Ride the Black Swan: Part 2

Ride the Black Swan: Part 2

Engage and Decide

After a turbulent fortnight, we are confronted with major life adjustments. Nearly one third of the world is in lock-down. Businesses are closed, streets are empty, skies are clear and most of us are hunkered down in our homes. Life as we know it has stopped. Dismal health and economic consequences loom. Read Part 1 here.

Elisabeth Kubler Ross named the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Denial, or a state of numb shock, is dangerous in a crisis. Moving rapidly to acceptance will prepare you for bounce. We have watched world leaders accelerate through these phases – some more skilfully than others.

US Leadership: Watch here. Swedish Leadership: Read here. Kubler Ross….

Regular daily challenges have dropped away – traffic, e-mail loads, travel, meetings. Some love the novelty of abundant time with family at home. In New Zealand, more people are outdoors and active. We have the gift of time, reflection and planning.

On the dark side there is health concern – particularly for older loved ones. Millions of jobs are at risk. Small and large businesses will fail. Social networks are disrupted. It is easy to find yourself streaming videos while you refresh your news or infection-rate site.

The goal is rapid bounce.

Before you can bounce, you must engage with clarity and be decisive.

Calm, Control and Connect

Denial, panic, anger, bargaining and depression are your enemies right now. It is essential to establish a regular daily practice of escaping freeze (denial and depression) flight (fear and panic), and fight (anger) reactions. Instructions here.

Name and tame emotional energy

When we confront acute disruption, emotional energy is high. Even when calm you will notice the physical impact of emotion. Each of us is different. Identify accurately and counter skilfully.

The sadness cluster is related to freeze reactions. Instead of engaging we withdraw. Energy is low and you are probably feeling isolated. Seek energy, activity, people and find some joy. 

The fear cluster (flight) ranges from niggling worry, to anxiety, panic and hyperventilation. You’re energised, distracted, and procrastinating. Breathe slowly, focus on one task at a time, and pay attention to the here and now.

The anger cluster (fight) is dangerous and ranges from irritability, to frustration, angry outbursts, rage and violence. Anger compromises your immune system, decision making and other humans you care about. Focus your attention on others and how they may be experiencing the situation. Be generous, grateful and kind. Apologise immediately and sincerely when you blow.

Scenario Planning

Make calls on what you expect and develop your plan. No-one knows exactly how this will unfold. Read widely from different perspectives. Develop three scenarios – best, likely and worst case. Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Engage your colleagues and family in this dialogue. Make sure you consider five essential ingredients:

  • Health: covid-19 and other conditions/emergencies as services are compromised
  • Economic: much of the consumption economy has stopped; job and business loss will follow
  • Social: some will respect, bond and pull through, others resort to violence and crime
  • Family resilience: physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, cash flow and love
  • Supplies: supply chains are already stretched, make sure you have basic resources secured

Be Decisive

Every situation is different so we each have to work through what decisions to make and how to evaluate them. For example, if your business cannot operate, do you close it and start again later.  Or, fund it though the pandemic and consequent recession/depression. If you need help from the bank, do it now and secure resourcing. Do not wait for funding to dry up.

If you want to upskill or advance your education, now is the time to get started. Online education will flourish.

If you want to start a new business or career, take this time and put your plan into motion. Prepare to meet the needs that will arrive once this has settled. A significant transformation is in play. There will be wonderful opportunities for those who engage, decide and move fast.

In Part 111, we will address Bounce in detail.

Start you personal Resilience Online Training.

OPTIMISM

OPTIMISM

Research Highlight: Optimism is a super skill

95% of the most successful 10% of people scored “I think and communicate with optimism” with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’ (in a sample of 21,000).

The human mind is Velcro for the negative. Based on a high threat environment, a negative and threatening explanation might have been advantageous. Today, pessimism disables you.

Only 9% of the least resilient people score optimism with ‘very often’ or ‘nearly always’.

Question: How can I explain this adversity in one enabling sentence?

