Points of You http://pointsofyoupro.com Mon, 22 Dec 2014 17:08:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Great Leadership is a No-Brainer! http://pointsofyoupro.com/great-leadership-is-a-no-brainer/ http://pointsofyoupro.com/great-leadership-is-a-no-brainer/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 17:01:28 +0000 http://pointsofyoupro.com/?p=1008 I have been designing and facilitating leadership workshops for more than two decades and those of us in the leadership development community finally have scientific research to support the effectiveness of best leadership practices. Simon Sinek has written a thought-provoking book called Leaders Eat Last that refers to the neurochemistry of leadership. It turns out that our brains were designed to get along with each other. This is critical for the survival of our species. In caveman days, the ability of tribes to cooperate was necessary so that tribe members could work together to fend off the threats in the environment such as sabre tooth tigers.

The modern day equivalent of Neanderthal tribes are organizational teams. And while company teams don’t face physical threats such as sabre tooth tigers, they face social and emotional threats from each other and from toxic managers. In fact, the neural mechanisms in the brain related to physical pain are the exact same ones as for social pain. Team members feel the same pain from feelings of rejection, social isolation, being treated unfairly, having one’s status threatened and not feeling part of the team as they would from being stabbed in the back (physical pain).

Simon Sinek writes in Leaders Eat Last that, “In the case of our biology, our bodies employ a system of positive and negative feelings – happiness, pride, joy or anxiety, for example – to promote behaviors that will enhance our ability to get things done and to cooperate”. Mother Nature has equipped us with neurotransmitters in our brains that are essential for our survival. Sinek identifies four primary neurotransmitters that receive, process and transfer information between neurons. The first two neurotransmitters, dopamine and endorphins, are “selfish chemicals” that bring about short term bursts of pleasure from doing things such as accomplishing a goal. The other two neurotransmitters are serotonin and oxytocin, that are “selfless chemicals” that motivate us to work together and develop feelings of trust and loyalty.

Therefore, those of us who continue to preach best leadership practices can take solace in the fact that the human brain functions best when we are working harmoniously with each other and when we are treated with respect, fairness and dignity. Conversely, when managers treat employees negatively and they feel threatened, the brain releases cortisol to the rest of the body to prepare it to deal with the threat. Those who work for toxic managers who continuously feel demeaned and degraded experience a continuous flow of cortisol – resulting in anxiety bouts, feelings of high stress and burnout. This results in bad morale, high levels of disengagement and turnover and a negative impact on the organization’s business results in the longer term.

It is imperative that Boards of Directors ensure that those responsible for leading their organizations incorporate best leadership practices in their management styles. The human brain was not designed to function effectively when feeling a constant level of threat. Leaders beware!

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How About a Brain Service Contract??!! http://pointsofyoupro.com/how-about-a-brain-service-contract/ http://pointsofyoupro.com/how-about-a-brain-service-contract/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 19:19:18 +0000 http://pointsofyoupro.com/?p=1000 If senior executives treated their employees in the same way that CEOs in manufacturing companies treated their production equipment, their organizations would be much more innovative, productive and profitable. In manufacturing operations, there is a significant focus on maintaining the effectiveness and efficiency of the machines that produce hard goods. Typically, such companies pay 12% of the cost of the equipment to ensure that it is well serviced and maintained. Senior managers are fully aware that, if a machine malfunctions and production stops, no revenues or profits are realized. There is a sense of urgency in management ranks to ensure that equipment is running smoothly and, additionally,that funds are spent freely for upgrades that can make any machine run faster and better.

While CEOs state that employees are their most valuable assets, they tend to know more about the company’s equipment than they know about its human resources. While they’re willing to spend 12% of their machines’ cost in service, they’re reluctant to pay anything close to that percentage of payroll on their people. While they’ll spend funds to increase the productivity of their machines, they are very hesitant to invest in training programs that will increase the productivity of their workers. The disconnect is glaring and inconsistent with the belief that people are the organization’s most valuable assets.

