Guest Post: The Mood Elevator by Larry Senn


We could all do with an increased ability to handle life and all that it throws at us more effectively.  One of the more comprehensive, but readable books of late which attempts to show us how to do exactly that is The Mood Elevator:  Take Charge of Your Feelings, Become a Better You by Larry Senn.

Larry writes clearly and comprehensively about the factors that influence our daily well-being and the importance of choice in how our days and nights go.  His perspectives are well-supported and valuable for application in both our professional lives and our personal arenas.

 In honor of the launch of this useful book this week, a guest post from the author is below.  If you find this helpful, you will love the whole book.  I will have more to say about its value to me later in the week.

HOW TO DEAL WITH DOWN DAYS

by Dr. Larry Senn

There are countless pointers, tools, and books on how to be happy- and rightfully so, we’d all love to be happy and at the top of our Mood Elevator all the time.

Unfortunately, being happy all the time is just not reality. We will all spend times in the emotional basement since having low moods is a natural and normal part of life.  Human beings are unique in the animal kingdom because we have the power of thought. This allows us to imagine the future, plan for things yet to come, muse about possibilities, and analyze and interpret everything that is going on around us.

That same power to imagine through thought can also cause to us to worry excessively and unnecessarily, experience periods of depression about real or imagined problems, have moments of paranoia based on our assumptions about other’s motives, be self-righteous and judgmental, and even experience fits of anger and rage.

Because we take this ride on the Mood Elevator every day, it’s important to also have some tools on how to do well when you’re “in the red”. It’s not a bad thing to be in a bad mood, but it’s best to minimize the damage you cause when you’re having “one of those days”.

The best thing to remember when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed is to remember that you woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Having the awareness that you’re not at your best will help you proceed with caution throughout your day. Imagine when you’re driving somewhere on a cold, icy road at night. You’ll do the drive, but you’ll proceed with caution. You’ll drive slowly, take turns gently, and leave plenty of space between you and any other drivers on the road.

Think about that same tactic the next off day you’re having. If possible, reschedule that meeting with your coworker you butt heads with. The reason it’s so important to proceed with caution when you’re in the lower mood states is because our thinking becomes very unreliable when we’re down there.

Have you ever said something to a friend or loved one in the heat of the moment that you wished you could take back? Have you ever hit the send button to transmit an email that you later realized was a terrible mistake? If either of these has happened to you, think back to the circumstances. Where were you on the Mood Elevator map when this occurred? Most likely, you were somewhere in the lower half.

Imagine these two scenarios that are common in our everyday life and how we might get ourselves in trouble if we don’t recognize that our thinking is unreliable.

The first is getting an email that “pushes our buttons”. It might be accusatory, aggressive, or downright rude. After reading it we drop down to irritation, anger, or anxiety and our instinct is to write an email back giving the person a piece of our mind. These are the kind of situations when we’ll likely regret what we write. An alternative solution would be to write an email, and instead of hitting send, hit save as draft. Wait at least a few hours. If possible wait 24 hours and come back to it once we’ve had some time to cool off. Chances are we’ll be happy we didn’t send it. And, we might be at a higher level on the Mood Elevator the next day and are capable of sending a much more effective email, with a much better outcome.

The second scenario is the common one of having a disagreement with your spouse. My wife and I first got together in the 1970’s, the era of the human potential movement. The conventional wisdom at the time was encapsulated in saying like, “Tell it like it is, let it all hang out, and don’t go to bed with anything left unsaid.” As a result, there were a few times we struggled unproductively until all hours of the night, fighting over issues that, in retrospect, were usually not worth the time and energy.

As we both started understanding how our minds worked, we decided to set a ground rule that we don’t take on any significant relationship issues when either one of us are in the lower Mood Elevator states. It might look something like this:

Larry: It looks like something is bothering you. Is it something you want to talk about?

Bernadette: No, not now. My thinking is not clear. If I need to talk about it, I’ll let you know later.

Using the Mood Elevator as your guide and not acting on low-level thoughts and impulses when you are feeling down is one of the key principles to doing less damage to yourself-and to others.

