Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

The Chemistry of Chemistry

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

By Kimberly Coon

The three stages of Love are: Lust, Attraction, and Attachment. Love is a biological imperative, much like hunger or thirst. In order to ensure survival of our species, we must be mated and sated.

Lust is the initial feeling of sexual desire that triggers the goal of mating. During this stage, there is a temporary increase in such feel-good chemicals as estrogen and testosterone. This phase rarely last more than a few months at best – so enjoy them while you can.

Attraction is an interesting evolved technique to conserve time and energy in order to focus on the ultimate goal – finding love. Hard to believe but romantic attraction actually reduces the playing field. It weeds out most of the competition simply because the “hunter” is not attracted to them. This speeds the whole process up because narrowing it down makes it much easier to choose from the selected pool of attractive potential mates.

According to expert Helen Fisher, author of “Defining the Brain Systems of Lust, Romantic Attraction, and Attachment”, recent studies show that while falling in love, the brain consistently releases an exciting cocktail of “Happy” chemicals. Well-liked substances such as Serotonin, Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Neurotransmitter hormones are the same concoction released when you are on amphetamines. As you would expect, this vigorously stimulates the brain’s pleasure center. It also explains the common “falling in love” symptoms of loss of appetite, insomnia, wildly beating heart and and flushes of excitement.

The good news is that this natural chemical euphoria generally lasts between 18 months to three years.

Attachment, the third stage of love accounts for long-term relationships. It’s the bonding that seals the love. It evokes grownup feelings of responsibility, safety, security and mutual defense. It includes sharing a home, children, marriage and parental duties. It also is based on shared interests and mutual friendship.

Interestingly enough, the chemical high of the first two phases are nothing compared to the goodies that come with Attachment. It produces much higher levels of nature’s newest “wonder” compound: Oxytocin. It puts the awes … in awesome. Higher doses are found in women than men. Also, their are countless ways to produce its secretion naturally. For a look at 100 ways to stimulate Oxytocin production, go to www.marsvenus.com for an in-depth look at how it can help you in every aspect of your life.

Finally, it was been reported in Psychoneuroendocrinology (Sept.’05) that the protein molecule known as the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) soars when people first fall in love.

NFG is a superstar protein. It not only slows down or stops nerve degeneration, but also it has been shown to promote nerve regeneration and myelin repair. This is fantastic news for people suffering from such debilitating conditions as Mulitple Sclerosis . The nerve regeneration may also be instrumental in treating various psychiatric disorders as dementia, depression, schizophrenia, autism, Rett Syndrome, anorexia, bulimia and Alzheimer’s disease.

NFG takes around one year to return to its normal levels. But listen to this, it’s been proven to last longer and in higher dosages the more passionate the couples are. So, here’s a life-lesson:

It’s better to be a lover than a fighter.

Mars and Venus in the Office

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Written by Marcel Borgi MarsVenus Coach

In 2013, is it out of date to suggest that men and women are polar, or planetary opposites?

John Gray, best-selling author of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus” says gender differences still count. In his book, “Mars and Venus in the Workplace: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting Results at Work” Gray agrees that “many men who get ahead have a respect for masculine and feminine traits; a lot of men are willing to collaborate. The whole workplace is moving in the direction of greater collaboration and teamwork, and there is greater acceptance of differences in the workplace.”

But there’s still a strong need to generate awareness of traditionally masculine or feminine reactions to problems at work “so that there is greater potential to respond intelligently in each situation.”

Let us explore in the next few paragraphs some sides of the concept.

As mixed gender work teams become the norm, to succeed at work and in business we must all learn to speak a second language. And that language is the language of the opposite sex. Learning a second language does not mean you become that language. It is like, if you could speak a second language, say Italian, and you had a family come to stay in your home for a while who could only speak Italian because they hadn’t learned English yet. Wouldn’t you speak Italian to them? Of course you would. You would do it to make them feel more comfortable but also so that you could get your message across clearly.

Does being able to speak Italian make you Italian? No! All it does is give you a greater choice of how you interact with people.

We all know that men and women are not really from different planets but for the purpose of understanding our differences we’re going to pretend that they were.

Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus metaphor was, in fact, deliberately chosen to playfully introduce some basic gender differences and how they apply to the workplace today and then provide some simple practical solutions as well.

Reducing gender conflict has a variety of benefits. It leads to:

  • Happier team members
  • Greater cooperation
  • Decreased loss of personnel, which leads to
    • Decreased cost & time spent on recruitment and training
    • A better ability to understand the needs and concerns of your customers (regardless of whether they are internal or external customers), and
    • A greater competitive advantage for the company as a whole when they utilize the masculine & feminine skills.

It is very important that you don’t think that all men have to be a certain way or that all women should be the same, because the reality is that we are all individuals.  Everyone can think of examples of reverse gender styles.

GENDER DIFFERENCES

Women express their feelings of discomfort working in what they perceive as hostile masculine environments. While men tell of their confusion or frustration when working with female colleagues.

Men perceive that women don’t know what they want or if they do know what they want, they’re not asking for it directly then they must have a hidden agenda.

A more positive interpretation is to remember that women are socialized to present their ideas as suggestions. This is actually a great skill for achieving cooperation and is excellent for situations where maintaining harmony and equality within a group is necessary.

Many women, on the other hand, see men as arrogant or self important. This is based largely on their observations of men expressing their opinions forcefully or seeking attention for their achievements.

Once again, a more positive interpretation is to remember that men are socialized from an early age to suppress doubts and maintain, either a facade or, a reality of self confidence. Again it is a great skill and essential in a situation where it is necessary to maintain status within a group.

The whole principle of the Mars Venus work is that we are different and equal not that one is better than the other.

We’re going to look at some basic Martian behaviors and traits and some basic Venusian principles and characteristics. Two sets of characteristics, many of which you will recognize in yourself.  They may not, however, come from the column you might expect.  We often have women say “I associate with the female or Venusian characteristics but also associate with these particular Martian characteristics”, and we sometimes have men say “I know I have these male characteristics but I can also identify with some of these Venusian traits”.  We are each different.  I mean the majority of men are taller than women but we can all think of taller women or shorter men.  We are dealing with generalizations here and what is important is for you to take away the information you find helpful.

Martian and Venusian Characteristics & Behaviors

Some Martian Characteristics Some Venusian Characteristics
Martians offer solutions, many times invalidating a woman’s feelings Venusians offer unsolicited advice and direction
Martians tend to pull away and silently think about what’s bothering them Venusians feel an instinctive need to talk about what’s bothering them – many times they discover what’s wrong by talking
Martians are motivated when they feel needed Venusians feel motivated when they feel respected
Martians experience self worth through trust, acceptance and appreciation Venusians experience self worth through caring, understanding and respect
Martians study things rather than relationships Venusians study people and relationships
To feel better, Martians go to their caves to solve problems alone To feel better Venusians get together and openly talk about their problems – talk therapy
A Martian’s sense of self is defined through his ability to achieve results A Venusian’s sense of self is defined through the quality of her relationships

 

When He Has A Problem

When She Has A Problem

Appears to shut-down Wants to talk about it
Retreats into himself Seeks out colleagues who may be able to help
May go into his office and shut the door or leave the office Walks around the office
Wants to be left alone to think Openly discusses the issues
Needs to work it out himself Just wants the right answers

Now I’d just like to explain a concept that was mentioned in the Martian characteristics that you may not have heard of before and that is the cave.

A cave is a place where a Martian retreats to solve the problems of the day and/or to reduce stress. A cave may be a physical place like a quiet corner at work somewhere; it may be symbolic like shutting the door on his office to create a private space, or if a physical escape is not available, a man’s cave may simply manifest as him becoming so focused on what he is doing that he completely shuts out everything else and appears as if he isn’t even present. Men often simply create an internal cave by blocking everything else out.

For the majority of women talking about a problem is part of the process of resolving the problem and feeling better.

Most men instinctively know that if a man is in his cave, he doesn’t really want to talk or have people offer assistance. Most women don’t read the cave signals the same way. If a woman saw another woman withdraw and be silent, she would assume that that woman was overwhelmed or had a problem she needed assistance with. So when a woman sees a man withdraw and become silent she initially assumes he needs assistance and will often go and ask questions to establish if the problem is anything she can help with. A man will often ignore her or respond tersely or abruptly. He is thinking “why on earth is she bothering me when it is clear I am working this out and need space to do so effectively”. This simple situation immediately causes massive misunderstanding on both sides.

