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Facilitation Supports Collaborative Decision-Making

April 2, 2014

“There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers flourish.” Warren Bennis

dancersGood facilitators create a curious and safe environment that promotes singing, dancing and decision-making!  Organizations seek facilitation when they value an integrated group process with lasting results.  A well facilitated process focuses on building Collaborative Intelligence™. A good facilitator works with the leaders to ensure a well-designed and run event, which can take many shapes and sizes.  It can be an offsite, a retreat/advance, a high conflict session or a discussion by a well-functioning team looking to expand their skills.  There are times we help an organization with employees in conflict select between a facilitated process and a mediated process.  In mediation a neutral third party assists others in arriving at a mutually acceptable decision, but doesn’t add his or her own thoughts to the process.  In facilitation, the facilitator actively assists the parties in brainstorming options and solutions.  It is always important, though, that the decisions are made by the participants.

Collaborative Growth provides facilitation for elected boards and commissions, executive sessions, organizational retreats or advances and employees in conflict.  There are many elements in common for all the processes.  Possibly the most important is that the facilitator elegantly promotes the full participation by all parties.  This calls for guiding those who want to over-participate to pull back on their comments while the facilitator invites the more quiet introverts to share their insights and questions.

At a recent facilitation a participant commented on the great benefit he and others were receiving because of our reading and responding to the non-verbal messages from the team members.  It is important for the facilitator to notice when someone wants to speak, acknowledge that and then remember to get to that person in order of others who have indicated a desire to speak.  Non-verbal communication can also include indications of discomfort with a topic such that the facilitator calls on the person making his or her participation safe, saying something such as “Jason, give us your thoughts on the challenges or possible concerns with this approach.”

Facilitation benefits include:

  • The comfort for participants is increased because they know they will all receive help in speaking up with balance and respect for one another.
  • The leader can participate as he or she doesn’t have to be in charge of managing everyone else’s participation.
  • A highly interactive and engaging process can occur.
  • The facilitator structures the topics without stifling creativity thus helping the group take time to vet a decision and then consider all aspects of implementing and working with the decision.
  • The facilitator guides the group to apply reality testing to potential decisions and to access if it can get done and by when and to identify and assign responsible parties.
  • The facilitator can help the participants combine their EQ and their IQ.

Good facilitation is welcomed by organizations when done well.  That means it is focused on assisting all parties to participate, reach sustainable solutions and along the way provide assistance in resolving conflict and exploring difficult topics. Curiosity is welcome and promoted.  Imagine what can be created – Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talent.  I am only passionately curious.”

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Building Team Resilience Through Positive Mood

February 24, 2014

PIE-color-pos-mood Positive attitudes on your team will build resilience and influence every dimension of teamwork. Positivity will impact how well people get along with one another, how pleased they are to be on the team, their motivation and their creative thinking. That is why this is one of the seven team competencies the TESI® (Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey®) measures. Research Dr. Barbara Fredrickson describes in her books Positivity and Love 2.0 provides the scientific grounding to prove the power of positive engagement. Because most work is accomplished through teams, we are finding a tremendous thirst to better understand what this means for teams and how to assist teams in growing their positive mood.

Developing teams is a complex challenge that never stops requiring positive and proactive attention. One of the challenges to team effectiveness is the tendency for people to think and act individually and objectively, that is to focus exclusively on the task rather than each other. Busy team members can become so externally focused on projects and customers that they don’t focus on themselves or on the team. This lack of internal team focus can feel safer for several reasons: 1) addressing interpersonal relationships can seem much less controllable or scientific and less predictable and thus too uncertain; 2) team members may not be trained to be good at team or human dynamics, they enjoy being an expert but they aren’t expert in this situation; 3) their external focus in getting all the jobs done may leave them drained with little energy left for the team, and this is often compounded by highly demanding organizational politics; and 4) the team leader may be a technical expert in his/her production world but likely is not trained to be a team leader and to manage complex interpersonal situations and to build motivation while maintaining accountability; and 5) the full organization may not be aware of the challenges their teams are experiencing nor understand how they could support the team in effective change. This is why your team needs to make conscious, intentional efforts to build its positivity and resilience if you want to maximize productivity.

