3 Major Challenges Healthcare Executives Will Face in 2023

The healthcare industry is currently going through some changes that can affect health institutions big and small.

These changes can put a lot of pressure on healthcare executives who may struggle with effectively preparing for the changes in the healthcare landscape.

Let’s quickly examine 5 major changes that healthcare executives will need to face in 2023 and beyond:

1) Price Transparency 

Lack of price transparency in the healthcare system has historically imposed great burdens on a patient’s ability to choose their provider (by analyzing costs) and especially paying off their medical bills.

Now the CMS has imposed new regulations to make hospital pricing more transparent and clearly publish the prices they negotiate with insurers for various medical treatments, medications, and even devices.

2) Patient Experience

People expect a higher level of satisfaction from their healthcare providers, fueled in part because of the high costs often associated with even basic health services.

Healthcare organizations will likely face a tougher time retaining patients if they do not increase patient satisfaction levels. Growing competition in the industry means the hospital can quickly lose even its long-term patients, especially if prices become more transparent and people can research providers’ different rates.

3) Introducing New Payment Models

New payment models are becoming more and more present in the healthcare industry. Systems such as bundled payments, shared savings, or even medical subscriptions are slowly becoming a necessity for every hospital to introduce at some point.

Of course, adding a new payment model comes with a lot of challenges, as executives have to balance current systems, integrate new ones, and effectively monitor their performance to determine whether this new model yields the desired results.

4) Staffing

Staffing will unfortunately remain one of the biggest roadblocks hospital managers and executives will face in 2023. Finding qualified individuals is made even harder for smaller practices that may not be able to offer the same incentives that bigger healthcare institutions have.

And the issue isn’t just about finding doctors. Hiring nurses, medical assistants, and auxiliary personnel can also pose some difficulties for managers.

5) Staff Satisfaction

Apart from patient satisfaction, managers need to care for the happiness of their staff, a lot of whom are still feeling the burnout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ignoring these issues can, unfortunately, underline the staffing issues as current staff may leave or retire early due to the unaddressed pressures of their work environment.

How Can Hospital Executives Prepare for These Changes?

Many hospitals are finding themselves in the midst of a much-needed transition. Apart from the 3 new trends discussed, many healthcare executives are also facing increasing pressure to respond to various consumer demands, such as more accessible eHealth services.

This is a time for transformation, and to effectively navigate all these changes, executives may want to collaborate with healthcare coaches that are trained to guide these institutions through new waters.

A healthcare coach’s role may be instrumental in helping hospital leaders effectively plan for these new trends and take their health institution further.

What Are Quiet Quitters Actually Doing?

The latest and most polarizing trend in the workplace is “quiet quitting”. Leaders and managers hate it, while employees are jumping on it at rapid rates.

The term itself sounds scary, but it has nothing to do with job quitting. It refers to performing the role within its established bounds, such as not doing tasks outside of the job description or staying late hours.

So why are managers and team leaders not on board?

The Rise of Quiet Quitting Explained

You can say that quiet quitting is a response to the “hustle culture” born in the 90s. Back then and until fairly recently, the idea was that the more effort you put into your work, the better the rewards.

Employees who stayed late hours routinely and never said no to a task or challenge were often the ones receiving the most praise within a company.

Unfortunately, this culture created some toxic environments as companies started to expect more and more from their employees, without necessarily giving much back in return.

The rise of remote work during the Covid-19 pandemic meant that for a lot of people, the line between work and home was destroyed completely.

This led to massive numbers of employees reporting burnout and now its response: quiet quitting.

Your Employees Aren’t Slacking. They Are Setting Boundaries

It’s a mistake to assume quiet quitting will mean tasks don’t get finished anymore and your employees are wasting time.

Quiet quitters are still getting the job done – they’re just setting better boundaries for themselves.

Interestingly, many quiet quitters don’t necessarily now believe their job or work isn’t important. But they are realizing their personal life is equally important.

And, perhaps most importantly, they are realizing they should not overextend themselves for a job that doesn’t give anything in return.

So What Does This Mean for Managers and Leaders?

If you’ve begun to notice quiet quitting is making its way to your office, you may ask yourself how to approach it or even stop it.

But, quiet quitting may actually help your company in the long run.

Hustle culture, if anything, leads to burned-out and unhappy employees who will be not able to perform well at their jobs even if they want to. Employees who set healthy boundaries can do much more for your productivity, even if that productivity is limited to the 8-hour daily work schedule.

Employees are looking for a better work-life balance, so companies who wish to keep quiet quitting under control may want to look more closely at what they are doing to help their staff create this balance.

Leading Your Team Through the Quiet Quitting Movement

If you’re a leader or manager, it’s time you connect with the people you lead. Quiet quitting, if anything, is an opportunity for the company to do better at engaging its employees, and creating a healthier working environment that benefits everyone.

So talk with your people. See what’s working, and what isn’t. And don’t blame them for setting a healthy boundary.

The 7 Deadly Sins of Leadership

Around 65% of millennials believe they’re not equipped to be leaders yet as they lack the necessary employer support for management positions.