Just like a machine’s motor is the guts of the equipment, a person’s brain is the source of an employee’s behaviours, motivations and actions. And just like a machine’s motor has service maintenance requirements, a person’s brain needs to be maintained and kept in top shape.  The problem is that, until recently, while we know lots about machine maintenance, we know little about maintenance of the human brain. That’s all changing as research in the field of neuroscience is   giving us important knowledge that can increase the mental health of an organization’s workers – resulting in higher productivity, output, morale, engagement, commitment, innovation and employee retention.

David Rock, executive director of the Neuroleadership Institute and Dan Siegel, executive director of the Mindsight Institute, have created a model called The Healthy Mind Platter, that is very helpful in understanding how to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the human brain. This model reveals that the brain works at peak capacity when it:

  • is focused
  • is allowed to enjoy novel experiences and play
  • connects to other people
  • is in good physical shape
  • is allowed reflection time
  • is allowed down time, and
  • gets sufficient rest and sleep

This an excellent prescription for our organizations’ leaders to start paying attention to the brains of their employees in much the same way they have been conditioned to focus on the motors of their machines. It is incredible to me that the above is not included in any Management or Leadership 101 program. It’s about time that leaders start to change their paradigms.

 

 

 

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The All-Important Question of Why? http://pointsofyoupro.com/the-all-important-question-of-why/ http://pointsofyoupro.com/the-all-important-question-of-why/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 18:40:36 +0000 http://pointsofyoupro.com/?p=996 Simon Sinek has written a thought-provoking book titled, “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”. In this book, Sinek states that most companies define themselves by describing what they do instead of why they are in business. Sinek argues that the companies that focus on the why deliver superior returns to their shareholders in the longer term compared to their competitors.

Focusing on what a company does is a natural left-brain response. The language center of the brain resides in the neocortex and so it is relatively easy to describe in words what your organization does. Typical responses are: “We manufacture widgets” or “We deliver high quality services to the high end of the market” or “We offer low prices and high value to our customers” or “We utilize our superior logistical infrastructure to bring exceptional value to our customers”.  There’s nothing wrong with these answers but the problem is that they lack any emotional punch. They fail to resonate with employees and customers.

Focusing on why a company is in business is the key to attracting and retaining top talent and customers. A company’s why connects to the brain’s emotional center (limbic system) which is essential in creating long term employee and customer loyalty. The why focuses on the organization’s main purpose, cause or belief to which a core group of employees and customers relate. These core employees and customers will be able to describe what the company does but this will not result in establishing longer term loyalty. It is when employees and customers link their core values and beliefs to the company’s why that they establish an emotional bond and a connection for life. It is the key reason that organizations such as Apple, Harley-Davidson, Zappos, Disney, Google, Southwest Airlines and Starbucks continue to thrive even though their products and services aren’t really superior to those of their competitors. These companies attract employees and customers who deeply connect with their whys - establishing fierce loyalties that last a lifetime. This is the key to long term profitability – connecting with employees and customers who connect with the company’s why and who will not leave despite the existence of superior competitive products, pricing and promotions.

It is clear that the what of my business (Myelin Leadership) revolves around developing leaders. However, many other competitors will say the same thing. Then I thought about Myelin’s why and I realize that we exist to inspire managers to challenge existing management practices to create company cultures in which they, their peers and direct reports and organizations will flourish and thrive. We want to work with dynamic and forward-thinking managers who  1. aren’t afraid to challenge existing processes and paradigms, 2. want to inspire others with exciting visions of the future and 3. understand the value of empowering others to achieve great results.

What is your company’s why? What is your own personal why? These are the most important leadership questions that anyone can ask him/herself.

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Learning Made to Stick http://pointsofyoupro.com/learning-made-to-stick/ http://pointsofyoupro.com/learning-made-to-stick/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 17:54:44 +0000 http://pointsofyoupro.com/?p=992 Authors Brown, Roediger III and McDaniel, in their excellent book, Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, challenge commonly accepted approaches to learning and recommend several learning strategies that are supported by neuroscience. It is thought that “massed practice” (practising something over and over again) is an effective learning strategy but the authors debunk this myth by suggesting that this strategy will not embed newly learned principles into longer term memory.