Condition: Notice but reject the easy negative self-talk

Discipline: Think and express yourself with positive language

Caution: Our times are testing. This will take courage.

What you can do right now?

  1. Ask someone close if you are optimistic or pessimistic. Explore an example
  2. Watch the content of your thoughts. Notice the words you choose to make sense of a situation. For example: “This always happens to me”
  3. Explore different ways to express the situation. For example: “What could I do differently” Notice the shift from blame to responsibility.
  4. Be alert for positive news.  Some suggest that we aim to express at least three positive observations for every complaint.

In the background:

  • Fatigue, isolation and distress will reduce optimism
  • Sleep well, be social, relax and play
  • Nurture your positive emotions – joy, gratitude, appreciation, hope, kindness

Note: With the current social instability, political malaise and climate risk, the value and importance of optimism will increase. It is well proven that optimism can be learned and has wide ranging personal and economic benefits. Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is proven an effective solution to depression. We use the term situational agility to describe the healthy and adaptive use of the optimism in key situations.

Own your joy!

Women Suffering at Work

Women Suffering at Work

Resilience Delivers Part Two

Read Part 1 here.

Forget the Glass Ceiling: Fix Resilience

Are women more resilient than men or are women suffering?  We see evidence of resilience in longevity, pregnancy, and capacity to change societal outcomes through education. Yet, our data, drawn from organisational life, shows women suffering at work. They are struggling with resilience issues much more than men.

We explore the differences, reflect on causes, and recommend action.

1. The Data Demonstrates

Based on Version 3.0 questions (even sample size), we see:

  • Male resilience ratios (2.31:1) are higher than female ratios (2.11:1)
  • Post training ratios improve more in men (0.61) than women (0.49)
  • Females have high liability scores – more distressed, withdrawn and vulnerable
  • Pre-training resilient women: correlated with vitality, sleep and nutrition
  • Pre-training resilient men: correlated with flow, situation agility and nutrition
  • Post training, female distress and depression scores improve markedly
  • Post training, female wellbeing and train mind scores improve markedly
  • Post-training resilient women: correlated with relaxation and focus
  • Post-training resilient men: correlated with focus, decisiveness and assertiveness

At a factor level, there are marked differences between male and female answers:

Liability factors by gender

Asset factors by gender

The lower resilience scores (and suffering) are driven by distress symptoms (headaches, gut, skin, muscles), self doubt and indecisiveness. Women also score lower on the key factors that underpin resiliency (bounce, fitness, impulse control and tactical calm).

On the positive side women are more engaged and positive, eat better and as expected score better on EQ factors (positivity, connection, empathy, insight).

When looking at age bands, younger and older women secure better ratio improvements (dominating men). Between 31 and 50 women secure less gains relative to men.

2. How Might we Explain this?

Whilst a sensitive subject, a relative deficit in female resilience must be understood and addressed.

Perhaps we can lay the blame squarely on men? First, they have little insight and second, they make the workplace hard for women. This explanation is naïve and unhelpful.

We could explain these differences by saying that women are prone to self doubt. Thus, women experience more anxiety and distress symptoms. Consequently, they fail to express themselves with adequate confidence and impact. Anxiety undermines action.

Yet, the tables above show that women believe they express EQ better, eat better, stay positive and are more engaged (less anhedonia, self absorption, attention loss and boredom). Actions counter anxiety.

We have examples of organisations where women have significantly higher resilience scores than the men. In these cases, the overall resilience ratio is generally higher (>2.25:1). Perhaps some organisational cultures support women better and let them thrive.

Woman speaking in group situation at work

3. Our Recommendations

First, please reflect on this data and ask the question: “Are our women suffering?” The key themes above have been consistent since 2011 over 26,099 assessments. If your women need resilience, you have a duty of care to pay attention and take action.

Second, begin the conversation and please measure the resilience of your people. If you know what is going on you can act with intelligence and precision. Support bounce, wellbeing and resilience and watch your productivity improve.

