Master The Art Of Effective Delegation And Gain 5 To 10 Hours Per Week

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

*As originally seen on Forbes.com

As leaders, we often find ourselves in situations where we are repeating ourselves. Wouldn’t it be ideal if we could have a ‘one and done’ philosophy where our team is given a task or project and it is completed to spec? What if I told you that this isn’t just a dream? I’ve worked with clients that have team members who embrace ‘one and done’ and these leaders no longer have the drudgery of back and forth. The solution to ineffective delegation is formulaic and quick to implement.

There is effective delegation, and there is “rubber band” delegation: when we delegate something and it snaps back to us.

. The result? More energy, better results from your team, and less frustration for you.

STI 8.11

5-Step Effective Delegation Process

  1. What are the capabilities (skills required) for a given project/task?
  2. Check on a person’s capacity (do they have time) and capability (do they have the ability/skills to do the task). Match the person with the project. They are now called the “Owner.”
  3. Explain the project/task you want the Owner to do, and check in to make sure clear communication has occurred. Say “I would like to increase the clarity of my communication. So could you please echo back to me what you understood so I may ensure I communicated clearly?” Let the Owner echo back what they heard, clarifying gaps and adding whatever may have been missed, paying careful attention to the specifics of what the deliverable is, exact due date and times.
  4. Now ask how the Owner would like to ensure they get results—what is their plan? Use the Outcome Frame and Decision Framework below to help them form a success plan.
  5. Have the Owner track the delegated task via Basecamp, Trello, your Weekly Status template, whatever method project management system you use. Ensure you have a structure in place so communication is honest when a project/task needs to be rescheduled or deadline renegotiated. Most of my clients find dividing a complex project into a series of smaller projects increases visibility, and ensures that weekly deadlines keep momentum. Then if a deadline needs to be moved the impact isn’t as severe, since the deliverable is much smaller. Set a standard for renegotiation when a deadline will be missed. Most of my clients have a 48-72 hour advance notice when it appears a deadline is in peril.

Decision Framework

This fosters ownership and reduces the likelihood of the order giver-order taker dynamic—which crushes the spirit of ownership, innovation, and empowerment.

Here’s a decision framework my clients like. Feel free to edit this process to serve your needs best.

  1. Define problem/situation to be addressed and who owner/decision maker truly is – is this MY decision to make or can I just be a consultant/strategist to the decision maker? If not you, enroll the decision maker to complete the following steps.
  2. Determine desired outcome/result – use the Outcome Frame to inquire and distill the true desired result.
  3. Perform decision due diligence: what is the timeline, research required, budget impact, departments/products/people who will/may be impacted. For very simple decisions you’ll zoom through this step very quickly.
  4. Determine who will own the outcome being successful/who will implement it? This should be clear from the Outcome Frame. Enroll them and ensure clear communication.
  5. Determine who will monitor the success post-decision. Assign them, noting they may be different from person in #4—they will likely be the decision maker in #1 above.

Why Delegation Fails

Often delegation fails simply because we didn’t follow the processes above. It’s important to consider the following two questions when pondering why delegation isn’t working effectively in your company.

  • Are we building/increasing capabilities in our people so they can take on more projects? (You’ll want to include the specifics in the person’s Individual Development Plan.)
  • Do we need to create more safety, belonging, mattering in our culture, so it’s OK to be an Owner?

The answers will empower you to see into your blindspots while the processes above will ensure that your team embraces the ‘one and done’ philosophy. Effective delegation increases the amount of time that you will have to focus on the items that will move the needle in your business.

Want To Be Promoted? Cultivate These 4 Traits

What makes someone “high potential”?

Can we predict rock stars at early stages of their careers?

What key traits must be identified and cultivated to help stars (talent) achieve their full potential?

According to Kevin Ochsner, a neuroscientist at Columbia University, it all comes down to the brain and how we’re wired, plus which traits we cultivate. Here are his four brain-based traits of rock stars:

  1. Focus
  2. Learning
  3. Personal
  4. Social

STI Traits

Focus has two parts: executive, or selective attention, what we choose to pay attention to and zoom in on mentally, whether it is top down (broad and general) or bottom up (narrow and specific). Second it’s essential to be able to zoom out and see relationships between things, to understand context. This ability to manage the signal to noise ratio inside one’s brain and manage internal noise (thoughts) helps too.