The authors suggest several strategies that will build the neural networks in the brain that are key to long term material retention:

  • Spaced out practice
  • Interleaving subject matters
  • Retrieving new learning from memory
  • Elaboration
  • Generation
  • Reflection
  • Extraction

They make a strong case that, in order to be effective, learning takes time and effort and that there are no shortcuts to encode new principles and skills into long term memory. Perhaps this is why so many corporate training programs fall off the rails – training professionals are looking for “quick fixes” that simply don’t exist.

Anyone who has ever experienced Points of You knows that this is a highly effective and results-oriented way for adults to learn. The use of evocative photos, storytelling and inspirational stories and quotations are proven in helping embed new skills and subject matters into long term memory. The Points of You approach to learning works because:

  • Visuals are very effective with regards to long term memory retention
  • Telling stories helps people in the process of “elaboration” – giving new material meaning by expressing it in one’s own words and connecting it with existing knowledge
  • Visuals and storytelling help expand people’s perspectives and are instrumental in helping them think about problems in greater depth – a key learning strategy (generation) that helps reinforce long term learning
  • Learners are encouraged to reflect on their personal stories and derive meaning from them
  • Learners can tell stories that personalize their experiences with new material and help extract key concepts that are critical in the learning process

It is high time that training professionals start to learn about the human brain and understand the processes involved in long term memory. If they do so, they will understand that many of their training programs are based on false learning assumptions and need to be revamped. At Points of You, we are proud to be pioneering much-needed changes in the training industry.

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The Brain’s Emotional & Social Reality http://pointsofyoupro.com/the-brains-emotional-social-reality/ http://pointsofyoupro.com/the-brains-emotional-social-reality/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 18:01:06 +0000 http://pointsofyoupro.com/?p=988 It is about time that management teams start to manage their employees in a way that recognizes how the human brain functions. Neuroscience is giving executives insight into the brain with corresponding management and leadership implications.

Some examples of how neuroscience is helping challenge such workplace principles are:

  • Our attention is limited and we do a small amount of quality thinking every day. We are easily distracted but our workplace environments provide a multitude of distractions and little time for quality thinking.
  • We don’t understand the importance of emotions in human communications. Our work cultures tend to emphasize suppressing emotions but neuroscience reveals that this activates our limbic systems and depletes resources from our prefrontal cortices. This makes us less smart, is bad for memory (emotions are important in memory retention) and creates a threat response in others.
  • The human brain is social and huge amounts of the brain are dedicated to social interaction. The same brain network for feeling physical pain is used for feeling social pain. Yet the majority if work cultures deny this reality and work against the five components of the SCARF mode (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness).
  • Attention itself changes the brain. However, the majority of corporate change management initiatives do not focus employees’ attention on the few key priorities.

It seems that the newer generation of companies, unencumbered by decades of management thinking based on early twentieth century work environments, have introduced modern management practices that  not only engage their employees but are instrumental in rallying their workforces to achieve concrete business objectives. Some examples are:

  •  Google understands that employees, in order to generate insights that move the business ahead, need to have some down time (thus, their 20% down time policy).
  • Companies like Zappos and SAS have implemented HR policies that recognize the social and emotional realities of the human brain – with excellent results related to employee engagement and business growth.
  • Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, has implemented a series of principles at the company that recognize the need to have employees work collaboratively (leverage their social brains) and accept and even embrace change (recognize the brain’s natural tendency to resist change) – with obvious great success.

When will business leaders in the rest of the business world take notice and teach their managers to lead their employees based on a new understanding of how the human brain functions?