How Women Can React to the Cave

Cave behavior can sometimes be read in very negative ways by women.

Here are some perceived characteristics:

  1. Excluding.  A woman may feel excluded and feel as if her abilities are not appreciated, acknowledged or respected. She will have difficulty connecting and participating in a graceful manner.
  2. Uncaring.  A woman may feel that he doesn’t care what she thinks or that her input is not valued by him.
  3. No Time.  A woman may think that he doesn’t have the time to talk to her or have any interest in what she can offer.
  4. Impersonal.  A woman may believe that all he cares about is the bottom line and that her personal needs are not important at all.  She will not trust him to look out for her needs in a transaction.
  5. Intimidating.  A woman may feel intimidated as if nothing she does is good enough for him.  This creates fear and a tendency to distance herself.
  6. Misunderstands.  A woman will believe he does not understand her motives. Above all else, if she is to do business with someone or trust them as a coworker or manager, a woman needs to feel that she is understood in a positive light.
  7. Unapproachable.  A woman may feel that he is unapproachable. She doesn’t feel comfortable speaking her mind or asking for what she wants. This frustration will only continue to build.

It’s now fairly easy to see how without an understanding of the purpose of a cave and how that works for a man a woman can misinterpret his silence. It should also now be easier for men to see how their caving can distance, intimidate or alienate the women around them.

With this new understanding of what is happening it is very easy to make simple small changes in our behavior to create greater harmony and efficiency in the workplace.

With this new awareness, men can simply take the time to add some small politeness or friendliness to their communication while in the cave. A “no thank you” versus a grunted “no” or a “would you please…” rather than a “go and do” command will make women feel more comfortable and understanding of your situation.

One of the great things about the Mars Venus material is that you end up with a common language that you both understand and it takes the sting out of what otherwise could be interpreted as offensive or inconsiderate communication.

Women who now understand about caves can simply remind themselves that the behavior of the man has nothing to do with them personally and if possible allow him time alone.  So, any women thinking “yeah, great, but what if I really need to speak to him and he’s caving? Do I just leave him there forever?” The preferred option for everyone is to leave him alone, however there will be times when this is not practical or possible. Even with the best intentions in the world sometimes you may simply have to discuss something with the caving man. At this time, the best way to approach him is directly stating how much of his time you need and exactly what the topics are in as few words as possible. This kind of precision and focus will assist him in shifting his attention to you without irritation (or at least with the minimal amount!)

Coping with STRESS

Following on from our discussion about the use of caves and how we each like to be treated differently one of the areas that this shows up in very obviously is when handling stress.  As a general rule, men have a much lower tolerance of emotional stress than women. What this means is that when presented with a problem most men, by nature, will feel a greater sense of urgency to find a solution or do something about the problem straight away.

Most women find just being able to talk about a situation actually helps reduce their stress about a particular problem. This doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t also want a resolution, but simply that talking about it is an integral part of the solution for them. Because of our different tendencies stress often increases when men and women are put together to discuss a problem; men want to solve it now with the first available solution where women are usually happy to explore lots of different possibilities and talk about it longer.

Competence

Men instinctively respect and respond better to those they perceive have power. Power comes from competence. On Mars a man’s sense of self is primarily defined by his sense of competence. He prides himself on his ability to achieve results, solve problems and get the job done. This is also what he will admire in other people. If a woman does not let a man know what she has done he will think she is incompetent or not achieving much and therefore has no power leading to his respect for her decreasing.

On Venus competence is also important but shares space with compassion, integrity and other personal values. The inclusion of these qualities into the workplace is making it a better place for all concerned. Because these have not traditionally been values that have had importance at work many men have not yet seen how these values are a major influence with female colleagues, bosses and customers. Women will respect and respond better to those they perceive as displaying and understanding those values. Not sharing credit with others when it is due is a sign to women that you are inconsiderate of other’s efforts and feelings leading to her respect for him decreasing.

A simple solution for both parties is to use a mixture of independent and inclusive language.