Does the person you’ve identified as a high potential focus in these ways?

Learning swiftly and retaining learning is key in today’s speedy workplace. Ochsner follows the Neuroleadership Institute model AGES to define what effective learning is:

  • Attention (there it is again!): Be present and stay focused.
  • Generation: When learning enables us to make connections and associations and effectively contextualize it sticks with us. When we understand how things fit together and possible conflicts/challenges/ synchronicities we understand usefulness and see the broader application of learnings.
  • Emotion: How is emotion applied to the learning? Emotion helps us retain what was learned. My blogs “How Humans Experience The World” and “ Why We Do What We Do” explains emotion and how “sticky” it is, as well as how it creates memorable moments.
  • Spacing: Making space around learning is key too—we need time to digest and process what was learned. We also need to revisit it and assess it when it does or doesn’t apply to our world.

Does the person you’ve identified as a high potential learn in these ways?

Personal ability is two-fold. First it means the individual demonstrates knowing themselves, being clear on their motives, their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. The Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex (VMPFC) is where self-judgment occurs, and you’ve heard me talk about it as key in getting in and staying in your Smart State.

Second the individual must demonstrate self-regulation, which also is governed by the PFC and its executive functions (envisioning, goal setting, discernment, language skills, etc). Self-regulation is the ability to control our responses and assess ourselves, others, status of a project or deliverable. It helps us determine what to do next, whether a goal was attained or not. Involved here also is your Ventral Striatum (VS) where you experience reward. An ability to assess what worked in the past and what may work in the future is important here. So as a combo pack of the above two skills, an individual with strong Personal abilities can evaluate (assess and determine what to do next) then regulate (implement strategies) and repeat the cycle ongoing.

Does the person you’ve identified as a high potential have these personal abilities?

Social skills enable one to both read people accurately and influence them. To read others accurately an individual is curious… what is the person really wanting? Why? How can I help them to get it? They are tuned in to signal presence, or social surveillance by watching the other person’s body language, breathing, facial expressions and listening to their speech patterns to discern what they might be feeling. Their amygdala is sensitive to picking up the subtle signals from others, and along with their intuition-guided insula they’re experiencing empathy for the other. They’re earning trust with others by lighting up the person’s VS and giving them a rewarding experience of being connected.

Does the person you’ve identified as a high potential have these social skills?

Is It Too Late? Can One Learn These Skills?

According to Ochsner’s research, much of the above is very trainable.

Focus: very trainable via mindset (see Carol Dweck’s awesome book of the same name), mindfulness(this takes more work), distancing (witnessing your emotions/reactions and pausing before you respond or repeating what you heard to cause a pause), and resisting distraction.

Learning: very trainable.

Personal: trainable—key here is emotional regulation, see Focus above for help here. Also important here is reframing (examples: “it’s ok that my plane is late, now I have a chance to call my son”; “When my PC crashes it means it’s time to take a break”; “I’m not fat, I just enjoy food to its fullest”; “it’s not a personal attack, she must be just having a bad day.”) or creating a new more emotionally balanced response to external or internal events or judgments.

Social: Ochsner’s research was inconclusive here, but our work at SmartTribes Institute makes it clear that one can absolutely build social skills in leadership, sales, marketing, engineering, client care, all areas of a company, all industries, with any human being.

As a leader you’ll want to assess your team to see who has strengths in which areas. Then form teams to have complete diversity of skills (focus, learning, personal, social). And one note on introversion vs extroversion—Matt Lieberman of UCLA found that this only determines 20% of behavior variance. So even though an introvert’s brain is taxed in social situations, they can don’t have a true disadvantage.

How do you identify stars now? Is it working?

12 Stress-Busters Happy Healthy People Know

Finding stress-busters are one secret that health people know how to find.

Email. Texting. Voicemail. We’re constantly connecting with others, so why do so many people feel so disconnected–which is a key factor in excessive stress?