Leadership training and coaching are very much still necessary in 2022 and beyond, as people understand the responsibilities that such positions often require. And to be a good leader, it’s worth taking a look at the 7 deadly sins that leadership often faces:

  1. Not Knowing Who You Are

    It’s not uncommon for the image we have of ourselves to be vastly different from how others perceive us. Leaders who are not confident in their strengths and know their weaknesses can easily become their worst enemies.

  1. Avoiding Difficult Conversations

    It’s human nature to want to avoid difficult conversations. And yet, this is a luxury that leaders can’t always afford. To be a good leader, you have to be comfortable with opposing views and standing your ground.

    Difficult conversations are often necessary to facilitate change and improve operations.

  1. Focusing on “Being Liked”

    Speaking of human nature, we all want to be well-liked in any group: family, friends, and at work. However, while being well-liked is certainly important for a leader, this idea cannot become a guiding force in your decision-making.

  1. Avoiding Decisions

    There’s no other way to do it: leaders need to make decisions all the time. And some of them are hard.

    One pitfall here is trying to postpone or even avoid the process because of the fear of failure. This can hinder organizational growth and even impact your growth as a leader and professional.

  1. Not Facilitating Change

    A leader’s job is to help the organization and its employees grow. They are a conductor of change, which also means they need to be flexible enough to adapt to such changes.

    When the leader hinders change because they prefer the status quo, this is a huge issue for the entire organization.

  1. Ineffective Communication

    Communication skills can often make or break a leader. They must be well-versed in all mechanisms of language, be they verbal, non-verbal, or written. Often, they need to facilitate or encourage communication within the conversation, which is rather impossible without solid communication skills.

  1. Not Focusing on Your Potential

    People often view a leadership position as the prize in the career race. However, getting to the finish line doesn’t mean your journey of growth stops here.

    Good leaders know they must always grow their potential, and skills, and look outside themselves for assistance in leading a team or an organization.

How Can You Become a Good Leader?

We’ve seen that a lot of the time, people require specialized support to help them navigate the new challenges of leadership. One-on-one leadership coaching can help individuals get this support and navigate these 7 deadly sins of leadership.

As to whether the sins can be avoided entirely – that depends. To err is human, after all, but how a leader bounces back from these errors is much more indicative of their leadership abilities than whether they can avoid them altogether.

Wellness Programs: Are They Now Mandatory for an Organization?

Society is forever changed after 2 years of being held in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic. While people, companies, and industries are still figuring things out, we can already see some massive changes when it comes to the workplace.

Specifically, changes to how companies are starting to measure, retain, and even entice their employees.

Say what you want about the pandemic, but it has underlined the need for comprehensive wellness programs that can take care of a person from a holistic standpoint. Companies are also realizing they are not just the main factor that could influence a person’s financial life. They also play a huge role in their employee’s wellness.

The Stats on Corporate Wellness Programs

A Gartner Survey of 52 HR executives found that companies are doubling down on their wellness programs:

  • 94% invested extra in their wellness programs
  • 85% increased support for mental health
  • 50% increased support for physical health
  • 38% increased support for financial health

Wellness isn’t just the responsibility of the employee anymore. Companies are realizing that through comprehensive wellness programs, they can better predict and improve employee performance, and even increase employee retention.

Because it’s not just companies warming up to these programs: individuals are seeking services to improve their well-being in different ways.

What Should a Wellness Program Include?

If your organization is now looking to establish its first wellness program, the very first step to take is assessing the current well-being of your employees.

Wellness programs work best when they can directly speak to the needs, expectations, and individual circumstances of employees. For example, a company with many young adults may need family planning services. Notoriously competitive industries and high stress should strengthen their mental health services.

By asking your employees, you can effectively learn what they need from a wellness program. In general, such programs will take a holistic approach to help employees lead a balanced life, such as:

  • Physical health services – Such as adding health and fitness services to the program, providing tools and resources of education, or binding on a health coach to help employees improve their physical health;
  • Mental health services – Implementing stress-reduction protocols, educating employees about their mental health, improving their access to mental health services, etc.
  • Financial health – Helping employees plan their financial future, save money, invest, and even create safety nets in case of emergencies.

Of course, the wellness program can have many additional layers, depending on the needs and expectations of your employees.

Do Wellness Programs Work?

Helping someone improve their well-being isn’t a one-sided task: it takes 2 to tango.

But what wellness programs do is offer employees an easy, accessible way to take care of their health and well-being.

Whether at an individual level it will work or not, generally depends on the person. Some thrive better with 1-on-1 wellness coaching than with broad coaching programs.

But even so, wellness programs work towards improving the company-employee relationship and offer people all the resources they need to care for themselves and their well-being.

The “Human” Side Of Coaching

Coaches can have vastly different approaches to helping their clients achieve their goals, be they on a professional, personal, or niche level.

However, what should never change in terms of how coaching ensues is the idea that the client’s needs always come first, before the books, the strategies, and the formats.

Call it the recipe for success in coaching, but when you don’t put the person’s needs at the forefront of your work, you miss out on the “human” component of coaching. And this component can often determine the success of the coaching.

What Is the “Human” Component of Coaching?

The human component simply refers to the fact that the coaching strategy should answer the specific needs of the client in need of help.

Let’s take two scenarios to help you see the human component in action:

1.  The General Approach

A person looking for coaching and support certainly has many options in 2022. In fact, you may even be inclined to sign up for a masterclass or course that can help you work on some of your issues to reach your goals.