Third, consider whether safety, health and resilience training should be gender specific. Knowing the resilience factor scores of your male and female population can inform, direct and target your training.

Finally, resilience in women is strongly correlated with vitality, relaxation, sleep quality, nutrition and focus. We must support our women to secure these factors. However, it appears that women must address the distress and depression categories first. When they do, the improvement is marked. What women need is different to what men need!

Perhaps resilience will shatter that glass ceiling?

Tilting the Axis of Good and Evil

Tilting the Axis of Good and Evil

Empathy, Candour, Altruism, Deceit and Trickery

Five words define the crucible of civilization and the battle between conflict and progress. This is true in our relationships, communities, businesses and nations.

Whether it is Brexit, the current US election, climate threat, rich getting richer, or data security, we decide based on our judgement of these five factors. British leadership tried with empathy and candour to secure the trust of the nation to vote “Bremain”. Voters suspected deceit and trickery. To everyone’s surprise, Britain is now exiting a process purposed to integrate Europe with empathy, candour and altruism.

The US election is ripping the world’s great democracy into vitriolic deceit, trickery, and self-interest. The consequence is a collapse of trust in government. The window to be good custodians of our planet is closing due to self-interest and a failure of trust.

Voters no longer trust governments, corporates and the rich. Whilst Mark Zuckerberg can wing his way to show empathy for earthquake victims in Italy and the super-wealthy can give away billions, the vast majority of us are hunkered down in survival mode – powerless and suspicious. We feel deceived and tricked.

On the other side, research including Google[1] and MIT[2], shows that empathy is the key competence (skill) to liberate performance in teams. The psychological safety (trust) experienced in a team, liberates constructive interaction and work. This trust is not some secret ingredient. It is actively constructed from specific behaviours. First, high performing teams communicate face-to-face (candour). Second, they communicate in concise bursts of straight feedback (candour). Third, they include all participants equally in the dialogue (altruism).

Empathy is the fulcrum of this crucible. Empathy allows us to read others and decide between deceit and candour (see: http://www.paulekman.com/blog/want-president-cant-wont-lie). Empathy with candour triggers altruism and the amazing collaboration witnessed in advanced social groupings. Empathy with deceit leads to a failure of trust, self-interest and further deceit, which we witness in modern politics, wars, gangs and prisons.

This tipping point between collaborative power and deceitful destruction is embedded in evolution and well validated in studies of corvids (crows and jays), dolphins, whales, elephants, and most primates[3]. The evolutionary source of the solution is clearly visible in chimps and bonobos where the role of leadership demands empathy and altruism to secure the survival of the group.

We might be wise to remember that deceit and trickery are equally well developed in the species above. Homo sapiens is only different in the degree to which we exploit and realise the extremes good and evil.

When we choose empathy, candour and altruism we are capable of exponential goodness. When we default to deceit and trickery we light the fuse of massive destruction.

Be a force for good

  1. Be crystal clear on your language
  • Empathy is the ability, deeply embedded in our species and wide open to learning, to accurately read and understand others. It is a passive competence requiring attention, non verbal cues, analysis and intuition
  • Candour is the intention to express yourself as honestly as possible. Candour requires self-awareness, courage and skill. It takes time to know yourself well and even longer to express yourself honestly with sensitivity and clarity. Candour is active and effortful.
  • Altruism is the intention to help others with skill. It is active. Altruism requires the combination of deep empathy (really understanding what action will help others rather than relieve your guilt or anxiety) and skilful means. At first, altruism presents as a cost and therefore risky. However, the practice of altruism leads to multi-party benefit – particularly your own[4].
  • Deceit can be an act of omission (hiding something) or commission (fabricating an untrue statement). It is the opposite of candour.
  • Trickery is exploiting trust. We attempt to appear as x whilst actually doing y. Here lies the failure of trust in many political systems and relationships.
  1. Define clearly your values and purpose

Being clear on what matters to you, builds a platform to tip the axis to good. Short term self interest or self-gratification leads to deceit and trickery. Our own research shows the critical role of developing a clear set of values and meaningful purpose. We must actively choose between self and others, now and later, candour or deceit and altruism versus trickery.