Simple Tips for Women when dealing with men in business

  1. Promote yourself
  2. Avoid tag endings
  3. Be direct and concise
  4. Don’t take male comments so personally
  5. Make acknowledgements direct and simple

Simple Tips for Men when dealing with women in business

  1. Build rapport
  2. Avoid monopolizing conversations
  3. Respect her abilities
  4. Don’t lecture
  5. Be specific with praise

DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO THE SAME TASK

As we’ve seen so far today, we tend to have very different approaches to the same tasks. Let’s for a moment think of the different styles of approach that could be exhibited when a male and a female manager are asked to make a decision.  In traditional circumstances the following could seem to be the norm.

The female manager will tend to discuss it with others, seek their input and feedback before making a recommendation to senior management.  She thinks it’s important that everyone feels they have contributed to the decision and therefore are more likely to support it. This is her style of management. It is based on cooperation and collaboration (and a whole stack of other C words – conversation, connection, commiseration and compassion).

In contrast, the male manager will tend to make the decision, with no apparent consultation (although he is likely to seek information from others in a non-conspicuous way), and then make the recommendation.  He believes that he is in charge so he needs to make the decision himself.

Because of his approach it is likely that when the male manager sees his female colleague openly discussing the issue with others, he will think that she cannot make a decision on her own, and needs to check with others first. Meanwhile because of her approach the female manager is likely to think her male colleague arrogant for making the decision without any apparent input.

Here are two very different approaches for very different reasons.  The female’s first priority is relationships, the male’s is status.

PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT

In life, as well as relationships, we tend to give what we actually would love to receive and unintentionally don’t honor that which would make the opposite sex feel supported. Sometimes what is a nutrient on Venus is poison on Mars.

People are different. Recognizing this truth is essential for creating positive interactions. Without this recognition we try and change one another and we think that everyone else should think, feel and react the same as us.

Once we realize and accept that we are different in many ways, we can start to create an environment that supports and honors those differences.

Inspiring vs. Motivating Employees

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

We have all worked with an employee who seems to be beating to their own drum. They are either out of step with the rest of the company’s climate, or completely off target. How many of us have tried to motivate this employee to get with the program? How many have written it off as not their problem? How many of us have tried to motivate this employee and failed spectacularly? Do we know the difference between motivating and inspiring others? And, did you know that what inspires a male, generally does not inspire a female? Mars Venus Coaching explains how men and women’s communication styles are different, but equal. When you understand these dynamics, then you are able to tap into and help people draw out their potential like never before, because you are speaking to their heart when you speak their same language at the same time you inspire them to greatness.

Let’s first address the difference between motivation and inspiration. When you attempt to motivate others, the motivation comes from outside an individual. Basically, you can motivate anyone to do small things faster. However, when you are externally driving a person to work more or faster, the effect lasts as long as the motivation lasts and is short-lived at best. As a leader in order to inspire an employee to greatness and to develop into their best self requires a little more time and patience as you focus on educating them to draw out their own conclusion. When you push-in or force someone to be something they are not, the result is short-lived. The etymology of the word education is derived from the Latin, educare, which means “bring up.” Educare is related to educere “bring out,” “bring forth what is within,” “bring out potential” and ducere “to lead.” Therefore, when you are in the act of educating someone in this sense, you are inspiring them to be the best they can be. This is the process to unlock intrinsic motivation for the person to keep excelling according to their own will.

Now that you understand the difference between motivating and inspiring an employee, let’s look at the different ways you would do this for a man verses a woman. The key lies in the “why,” and the way in which you find out a person’s why depends on their gender, because men and women are socially taught different ways to communicate their preferences. If you can identify why a person would want to motivate themselves to be more productive, then you are able to unlock this process of drawing out potential for them. Inspiration to increase their capabilities will then become internal.

A large majority of the challenges we experience across gender begin with the different ways the gender’s use language to communicate. The words we use (or don’t), and the meanings we attach to those words affect how we view each other. Sometimes we use exactly the same words but attach completely different meanings to them. The easiest way to remember the difference is the preference for men to use “I” and women to use “we” when speaking. Women’s communication style is from a point of inclusion, because they are socialized to be inclusive, i.e. maintain harmony; and consequently, women tend to use “we” when speaking. Men, however, are socialized for independence and tend to exclusively use “I” when speaking.

