No sales pitches and no fluff. Just a thought-provoking dialog with Karla that will help you solve a challenge you're having right now.

If you haven't watched Karla's introductory video, explaining her philosophy and techniques, you may watch it here:

Tuesday
Dec152009

Thriving in the Gap

When I step back and close my eyes and think about all that has transpired this year in my personal and professional life, there is a theme that emerges like a neon sign shining through the density of neural activity in my brain: I was constantly managing and finding my way through the tension between what is (reality) and what could be/should be (potential/ideal). I saw that I was not alone in this. Everyone I speak to is, and has been, trying to make the best of where they are with what they have and still trying to move the ball in the direction of their ideal state of being for themselves, their business, their relationships, etc.  What can happen, though, if we're not adept at managing in the gap between Reality and Possibility/Ideal? What does taking either one of those to the extreme look like?

When you take Realism to the next level it morphs into a deteriorative cynicism that masquerades as "I'm just being real". Cynicism is a dark and sneaky sort. It seeks to make others feel stupid and inept for believing that things could be or should be better. Cynics (we all know some) are easy to spot. They are the ones sitting usually in the back of the room with their cohorts whispering to each other and shaking their heads when some poor sole has the guts (or in their mind naivite) to stand up and talk about possibilities, new ideas, hope, and enthusiasm. "Poor guy", they say, "he just doesn't get it." Cynics don't want it to work out. They want to see you fail so they can feel secure in their cynicism and don't have to take a risk and step out of that mood that is driven by their chosen mindset. Mind you they are not to be confused with skeptics, their distant cousin.

Skeptics you need and want. They differ from cynics in that they truly want it to work out. They are your eyes and ears and objective minds who see the potential pitfalls and what ifs. They are vital to good, whole-brained decision-making. They tend to get a bad rap though because the minute they open their mouths to draw attention to how things could go wrong they are branded as "downers, cynics, raining on the parade, etc.". Lest the enthusiasts run away with the show, skeptics should have a rightful and valued place in any team. Talk to them and see where their thoughts are. If they are excited and believe in the direction and want to see the idea, project, etc. work and are just airing their views so nothing
gets in its way, then you've probably got a skeptic, not a cynic on board. Their views and warnings may slow things down so you can check them out or rework them but it will be worth it in the end if you want sustainable results. Keep the skeptics. Cynics, get rid of them.

On the other side is Possibility/Ideal. If you flip out on that side you end up in a "lost in space" realm with no direction or connection to what is relevant. Way too much time is wasted talking about extraneous possibilities. These are people who just put stuff out there because it's cool (to them) and are not focused enough on the relevant aspects of the discussion, needs, direction and vision. The raging idealists are also people you must be aware of if they are on your team. Yes, they can do a massive brain dump of ideas which at some point may be useful however, they can steamroll a team in the wrong and useless direction if not managed well.

So, what we need to be skillful at is operating in the gap between Reality and Possiblity/Idealism; What is and what could or should be. This is where the action is and dialog should be. Being in the gap does not mean you cannot innovate. On the contrary. You can think out of the box and still be in this gap. So make the most of the diversity of thinking that you have around you. Who are those folks who seem to always cut right through everything and ask the right questions that almost everyone else misses? Who is that person who keeps their eye on the financial ball? Who is that person who can take everyone's idea and create a new concept or approach that no one else sees? Who is that person who is great at facilitating this kind of discourse so that you can come to closure and yet not cut off good dialog prematurely?

Learn to dance in this gap without getting trigger happy so that you flip out on either side. It is when we take an integrated approach to our challenges that the best solutions emerge.

What could this approach do for you in 2010?