According to Dr. Edward Hallowell, an expert on anxiety and stress, there are twelve ways in which people need to connect in order to have full, rich, healthy, long lives. I had no idea how much more connected I could feel until I read his outstanding book, Connect: 12 Vital Ties That Open Your Heart, Lengthen Your Life, and Deepen Your Soul. I learned more about connecting in that book than I have from any shrink or at any seminar.

Stress-Busters 12 habits forbes

Here’s his list 12 Stress-Busters of where we should all be connecting. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Family of Origin:
    Do I have strong bonds and clear communication with my parents, siblings, relatives? Do I connect with them regularly?
    What are some ways I might increase connection?
  2. Immediate Family:
    Do I treat them with love and respect?
    Are we emotionally close?
    What are some ways I might increase connection?
  3. Friends and Community:
    Do I see friends and neighbors on a regular basis?
    Do I share my life with them frequently?
    Do I make time to enjoy their company?
    Am I involved in community groups and projects?
    Do I identify with and support the community I live in?
    What are some ways I might increase connection?
  4. Work:
    Do I have emotional equity and a sense of mission at work?
    Do I share a connection with my co-workers and company?
    What are some ways I might increase connection?
  5. Beauty:
    Do I enjoy beauty regularly, do I appreciate it and pay attention to it and savor it?
    Do I take time to enjoy a favorite art form?
    What are some ways I might increase connection?
  6. History:
    Do I feel part of the history of humankind?
    Do I learn about it, feel the power of it, and cherish the history of my country, town, culture?
    What are some ways I might increase connection?
  7. Nature:
    Do I connect with nature on a weekly basis?
    Do I spend time outdoors or indoors caring for plants or appreciating nature?
    Do I have special places that are healing to me?
    What are some ways I might increase connection?
  8. Pets/Animals:
    Do I enjoy playing with and having a relationship with a pet?
    Do I value animals and enjoy seeing them, listening to them, interacting with them?
    What are some ways I might increase connection?
  9. Ideas and Information:
    Do I learn new things often?
    Am I interested in new ideas and perspectives?
    Am I getting the most out of my brain power?
    What are some ways I might increase connection?
  10. Organizations and Institutions:
    Am I a member of any organizations?
    Do I contribute to their growth and welfare?
    What are some ways I might increase connection?
  11. Greater Truth/Spirituality:
    Do I have a spiritual practice?
    Do I make time to read spiritual, uplifting books or listen to CDs or podcasts?
    Do I continue to seek meaning and truth in whatever way resonates with me?
    What are some ways I might increase connection?
  12. Myself:
    Do I meditate, have quiet time alone, know what matters most to me and live according to it?
    Am I comfortable being who I am?
    What are some ways I might increase connection?

Years after reading Ned’s book I’ve maintained these connections, to varying degrees, in all 12 areas. And my life is richer and more fulfilling than it has ever been. Email? Texting? Voicemail? Helpful, yes. And now I use them to better connect with others.

How connected are you? How connected would you like to be?

Christine Comaford‘s latest NY Times bestselling book is entitled SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together.

Email Overload? Do This And Gain 10 Hours Per Week

Are you overloaded by emails? Most of us are. Here’s how to get control of your email inbox and your brain.

Email Overload Blog Image

Effective Emails

Emails, like meetings, can be handled effectively.

  • End “bottom up” attention grabbing: turn off sounds/visual indicators that new emails have arrived
  • Set the intention of the email – what exactly do you want to accomplish – have a clear agenda
  • Send to the doers, decision-makers, impacted parties only
  • Use the subject line and email coding system below
  • Manage communication and feedback: optimize the subject line for your response

Step 1: Use Our Proven Email Coding System

First, set up an email coding system so everyone codes their emails for priority and response time. For example:

URGENT – do today if received by 3pm (and call too as a backup!)
HI – do within 24 hrs
MED – do within 3 days
LO – do within 1 week
LO LO – do within 2 weeks
INFO – fyi, read when you can

Then use the coding system in your subject line, being sure to only email to those who need to read it!

