Mindfulness

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Diversity of Thought: An Introduction

What does diversity of thought mean, how do we encourage it and how can it positively impact your business?

We were delighted to be invited to speak at a client’s Diversity Month in March. Built around International Women’s Day there was a wide range of events looking at diversity and inclusion, unconscious bias and people’s leadership journeys.

We were invited for the finale event: Diversity of Thought

The idea behind this event was simple: how do we encourage people to think of diversity not just in terms of ethical and fair focus in recruitment and development, but also as a personal focus on achieving greater innovation and results?

When people quote studies showing that teams and business boards with greater diversity make more money or achieve better results, this is not some magical effect of having more women or different ethnicities involved: it is the result of different ways of thinking.

Why is Diversity Good?

Based on our gender, ethnicity, genetics, upbringing, education and so many other factors, our brains are wired in different ways. You know when you’re working with someone and you wonder how on earth they have come to x conclusion or gone about that task in x way – you never would have thought or done it that way (and you probably believe your way is better!)

That’s the thing with different brain patterns: we like our own because we only know our own ways of thinking and working. Everyone who thinks differently – more often than not we think of as wrong, misguided or weird. Yet there are great benefits to challenging our comfortable ways of working: we might find a better way.

We can harness these benefits by challenging ourselves to think differently, engaging people we would not usually go to for advice and encouraging disagreement. Let’s face it, it is easier to work with people who think like we do, agree with us, come up with similar ideas and we achieve consensus far quicker.

But what if consensus was not the goal? What if achieving something brilliant were the goal – and we might not always agree but we could make decisions and take concerns into account? Trying new things, making mistakes, learning fast and trying again. If you want to achieve something different then try thinking differently and engaging with different people.

Challenging your Thinking

One of the greatest ways to find new ideas for yourself is to simply notice and increase your awareness of the way you do something. Take something that comes up a lot in your day job, maybe the way you run meetings, make decisions or solve problems.

You will not usually take time to think about how you do that particular thing, because you do it all the time, maybe many times per day. But taking time to stop and consider the way you do something can help you challenge that approach and consider other approaches. Try out these questions as you consider your way of working:

Which Questions Do You Find Helpful?

How would someone more extroverted than me go about this? Someone who relied on thinking out loud and involving other people?

How would someone more introverted than me go about this? Someone who took time to process their thoughts alone and then came to a conclusion?

What would a more logical, structured, fact-based approach look like?

What would a more intuitive, spontaneous, gut-feel-based approach look like?

As you consider how other people might go about your task, you will most likely find you don’t like most of the ideas that come up, but look out for the golden nugget of an idea: something you could tweak in your approach that might give you a better outcome.

In our next instalment on this subject we look at how you can engage others who have different ways of thinking, and embrace the disagreement that will follow, to achieve better results.

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What is Neuroscience?

Neuroscience1 TotemWhat is neuroscience and what impact could it possibly have on our industry?

It might seem like one of those fad terms as it’s everywhere at the moment, but neuroscience has a lot to offer the discerning L&D professional, people manager and leader.

Neuroscience is the study of the brain – or more technically the nervous system including the brain and spinal cord – so it’s like learning how people really work.  Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways this relatively new science is quite literally changing the way think about work.

Click on the image and magic will happen!

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Binary Thinking

What triggers binary thinking and why it’s an issue

Have you ever noticed when you’re feeling uncomfortable about making a decision or you’re anxious about something, that you seem to only have two bad options?

It’s a sign you may be getting stuck in binary thinking – either it’s A or B.  Black or White.  Or an unattractive option against an equally unattractive option.

This is one of the limiting effects of our brain’s tendency to narrow our thinking when we’re under pressure.  It can be helpful to understand more about why this happens and what you can do about it when you find yourself stuck in binary thinking.

So why do our brains narrow in thinking when we’re under pressure?  It’s important to remember that our primary instinct is to survive and so when we face anything we perceive as pressure or a threat, then to some degree, our brain, muscles, hormones and chemicals are in survival mode.  You can dig into the neuroscience behind this here.

That might sound extreme for simply deciding how to address a difficult conversation with a  colleague, but the fact remains that since the days of escaping attacks by sabre-tooth tigers, we still have the same fight or flight mechanisms for any perceived threat.

The discomfort and anxiety caused by the idea of having an awkward conversation with a colleague registers in our brains in a similar way to a physical threat to our safety.  And so it makes some sense that during these times of pressure, our brain’s priority is not to be as creative and open as possible in thinking.

