Other People at Work REALLY Matter

Contribution Respect Teamwork

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Key Point: The data suggests that most people now joining the workforce in western countries could have more than 10 different jobs in their careers. So with all that change, does it make sense to REALLY get to know, care for and invest in the people we work with? Here is one data point that could influence your thinking on this question.

“A Harvard study that followed 268 sophomores from the late 1930s and early 1940s over the course of their adult lives showed that the single most important predictor of successful aging, defined by physical and mental health and satisfaction with life at age 75, wasn’t cholesterol level, treadmill endurance or intelligence. It was having close relationships. Based on the extensive data collected over seven decades, the author concluded: “The only things that matter in life are your relations to other people.”

I have enjoyed working with 9 different companies in three different countries over 42 years since completing my undergraduate work. I have literally loved working with almost all teammates in every organization. (Yes, there are a few exceptions). And I can sincerely state that I have stayed connected to people from each one of these organizations. The investment I’ve put in caring and getting to know them is more than worth it, even though in many cases, I see or talk to them all too rarely. I genuinely miss my concentrated working time with them. My relationships with the people I have worked with help define whether I have added any real value to the world. So while the Harvard study refers to the wider spectrum of relationships, especially family and friends, I believe our relationships at work have a very positive impact on our well being and sense of contribution. 

Character Moves:

  1. Remind yourself that even though your tenure in companies is unpredictable and uncertain, the relationship between you and teammates is important and sustainable (if you work at it).
  2. It is not a trivial matter to invest in the relationships of those you work around you. If you care, you will come to know them in a deeply personal way. You will know who and what is important to them, (e.g., do you know the names of their partners and kids)? This includes who and what they love. This takes much personal energy and is an investment. Even if you, as a boss, might have to fire them one day, getting to know your entire team is imperative.
  3. Of course the deep, personal relationships you develop will ideally extend well beyond the people you work with. But the people you work with make up much of your daily life. They are worthy of your personal and authentic care. And do not be a “Matcher” by expecting reciprocal care and attention. Be strong and generous enough to invest and care about them without expecting reciprocity. Just give of yourself. Why?
  4. According to the data of the Harvard study, the ultimate winner when you invest in others is none other than you and your wellness. 

Work relationships matter in the Triangle,

Lorne

 

What (More Than) Happy People Do Differently

Abundance Authenticity Growth mindset

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Key Point: As I get more gnarly, I appreciate how much life involves embracing paradox. Many people have asked me about my insights on their pursuit of happiness at work, home, and just life in general. My answer typically is related to finding more than just happiness, including meaning, purpose, acting with generosity, and living the Character Triangle. Subsequently, I found the following very interesting:

“One of life’s sharpest paradoxes is that the key to satisfaction is doing things that feel risky, uncomfortable, and occasionally bad.” What Happy People Do Differently is a Psychology Today article by Robert Biswas-Diener and Todd B. Kashdan, published on July, 2. 

 The following highlights their research and I am going to embrace their conclusions as subsets of perspectives I share. The headings are my thoughts while the italics are comments from their research that, conveniently of course, supports my views :).

Character Moves:

  1. Avoid the “perfection trap.” “This is not to say that we should take a laissez-faire attitude to all our responsibilities; paying attention to detail is helpful. But too much focus on minutiae can be exhausting and paralyzing. The happiest among us (cheerfully) accept that striving for perfection— and a perfectly smooth interaction with everyone at all times— is a loser’s bet.”
  2. Take a risk and don’t be afraid to skin your knees. “There are plenty of instances in life where the best way to increase your satisfaction is to simply do what you know feels good, whether it’s putting your favorite song on the jukebox or making plans to see your best friend. But from time to time, it’s worth seeking out an experience that is novel, complicated, uncertain, or even upsetting—whether that means finally taking the leap and doing karaoke for the first time or hosting a screening of your college friend’s art-house film. The happiest people opt for both so that they can benefit, at various times, from each.”
  3. Be Abundant: Be a giver not a matcher or taker. “In life, it seems, there are an abundance of Florence Nightingales waiting to show their heroism. What’s precious and scarce are those people who can truly share in others’ joy and gains without envy. So while it might be kind to send flowers to your friend when she’s in the hospital for surgery, you’ll both derive more satisfaction out of the bouquet you send her when she finishes medical school or gets engaged.”
  4. Accept that $#!& happens and embrace negative emotions. “Similar to training for a triathlon, learning the skill of emotional discomfort is a task best taken on in increasing increments. For example, instead of immediately distracting yourself with an episode of The Walking Dead or pouring yourself a whiskey the next time you have a heated disagreement with your teenage son, try simply tolerating the emotion for a few minutes. Over time, your ability to withstand day-to-day negative emotions will expand.”
  5. Be both present and aspirational. “If you want to envision a happy person’s stance, imagine one foot rooted in the present with mindful appreciation of what one has—and the other foot reaching toward the future for yet-to-be-uncovered sources of meaning. Indeed, research by neuroscientist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison has revealed that making advances toward achievement of our goals not only causes us to feel more engaged, it actually helps.”
  6. Recognize there is more to a fulfilled life than happiness. “As well-being researchers, we don’t deny the importance of happiness—but we’ve also concluded that a well-lived life is more than just one in which you feel “up.” The good life is best construed as a matrix that includes happiness, occasional sadness, a sense of purpose, playfulness, and psychological flexibility, as well autonomy, mastery, and belonging.”

