• Chemical Brain Freeze

Non-effective Listening – A Negative Default Behavior

 

Non-effective listening, did you ever think it was a major negative default behavior?  Working with Baby Boomers, I’ve found one very interesting characteristic of those retried or getting ready to retire.  It has to do with listening effectively.  Baby Boomers talk about their dreams and goals in retirement but (http://adventurejerky.com) sometimes they don’t express these ideas very distinctly with their partners.  Sometimes there is a fear of their goals not being accepted or even being rejected.  When this type of fear appears, we move into what we call “default behaviors.”  We actually avoid key conversations because we worry about what the outcome may be.  Maybe we worry the conversation may go in the wrong direction and we don’t get a chance to work on our goals.

Here is the key to having great conversations, it’s not about what we have to say.  That’s right, it’s not always about what we have to say.  But rather showing empathy and listening to what the other person has to say. It’s amazing what happens when empathy is applied to a conversation, especially key conversations.

So, what are the keys to really good listening?  First, we need to understand our default behavior when we have a conversation.  In most conversations, we don’t listen to understand but rather we listen in order to reply.  We actually wait for when there is a break in the conversation.  When our partner pauses for a breath, we jump in with our perspective or our bit of advice. We almost fear silence and jump in to squelch that silence.  This default behavior is believing the important part of communication is what we say.   When actually the listening step to hear what the other person has to say is most important.

It is fascinating to watch what happens when another person feels like they are being listened to effectively.  They open up and suddenly they are receptive to what you have to say.  All of a sudden goals and dreams get discussed in earnest and open, honest conversation takes place.

Think about the impact we could have with family members, friends and peers if we changed our listening skills.   Where we truly try to listen to what the other person is saying. If we listen with the intent to truly understand, people will share with us what their goals, wants and needs are.  They will also share the solutions they are looking for to possibly solve these needs.

Effective listening with the intent to understand, it takes practice but it is well worth the effort.

Be sure to tune into our new radio program “The Adventures of Unstructured Time” with your hosts Chuck Inman and Ron Hoesterey. We cover stories and concepts dealing with Baby Boomers plans for retirement. The program will be aired on 21.6 THE NET 11:00-12:00AM CST on Monday mornings and a repeat of the recorded program on Tuesdays from 7:00-8:00pm, Wednesdays 3:00-4:00PM, Thursdays 6:00-7:00PM and Fridays 11:00-12:00AM, again at 21.6 THE NET. You can also find the show as a podcast on Anchor.FM

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Setting Goals for our Adventures

journal-with-logoI recently came back from a speaking trip and was reflecting on the questions I received after my keynote. I have heard this question or a version of it almost every time I speak from attendees after the presentation. “I have this goal, idea, adventure or dream I want to follow up on but I don’t know how to get started. Do you have any suggestions?”
My first response is always write your goal down and give it a date for when you want to accomplish it. I then reference this study done at Harvard Business School years ago on goal setting. I thought it might be good to review this study again. I first heard about this study when I went to see motivational speaker Brian Tracy live. After his presentation I wrote down a goal of wanting to travel internationally.
Two weeks later I received a phone call from an old colleague about an international position. I interviewed and got the job as an international marketing product manager. I started traveling internationally. When I finished my career, I had traveled to over 40 different countries. I give a lot of credit to just writing down my goal of international travel.
Here is the essence of the Harvard study:
In 1979 the Harvard MBA program conducted a study on students that provided some interesting insights into the power of goal setting. In that year, the students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” Only three percent of the graduates had written goals and plans. 13 percent of the graduates had goals, but they were not in writing. That left an incredible 84 percent of the graduates with no specific goals at all.
Ten years later, the members of the class were interviewed again, and the findings, while somewhat predictable, were nonetheless astonishing. The 13 percent of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all. And what about the three percent who had clear, written goals? They were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.
In spite of such proof of success, most people don’t have clear, measurable, time-bounded goals that they work toward. Which is why I always respond to question on “How do I go about fulfilling my dream or goal?” Write it down. We’ll talk more about goal setting in the months to come.

