Resolutions. They often look a lot like the previous year’s resolutions.

“I’ll stop smoking.”

“I’ll stop obsessing.”

“I’ll stop eating badly.”

“I’ll stop being lazy.”

Stopping, quitting, refraining, avoiding – I’ve got news for you: resolutions like this rarely work.

According to a survey published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, about 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions but only 8 percent are successful.

Confession: I was the winner of the “Unsuccessful 8%” many years in a row. I struggled to quit smoking, promising myself I’d quit every Monday and every New Year’s Day. I quit smoking so many times that the most excellent quitter became part of my identity. Understanding how my brain works finally helped me kick the habit, but here were some of my very human, very common mistakes over the years:

  • Motivated by Should
  • Propelled By Stopping
  • Fighting against Habit

Motivated by Should

My motivation for quitting was always grounded in “should” versus “want:”

  • I should because my friends and family keep guilting me
  • I should because I smell like an ashtray
  • I should because it’s really cold outside
  • I should because the daily dose of cognitive dissonance feels terrible

Propelled By Stopping

When you focus on stopping or quitting or not doing something that has become an ingrained (overeating, smoking, drinking, overspending, etc.) you fight against your natural, human urge to gain over lose.

Humans are loss-adverse; it hurts us more to lose something than to gain something (e.g. it’s more painful to lose $50 than to gain $50). Therefore, when we frame our bad habits as things we need to lose, we resist with all our might.

Fighting against Habit

To make a resolution stick you have to change. For the brain, change is danger. Change requires neural rewiring and that creates discomfort. Even the prospect of change can create significant psychological discomfort.

The effort to abstain from bad habits compels you to do them more because abstention feels bad. Ergo, you will fight to feel good.

Smoking, laziness, boredom, compulsive eating, overspending – these are all default behaviors based on habitual brain wiring to give you what will make you feel good.

To change we need to create new ways of thinking which trigger new neural pathways, which lead to new default modes of behavior.

With deliberate effort new habits become the default schema for your brain.

Reframe the challenge into something you GAIN.

  • I need to lose weight = I want to gain strength, endurance and flexibility.
  • I need to quit smoking = I want to run three miles without wheezing.
  • I need to stop overspending = I want financial flexibility and freedom.

To learn is to be human.

We begin to learn from the minute we are born.

Therefore, challenging yourself to learn something new flows with the grain of human nature; challenging yourself to lose something you like goes against human nature. Use the word “learn” to counter the effects of the stop language of resolutions. You are not quitting smoking, you are learning how to be a non-smoker.

The Neuroscience Behind Habits

Habits live in the most stubborn of our brain structures: the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia stores useful skills and habits: putting our socks on before our shoes or effortlessly driving our usual route to work.

The basal ganglia can also be a curse: it can cause you to habitually drive home from work along your normal route when you had meant to stop at the grocery store. It contains all of the skills and memories we need to function on a daily basis but could also potentially contribute to keeping you in a rut.

To learn to tie your shoes takes a tremendous amount of initial brainpower, but once learned it consumes very little. As we master these small routines, dopamine rewards us with feelings of pleasure. So we are perpetually rewarded for maintaining our habits, good and bad alike.

When you try to change a habit you activate the prefrontal cortex, a very active part of the brain that helps us focus our thoughts; this requires a lot of conscious mental energy.

The prefrontal cortex is connected to the emotional center of our brain. A firestorm of emotions (fear, anger, depression, fatigue, anxiety, etc) is triggered when the brain senses change. When you think, “I want to change this habit” your brain kicks into protection mode and tries to fiercely protect the habits it has grown to love.

The Bottom Line and What to Do About It

Change is brutal and triggers psychological and emotional discomfort. Change takes time, discipline, a plan and some basic TLC (if / when you have a lapse). Recognize that you will naturally want to hold onto your own personal status quo.

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit suggests a three-stage process for creating positive habits:

  1. Cue: Since habits are triggered by cues (triggers or signals that tell you to act in a certain way) identify cues that will help you meet your goal. Cues are often centered on location, time, emotional state, other people or immediately preceding an action. For example, if you typically find yourself noshing on junk at your desk every afternoon at 3PM, identify a 3PM cue that helps you learn the new habit (e.g., get up from your desk and go for a 10 minute walk, chug a bottle of water and set a 15 minute timer before you put anything else in your mouth)
  1. Routine: Be very specific about the steps you will take to form the habit. For example, if you want to work on gaining strength, endurance and flexibility, schedule the times you will do your chosen exercise throughout the day and the foods you will be eat that day.
  1. Reward: In order to neutrally embed the new behavior, reward yourself with something related to the habit. Perhaps it’s recognizing the endorphin rush after a workout or the taste of a healthy breakfast following a workout. If you anticipate and associate the reward with the action, your brain eventually craves the reward, further entrenching the habit.

Hopefully this insight will help you if you wake up in February and you haven’t made any progress into your resolutions.

Instead of giving up completely, figure out what you really want to do differently. Frame the goal into something that you are gaining (vs. losing) and learning (vs. stopping).

Respect your brain. It will need some time to incorporate the new behavior into your life.

0 Comment
783 Views
Posted - 30 November, 2016
They walk among us. They look like normal people. That’s what makes dealing with a narcissist so difficult. You are typically caught in their web before you realize who and what ensnared you. If you don’t already, the chances of
Posted - 15 November, 2016
We talk about leadership almost ad nauseum in blog posts, workshops, seminars, keynotes, webinars, anyone who will listen to us! We do this because leadership is often lacking in the very people who are in leadership roles. So we keep