More than Happiness in The Triangle,

Lorne

 

The Science Behind a ‘Trust Fall’

Accountability Teamwork

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Dr. Trudi Chalmers is the resident performance neuropsychologist at ATB Financial. She received her Ph.D in Neuroscience from the University of Calgary. She was also recently picked as an ATB “spark”; a company catalyst and example of inspired leadership. I’m pleased to have Trudi contribute her second celebrity blog to lornerubis.com.

You’ve just been assigned a really interesting new project that requires some collaboration with colleagues. You know that you need to depend on them if the project is going to be completed by the deadline… As such, the first feelings that surface for you are likely around trust. Will they deliver what they promised? Will they give their best work? Will they be responsive and engaged..? Can you trust them?

Trust is the backbone of most of our dealings at work, home, and as clients to other businesses and services. And yet, for something so important we seem to have a very rudimentary understanding of it. We easily say “I just don’t trust them…” without really understanding what trust means and why we feel that way. There is a whole science behind trust, and understanding that science may help us understand trust a little bit better.

Colloquially, when asked most people define trust along the lines of “it’s based on past experiences” or “it’s built over time” or “it’s a gut instinct”… None of which are wrong… But, all of which miss some key components. In the scientific literature, trust is defined as an individual’s belief in, and willingness to act on, the basis of the words, actions, and decisions of another. A key component of trust is that there MUST be vulnerability – trust involves a dependence on another person with the potential for serious negative consequences if that person doesn’t act according to our expectations. Anytime that we experience vulnerability you can bet that there will be some pretty strong emotions tied in!

We can’t get through life without having to be vulnerable. So, we’ve come up with ways to unconsciously assess trustworthiness in order to create the best possible outcome for ourselves. A study published in Nature Neuroscience shows that trust in a person can be primed by reading a short biography that subtly outlines good moral character (like, helping a friend in need). Not only did this information increase perceived trustworthiness, but it also over rides actual experience! Even after this person acted ‘unfairly’ the participants in the study continued to demonstrate trust behaviourally – they behaved based on what their initial perception was and seemed to not learn from experience. Thus, a sense of shared morals and values are important for allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and to trust. Furthermore, we want to trust those with ‘good’ morals and values – even when their actual behaviour suggests we shouldn’t.

Generally speaking, life flows along pretty smoothly when there are no violations of trust – to the point that we sometimes don’t even notice how much trust we’ve put in someone until we get let down by violation of our expectations. When this happens, we often perceive that violation of trust as an injustice – or, unfair treatment. Studies that measure brain activity during perceived unfair treatment show that a specific area of the brain (anterior insula) becomes activated. Interestingly, this is the same area of the brain that becomes active when we’re in physical pain. In a very real way, the social and emotional pain that results from violations of trust are experienced the same as physical pain.

Character Moves:

  1. Respect the vulnerability associated with trust. Recognize when someone is putting their trust in you and be mindful of the vulnerability associated with that. Be accountable.
  2. Increase your awareness of unconscious influences on trust. Notice what triggers trust for you. Notice the instances when you trust someone even when their behaviour says you shouldn’t. AND, the instances when someone trusts you and you know you’re not delivering according to expectations!
  3. Remember that the pain associated with unfair treatment and violations of trust is felt physically. Take the trust that others place in you seriously.