 

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The Key to Effective Change – Get Rid of the Green Stripes! http://pointsofyoupro.com/the-key-to-effective-change-get-rid-of-the-green-stripes/ http://pointsofyoupro.com/the-key-to-effective-change-get-rid-of-the-green-stripes/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 13:32:43 +0000 http://pointsofyoupro.com/?p=984 During the 1970s, Procter & Gamble, a world leader in consumer packaged goods with brands like Crest and Tide, was caught off guard when a competitor, Colgate, launched a new product Irish Spring. The green-striped Irish Spring was the first such soap bar launched in North America and proved to be quite successful. This didn’t sit well with senior management at Procter & Gamble, who prided themselves in being market innovators.

Procter & Gamble wanted to launch a product that competed against Irish Spring but that  just wasn’t a “me-too” product – it had to be superior to the competitive offering. The product development team went to work but couldn’t produce a better green-striped bar that delivered superior performance compared to Irish Spring. A young Min Basadur, founder of Basadur Applied Creativity and the renowned Simplexity Thinking process, was called in to help the team overcome their inertia. Dr. Basadur discovered that the team defined its problem as “How might we make a green-striped bar that consumers will prefer over Irish Spring?”

This definition of the problem greatly restricted the range of creative solutions that the team was under pressure to produce. Dr. Basadur engaged the group in a problem definition exercise which resulted in changing the problem to the broader “How might we better connote refreshment in a soap bar?” This opened up the creativity process which resulted in a blue- and white- swirled bar with a unique odor and shape called Coast. The brand became a market success. By narrowing the definition of the problem and jumping straight to generating solutions, the team wasted a half-year.

What are the “green stripes” in your organization? The problem is that, after experiencing years of success in a marketplace, companies get caught up in their own worlds and have trouble looking at complex issues with fresh perspectives. Neuroscience tells us that, after we repeat patterns of behaviour over time, they become embedded in an area of the brain called the basal ganglia. We repeat these deeply embedded behaviours without conscious thought over and over again.   This restricts our ability to think creatively. The problem is that the world continues to change but we become limited by our own green stripes – stifling our ability to innovate.

The key to effective change is to get rid off your green stripes and broaden your perspectives. This appliers equally to individuals, teams, departments and organizations. The Simplexity Thinking process is a dynamic methodology designed to help you and your organization overcome your green stripe limitations and increase your ability to generate creative solutions. Contact us for details.

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Corporate Cultures That Become Barriers to Business Success http://pointsofyoupro.com/corporate-cultures-that-become-barriers-to-business-success/ http://pointsofyoupro.com/corporate-cultures-that-become-barriers-to-business-success/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 20:40:28 +0000 http://pointsofyoupro.com/?p=979 It amazes me how many corporate cultures get in the way of employee engagement, morale, productivity and creativity. Such cultures are based on a foundation of numbers, logic, spreadsheets, analysis, strategic planning, ROI, rules and regulations, etc. and view their employees as Mr. Spock-like machines who lack emotion and don’t have to time to engage in real conversations with their colleagues let alone think out of the box and innovate. Company founders and senior managers of such companies see these restrictive cultures as critical to the success of the organization (based on past success) instead of what they really are - a source of employee disengagement and a barrier to creativity.

I have had several experiences dealing with personnel from such overbearing cultures that refute management’s thinking that their left-brain employees don’t value communication, innovation and feeling empowered:

  • Management of an international organization vehemently argued that their managers who participated in a two-day Points of You Authentic Leadership workshop would never open up, talk from the heart, tell their stories and connect with each other. They were wrong. Participants called the workshop the best learning experience they ever had.
  • Senior managers of an accounting company were stunned when 42 of their accountants participated in a workshop that had them use crayons, glue, stickers, photos and other art supplies to create storyboards that reflected the company’s existing and desired positioning in the marketplace. The creativity that was unleashed was powerful.
  • The CEO and CFO of an international mining company couldn’t believe that 70 of their high potential managers from around the world (who were engineers and geologists), participating in a two-day Leadership Forum, initiated an open and honest dialogue process while telling rich and inspiring leadership stories about the company – building trust and relationships in the process.
  • The COO of a non-profit organization was thrilled to see his left-brain Operations managers, for the first time ever, talk openly during a one-day Points of You workshop, about the team’s issues, create a movie storyboard that represented their vision for the future and communicate with each other in an empathetic and inspiring manner.