To Inspire Men:
Promote Yourself
Avoid Tag Endings
Be Direct and Concise
Make Acknowledgements Direct and Simple

To Inspire Women:
Build Rapport
Avoid Monopolizing the Conversation
Respect her Abilities
Involve, Do Not Lecture
Be Precise and Specific with Praise

Remember, the best way to help someone become self-motivated, and therefore inspired to bring forth their own potential is to tap into the “why” behind what they are doing. When we are cognizant of the different dialect men and women use, then we are able to communicate in a manner where the other person is comfortable. You can then focus on the underlying “why” reasons behind why people perform the way they do. When you are able to identify what you like, and praise what you would like to be repeated—you are coming from a place rewarding positive behavior. And, everyone likes to be told what they are good at, not what they could do better.

Mars Venus on Gender Intelligent Communication

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

For anyone attending recent women’s business conferences or reading the latest articles devoted to the lack of women in the executive ranks, Mars Venus Coaching asks you to open your mind to the possibility of a quick, yet long-term fix to increase the status of women in the corporate world. There is an undercurrent of paranoia and frustration about why numbers are not equalizing among the sexes at the top of the leadership pyramid. These feelings of uneasiness are in response to being run ragged by constant low-grade stress. Whenever we ask people if they are familiar with the book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, there tends to be an instant lighting up of the eyes, and an intake of breath. This term coined by Dr. John Gray when he wrote his best-selling book of that title back in 1992 is now considered to be part of our society’s vernacular. Dr. John Gray has written many books relating to the Mars Venus dynamic (16 and counting). Instead of reading the research and literature, the following is a quick synopsis of why implementing this quick fix is imperative. It’s important not only for women to remain in and ascend the corporate ladder, but also to re-balance and give quality of life back to everyone in this fast-paced, high-tech world. The solution Mars Venus refers to is introducing gender intelligent communication into professional development training.

Our current expectations and assumption men and women are equal, and therefore must be treated the same is both an unrealistic expectation and an unexamined assumption. To address reality, the solution is to address the real issue, and that is the current state of men’s communication style being preferred, while disregarding how women communicate. The solution then is to teach how men and women communicate differently in workshops at work. Women are up against a brick wall when it comes to fitting into a culture that disregards their unique gender-based contributions of working and relating to others. The solution of teaching gender intelligent communication implements a culture shift at corporate to equally embrace and respect men and women’s unique gender contributions. Continuing to force women to assimilate to a male created work climate is unwise. Now we are armed with information regarding why and how it damages both our bodies (health and wellness wise) and our relationships (at work and at home).

The latest research shows how men and women’s interaction with stress is different in three ways. The first is how the chemicals in our brain respond differently to stress. The second way we’re different is we produce different stress-reducing hormones. Men reduce stress by producing testosterone, and women reduce stress by producing oxytocin. And the third is the way we reduce our stress. How we produce the stress-reducing hormone based on our gender, actually increases the other gender’s stress! The research is good to understand the why’s behind the way we behave, and more importantly why we communicate differently the way we do with one another; however, what is more germane to this discussion is the quickest way to balance men and women in the workplace. The easy answer is we do this through gender intelligent communication workshops.

The culture needs to change, and the quickest way is to train people in the ways men and women communicate differently. The first level of learning is awareness. The second level is putting it into practice. Previous solutions offered saved face. This “lip service” backfired with more misunderstanding and disgruntled employees. This solution does not promote women being promoted without hard work or merit. The companies which accept and respect women’s unique penchant for attention to detail while they incorporate everyone into the decision-making process at the same time as when they identify emotional consequences are the companies gaining recognition for success and increased quality of life for its employees and customers. This solution is not lip service, because it requires an immediate call to action to train people how to effectively communicate.