These types of classes have a “general” approach. They tackle certain subjects in a way that a large group of people can have something to learn and gain from them.

The coach will likely prepare a set of videos, booklets, checklists, and other materials to offer their clients, and help them move through the course.

And you can learn a lot from this type of approach, especially if you’ve never worked with a professional to improve your skills and mindset to overcome challenges and reach your goals. But, with this approach, you are missing out on essential interactions with your coach.

2.  The “Human” Approach

The human approach to coaching essentially means your coach will build an actual relationship with you, instead of just sharing tips and tricks. For starters, the human approach involves identifying your unique needs and expectations.

You will meet with your coach and get support for your circumstances, instead of an overall approach to becoming more successful or socially open. The human approach puts you, as an individual, at the frontline of the entire process, and not a potential group of people.

Which One Is Better?

It should be said that both approaches have their time and place. The general approach, be it in the form of a class or a course can certainly help people achieve meaningful results and even clarify some questions they may have about their future.

But in most cases, people respond better to the “human” approach, simply because it is tailored to their individual circumstances.

So when you choose a course, a program, or a coach, always let your individual needs guide you. Ask yourself:

“Can this really help me? Is it appropriate for my goals?”

Once you do that, you’ll be able to effectively navigate the world of coaching and find the tips, tricks, and the people who can genuinely help you achieve what you want.

The Hardest Lesson: Saying “No”

By: David Herdlinger

In professional and personal coaching, at one point you just have to find a way to help people say one, yet extremely powerful word:

“No.”

It can be daunting to do it.

People are so used to this idea that you have to always be available, a team player, and willing to go the extra mile to show your worth at all times. It’s thought of as the most effective way to move forward in your professional life.

But in reality, saying no can be very beneficial in your career.

When Should You Be Saying “No”?

Your career will present you with countless opportunities to say no:

  • Recruitment pitches that don’t work for your career path at all
  • Requests for free stuff (advice, labor, etc.)
  • Low-ball offers
  • Extra work that isn’t compensated
  • Colleague interruptions, etc.

Learning how to say no can give you a competitive advantage because you can use it to deter the events that aim to take you off your path toward reaching your career goals.

Doing someone a favor once in a while isn’t necessarily bad. It can be a way to strengthen your relationship with managers and co-workers. But if you have a habit of saying “yes” to everything, at one point you can end up:

  • Overworked
  • Underpaid
  • Frustrated
  • Exhausted
  • Confused about your future

So, How Can You Say ”No” Without Jeopardizing Your Career?

A lot of the time, the clients I work with have a problem in terms of mindset.

They see saying the word “no” mostly from the perspective of the other person, and how it will affect them. How they won’t get the help they need, the advice, or the task done.

But, it’s important to put yourself back into the story because saying “no” also affects you.

Here are a few tips that can help you figure out when and how to say “no” without it jeopardizing your career:

  • Take a few moments – You don’t have to accept or reject a proposal right away. Just say “give me a few minutes to think it over”;
  • Evaluate your priorities – Consider your goals, and how this proposal fits into your journey. Does it help? Does it distract you from your path? Does it prevent you from focusing on other things?;
  • Consider the results of saying yes – Now think about the scenario of saying yes. What would that look like? Would it be beneficial to you? Can you do it alone or would you need more support?
  • Rip the bandaid – If you analyze the proposal and want to reject it, then it’s best to rip the bandaid off, just say “no”, and add your reasoning.

I’m not going to lie, it will most likely still be difficult at first, even if you follow these steps.

You will need to give yourself some time to embrace the idea that saying “no” is not the end of the world, and that it can actually help you move forward with your career goals.

And eventually, it will happen!

 

 

Take Care: Ground Yourself

How do you take care and ground yourself?

More than ever, it’s critical that we take care of our bodies and mind. After all, our success depends on being able to function in a healthy, productive manner.

So when your flight, fight, freeze, or fawn response is triggered, how do you respond? How do you signal to your body when you are in real danger, and when you are experiencing stress?

The term “stress” is overused and often misunderstood, as it’s bandied about to describe both cause and effect:

  • Cause: “There’s a lot of stress at work these days.”
  • Effect: “I’m so stressed that I can’t think straight.”

It’s interesting to note that while neuroscience has taught us a great deal about stress, we cannot always distinguish between the psychological state of stress and the physiological response to it. What is clear is that if we’re in a chronic state of high-level stress, emotional strain leads to physical consequences. The body responds with anxiety and depression, as well as high blood pressure, heart problems and cancer. Chronic stress eats away at the brain’s connective tissue.

We can’t completely eliminate stress. But, we can better manage our body’s natural responses to stress. We can take control, ground ourselves, and even improve our brain’s ability to function.

The Science

Severe stress activates the “emergency phase,” commonly known as the fight-or-flight response. It’s a complex physiological reaction that marshals resources to mobilize the body and brain to peak performance. Fortunately, it engraves the memory so we can avoid this stressor in the future.

Our ingrained reaction is essentially a three-step process:

  • Recognize the danger.
  • Fuel the reaction.
  • Remember the event for future reference.