About Dr. Larry Senn

Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator (August 2017), the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator. You can learn more about Larry and his work at his website, www.themoodelevator.com.

 

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Guest Post – The Best Reason for Leaders to Cultivate Mindfulness


I like authors that write with passion, intelligence, and even a dash of spunk …

Monica Worline and Jane Dutton have given us a rare gift.  Their new book Awakening Compasssion at Work: The Quiet Power That Elevates People and Organizations takes a fairly old discussion and updates it nicely.

While most managers have moved (hopefully) beyond Taylor’s concept that we are all just cogs in complex machines, we have not yet fully embraced the idea that we can work like we are playing some competitive team sport like soccer or football.  These authors dare to suggest that what we need is less macho and more femininity in the workplace.  That’s not near all they do, but that’s the direction they take us.  I like the journey.

For a sample of their writing and teaching skills, see the sample below:

 

The Best Reason for Leaders to Cultivate Mindfulness

Monica C. Worline and Jane E. Dutton

Workplaces often silence suffering. Usually the silence comes from fear. We are afraid that expressing suffering will seem unprofessional. We are afraid our difficult feelings will cause conflict or evoke harmful emotions in others. We are afraid of negative repercussions, or we don’t want to draw too much attention to ourselves.

But these fears that silence suffering also stifle compassion. And compassion matters at work. It is a portal to resilience, adaptability, innovation, and collaboration. Compassion helps people heal in the wake of tragedy and helps organizations bounce back after downturns in the market. Compassion is a key to engaging and retaining both employees and clients. So how can leaders who want these benefits in their organizations confront these fears and break the silence that keeps out compassion?

One answer is to become more mindful. While mindfulness has become popular recently because it helps us to manage stress, it has other benefits for leaders as well. And cultivating compassion may be the best reason of all to learn to practice more mindfulness as a leader.

Mindfulness is sometimes defined as an embodied awareness of what is changing from moment to moment. When we are mindful, we can see more of what is influencing us at subtle levels. We realize that we are being pulled by tides of fear, time pressure, hierarchy, and stigma that are barely recognizable in our conscious experience. But the pull of these tides is often strong enough to keep us silent. As we become more mindful of our own experience, we realize that others are caught in these tides as well. So, mindfulness helps cultivate compassion for ourselves and for others.

Mindfulness is often taught through practices such as observing oneself breathing, repeating a simple sound or phrase, or using visualization for systemic relaxation. These techniques help us see our active and jumpy mind for what it is, and help us get to the deeper benefits of more calm, less fear, and a greater capacity to remain present with others. When we are more mindful as leaders, we have the capacity to hear and witness suffering without losing our cool. We move toward compassion.

Mindfulness helps leaders cultivate compassion in another significant way. Research shows that people in positions of power are less attuned to the full humanity of others in lower status positions. That means it is easy for leaders to overlook suffering. Even if they care—leaders may simply be blinded by their position. Mindfulness helps leaders take off these blinders.

Mindful leaders use practices of reflection, meditation, breathing, prayer, dialogue, visualization or other tools to restore their awareness of the range of emotions and reactions people are bringing to work. One suggestion we offer in our book Awakening Compassion at Work is to repeat a phrase we learned from our colleague Peter Frost. Each time you are about to enter a conversation or launch a meeting, remind yourself: “There’s always pain in the room.” Once you see and feel the pain people are bringing to work, you will be able to break the silence and unlock the force of compassion in your organization.


For even more thoughtful information about compassion in the workplace, check out the  Awakening Compassion at Work blogsite

Monica Worline, PhD, is CEO of EnlivenWork. She is a research scientist at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and Executive Director of CompassionLab, the world’s leading research collaboratory focused on compassion at work.

Jane Dutton, PhD, is the Robert L. Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration and Psychology and cofounder of the Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business. She has written over 100 articles and published 13 books, including Energize Your Workplace and How to Be a Positive Leader. She is also a \founding member of the CompassionLab.