Example:

Subject: INFO – Product Development meeting recap
Subject: MED – Sales meeting action items/to dos
Subject: URGENT – Customer X needs this pricing today!
Subject: LO – Edits for company meeting presentation

Optimized Email Replies:

A great way to optimize your email replies is to maximize your subject. If you have assigned an urgent task or need a status update immediately, teach your team to reply succinctly within the subject line.

Example:

You’ve sent an email with a specific task.
Subject: URGENT Schedule call with Client X  Friday 2pm or 2:30pm EST
Your team can quickly reply when the task is complete.
Subject: Customer X call scheduled Friday 2:30pm EST  – details noted in your calendar (end) RE: URGENT Schedule call with Client X Friday 2pm or 2:30pm EST

Step 2: Unsubscribe – Get Off The List

 

Optimized Email Replies:

A great way to optimize your email replies is to maximize your subject line real estate. If you have assigned an urgent task or need a status update immediately, teach your team to reply succinctly within the subject line.

 

Example:

You’ve sent an email with a specific task.

Subject: URGENT Schedule call with Client X today 2pm or 2:30pm EST

Your team can quickly reply when the task is complete.

Subject: Customer X call scheduled 2:30pm EST today – details in your calendar (end) RE: URGENT Schedule call with Client X today 2pm or 2:30pm EST

 

Step 2: Unsubscribe – Get Off The List

Do you remember subscribing to this list? Is this email of any value? Are you spending more time deleting as opposed to reading?

Unsubscribe, and use an RSS feed or Google Alerts for the same/similar info.

Step 3: Ditch, Delegate & Defer

When faced with inbox overload, respond to the emails that cannot be handled by anyone else and do what the email is requesting of you.

  • Ditch: Delete the emails that don’t require a response.
  • Delegate: Move your LVA (low value activity) emails out of your inbox. If the email refers to any task that can be handled quickly by a member of your team, without your invested time and/or immediate attention, forward the email to the appropriate person. LVA emails are determined by what you deem low value activities, they do not move the needle and can be handled by another party.
  • Defer: Does this email require your attention but not immediately? Add the email to a clearly marked folder in your inbox or assign a reminder to the email to read and respond in the future.

We are all inundated with emails every day. While email is an effective form of communication, it’s easy to become buried in your inbox. When you optimize your email habits with our 3 step system above, you’ll gain at least 2 hours per day – that’s 10 hours per week! The net-net is your valuable time can be spent with items that move the needle and you will have control of your inbox and your brain.

Bye-bye email overload! What will you achieve with 10 more hours per week?

Leadership and Culture Coach Christine Comaford combines neuroscience and business strategy to help CEOs achieve rapid growth and create high performance teams. Her latest NY Times bestselling book is entitled SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together.

 

Surprising Leadership Lessons From The Sea

“We’re all equal before a wave.” ~Laird Hamilton

While surfing in Maui (park at mile marker 12 near Ukumehame Beach Park for nice swells!) I realized how the sport provides a perfect metaphor for how to navigate leadership and life.

  1. The Hawaiians say “Never turn your back on the ocean.” This means don’t turn your back to energy, don’t be arrogant and think you are more powerful than the sea. You aren’t. Likewise, don’t turn your back on your business, your loved ones, the forces that support, sustain and influence your life. Stay aware and engaged.
  2. Always use a leash. The leash tethers you to your surfboard. When you wipe out, which will happen, you don’t want to swim all over the place and wear yourself out searching for your board. Make sure you always have your foundation nearby. Whether your foundation is your team, your family, your friends, your advisory board-keep it nearby.
  3. When you get thrown, protect your head and search for the surface. In a wipe out surfers put one forearm on their head to prevent a concussion should their board hit them. They move the other arm back and forth in front of their face to find the surface. The lesson is protect your head in a tricky situation and find your way to the surface as quickly as possible.
  4. Constantly adjust your position. When lying on your board and either paddling out to sea or in to shore to catch a wave, your position will determine your ride. When paddling out to sea, if you’re too far from the nose (tip of surfboard) a breaking wave will push the board up and you’ll lose your balance. When paddling to catch a wave, lying too close to the nose will push the board downward and you’ll lose your balance. When lying in a balanced position, with your feet near the tail of the board you’ll be able to stabilize yourself by grabbing the rails (sides of the board) when heading into and wave, and you’ll be positioned well to stand up and ride the wave if you want to catch it. Life and business are all about adjusting your position, or course-correcting. If you’re not getting the ride you want, or if the “waves” are resisting you, adjust your position.
  5. When a wave comes, ride it. Once you catch a wave and the ocean’s power is propelling you forward, it’s key to keep your balance and gradually stand up to ride it. This is a humbling experience-you’re being carried at high speeds on a force you cannot control, so the best option is to go with it. You adapt, surrender, follow where the wave wants to take you. You enjoy the ride. This is where fear comes up for most of us. We feel an exciting current, whether it’s a business opportunity, a new relationship, or a chance to move forward in our lives and we make a choice: ride it, try to control it, or let it pass by. Yes, sometimes it’s scary. When this happens I acknowledge the fear and generally chose to ride the wave, the opportunity. Because the vast majority of the time the ride is exhilarating and transformative and worth it!

