Author Archives: Sharon

Questions that keep me up at night:
What are the business practices that encourage enterprises to grow?
How/can we breakdown bureaucracies – where the people exist to serve the system / their manager, not the customer?
Is more growth always better?

In today’s webinar at the Starting Good Virtual Summit, Kari Enge, founder of Rank&File Magazine told us a salutary tale about how a focus on dollars and efficiency can kill a people-focused culture in less than six months. To avoid this, she says it’s crucial at an early stage for entrepreneurs, especially social entrepreneurs, “to decide their leadership philosophy … and imagine their perfect culture”.

So who is already doing this well?

We have good role models in a number of tech enterprises. Google used its data analytics power in Project Aristotle to find out what makes a successful team and concludes that psychological safety as well as purposeful work, are two of the five success factors keys. The CEO of Menlo Innovations and author of Joy Inc. says his mission is to “emancipate the heart of the engineers…which is to serve others. He thinks that there is a limit to the size of a business if it wants to bring joy to its customers.  And home-grown enterprises such as Atlassian, tell us that healthy teams embrace continuous improvement. They also say the dirty secret is that team work is ‘very’ hard and tools are not the ‘fix-it’. They contribute their team playbook to the world, because they know it will be ‘very’ hard to emulate, especially for competitors who have an ‘efficiency and dollars must prevail’ philosophy.

We need even more examples of those who are doing good for customers as well as for employees and especially those in the social sphere.

Whom do you admire? What are they doing differently from the ‘norm’? Where can we find them and highlight the good practices they have developed?

We are all made of carbon – let’s do this together

Fabulous phrase from Paul Hawken – “carbon is the element that holds hands and collaborates”.  Listen to Hawken as he launches the new playbook, Drawdown. Drawdown shows us, in a very visual and practical way, the actions we can each take to reduce future climate warming. It also “does the math” and shows what we should be supporting in our communities and countries, in order to ensure a future for our youth on this planet.

And who would have known that one of the top solutions is educating girls worldwide?

And another surprise is LEDs. IN fact, LED’s as a service would make a fantastic and profitable social enterprise.

Get your copy on April 18th, then get together, hold hands and get into action.

Reading for more than Pleasure

As part of my intention to become a ‘maker’ more than a ‘consumer’ of information and stories, I appreciate James Clear’s advice today on How to Read Better.

The article suggests that if we want to become better readers we need firstly, to find a way to make our thoughts visible – by making notes – and then searchable.  I agree that the best tool is Evernote and I am intrigued to find out more about Clippings for Kindle.  I also make a note of the author and the concept, in the header section of my written journal so I can track down comments, though it’s still a manual process to flip through the pages. One day I will explore how to scan my journals.

Secondly, Clear suggests we need to connect the dots between the various ideas that we read. I do a lot of this already – asking myself “hmmm what does this remind me of?” and I can always improve by asking this question. E.g. applying my recent reading from BJ Fogg and his Tiny Habits, I wonder how I can set a tiny habit to capture one idea after each article / book / podcast?

Thirdly, summarise the main idea/s in a paragraph.  In Clear’s article the main ideas are to practice making your reading memorable via searchable notes and by connecting the ideas with other things you’ve written. Then look for one thing you can apply immediately, even if application is writing a summary and sending it to someone who will benefit.

And I will add a fourth – appreciation for the author – so thanks James for your article and your ongoing improvement endeavours.  You are a good role model.

 

Doing something new – make it simpler to start

It’s February already.  Time for a quick review: How are you doing with your New Year’s intentions?

My intention is to become more of a ‘maker’ than a consumer of information.  For me this means writing book reviews – which I did and for which I won a prize from the local library – and writing more blogs.

Looking at my blog posts, I notice I haven’t posted since November, so I haven’t yet progressed with that intention. But I do have a number of posts in drafts.

One was about Tiny Habits and the great work BJ Fogg.  I loved doing his Tiny Habits email program, so I re-read his article on the New Rules of Persuasion.  It’s about persuasion in relation to behaviour change. His proven Behavior Model comprises three elements:

Motivation
Ability and
a Trigger.

Given that I am motivated to do this, and I have the ability, the missing ingredient must be the trigger – remembering to do it. Rather than rely on memory, I know that I can set up regular reminders in my calendar.

OK. Calendar reminders – done.

But wait, Fogg has an additional distinction, which is a key breakthrough for me. He suggests that designers often assume people are more capable that we really are. To increase ability we can make the starting behavior simpler. Even though I have the ability, I often don’t have the time to write a thoughtful piece. But I can easily spend two minutes to say “just read BJ Fogg’s article and liked it because …”  Or just read x and it left me wondering y”.

So my new intention for this month is to write a short ‘reaction’ blog once a week and then make time for a thoughtful piece once a month.

Week one – thoughtful piece – Done.

Week two here we come.

Helpful, healthy language

A good reminder from James Clear on a simple shift in language that can help with healthy eating and with moving our ‘locus of control’ from external to more internal.  When we say “I can’t”, we are using externally focused language – something is preventing us.  When we say “I don’t”, we are making a choice – an internally focused choice.

