November 29, 2009

Being Unstoppable

Last weekend I had a great experience of being unstoppable.

I've been cultivating my vegetable garden. We have carrots, cucumbers, three kinds of lettuce, four kinds of tomatoes, various herbs, lemongrass, leeks, onions, garlic, Chinese cabbage, artichokes and baby beetroot.

Why is this such a big deal?

Because up until this year, I was clear I had a black thumb. My house was a death camp for plants. If plants could move, they'd run screaming from my home.

I remember when I was in university, I had a beautiful pot plant that ended up more or less a stick. With maybe one leaf. I brought it home to my mother and within two months it was a bushy plant.

That's when I realised my talents lay more with people.

It was one of those decisions we make that close our lives down just a little bit. In this case it was so insignificant I never bothered to give it much thought. Until last year.

I spend my days telling clients that anything is possible. In the face of the gaps and concerns they share with me, who I am for them is "You can do anything." Inside of that listening, they always achieve their goals.

Last year, I realised that if I were to hold onto any belief in my own life about limitations, even seemingly insignificant ones, that meant I really was: "Of course anything is possible for you. Just not me."

So, I went down to my local garden centre and invested in a starter kit. We created a worm farm and started fertilising soil. I had no idea what I was doing, made a lot of mistakes learning along the way, but it's paid off big time this year.

While it may seem like a little thing, for me it's right up there with the time we abseiled down the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylon to raise money for Manly Hospital. Up until that day I had a huge fear of heights. But, there's something about hanging from a thin line 300 feet over the harbour that puts it all into perspective.

At least the garden's on the ground and we'll get to enjoy the fruits of our labours all year round, thanks to Sydney's glorious weather. Did I mention the lemons?

Sunday night we went to friends for dinner armed with a garden salad fresh from our backyard.

What "it's not possible for me" story do you have hanging around the back of your mind? Even one little one? Take it on. Even for the fun of it. There's an adventure waiting for you on the other side.

November 25, 2009

Brain Brushing

Daniel Siegel makes an excellent case for the benefits of mindfulness and integration.

For an organisational system to work at its best, there needs to be an open flow of energy and information promoting engagement, creativity and receptiveness. When there is this flow of energy and information between independent and integrated parts of the system, you have harmonic balance.

This is further supported when people's secret passions are linked to the overall aims of the company and their special talents are honored for the unique contribution they bring to the system. People want to know they matter and are part of a greater whole. Our brain is a social organ.

Since 1995, we've seen this happening real life in our peak performance and alignment initiatives. When teams and companies bring everyone together inside common passions and goals, they achieve enormous gains in their critical key performance indicators such as sales and revenue by as much as 70 per cent.

Culture eats strategy for lunch.

Impaired integration leads to dysfunction, chaos, war. Some of you may be nodding your heads at this point.

What's a leader's role in all of this?

A leader needs to provide a "Yes" environment, understand relationships and promote healthy mind-sets. Just as Michelangelo said an artist's job is to free the statue from the stone. A leader must get the junk out of the way to allow for natural genius to arise.

Try this on:

Notice how your employees experience and behave, and what results they produce when working in a "No" environment. Expect to find they experience being under threat, feel unsafe or judged, are defensive and unproductive. That's how people operate in a "No" state.

Conversely, notice how your employees respond in a "yes" state. They'll be open, engaged, relaxed, motivated, receptive, creative and highly productive.

What enables leaders to build and maintain a "Yes" environment? First, it's imperative to have a natural inner awareness and self-modulation. You don't know what you don't know how some of your behaviours impact your people's performance.

As people aren't taught to monitor their emotional states, Daniel suggested we try this short exercise to build that inner awareness. It's quite powerful and only takes five minutes a day to build mindfulness. As anyone can spare five minutes (if you think you can't, we really should talk), this is an easy win for you and your people.

Brain Brushing starts by just noticing your breath as you breathe in and out. Notice how your breath may come from deep in your abdomen, high in your chest or anywhere in between. Then place your awareness on your breath as you breathe in and out, and keep your focus only on your breath.

If your mind gets distracted, gently take note of that and refocus your attention on the breath.

Do this for five minutes. Notice how much clearer your mind is and how much more present you are in the moment. Practice it enough times and you may find it becomes your natural state.

Consider this is just like dental health maintenance. Would you go a day without brushing your teeth?

Try it for a week and notice the difference.

Send me a note - I'd really love to know!

November 3, 2009

A call to action

This past week I've been to a conference that's been life-altering. Now, that's a tall order and over the next few weeks I will share with you what I've experienced, as it has profound and important implications for anyone who's in a leadership position in work or life.

And I'll argue that all of us are in leadership positions in life and work.

Over 2 1/2 days at the 4th annual Neuroleadership Summit in Los Angeles, giants in the field of Neuroscience and in Leadership shared ideas on how to impact a leader's thinking and performance.

To give a sense of the ethos, Warren Bennis (Google his name and you'll get roughly 200,000 hits), the recognised head of the global leadership movement, a man who's advised presidents, CEO's such as Jack Welch, written 30 books on leadership, ex-Harvard Professor, who's life's work is all about leadership, started his keynote presentation by saying "I know little about leadership. It is a conversation that is long and important."

Humility and grace.

I learned how a floor sweeper can spark a new era of cooperation by one courageous remark during a company initiative - "I feel invisible, no one sees me" - opening a floodgate of similar sentiments from all ranks within the organisation.

Who in your company might say the same thing?

Warren relayed a story about US President Roosevelt's funeral where a man fell to his knees sobbing in grief. As he straightened up, a man next to him inquired whether he knew the president personally. "No," he replied, "but he KNEW me."

Through his "fireside chat" radio talks, Roosevelt had the power to communicate to all the people such that they experienced being known. They experienced how much he cared for and respected them. They were empowered and appreciated.

A recent Gallup study "Feeling Good Matters in the Workplace", found that supervisors play a crucial role worker's engagement. In "The Cost Of Bad Behavior" Christine Pearson and Christine Porath, report that incivility in the workplace leads to an increase in job stress costing US corporations $300 Billion a year.

This doesn't even begin to cover to costs of workers who are actively disengaged, leading to decreased productivity and innovation, and sometimes active sabotage.

It's not just warm and fuzzy stuff. This really matters.

What would be the potential of an organisation if leaders focused on ensuring people felt known, important, appreciated and respected?

What would be the impact on your bottom line? What would meetings be like if they opened up with a note of thanks to everyone for being there, and an invitation to share their views?

We spend more time at work then we do any other single activity in our lives. Business is the engine room of society and this past year's events have shown us what happens when that engine breaks down.

My call to action to you all, whether you lead from the front, middle or rear - take heart and take heed. Take a moment now and commit to what you can do to express respect and gratitude to all the people around you in and out of work.

What will you do to ensure they are appreciated and empowered?

What will be the quality of your work and the impact on your life if you spent your days focused on the positives of the people around you, giving them respect and appreciation?

If you think you already do, how can you take it a step higher? Does EVERYONE in your organisation do the same?

After two days of that culture at the summit, I can assure you that brilliance was sparked. People will create books, methodologies, initiatives that will affect real and positive change to the global engine that is business.

The conversation of leadership is long and important and my call to you is to join it from wherever you are in whatever capacity you lead.