The Powerful Practice of Gratitude

“Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful, no matter what happened in my life.” – Oprah Winfrey The secret to greater happiness and success may be more attainable than you think. Research reveals that taking a few minutes to list the things that make you feel grateful provides a powerful boost of well-being, energy and positive emotions. This quick exercise also yields greater productivity, determination and optimism. Practicing gratitude fosters better relationships, social ties and career success. Grateful people sleep better, exercise more and have fewer symptoms of physical illness. They’re more likely to be perceived as prime candidates for promotion. Each day of the week, write down five things for which you’re grateful. You can do this daily or once a week. Day 1: I am grateful for … _________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________ Day 2: I am grateful for ? (etc.) Day 3: I am grateful for? (etc.) If success is as simple as this, why aren’t more people keeping a gratitude list? Perhaps they think it’s a bit hokey – a project reserved for touchy-feely types. Yes, putting in the effort sounds a bit simplistic. But there’s clear evidence that even the most competitive, hard-driving executives benefit from doing so. The science of happiness provides ample proof that certain practices and exercises improve one’s well-being and mood. When you feel good, you’re more likely to be enthusiastic, generous and supportive of others. When gratitude becomes a habit, you no longer require a special event to make you happy. You become more aware of the good things that happen every day,...

Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals

“Goals are one of the most misused and abused concepts in business and life today. Quite often, they’re set but not met, or set without providing realistic aims and/or equipment to achieve them. As a result, goal outcomes are often lowered until they are met or scrapped entirely in favor of new ones … and the fruitless goal cycle begins anew.” – Michael J. Burt and Colby B. Jubenville, PhD, Zebras & Cheetahs: Look Different and Stay Agile to Survive the Business Jungle (Wiley, 2013) Setting a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) can seem exciting and energizing. First proposed by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras in Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (HarperBusiness, 2004), the term refers to a visionary goal that’s emotionally compelling. A great BHAG drives us to realize achievements that exceed our expectations. It facilitates focus, concentration and the ability to ignore distractions. In simple terms, BHAGs help make our dreams come true. But without proper exploration, planning and prioritizing, you may end up setting the wrong goal – one that can lead to disappointment, disillusionment, and a drain on energy and motivation. This type of failure makes it hard to start over again. An effective BHAG motivates your mind (what you know you should do) and heart (what you care about most). It sufficiently challenges your abilities, without making tasks impossible. Before setting a BHAG, examine your values, beliefs and purpose with a trusted accountability partner or coach. Once you determine what matters most (career, family, community), your goal – a natural extension of your values – will become clearer. But goal...

Mind Over Mood

Mind Over Mood: 3 Paths to Better Decisions “Our decision-making capacities are not simply “wired in,” following some evolutionary design. Choosing wisely is a learned skill, which, like any other skill, can be improved with experience.” – Reid Hastie and Robyn M. Dawes,”Rational Choice in an Uncertain World: The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making” (SAGE Publications, 2009) Psychologists, neuroscientists, economists and Buddhism scholars are shedding new light on how we make decisions: We make the best choices when we acknowledge our emotions. In Western civilization, we’re taught that the best decisions are based on logic and reason. Businesses favor data analysis – hard numbers – over any subjective input colored by emotions. Most decisions, however, are heavily influenced by emotions, often without our awareness. The brain is prone to making errors and succumbing to biases, no matter how much data we may have. It doesn’t matter if we’re determining major corporate strategies or considering minor purchases. Without emotional influences, we’d be incapable of making any decisions. Dr. Antonio Damasio, a neurologist at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute, confirmed this theory when working with “Elliot,” a brain-damaged patient who was unable to process emotions. While Elliot’s IQ and mental functioning remained intact, his inability to feel emotion rendered him incapable of making any decisions. A Self-Awareness Formula If you want to refine your decision-making skills, you must become more aware of your: Emotions and moods Physical state Social systems and group dynamics 1. Emotions and Moods Avoid repressing your emotions, no matter how “right” or “wrong” they appear to be. Instead, become more aware of...

The Innovator’s Paradox

When’s the best time to implement change? Before you need to do so. In a world of accelerating product and technology developments, the way you handle your job today is far different from when you first started out. Business in the 21st-century is continuously reinvented and innovated. If you resist change, thriving and surviving may prove elusive. Companies that focus on innovation not only keep pace, but drive change. Think beyond adaptation; look toward making significant contributions that shape the future. During the 2008-2009 financial crises, many organizations viewed innovation as a choice. Not so today. If you and your organization fail to innovate, you’re on the path to stagnation and obsolescence. Today’s competitive advantages will not be tomorrow’s. Can you and your company identify fresh trends and walk away from outdated core competencies, when necessary? Are you actively preparing new products and services? Organizations adapt only if their people do. This means that everyone – leaders, managers and staff – must acquire an innovation mindset to improve today’s job performance and prepare for future demands. As former Intel CEO Andy Grove notes in “Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company” (Crown Business, 1996): “It is at such times of fundamental change that the cliche ‘adapt or die’ takes on its true meaning.” Too Little, Too Late Unfortunately, many corporations don’t recognize the need to change until it’s too late. Prime examples include Kodak, Blockbuster and the U.S. Postal Service. When times are good, you can do things differently, without great urgency or desire. When times are bad, you must urgently do...

The Quest For Better Teams

“Teamwork remains the one sustainable competitive advantage that has been largely untapped.” – Patrick Lencioni, Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Jossey-Bass, 2005) Corporations increasingly organize workforces into teams, a practice that gained popularity in the ’90s. By 2000, roughly half of all U.S. organizations used the team approach; today, virtually all do. A recent survey found that 91 percent of high-level managers believe teams are the key to success. But the evidence doesn’t always support this assertion. Many teamwork-related problems actually inhibit performance and go undetected. While leadership and management styles have been evolving from autocratic to more participatory, the blurring of hierarchies and sharing of responsibilities have created other performance problems. There are several barriers to achieving great work from teams: Some individuals are faster (or better) on key tasks. Developing and maintaining teams can prove costly and time-consuming. Some individuals do less work, relying on others to complete assigned tasks. Team members aren’t always clear about roles and responsibilities, and members sometimes avoid debate and conflict in favor of consensus. Pressures to perform drive people toward safe solutions that are justifiable, rather than innovative. Despite these potential pitfalls, effective teams benefit from combined talent and experience, more diverse resources and greater operating flexibility. Research in the last decade demonstrates the superiority of group decision-making over even the brightest individual’s singular contributions. The exception to this rule occurs when a group lacks harmony or the ability to cooperate. Decision-making quality and speed then suffer. Beyond perfunctory team-building training sessions, what’s needed for teams to perform optimally? How can they evolve into resourceful, high-performing units? Defining Your...