September 15, 2009

Threats and Uncertainty

Last week I participated in a tele-class on how the brain reacts to threats and uncertainty. Fascinating what happens.

When under threat (real or imagined) the brain triggers a release of chemicals and channels blood towards your arms and legs, enabling the fight or flight response. This happens even before you're consciously aware of a response.

Your field of view na
rrows down to help you focus and move quickly. This is great for short-term response, but useless for working through complex, time-oriented issues.

People under stress tend to miss things on the edge of their view, focus more on problems and over-generalise (everything is hopeless). They find it more difficult to think rationally, and err on the side of pessimism. Problems grow and solutions diminish.

Creativity, lateral thinking and insights all get stymied.


Suppressing emotions keeps the stress locked in. Even worse, through conscious and unconscious communications, people around you experience stress, and their blood pressure actually goes up!


How do you lower stress even if you can't change the situation?


Remember the thing you can't discuss keeps you trapped. Talking things out reduces your brain's burden and gets you out of being stuck.

Humour helps reduce the experience of threat and lighten the mood. Trust me, it works. In the middle of writing this I receiv
ed a call from my mother informing me that my father was in hospital with pneumonia and heart failure.

Humour and positive thinking definitely helped us ease the tension and lighten up. He'll be fine and we know it.

Shift your thinking fast. A quick reappraisal of a situation helps with deep impact, strong threats by putting a brake on your brain's threat response. The key here is to catch it at the very beginning before you get lost down the rabbit hole of negative emotions.

In the case of conflict, step into the other person's shoes and see the situation from their perspective. Warning, this may take a bit of behavioral and cognitive flexibility, i.e. giving up a bit of righteousness about your point of view.

Finally, stand up straight, lift your head up and smile. This simple physical realignment helps your brain shift to a more positive state of mind.

Not sure what to smile about? This might help.

September 1, 2009

Your Own Worst Enemy

At a recent dinner party we swapped customer service horror stories. One stood out as a great warning to us all.

After selling their home, this couple had contacted various real estate agents to inquire into purchasing a new property. Cashed up and eager to buy, they kept encountering agents who seemed intent on turning away their business.

One agent kept insisting they call back to set up an appointment. Another said the property could on be viewed by appointment, but wouldn't specify when. Yet another property with a listed viewing time was locked and the agent refused to come by and open it up. Even with willing customers ready to look.

Am I missing something here? Is the property market so hot that agents can afford to push away eager buyers with ready cash? More likely they were unaware of how they were shooting themselves in the foot.

How do you sabotage your own business success?

A recent SEEK survey of 10,000 Australians revealed that, even with the economic downturn, 55% of employees were keeping their eyes open for other opportunities. Only 12% loved their bosses while 25% said the thing they hated most about their jobs were the stress levels and overall management.

What are you doing that doesn't work and that you don't know you don't know doesn't work? How do you even discover what you don't know you don't know?

Our minds are like a black bag. You can't see what's inside and can't access an issue until you're ready to reach in and pull it out. It's a simple act of self-preservation that keeps us sane, but limits our growth and development.

Then how do you access those black bag blind spots?

Start by looking at what's not working. Ask around, look at results and turn over a few rocks.

Even better, get someone in from outside your culture to poke around a bit and find the real answers you'll never discover on your own. There is a large gap between what employees will say to their managers and what becomes coffee talk.

In today's business climate there's no room for hiding your head in the sand and pretending it's all fine. You never want to be the dinner party horror story.