Tools & Tips

Kicking and Screaming (vs. Singing and Dancing)

Unfair things happen. You might be diagnosed with a disease, demoted for a mistake you didn't make, convicted of a crime you didn't commit. The ref might make a bad call, an agreement might be abrogated, a partner might let you down.
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The Rise of the Executive Coach

 By Frank Kalman

Learning and development professional Susannah Baldwin has been satisfied with her track record of late. One of her students, a senior director, was recently promoted. Another was moved to lead a different part of the organization.

But Baldwin, a leadership development veteran with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, isn’t an in-house practitioner or a training manager. She’s an executive coach.

Coaching, traditionally associated with athletics, is taking the executive education world by storm. In a 2012 study by the International Coach Federation, or ICF, the coach credentialing body said there were 41,300 active business coaches worldwide, with North America representing about a third of them. The study also estimated the industry’s annual revenue at about $2 billion — a pittance compared to other industries, but noteworthy considering the industry’s youth.

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The Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations

Harvard Business Review

by Judith E. Glaser and Richard D. Glaser

Why do negative comments and conversations stick with us so much longer than positive ones?
A critique from a boss, a disagreement with a colleague, a fight with a friend – the sting from any of these can make you forget a month’s worth of praise or accord. If you’ve been called lazy, careless, or a disappointment, you’re likely to remember and internalize it. It’s somehow easier to forget, or discount, all the times people have said you’re talented or conscientious or that you make them proud.

Chemistry plays a big role in this phenomenon. When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet – the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact.

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Online Learning & Multitasking - Why the Two Don't Mix

Nowadays, you can find kids at just about any elementary school, high school or college that text, tweet, and post like it's a full time job. Social media has definitely made today's students the most interconnected and tech-savvy generation in history, but what else has it changed? We were interested in finding out.

As it turns out, we spend more time multitasking than we ever have before, but studies show that 98% of us aren't actually very good at it. Dozens of studies agree that both kids and adults are far less effective as learners, communicators and problem solvers when they're distracted.

The reason it feels effortless to jump between hypertext links on Wikipedia or Twitter hashtags while we're transcribing lecture notes or finishing up assignments is because we actually are expending less effort  and, as a result, we're also learning less. It's much more productive to focus on one task at a time.

The graphic below breaks down the costs multitasking takes on the quality of the "study hours" we wile away doing just about everything but studying:

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Happiness, Achievement and Serendipity Infographic


A “sense of progress” or hitting milestones toward a particular goal is something we (and leading positive psychology research) consider one of the most important frameworks of long-term happiness.  Kiip has surveyed over 96,000,000 recorded “events of happiness” by utilizing mobile technology and app use nation-wide and have put together this incredible infographic about achievement, happiness, and serendipity.

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An Appreciative Heart is Good Medicine

Institute of Heart Math

Psychologists once maintained that emotions were purely mental expressions generated by the brain alone. We now know this is not true. Emotions have as much to do with the heart and body as they do with the brain. Of all your body’s organs, it is the heart, a growing number of scientists theorize, that plays perhaps the most important role in our emotional experience. What we experience as an emotion is the result of the brain, heart, and body acting in concert.

Since its founding in 1991, HeartMath has been dedicated to decoding the underlying mechanics of stress. IHM’s Research Center is committed to the study of the heart and the physiology of emotions and has conducted many studies that identified the relationship between emotions and the heart. A number of HeartMath’s studies have contributed new insight to the scientific community’s understanding of how heart activity is linked to our emotions and health, vitality and well-being.
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Nearly 66% of CEOs Do Not receive Outside Leadership Advice -- But Nearly All Want It

Stanford Graduate School of Business
2013 Executive Coaching Survey with The Miles Group

STANFORD, CA -- July 31, 2013 -- "It's lonely at the top" appears to be truer than ever, according to a new study conducted by the Center for Leadership Development and Research at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University's Rock Center For Corporate Governance, and The Miles Group. Nearly two-thirds of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, and almost half of all senior executives are not receiving any either, the survey reveals.

"What's interesting is that nearly 100% of CEOs in the survey responded that they actually enjoy the process of receiving coaching and leadership advice, so there is a real opportunity for companies to fill that gap," says David F. Larcker, who led the research team and is the James Irvin Miller Professor of Accounting and Morgan Stanley director of the Center for Leadership Development and Research at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.  more »

3 Smart Steps Toward Picking -- and Working With -- the Coach You Need

3 Smart Steps Toward Picking -- and Working With -- the Coach You Need

By Howard Morgan & Marshall Goldsmith

If you want coaching to work, you'll need plenty of help from your colleagues.

