Key Point: If you need science and data to support the benefit of Abundant behavior, the research Dr. Paul Zak has done over the past decade suggests that a chemical messenger called Oxytocin (NOT to be confused with the severe pain reliever Oxycodone aka OxyContin) accounts for why some people are more generous and trusting. This is fascinating research and does much to validate that generosity leads to increased generosity. This is not just softheaded mush. Let science support you in your leadership action.
Since 2001, Zak and his colleagues have conducted a number of experiments showing that when someone’s level of Oxytocin goes up, he or she responds more generously and caringly, even with complete strangers. Google Zak’s research and you will find some fascinating studies including one experiment where they measured increases in Oxytocin as people gave more money to others.
- Understand that generosity at work (and life) builds and inspires others to do the same. It literally increases levels of what Zak calls the Moral Molecule. Being abundant starts and reinforces the “un-vicious” circle!
- Commit to a highly valued and used recognition system. The act of giving and receiving gets science contributing physically to the emotional well being of your teammates.
- Be a drug (hormone) pusher in the best sense of the meaning! Push Oxytocin levels up in yourself and those around you.
- As Zak suggests, make sure people understand the purpose and aspiration underlying the mission of the team or organization. A compelling intent facilitates the motivation to work together as a team.
Oxytocin in the Character Triangle,
Key Point: I genuinely believe as human beings we excel as “verbs” NOT “nouns.” We were not born to sit still for long periods of time (meditation not withstanding). And the importance of forward movement refers to the whole of us; physically, spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, medical correspondent for CNN, points out that we need constant natural movement to stay physically well. As an example, he suggests that we should conduct meetings while walking together. We were not built to sit in front of monitors for hours on end. It’s just not healthy. I believe the same principle applies to us as total individuals. We need to constantly move forward emotionally and intellectually. What is your personal framework for constant productive movement? The following model I’ve constructed may help. It is a Leadership Action Model. Does is it work for you?
The outcome of the model is continuous, sustainable value creation for others and ourselves. The outer circle of this way of thinking involves constantly creating, renovating, connecting and navigating. We need to be creating our new and better selves by renovating what we’ve already constructed. This means constantly connecting problems to solutions and navigating resources towards a desired future state. It includes enjoying and being content with the present, but inspired to reach for an improved state.
The inner circle of the model involves a framework for execution. The “Plan, Do, Check, Act” is a proven methodology for getting things done. The “Plan” phase involves describing in detail what the desired future state looks like. The “Do” phase outlines the “how” of getting to the described “end state.” while the “Check” element refers to reviewing what’s working and not working. The “Act” part of the process involves course correction.
And of course at the center of the model is The Character Triangle.
The Leadership Action aspect of this system refers to the constant rotation through this in every aspect of our lives. It also is a model for leading organizations to life cycle forward movement. If we sit still we atrophy. And while we need to enjoy the journey and stop to celebrate milestones along the way, whenever it feels “stagnant,” it’s often a strong signal to turn that life cycle wheel with vigor.
- How do you apply the Leadership Action Model?
- Outline where you are on the Leadership Action Model relative to your professional and personal development.
- What in yourself are you Creating? Renovating? Connecting? Navigating?
Leadership Action Model in The Triangle,
Key Point: In the most recent admissions year, roughly 9,060 people applied to Harvard’s MBA program. With an acceptance rate of 12 percent, Harvard interviewed about 2,200 candidates and accepted about 1,100 to fill its 905 to 910 available seats. They are changing their selection process this year. The essay part to qualify for admission is getting streamlined. There will now be two questions that form the basis of the essays. They’re more direct and simple than the previous menu of questions. They are:
1. Tell us something you’ve done well (in 400 words).
2. Tell us something you wish you had done better (in 400 words).
The school is adding a novel twist for MBA candidates that make the first cut and are invited to an interview with the school’s admissions staff. Those applicants will be asked to write an additional essay of 400 words within 24 hours of the interview on what they wished they had said during the interview session but didn’t.
So, what does this have to do with you?
You and I may never apply to Harvard, but in the current world of work, we are constantly applying for admission to the “next organization.” If we think we’re permanently on the team, we are likely in for an abrupt awakening at some point in our career. Every organization I’m aware of is into major change. Markets, technology, consumers, competitors, and employees… Everything is rapidly shifting and the consequence is that organizations must continuously evolve. If the organization is changing, your job probably is too. And that means you are directly and indirectly applying for an opportunity to play for the “next” team on a continuous basis. Literally no one is indispensable, especially if they do not self-develop in significant ways.
So let’s say your boss comes to you tomorrow and asks you the two questions above. They want each response in a 400-word essay. And what if you’re also asked to produce a video explaining the proven value you have (if you’re an incumbent) and/or will bring to the company? You also need to provide testimonials relative to your role from people you’ve worked for and with, and from your current direct reports. Furthermore, you are asked to outline your personal development plan, and leadership principles. How would you do?