Their new book, Awakening Compassion at Work, available now on Amazon, reveals why opening our eyes to the power of compassion is smart business.

 

Skill Gaps ~ Guest Post by Mark Miller


ME:  Mark Miller is one of my favorite authors on all things leadership.  For a quick taste of his writing style, read the article below on skill gaps, originally published on GreatLeadersServe.com, and then for a bigger dose, check out his new book Leaders Made Here.

 

 

Skill Gaps

Today, I’ll speak to a question that great leaders ask a lot. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t ask it often enough: How do I identify and close skill gaps?

First, anytime I think about skills, I delineate two different types of skills – individual and team skills. Both are critical, but they are fundamentally different. You can work on individual skills alone; it takes a team to master team skills. I’ll offer a few thoughts today on both.

Individual Skills

I think three questions are particularly helpful when addressing individual skills.

What do I need to improve? Sometimes we can get this answer with rigorous self-evaluation. Other times, it will require an outside perspective. Those closest to you can be most helpful when trying to identify gaps. A supervisor, a friend, a spouse, or even a 360 survey can be helpful. Focus on closing critical gaps – those activities required of you to be successful where gaps are evident.

What will help me grow? Identify people, activities, resources and experiences to accelerate your growth. Whether you’re trying to close a gap or leverage a strength, get help.

Where am I already strong? I believe we add the most value in our area of strength. It is where we are strong; it’s also where we’ll have the greatest upside potential for growth. We challenge our staff to close critical gaps if they have any, but we want them to invest most of their time advancing their strengths.

Team Skills

Here are a few questions to help you think about team skills…

What is the work we’ve been asked to complete? The work should ultimately drive the required skills. If your team needs to develop new products, skills around design thinking, creativity and innovation will be critical. If you’ve been asked to sell widgets – prospecting and closing a sale will be much more helpful.

What skills are missing from our team? In light of the work your team has been asked to do, are there obvious gaps? Perhaps you need to hire new talent with a different skill set. Or, maybe you need to cross-train someone on your existing team. As an example, if your team has been asked to manage a Profit & Loss statement for a business, someone on your team needs to know how to read it and interpret it.

How will we work together? This is where a team begins to understand the less obvious skills they’ll need to master together to be successful. Skills such as goal setting, problem solving, conflict resolution and even having effective meetings, and other skills like these will ultimately determine the success of the team.

Skill development is a life-long pursuit. Don’t try to finish it – if you think you’re done – you’re done!
Mark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.

“Leaders Made Here” Book Review


I believe this is the fifth book review I have done for one of Mark Miller‘s “short and sweet” leadership titles.  While the perspective and the details shift from book to book, the universe which Mark shares with us remains consistently reality-based and believable.  

This time around, a leader once again faces  significant personal challenges, at the same time as they are tasked with the responsibility for creating a leadership culture in an organization.  The premise is compelling and I was reminded once again of the role of compassion in the workplace, especially since we have started to focus more and more on the diverse personalities we find in our workplaces, each with their own stories and their own personal and professional challenges.

As in life, everyone does not use the same approach or come to the same conclusions, other than a few shining principles featured toward the end of this short book.   Actually, we notice regularly throughout that everyone does not have to and should not agree to the same approaches or tools.   We are different from each other in many ways, and each person has to decide the ways that work best for them.

As always, Mark uses narrative style to effectively describe both people, places, and processes.  I have not always been a strong fan of narrative style, but Mark is steadily making a believer out of me.  He manages to pack quite a bit of learning and thought-provoking activity into each short chapter.  A few examples of his pithy  and direct phrasing are also sprinkled around this post.

My personal favorite section was the slow uncovering of the essential principles from the primary character’s exploration of effective leadership development at several different workplaces.   Rather than jump directly into the final list, we see  the “messier” work of a group of intelligent people grappling with how best to organize their learning and convey the core of that learning to others in a clear, simple, and effective way.

This is how real teams create outcomes, but many leadership books tend to treat this part of leadership like a miracle … the finished statements just magically appear.  Not so in Mark’s book and we are the better for it.