When the two different gender styles of communication are both given credit for their strengths and weaknesses, then the playing field is leveled, because our unique ways of relating to one another are understood, respected, and embraced. Changing the way we talk to one another, in essence, is the fundamental first step that has heretofore been missing. A culture shift occurs when we are able to open our hearts and minds to understand the other person’s way of communicating as being a slight variation in dialect. The modus operandi of male communication patterns or else is outdated. Running a balanced work world embracing both men and women’s unique contributions acknowledges everyone’s gifts. In turn this makes the workplace more productive and conducive to both new growth and change as the workforce assimilates cultural awareness. There will be equal numbers of men and women in and at the top in the corporate world once everyone is respected for their method of communicating. Lucky for us the by-product is lower stress levels for all. This goes a long way for our economic, health, and marriage crisis; which would be easier to handle if our relationships were open, honest, healthier, and a source of comfort both at work and at home.

Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd

Corporate Media Relations

Mars Venus Coaching

 

 

Courageous Leaders Don’t Make Excuses…They Apologize

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Erika Andersen, Contributor Forbes 6/5/12

I’ve been thinking about the power of apology lately. I’ve been noticing that the people for whom I have the most respect don’t hesitate to say “I was wrong,” or “I’m sorry I…” On the other hand, the people I have the hardest time respecting seem constitutionally unable to take responsibility for their own mistakes. Even when they try, it comes out sounding like “I may have been partly at fault, but…” or “It may seem that I was wrong, but…” They just can’t do it.

Apologizing freely requires a good deal of courage. It’s not comfortable for any of us to admit an error, or to acknowledge that something we’ve done has caused others harm or inconvenience. So when someone truly apologizes, we know he or she is putting honesty and honor above personal comfort or self-protection. It’s inspiring, and it feels brave.

I just today read a great article here on Forbes about this very topic called Creative Leadership: Humility and Being Wrong. The authors, Doug Guthrie and Sudhir Venkatesh, make a really clear and well-reasoned case for the positive power of admitting and apologizing for one’s mistakes. At one point in the article, they note that:

“We are frequently taught that leaders, especially aspiring leaders, should hide weaknesses and mistakes. This view is flawed. It is not only good to admit you are wrong when you are; but also it can also be a powerful tool for leaders—actually increasing legitimacy and, when practiced regularly, can help to build a culture that actually increases solidarity, innovation, openness to change and many other positive features of organizational life.”

I couldn’t agree more. Followers look to see whether a leader is courageous before they’ll fully accept that person’s leadership. If they see courage (and taking full responsibility for actions and admitting and apologizing for mistakes are two of the five key indicators of courage), it feels safe to ‘sign up.’ People need courageous leaders in order to feel there’s someone to make the tough calls and to take responsibility for them – they need to know that the buck truly does stop with the leader. With a courageous leader, people feel protected – not that they’re helpless, but they know the person in charge really has their back.

And courage begets courage: your followers are more likely to make their own tough decisions and to take responsibility for them when you model that behavior. You have their backs – so they’re much more likely to have yours.

Because so many of us have a hard time apologizing, I thought it might be helpful to have an ‘apology primer.’ Here you go:

  • I’m sorry: this is the core of a genuine apology. “I’m sorry.” or “I apologize.” It’s the stake in the ground to communicate that you truly regret your behavior and wish you had acted differently. No apology is complete without this.
  • Stay in the first person: Many, perhaps most, apologies run off the rails at this point, when the apologizer shifts into the second person, e.g., “I’m sorry….you didn’t understand me.” Or “I’m sorry….you feel that way.” Suddenly, you’re no longer apologizing for your actions; you’re telling the other person that you regret their actions or feelings. A true apology sounds like, “I’m sorry I….” or “I’m sorry we…”
  • Don’t equivocate: Once you said what you regret about your actions or words, don’t water it down with excuses. That can blow the whole thing. The former manager of my apartment building once said to me, “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten back to you about your security deposit, but you have to understand we’ve got hundreds of tenants.” I definitely didn’t feel apologized to – in fact, I felt he was telling me I was being inconsiderate to hold him accountable! Just let the apology stand on its own. “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten back to you about your security deposit.
  • Say how you’ll fix it. This seals the deal. If you genuinely regret your words or actions, you’ll to commit to changing. This needs to be simple, feasible and specific. “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten back to you about your security deposit. We’ll have an answer to you by this Friday.”
  • Do it. I know some people who don’t have a hard time apologizing, but seem to have a hard time following through on their apologies. If you apologize and say you’re going to behave differently, and then don’t – it’s actually worse than not having apologized in the first place. When you don’t follow through, people question not only your courage, but also your trustworthiness.

