Month: August 2017

Are You Getting Enough Quiet Time?

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Executive Summary

Taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive. For example, silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory. But cultivating silence isn’t just about getting respite from the distractions of office chatter or tweets.  Real sustained silence, the kind that facilitates clear and creative thinking, and quiets inner chatter as well as outer. Try going on a media fast, sitting silently for 2 minutes during the middle of your workday, or taking a long walk in the woods — with no phone. The world is getting louder, but silence is still accessible.


In a recent interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein, journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates argued that serious thinkers and writers should get off Twitter.

It wasn’t a critique of the 140-character medium or even the quality of the social media discourse in the age of fake news.

It was a call to get beyond the noise.

For Coates, generating good ideas and quality work products requires something all too rare in modern life: quiet.

He’s in good company.  Author JK Rowling, biographer Walter Isaacson, and psychiatrist Carl Jung have all had disciplined practices for managing the information flow and cultivating periods of deep silence. Ray DalioBill George, California Governor Jerry Brown, and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan have also described structured periods of silence as important factors in their success.

Recent studies are showing that taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us now live, work, and lead. Duke Medical School’s Imke Kirste recently found that silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory. Physician Luciano Bernardi found that two-minutes of silence inserted between musical pieces proved more stabilizing to cardiovascular and respiratory systems than even the music categorized as “relaxing.” And a 2013 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, based on a survey of 43,000 workers, concluded that the disadvantages of noise and distraction associated with open office plans outweighed anticipated, but still unproven, benefits like increasing morale and productivity boosts from unplanned interactions.

But cultivating silence isn’t just about getting respite from the distractions of office chatter or tweets.  Real sustained silence, the kind that facilitates clear and creative thinking, quiets inner chatter as well as outer.

This kind of silence is about resting the mental reflexes that habitually protect a reputation or promote a point of view. It’s about taking a temporary break from one of life’s most basic responsibilities: Having to think of what to say.

Cultivating silence, as Hal Gregersen writes in a recent HBR article, “increase[s] your chances of encountering novel ideas and information and discerning weak signals.” When we’re constantly fixated on the verbal agenda—what to say next, what to write next, what to tweet next—it’s tough to make room for truly different perspectives or radically new ideas. It’s hard to drop into deeper modes of listening and attention. And it’s in those deeper modes of attention that truly novel ideas are found.

Even incredibly busy people can cultivate periods of sustained quiet time. Here are four practical ideas:

1) Punctuate meetings with five minutes of quiet time. If you’re able to close the office door, retreat to a park bench, or find another quiet hideaway, it’s possible to hit reset by engaging in a silent practice of meditation or reflection.

2) Take a silent afternoon in nature. You need not be a rugged outdoors type to ditch the phone and go for a simple two-or-three-hour jaunt in nature. In our own experience and those of many of our clients, immersion in nature can be the clearest option for improving creative thinking capacities. Henry David Thoreau went to the woods for a reason.

3) Go on a media fast. Turn off your email for several hours or even a full day, or try “fasting” from news and entertainment. While there may still be plenty of noise around—family, conversation, city sounds—you can enjoy real benefits by resting the parts of your mind associated with unending work obligations and tracking social media or current events.

4) Take the plunge and try a meditation retreat:  Even a short retreat is arguably the most straightforward way to turn toward deeper listening and awaken intuition. The journalist Andrew Sullivan recently described his experience at a silent retreat as “the ultimate detox.” As he put it: “My breathing slowed. My brain settled…It was if my brain were moving away from the abstract and the distant toward the tangible and the near.”

The world is getting louder.  But silence is still accessible—it just takes commitment and creativity to cultivate it.

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Prefrontal Cortex and Negativity

Prefrontal Cortex

Your Prefrontal Cortex is responsible for, in part, your attention span, perseverance, judgement, impulse control, your ability to be organized and problem solving. The prefrontal cortex supervises time management, judgment, impulse control, planning, organization and critical thinking. Your ability to think ahead and be successful depends on the health of your Prefrontal Cortex. When your Prefrontal Cortex is not operating at its peak you become easily distracted. This is when you struggle to maintain your mental energy level.