Accountants, engineers, geologists, software code writers, financial advisors, production line workers, etc., while being left brain thinkers, do not go home at night to their families and talk like  robots – they are empathetic, emotional and caring family members and friends. Unfortunately, many of the companies they work for have corporate cultures that tie them up in straightjackets, deny their humanity and restrict their creativity. Senior managers of these organizations, who defend these rigid and stifling cultures, end up putting their companies at great risk moving forward in a competitive and fast-changing world.

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The Brain’s Organizing Principle http://pointsofyoupro.com/the-brains-organizing-principle/ http://pointsofyoupro.com/the-brains-organizing-principle/#comments Sun, 20 Apr 2014 19:10:35 +0000 http://pointsofyoupro.com/?p=975 Dr. Evian Gordon, CEO of Brain Resource, has a brain model called “Brain 1-2-4″. Its central premise is that:

1 - The brain’s organizing principle is focused on “Minimize Danger – Maximize Reward”.

2 – There are two modes of processing in the brain – nonconscious and conscious.

4 – The brain has four key processes: Emotion – Feeling – Thinking – Self Regulation.

Emotion

There is an automatic  emotion reaction to a stimulus that is either threatening or rewarding to you. Emotion processes start within a fifth of a second and occur at an unconscious level – you aren’t aware that they are kicking into gear.

Feeling

Feeling is the conscious experience of an unconscious emotional reaction. It takes around half a second and occurs when you are consciously aware of feedback from your body (i.e. an increase in your heart rate, a change in your breathing pattern, etc.).  You can control the Feeling process (i.e. by slowing down your breathing).

Thinking

The timescales for Thinking are half a second or longer and involve conscious focus, memory and planning to enable  concentration on relevant verbal and abstract information and making the best decisions (in reaction to the threatening or rewarding stimulus).

Self Regulation

Self Regulation is the capacity to manage your automatic, unconscious reaction and your conscious feelings, thoughts and goals. This process is key to optimizing decision-making and solutions over seconds, days and longer.

Every fifth of a second, your brain is inconsciously scanning its physical and social environment for cues. Your Emotions put a reactive weighting on all other brain processes. and it’s usually negative.

By understanding the brain’s organizing principle and the unconscious emotional processing mode, leaders can focus on the brain’s need to feel safe before it can effectively seek Reward. Best leadership practices create such safety, resulting in the brain releasing dopamine, a key neurotransmitter related to Reward. A cycle of success ensues. Toxic leadership practices have the opposite effect – the brain’s limbic system kicks in, adrenaline is released and a downward cycle follows.

Neuroscience has taught us how the human brain functions and the critical role of unconscious emotional processing – leaders take note.

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Making Learning Stick http://pointsofyoupro.com/making-learning-stick/ http://pointsofyoupro.com/making-learning-stick/#comments Sat, 05 Apr 2014 17:37:19 +0000 http://pointsofyoupro.com/?p=971 It is estimated that 80% of training dollars are wasted every year by North American companies. The truth is that the majority of corporate work cultures are not conducive to best teaching and learning practices. These workplaces are fast-paced, stressful environments where employees’ brains are overtaxed and in constant overload. This reality carries on to corporate training efforts where learning is often crammed into one or two day events designed to teach a plethora of new principles in a short period of time. This is a recipe for disaster as odds are that the learning principles will never be encoded into the long-term memories of workshop participants.

Unfortunately, online learning suffers from the reality that it is difficult to capture learners’ attention among so many competing distractions – reading and replying to emails, trying to cope with background noise and interruptions by colleagues, reading pressing documents on one’s desk, etc.

