Action: The third step in Conscious Leadership

Tiny gains turn into big wins

What comes to mind when you think about taking action in your life? Is it fear, or maybe a desire for a huge shift or a grand gesture? These might not be the most effective steps forward when you are looking to make changes in your life. What we’re learning through neuroscience is that it’s the small moves or tiny gains that propel us forward and help rewire our brains. Before we dive into how we make effective changes, let’s talk about what action truly means.

What is an Action?

When you take action, you are moving from “conscious incompetence” to “conscious competence,” meaning you are moving from a place of I know that I don’t know something” to “I know something, but I have to think about it as I do it.” When you take action, you are committing to integrating new practices into your work and life. This impacts the people around you, your team, your organization, your family and friends. It impacts your whole self. It is important to keep this in mind and understand that the best action to take first might be slowing down, taking a step back and reflecting.

 

We are learning through neuroscience that our brain can change when we focus on what we want to change. This is called neuroplasticity, also known as the ability of neural networks in the brain to change through growth and reorganization. The brain creates new neural pathways from new habits. In his book Mindsight, Daniel Siegal indicates that consciously focusing attention on the changes you’re making will reinforce the new neural connections. The more specific we are about the changes we would like to make, the better the instructions we are giving to our brain.  

Case Study: How do you take action when you feel stuck?

actionblog

A client made this comment to me when we were working together. “I have this feeling I am driving a car down the highway at a very fast speed, but I am finding it hard to get anywhere.” He had some big deliverables that he was excited about, but was feeling stuck in moving some of the simple tasks forward. 

 

In order to help him move forward, I asked him to slow down and engage in some self awareness exercises with curiosity and without judgement. We uncovered some of the underlying issues preventing him from moving forward in the way he desired. One feeling that came up was his fear of failure. 

 

I asked him to see this from a different perspective. In this process, I asked him to observe his feelings in a way where he could see he was not those feelings, rather he was observing those feelings in a specific context.

 

He was able to break the large task into smaller pieces and focused on the next thing he could do to move the task forward. He could then connect the feeling he attached to success when he executed on the deliverables. By slowing down, he was able to see what was holding him back and then take the necessary steps to move forward.

The Power of Tiny Gains- taking small steps over time help us rewire our neural pathways.

pcc3

The key to change is to be very specific about the change we desire and break it down into smaller steps. Those smaller steps might look like learning a new routine or behavior that is performed regularly. When we do this, we are rewiring our neural pathways to bring these new habits from a state of “conscious competence” to “unconscious competence.”

If you get one percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done.

In the beginning, making a choice or change that is 1% better might not seem significant. As time goes on, those small changes and improvements compound and suddenly you will find a large gap between where you started and where you are. Focusing on making small changes and improvements every day will add up to something significant over time. Here are 5 steps you can use to implement small changes into your life. 

5 Steps of Effective Action

  1. Set a goal for yourself. Create a goal that is achievable and short-term focused.
  2. Break your goal down into smaller steps. Focus on the one or two most important things that will move you toward that goal.
  3. Be present. Focus in the moment on what habit you are working on.
  4. Visualize the benefits of achieving your goal. Think about how you will feel once you accomplish your goal. What benefits will it bring? Connect to these feelings and feel them in the present moment.
  5. Visualize the obstacle without judgement. Name the obstacles you are facing. What can you do to address those obstacles? Can you detach yourself from them and remind yourself that you are not those obstacles? They are merely a temporary experience.

By implementing small changes into your life, you start to see a larger shift over time. Taking time to slow down, reflect and be specific about the changes you desire will help your brain effectively rewire your neural pathways. It’s never too late to change as long as we are focused on the desired outcome and trust in the power of the tiny gain.

 

Are you feeling stuck and unsure about the changes you would like to make? We’d love to help! 

Reach out to us to get started with a consultation. 