I could say many other positive things about Leaders Made Here, but at this point, you get my message:  This is another in a hopefully never-ending series of short and easy-to-read leadership books that brings great value in an attractive and engaging fashion.

Don’t believe me?   Read the book and draw your own conclusions … I’ll wait:)

 

Disclaimer:  I have received a copy of this book for promotion, just like all the other times.  I have also purchased extra copies to distribute to others, just like all the other times.

ABOUT MARK MILLER (from his website)

Mark Miller began writing over decade ago when he teamed up with Ken Blanchard on The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do. In 2011, he released The Secret of Teams, outlining the key principles that enable some teams to outperform the all the rest. Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life came next in 2012, followed by The Heart of Leadership in October 2013, the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Secret in September 2014, and Chess Not Checkers: Elevate Your Leadership Game in April 2016.

This spring, his latest book, Leaders Made Here, tackles the issue of creating a leadership culture in a company. Readers will again follow Blake as he encounters some of his greatest challenges yet — making sure he is growing leaders who can take the company into the future. With more than 700,000 books in print, Mark has been surprised by the response and delighted to serve leaders through his writing.

TO read even more about Mark and his remarkable journey, click here …

 

Life Lessons in Narrative Form …


Combo

I DID NOT PLAN TO LIKE THIS BOOK …

At first glance, Lilac Dreams seemed a bit self-absorbed to me and did not seem to have much of a point.  Just another life story of hard times early on, followed by success later.  The hard times are not the worse I have heard of or even experienced myself, and the successes, while commendable, are not the stuff of empires and sweeping changes.

No, this is just a story about a person who grew up at a particular time, in particular circumstances, and who persevered, learning a few things along the way.  Imagine my surprise when I slowly became engrossed in one small chapter after another, finding familiar scenes and valuable life lessons in abundance.

Three things to share that I ended up liking about Bonnie’s book:

NOSTALGIA …

The author is roughly the same age as I am, so the scenes of youth, especially the schoolrooms and the neighborhoods, were familiar.  I found myself “adapting” each of her well-painted vignettes to my own experiences as a naive and insecure child and adolescent, and found comfort in the thought that maybe we all are really more alike than we are different.

Nostalgia can be something we wallow in, bewailing an imagined better time, or it can be a pleasant reminder of where we come from.  I found myself pleasantly remembering past events to which I have no desire to return.

RICH DETAIL …

I will admit that the rich detail with which places and people are described in almost every story was not my first favorite thing about this book.  However, as I said earlier, I became drawn into the era and the lives that live through this book.  Sometimes the detail evoked memories and others times, it created images upon which to gaze.

Detail in writing can get in the way or it can inflame our ability to “see” what the author is sharing … in this case, the writing is definitely a positive attribute.

HOW OUR LIVES ARE SHAPED …

As I moved through small experience after small experience, I was struck by how relatable Bonnie’s story should be to most of us.  There is pain in some places, hope in others, and a strong sense of how the author has developed her own internal strength from what she has experienced.

After all, we all live our lives mostly in small doses, easily shard with others through a series of small stories, especially when well written.  Short accounts of the daily times of our lives often become valuable in retrospect.

So read this book patiently, move through it with an open mind, and I believe that you will find much to reflect on in your own Lilac Dreams.

Loving this book more than I imagined I would in the Heartland …

John

DISCLAIMER:  I received a copy of Lilac Dreams for review.  If you think this was enough to make me say nice things about it, you don’t know me very well. 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:    Bonnie C. Hathcock has over 35 years of experience in corporate America. For most of those years, she held C-suite positions at the top of Fortune 100 and 200 corporations. Bonnie began her career at Xerox Corporation, where she spent a decade learning world-class marketing concepts.

Her business and marketing acumen eventually caught the attention of a high-ranking executive from Siemens A.G., who promoted Bonnie to the position of vice president of human resources for one of the largest Siemens companies in the United States. Bonnie would eventually be promoted to vice president of Human Resources for US Airways, and senior vice president of Human Resources for Humana Inc.   … READ MORE ABOUT BONNIE ON HER WEBSITE