Unfortunately, any amount of stress triggers neurological systems that manage attention, energy, and memory. Moreover, we can find ourselves in a constant state of stress. You see, the mind is so powerful that we can set off a stress response just by imagining ourselves in a threatening situation. It’s time to take good care and ground ourselves.

Grounded is a state of being when you’re feeling your emotions and you’re aware of your present moment experience. Being grounded also means that you’re feeling responsible for your safety and well-being. Grounding is an effective therapeutic approach for managing stress, anxiety, and improving overall mental health.

Stress and Your Autonomic Nervous System

The human body is pretty amazing. Not only can most of us choose if, when, where, how, and why to use it, there are systems that automatically work for us. Our autonomic nervous system (ANS) regulates our breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and many other functions that allow us to survive.

The traditional view of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is that of a two-part system:

  1. Sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is more activating, and can be triggered by stress to fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. The burst of cortisol may cause our hands to sweat, voice to shake, and stomach to clinch as our pulse rate and blood pressure rise. These are the physical manifestations of anxiety.
  2. Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which counter-balances our SNS and supports health, growth, and restoration. When our brain believes we are safe, we slow down and our systems reboot.

The Vagus Nerve

Our vagus nerve (pneumogastric nerve) is difficult to track, but we know that it is the longest nerve in the ANS. It extends throughout our thorax (esophagus, trachea, heart, and lungs; respiration and circulation) to the abdomen (stomach, pancreas, liver, kidneys, small intestine, and portion of large intestine; digestion and elimination). The vagus nerve can be very powerful, especially when we are feeling stress:

  1. It can trigger the parasympathetic response.
  2. Communicates from the brain to the body and from the body to the brain.

Dr. J. Eric Vance, MD, writes in Psychiatric Times (May 2018) that we are in a constant state of surveillance for risk, safety, threats, and opportunities to respond. He refers to this process as “neuroception.” Fortunately, we can practice calming techniques that send a signal from our body to our brain that we are safe.

Activate Your Parasympathetic Response

Your parasympathetic response (PNS) is your body’s way of returning to rest or calm. Think of it like this: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) works to stimulate fight, flight, freeze, or fawn—ways to keep us alive when in danger. The parasympathetic response system is our parachute out of danger: this system regulates our emotions in stressful situations.

Fortunately, there are ways we can strengthen our parachutes:

  1. Practice deep-breathing (engage vagal tone). Your vagal tone is a measurement of your heart rate variability when practicing slow, deep breathing. A stronger vagal tone leads to better blood sugar regulation, heart health, and digestion; a reduction in migraines; and greater emotional stability and resilience. Lower vagal tone is associated with mood instability, depression, PTSD, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cognitive impairment, and inflammation. Fortunately, deep, slow breathing can increase your vagal tone and trigger parasympathetic response.
    1. To determine your vagal tone, find your pulse. Notice any change as you slowly breathe in and out. If it increases as you breathe in and decreases as you breathe out, you have a stronger vagal tone.
    2. To strengthen your vagal tone, practice slow, deep-breathing.
  2. Soften the eyes/gaze (use peripheral vision). Softening the gaze, or focus, relaxes nerves in and around the eyes. This often occurs naturally when you are lost in thought or daydream. Conversely, when your SNS has been triggered you may experience tunnel vision. When we use peripheral vision, we signal the brain and trigger the PNS.
    1. To soften your gaze, squeeze and relax your eyes. Expand your vision to the sides: notice what is at the outer edges of your vision.
  3. Valsalva maneuver (increase chest cavity pressure). This practice can trigger the heart to slow down.
    1. To practice this, bear down to compress your stomach to your pelvic floor. Alternatively, you can close your mouth, pinch your nose, and try to exhale as you would to alleviate ear pressure. My favorite practice is to breathe in slowly for five second, hold the breath while bearing down, and then slowing exhaling. I do this once or twice, then breathe normally for 30 seconds, and repeat the cycle.

These are just a few of the grounding techniques that we can use to activate our parasympathetic response. If you’d like more information, a qualified coach or therapist can help.

The Resilience Pill

We are seeing incredible advances in medical science in recent years: portable MRI machines, cancer treatments (radioligand therapy), sickle cell gene-editing treatment, an Alzheimer blood test, and vaccines. Is a resilience pill next?

Imagine: a simple pill that can increase our resilience. No more struggle with set-backs from uncertainty, mistakes, or failure. Stress would be something we could choose: the how, what, where, when, and why. After all, we know that some stress—eustress—is good for us.

According to The American Institute of Stress, eustress is the experience of a challenging event; it is a mindset that accompanies a challenge. And it helps us develop resilience.

Typically, we become more resilient through life struggles. We adapt and grow. But neuroscience reveals that some of us are a bit more lucky: we’re born with a bit more resilience at the start. For the less fortunate, a pill might just level the playing field.

The Study

Scientists have been digging in to the study of resilience and stress over the past two decades. One leader is Mount Sinai Health Systems. According to their research, the most resilient people have the ability to defend, bounce back, and find ways to create “a sense of safety, control, and social connection.”

When examining seemingly adaptive behavior, the researchers were surprised to find that genetics and neurochemistry played a role. They found differences in the molecular biology of resilient brains (as compared to less resilient). When stressed, specific genes in the nervous system become more active. But in the more resilient brain, the genes are more regulated.