Often when people have Prefrontal Cortex challenges they become more prone to conflict. They use conflict as a way to create activity in the Prefrontal Cortex. This behavior has many negative side effects, especially in the workplace and your immune system. Focusing on what you like about your life and what you like about others is a way to keep your Prefrontal Cortex healthy.

A good solution is the weekly review process. Once a week sit down and write down three things you like best about your week. The three things that you feel good about. Then write one thing that you would like to improve upon next week. Please pay special attention to the wording, three things you like best about your performance over this past week and the one thing you want to focus on for next week. This is critical to your success and your Prefrontal Cortex health.

Every week you should review yourself by writing down three things you like best about your performance and the one thing you want to do better next week. Have a negative, complainer on your team? Require them to do the same thing. It will be tough for them, so you will need to stand your ground and focus on the three items they like best at least 75% of the time in your coaching conversations with them.

Simple and powerful.

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Experiential Leadership


Experiential learning may be the key to successful leaders becoming more than they have been.  When a leader learns from their experiences, their skills will snowball.  With diligent study and experiential learning, the future can be very bright for leaders across the Earth.

Harvard Business Review reports, more than $24 billion is spent annually on leadership development. Without implementing experiential learning in the process, many leaders will have a difficult time employing their new skills. Leaders are not able to create the new habits necessary to gain mastery.

A leader may have years of experience this does not create them automatically better. Experienced leaders often fall into a trance of day to day operation, just getting through the day.  Learning more is not the norm.

What is your mindset today? When a leader demonstrates a growth mindset, they will work through the learning process. Learning what they need to know while using their experience to enhance the new information.

The first step to success is discovering what it is that they need to know.  This might be a goal of learning communication skills, increasing EQ, or seeing how to handle difficult employee.  A leader with the learning mindset will look for or create new projects, and the classroom will be a space to review, role play, and talk about the consequences.

Utilizing the new learning in the current culture by creating learning lab. A leader interested in improving their ability to persuade, for example, would note the difference when they sit in different areas of a room as well as different body postures they may try.  The careful notation about the results is key.

The concluding step is for a leader to document, document, document their outcomes.  This documentation should show the difference over a previous period.  This could be weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Leaders should be able to honestly reflect on their performance.  This honest reflection must include the positive effects.  Seventy percent of your review should be positive, build on your strengths.

Leaders with the learning mindset will protect the company from legal entanglements, high turnover, poor morale and poor production or client serving.  The bottom line, the organizations will create a more profitable environment for all.

People Say They Want to Become Better Leaders…But Do They Really

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Are your people developing as quickly as they should?

Are you and your team willing to do what is necessary to “Be Better Than You Were Yesterday”?

Are you willing to invest your time into:
Building a Plan Of Action – create a path for yourself leading to your desires
Doing Deep Work – not just doing the day to day work
Building Your Reputation – become the go to person inside and outside of your organization

When things get busy, time for strategic thinking is almost always the first to go. “Planning sessions” seem amorphous, and the ROI is uncertain. But going for months or years without regular introspection can lead you down a professional path that you didn’t intend to be on. Instead, force yourself to make time for strategic reflection. `Harvard Business Review. (2016). Think Strategically About Your Career Development.

Start developing your skills now!

Move Into Mastery: Learn Leadership Skills For a New Day!

You are the leader of your team. What should your focus be?  What role do you see yourself playing? What is your number one Job?

You must have a plan in place. A design for your success and your team’s success. Leaders will have a plan to help develop each member of their teams.

It’s significant to develop leadership skills in your employees for the growth of their careers and self-esteem. When your team is equipped with industry knowledge, they’ll be able to make informed decisions, guide their peers (and eventually those that they lead), and be better qualified for opportunities that come their way.

The leader’s goal is to explore new ideas, experiment, fail fast and tell stories of the future that inspire people. At the top of the list is your ability to motivate your team.  Motivate, motivate, motivate by example and words.

“The most important task of a leader is to create leaders.” To build up your people and teams and the fastest path possible is to share industry knowledge along with the expert knowledge they require to perform the real task.

Interested in having a customized workshop delivered to your Leaders? Let’s have a conversation.  Click here now to schedule a time.