 

If you want to get the latest information on conscious leadership, join our newsletter

Awareness: The First Step in Conscious Leadership

Learning about ourselves and how we relate to others

Imagine being able to share your thoughts regardless of who you’re speaking with or your expertise in a field. Imagine being able to empower your team to do the same. Is it possible for a workplace to openly communicate regardless of title or hierarchy? How do you get to the root of how your team is feeling and empower them to share openly and honestly with you? This is where Conscious Leadership comes in.

A Conscious Leader embraces their whole self with total awareness of their leadership impact.

They are able to listen and understand how they relate to others in a way which allows them to continue to grow, adapt and lead their team more effectively.  In order to become a more Conscious Leader, one must make a shift into a more conscious mindset. Effective leadership begins with Awareness and is the first step in the Four A’s of Conscious Leadership.

What is awareness and why is it important?

Awareness is defined as the “quality or state of being aware.” You might be wondering “what does this truly mean” or “how does this relate to leadership?” 

 

Daniel Goleman, who popularized Emotional Intelligence, considers self-awareness to be the most crucial competency associated with workplace emotional intelligence. His studies suggest that people who are aware of their emotions are more effective in their jobs. They recognize and understand their moods, emotions and needs and are able to perceive and anticipate how their actions affect other people. 

 

They are also open to feedback from others on how to continuously improve and make sound decisions despite uncertainties and pressures. As a result, they are more trusted leaders and create more productive workplaces.

When we learn to tune-in to ourselves, we create choices of how we move forward and engage.

Self-awareness is about being “in-tune” with yourself in relation to others. It plays a critical role in:

  1. How we understand ourselves
  2. How we relate to others 
  3. How we connect to the world around us

When we tune-in, we can learn about our inner resources, abilities and limits. We begin to understand our strengths and weaknesses and become open to receiving candid feedback. This allows us to see new perspectives and continue down our path of learning and self-development. 

What are the blind spots?

“I don’t know that I don’t know something.”

The challenge in self-awareness is we all have blind spots. 

 

Blind spots: (noun) Things we may not be aware of about ourselves or in relation to others. 

Blind spots are created due to either a  lack of a skill or competency or the inability to see  how our stories, beliefs, mindset, feelings or past experiences impact our behaviors. This is called unconscious incompetence, simply put

I don’t know that I don’t know something. Below are the steps that people go through learning new skills as outlined in a model that was developed by Noel Burch in 1970, called the four stages of competence. The model highlights two factors that affect our thinking as we learn a new skill: consciousness (awareness) and skill level (competence). 

Our blind spots have control over us and our actions. Yet, when we understand the underlying unconscious mechanism that drives our thinking and actions, we have the ability to choose our next steps.

We can use awareness to move to the next step on the ladder, from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence. This is the act of moving from “I don’t know that I don’t know something” to “I know that I don’t know something.” Once we are aware of what we don’t know, we have choices available to us. 

A case study: building awareness in a senior leader

In my work with senior leaders, increasing awareness is one of the first areas I work on. One of my favorite examples is a client who was completely unaware of the impact his communication style had on others. As a senior leader he was a strong problem solver and was driven to achieve results in a very timely manner. However, his approach was not getting the best out of the people around him. This was his unconscious incompetence.  


After completing Leadership Circle 360 Assessment, he received feedback on how others perceived him. They saw him as driven, but his direct style was perceived as not collaborative. As a result people did not feel motivated to work with him. At meetings, he dominated conversations and didn’t give space for others. In reviewing his results, he went from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence. This information gave him the choice
to then  acknowledge his behavior and move into action, the next steps in the conscious leadership framework. 

Increase our awareness through feedback from others

edtd-version-123

One of the best ways to become more self-aware is through asking for feedback from others. 

Self-Awareness Tip #1: I often suggest that leaders find people who they trust to tell them one thing they can do going forward to be a more effective leader. This is what Marshall Goldsmith refers to as Feedforward as a way to focus on the future and not the past. 