Step one to snagging the right coach: Figure out what type of coach you need. According to Marshall Goldsmith, Phil Harkins, and Howard Morgan’s The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching (Wiley, 2004), coaches typically fall into one of five categories: strategic, organizational change/execution, leadership development, personal life/planning, and behavioral.
You might need more than one of the above. But what you need above all else is coaching that works. In an article called "Leadership is a Contact Sport," Goldsmith and Morgan assessed leadership development approaches at eight large companies to determine what worked at all eight. Here’s what they concluded:

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How to Praise Your People

11 Tips For How to Praise Your People
(plus a fill-in-the-blank form for the handwritten note you should send instead)

By Chester Elton, Ross McCammon & Wayne Nemeroff

An inspired staff can boost the bottom line. For example, Harvard Business Review reports that a 0.1 percent increase in employee engagement at Best Buy added $100,000 in annual operating income to each store.
“Employee engagement involves lots of things,” notes Ross McCammon, writing about the Harvard study in Entrepreneur. “But according to Chester Elton — speaker, motivation expert, and co-author of bestselling management book The Carrot Principle — at Best Buy and many other businesses the Harvard study looked at, simple recognition was the single most important factor.”

What’s the best way to provide that recognition? McCammon boils it down to one thing: praise.

Here are his three keys:

Specificity. “Recall a particular situation and describe a specific behavior; acknowledge the impact the behavior or action had on the group or the project or the action or on you,” Dr. Wayne Nemeroff, CEO of PsyMax Solutions in Cleveland, tells McCammon.

Immediacy. “The closer the recognition is to the behavior, the more likely it will be repeated,” writes McCammon.

Sincerity. Drop your compliments into “an e-mail that you’re sending anyway, the beginning of a meeting that’s happening anyway, a team-building exercise.” In these contexts, employees perceive the flattery to be much more spontaneous — and therefore, sincere — than they would if they heard it during, say, an annual review.
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Getting What You Want at Home and at Work

Getting What You Want at Home and at Work
by Michelle DeAngelis

According to the Wall Street Journal, the art of persuasion is becoming an important skill to master in the workplace. Managers say they increasingly must influence - rather than command - others in order to get their own jobs done. This is because managers now work more often with peers where lines of authority aren't clear or don't exist. In response, some companies are helping managers bolster their influencing skills by hiring consulting companies that specialize in classes focused on persuasion and influencing skills. I come across these kinds of situations frequently in my corporate consulting practice and after working with thousands of clients, I came up
with a very effective tool that helps people take action while being an effective and influential leader. Its called the "Magic Wand." I simply ask, "If you had a magic wand, what would you have happen." This helps people get out of the weeds, see past the obstacles, and get focused on action. This then allows them to be more clear and focused when they are making requests and persuading co-workers to follow their lead. It's also an effective tool at home!
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To Cut Office Stress...

To Cut Office Stress, Try Butterflies & Meditation?
by Sue Shellenbarger

Some 70% of Americans know the feeling: Some time during the work day, the stomach tightens. The heart races. Palms grow damp, breathing becomes shallow.

Job pressures are the No. 2 cause of stress after financial worries, a recent survey shows. And while most of us struggle to manage the stress of a demanding boss or a mounting workload on our own, more employers are trying to help. Efforts include earnest-sounding techniques like "mindful communications" and "cognitive behavioral training" as well as office designs featuring leafy, plant-covered walls.

Such stress-busting attempts may have some rolling their eyes, but recent research shows they can actually change the way the brain and body react to stressors. Researchers are using brain imaging and hormone-sampling technology to measure the techniques' physiological impact.
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The Soul of Leadership

"Everybody can be a great leader" - Deepak Chopra on the soul of leadership.

by Marco Visscher

In recent years, Deepak Chopra has made his way from New Age circles to the top of the corporate world, where he lectures to CEOs and business managers. He has written scores of books, including The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, which has been translated into dozens of languages. His latest book, The Soul of Leadership, describes how to become a good leader.