This has led to pilot clinical trials with specific epilepsy and/or anti-depressant drugs to boost resiliency at the cellular level. Of course, at this early stage it is too early to predict the outcome. In the meantime, we’ll need to develop and cultivate our resilience in the more traditional ways.

Understanding Resilience

Over the past two years, this word has been tossed about everywhere: in headlines, podcasts, blogs, articles, talks, etc. I’ve noticed that there is a wide array of definitions, and subsequently, understanding. For example, from 2015-2020, 18 different approach processes were published in adult health research.

In the June 2021 issue of Frontiers in Psychology, researchers point to three challenges when it comes of understanding resilience: definition of positive outcomes, process descriptions, and identification of mechanisms that result in resilience. The authors suggest we need to reconsider some of the attributes of resilience.

The Research

Resilience research has been conducted in four primary scientific fields/waves:

  • Developmental psychology: This resulted in an acceptance and usage of resilient scales to identify and/or predict protective factors and resilient personality types, including environmental experiences that may occur at various developmental stages.
  • Developmental and ecological systems: This resulted in an understanding of resilience as a natural phenomenon resulting from many processes. For example: a sense of safety, positive social connections, feelings of competence and control, and positive outlooks.
  • Intervention and training: the technological advances in neuroimaging suggest the possibility to recover functioning after extreme stress.
  • Neurobiology: Studies on mechanisms, including neural plasticity and the interrelations between biological and psychological processes, reveal additional insights.

Researchers explain that our understanding of resilience has evolved from a trait-oriented approach to a process-oriented/outcome-oriented approach. However, there is no universal outcome measure for resilience. At best, there are three core qualifiers: adversity, positive adaptation, and positive outcome.

Adversity

The researchers define adversity as an exposure to significant adverse events or the risk thereof. The events may be acute and chronically stressful and range from daily life challenges to bereavement, job loss, or chronic events.

Positive Outcomes

  • Immunity, stability, or resistance: while this outcome may apply for acute crisis, no one is invulnerable when it comes to chronic adversity and/or significant trauma.
  • Bouncing back, or recovery: this implies that adversity is experienced in a specific trajectory for a specified period with a return to homeostasis.
  • Growth: unlike recovery, growth implies new, or the strengthening of functions and/or abilities.

Mechanisms of Positive Adaptation

  • Cognitive Reappraisal: positive (re)appraisal and attention control
  • Cognitive or regulatory flexibility: an ability to modify cognitive and behavioral strategies to respond accurately to changing environments
  • Attachment: secure attachment with family, teachers, therapists, or others
  • Hardiness: sense of purpose, agency/self-efficacy, growth-mindset
  • Neurobiology: functioning brain circuitries
  • Genetics: allele type may affect resilience to adversity.

At its core, resilience is a dynamic, multi-dimensional construct, and there is much more to learn. Today, we must rely on three systems, or sources, to build our resilience.

Build Resilience Today

  • Intra-individual sources: gender, sex, biology, physiology, health behavior
  • Interpersonal sources: education, family, competence and knowledge, interpersonal relationships and social groups, skills, and experience
  • Socio-ecological sources: access, formal, and informal institutions, geography, socio-economic status

Of course, access to resources varies greatly across the globe, and even within a community. We see signs of this more and more frequently as situations and behavior indicate persons are experiencing a lack of agency. How can we create a sense of safety (for self and others), a sense of control, and social connections?

Resilience Strategies

An effective strategy that helps build resilience is cognitive reappraisal. This helps us lessen negative emotions and increase positive emotions. Cognitive reappraisal is changing how we think about the situation.

Sometimes, it’s simply using a mantra, such as the Serenity Prayer: “Help me to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” This can help us slow down, breathe, and connect with what we can change: our own thinking.

Researchers have found there are many psychological benefits when we experience positive emotions, without necessarily altering negative feelings. After all, it is unrealistic to avoid all negative emotions, such as loss or grief. But we can grow through these experiences when we change how we respond to the situation, including our thoughts and feelings about the situation.

You see, cognitive reappraisal can change the intensity and duration of our feelings. Neuroimaging reveals that when we practice this strategy over a period of time it actual changes our brains; cognitive reappraisal increases our overall sense of well-being and resilience. And when we build our own resilience, we can help others, too.

Develop Your Mental Game

As a leader, how is your mental game?
Consider today’s outstanding athletes, such as those who recently participated in the U.S. Open. It’s impressive to see these leaders excel in their field; they are really amazing! Not unlike today’s outstanding business leaders and managers, they overcome obstacles, deal with set-backs and persevere to the end.
After watching a game or two it’s easy to take their impressive skills for granted. After all, they make it look so easy. And then they make a clear mistake.
Such was the case for one such player: with a single swat, he unintentionally hit a ball at a line judge, and was disqualified.
How can such a well-trained, highly-skilled and disciplined leader make such a mistake?
He got caught in a momentary lapse of un-mindfulness, distracted and fueled by frustration. And it happens to the best of us. We lose our clarity and focus.
Clarity and Focus
Clarity is knowing exactly what you want to achieve as a leader: your vision. Focus is knowing and doing the actions required to get you there. Great leaders do the right thing, right now. How?
First, they develop a clear mental picture of their intention. Then, they make a conscious choice to commit to and pursue that intention. And last, but certainly not least, they develop strategies for protecting their intention against distracting feelings or emotions, like boredom and frustration.
Just like great athletes, great business leaders take purposeful action to preserve and strengthen their mental abilities. After all, leaders who work on their brain fitness are less prone to errors. They understand that clarity and focus require three key areas of brain function:

  • Cognition: Education and experience contribute to your cognitive abilities, so wise leaders engage in learning new skills which they practice to improve their processing speed (how quickly they can recall information, names and memories). This allows them to make wise and timely decisions and responses, and, it also inhibits actions that could sabotage their best efforts, like hitting a ball at a line judge.
  • Emotion Management: Learning how to self-regulate emotions, including stress and anger, is crucial for personal and professional success. You see, when an event or action is stored in our memory, the associated emotion is also stored. This unconscious emotional tagging process can influence our clarity, focus and future decision making process.
  • Executive Judgment: This operational part of the brain enables us to receive information, assess our feelings, identify and analyze pros and cons, formulate plans and discern outcomes.

Build Your Foundation
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a true brain enhancement pill that could increase our health, wellness and performance? While research reveals that nootropics benefit cognition, learning and mental clarity, they don’t actually improve intellect or IQ. If you’re not familiar with nootropics, they are a class of substances (natural or synthetic) comprised of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, antioxidants and other herbal ingredients. Nootropics can have some effect on our memory, thinking or other brain functions, but, more non-biased studies (non-brand or product related) must be conducted. In the meantime, we do know that diet, exercise and meditation are key to higher brain function.

  • Diet: in a perfect world, we’d get all the vitamins and minerals we need through a healthy diet of a wide-range of plants that fight inflammation. You see, science has linked many diseases, including those affecting our brain health­, with chronic inflammation. According to an article published by Harvard Health Publishing (November 2018) choosing the right anti-inflammatory foods reduces your risk of illness.
  • If you’re looking to improve your mental game, consider the Mediterranean diet: it’s high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish and healthier oils. And of course, avoid processed foods, or those high in sugar. Researchers are finding greater evidence linking poor brain health to sugar. So while it might give your brain an initial surge, it’s not the best tool. Instead, give yourself a boost with exercise.
  • Exercise: exercise increases activity in parts of the brain that have to do with executive function. Not only that, exercise promotes the growth of new brain cells. The key is to push yourself (with approval from your health care professional): reach your target heart rate for a period of 20-minutes, totaling a minimum of 150 minutes/week.
  • Why? Aerobic exercises increases blood flow to the brain, reduces stress and improves mood. And, if you are actually enjoying the activity, this only improves your outlook.
  • Meditation: the beneficial effects of meditation for brain fitness are the result of changes in underlying brain processes. Through MRI (fcMRI) scanning, researchers with the National Institutes of Health found that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), a form of meditation, alters intrinsic connectivity networks (ICNs).
  • MBSR is an attention-training technique that focuses on present moment internal and external experience. It includes breath awareness, body awareness (scanning) and attention to the impermanence of sensory experience. After eight weeks of MBSR training and practice, researchers identified changes in the subject’s brains reflective of a more “consistent attentional focus, enhanced sensory processing, and reflective awareness of sensory experience.”

Beware of Distractions
Distraction has become an ongoing challenge for many leaders and managers. And it’s not just our devices or technology, rather, it’s often our emotions, or our responses to our emotions.
According to Nir Eyal, an expert on technology and psychology published by Harvard Business Review, and author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. (BenBella Books, 2019) we need to recognize the difference between traction and distraction. Gaining traction requires purposeful action: channeling our energy and focus.
Energy is much more than effort. It is engagement in a meaningful activity, propelled by both internal and external resources. Purposeful action is self-driven behavior; it is self-generated and engaged to generate traction.
Focus is conscious, intentional and disciplined thought and behavior. You see, purposeful action requires discipline to resist distraction, overcome obstacles and persevere in the face of setbacks. Our focus and energy might fall into one of four categories:

    

The Frenzied: Are you highly energetic and enthusiastic about your work, yet distracted or overwhelmed by tasks? How do you feel about deadlines, demands and the tyranny of the urgent? The need for speed may trigger you to act without hesitation, but you could achieve more if you consciously concentrate your efforts on what really matters.
The Procrastinator: Are you feeling low energy and focus? Insecurities and fear of failure may cause you to work on minor details, rather than tasks that could make a real difference for your organization.
The Detached: Are you focused, but without energy? What is the cause? You may be passing on apathy or disdain to your co-workers, sending mixed signals.
The Purposeful: Are you highly focused and energetic? You signal calm, reflective, and able to get the job done, even in chaos.
Boost Your Mental Game
When the going gets tough, how do you develop your mental game?  Answer these questions to boost your energy and hone your focus:
Energy Boosters

  • Focus on one goal. Without judgment or self-censoring, ask yourself:
    1. What is the big picture?
    2. What data, research and strategies do I have and/or need for wise decisions about objectives and goals?
    3. Is my goal well defined?
    4. Where are the limits in my understanding?
    5. How does the goal align with my values and those of my organization?
    6. How would I benefit from a mentor?
  • Build confidence. Consider past personal goals, and ask yourself:
    1. What was my experience with achieving comparable goals? Is it repeatable?
    2. Who is my role model? Can they help me understand what it takes?
    3. Where can I go for feedback and evaluation?
    4. How can I experiment, rehearse or practice critical tasks toward my goal?
  • Practice positivity. Overcome negativity, and develop positive thoughts and feelings by asking yourself:
    1. What are my patterns of feelings and experiences?
    2. How are they related to my thoughts and behaviors about my goal?
    3. Where do I find healthy outlets and support? (hobbies, sports, friends)
    4. When do I experience fun or excitement?
    5. What about my work creates enthusiasm?
    6. Work aside, where do I draw strength? How do I gain balance?