 

Teaching and Learning Need to be in Sync

Michael J FoxTeaching and learning need to be in sync to be successful. Whether it is in school or the business world. To be able to learn and then apply your learning is even better. Sometimes we have material put before us and there is just not a connection nor an application. Simon Sinek has a very good TED Talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action. It’s a few years old but if you haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth watching.
Start with why — how great leaders inspire action | Simon Sinek | TEDxPugetSound
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4ZoJKF_VuA

Default Behaviors and Resolutions

2015 resolutionsWe are midway through the month of January and I’m already noticing a decrease in people at the fitness center. Right after the first of the year, people flocked into the fitness centers vowing to uphold their New Year’s resolutions to get into shape and lose weight with their new memberships. How are you doing with your resolutions?
In my book “Chemical Brain Freeze – How to Stay in the Game During Difficulty and Stress”, I discuss default behaviors and how we get off track from our goals and resolutions. Sometimes it’s understanding the unmet emotional needs that drive our behaviors, which can cause these to become default behaviors. Everyone has sincere thoughts and ideas about making changes. Sometimes it is health related, other times it just to get the benefits from getting back into shape.
I hear people talk about feeling self conscious about going to the fitness center to work out. That portion of the brain called the amygdala is warning us we may not feel like we fit in properly. Our default behavior kicks in and we wind up talking ourselves out of going to the gym. Here is the interesting aspect of this type of self-talk. We get all worked up about what other people may be thinking about us. In reality nobody cares what you do, they all think everyone is looking at them. To overcome our default behaviors in this situation we need to understand why we want to get fit with our resolutions.
If you take just a little bit of time to work on what your fitness goals are, such as losing weight, muscle toning or increasing aerobic time and then figure out what the rewards will be from these workouts during the week. Write them down and keep track on a calendar. Give yourself benchmarks. Celebrate when hit your goals. Simple effective way to overcome default behaviors.
Guess what? If you can overcome default behaviors that keep you from exercising you can use the same strategy for any goal you have set for 2015. Don’t wait until October to start working on your goals. Start now and watch what happens.

Reasons We Procrastinate

top ten reasons to procrastinateWe have all heard that lazy people procrastinate. They just don’t want to put out the energy or effort to get things done. But now that we understand some basics about the brain, especially the amygdala, let’s take a look at procrastination and why it might be a survival function instead of laziness.
If you are a sales person, parent or teenager and have to make a phone call where the outcome is not a given, your amygdala will flare up and start talking to you. “If you make that phone call to the customer, you don’t know if that customer will appreciate your product or service. What if they say they don’t want it or need it, what do you say then?”
If you are a parent calling about your child’s behavior at school, absenteeism or grades, your amygdala is warning you, “You may get accused of being a bad parent, delinquent parent or uninterested parent in your child’s welfare.”
If you’re a teenager getting ready to call or even text for a date you may not be sure the person you are calling will say yes. And what if the conversation gets awkward?
Your amygdala warns you of the catastrophe you may encounter. By not doing the task the amygdala gets a break and goes “Ahhhhh, see told you so.” You get rewarded because the amygdala goes off high alert and you feel a soothing response. Everything is back to normal and you stay in a good mood.
“I’ll just do it tomorrow when things are better,” is a classic response we tell ourselves. And how many times have we encountered the next day being a whole lot better and more conducive to making that call? That’s what I thought, rarely.

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Change and Fear of the Unknown

Last week we talked about unmet emotional needs and the impact they play on our behavior.  We had talked about the five key emotional needs consisting of: Safety, Power, Acceptance, Respect and Value.  When we feel one of these needs is not being met, our brain sends out warning signals and our behavioFear of the unknown Ar can change.
Let’s take a look at how change can affect how we are feeling about ourselves, especially when dealing with the fear of the unknown.