- Superb organizations are NOT looking for the Purple Squirrel (perfect and impossible to find candidates). But they want very self-aware people with attributes that include self-accountability, respect, and abundance. And they want people committed to making a measurable, valued contribution, along with a deep desire to continuously improve. Ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can to be that person.
- Be able to answer the two Harvard questions for your job really well. Can you convincingly write that 400-word essay? If you can’t do that, well, accept that you may be in the danger zone. If not right now, very soon. Frankly, the two questions are just table stakes. Leaders really need to know, ideally with data driven evidence, how you’re bringing value to the organization.
- Are you sincerely committed to personal development? If so, what are the two or three skills you are going to further develop by the end of the year? How will you do it? How will you know you have? If you can’t answer these questions, you’re skating and don’t really have a personal development plan. Don’t wait for some one to develop your growth plan with or for you. Invest in yourself!
Always Getting Selected in The Triangle,
Key Point: I am going to share how two great innovations can help you at work. It is important to know when to shut-up and it is a practiced skill. Do you ever feel like someone is aiming the “Shut-up Gun” at you? When you do it’s probably a good time to zip it. I can certainly do better at this.
And do you know one way to give yourself more time during the day? Research says, take a minute to help someone else or initiate an act of kindness to increase productivity. Read more on how to become an innovator.
The New York Times Magazine’s Innovations issue is a good read. Of the 32 innovations listed, I want to highlight two written by Catherine Rampell:
No. 14, The Shut-up Gun: When you aim the SpeechJammer at someone, it records that person’s voice and plays it back to him with a delay of a few hundred milliseconds. This seems to gum up the brain’s cognitive processes, a phenomenon known as delayed auditory feedback. It can painlessly render the person unable to speak. Kazutaka Kurihara, one of SpeechJammer’s creators, sees it as a tool to prevent loudmouths from overtaking meetings and public forums. He’d like to miniaturize his invention so that it can be built into cellphones.
“It’s different from conventional weapons such as samurai swords,” Kurihara says.
“We hope it will build a more peaceful world.” adds Rampell.
No. 15, The Kindness Hack: “Researchers at Wharton, Yale and Harvard have figured out how to make employees feel less pressed for time: Force them to help others. According to a recent study, giving workers menial tasks or, surprisingly, longer breaks actually leads them to believe that they have less time, while having them write to a sick child, for instance, makes them feel more in control and ‘willing to commit to future engagements despite their busy schedules.’ The idea is that completing an altruistic task increases your sense of productivity, which in turn boosts your confidence about finishing everything else you need to do,” says Rampell.
- Know when to aim the Shut-up Gun at yourself! I was at a meeting the other day and someone asked me a question I should have known the answer to. But instead of honestly stating I didn’t know the answer I blabbed some incoherent response. Where was the Shut-up Gun when I needed it? It is better to say nothing than to waste everyone’s time. Look for triggers to indicate it’s time to point the SpeechJammer your way. Two indicators for me are: When my ego tells me I “should” say something but I am not confident I have value to add. And when I’m starting to repeat myself. In that case I’m often using “blah, blah” to sound convincing rather than applying valued insight.
- Be a kindness hack every day! If you want to go home and feel productive make sure everyday has some genuine kindness and generosity attached to it. My best way of doing this is giving someone sincere, thoughtful recognition. Everyone wins!
Shut-up and practice kindness in The Triangle,
Key Point: Perhaps the most over used term and least clear word in management speak today is “communication.” Of course everyone wants to be a great communicator. Leaders are challenged to be great communicators. And when you ask people what their communication framework or model is, they often look at you like, “I don’t even know what your talking about… You know, just be a good communicator.” The following guideline can really help us improve as effective, leadership driven communicators. People really listen to communication that is INTIMATE, INTERACTIVE, INCLUSIVE, and INTENTIONAL. Read on to learn more:
Boris Groysberg is a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. Michael Slind is a writer, editor, and communication consultant. They are the coauthors of Talk, Inc.: How Trusted Leaders Use Conversation to Power Their Organizations. They have some great research and work on leadership through conversation. Their model, which you will find at the end of this blog, will provide additional guidance.
- Be Intimate. Great conversation means finding a way to be personal and authentic. Even in large groups we can have a more personal discussion. Top-down pronouncements and being on transmit just isn’t very effective. Associates become good at taking mental vacations while sitting back looking at a monitor and/or watching us standing at a podium. We have to find ways of connecting personally. I would love to see organizations filled with real or metaphorical kitchen tables and a lot more old-fashioned “family dinner” settings.
- Be Interactive. It is important to have a conversation WITH colleagues and not just at them. Face-to-face is the best. Yet even with all the work mobility, workplace variety, and employees scattered everywhere, interactive tools like Yammer or others allow for more open and interactive dialogue. Blogs and discussion forums need to be common discussion tools for all of us. We can be interactive at a distance.