The brain’s priority is to get us out of the problem, so quick and minimal options that get us towards a decision and outcome is the focus: think fight or flight.  This might translate in your difficult conversation scenario to thinking your only options are to go in and shout at the person or say nothing.  Or you might decide that it’s fire them now or forever be stuck with their poor performance.

What we need is more options…

How can we break our brain’s natural reaction and find more options?  This is where mindfulness comes in.  We need to be consciously aware of what is happening in order to choose a different way of thinking.

So pay attention to those times when you find yourself thinking you only have two options.  Think of the thought “I can either do A or B” as an alarm bell – a warning that you are in narrow thinking and it could be beneficial for you to move into more open and creative thinking.

Once you have recognised that you’ve gone into that binary thinking, you can now choose to come out of it.  Here are some top tips for getting into a more creative space:

Tell yourself, or draw it out if you work well with visuals, that there are many options in between A and B.

Ask yourself, what if I could work out four other options between A and B?  How might that help me?  Posing this as a question rather than a factual statement engages the brain and challenges the brain to start thinking more creatively

This moves the brain to a future-focus

Focus on the outcomes – what do you want to achieve?  This moves the brain to a future-focus, imagining what we want to happen, which again breaks us out of the threat response.

In the difficult conversation example, you might say that you want the outcomes to be that the person changes their behaviour and that your working relationship is still intact.

In communicating bad news, like the need for redundancies, you might say you want the outcome to be that people know what is happening and why, and that people know you are keen to help them get through this.

It is helpful to think about your outcomes in terms of what you want other people to feel, say and do.  As this can be a clear starting point for you deciding what you need to feel, say and do.

Now plan out some other options.  Based on the outcomes you want, what are some different options?  What could you say and do?  Which options feel more appropriate?  Why?

Now you have moved from limited options to a clearer focus on the outcomes you desire.  So you can plan your next move.

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Productivity Ninja

Zen-like calm meets stealth and camouflage

It’s fair to say that in our digital, on-demand age the weakest link in the chain is likely to be the human being in the middle of it all.  And there’s a subtle clue here in the wording: we’re human beings, not human doings.

The Productivity Ninja offers us a way to recapture that essence of being in an increasingly crowded workplace of overflowing inboxes, to-do lists and endless, pointless meetings.

Using a fascinating combination of mindfulness, zen-like calm and stealth & camouflage the Productivity Ninja aims to get your inbox down to zero, make the most of your attention (rather than your time) and teach you to work smarter, not harder.

The author Graham Allcott’s loftiest aim being to teach you how to love your work again by making the bold statement that “time management is dead.”  Attention management is the key to understanding productivity, and that means acknowledging that you have periods of low attention when you don’t have the mental focus to tackle the day job.

Allcott explains that there are 9 characterises of a Productivity Ninja and we’ll touch on a few of our favourites here:

Zen-like calm

If you want to remain focused and not be stressed by all the things you’re not doing, you’ll need to create a ‘Second Brain.”  Basically, it’s a system built around lists, checklists or productivity apps where you can store your ideas.

It’s there to share the load of a busy mind, helping you to think more clearly because you’re not getting distracted by all the other things you need to do.

Ruthlessness

Saying no.  Not something many of us are entirely comfortable with but if we first acknowledge that saying yes to everything is the beginning of our never-ending to-do list, we’ll soon feel a lot more comfortable with the word no.

Thinking like a ninja means being ruthless with your attention and focus.  And as other commentators have pointed out over the years, it’s helpful to consider what is most important to say yes to so that you feel more comfortable about choosing to say no to other things.

Weapon-savvy

This is about using the right tools for the job.  Which tools save you time and don’t provide distractions?

The challenge we face with productivity software (in particular) is that it encourages networking and social sharing.  How often does that turn into a few hours fiddling with dashboards or instant messaging colleagues?  So we need to manage our use of such tools so that they help our focus rather than hinder it.

Stealth and camouflage

The introvert’s personal favourite and something the extrovert would be encouraged to consider now and again.  Get out of the chaos occasionally.

“One of the worst things you can do is always make yourself available,” writes Graham Allcott.

Research suggests that a 2-minute interruption to your thought process can take at least 30 minutes to undo.  Are there times when working alone and away from others, technology and the phone could be useful?  How could you build these into your day?

Making mistakes

It’s ok to make mistakes!  Perfectionism is a long way from perfect as we explored here.

Perfection is one of those wonderful ideas that we might aspire to, but it can often lead to drastically negative behaviour.  Perfectionism continually points to our failures, no matter how small, and it undermines our achievements.