 

Self-Awareness Tip #2: I also advise that leaders listen to feedback with curiosity and without attaching to the feelings that come up. There are also more formal instruments available to seek feedback from others such as the 360 assessment or 360 interviews. Both are valuable methods to increase awareness through feedback from others. 

Increase our awareness through self-inquiry

edtd-version-1234

Equally important, is becoming more aware through self-inquiry. This means questioning, exploring, examining and investigating anything regarding oneself.

 Self-Awareness Tip #3: Psychometric instruments such as DISC and EQ provides a lens to better examine our individual attributes. These assessments help us better understand ourselves and the impact we have on others. 

 

Self-Awareness Tip #4: Self-inquiry also requires reflection about what emotional stimuli or events have impacted you. It is important to maintain daily practices to assist in this journey. Remember, you are not your thoughts and feelings. You are merely observing your responses and reactions in order to better understand who you are and how you impact those around you.

These self-awareness tips may seem easy enough, but in practice self-awareness is a process of constant learning. Therefore, ORCA and WithPause have put together a detailed guidebook that you can use throughout your day for self-inquiry: 7 Daily Micro-Practices to Shift Your Experience.

Awareness is the first step to Conscious Leadership...

Awareness is about our ability to be fully present in the moment and to choose our next steps in an informed and conscious way. Once we are able to increase our awareness, we can move forward to the next phases of acknowledgment, action and adaptation. 

 

Do you need advice or support in your journey to increase awareness for you or your team? Download our resource 7 Daily Micro-Practices to Shift Your Experience.

 

Stay tuned for the next part of our Conscious Leadership series which covers the second step of the 4 A’s of Conscious Leadership: Acknowledgement. If you want to keep up to date, join our newsletter for a monthly dose of conscious leadership.

 

The Rise of Employee Burnout and How ORCA’s New Engagement Report Can Help

In the new year, many of us have a renewed sense of hope and purpose, even though we still face challenges. 

As we talk to more and more leaders in the technology space, such as CHROs and Chief People Officers, their primary concern is the rise in employee burnout. 

What many of these leaders don’t know is that the risk of employee burnout is not just about working long hours. 

According to Gallup, when employees are inspired, motivated, and supported, they do more work with less stress. 

The question then becomes how do we keep employees inspired, motivated, and supported?

What is the cause of employee burnout? 

I’m sure each of us could name a laundry list of reasons, especially in a post-COVID world. We aren’t taking time off to get a needed reboot; there are home, work and social stressors; and communication can be more difficult in a remote environment. 

However, according to a recent study1, there are six main stressors that lead to burnout:

  • Overwhelming external shocks, compounded by workload. 
  • Feelings of isolation and lack of psychological safety. 
  • Unsupportive workplace culture. 
  • Existential crises and a lack of purpose.
  • Over-invested identity.
  • Gender-, racial- and age-based discrimination.

The cost of burnout for organizations represent significant loss in revenue, increased rate of talent attrition and loss of team and workplace culture. 

What can leaders do?

Communication and engagement are positively correlated, and can help create a stress-free environment. As a leader within your organization, you have the power to better engage your employees (and yourself) at work. Yet, just as the stressors that cause burnout are different for each employee, the way we engage employees is based on their unique style and personality. Therefore, how we inspire, motivate and support are different for each person, making blanket solutions difficult. 

TTI Engagement ReportWhat is the Engagement Report? 

This is where TTI Success Insights new Engagement Report can help. The assessment is meant to understand how to engage and reboard your employees and leaders, increasing employee wellness. The report combines DISC and the 12 Driving Forces to reveal the “how” and “why” of human behavior.  

The most exciting feature in TTI’s new Engagement Report is its easy-to-understand and shareable nature. The report now has updated statements, new words for each behavior in DISC, and new descriptors to increase understanding. My favorite page of the full 8-page report is the Communication Do’s and Don’ts which can be shared with your colleagues, teams, managers and leaders so they know how to best connect with you.  

(In order to provide important resources to leaders, we are providing a shortened 4-page engagement report to all those who are interested! Try it out here.) 