I had a discussion with a surgeon who was complaining about a piece of equipment he had bought.  It had cost him $80,000 but his staff wasn’t spending the appropriate amount of time learning how to use the equipment and getting it into the patient flow process.
Think about why people struggle with change.  In the current mode people are recognized for their performance. Their rewards are based on this performance.  They know the process, can multitask, balance out the workload, understand the patient flow and all the various intricacies of the process.  Now you ask them to introduce a new piece of equipment that will interrupt the process as the staff goes through the learning curve.  The staff is not familiar or confident in running the machine and even less confident in answering questions by patients.
They begin to question their value.  Will they be as effective and be able to provide the same performance as they have in the past?  They second-guess quite a bit about having to use the equipment.  The piece of equipment begins to take on a negative nature.
As the surgeon watches the piece of equipment gather dust he realizes that if it doesn’t get into the process quickly, he is going to have a very expensive boat anchor on his hands.
The amygdala portion of the brain picks up warning signals about this piece of equipment and the staff ‘s struggle with getting trained on the equipment and getting it into use.  Many times one of the key warning signals is the fear of the unknown.  How will this equipment affect our process?  How will it affect our workload?  Will we be able to process more patients faster or fewer patients?  Will someone lose a job because this equipment is utilized?
The best way to soothe the amygdala is at the beginning of the change process.  Communication is key at this point and the time spent explaining why the equipment is coming into the practice is time well spent.  Don’t assume the explanation has to be done only once.  Get someone trained on the equipment fast enough so they can help train others and take away the fear of the unknown.  So many times sales reps show staff what the equipment can do but don’t allow for hands-on-training.  The hands-on-training takes the fear of the unknown away.
Anytime you can remove a fear,  you’re moving in the right direction.
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Exceptional leaders know the combination to “Playing Big”

Combination

Last week we discussed how the amygdala part of the brain can affect how leaders can either play big or play small in dealing with stressful situations. One key point that we focused on was how easy it is for the amygdala to “awfulize” and think of all the bad things that can possibly happen. The amygdala naturally does this to prepare for the worst that can actually happen to us. In some situations it can be a great benefit. In other work environment situations it can stop us in our tracks. To understand why the amygdala reacts in certain situations it’s important to understand what the baseline is for a non-reactive amygdala.
We all have emotional needs. Maslow in his work mapped out the emotional needs of humans. People have added to his work and changed portions but Maslow’s work still provides a solid foundation. I like to keep it simple, so I focus on five key emotional needs. They are:
• Safety
• Power
• Acceptance
• Respect
• Value.
These five needs are applicable to children and adults. When these needs are met the amygdala is pretty content. When these needs are not met, people will act out. Watch what happens to a small child when they try and interrupt talking adults to show them something. When the adult says, “Not now, can’t you see we’re talking.” The child will walk away and pout. They don’t feel accepted or included and the amygdala will go into action and they pout and withdraw.
Now watch in a business meeting when people are sharing ideas and when one person finally gets a chance to speak up and the meeting leader says, “Sorry Cindy, but we need to move on.” Cindy will typically do what a small child will do. She will sit back, cross her arms and withdraw. I have watched men and women do this in meetings for years. They don’t feel like they are accepted or treated fairly (respect) or valued (feeling heard). The amygdala goes into action and the person doesn’t even realize they have sat back and folded their arms.
Exceptional leaders know the combination to Playing Big by recognizing unmet emotional needs and the acting out by the person who experiences this situation. A quick comment by an exceptional leader can bring Cindy back into the meeting in seconds. “Cindy we are short on time but I would like to get your input after the meeting.” In seconds Cindy feels valued. Simple example but the combination to playing big is not complicated. When you see people acting out, whether its children or adults, you can be pretty certain that there is an unmet emotional need not being met. We’ll share some more examples in the next couple of blogs because observing and understanding what is happening in stressful or difficult situations can help you work on becoming an exceptional leader.
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Exceptional Leaders “Play Big”