What Happened When I Replied “Call Me” To Every Email I Got For A Week

Email, Email, Email

What Happened When I Replied “Call Me” To Every Email I Got For A Week

Clipped from: advertisement

After forcing himself to become more “phone-prone,” this CEO finds that empathy sometimes equals efficiency.

By Allen Gannett  4 minute Read

The sound of descending chimes. Funky MIDI elevator music. Ughhhhhh–why is my phone ringing? Can’t they just text!?

Like many people, the phone is a tool of last resort. I’d rather text or Slack or email or carrier pigeon. But I’ve noticed that many of the most successful, productive people I’ve met are what you might call “phone-prone.” If you send them a text, they call you instead of texting back. Email them? Get a call back.

Maybe this wasn’t a coincidence. I decided it was time to test my beliefs. But first, I decided to email two “phone-prone” people–Krista Smith, the West Coast editor of Vanity Fair, and Eric Kuhn, a former L.A. talent agent and a cofounder of Layer3 TV–for some advice. Within minutes I got an email back, “Call me.”

“I think it’s about intonation, and that so much is confused in an email about what someone’s implying,” Smith pointed out, a factor that both agreed helps generate empathy. Kuhn told me, “It’s a much more real and civilized conversation on the phone, because you’re able to express emotion and hear the person’s voice and understand what’s happening.” Fair enough, but both Smith and Kuhn assured me that these more human interactions would also make things faster.

So at their encouraging, I devised a really simple plan: First, whenever someone emailed or texted me, I would suggest we jump on a call. Second, I kept a running “call list” of all the people I’d need to get in touch with over the course of my workweek. Whenever I had a free minute, I’d call the next person on it. Here’s how things went.

The Upsides

In that week, I had fulfilling conversations that wouldn’t have been possible through typing alone. I helped one of my customers solve a thorny issue and ended up reassuring him about some of his career worries. I’d never have heard the stress in his voice by emailing. In another case, I caught up with a CEO friend, and after answering her main question, we went back and forth on other things, including a thoughtful conversation about her business model.

What I found was that particularly for more nuanced discussions, the phone saved me time because neither of us had to be overly verbose to give context. Simply hearing somebody’s tone, as Smith had pointed out, made it easier to understand where someone stood and react accordingly. Quicker access to empathy really did lead to more efficiency.

The Downsides

There were obvious drawbacks, too, though. In addition to having to use actual emotions instead of emojis, I would often miss people when I tried to reach them. Phone-tag time can add up–but then again, you have to wait for the other person to respond in any form asynchronous communication. In fact, I found that I would often get calls back sooner than responses to emails. I think this is partly just because we’re all deluged in emails, but non-spam phone calls are increasingly rare. So the less people use the phone for ordinary work-related conversations, the more useful it may even become.

So while I placed more calls over the course of the week than actually led to live phone conversations, the dozen or so that I did have not only saved me time but also gave me a better sense of purpose and humanity. That doesn’t sound like a productivity booster, but in retrospect it was: I was able to help people–more often and more quickly–in a way I couldn’t through sterile emails. And in the cases of talking to customers, calling helped me build better relationships for my business.

What I’m Sticking With

My call list isn’t going anywhere. I’ve been able to turn walks to work and Ubers to meetings into productive time. This had a secondary benefit that my future self will be grateful for: I was no longer looking down at my phone, straining my neck.

In fact, I’ve now absorbed my call list into my to-do list. Alongside reminders to send out proposals and organize internal meetings, I have notes on whom to call, what the call is about, and how we got connected in the first place: “Call Jim about career advice, introduced via LinkedIn.” This helps me break out of just defaulting to email, and remember all the other modes of communication I might be forgetting.

The phone may not be the newest collaboration tool out there, but I was surprised at how effective I found it after a week of forcing myself to become more “phone-prone.” Sure, I couldn’t express myself using virtual smiley faces that way, but I was able to be more authentic–which doesn’t just lead to better relationships, but can help you tap into them more productively, too.

Allen Gannett is the CEO of TrackMaven, a content and social marketing analytics company. He is based in Washington, DC, and can be followed on Twitter at @Allen or on LinkedIn