What are the benefits?

As an HR leader, the assessment can help to:

  1. Increase self-awareness in employees 
  2. Open the channel of communication and feedback between employees and managers 
  3. Give you the opportunity to reboard (and reboot) your staff 
  4. Better understand what engagement initiatives would work best in your organization  

The Engagement Report is just the beginning. Once you understand how your employees, teams and leaders need to be motivated, supported, and inspired, it’s time to get to work through leadership programs and initiatives. 

Take the first step and try out a shortened version of TTI’s new Engagement Report, as a complimentary resource from ORCA HR. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the Engagement Report, check out this blog from TTI Success Insights.

Need help finding customized solutions for your leadership needs? Contact us today for a free consultation. 

—————

 1Study by Jonny Miller (Curious Humans) & Jan Chipchase (Studio D) 

How Remote Tech Companies Can Foster Collaboration

Presently, the world is fully connected, and information flows peer to peer at light speed. The pandemic expedited the adoption of online collaboration tools, making it easier than ever for scaling organizations to work together on different projects with multiple people from many locations. There is little doubt that collaboration is key to the success of organizations in the marketplace. 

Apple’s Success Story

An excellent example of the benefits of collaboration involves the launch of Apple’s iPod challenging the Sony Walkman. Sony had invented a small portable music player and had dominated the market since the Walkman’s introduction in 1979. By the time Apple introduced its iPod in 2003, Sony owned the Walkman and VAIO personal computer divisions, Sony Music and Sony Electronics. Most importantly, they held a vast music database. However, what Sony didn’t have was the collaborative culture that Apple had succeeded in building. 

Sony divisions worked in siloes, which hindered their research, marketing, and go-to-market strategies. At the time, they believed that decentralization would make them more agile but what they didn’t realize is that it came at the expense of communication and collaboration. According to Jeff Robins from the iTunes division, “It was just an incredible team project. There were no boundaries. The software guys, the hardware guys, the firmware guys, everybody worked together.” Apple’s marketing triumph illustrates the benefits of collaboration when well executed. 

The Key to Effective Collaboration

If you are leading an organization where remote teams are the norm (or the new norm), you will have more diversity in communication styles and perspectives versus working in an office. This requires people to respect and more readily adapt to each other’s styles. Identifying interpersonal efficiencies and styles is essential in understanding how to collaborate effectively. Discovering each others’ communication styles and preferences and adapting to communicate effectively is possible, however, it requires that you know yourself quite well. 

Remote Teams Need New Tools

Using DISC assessments, which measure behavioral and communication preferences based on the theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston, remote teams can create a common language for communication and behavioral preferences among staff. Furthermore, DISC helps to support team members to:

  • Better understand themselves and others 
  • Open up and share candidly
  • Communicate effectively 
  • Increase awareness and new perspectives
  • Connect in a valuable and meaningful way
  • Adapt to work more productively with one another 

Successful team collaboration is an ongoing process, with real and measurable results. It’s not a set of tactics or strategies you put into place once and forget. It’s an intentional, dynamic process that needs a long-term orchestrated effort. The DISC tool is a great baseline to start the process and help your remote team along the journey.

Take our free Personalized Work from Home Report to gauge your remote work style. Or if you’re ready to learn more about DISC for your team, contact us today. 

Portrait of modern mixed race man speaking by phone while working from home in cozy interior, copy space

Engage your People with Caring Conversations

As I reflect on my previous role as a Microsoft Global HR leader. I have been wondering how I would have navigated a similar moment in history and what challenges I would have faced in that role. What support could I offer my teams as an HR leader and as a business leader as we enter an unprecedented period of uncertainty and upheaval?

Over 80% of the U.S. is being asked to stay at home and some countries, like Italy, are in 100% lock-down. I want to pay my respects and gratitude to people working in essential roles, especially the medical teams on the front lines of support for COVID-19 patients. 