Lessons From The Sea CCA

3 Things All Leaders Must Do Before The New Year

Are you ready to make 2015 your best year yet?

Do you have a solid plan for 2015? Learn the three things to make 2015 your best year ever.  Move The Needle. Increase Accountability. Delegate Effectively.

What Will Move The Needle?

A Partner at an investment banking firm in the Midwest came to us with the following challenge. His firm was struggling with low accountability and poor communication. As a result, sales performance was crashing into the abyss—it was time to turn this situation around, and pronto. By setting corporate and departmental needle movers for quarterly and annually, utilizing accountability structures and delegating effectively his firm experienced got sales solidly back on track. Implementing these systems led to their largest pipeline in history and created more proactive sales activity across the firm—his team even recovered 20% of sales he’d feared were lost to competitors..

Are you facing similar challenges in your business? I find many of my executive coaching clients struggle to attain the necessary focus to raise their companies to the next level. The catalyst is identifying “needle movers,”business and personal benchmarks that will make a tangible, measurable, specific positive change. Needle Movers have levels, where goals are binary—you achieve them and feel great or you don’t and feel lousy.

Three Things CCAWhat three accomplishments will “move the needle” in 2015? Perhaps to move your business forward you need to: generate more sales leads, close more key sales opportunities, increase employee engagement or increase accountability within your team? Now focus on the specific results you want and set a Target TGT -0.76%, Minimum and Mind Blower for each Needle Mover.

  • Target = what you want
  • Minimum = what you are willing to accept
  • Mind Blower = what would absolutely rock your world

Remember to distill your Needle Movers to only three because each of these accomplishments will have numerous sub-tasks beneath them. Once you determine your Needle Movers for the year, break those down to Needle Movers for the quarter and Needle Movers for the month. Now only do what will drive your needle movers–this means bright shiny objects have to go b’bye. Create and follow a plan to generate momentum weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually.

It’s all about determining the key results that you want to achieve, listing all the actions that must take place to achieve that result, and assigning ownership and resources to each Needle Mover. Find an accountability partner to help keep you on track.

Accountability Partner

An accountability partner is a friend or colleague that you’ll call weekly at a set time to report the status of the goals you set during the previous call. You’ll discuss any challenges you’re having and seek your partner’s input, and you’ll commit to additional goals to be achieved by your next call. Similarly, you’ll check to see whether your accountability partner has honored their commitments made during your last conversation. If not, the two of you can brainstorm as to how to achieve these goals by your next call. Having accountability partners is a terrific way to forge deeper bonds between peers in an organization.

Keep it simple. Schedule your accountability check-ins for an entire month in advance.  I talk with my accountability partner every Friday. We split the time evenly between us on each call, 15-20 minutes each + 5 minutes for random stuff. We follow up as needed between calls via e-mail. It’s fun, you build a strong bond with your partner, and you help one another succeed.