Cool Links

If you're into Twitter for your business or are still wondering what it's all about and what value it could serve, read this article from this month's Inc. and ponder. http://www.inc.com/twitter/index.html

Staying connected - even if you're not an entrepreneur with your own business, this article is relevant seeing as we're all juggling so much and can be immersed in world's of "getting by" and "making it happen". Sometimes we forget to touch the hands and hearts of those who mean the most to us...our spouses and partners.  http://tinyurl.com/ylauwy3

And this site is only for those minds who enjoy twisted humor. http://www.despair.com .  Just go there and it will become clear to you what they're all about.  You know those posters you see in offices that have a think black matting around a picture with the word TEAMWORK under it and then some inspirational saying underneath the word TEAMWORK? Well think of this site as anti-inspirational but in a very sarcastic funny way. As 7-Up billed themselves as the un-cola, these people are the un-inspirational...with a smirk.

In Case You Missed It Last Month

Some folks told me they couldn't open this link in my newsletter last month. This has to do with sound and how powerful it is. Check out this 5-minute TED video to understand how it impacts business more than you think. http://tinyurl.com/ygkvbqv

Great Reads

Leadership and Self-Deception - also get the self-study guide which is sold separately on the same page where this link takes you. http://tinyurl.com/63m56h .  It's a great investment for you and your team, family, board of directors, etc. I have taken the course and it is very powerful and transformational and the learning sticks as much as you put into it.

Need a laugh? Okay I know this sounds "out there" but this book had me laughing out loud in the store. Cake Wrecks by Jen Yates. She is a very clever writer with a sarcastic wit and also very giving. She and her husband have made Cake Wrecks their business now and are donating $200/day for the next 14 days to a different charity each day. Check out their site at  http://cakewrecks.blogspot.com/


Tuesday
Dec152009

What Music Are You Making?

Sound...it's all around us. We even hear it when we're still in the womb. In utero, our brains begin to pick up frequencies that are in close proximity. We actually begin to be affected by those waves of music, voices, as well as natural and unnatural sounds of the environment that are in close proximity to our internal, temporary "home".

As it turns out, music has the most powerful impact on us. Listen to this very brief TED video on Sound by Julian Treasure on "How Sound Affects Us." http://tinyurl.com/ygkvbqv

In a sense all of it is some kind of "music" to our brain. As Julian Treasure says, it does affect us in 4 key ways. He speaks quite a bit about this in the context of businesses, retail in particular. So let's take this science into the context of leadership and interpersonal exchanges. What music are you making in the minds of others? What impact is the way you say things having on the people you love, work with, want action and buy-in from? There is much talk, study, classes and theory about what to say and I think equal if not more learning needs to be engrained in terms of how one says things. Because just like music, our voices - tone - speed - inflection- can either create a cacaphony that people's minds will want to shut out or a melody that is calming, relaxing, energizing, and inviting that entices their minds to stay open, be present, engaged, and curious. (Note: if you're in the presence of the other person, your facial expression and body language will also help or hurt the impact your wish to have.)

So think about and pay attention to the impact you are having on others when you speak to them in person or on the phone. Watch for signs of the urge to flee or the urge to stay as you speak. What reactions are you noticing? Are they wincing? Does a crease appear between their eyebrows?  Are they looking away or down? Do they Increase the physical distance between you and them? Do they try to cut you off or truncate the conversation? or  Do you experience them smiling, asking more questions, offering to sit and continue the conversation, moving closer, brows are relaxed? Nodding their head? (Not nodding off...oh no, not that!)

As a leader, you will have to engage many constituencies and deliver all manner of news. If you've been wondering why your message isn't being heard or worse bought into, it could be due to several reasons and one of them could be the music of your voice.  Your thinking could be right on the money and your strategy and execution sound. However, if your delivery of that message is discordant with what you want your audience to feel, results can be astonishingly contrary to what you expect or desire. Your voice is your instrument to carry your message on the waves of sound to those who need to hear it. How that message lands in their brains and what it triggers will be determined by how well tuned your delivery is. So pay attention and fine-tune your delivery so that you may create in your listeners a symphony of confidence, connectivity, energy, thoughtfulness, positivity and desire to hear more.