Focus Boosters

  • Harness the power of visualization. Visualize your goal, or objective, and ask yourself:
    1. What does my objective look like? When I need to remember my objective, what simple image can I conjure?
    2. What are the small steps I need to take to reach my goal?
  • Commit to your goal. Make it personal, and ask yourself:
    1. Does this goal feel right for me?
    2. How much do I really want to achieve my goal?
    3. What positive feelings are attached to this goal?
    4. How does this goal align with my values and beliefs?

Boosting your mental game requires a clear mental picture of your goal or objective and a conscious choice to commit to and pursue your goal.

A Shift to Self-Employment

Is self-employment right for you? Is now the best time to start your own business?

Questions like these are common right now. And the answer is: definitely, maybe.

Regardless of the type of business, self-employment isn’t for everyone. It requires passion, know how, and opportunity. It requires strategy and great timing. And it takes resources.

To be sure, there are many pros and cons to consider:

  • With unemployment claims at 30MM in the U.S. and unemployment dropping to 10.2% (16.5% factoring in part-time employees), there is still a lot of volatility in the market.
  • In the months of March and April the US economy lost more than 21MM jobs, and in May, June, and July, regained 9.3MM (about half of jobs lost). While this upward trend is good news, the question remains, what happens next? A lot depends on three things:
  • The virus: While scientists are making great progress toward a vaccine, the number of new cases continues to grow.
  • Consumer confidence and behavior: Some experts speculate that many people used the $1200 US stimulus check to pay-down debt, rather than stimulate the economy with new purchases.
  • The government’s response: At the time of this writing, the U.S. government has not reached a consensus on a second stimulus bill. Of course, this is really only a piece of the puzzle in response to a global pandemic.
  • For the unemployed, with no indication of a work return date, now is a great time to explore possibilities.
  • According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, when people have a greater amount of time to find the right position (with the security of un-employment benefits to sustain them), they find a better fitting job. Sometimes, this means creating a job perfectly suited for them, while solving a problem for their clients.

Many leaders, executives, and managers secretly wish that they were self-employed. When they examine past career choices, future opportunities, and the reality that time is finite, they open the window to options and opportunities.

Are You Ready for Self-Employment?

Ask yourself:

  • What steps must I take to transition to entrepreneurship?
  • Can I give myself permission to succeed, or fail?
  • How does fear keep me in a reactive stance, constrained by outmoded routines?
  • Am I content to live partially, or am I ready and willing to explore new ways of thinking and feeling?
  • Can I gather the energy needed to realize my unlived potential?
  • How can I take one small step?

The shift to self-employment can be the most rewarding accomplishment and pathway to success there ever was. But, ask anyone who has ventured out on their own, and they’ll tell you tales of blood, sweat, and tears shed. If you’ve got a novel, great idea, it won’t take long before others are nipping on your heels. It’s important to start right: start smart.

Hone Your Value Proposition

Begin with a value-proposition: a simple, memorable statement about what you do, and why you do it. Your value proposition describes the functional and emotional benefits of your company and brand. Functional benefits are linked to specific product features, while emotional benefits refer to positive feelings that customers experience when using your products and services.

For example, the functional benefit of a gardening tool could be the efficient removal of lawn weeds, but the emotional benefit could be its ease of use by people with knee ailments. Value propositions are not necessarily about offering the cheapest products. They are about convincing customers that they are getting value for their money.

A value proposition can be created in four steps:

Step 1: Know your customer

Your customer is a business person with quite a large house, who likes the "meditative feeling" of cutting his own lawn, but gets bored by the job when it takes too long.  He’s looking for a good quality of cut, for the job to be done quickly and enjoyably.

Step 2: Know your product or idea

The product is a ride-on mower with a 25 horsepower (powerful) engine and 45 inch (wide) cutting blades.

Step 3: Know your competitors

The mower goes faster and cuts wider than the competition.

Step 4: Distill the customer-oriented proposition

"Our mower cuts your grass in 50% of the time of ‘big brand’ mowers in its class. And it leaves the lawn looking beautiful too!"

Craft Your Business Positioning Statement

Your business positioning statement flows from your value propositions. It should describe why customers should use one product over another.

For example, a small bakery’s positioning statement could be its multigrain breads and custom-designed cakes that appeal to customers who are looking for flavorful and creative products that are different from the standard mass-produced items at big-box grocery stores. Correct positioning could determine market-share gains and profitability. In this case, the bakery is trying to position its products in the market segment that includes customers who want high-quality, high-priced goods. If it tries to compete solely on price, it may not survive because bigger companies can use their buying power to drive down input costs.