Here’s a helpful weekly status template to send to your Accountability Partner before each call:

  • Completed this week
  • Not completed and why
  • Concerns to discuss
  • Weekly win
  • What I will complete next week
  • Monthly Needle Movers status
  • Annual Needle Movers status

Effective Delegation

There is effective delegation, and there is “rubber band” delegation: when we delegate something and it snaps back to us. Here’s a 5-step process that my executive coaching clients find helps them to end rubber band delegation, and increase ownership and accountability. The result? Less burn out, better results and more energy.

  1. What are the capabilities (skills required) for a given project/task?
  2. Check on a person’s capacity (do they have time) and capability (do they have the ability/skills to do the task). Match the person with the project. They are now called the “Owner.”
  3. Explain the project/task you want the Owner to do, and check in to make sure clear communication has occurred. Say “I would like to increase the clarity of my communication. So could you please echo back to me what you understood so I may ensure I communicated clearly?” Let the Owner echo back what they heard, clarifying gaps and adding whatever may have been missed, paying careful attention to the specifics of what the deliverable is, exact due date and times.
  4. Now ask how the Owner would like to ensure they get results—what is their plan? Use the Outcome Frameto help them form a success plan.
  5. Have the Owner track the delegated task. Ensure you have a structure in place so communication is honest when a project/task needs to be rescheduled or deadline renegotiated. Most of our executive coaching clients find dividing a complex project into a series of smaller projects increases visibility, and ensures that weekly deadlines keep momentum.

Why Delegation Fails

Often delegation fails simply because we didn’t follow the processes above. Here are some additional questions to consider:

Are we building/increasing capabilities in our people so they can take on more projects? (You’ll want to include the specifics in the person’s Individual Development Plan.)

Do we need to create more safety, belonging, mattering in our culture, so it’s OK to be an Owner?

There you go! The three things you, as a leader, must do right now to ensure that 2015 is your best year ever.

What process are you committed to starting right now?

The Truth About How Your Brain Gets Smarter

“What’s your greatest fear?” I asked Bill Gates one night, over Tom Yum Gai.

“Easy—not getting smarter.”

Bill then laid out his plan to ensure he’d always be surrounded by super smart people.

Maybe he didn’t know about myelin.

The Smarter Secret

Let’s assume “smarter” means making better choices, getting more of what you want and less of what you don’t. Let’s assume “smarter” means learning things faster, having more “ah ha” moments, breaking through mental barriers swiftly and with deep fulfillment.

Here’s how it works.

Roughly half of your brain is made of grey matter (where neural pathways are forged and reside) and the other half is made of white matter. More on this in a moment. First it’s key to know that neurons that fire together, wire together. This means to learn something new, to set a new habit in place, repetition is required. When you practice something deeply, intentionally, and with some element struggle a neural pathway is formed. Neurons are now firing together in a new sequence, and thus are wiring together as a collective. Repeated firing signals that this neural pathway is important. Repeated firing with deep practice and either struggle or ecstasy, alerts oligodendrocytes and astrocytes that this pathway needs to be upgraded, or insulated, and the process of myelination begins.

Myelin

The newly forged and repeatedly fired neural pathway is then insulated like an electrical wire wrapped in a protective coating. This pathway (grey matter) is strengthened via the myelin (white matter) insulation and it is transformed from the equivalent of dial up to broadband. Heavily myelinated neural pathways are up to 300 times faster—they’ve been optimized for speed and efficiency. They’ve also become the default behavior, as the brain will choose the most highly myelinated pathways (because clearly they are the most important). This is how we form new automatic behaviors, also known as habits or habitual behavior choices.

What Einstein Did

When Einstein’s brain was autopsied in 1984 record amounts of myelin were found. Does it mean he was smarter than most? Not necessarily. Does it mean he persevered, failed, keep pushing forward with deep focused practice? Yes.

I’ve been using the understanding of myelin and the myelination process with my executive coaching clients for the past year. The results have been remarkable:

Anxiety Removal: The COO of a $500mil consumer packaged goods company did 3 neuro-coaching sessions over a period of 6 weeks. Then I gave her myelination homework. One month later she no longer suffered debilitating anxiety. It’s still gone 6 months later. This high-functioning CEO had suffered in silence for 47 years.