 Since so many are working from home, I have received dozens of emails about virtual meetings and information on how to use technology to support people during crisis. A range of technologies help us communicate when we are physically distanced; however, we need to ensure that our people feel supported through genuine human connection. 

What conversations are you having that connect personally to each of your employees at this time?  How do you show you care?

We must reach out with compassion and empathy. How do you empathize and “step outside your emotions to view something from the perspective of the other person”? To help you gain a wider perspective on what your teams are feeling and experiencing, consider the following questions/tactics:  

  • Reach out to listen with empathy about what is going on in their lives at this moment and how can you provide support 
  •  Ask them what transitions are they going through personally and how can you support them through this. Some people will be feeling a sense of grief from intense change.  
  • Let them know we are all in this together and you don’t have all the answers  
  • Ensure they feel empowered and trusted to take care of their work and schedules 
  • Engage them in conversations, creating the space to come up with innovative ideas 
  • Ask how you can help them move forward through uncertainty 
  • Ask how you can set up a great virtual environment, and provide them with some best practices? 
  •  Be transparent about the work situation and what you know and don’t know 

In the past few weeks, I have read and spoke to a few leaders who are doing great things to support their people. Others have not yet taking action. Where do you stand?  

Some leaders are intentional in their support and some are innovative, offering virtual beer afternoons, coffee breaks online, mental health breaks, mindfulness classes, book clubs from home, reach-outs to help others in need, and many more great ideas. 

I would love to hear from you if you would like to share what are you doing to support your people and what innovative ideas are emerging in your world.    

To help you facilitate support for your teams, we offer a virtual workshop and webinar. 

“Leading in Times of Anxiety and Uncertainty Virtual Workshop”  

  • Helping my myself to help others:  Using Emotional Intelligence tools to understand what is happening to me in times of uncertainty.
  • Empathy and Conversations that build connections :  How I can understand what others are feeling and experiencing. How I can create conversations that build trust and strengthen relationships
  • Supporting my people through turbulent times:  Practical exercises and frameworks that I can use to support myself and my teams 

Contact us at info@orcahrsolutions.com

Modern office of open space plan with no people. Mixed media

Leading in Times of Anxiety and Uncertainty

To support their teams through uncertain times, effective leaders reflect first on their internal world and personal awareness. By understanding themselves better, leaders can apply that knowledge to navigate the external world and offer relevant guidance and aid to others.

Facing uncertainty, we may find that our bodies feel tense and we cannot channel our energies on forward movement. We are frozen by the fear and anxiety surrounding us. On an instinctual level, our brains first stop and assess our environment for safety and danger. This reaction is perfectly normal as our nervous system has entered a “threat state”. To read more information about this natural neurological reaction, see the footnote below describing the SCARF model*.

Reacting to threatening experiences, our bodies release cortisol, the fear hormone, with dire long-term consequences for our health. Positive experiences trigger the release of dopamine, a hormone that contributes to confidence and higher performance.

An average of three positive experiences dilutes one comparable negative experience because cortisol is three times more powerful than dopamine. To reduce your stress level, engage in as many positive experiences as you can to boost your beneficial dopamine levels.

As a leader, proactively taking steps to support your people  creates more positive experiences in this time of high anxiety and uncertainty.

  1. Start with yourself and be aware of how you are feeling about the current situation.
  2. Practice self-regulation in moments of high stress.
  3. Reach out to others. Ask people how they are feeling. Actively listen. Connect. Everyone needs more support and social connection at this time.
  4. Set up a meeting with your team with no agenda. Gather your team and ask each person to share what is happening if they would like.
  5. Ask your team regularly about how you can best support them as circumstances change rapidly.
  6. Share these 10 steps with your group.

Below is a checklist of 10 immediate actions to take yourself, and share with your team to increase their positive experiences and decrease their stress.