Art Aron, a human relations scientist, conducted research that shows how people move from a sense of separation – me and you – to a sense of being together – us or we. His research was done with couples, but the same principles apply to teams, which are a group of people working together to solve problems. The more overlap the individual team members see between each other, the more likely they will have a sense of “us” and that leads to a series of positive results. The more positive we are with each other, the more overlap we see between ourselves and others and that leads to feeling more openness and connection with others. In turn, this increased connection leads to helpful responses among team members that build trust – team members learn they can rely on considerate and supportive responses from one another. Most people will say they agree with the maxim that “All of us are smarter than one of us.” Understanding the dynamics of positive mood helps show us how to act in order to achieve its powerful effects.

Fredrickson writes that positivity broadens one’s view from “me” to “us” and then to “all of us” not just the part of the group that looks or thinks like you. Thus building positive attitudes within your team will expand the effectiveness of your diversity efforts. We often talk about emotions being highly contagious and that’s so for positivity, as well as for negativity. This makes it important for team leaders as well as all team members to be intentionally positive. Fredrickson explains that “positivity spreads because people unconsciously mimic emotional gestures and facial expressions of those around you … positivity breeds helpful, compassionate acts.” Furthermore, she points out that when we act positively with others we are likely proud of our engagement and “pride broadens your mindset by igniting your visions about other and larger ways in which you might be helpful.” (Positivity, pp. 69-70) We are certain that’s what you want for your teams.

Furthermore, positivity is central to the ability to collaborate which is based on the ability to work jointly with one another, to listen to different perspectives and to find common answers. Collaborative Growth’s team model demonstrates how we bring team emotional and social intelligence competencies together to create collaborative intelligence. Frankly one of the easiest team strengths to build is positive mood so practice this and you will also build your team’s resilience.

Building Resilience and Positive Mood

resilience_meterppt100Resilience and positive mood are tightly connected. Resilience includes the ability to bounce back and relies on teams having a reserve to tap into when big challenges hit. That reserve is built by how we treat each other and what we expect of one another. The more positive members of a team are, the deeper the reserve and the less often they are likely to need to tap into it. Positivity builds perspective so teams take challenges in stride rather than making a big deal of them and increasing their stress instead of their resilience.

 

Tips and Strategies

resilience_meterppt_rev2Use your emotional intelligence to grow your teams’ positivity and resilience. Key team competencies focused on in the TESI are Positive Mood and Stress Tolerance. Of course while you’re building this team competency you will find that some team members are more positive than others so you will need to work with the whole team while respecting the individual differences as the team builds composite resilient strength. Tips you might use are:

  • Build the habit of finding people doing something well and publicly thank them.
  • Start team meetings with a discussion of something that’s worked well recently. Then the team can move to strategic analysis and of how to cross map that skill to other requirements.
  • Social connections are at the heart of team success so take time for building connections – and emphasize it even more if you have a virtual team. Do something fun together, have a pot luck lunch, and start meetings with going around the team and asking everyone to comment on something particularly interesting or important to them.
  • Find purposefulness in the team work so the team feels the sense of being a part of something bigger than itself. A traditional way to do this is with Mission, Vision and Values statements. Make sure those statements are meaningful and that the team feels ownership and takes pride in them or they won’t help.
  • Support team members in taking time to be relaxed with each other so caring relationships are built resulting in the natural desire to shield each other’s back when needed.
  • Respond to comments made by one another. People want to be heard more than they want to be right. Applying skills such as active listening and empathetic responses will help people feel acknowledged and valued and that builds positivity and engagement.
  • Intentionally tap into the team wisdom. Your team knows what they need, however you may need to facilitate their recognizing and employing that wisdom. Take creative brainstorming time to explore topics such as: “What works that we can expand?” and “What do we want that we can influence?”

Recognize that positivity and trust go hand in hand because positivity supports deepening relationships. Develop positivity deliberately and expansively for the benefit of all individuals, teams and the organization.