Managing Emotions: A senior partner at a Fortune 100 financial services firm regularly got triggered by backstabbing and political maneuvers when dealing with some difficult partners that he couldn’t avoid. He would get highly irritated, affecting his ability to be present, collaborative, and to lead the team to the best outcome. We did 4 neuro coaching sessions on this topic, plus myelination homework. He now navigates shark-infested waters with ease, diplomacy and even a little humor.

Increased Vision and Innovation: The head of an R&D lab was stuck. He hadn’t had a good idea in ages and the pressure was on, which only made matters worse. Three months of coaching and a few weeks of myelination practice and he has now designed three new products, with one already having pre-orders exceeding $100mil.

Now you know the secret: let’s start myelinating. To myelinate properly you must do 3 things:

  1. Persevere through the uncomfortable part of learning/stretching to try a new behavior
  2. Do it repeatedly in intense (and short is ok) bursts. Repetition is key—myelin is living tissue: if you stop firing a pathway for 30 days the myelin will start to break down.
  3. See, hear, feel yourself doing the new behavior. Really get into it. Feel the good feelings, be totally in that desired state. Remember what Einstein said “Imagination is everything—it is the preview of coming attractions.”

    Imagination results in firing, repeated firing results in myelination. Observing someone who is excellent at a behavior you want to acquire/grow also helps myelination.

Innovators and thought leaders refuse to be socialized into reasonableness—don’t you cave either!

Neuroscientists worldwide are increasingly studying myelin and its amazing impact on rapid learning, mastery, neuroplasticity.

Keep your circuits strong with deep focused practice—myelination requires quality vs quantity. I ask clients to do the myelination practice I design for them for 5 days in a row, 5 times per day, for only a few minutes each. For a gold star they can do it for 10 days. What I find in coaching some of the top performers on the planet is that forging new—or turbo charging existing—pathways that are heavily insulated (myelinated) and which then become the default behavior pathway is what matters.

What new behaviors would you like?

Christine Comaford combines neuroscience and business strategy to help CEOs achieve rapid growth and create high performance teams. Her latest NY Times bestselling book is entitled SmartTribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together.

Stop Being So Predictable As A Leader: 6 Ways to Change this NOW

Does your team “have your number?” Do your kids? Your significant other? Sure they do.

Because it only takes a short period of observation to find the harsh truth: people are predictable.

Yet as a predictable leader, you compromise your ability to influence and to shift another’s behavior, which is often crucial to accelerate results, boost revenue, ensure sustainable growth. While a large part of influencing is about making people feel a sense of safety, belonging, and mattering, sometimes we need to bluntly lay out the facts. Being able to switch from one stance to the other is an immensely valuable leadership skill.

 

 

How Flexible is Your Behavior?

Most of us react in predictable ways, have predictable patterns of behavior, and have predictable speech patterns. No wonder it’s so easy for people to peg us….and no wonder it can seem virtually impossible to get through to certain people.

Chances are your employees know what you’re going to say or do in many situations before you even have a chance to react. Consciously or unconsciously they tune you out (and maybe retreat into their critter state if they think your reaction will be negative)…and any productive potential the conversation may have had is lost. Or perhaps, unbeknownst to you, the way you are acting and reacting sends others a different message then the one you meant to convey.

There’s hope. The following behavioral stances can be mixed and matched for maximum influence, rapport, and outcome. When we use different stances in different scenarios, we get different results. Thanks to all my teachers on stances: Milton EricksonTony RobbinsJerry Jampolsky, and many more. There’s the:

Mommy: Supports the recipient fully, sees and acknowledges how great they are. As a result the recipient feels huge.

Anthropologist: Behaves with major curiosity and high inquiry. This stance asks  lots of questions and is continually curious, at times even fascinated.

Drill Sergeant: Hard core, tell-it-like-it-is, no sugar coating. This stance is supremely direct but not mean.

Professor: Cool, high advocacy, factual, “this is how it is,” “when you do X, you get Y.”

Best Buddy: Highly empathetic: “I’ve been there, I know how hard it is.”

Guru: The wise knowledgeable one, often used by consultants, has a touch of Professor but is less linear and more about overview, has a touch of warmth and heart. This stance is the expert with a heart and high enrollment.

