Tag Archives: challenges

ASAP

As soon as you saw the title of this post, you knew what I meant. An efficient abbreviation borrowed from the U.S. military, ASAP is now generally understood across disciplines and industries. When your boss sends you an email that reads, “I need to hear back from you ASAP,” you drop everything else and attend to the request.

We are a culture that loves to get things done, well, ASAP. Between emails, direct deposits, texts and a myriad of other technologies, we’ve essentially abolished the need to wait for anything. Except at the DMV.

Usually, this works out great for us and for our coworkers and customers. But that’s only when the answer or solution is apparent at first glance. The problem with living in an ASAP culture is that not all of our challenges can be solved with a half-hour meeting and a few three sentence emails.

We work and live in a world where many situations are complex and intricate—whether that’s negotiating contracts and company mergers or trying to come up with a new way to keep the interest of a room full of fifth graders. And, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, sometimes the first solution that strikes you is not always the best solution. ASAP decisions run the risk of completely missing out on a factor or a detail that might further complicate our entire project.

As I thought about this problem I came across an article about Harvard professor of humanities Jennifer L. Roberts. In an art history class Roberts asked each of her students to choose one painting to be the subject of their term paper. Part of completing the assignment was to visit the painting (in person, if possible) and study it for three hours.

As you can imagine, her students were not exactly thrilled at the idea of staring at a single work of art for the better part of an afternoon. And, as someone who is easily distracted by shiny things, I am positive that I would have failed Professor Roberts’ art history class.

However, for the brave souls that did attempt the assignment, something interesting happened. The students reported that as they studied the paintings, they began to notice details that, while they didn’t seem important at first, were actually critical to understanding and appreciating the work. For many of them, this dramatically changed the focus and direction of their term papers. Roberts explained it this way, “…there are details and orders and relationships that take time to perceive.”

Although Roberts is referring to art, I believe the same principle is true in our professional environments. There are details and orders and relationships that take time to perceive. Think about starting a new job. For at least the first two weeks you are overwhelmed with learning how to do your assignments within the context of a new company. You’re learning your way around a new office. You’re figuring out a computer program or network that you’ve never used before. And on top of all that, you’re trying to navigate the interpersonal relationships of your new coworkers. It may take you weeks before you figure out how to use the copy machine!

I believe that when it comes to finding solutions or making big decisions, we don’t need to rush. What if we looked at these situations like one of the art students? You may not have three hours to think about a problem, but I bet you could find ten or fifteen minutes to jot down some ideas. And you may be surprised at the details and relationships that slowly come to light as you put the brakes on for a few minutes.

How to Think Your Way into an Emotional Meltdown

This is a follow-up blog to the wildly popular post from March 18th, 5 Steps to a Complete Emotional Breakdown by Wednesday. Now, if you’re ready for a real game-changer, you’ll love this week’s blog.

As the title suggests, you can trigger your own anxiety attack simply by the way you think. Here’s a few ideas to ponder that will shift you brain into stress mode.

  1. The glass is always half-empty—I would venture that most emotional breakdowns begin with an onslaught of negativity. Sure, things might be stressful at work, but if you keep a positive outlook, you’ll rarely suffer a breakdown. On the other hand, negativity keeps your mind focused on what’s going wrong, what you don’t have, and how unfair it all is—instead of refocusing on what’s going right and coming up with creative solutions.
  2. Forget about how good you’ve got it—After dwelling on negative and pessimistic thoughts, don’t stop to appreciate that you have a job, a family, or good health. Thankfulness improves your mood by lowering stress hormones in the brain, according to a study at the University of California, Davis. Avoid gratitude by focusing on what you don’t have—or finding fault with the things that are going good in your life.
  3. Use the three magic words—Always. Never. Worst. Attach one of these modifiers to a pessimistic thought to catapult your self-esteem and outlook on life to new lows. Now of course, our reality rarely is so extreme as to be “the worst” and we don’t really know that we will “always” get passed over for a promotion because the boss has “never” liked us, but using these three words regardless of reality injects these thoughts with more power and influence in our lives. A few additional magic words—Everything, Nothing and Everyone—the more general and far-reaching the better.

Dale Carnegie says, “ Happiness doesn’t depend on any external circumstances, it is governed by our mental attitude.” In the same way, I believe anyone can turn a fairly good set of circumstances into a nightmare by focusing on the negatives, letting their thoughts run to extremes and believing these thoughts more that they believe any positive thoughts. I hope these tips will get you started.

5 Steps to a Complete Emotional Breakdown by Wednesday

We’ve all got a little stress in our lives—and research actually shows that to be a good thing. But I’ve learned over the years that stressors at work or home can quickly go from productive to paralyzing. Here, I’ve gathered a few tried and true practices that could trigger a total breakdown in a zen master.