  1. Be mindful – Recognize and acknowledge your thoughts and emotions at this moment. Be aware of tension in your body. Name your feelings. To improve your self-awareness, you can ask yourself:
    1. What am I experiencing right now? How am I experiencing that in my body? Be specific about naming thoughts and feelings. My mind fills with fearful thoughts. My throat feels tight. Pressure weighs on my chest. My jaw clenches when I’m anxious.
      • Name your emotions specifically – e.g fear, sadness, guilt, anger or frustration?
      • Why am I experiencing these emotions? Validate what you’re feeling as useful information to move forward.
    2. What are some of the reasons I feel this way? What can I control? What is out of my hands?
    3. How do these emotions impact me and my ability to perform or move forward?
    4. What small step can I take to improve the situation?
  2. Take action today on what you can control: Prioritize action on what moves you forward rather than focus on all the things you cannot control.
  3. Connect with others: We are social beings; our community helps us feel safe. Reach out to people by phone or video, connect with friends and family, following social distance guidelines.
  4. Engage in what refuels you; What can you do to refuel or recharge your energy? Practicing mindfulness or meditation can be very helpful in these uncertain times.
  5. Move your body: Exercise to relax, and stimulate your brain’s production of endorphins, the chemicals that act as the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.
  6. Experience nature:  Evidence shows that spending time in nature creates many measurable beneficial changes in the body and the mind.
  7. Talk to a trusted friend or family member about how you are feeling. Talking out loud about your fears and anxieties can reduce your stress level. If you’re feeling really stuck, talk to a mental health professional or coach.
  8. Create a routine for your day: Since many of us are working from home, without the predictable structure of the work environment, it is normal to feel a bit lost, or out of sorts. Build a daily structure that supports you and helps you deal with the uncertainty still to come.
  9. Pause: If possible, slow down on making major decisions. Be aware that emotions precede actions and you may not make the best decision when you’re feeling stressed. Fear and anxiety can have a deep subconscious effect on our ultimate decision in a given situation. A negative emotional reaction may cause a disregard of facts or data that that logically support a certain decision. Pause and revisit the decision when your mind and body are in a less threatened state.
  10. Help others: Reach out to people who may need support. There is scientific evidence that when we focus on doing something good for others, the act of kindness causes our brain to release dopamine, increasing own our happiness and calming our minds. If you can activate yourself or your community without putting yourself at risk, do so.

If you need support putting these steps into action, please contact us for a free 15-minute consultation. We have tools and methodologies to support you through these uncertain times.

Additional Information

*David Rock, NeuroLeadership Institute, refers to the SCARF Model*that describes the five domains of human social experience: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness.

  • Status defines relative importance to others.
  • Certainty concerns our ability to predict the future
  • Autonomy provides a sense of control over event
  • Relatedness describes our sense of safety with others. Friend or foe?
  • Fairness depicts the perception of open-minded exchanges between people.

These five domains activate either the ‘primary reward’ or ‘primary threat’ circuitry (and associated networks) of the brain. A perceived threat to one’s status activates similar brain networks that respond to a threat to one’s life. In the same way, a perceived increase in fairness activates the same reward circuitry as receiving a monetary reward.

The model enables people to more easily remember, recognize, and potentially modify the core social domains that drive human behavior. In normal circumstances, the brain assesses our environment for safety and danger. However, in the current state of the world with the Covid19 crisis, we are experiencing additional stress:

  • We cannot personally control the global reaction to the Coronavirus
  • There is uncertainty about how and when the situation will resolve
  • In the immediate future, our autonomy as an individual has been severely impacted.

In addition to this our need for personal connection to others and relationships are being impacted. We respond neurologically to these challenging situations as if there has been a threat to our life. Frightening experiences produce more stress hormones, like cortisol over time. If we can’t reduce our stress levels, the following can occur:

  • Decreased cognitive performance
  • Decreased oxygen available for critical brain functions
  • Tendency to overgeneralize
  • Defensive responses
  • Exaggerated reactions to small stressors
  • Heightened agitation
  • The tendency to dwell on previous negative experiences
  • Struggle to get along with others