  1. Press for total candour

Accept that expressing candour skilfully takes time and practice. Be intentional about telling the whole truth. Ask yourself if you have left anything out. Give people an opportunity to ask questions. Help others be candid with you.

  1. Practice your empathy skills

Empathy requires practice. We have addressed this in many papers.

  1. Random acts of kindness

Be good by doing good should guide each day. Even for those on the wrong side of the axis, spending time helping others has an extraordinary benefit to self, others and the system in which you live. Be generous and skilful.

  1. Be gentle and forgiving

Tipping the axis takes time, demands experiment and failure. Reconciliation is built deep into our evolutionary roots. Be patient and kind to yourself and others. It will accelerate the journey to be a true force for good.

[1] Smarter, Faster, Better, Charles Duhigg, 2016

[2] Humans are Underrated, Geoff Colvin, 2015

[3] Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are, Frans de Waal, 2016

[4] Altruism, Matthieu Ricard, 2015

The Art and Science of Expertise

The Art and Science of Expertise

Written by 

The methodology for how to be your best is becoming a systematic science and art. With a number of new and complimentary themes, this article explores what we know and how to apply it. What are the main themes? How do we make this personally meaningful?

Expert performance can involve four distinct sets of players. The first is the individual. The second is the team. The third is teams with computers. The fourth is entire organisations be they military, commercial, sports or humanity.

Here are some key themes and the key references for those want to go deeper:

The Science of Flow

Over the past decades humans have made massive gains in performance. We see this in sport, extreme adventure, science, music, chess, military, and business. The gains come from applying this science of expertise. Csikszentmihaly[1] popularised the Flow concept three decades ago and Steven Kotler[2] has taken this to a new level. Now Anders Ericsson[3] has taken another step with deliberate practice.

At first, Flow simply described the state of optimal performance. Today, we are systematically mapping the experience. We now know exactly what has to occur in our physiology, emotions and mind to enable flow. It is indeed a magical state of super-performance liberated from doubt and fuelled by extraordinary changes in the chemical brain and consciousness. In Flow we can do the seemingly impossible – and it feels fantastic!

McKinsey argues that an executive in flow does five days work in one. The All Blacks and Navy Seals have institutionalised flow as a way of being.

At the core, flow emerges when we tackle a serious but meaningful challenge with a set of finely honed skills (expertise). The experience is so intense, thinking, feeling and bodily processes temporarily cease. This allows maximum resources for rapid, accurate perception, evaluation and decision-making.

The Science of Expertise

The systematic development of the necessary skills to enter flow consistently is new territory. This is where high performance sports coaching, military strategy and Anders Ericsson have lots to teach us. Deliberate practice trumps genes and “natural talent’ every time. Experts agree that Mozart, Einstein, Picasso and others shone not because of some magical talent but because they practiced deliberately over long periods of time.

Expert performances are increasing because we understand the process of skill development. It takes time – in the order of 7,500 hours. It must start early in life. It requires expert coaching and data-driven feedback. Ericsson’s recipe includes deliberate, purposeful practice over long periods of time, specific training objectives, quick feedback with expert coaching, razor focus, practicing outside of one’s comfort zone, and alignment of motivators.

Ericsson and Duhigg[4] both agree that developing the right mental maps (or representations) is critical. This is worth a moment to process. In the demanding and fluid conditions of expert performance, the pictures of one’s options must present immediately. In other words whether it is chess, concert performance, battle, sport or business, experts have mapped these mental maps into their long-term memory.