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Manage Your Resilience Meter: Your Guide to Positivity, Productivity and Well-Being

February 1, 2014

resilience_meterppt_rev2Managing resilience in today’s fast paced world of high expectations is tough.  Change and challenge are often the norm whether it comes from a new program being unveiled, a complete reshuffle due to a merger or parents moving into a care facility.  Too often the challenges become just too much and frequently trigger inflexibility, feelings of overwhelm and loss of composure.

You can build your capabilities so challenging times don’t take you out.  Watch your resilience meter grow to full potential! Emotional Intelligence (EI) skills are fundamental to managing these stress points and maintaining health and well-being.  Six EI skills are pivotal to building your reservoir of emotional reserves: emotional self-awareness, self-regard, impulse control, stress tolerance, optimism, and flexibility.  A healthy use of these skills will build your positivity and create the leverage to promote success at the workplace and personally.

Resilience is of growing interest as researchers demonstrate its influence on physical and mental health, well-being, the aging process and overall quality of life.  Additionally there is growing recognition of the benefits to teams and workplace productivity with a resilient workforce.  There is also a connection with the willingness to take on risks and to explore creative options. If we feel more positive about ourselves and life, we have the energy to experiment.

You have many strategies available to help expand your resilience.  This article will provide tips and strategies as well as review some of the key recognitions about resilience and its connection with positivity.  The root for the word “resilience” is “resile,” which means “to bounce or spring back.” Thus a key part of the definition of resilience is to bounce back.  The definition has expanded to include the ability to contain challenges and to develop reserves that can be tapped into when one is faced with environmental pressures and demands.  When we speak of resilience, we are referring to the ability to keep things in perspective so that many potential challenges are simply taken in stride.  When a large challenge surfaces, there is likely to be stress, but the reserve strength built with resilience allows us to contain the issue rather than going down a negative and downward spiral that starts feeding itself.

Assets and resources within us, our lives and our environment facilitate the capacity for adapting and bouncing back when there is adversity.  Our resilience is likely to ebb and flow not only across our lifetime but even across the day or week if there is a lot going on.  Yet, the more habits we have developed to build and maintain our positivity, the less we will give in to negative emotions and the more we will intentionally seek positive emotions that will enhance our capacities.

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Positivity, Crown Publishing, (2009) and Love 2.0, Hudson St. Press, (2013), has provided a great deal to help us understand the field of positivity, which is closely related to resilience.  Should you be working as a coach or team facilitator it’s likely you’ll use the two concepts interchangeably.  As a lead scientist in the field of positivity, Fredrickson demonstrates through her research and that of colleagues that living with a high level of positivity has measurably positive results.

Benefits of Positivity / Resilience

•    Psychological benefits include being more optimistic, more open minded and more willing to check out possibilities.  First, being positive feels good!  Being open minded is critical to noticing and considering multiple options to a challenge.  It means that money, resources, or possibilities aren’t left on the table because our vision is too narrow to see them.  Negativity constricts our thinking and our vision.  It’s costly!
•    Mental benefits include expanding awareness and mindfulness.  It opens our thinking capacity to new possibilities. With positivity we can be better at savoring what works instead of being focused on what doesn’t.  Right away you can see the difference in your stress levels and the toll taken when you are focusing on the positive compared to the negative.

•    Social benefits pay out at the individual, team and workplace levels.  With positivity we have more resilience. Emotions are contagious, thus sharing positive emotions and actions creates an upward spiral of expanding relationships, which then creates reserves for getting through hard times and conflict together.  Resilience is indispensable if collaboration is truly going to occur. There is also interesting research showing that when we approach people with an emphasis on positive engagement racial bias is reduced or disappears.  Positivity, p. 67-68. That has amazing potential!
•    Physical benefits include a higher quality of life and a longer one.  As Barbara Fredrickson writes “positivity is now linked to solid and objective biological markers of health.  For instance, people’s positivity predicts lower levels of stress-related hormones and higher levels of growth related and bond related hormones. Positivity also sends out more dopamine and opioids, enhances immune system functioning and diminishes inflammatory responses to stress.  With positivity you are literally steeped in a different biochemical stew.”  Positivity, pp. 93-94. Thus positivity results in lower blood pressure, less pain, fewer colds and better sleep.  Rest assured for this and the many other health benefits she cites, she backs her assertions up with research citations.  There is even research showing the power of hugs, wonderful, feel-good, authentically caring touch.  Now we knew that, didn’t we!
Three studies reported in a 2006 article on resilience and positivity later in life found that daily positive emotions serve to moderate stress reactivity and mediate stress recovery. They found that differences in psychological resilience accounted for meaningful variation in daily emotional responses to stress. Higher resilience predicted that negative emotions wouldn’t be as impactful, particularly on days characterized by heightened stress. Additionally they found that the experience of positive emotions functions to assist high-resilient individuals in their ability to recover effectively from daily stress. “Psychological resilience, positive emotions, and successful adaptation to stress in later life.” By Ong, Anthony D.; Bergeman, C. S.; Bisconti, Toni L.; Wallace, Kimberly A. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 91(4), Oct 2006, 730-749.