How is spirituality linked to leadership?
"A great leader is an agent of change who has clarity of vision and knows how to make that vision a reality. Such a person comes from a level of core consciousness, which is what we call the soul. Great leaders take time every day to reflect. They ask themselves meaningful questions. They are conscious of what they are observing. They're feeling what is needed and know how to fulfill those needs."  more »

You're Wired To Take Chances

You're Wired To Take Chances
The split-second journey of a risk as it travels through the brain

by Sara Cann

Scientists don't agree on all the areas of the brain that are involved in risk assessment, but there is some consensus, including that some brains are inherently better wired for risk taking. David Ropeik, a Harvard instructor and author of How Risky Is It, Really?, breaks down the landscape for this chain reaction.

When a situation presents itself, the thalamus is your news reporter. It soaks up the basics - who, what, where, when, why - and then kicks then info over to the amygdala.

In just a few milliseconds, your amygdala, which is responsible for emotional responses, reacts to the situation - and it happens before your cortex, which is responsible for decision making, has even gotten the news. You can see where this is going.
Reactions split on gender lines. A University of Southern California study found that men tend to react with fight or flight, but women are more likely to "tend or befriend" - that is, be more nurturing. "From an evolutionary standpoint, taking risks under stress may be less beneficial for females, especially if they are caring for offspring," says study author Nicole Lighthall.

Around 22 milliseconds after you've registered trouble, your cortex starts reasoning through the situation. The cortex breaks it down and sends signals to other regions of the brain to determine a solution.

People who show increased activation in the ventral-striatal region of the brain (which is involved in emotional responses) tend to be more willing to take risks, according to a Stanford University study. Participants in the study were monitored while making investment risks.


People who show an increased activation in the insula region of the brain (which is associated with cognitive reasoning) tend to make more conservative decisions, according to the same study.

"That's really the million-dollar question!" says Joshua Weller, a researcher at the Decision Science Research Institute. "It can be difficult to do, especially if the benefits of engaging in the risky activity are really strong. I would think that one can change their preference for risk, but to make a lasting change, a person would need to repeatedly and consistently approach risky choices in the same manner."

From Fast Company Magazine, November 2011
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The Chrysler Miracle

The Chrysler Miracle
Revived from bankruptcy, the automaker is prepaying its bailout debt. How an Italian saved a Detroit icon.
By Laura Berman

It was two years ago when Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne appeared at the airline-terminal-size Chrysler headquarters near Detroit to address a demoralized staff. They were as skeptical as the rest of the auto industry about their newly installed chain-smoking, sweater-clad, Italian-Canadian CEO and his mission to rescue Chrysler, a company burning through $1 billion a month.

Fast forward to the present, when Chrysler stands out as an improbably bright spot in a still-struggling U.S. economy. Not only is the company showing faster sales growth than its rivals, but paying back its $7.6 billion in US and Canadian loans well ahead of schedule. So when President Obama, who had approved the long-shot bailout and merger with Fiat, visited the Chrysler plant in early June in Toledo, Ohio, were Jeep Wranglers are made, the factory tour had a feeling of a victory lap. "I placed my bet on you," Obama told workers. "What you've done vindicated my faith." Marchionne doesn't mind being part of Obama's PR offensive. "I love Obama to talk about Chrysler," he says. "It's the cheapest bloody advertising I can get."  more »

Optimism 101

Try this simple technique to change your outlook on life!

by Lauren Dzubow
O Magazine, April 2011

Martin Seligman, PhD, the father of positive psychology, gave us a quick lesson on a classic optimism-boosting exercise - which he calls the ABCDEs. The goal, Seligman says, is to get you to stop thinking pessimistically, rather than teach you to start thinking optimistically (which rarely works). "This fix isn't instantaneous," he says. "But we've done studies on it involving thousands of subjects, and we know it's effective." So the next time you experience a setback - anything from a leaky faucet to a fight with a friend - walk yourself through these five steps:

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"Soft Skills" Business Courses Aim to Prepare Students for Managerial Roles

The Wall Street Journal - May 5, 2011

By Melissa Korn and Joe Light

Business schools are tapping into their "soft" side.

This fall, students at Columbia Business School will be invited to learn the art of meditation. Emotions will run high in Stanford Graduate School of Business' long-running "Touchy Feely" course. And professors at the University of California at Berkeley's Haas School of Business will try to teach students to rein in their type-A personalities, lest they upset fellow classmates.