- Be Inclusive. The best way to engage others is to involve them in understanding and building the message. Everyone in the conversation has to work at it. In today’s world, informing does not necessarily mean that we’ve communicated. Dialogue means we are active with each other. How often do you see people sitting back, arms crossed while some executive is out in front trying to be profound, sweating and doing all the work as the transmitter? Everyone has to be involved in telling the company story and/or communicating the key message.
- Be Intentional. What is the intended outcome of your conversation? Does everyone you’re communicating with know what the expected result is? How do you know? Make sure the agenda and outcome is clear. Sometimes the communicator thinks it’s obvious. That is often not the case. Verify the target audience gets the intention. Check in with them before, during and after the conversation.
Being on transmit and exclusive top-down communication is a telling process. It is not necessarily effective communication. Email is often a lousy surrogate for communicating and a long email string is rarely representative of a great conversation. It certainly is not using conversation and dialogue as part of the leadership system. So when you’re about to send that email and/or give that big speech and think you’ve communicated, you may want to test it against the framework of an organizational conversation and supplement it accordingly.
More conversation in The Triangle,
Key Point: Relationship distraction is becoming worse! I think our emerging addiction to smart phones/tablets combined with ubiquitous connectivity is becoming the new drug of choice and I believe it’s negatively affecting relationships at work and in other parts of our lives. What we focus on controls our thoughts and actions. How can we effectively develop relationships when we’re NOT fully present? And how can we be fully present when every few minutes we’re looking at our mobile devices? Frankly, mobile device distraction is often a “back door” that we use to avoid investing in what’s in front of us. I know, because I’ve done it in excess myself. When I let my phone control me it becomes a dumb phone and the operator qualifies for a similar adjective. Read on… Unless you’re speaking to someone; then read it later.
Have you seen the TV commercial (U.S. markets) where people’s obsessive attention to their smart phones evokes a “really?” response from the person they are with? The most poignant example is the father who suddenly quits playing catch with his young son to answer a text. The boy shouts out “really?” and in frustration “doinks” the father in the noggin with a pitch. A few years ago, DisneyWorld executives were wondering what most captured the attention of toddlers and infants at their theme park and hotels in Orlando, Fla. They hired a journalist and a cultural anthropologist to observe them as they passed by all the costumed cast members, animated creatures, twirling rides, sweet-smelling snacks, and colorful toys. But after a couple hours of close observation, the researchers realized that what most captured the young children’s attention wasn’t Disney-conjured magic. Instead it was their parents’ cell phones. The kids wanted their parents attention, but they soon found out that according to their parents’ behavior, they really paid attention to their dumb smart phones. When parents were using their phones, they were not paying complete attention to their children and the kids were very aware of that choice.
Giving undivided attention is the key ingredient in any relationship. What we focus on comes to control our thoughts and actions. “Attention shapes the brain,” as Rick Hanson says in Buddha’s Brain. There is lots of research on this and the data convincingly illustrates that our attention and focus literally wires or rewires our brain patterns.
It can be difficult to recognize our own patterns of giving attention. We need help by understanding how others see the world too. What we pay attention to, or not, has a huge effect on how we see and feel about the world. The research suggests it’s much easier to see our own attention patterns if we take the time to learn about someone else’s. That’s why true diversity is so vital in our lives. Emotional maturity involves recognizing that our view of the world is only one perspective. So being really present with others not only helps us focus and develop relationships, but it helps us calibrate what we pay attention to and how it differs from others.
As workers and leaders, what we pay attention to sets the example for our teammates. For many of us the most vital resource we have at work is how we use our time; what we focus on and pay attention to. People around us are no different than the kids at Disney; they get it. We need to be in control and conscious of how we invest our time.
- When you are with someone else, give that person your undivided attention. Do not put the smart phone on the table to tempt you. And when you hear it buzz, ignore it. See what happens when you really listen and notice other things… (Body language, tone, other events that impact your relationship). Be smarter than your phone. Take control of your investment in others.
- Make your time with your smart phone an individual exercise. When ever you’re with someone else or at a meeting, set an agreement regarding smart phone etiquette. Make it interesting by agreeing to throw $ in a beer jar every time someone looks at the phone or tablet. If they aren’t paying attention, they probably don’t need to be at the meeting.
- I really love the mobile technology we have at our fingertips. It is a huge source of personal entertainment and development. But relationships and listening/caring for each other is the essence of life. If we’re fortunate enough to be lying in palliative care, winding down our lives, a mobile device is not going to reach out and give us a good-bye hug. It will likely be in the top drawer of the cabinet beside us and when it buzzes with a text from Groupon, it won’t matter very much. (Unless it’s a discount on cremation I guess).
Smarter than our phone in the Triangle!