Tips and Strategies
Use your emotional intelligence to grow your positivity and be more resilient.  This is an internal strength so the key skills to grow, which are found in the EQi 2.0 are: self-regard, emotional self-awareness, stress tolerance, flexibility, impulse control and optimism.  The key team competencies focused on in the TESI are Positive Mood and Stress Tolerance.

You can expand your individual resilience by:
•    Redefining productivity from working on emails to getting with someone
•    Prioritize meditation, fun and family
•    Recognize that you are a part of something bigger than yourself
•    Embrace your bigger YES!
•    Develop your 2% Solution as I describe in my book, Life’s 2% Solution.

Team resilience can be expanded by:
•    Recognize that positivity and trust go hand in hand because positivity supports deepening relationships.  Develop positivity deliberately.
•    Social connections are at the heart of team success so take time for building connections – and emphasize it even more if you have a virtual team.  Do something fun together, have a pot luck lunch, and start meetings with going around the team and asking everyone to comment on something particularly interesting or important to them.
•    Our sense of connection drives our willingness to be helpful.  This is the heart of collaboration.  Create connections, have team members work in small groups and then take time to reflect on the experience.  Build awareness of the interpersonal connections as well as of the objective details of the project.

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Communicating Around the Team Table

January 6, 2014

group_peopleAsk any team what they need to improve most and they are like to say “Communications!” And they are right. Any team that communicates well has the foundational tools to respond well to stress, conflict, changes and to have a positive mood. So there’s a lot in it for you as a team leader or team member to improve team communications. Fortunately, this can be done. Remember all those phrases like an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or a stitch in time saves nine. Apply this tested savvy to teams and you know it’s time to improve how you speak and listen to one another. This is one of the seven competencies in the Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Survey® (TESI®), described in our book The Emotionally Intelligent Team. But if communication is so important why is it often such a failure? Frankly, it’s not a complex answer. The skills needed have not been taught, fostered and insisted upon; mediocrity is too often accepted. Let’s start with noting the key parts to good communication.

Communication is what team members do to connect with others so that they can understand the collection of goals that are being pursued and how well each team member is proceeding in the attempt to satisfy his/her needs. Communication consists of the following ingredients as identified in The Emotionally Intelligent Team:
• Sender: the person who transmits the information
• Receiver: the person to whom the information is transmitted
• Message: the information transmitted
• Meaning: the intent of the message
• Feeling: adds depth to the message
• Technique: how the message is communicated

Communication is how people interact with each other so they can satisfy their needs and desires to make life better. To communicate, one person (the sender) must transmit information to someone else (the receiver). This message can go to the whole team or to one person, but there has to be an effective exchange of a message or there is no communication. For example, if a team member speaks about an issue, and another team member later believes he or she never heard of the topic, communication did not occur.

For effective communication to occur, the sender’s meaning must also be clearly understood by the receiver. Meaning is conveyed by both verbal and nonverbal communication. If the sender’s words are encouraging but he or she is looking down when speaking, the message and meaning are mixed. Nonverbal communication is likely to convey more of the truth, so it is important that the sender’s verbal and nonverbal messages are congruent in order for the meaning to be accurately understood.

All communication has meaning, from the trivial – “Please post a notice of our meeting” – to that of huge consequence – “The building is on fire!” The feeling component adds even more depth to the meaning.