It's all part of a continuing push by business schools to teach "soft skills" - such as accepting feedback with grace and speaking respectfully to subordinates - that companies say are important in molding future business leaders.

Although business schools have traditionally excelled at teaching "hard skills" like finance and accounting, those skills become less relevant as an employee ascends the corporate ladder and moves away from crunching numbers to overseeing employes, companies and experts say.  more »

The Business of Happiness

Fast Company Magazine - March 2011
By Nancy Cook

Marketing professor Jennifer Aaker stands before a blackboard-size mural her Stanford Graduate School of Business students had created. It's a patchwork of 1,300 snapshots of everyday moments: mangos, pink Converse sneakers, cupcakes, beer pong, clean laundry, a convertible, and Halloween. With its bright yellow border, the mural is titled, "This Makes Me Happy." Aaker points to a photo of a latte, its brown and white foam swirled into the shape of a flower. The froth, she tells me, was her happy moment of that day.

Offering a happiness class to the future masters of the universe at one of the country's leading business schools does sound a little touchy-feely. Yet, last fall, 80 of these type-A students signed up for Aaker's graduate level course called "Designing Happiness" - with another 100 clamoring to get in.

But Aaker's work s gaining attention not just in academia but also in corporate America: She worked with AOL, Adobe, and Facebook, among other companies, helping them figure out how to use happiness to increase employees' productivity and woo customers. If her hypotheses are correct, marketing happiness could be one of the few ways businesses can still appeal to people in a manner that feels authentic. "The idea of brands enabling happiness and providing greater meaning in the world is powerful," Aaker says. "People have an aversion to anything that feels overly manufactured."  more »

Make Your Life a Work of Art

"Make my life a “work of art?!”  Is that even possible?  It would be nice just to wake up on time and not get chewed out on the job…but A WORK OF ART - wow!”
What would your life look like if it were a work of art?  How would it feel?  How would it sound?  How would you show up and express yourself?
I’m serious:  What would you do differently to be a living work of art?  A masterpiece.  A classic.  A thing of beauty!
Reveal yourself through the Art of Living!
You could transform yourself through what I call “Art art” – painting, dance, sculpture, performance art, theater, writing – or you could show up in life in an artful way – as defined by you!  Graceful, organized, happy, easy?  Or gutsy, edgy, bear-for-breakfast, adrenaline?!
My assistant, Vi, loves art and it speaks to her in powerful ways.  She has a print of the Birth of Venus in her home, and looking at it, she relates intimately to the imagery and power of Venus:  reborn, clean slate, gorgeous, awe-inspiring, female force of Nature!  Art inspires her everyday to lean into those traits and go, go, go.

The Mona Lisa.  The statue of David.  Banksy graffiti.  Wagner.  Play-doh.  Maybe a costume made of raw meat?!
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World Laughter Day!

World Laughter Day, held annually on the first Sunday of May, is designed to instigate premeditated hilarity around the globe. According to the World Laughter Day website, the goal of the event - started in 1998 in Mumbai, India - is to "change the world in a peaceful and positive way." So mark your calendar for May 1, 2011, bring your best jokes and get ready to start changing the world - one laugh at a time. For information on how to join the fun, go to  more »

Defensive Pessimism

Cheer up. Be happy. Find the silver lining. Smile. If you didn't know any better, you might say we are a country that preached optimism. But some 30 to 35 percent of Americans employ a calculated form of negative thinking - called defensive pessimism - that can lead to very positive results, according to Julie K. Norem, PhD, a professor of psychology at Wellesley College.

We're not talking about a general disposition to see the glass half-empty: "Defensive pessimism is a strategy uses in specific situations to manage anxiety, fear, and worry," says Norem, who has conducted seminal research on the subject. "Defensive pessimists," she says, "prepare for a situation by setting low expectations for themselves, then follow up with a very detailed assessment of everything that may go wrong." Once they've imagined the full range of bad outcomes, they start figuring out how they'll handle them and that gives them a sense of control."  more »

The Happiness Bug

"Six degrees of separation" isn't just a good plot line. Science shows the theory has dramatic implications for spreading cheer from one person to the next.

So you know Kevin Bacon? Small world. The theory that everyone on the planet is only a half dozen people away from knowing everyone else was popularized by John Guare's 1993 movie Six Degrees of Separation. Now research by a pair of social scientists might have Hollywood thinking of a sequel: Three Degrees of Connection.