So there you have it. Next time you’re clearly in the wrong, take deep breath, put aside your self-justification, your excuses, your blame, your defensiveness, and simply apologize. Being courageous in this way is generally scary in anticipation. But it feels great once you’ve done it….to you, and to those you lead.

10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Mike Myatt, Contributor Forbes 4/4/12

It is simply impossible to become a great leader without being a great communicator. I hope you noticed the previous sentence didn’t refer to being a great talker – big difference. The key to becoming a skillful communicator is rarely found in what has been taught in the world of academia. From our earliest days in the classroom we are trained to focus on enunciation, vocabulary, presence, delivery, grammar, syntax and the like. In other words, we are taught to focus on ourselves. While I don’t mean to belittle these things as they’re important to learn, it’s the more subtle elements of communication rarely taught in the classroom (the elements that focus on others), which leaders desperately need to learn. It is the ability to develop a keen external awareness that separates the truly great communicators from those who muddle through their interactions with others. In today’s column I’ll share a few of the communication traits, which if used consistently, will help you achieve better communication results.

I don’t believe it comes as any great surprise that most leaders spend the overwhelming majority of their time each day in some type of an interpersonal situation. I also don’t believe it comes as a great shock that a large number of organizational problems occur as a result of poor communications. It is precisely this paradox that underscores the need for leaders to focus on becoming great communicators. Effective communication is an essential component of professional success whether it is at the interpersonal, inter-group, intra-group, organizational, or external level. While developing an understanding of great communication skills is easier than one might think, being able to appropriately draw upon said skills when the chips are down is not always as easy as one might hope for.

Skills acquired and/or knowledge gained are only valuable to the extent they can be practically applied when called for. The number one thing great communicators have in common is they possess a heightened sense of situational and contextual awareness. The best communicators are great listeners and astute in their observations. Great communicators are skilled at reading a person/group by sensing the moods, dynamics, attitudes, values and concerns of those being communicated with. Not only do they read their environment well, but they possess the uncanny ability to adapt their messaging to said environment without missing a beat. The message is not about the messenger; it has nothing to do with messenger; it is however 100% about meeting the needs and the expectations of those you’re communicating with.

So, how do you know when your skills have matured to the point that you’ve become an excellent communicator? The answer is you’ll have reached the point where your interactions with others consistently use the following ten principles:

 

1. Speak not with a forked tongue: In most cases, people just won’t open up those they don’t trust. When people have a sense a leader is worthy of their trust they will invest time and take risks in ways they would not if their leader had a reputation built upon poor character or lack of integrity. While you can attempt to demand trust, it rarely works. Trust is best created by earning it with right acting, thinking, and decisioning. Keep in mind that people will forgive many things where trust exists, but will rarely forgive anything where trust is absent.

2. Get personal: There is great truth in the axiom that states: “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Classic business theory tells leaders to stay at arms length. I say stay at arm’s length if you want to remain in the dark receiving only highly sanitized versions of the truth. If you don’t develop meaningful relationships with people you’ll never know what’s really on their mind until it’s too late to do anything about it.

3. Get specific: Specificity is better than Ambiguity 11 times out of 10: Learn to communicate with clarity. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing. Time has never been a more precious commodity than it is in today’s marketplace. It is critical you know how to cut to the chase and hit the high points, and that you expect the same from others. Without understanding the value of brevity and clarity it is unlikely that you’ll ever be afforded the opportunity to get to the granular level as people will tune you out long before you ever get there. Your goal is to weed out the superfluous and to make your words count.

4. Focus on the leave-behinds not the take-aways: The best communicators are not only skilled at learning and gathering information while communicating, they are also adept at transferring ideas, aligning expectations, inspiring action, and spreading their vision. The key is to approach each interaction with a servant’s heart. When you truly focus on contributing more than receiving you will have accomplished the goal. Even though this may seem counter-intuitive, by intensely focusing on the other party’s wants, needs & desires, you’ll learn far more than you ever would by focusing on your agenda.