Behavioral Stances in Action

Brain-Based Proof That You’re More Effective Working At Home

image015It’s time to ditch the office. It’s time to have more control over your brain as you work, and the best way to do that is to work from home. Over the past 3 years we’ve been tracking how our clients, executives in senior leadership, sales, marketing, finance, operations, improve performance in three key areas by working from home .5 to 2 days per week.

The results are surprising. The secret is to forge these new positive habits when working from home, then bring the benefits to the workplace.

1-Make Better Decisions—Faster

40 = the number of hours per week that companies expect people to be strong decision-makers

3-5 = the actual number of peak decision-making hours that people report

You make better decisions when you have a chance to reflect on all aspects of what needs to be considered—and not when you have the proverbial gun to your head. As we know from meta programs, if you’re on the reflective end of the Active-Reflective  continuum, this is even more crucial. When you are insulated from interruptions and can control your environment you make better decisions, because you brain experiences less stress.

Speaking of stress, let’s consider the massive amount of uncertainty that exists in today’s workplace.  Thanks to Harvard Medical School research we now know that 75% of people in uncertain scenarios will make decisions based on fearful assumptions—they are expecting something bad to happen. The result is decisions that are risk-mitigation and pain avoiding, with little or no strategic vision in mind. Vision isn’t possible because fear shuts down the prefrontal cortex, so we have no access to our innovative, problem solving, planning parts of our brain.

Client result:

  • 300% increase in hours of peak decision making time each week- based on training their brain in managing their emotional state.

2-Design Better Strategies and Solutions–Faster

10% share of people who do their best thinking at work

39% share of people who do their best thinking at home

In the relentless pursuit to be strategic, extract and demonstrate value, and provide optimal solutions all the time, the workplace is a continuous pressure cooker. This means the brain is often in fear and disaster prevention instead of in analysis and designing the outcomes we want. What happens on our best day? How did Einstein form strategies and solutions? When asked how he created his theory of relativity he said first he felt it, then he saw it, then he could articulate it. He let his mind wander, have visions, form connections, then he formulated the visions into something he could tangibly communicate.

Einstein also said “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of coming attractions.” We need to engage the emotional brain by seeing, hearing, feeling ourselves standing in the future when the strategy is being executed. How is it going? How are people feeling? Are they embracing it? What’s working? What’s not? Now take this learning and ask yourself what you need to adjust right now, before you lock in and launch the strategy.

As leaders the more we balance the logical (prefrontal cortex) planning part of the brain with the emotional (mammalian) area of the brain the more effective our strategies will be.

Client result:

  • 200-400% increase in the quality of strategies – by giving their brains space to feel into the future before a strategy is deployed.
  • 73-97% increase in ability to influence outcomes/others – due to more time to thoughtfully craft communications.

3-Increase Focus and Have More New Ideas

Ever had the feeling that something isn’t quite right, but you can’t quite put your finger on it? That’s the intuitive part of our brain, the insula, at work. This is why we often have great ideas when on vacation, or when shooting hoops or hiking in nature. Our brain is wandering, forming connections, resolving incongruencies, testing out theories. Working from home enables more vision time. Many of our most successful clients allocate one half to one full day per week (Fridays are best) for Vision Time. This is where they let their brains wander, and countless new products, strategies, alliances have resulted.

Our clients that allow Vision Time or even Vision Retreats (solo time in nature for a weekend) consistently crank out market-leading products, ideas competitors haven’t had, and innovative approaches to leverage assets and efficiencies. Give your brain a break and see the great insights that come from it.

Client results:

  • 300-500% increase in innovation across the company when they first followed this process themselves, then taught their teams.
  • 20-47% weekly increase in time on high value activities – due to reduced distractions and drama of the workplace

So working at home makes us faster, better, and heck, it’s even cheaper.

Christine Comaford (@comaford) is a neuroscience-based executive coach that helps leaders build cultures of trust and high performance.

Statistics Sources:

#1 above:  40 and 3-5 from Neuroleadership Institute; 75% from  Harvard Medical School

#2 above: 10% and 39% from Neuroleadership Institute

All other statistics from SmartTribes Institute clients