  1. Sleep Less– If you want to be more stressed, this is the easiest way to get there. Sleep deprivation causes the brain to raise the stress hormone even if there is not another stressor present. And, since sleep is the time that the brain uses to store and discard the day’s memories, you’ll be scattered and forgetful after burning the candle at both ends.
  2. Get an Extra Shot of Espresso– If you’re feeling a little sluggish after Step 1 (and believe me, you will), it’s ideal to try to jump start your brain with a boost of caffeine from another cup of coffee, Diet Coke, Red Bull, or one of those energy drinks with names that sound like heavy-metal rock bands. For more stress, this is perfect. Caffeine releases adrenaline, so your body will react to any stressor with a more dramatic response than you may anticipate.
  3. Be Available 24/7– It can be difficult to keep the anxiety going after 5 or on the weekends, so make sure to constantly be checking email, texts and phone messages for a new “hit” of stressors during the time others might use to unplug and recover. You may want to sleep with your Blackberry turned on right next to your bed, so even in the middle of the night you are ready for a new stressor to interrupt any chance of decent rest and get your exhausted and over-caffeinated brain churning.
  4. Ask “What If?”- These two little words are almost guaranteed to reignite any stressor—old or new—in the brain. By focusing on all the possible problems in the future and old problems and concerns from the past you effectively prevent your mind from working on solutions and taking action in the present. With any kind of decision-making this will amp up your stress level in mere minutes.
  5. Become a Lone Ranger– Realizing that others care about you and are willing to help you achieve your goals will strengthen your relationships and personal confidence—significantly lowering your stress. If you’re sharing your stressors with someone who can supply you with a new perspective, support, and encouragement, you may actually avoid a breakdown altogether. Instead, it’s best to keep your anxiety to yourself and try to tackle all of your problems without any outside help.

I don’t know about you, but my pulse is already feeling a little faster after reading through that list. And guess what? This is only part one! Stay tuned for How to Think Your Way into an Emotional Breakdown.

Lose The Screen

Dave Weber challenges your communication style.  To bring Dave Weber to your organization or for more information on “Leadership Redefined” or “Sticks and Stones Exposed: The Power of Our Words,” go to daveweber.com.

If you have trouble viewing YouTube videos, click here to watch this presentation on WeberTV.

What Justin Bieber Can Teach All of Us About Leadership

LOS ANGELES - MAY 12: Justin Bieber arrives at the Wango Tango Concert at The Home Depot Center on May 12, 2012 in Carson, CA. Photo taken on: May 12th, 2012

LOS ANGELES – MAY 12: Justin Bieber arrives at the Wango Tango Concert at The Home Depot Center on May 12, 2012 in Carson, CA.
Photo taken on: May 12th, 2012 © Carrie Nelson

This week my Twiter feed has exploded with tweets about Justin Bieber along with the hashtags #WeWillAlwaysSupportYouJustin and #DeportBieber. Although the young singer’s actions were reckless and immature at best, the Biebs provides all of us with an opportunity to learn a thing or two about leadership.

1. A leader is anyone who has influence– As many beliebers are arguing today, Justin is just “acting his age” or “doing what kids do” and that his behavior is being blown out of proportion. Maybe that’s true, but his role as an entertainer has given him influence—massive influence in fact—over popular culture, music, acceptable hairstyles, and most importantly, other young people. Like it or not, the hoopla over his arrest only confirms his influence and identity as a leader.

2. All leaders have blind spots– Weaknesses, faults, temptations, call them whatever you like, but without a careful examination of your own blind spots any leader can make one of those mistakes that, to everyone else, looks like such a bonehead move. Money, fame and power certainly don’t eliminate blind spots. If anything, they enhance them. This is why it is so important to allow others to point out your blind spots to you.

3. Leaders don’t insulate themselves from accountability– We’ve all seen it. Whether a small-town politician or an international superstar, people flock to please those with power and influence. However, the most successful leaders know that they must have people on their team to hold them accountable to their goals and deliver warnings when a leader looks to be headed into a blind spot. I don’t know if Justin Bieber has people like this in his life or not, but I know that the unfortunate decisions he has made this week remind me to keep close the people in my life who are not afraid to “push back” on my ideas or actions.

4. Whenever a leader makes a mistake, the opposition will celebrate– We all know the moniker “nobody’s perfect” until one of our leaders lets us down. It is a sad truth that human beings seem to love seeing one another fail—and hacking one another apart on social media outlets. However, Justin, and any one else who has ever faced opposition, can choose to respond by ignoring the malicious, learning what he can from his critics and using the experience as a motivator to push him towards his goals—what I like to call falling forward.

5. Your character will ultimately shape your influence– No matter how thoroughly you divide your public life from your private life, both will eventually have to match up. In Justin’s case, his image has gone from hardworking entertainer to another spoiled celebri-teen. As the pastor Andy Stanley says, “Character is not made in crisis; it is only exhibited.” In challenging times, do our words, actions and reactions match up to the person we proclaim to be publicly?

For more insight into leadership and how we can redefine what true leadership means, be sure to check out Leadership Redefined.