Trusting in the Triangle, 

Dr. Trudi Chalmers 

Thanks again, Dr. Chalmers, 

Lorne 

Focus Pocus!

Accountability Organizational leadership

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Key Point: I have been involved with leading change all my life and if I have come to understand anything, it’s that change does not take place in linear, comfortable ways. It is kind of like saying… “I want to get fit, so I am going to focus exclusively on exercise. So I am going to get training shoes, then exercise gear, then start walking 10 minutes at a time. But I am NOT going to change my nutrition, and other habits that detract from my fitness. It is just toooo hard to attend to exercise AND nutrition at the same time. It is too chaotic, too confusing and just too much to ask of anyone.” Frankly, I think that’s a big cop out. 

When you change something that involves a “system” I deeply believe you need to work on ALL elements of the system at the same time. If you read my previous blog, you may wonder if this is a contradiction to small, methodical incremental steps. No it is not. I just believe you need to work on the entire system simultaneously… Each element, one step at a time.

If one is leading a change in an organization, you need to establish a vision and desired future state. However, if you think that an aspirational statement is enough, you will likely be disappointed with the speed of change. You also have to work on the complimentary people, production and measurement systems simultaneously. Great leaders know this and that’s why the best CEOs make lots of money. They are capable of leading continuous, simultaneous large system change, while keeping organizations from spinning out of control from the rotation. Sometimes people confuse focus, with incremental change on all elements of a system. If you are comforted by linear, pedestrian, process only type change, go find an institution or system protected from the volatility, uncertainty, and the turbulent environment we live in. Good luck.

Character Moves:

  1. Think of yourself as a system. What is your purpose? Where are you going? What is your desired future state? Write it out.
  2. Define each element you need to work on and FOCUS on small forward steps in EACH. Do not be linear and singular unless you are only wishful or have an unlimited timetable in achieving a desired future state.
  3. Recognize that some “just focus” people, may never have managed a transformation of any significance and are comforted by the “never ever” outcome and/or standing on the sidelines, too timid to step into the traffic.
  4. Remember that you have to explain to yourself and others how each element impacts the system. If you or they do not connect the dots, they (or you) may roll over and default into linear incrementalism. 

Parallel focus in the Triangle,

Lorne

 

Walking Across the Street in Hanoi, Vietnam

Accountability Contribution

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Key Point: It is amazing what we can accomplish when we put commitment in front of fear and slowly, methodically, bit by bit, walk from one side of the road to the other, more desirable side. I heard someone explain that if one wanted to cross a street through crazy, chaotic Hanoi traffic they had to step confidently into the flow, walk slowly, persistently forward, NOT stop or run and somehow, unbelievably, they would get to the other side safely (Watch this video if you want to get a more visual feel for this).

The thought provoking,(The 4-Hour-Work Week) irrepressible, Tim Ferriss, takes this idea even further. In his upcoming book, he writes from the premise of believing wholeheartedly that people can become world class; i.e. top five percent in the world at one or two things per year, not one or two things per lifetime.

Ferriss states in a Big Think blog, “Because I think that the 10,000-hour rule applies in certain places but not all places. And what I’ve had a lot of fun doing is seeking out the anomalies. Not just where the groups condense but looking for the really unusual anomalies. Somebody who learns Icelandic in seven days, well enough to go on TV and be interviewed. Someone who can memorize – has trained himself to memorize a deck of cards in 43 seconds no matter how you shuffle it. With no real natural gift. Someone who learns to become a world-class swimmer at age 38. These anomalies. And then looking for the recipe, right? The step-by-step process that produces results over and over and over again that those people use.” 

Character Moves (until Ferriss or someone gives us a better recipe):

  1. If you are really clear what you want (many people are better at identifying what they don’t want), put your fear behind commitment, “step into the traffic,” and slowly keep moving forward, keeping your eyes on where you want to end up.
  2. Perhaps this is a worn out metaphor or too simplistic… But when you look around, examples abound around us. Ordinary people like you and me achieving things they once only dreamed about. (This blog is dedicated to our son Garrett who completed the Spartan Race Beast in Monterey, Calif this past weekend… DWD bud!)

Through traffic in the Triangle,

Lorne