Cool Link

Mental sharpness getting a bit dull? Is it taking you longer to recall information? Do you find yourself searching for words in the middle of a conversation? Do you tend to forget people's names after you just met them? I found a great site that can help you with that by challenging your brain with different games that focus on specific aspects of your brain's thinking compartments! Check it out.  www.lumosity.com

Thursday
Oct292009

What Were You Thinking?

Okay all you left-brainers out there, strap yourselves in because I'm about to lower the boom on you. As it turns out how we decide has as much if not more to do with our emotions and right brain than our logical left. Let me be clear. We absolutely need both halves of our whole mind to make the best decisions however neuroscience has shown us that no sooner do we arrive at some logical conclusion then our emotions wash over our minds and thoughts to give it another dimension, perspective, insight and depth that was missing. Stimuli from all directions are hitting our brains and setting off a virtual fireworks display inside our brains transmitting thoughts, connecting pieces of information and making us feel a certain way about what is going on. In his most recent book, How We Decide, Jonah Lehrer - a neuroscientist - takes us on a fantastic voyage through that 3 pound mass of gray matter and offers scientific-based studies revealing the truth behind how we come to make choices. A great story teller, Jonah shows how the various "players" on the team called BRAIN work together to help us sift through options in the middle of a crisis, when we're on the job, on a football field, pondering which flavor ice cream to pick, etc. Why do we get paralyzed when we're presented with too many options? (Ever wonder why a child cries when presented with many options and the parent demands for them to choose...now!?) It is even shown which side of our brains serves up the way to the best choice given certain circumstances.

As it turns out, we can overthink things logically about matters that our emotional brain compadres already know to be true or to be the best choice. Grab 10 minutes and listen to this interview with Jonah and if you have the time, click on the link that will let you listen to the whole hour interview. It's fascinating, thought-provoking and highly useful. Better yet, get the book too.

This insight is highly relevant no matter what you do, who you are or where you live. We humans all tick the same in the noggin anatomically speaking. How we put it together and which parts are more developed (since we can develop certain mental capacities and levels of ability beyond their current status) is obviously different. Think of it as superhighways and rural roads. The Superhighways are the parts of the brain that we all have that serve the same function and drive the same main operating functions. The rural roads are the connections and shortcuts and pathways we develop to place in certain areas of the brain the information we gather from learning, experiences, and other influences throughout our lives .

So the next time you make a decision that goes awry or you're stuck in a loop, it is appropriate to ask yourself "What was I thinking?" That really is the right question. How your brain put the pieces together, what you did with the emotional messaging your were probably receiving and what connections you made, drove you to come to a conclusion upon which you acted or instructed others to act. That exploration can help you make a better decision next time. I call it, the anatomy of a decision. The brain learns from its mistakes and failures. This is why it's important to allow our children to fail. To learn how to fail and pick themselves up. This is one of the key learnings of which we must not deprive our children. It's not about being negative because we're focusing on the failure but looking at the steps our mind followed to end up in a place that didn't work well. This is the way we learn things. Try, fail, try fail, try success! If we did try, success, we may not truly understand why we succeeded.

Taking this into the context of business life, we also must allow ourselves and those we are grooming to take over leadership roles to experience this. Failing forward is a good thing. It helps retrain your mind, build new connections and roadways along the superhighways of your brain. It's how we get better at sports, at business decisioning, at relationships...at life.

What are you thinking these days? Sound off here!

Wednesday
Sep092009

In Search of Elegance

Have you ever heard an idea, seen a object of art, heard a piece of music or read an advertisement and been stunned by its simplicity and elegance in hitting its target...you? Matthew E. May spent a decade as a close advisor to Toyota and holds that something is elegant if it possesses two things simultaneously: That the idea, product, etc. is unusually simple and surprisingly powerful. Think back again of that thing you thought of when you read the first sentence in this article. What was it that made it elegant to you? Was it something that was present or something that was missing? Many times what makes something elegant is what wasn't said, included, drawn or heard. Less is more applies here.