There is no time to ponder the question: “what should I do now?” You have to know that exact situation from memory – through deliberate practice – and all of the possible options available. This is the meaning of what we call situation awareness. Because you have practiced the situation so many times, you can feel the right option intuitively. Working memory (thinking) is just too slow and too expensive. Top Gun, the Navy Fighter initiative, did this by drilling pilots in specific dogfight situations followed by detailed debriefs. Again and again they learned how specific situations unfold and how to respond intuitively. This transformed the Navy’s performance in Vietnam and has become the template for US military campaigns.

The applications of this idea are huge from parenting and education through to business and the professions. The more we practice for novel situations and enrich long term memory with different options, the better we will become. These mental maps must include physical, emotional and cognitive elements.

The Science of High Performing Teams

Geoff Colvin[5] and Charles Duhigg converge on a definite shift in research on what drives team performance. The message is crisp. Intelligence, expertise and style are not correlated with team performance. Empathy or social awareness is categorically the best predictor of who will contribute to team performance. Both MIT and Google have contributed to this work showing that it is the teams that interact face-to-face with high emotional sensitivity that deliver the goods.

Further they suggest that short burst communication, evenly distributed around the team characterise a high performing team. Imagine what happens when the deliberate practice of empathy is combined with the tools to work in this way. Then what when we apply team flow to deliberate practice and after-action reviews.

The final frontier is where excellent teams interface with excellent technology. Already teams of chess players collaborate with computers to be the best chess “players” in the world. It is time to ask yourself how you might work with emergent technology to expand and develop your career.

Resilience in Body, Heart and Mind

Expert performance must rest on a foundation of Resilience. The entire range of expert performance is no longer the domain of intellect. The possibility of flow depends upon our will to cultivate resilience in a systematic way. Be fit enough to keep the brain plastic, sleep long enough to activate empathy and social intelligence, and learn how to create meaning and passion on a daily basis.

We know that children who learn to develop their impulse control, empathy and physical wellbeing are far more likely to excel. As Anders Ericsson pleads, we are becoming Homo Exercens – the practicing human. Start early, support everyone and back yourself.

References:

[1] Mihalyi Csikszentmihaly, Good Business, 2003

[2] Steven Kotler, Rise of Superman, 2014

[3] Anders Ericsson, Peak, 2016

[4] Charles Duhigg, Smarter, Faster, Better, 2016

[5] Geoff Colvin, Humans are Underrated, 2015

Cultivating Radiance

Cultivating Radiance

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 1.47.35 pm

Can a 3-minute practice change your day?

Yes, we know these practices work.  Yet, the motivation and skill to execute the practice regularly is often lacking. Examples include high intensity exercise, powernaps, tactical calming, and sleep preparation. I would like to share one that works really well for me. Simply follow the instructions below or click on the link and print a 3-minute practice to improve your day.

Purpose

Secure more calm, enthusiasm, love, gratitude, and joy in your day and your life.

Investment

Three minutes each morning for deliberate practice – in bed, sitting or walking

Instructions

Follow each instruction for 30 seconds

  1. Exhale fully, relax face and neck and breathe low and slow, feeling the breath move
  2. Follow your exhalation to the base of your spine and seek the deepest feeling of calm and steadiness you can imagine. Feel the base of a mountain, a tree trunk or deep ocean to help you strongly feel a core of calm, stability and confidence in the moment.
  3. Expand your inhalation up through the spine and feel your physical energy and strength. Seek aliveness. Treasure every living process within you seeking your life force and passion to be.
  4. Open your heart area and bring to mind those you love dearly. Send each person a pulse of loving-kindness. Expand your altruism with a sincere desire that everyone be healthy, happy and successful.2
  5. Focus attention on your forehead. Really fix your attention on a spot between your eyebrows. With gratitude for this moment of pure, clear, stable focus go deep into the experience of one pointed attention.
  6. Imagine the sun shining on your head and allow yourself to feel blessed by goodness and the blessing of life. Rest in the flow of happiness, contentment, joy, and bliss.

Start your day and enjoy the afterglow. Notice how the probability that you are calm, energised, kind, clear and happy increases.

To download and print click here