Are you at your most productive when you are undermining yourself?

If you can combine that last point in particular with the other characteristics of a Productivity Ninja, we wholly support Graham Allcott’s view:

“You’ll feel more present in your work, more engaged, calmer and more at ease with the world around you.”

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Craving Certainty

Whether you like it or not your brain is full of hidden agendas…

We’ve had the pleasure of a little Neuroscience research recently, let’s give you a quick summary of our work…

Regardless of our philosophical beliefs about free will, neuroscience tells us that our brains are determinist. That is, everything that we do is determined, not by our conscious self making choices, but by our unconscious self, based on all our previous experiences and our natural impulses.

We’ll prepare ourselves for the inevitable barrage of emails on that point.

From producing chemicals that make you want that doughnut to watching another episode on Netflix (when you should be writing that important email), the brain’s inbuilt objectives are often very different from the goals we set ourselves in our most rational and motivated moments.

If we were able to recognise the things our brain naturally wants, we would put ourselves in a better position for understanding our decisions.

One of these innate desires that our brains has is for certainty.

The brain craves certainty in virtually the same way as it craves food, sleep and sex.  You get a kick out of getting information that makes you more certain, and alternatively have a strong threat response to uncertainty about what will happen in the future.

Consider the stress you feel when you show up for a meeting just to find that no one is there.  Your first response might be to check the time, then your emails to see if you got it right, ask if this is the right room, call someone who is meant to be at the meeting…

Throughout the ordeal you will probably be on edge and uncomfortable as your brain scrambles for ways of getting the information it lacks.

In the same way, the first thing people will do when they get to the airport is look for their departure time and gate on the information screens.  This is because your brain is a prediction machine.  It collects patterns from its environment, then it stockpiles these memories and uses them to make predictions.

It does this by transferring the things it has seen before and applying it to an event taking place.  In order to do this the brain draws on data from all of our senses. According to his book The Biology of Belief,  Dr. Bruce Lipton says there are about 40 environmental cues you can consciously pay attention to at any time, but when you include the subconscious – this number is over two-million!

Many accounting and consulting companies charge huge sums to executives in exchange for reassuring information through theories, strategies, data, and projections.  But the future is inherently uncertain and there is no crystal ball (as Brexit has shown us).

From our brain’s perspective, the ability to predict the future well is the difference between life and death and we take this subconsciously to work with us.

Companies need to be aware that uncertainty is unsettling for everyone involved and this can lead to indecisiveness and a loss of focus.

Giving people information is incredibly important for them to feel comfortable in the workplace, but the next step of our research suggests that we can train our minds to resist the effects of uncertainty.  Something we suspected a little while ago.

Watch this space as we’ll be publishing here all of our latest findings as we get to grips with the new insights coming out from the labs of neuroscientists.  You can sign up to our Pow Wow list to be kept informed.

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Mindset

mindset3The Idea: Intelligence isn’t fixed.

World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, in decades of research on achievement and success, has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea-the power of our mindset.

New research shows that rather than intelligence being fixed, the more you challenge your mind to learn, the more the brain grows and gets stronger. Adopting a ‘growth mindset’ – believing your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts – has been found in studies to help children build resilience and achieve better results at school, as well as adults to reach their own personal and professional goals.

It is therefore beneficial for us all, at any age, to believe we and others can learn and get better at things. This changes the way we learn ourselves, teach others, lead others and support our children.

The Action

Next time you set yourself a goal, try moving your mindset from fixed to growth. This means actively embracing challenges as opportunities to learn and viewing any setbacks- or /lack of success as ‘not yet’ rather than failure.

This is like the classic story of Edison making 1000 attempts to create a light bulb. He did not say “I’ve failed,” he said “I’ve not got it right yet.” Use “I’m not there yet,” in your setbacks to help you focus on learning and growing from every experience. This will help you achieve better results in the end.

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Learned Optimism

optimism1The Idea: Thinking Habits and how to change them.

Known as the father of the new science of positive psychology, Martin E.P. Seligman draws on more than twenty years of clinical research to demonstrate how optimism enhances the quality of life, and how anyone can learn to practice it.

Habits of thinking, although learned in childhood and adolescence, need not be forever. Whilst mild pessimism has its uses, pessimistic prophecies are in general self-fulfilling. As we believe that life will be hard and we will never succeed, so we see that starting to come true.

Although life imposes the same setbacks and tragedies on the optimist as the pessimist, the optimist weathers them better, which leads to greater achievement at work, better physical health and even prolonged life.