Finally, technique is critical for effective communication. Without the awareness and implementation of effective techniques, the message, meaning, and feeling in the communication is lost. The following exercises will help build team communication. We have provided many tips and exercises for working with team communications in our Team Emotional and Social Intelligence Facilitator’s Guide – TESI® Short. Strengthening communication requires paying attention to the learning styles and preferences of the intended recipients and presenting the information accordingly. It requires patience which leads to slowing down enough to check in and see if you are understood. Most of all effective communication is highly rewarding, even if you slow down you get things done faster because when the sender and receiver are communicating the results are sustainable.

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10 Actions to Make Your 2014 a Year of Authentic Success

November 30, 2013

success_pathDoes this picture reflect a conversation between your ideal self (how you would most like to live) and your real self (how you really live)?  Authentic success integrates these two parts into a happier and more successful you.  Our article was so successful as a way to frame moving into the New Year, that it’s back by popular demand.

Authentic success begets peace of mind because you are living and working in accordance with your values, strengths, and your sense of purpose instead of living in conflict.  Reaching this highly desired state requires personal awareness.  Without it you will be missing the joy from your current wealth by only focusing on what hasn’t happened.  Happiness and optimism, both components of emotional intelligence, are vital to experiencing authentic success.  The following 10 Actions are based on years of research in the fields of emotional intelligence and positive psychology and set forth choices you can make to change the quality of your life in 2014.

10 Actions to Make Your
2014 a Year of Authentic Success

  1. Define happiness.  Know what you are looking for when you are seeking happiness.  True happiness isn’t the quick food fix; even Belgian chocolates bring a temporary response.  As an article by Carlin Flora, “The Pursuit of Happiness” in Psychology Today states, “The most useful definition – and it’s one agreed upon by neuroscientists, psychiatrists, behavioral economists, positive psychologists, and Buddhist monks – is more like satisfied or content than ‘happy’ in its strict bursting-with-glee sense.  It has depth and deliberation to it.  It encompasses living a meaningful life, utilizing your gifts and your time, living with thought and purpose.  It’s maximized when you also feel part of a community. And when you confront annoyances and crises with grace.  It involves a willingness to learn and stretch and grow, which sometimes involves discomfort.  It requires acting on life, not merely taking it in.  It’s not joy, a temporary exhilaration, or even pleasure, that sensual rush – though a steady supply of those feelings course through those who seize each day.”
    Action:  Happiness is closely tied to being aware of what success truly means for you.  Write your own definition of what Authentic Success means to you and intend to live in synch with your truth about Authentic Success in 2014.
  2. Practice mindfulness.  While defined in a variety of ways, mindfulness simply means paying attention.  Notice how you are feeling and why and then make a choice to stick with your current path or take a breath and intentionally shift.
    Action:  Set a time each day when you will review your day with intention to notice and expand your mindfulness.  Even a short review will make a difference.nothing_wrong_quote
  3. Be you.  Embrace yourself.  Know your good points and that which you don’t consider so favorably.  Know your styles and preferences and trust you are a good and resilient person.  We received the following quote awhile ago and we give profound credit to whoever first said it though we don’t know the original source.
    Action:  Print this out and tape it around your environment:
  4. Practice your 2% Solution. As Marcia describes in Life’s 2% Solution, the 2% Solution requires just half an hour a day (3 ½ hours a week if it works better to cluster your time). Spend that time doing something that’s deeply nurturing, meaningful, fulfilling to you. It may be what you’ve vowed to do later when you are free to explore long-delayed purposeful pursuits. This seemingly small expenditure of time is even more critical in today’s harried world, where work deadlines loom, the carpool to soccer awaits, the dry cleaning is piling up, and a dinner party fills up whatever free time is left. We get it all done, yet feel incomplete. This stress-filled existence leaches away our creativity, passion and sense of fulfillment. We sacrifice the long-view of our lives for short-term results, to check something off a list. No doubt, that scenario leads to burnout.
    Action:  Integrate your enhanced awareness from taking some of the above steps with your own 2% project.  Investing 2% of your time in an unusual way on yourself will make a world of difference.  It’s an achievable way of creating more work/life balance without having to turn your life upside down by radical change.  You can learn more and follow the 10 step process found in my book Life’s 2% Solution.
  5. Relationships matter.  Take time for friends and choose friends who support the values you wish to live with.
    Action:   Notice who your friends are.  Ask yourself if you are giving the time it takes to cultivate valuable relationships.  If not make a change. Keep your expectations of time with friends manageable.
  6. Carpe diem!  Seize the day.
    Action:  Today is the only version of this day you’ll ever have.  Take advantage of it!
  7. Know your values.  It’s easy to get caught up in the multitude of options that expand daily from numbers of cereals to forms of entertainment to interesting books.  We all have twenty-four hours in a day.  Take advantage of your day by knowing what is truly important so you don’t get distracted with the job of making too many unimportant choices.
    Action:  Make a list of your top values – somewhere between five and ten items at the most.  Then practice connecting your values with your choices.
  8. Create.  It feels good!  Humans are amazingly creative beings.  You probably create much more than you realize and miss giving yourself credit for your gifts.
    Action:  Intentionally make a soup, draw a picture, write a letter.  Whatever feels simply good to you and then stop and acknowledge the act of creating and give yourself time to enjoy.
  9. Express gratitude.  This is a big one.  Anytime you want to build happiness, be grateful for what you do have and go find a way to give.  So much of authentic happiness is based in giving your gifts and in being a good and compassionate human being.  Don’t make it hard; find easy and natural ways to give with no strings attached.  Pay it forward is a great strategy.
    Action:  Take time to stop and say thank you.  Notice how you feel and how the recipient feels.  Keep a gratitude journal.  Notice five to ten events that occur each day for which you are grateful.  Be specific.  Feel the gratitude in your heart as you write your list and as you read it over.
  10. Smile.   It’s impossible to be grumpy and smile at the same time.
    Action:  If you are willing to change your emotional state, you will.  Breathe, notice what is going on, notice any tension you are holding in your body, and be willing to let it go.  Be quiet and smile for a full minute.