one on one dialogueOver the last several blogs we have been covering Chemical Brain Freezes (CBFs) from what they are to how do you keep them from occurring. Now that we understand the brain science a little bit, it makes sense to discover why we don’t always do the big things that need to get done.
You’ve heard the expression “Play big, don’t play small!” haven’t you? It refers to taking the steps to accomplish some of the big things that need to be completed. Sometimes this means having those difficult conversations and speaking up when required. Playing small is when we send an e-mail or a text message instead of meeting someone face-to-face or over the phone for a critical conversation. Playing small is not speaking up in a meeting when the group is asked if anyone has any input. Instead two days later you put out an e-mail and try and address the issue. But as we all know e-mails and text messages have no tonality and can be interpreted in many different ways.
Now here comes the science on why we do this over and over again.
The amazing amygdala, will sense danger when you consider having a face-to-face or phone call with someone. It goes through the catastrophizing stage of assuming everything that could go wrong will go wrong. This portion of the brain is trying to protect you from the fears and feelings of being vulnerable. You can get yourself so worked up thinking about all the bad things, which could happen that you don’t pick up the phone and call or have that face-to-face meeting. You calm yourself down by telling yourself you’ll send a text or e-mail message and your amygdala cools down, you don’t go into a full blown out CBF and your breathing returns to normal. You actually think you are in a good place because you have calmed down and now with all sorts of clarity you are assuming you are doing the best thing possible for the situation. In reality, you have resorted back to default behaviors and playing small.
It takes courage to meet someone one-on-one or pick up the phone. Exceptional leaders know the value of playing big and crossing over to the other person’s side to gain their perspective. They may not always agree, but they do understand the importance because they play big. They can get over how they feel and then focus on how to accomplish the goal in the best way possible.
Watch how your body responds the next time you have an important meeting or have to make a key phone call. Do you feel your heart rate pick up? Does your breathing get shallow? Stop, take a couple of deep breaths, go to your gratitude story and then ask yourself, “What are the advantages of ‘Playing Big’ right now. Will it matter in 3 minutes? 3 days? 3 weeks? or 3 months? Now you have your neo-cortex back in the game, you’ve regrouped. Now you can walk into the room looking forward to playing big or pick up the phone expecting some good results from playing big. Exceptional leaders play big and they also know how to keep others they deal with playing big. More on keeping yourself in the game in the next blog.
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Conquering Fears

What scares us?CBF
It’s interesting to watch some of the cable shows about ghost hunters, big-foot hunters and other things that go bump in the night.  We all have fears of different kinds but what is interesting to note is that we are only born with two fears.  Do you know what those are?  Take a moment to think about it, what two fears would we be born with that would help us survive?  The two fears are the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises.  Every other fear we have is a learned fear.  Amazing isn’t it?  However our brain will respond to our learned fears exactly the same way it will respond to the fears we are born with as a species.
Think of the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises.  One occupation that comes to mind where they have to deal with this combination of fears on a daily basis is a dental practice.  What is one of the first things that is done to you as you sit in a dental chair?  You are lowered backwards in the chair, fear of falling.  One of the other things if you’re having work done on your teeth is that a noisy instrument is placed inside your mouth about as close to your eardrum as you can get, the fear of loud noises.  Dental practices struggle with patient retention and sometimes just the factor of dealing with the two born fears have can a major impact.

Most of our learned fears come from other people and what scares them.  We learn from watching them behave when they encounter a spider, snake or even a difficult discussion.  Talk around a campfire with a group of people about ghost stories and people will scare themselves silly.  You never see a couple of homicide detectives standing looking at a corpse and proclaiming, “It looks like another ghost murder.”  Do you know of anyone who has ever been killed by a ghost?  Me either.
There is a part of our brain called the amygdala that deals with our fears, whether they are the 2 born fears or the learned fears we have. We are going to explore how the amygdala responds to these threats, whether real or perceptive in the next several blogs.  We’ll also put it into perspective on how exceptional leaders deal with conquering fears.
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Authentic Leadership

Authenticity seal

Being authentic is one of the traits used to describe someone who is considered an exceptional leader.  In the last Nimble blog we talked about transparency and what it takes for a leader to be transparent.  It is the consistency of your actions lining up with your intentions that provides the impact you want to have as a leader.  If you really focus on being consistent with your actions then the impact you have on people will be positive.  With positive impact comes trust.  When people can count on you to be consistent with your actions and decisions through daily interaction and during difficult times you develop the qualities of authentic leadership.  It is not easy by any means.  Some of the decisions we have to make are extremely tough and not everyone agrees with the decisions we make.  But if we are transparent, consistent with our actions and concentrate on the goals that need to be accomplished, authenticity will become part of the language used to describe you as a leader. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could be awarded a seal of authenticity for your leadership so people would know the type of leader you are?  Leadership and building trust isn’t quite that easy.  However, if you are consistent with your actions and decisions and have a positive impact, you build trust so you won’t need a seal.  People will be able to determine on their own, you are authentic.
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