The Action

Choose the way you think: optimism can be learned, taught and measured. By learning to speak to yourself about setbacks from a more encouraging viewpoint, you will build your resilience and ultimately improve the quality of both your work and home life. The tool for this is the three Ps – Personal, Permanent, Pervasive.

When you face a setback or something difficult, a pessimistic and confidence-damaging way of thinking is that it’s all your fault (personal), it will always be this bad (permanent) and actually this just proves that everything you do is a failure (pervasive to other areas of your life). Switch this round to “it’s not all my fault, I can learn from this and do better / avoid this in future and just because this went wrong here, it doesn’t mean it affects everything else – I can still be successful in other areas of my life.”

This is a more encouraging way of thinking that will help you focus on learning and feel better about the situation.

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Recruitment and a Positive Mindset

Totem Recruit HappyDoes your mindset make you more employable?

Traditionally we have been brought up to believe that if we work hard, we achieve more and then we might get the things we want and be happy.  But research over the past 12 years into the life habits and thinking of people who are successful, happy and fulfilled in all aspects of their lives reveals that we have this the wrong way round.

This research shows very clearly that the happiest people, or those that live fulfilled lives and have achieved consistently – they worked on being happy first.

How on earth does this apply to recruitment or even job hunting?  Here we take a closer look at the impact that bringing a positive mindset to your job hunting could have on your employment prospects.

Guess what happens if you click the image…?

job-hunting

 

 

 

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Growth or Fixed Mindsets?

Totem Mindset GrowthWhy does our mindset matter?  Let’s explore an experts research…

Carol Dweck’s research is world-renowned for its far-reaching importance and application in our work, personal life and our relationships.  Dweck’s research points to two types of mindset – and she found the mindset we have has a big impact on how we live, how we learn and how happy we can be.

Often our mindset is something that develops as we are growing up. We need to understand which mindset we lean towards and recognise the benefits of this mindset and the benefits of making a change.

To understand your current mindset and consider ways of thinking that can be more helpful, consider these questions:

Setting up a Business

Your good friend Jane is thinking of setting up her own business. She had a similar business a couple of years ago which she said she gave up on due to pressures at university, but a mutual acquaintance told you that she didn’t understand how businesses run.  Jane will come to you for advice on whether to pick it up again.  What are your initial thoughts?

A) She won’t succeed, she is not very business savvy

B) She should give it a go, she had to give up before as she had no choice

C) If she works really hard to understand her market, she is sure to succeed

Rock Star

You and your friend are at a music festival watching a band play. Your friend says to you  “I’d love to play guitar on stage, but I’d never be good enough… I’m all fingers and thumbs.”  What would you say?

A) Yes, you have to be really talented to make it in the music industry

B) Yes, its all about being in the right place at the right time, you have to be so lucky to get spotted

C) Yes you could, you just have to practise and find out how to get noticed

Totem Gummi Bears

If your answers are mainly A’s then you agreed with the Fixed Mindset statements.  These statements suggest that talent or ability are fixed and that is the main reason why the individual may not succeed; it cannot be improved upon.

If your responses are mainly B’s then you seem to think of things as being out of someone’s control.  That can be a different version of the Fixed Mindset – as it’s not about being smart, it’s about being lucky – and there’s not much we can do about that.

If your responses are mainly C’s then you agreed with the Growth Mindset statements. These statements suggest you believe that, even if you have limited talent, ability or skill, it is possible with hard work or practice that you can improve.

In general, people with a Growth Mindset enjoy success and failure, they are curious and learn every day and from every situation.  People with a Fixed Mindset work to stay within their comfort zone, look for opportunities to be praised and recognised within that comfort zone and for them failure can be extremely threatening.

Some tips for success regardless of your mindset:

  • Focus on your effort and persistence – stay positive
  • Build in some strategies / some approaches to learning in different ways, discover what works and what doesn’t for you
  • Look at how you like to learn and use this preference when needing to learn something new
  • Seek out challenges and things that push you a bit outside of your comfort zone – we don’t tend to learn big new things when we’re relaxed in our comfort zone
  • Recognise your talent/skill and see how you can improve on this

Most of us have aspects of both mindsets, but generally we tend to lean more towards one than the other-each of which has its implications.

Are you guaranteed a life of ease, wealth and success purely by having a Growth Mindset?  Of course not.  But you’re more likely to stay happy and healthy against life’s challenges with a Growth Mindset – and that can mean you spot more opportunities and find you can be more successful.

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