Authentic success combines your inner and outer strengths, though integrating these two is not always so easy.  Good luck on your journey.  We’re always interested in learning from you about how this works.

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How’s Your Resilience Meter?

November 3, 2013

resilience_meterGive yourself one of the best gifts available – expand your resilience. Sustainable behavior change is a lifestyle change, not a whim. That’s very much the truth for expanding your resilience. Scientist and leading scholar in the field of positive psychology, Barbara Fredrickson reports that in their entire research program in resilience they found that the key active ingredient supporting those with higher resilience is positivity, which includes openness and a better ability to keep things in perspective and see the bigger picture.

A frequent challenge raised by our coaching clients relates to managing their resilience. They may talk about putting up with one challenge after another as a new program is being unveiled until they finally lose their composure. Or the challenge may be significant personal issues that are taking so much of their energy and drawing upon their flexibility dramatically that when one more thing happens – at work, at home or anywhere they become unusually inflexible, emotional or just walk away leaving things unresolved.

Stephan (not his real name) is a good example. Most of the time, things are fine; he can manage work and personal demands. He has a good education, a reliable job with mid-management responsibilities, and a loving family. Just like happens to most of us, each of these good parts have challenges. His parents are in their 80’s and require a lot of attention. Recently his dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and his mom has arthritis to the point she can’t take care of him. His teenage children need a great deal of time from both he and his wife. It’s hard, yet he keeps telling himself that in a few years it’ll be easier. For now Stephan is committed to giving his all to helping his parents, his kids, serving at his church and then there’s his job. His position has a lot of stress with it and most weeks require 45 to 50 hours of work plus his commute. Usually he juggles everything well enough. Then his boss informed him that the big report he and his team have worked on for two months is needed in two days instead of the two weeks they were supposed to have to complete it well. Stephan hit the roof. He yelled at his boss, refused to meet the deadline. Told his staff to just quit and take the rest of the day off. It wasn’t a pretty picture. That was a few weeks ago. Stephan is working with the aftermath of his outburst, as well as what brought him to it, in coaching. Our focus includes understanding his challenges and building ways to stay in touch with his resilience meter to help guide his behavior.