Using statistical analyses of thousands of subjects, a study in the British Medical Journal has shown that happiness actually spreads from person to person, up to three connections away. "So if your friend's friend's friend becomes happier, it ripples through the network and affects you, even if you don't know that person," says author Nicholas Christakis, MD, a medical sociology professor at Harvard Medical School. Proximity plays a part: A happy sibling who is a mile away can increase your probability of happiness by up to 14 percent; a nearby friend by 25 percent; and a next door neighbor by 34 percent. Interestingly, the theory also applies to smoking and obesity, Christakis has shown. "If people around you gain weight, it changes your expectations about what an acceptable body size is," he explains. "Our work strongly suggests that when one person quits smoking, loses weight, or become happy, others around her follow suit. I am reluctant to suggest you pick your friends solely on this basis, but one could say that helping a friend do better is a roundabout way of helping yourself." - Tim Jarvis  more »

Connect With Your Spirit At Work

Motto Magazine
March/April 2007

It's not just good for your soul, it's good for business, as Lynn. A Robinson shows.

Learning to trust your gut at work is much more than simply paying attention to your hunches. It involves looking within for the answers, living life with courage, faith, patience and trust. It also involves connecting with your spirit through daily practice and taking action on wisdom you receive.

Connecting with your spirit at work is apparently good for business as well. A study by the highly respected Wilson Learning Co. found that 39% of the variability in corporate performance is attributable to the personal satisfaction of the staff. Spirituality was cited as the second most important factor in personal happiness (after health) by the majority of Americans questioned in a USA Weekend poll, with 47 percent saying that spirituality was the most important element in their happiness.

What are some of the ways to connect with your spirit at work?  more »

Thank God It's Monday!

by Jyoti Thottam

In Game 5 of the first round of the 1984 NBA play-offs, Isiah Thomas experienced the most remarkable 1 1/2 minutes of his career. Playing for the Detroit Pistons, trailing the New York Knicks in sweltering Joe Louis Arena, Thomas suddenly couldn't miss. With the last quarter slipping away, he scored 16 points in just 94 seconds, forcing the game into overtime. "I remember coming back into the huddle at one time and practically crying because everything was flowing so right," Thomas recalls. Even an eventual loss in the game doesn't tarnish the memory. It was a classic in-the-zone moment. "Your focus is crystal clear. You are seeing and you are feeling things before they really happen. You just instinctively feel and know what's ready to happen."

Those moments are rare, but Thomas says he could feel the euphoria years later. Nice work if you can get it, right? Well, maybe you can. Ask Carol Young. She isn't a pro basketball player, she's a teacher's aids in Santa Monica, Calif. for Kira Sweeney, a blind student, "I'm her eyes," Young says, anticipating Sweeney's needs through every lesson of the day. Young finds bas-relief globes for the student to touch during geography lessons, plants for biology and Braille versions of everything. "While I'm doing my work, I'm not worrying or fussing," Young says. "I'm on a wavelength where I just do what I need to do. It's almost an intuitive thing, like being on automatic pilot." Like Thomas, Young gets emotional thinking about it. "Sometimes I feel as if I assist in miracles." Listen closely, and you can almost hear the cheering fans.  more »

A Cure For Common B.S.

In Beyond Bullsh*t, Samuel Culbert , a professor at UCLA's Anderson School of Management, tries to cure the scourge of cubical culture: excessive b.s.

Why did you write this book?
I wanted to explain why bulls--t has become the etiquette of choice in office life.

How do you define b.s.?
It's telling people what you think they need to hear. It may involve finessing the truth or outright lying, but the purpose is always self-serving. And while I appreciate the role of some b.s. in keeping the corporate peace, it makes people feel beaten up, deceived - even dirty. When people talk straight at work, companies make out better because the best idea usually wins. In contrast, when people are bulls--tting, they hide their mistakes and the company suffers.

What's required to create a culture of straight talk at work?
Straight talk is the product of relationships built on trust. No one advocates something that's good for the company that's not also good for them. By the same logic, no one has ever washed a rental car. The trick is to create a work environment where people feel sure that they'll be rewarded for their ideas.

What does your b.s. detector tell you about the current economy?
Whenever there's a recession, there's a boom in bulls--t.

From Newsweek Magazine
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