In his book, In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing, May believes that elegance is a subtractive process. It's not about packing as much in as you can but really boiling your message, product, service to its essence. Elegance also has other key attibutes like symmetry, seduction, subtraction and sustainability (read more here). How else could you apply this kind of thinking?

In your meetings: Talk less; listen more
In your presentations: Distill your message to its core; Make your point
In your style: Look in the mirror and whatever hits your eye first as "too much", remove it.
In your approach to solutions: Ask what do we really need to do here?

You get closer to elegance by NOT doing, including, adding...in other words resisting the temptation of adding just one more feature, one more chapter, one more color, one more revision, one more....

Stop

You must stop doing certain things that will make an elegant idea turn into something that is murky, undifferentiated, complicated and ineffective. Powerless.

I recently went through this with my new website. My old one had a ton of content which I guess was good for SEO but bad for anyone visiting. I soon came to feel it was crowded there and it lacked elegance and simplicity. I felt I was wearing out my visitors and they just went somewhere else. With my new site, I'm being more thoughtful about what goes there. I'm already looking to pare it down and swap out certain aspects of what is there. The feedback I got was that this new site was crisper, cleaner, fresher and more engaging...more contemporary. I forced myself to stop and really be thoughtful about what I put up there and how can it be simple yet powerful.

What do you have to stop doing? To get to that, you need to examine what you have to stop thinking. Perhaps we need to make our thinking more elegant in order to generate elegant solutions and ways of running our businesses. What assumptions do you keep making in your mind? Do you more often than not come up with more than the minds of your target audience is willing to read or listen to? Do they just get tired and shift their attention elsewhere? What could a shift toward elegance in your thinking create ifor you, your team, your decisions, your value?

What do you need to stop doing that would create a more elegant outcome, way of working, living...?


 

Wednesday
Aug122009

The Stories We Tell

 

What story are you telling yourself these days?  In keeping with that theme, I thought I’d introduce you to the 12 stories or archetypes in what Pearson-Marr call “The Hero’s Journey” as we move through the rest of 2009. Carol S. Pearson and Hugh K. Marr created the PMAI™ (Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator) which speaks to archetypes or stories. Archetypes are psychological constructs that come to us in images, symbols and themes that are found in all cultures and throughout time. Each archetype has a story and a character that is rooted in that story. The vision of each archetype we experience was shaped long ago as we grew up and embodies certain attributes and ways of seeing the world. As we move through our lives, we live one or more of these stories which shape the way we see the world and how we show up and operate in it. The PMAI is based on the work of the Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung and is supported by years of research, highly validated and use in many arenas including education, counseling and personal growth development including coaching most recently. It is alive in all cultures though each character may be visualized differently, the story is still the same e.g. The Warrior in Japan might look like a Samurai and in America would look like G.I. Joe but it also would include someone who fights for a cause they believe in. The external details and settings will differ based on individuality and culture but the underpinning of their archetype story is the same.

Where each of us starts in our own hero’s journey is not as important as being in touch with what story or stories we are living and are most awakened in us at any point in our lives. What do they mean? How do they influence where we’re headed and how we’re going to show up each day on the way there? The reason I ask the question, ‘what story or stories will you be telling yourself this year,’ is because we become the stories we live each day. They influence how we see and make sense of the world and engage ourselves in it.

Some archetypes are active continuously while others come and go as our development and experiences call on them. None of us, however, follows the exact same path and our archetypal companions that are with us along our life’s journey vary in the time they spend as our internal gurus as we make our way in this world. I encourage you discover the stories that are actively guiding your life today. Take the PMAI and I’ll give you a complementary debrief on it!

So what is the inner chatter going on in your mind as you move through your day? What story is most guiding the way you see your life, your career, your business results or challenges that you're facing? Sound off here!