Strategies for Expanding Resilience

You, just like Stephan, can choose from several strategies to expand and maintain your resilience. Six of the sixteen EQi skills particularly support resilience strength. Act now to support your health and well-being by following a resilience enhancing strategy such as:

  • Meditation.
  • Recognizing that you are a part of something purposeful that’s bigger than you.
  • Expanding your happiness through gratitude or embracing and valuing your connections with others.
  • Building your optimism by expecting what works to keep on happening and get even larger.
  • Embracing your Bigger Yes – by living priorities that call for time with loved ones, time to exercise, time for you – all which expand your stress tolerance capacity.
  • Perceiving yourself with healthy self-regard by being able to view your strengths. challenges, and neutral zones and feel good about who you are.
  • Exercising your emotional self-awareness by noticing your emotions, recognizing how you feel and why and continuing to call forth positive emotions.

Resilience is the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, or adversity; it’s a form of buoyancy. Fortunately, your resilience can be expanded – it’s a personal skill that may have some components of genetic predisposition but can be influenced and grown as one of your most reliable assets. However, it does require continuous upkeep. Growing the skill requires awareness and practice. Your journey is one of developing new habits that may not only change your social and psychological take on life but may well improve your health as well.

Six Emotional Intelligence Skills

There is a strong connection between the strength of your resilience and 6 of the 16 skills measured by the EQi 2.0: stress tolerance, emotional self-awareness, self-regard, optimism, happiness and flexibility.

These EI skills are ones that are more self-oriented rather than other-oriented because resilience is an internal state. You’ve probably heard that you need to take care of yourself before you have the strength and resilience to take care of others well. The metaphor most call to mind readily is when oxygen is needed on an airplane you need to put your own oxygen mask on before you start helping others. You know why – you’ll black out quickly and be a problem rather than a help if you don’t start with your mask. Life is that way as well. Though it may be easier for some to focus on the tasks, including attending to everyone else’s needs, you will be better in all ways if you start with you first – and then remember to keep prioritizing your needs!

Barbara Fredrickson

Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, author of Love 2.0 and Positivity, which I highly recommend, provides copious research on the beneficial effect of resilience and the field of positivity. I’m blessed to be taking an online training with her. She talks about changing people’s daily diets of positivity with the goal being to change what we notice and to influence the practice of our habitual positive and negative emotions. One effective strategy she emphasizes is loving kindness meditation. What’s different about Barbara’s work is that it primarily occurs in the laboratory – her laboratory and her joint work with many other leading scientists. The blessing of her research is she is documenting what so many coaches, trainers and others have believed to be true.

Research results by Barbara and her colleagues are documenting that there are improvements on cognitive, social, psychological and physical resources for people using certain positivity practices. Whether you practice meditation or other resilience enhancing strategies, I encourage you to choose a practice or two from the list I provided above or another resource you have and take good care of yourself.

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Generative Discussions by Boards Create Shared Meaning

October 1, 2013

“It’s not the rules and regulations.  It’s the way people work together.”

Jeffery Sonnenfeld

In his article “What Makes Great Boards Great” Sonnenfeld (HBR, September, 2002) researched many of the structural ideas of what differentiates great boards from other boards and found it’s not the structure, such as financial literacy, age, attendance or professional skills that’s the success differentiator, rather it is the social system the board has established.  He discusses a virtuous cycle of respect, trust and candor that establishes well-functioning teams, including boards.  “What distinguishes exemplary boards is that they are robust, effective social systems” according to Sonnenfeld.

Becoming effective social systems requires that Board Directors individually, as well as the Board as a whole, use well developed emotional and social intelligence skills.

In addition to developing your Board’s effective social system, it’s critical to choose the best format for your discussions in order to be effective leaders.  Many Boards are aware of the need to attend to fiduciary and strategic decisions, but there’s a third leg to the stool required when Boards intend to truly be leaders for their organizations.  They need to help frame the issues, to do the creative work up front that selects what will get organizational attention and how the issue will be approached.  They need to be leaders in creating the focus on key matters to be addressed, not just respondents to decisions by others in the organization.  Asking how Boards and its Members can be more effective leaders is likely to cause a reframe of how a board’s performance is defined.