I’ve used this latter language successfully for a number of years.  When I go out during the week, my standard response to being offered a drink is “Thanks, I don’t drink (alcohol) Monday to Thursday”.  It’s both a habit – I don’t even think about it – and it’s a healthy life choice.

Now I could take it even further, from negative to positive.  Instead of saying what I don’t do – drink alcohol – I could say what I do.  I could say “I abstain”, or perhaps “I drink water Monday to Thursday”, to make it easier for my hosts to know what to serve me.

The learning about helpful language is ongoing.

Will you stay or will you leave?

Fascinating article from researcher  Irit Alony, of Wollongong University, published in the Conversation today. She and her colleagues applied the successful divorce-prediction criteria of John Gottman, from the University of Washington, to see if it could predict which employees were more likely to leave their organisations.

If I understand the research study correctly, those who express negativity such as: “disappointment, withdrawal, hostility, or contempt” (Alony, Hasan & Sense, 2015) are more likely to leave both a marriage and a workplace.  In contrast, those of us who learn the following coping mechanisms are more likely to stay (in both a marriage and a workplace):
– Balancing the good with the bad (e.g. with at least a 2:1 ratio of two positive comments for every negative, aiming towards a thriving relationship ratio of 5:1)
– Genuinely accepting that bad things (e.g. annoying people and systems and rules) are just part of work life
– Avoiding lengthy discussions of the negatives (e.g. learning to shift conversations to focus on how they coped or what they learned so that we/they can do better or differently next time)
– Expressing hope (e.g. that you can directly influence and/or you can cope with whatever happens to you).

And the best way to increase the positives, is to thank others for their contribution, rather than just assuming “that’s what they are paid to do”.

So ‘thank you’ to my Thought Ratio colleague, MIchelle Carlyle for this link.

Why you can’t worry your way to success: What to do instead

I love Sonya Lyubomirsky and Chris Tkach’s article on Dysphoric Rumination.  It explains perfectly, in academic speak, why you can’t worry your way to success and what to do instead.  I trust I’ve done them justice in this layperson’s summary.

The worry cycle goes something like this:
You have a Problem – you are not getting a result you want.
You worry that can’t solve it.
You feel bad / stuck / depressed.
You think and worry more, which doesn’t solve the problem.  Instead it sensitises your mind to pay attention to negatives, so you remember negative instances when similar things haven’t gone well and you think negatively about what won’t work if you tried to take action.
You don’t take action, because your energy is low from all the pessimistic thinking and because you assume a low likelihood of success, so it doesn’t seem worth the effort.
The problem remains or escalates.
You feel worse.
You conclude that the problem is overwhelming and unsolvable and that you are not good enough or not skilled enough to solve the problem.
You take no action, so you can’t disprove your assumptions.
You feel helpless and hopeless and give up.

Fortunately, there are ways to intervene:
You have a Problem – you are not getting a result you want.
You worry that can’t solve it.
You feel bad / down / depressed.
You physically distract yourself by doing something enjoyable to shift your mood. When you are in a better mood, you are more likely to think of possible solutions.
You get out of your head and phone (or email) a friend who asks you ‘possibility questions’: “What if there was one small thing that you could do to get things moving in the direction you want? I wonder what that is?
You get out of your head and take a small, safe action – as an experiment – to challenge your negative assumptions and learn what works.
You reward yourself for any action you take and note your learning and insights about what might work, rather than evaluating that “nothing works”.
You break the cycle of worry and depression through action and learning and reflection, rather than reflection, reflection, reflection.  

What you can do – today:
1. If you’ve been worrying, send this blog link to a ‘friend’ as soon as you’ve finished reading. Then reward yourself for taking a positive action.
2. Phone your friend and ask them to help you. You may ask for permission to whinge for 5 minutes before they ask ‘possibility questions’.
3. Take action – ideally do something tiny today.
4. Reward yourself for taking action, no matter what the outcome.

If you haven’t got an accessible friend:
Email me and I will be your question buddy. Send an email to sharon at apassion dot com dot au  – with the phrase “Oh woe is me” in the header and one sentence to summarise your problem. I will exchange emails with you to ask the possibility question and find one tiny action you can take to get moving.

If you have a friend or work colleague who is worrying or stuck with a problem, send this article, then phone them and ask permission to help them, or let them know they can email me.

Let’s create a culture of possibility and action rather than worry and stuckness.

Can personality be changed?

Today, I was asked by a colleague whether I believe that personality can be changed.

The question coincided with my explorations into how neuroscience and the theory of neuoplasticity is changing psychological theories, especially theories of personality.

To find out what the “traditional” view of personality is, I looked to the American Psychological Society.  On its website it states: “Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. The study of personality focuses on two broad areas: One is understanding individual differences in particular personality characteristics, such as sociability or irritability. The other is understanding how the various parts of a person come together as a whole.”

My view is that personality is a stable pattern of thinking and behaviour (built over many years of thinking and behaving in ways that reinforce the pattern) and there are some things that have a genetic basis. But the research into neuroplasticity and the Rob Kelly Thrive program have shown me that any pattern can be changed with effort, belief, skills and resources.

So yes, I do believe that personality can be changed.

Do you?