Emerging knowledge of the brain has taught us that there are five critical ways to encode newly-learned principles in the human brain. These often run counter to actual training practices in modern organizations. Work by the NeuroLeadership Institute concludes that, if you want to maximize ROI on your training & development initiatives and make learning stick on a longer term basis, it is important to understand the following five learning principles:

    1. Focused attention – One must be paying full attention. This increases the probability that one is engaging his/her hippocampus and the probability of successful memory formation.  Research concludes that divided attention hurts encoding (the hippocampus is not engaged).
    2. Levels of processing - Encoding is enhanced when one attends to information on a deeper semantic level (thinking about what things mean, how they fit together or reminding oneself of previous experiences).
    3. Distributed practice – If one wants to remember something, one is better off studying information with a period of time in between (as opposed to repetitively studying information all at once; at one point in time). The rest interval between study periods allows memories to partially consolidate.
    4. Context - Context involves where one was when he/she experienced something and  can serve as a good cue to recover memories. External context contains stimuli that become associated with the learned material and that are useful clues for eliciting retrieval of these memories.
    5. Generation - Generating information leads to better retention than simply reading it. For example, continuing to discuss what you’re learning after studying improves retention.

Let’s start re-thinking our training & development programs and apply fundamental neuroscience principles that are proven to make learning stick.  Not only will the ROI on these programs significantly increase - so will their impact on your business.

 

 

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The Key to Delighting Customers: Bring a SCARF to Work! http://pointsofyoupro.com/the-key-to-delighting-customers-bring-a-scarf-to-work/ http://pointsofyoupro.com/the-key-to-delighting-customers-bring-a-scarf-to-work/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 20:04:26 +0000 http://pointsofyoupro.com/?p=967 Chris Hurn’s son was distraught. He had left his favorite stuffed giraffe “Joshie” in his hotel room during a recent stay at the Ritz-Carlton. Mr. Hurn, in an effort to placate his distressed son, assured him that Joshie had decided to stay a few extra days on vacation. Mr. Hurn then called the Ritz Carlton and related the story to the staff.

The dedicated employees of the hotel sprung into action. They photographed Joshie at the Ritz-Carlton in a series of activities that the stuffed giraffe was involved in – including lounging by the pool, working at a computer and receiving a spa treatment. They emailed the photos to Mr. Hurn’s son – reassuring the boy that Joshie was busy and having the time of his life.

Ritz-Carlton has a reputation of a company that consistently delivers an extraordinary experience to its customers. But such superior customer service doesn’t just happen. Management at the Ritz-Carlton understands that the key to delivering “knock your socks off” customer service is to develop employees who are highly engaged with the company, its mission and its intense focus on delivering a superlative customer experience.

If the key to creating positive customer experiences is to develop highly engaged employees, then how does management proceed? Unfortunately, the majority of North American businesses, with their maniacal focus on profits, numbers, analytics, spreadsheets and planning have missed the boat. They view employees as expendable commodities that are replaceable and a drain on profits.

Fortunately, the emerging field of neuroscience has given executives key insights into the brains of their workforces that suggest that it is essential that they incorporate best leadership practices that create highly-engaged employees who deliver unsurpassed customer experiences. It turns out that our brains are wired to connect with each other. In fact, our need to socialize with each other is even more basic than our need for food and shelter. If executives create company cultures that promote respect for our social nature as well as core human values, they will produce highly engaged workforces..

How exactly can executives go about doing this? David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, offers some sound advice. His SCARF model, which stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness, offers neuroscientific proof that, pursuing the following leadership actions actually activate the reward regions in the brain and generate high levels of engagement:

  • Enhancing an employee’s status
  • Creating a sense of certainty, particularly in times of change
  • Creating a sense of autonomy that an employee has some sense of control over his/her environment
  • Creating a sense of belonging to the team and company
  • Treating employees fairly

Mr. Rock presents evidence that decreasing the five SCARF domains activates the pain regions in the brain and provokes the ‘fight or flight’ response – resulting in disengaged workers.

So, marketers, wake up! If you want to create a culture based on delivering superior customer experiences, engage your employees by wearing a SCARF to work. Just ask Joshie the toy giraffe.

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