In Governance as Leadership, Chait, Ryan and Taylor (2005), present an excellent discussion on board engagement and performance tied to the strength of using this three part Board process.  They point out the truth that many Board Members struggle with finding a useful way to feel they are making a meaningful contribution.  Part of the problem is that too often Board Members don’t understand the Board’s purpose.  If they can’t articulate the difference the Board is making for the organization, it is impossible to feel that their time is being meaningfully spent.  And they certainly won’t feel like they are contributing as leaders who are making a difference.

A key to bringing Boards into the leadership tent is ensuring that generative discussions are a fundamental part of the Board engagement.  This requires adopting a three part modality to Board decision-making. The three formats pictured in this triangle are each valuable and distinct formats for Board governance.

sgf_triangle

Generative Mode: Generative discussions come first, before the data is marshalled into a particular fashion to support an action.  This is the fuzzy time of exploring what’s going on.  It’s a subjective process that occurs through the opportunity for open, interactive dialogue.  It occurs well before making the decision on what to do.  Rather, generative discussions call for dynamically and interactively exploring the process, factors, and pieces of information around a big topic that eventually come together by framing the problem.  The Board acts as a robust social system with emotional engagement in the consideration at hand.  There is sufficient shared knowledge to work together with the CEO and leadership team and make sense of the topic so it can then move forward to be resolved through strategic and fidicuary decision-making.  This is the first step in shared leadership. If the Board is not involved in this step of meaning-making it’s leadership role is significantly compromised.

Fiduciary Mode: In this familiar mode the Board acts as a overseer of resources, legal compliance and fiscal accountability.  The Board’s fiduciary responsibilities are sometimes phrased as having a duty of care to quality and financial decisions, a duty of loyalty to being legally responsible and compliant and a duty of obedience to the purpose and mission of the organization. I would also add that there’s a duty to provide leadership, which calls for the generative conversation.

Strategic Mode: The board acts as a strategic partner to the CEO and senior leaders setting a course of action and priorities and goals against which performance can be monitored.

Generative Dialogue

Having a strong sense of purpose is likely the strongest motivator leading to successful Boards and its Directors.  Knowing what the purpose of the Board is allows Directors to guage their own success as a Director and to focus their time and efforts towards what matters most.  The Board is then a co-participant with the CEO and senior leadership in being a sense-maker or meaning maker.  Thus the Board is

not just told X + Y = Z but X and Y are occuring, let’s explore what this means and how to proceed.  As an example, for a hospital, that can mean the Board, CEO and physicians engaging in thoughtful and open discussions about what the massive changes in healthcare mean to physicians and their role in healthcare.  They can explore the most effective ways to build newly constructed relationships with a new

sense of partnership.  This gives the Board the power to participate as leaders rather than simply being in the position of approving a move to hire more physicians.  This is an example of sharing the experience of the discussion and through that developing a shared meaning.  With the foundation this conversation creates, the strategic and fiduciary work will flow as solutions are found. Significantly, the Board will be more engaged and have a authentic experience of being purposeful. This also supports the Board’s intellectual capital in being sufficiently developed to support effective Board leadership in the fiduciary and strategic domains.  Very importantly, as Chait points out, the quest is not to focus on a board member’s individual intellect, but rather on the “collective brainpower” that can be channeled into the mutual analysis and robust discussion that lead to effective governance and an experience of shared purpose.

Chait wisely comments,“Generative governance requires a fusion of thinking, not a division of labor.”  Helpful metaphors can be thinking of the board as a “sounding board” with the opportunity for the CEO to work together with the Board to define issues, frame problems and then pursue solutions.  As Chait et al comment, we can imagine the CEO and Board as co-pilots.  Instead of the Board being kept in a narrow role of approving management solutions, the Board plays an active role in defining the problem.

When Boards are engaged together with the Executives to define and resolve the decision, the foundation is laid for the Board understanding it’s role and the purpose of their existence.  This supports the Board creating a robust social system, developing a direct path to using their emotional and social intelligence skills and joining the ranks of the Great Boards.

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