Positioning statements focus on the most relevant benefit and points of competitive differentiation that are meaningful to the persona:

  • Audience (persona type/niche market)
  • Product
  • Category
  • Differentiator
  • Key customer benefit
  • Think "Why?" and answer the customer’s question of WIFM

Be prepared to modify your positioning statements to respond to changes in the business environment. 

Memorize Your Personal Positioning Statement

Your personal positioning statement flows from your value propositions and business positioning statement. It describes why customers should choose you over someone else.

For example, your personal positioning statement could include how you have helped other clients and appeal to prospects who are looking for similar results (or have similar problems).  Based on your niche market values, personal positioning statements focus on the most relevant benefit of working with you versus your competitors.

Try this basic template, and fill in the blanks:

For ____________________ (your audience/niche market/persona type),

I am the ____________________ (your specialty or category of service)

with the unique combination of ________________ (your differentiator)

that can help you ____________________ (key customer benefit/the “why”/WIFM answer).

These tools also help to keep your vision alive. They are reminders of what you do, and why you do it. Most importantly, they prepare you to answer the question: “what do you do?”

Unleash Your Inner Entrepreneur

Leaders and executives often make great entrepreneurs. After all, many have grown through the ranks in an organization, and understand what it takes to succeed in business:

  • Facilitator
  • Teacher
  • Pragmatist
  • Motivator
  • Visionary
  • Mystic (magnetism)

As an entrepreneur, you’ll move through the ranks. Knowing which aren’t a good fit—and knowing what you don’t know—allows you to focus your time, energy, and attention on areas where you excel.

Generally speaking, your passion will stem from your knowledge or experience with the technical aspects of your business: the first three ranks. Successful entrepreneurship requires a solid understanding of logistics, including resources, supply chains, and production, as well as marketing, finance, and everything in between.

As you take on more responsibility (and grow your business), the role of facilitator, teacher, and pragmatist can be taught to others, delegated, or hired out. Your role will shift to motivator as you encourage others in their performance.

As a visionary, you’ll share your ideas, identify possibilities and opportunities, and make connections others may miss. Even without a team yet in place, you’ll be called on to communicate your vision and inspire action from others: creditors, investors, and clients. This requires social intelligence, charisma, and magnetism; it requires the mastery of mystic.

The Mastery of Mystique

Mystique is a transformational, rather than transactional, quality. It affects our internal—not external—state. The charismatic entrepreneur changes the way we feel about ourselves, our values and our beliefs. Our behavior and performance are therefore influenced on a deeper level.

Consider your formative life experiences. It’s not about what happened to you, but how you responded. For example, if something traumatic raised your self-awareness; if it caused you to question, reflect, gain insight and ignite your passion, share this with others.

In challenging times, charismatic entrepreneurs can unite a group and inspire focus, more so than any other force.

Serendipity, Self-Employment and Success

Self-employment isn’t for everyone. It requires passion, know how, and opportunity. It requires strategy and great timing. And it takes grit. Successful entrepreneurs use their grit to:

  • Anticipate that obstacles are inevitable and find a way around them.
  • Develop their abilities by finding solutions to setbacks.
  • Build willpower by using it like a muscle—anticipating when they’re vulnerable, avoiding temptations, and preparing contingency plans and coping strategies.

Successful entrepreneurs focus on what they will do, rather than what they won’t do—a tactic that fosters positive energy. They know success depends on adapting to challenges and persisting, even when they’re ready to wave the white flag. And, they are open to opportunities in surprising places.

Successful entrepreneurs see what others don’t; they notice the un-noticed, and expect the unexpected. Those who are successfully self-employed turn these noticed, unexpected observations into opportunities. Some call it serendipity.

As Christian Busch, PhD, writes in The Serendipity Mindset (Riverhead Books, 2020), “[Serendipity] demands a conscious effort to prompt and leverage those moments when apparently unconnected ideas or events come together in front of you to form a new pattern.” To put it simply, they connect the dots.

According to Busch, there are three types of serendipity: Archimedes, Post-it, and Thunderbolt.

  • Archimedes Serendipity: When a solution to a known problem comes from an unexpected place. This type of serendipity is common for natural entrepreneurs.
  • Post-it Serendipity: When a solution to a known problem is stumbled upon by exploring a different and/or unrecognized problem.
  • Thunderbolt Serendipity: When a solution to an unknown problem presents itself.

Why Is This Important?

As successful entrepreneurs will tell you, no matter how strong your passion or know-how, success depends on your openness to opportunity, and how well you have trained yourself to recognize opportunities around you. You see, serendipitous entrepreneurs connect the dots between the small things and life’s bigger problems. 

Busch writes, “Learn to spot serendipity.” Recognize opportunities in things, places, and with others. Connect the dots and recognize patterns.

One of the biggest hurdles in this process is confidence, or lack thereof. Sometimes, our need for perfectionism (and fear of failure) holds us back. But when we accept that failure is better than no attempt, we can let go of limitations, and open to a world of possibilities.

Some successful entrepreneurs intuitively cultivate serendipity. They are open to the unexpected, able to proactively lead during times of uncertainty, and understand what is within their control. Others work to cultivate a serendipitous attitude. What about you?