5. Have an open mind: I’ve often said that the rigidity of a closed mind is the single greatest limiting factor of new opportunities. A leader takes their game to a whole new level the minute they willingly seek out those who hold dissenting opinions and opposing positions with the goal not of convincing them to change their minds, but with the goal of understanding what’s on their mind. I’m always amazed at how many people are truly fearful of opposing views, when what they should be is genuinely curious and interested. Open dialogs with those who confront you, challenge you, stretch you, and develop you. Remember that it’s not the opinion that matters, but rather the willingness to discuss it with an open mind and learn.

6. Shut-up and listen: Great leaders know when to dial it up, dial it down, and dial it off (mostly down and off). Simply broadcasting your message ad nauseum will not have the same result as engaging in meaningful conversation, but this assumes that you understand that the greatest form of discourse takes place within a conversation, and not a lecture or a monologue. When you reach that point in your life where the light bulb goes off, and you begin to understand that knowledge is not gained by flapping your lips, but by removing your ear wax, you have taken the first step to becoming a skilled communicator.

7. Replace ego with empathy: I have long advised leaders not to let their ego write checks that their talent can’t cash. When candor is communicated with empathy & caring and not the prideful arrogance of an over inflated ego good things begin to happen. Empathetic communicators display a level of authenticity and transparency that is not present with those who choose to communicate behind the carefully crafted facade propped-up by a very fragile ego. Understanding the this communication principle is what helps turn anger into respect and doubt into trust.

8. Read between the lines: Take a moment and reflect back on any great leader that comes to mind… you’ll find they are very adept at reading between the lines. They have the uncanny ability to understand what is not said, witnessed, or heard. Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase the volume of rhetoric. Rather astute leaders know that there is far more to be gained by surrendering the floor than by filibustering. In this age of instant communication, everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their mind that they fail to realize everything to be gained from the minds of others. Keep your eyes & ears open and your mouth shut and you’ll be amazed at how your level or organizational awareness is raised.

9. When you speak, know what you’re talking about: Develop a technical command over your subject matter. If you don’t possess subject matter expertise, few people will give you the time of day. Most successful people have little interest in listening to those individuals who cannot add value to a situation or topic, but force themselves into a conversation just to hear themselves speak. The fake it until you make it days have long since passed, and for most people I know fast and slick equals not credible. You’ve all heard the saying “it’s not what you say, but how you say it that matters,” and while there is surely an element of truth in that statement, I’m here to tell you that it matters very much what you say. Good communicators address both the “what” and “how” aspects of messaging so they don’t fall prey to becoming the smooth talker who leaves people with the impression of form over substance.

10. Speak to groups as individuals: Leaders don’t always have the luxury of speaking to individuals in an intimate setting. Great communicators can tailor a message such that they can speak to 10 people in a conference room or 10,000 people in an auditorium and have them feel as if they were speaking directly to each one of them as an individual. Knowing how to work a room and establish credibility, trust, and rapport are keys to successful interactions.

11. Bonus – Be prepared to change the message if needed: Another component of communications strategy that is rarely discussed is how to prevent a message from going bad, and what to do when does. It’s called being prepared and developing a contingency plan. Again, you must keep in mind that for successful interactions to occur, your objective must be in alignment with those you are communicating with. If your expertise, empathy, clarity, etc. don’t have the desired effect, which by the way is very rare, you need to be able to make an impact by changing things up on the fly. Use great questions, humor, stories, analogies, relevant data, and where needed, bold statements to help connect and engender the confidence and trust that it takes for people to want to engage. While it is sometimes necessary to “Shock and Awe” this tactic should be reserved as a last resort.

Don’t assume someone is ready to have a particular conversation with you just because you’re ready to have the conversation with them. Spending time paving the way for a productive conversation is far better than coming off as the proverbial bull in a china shop. Furthermore, you cannot assume anyone knows where you’re coming from if you don’t tell them. I never ceased to be amazed at how many people assume everyone knows what they want to occur without ever finding it necessary to communicate their objective. If you fail to justify your message with knowledge, business logic, reason, empathy etc., you will find that said message will likely fall on deaf ears needing reinforcement or clarification afterward.

Bottom line – The leadership lesson here is whenever you have a message to communicate (either directly, or indirectly through a third party) make sure said message is true & correct, well reasoned, and substantiated by solid business logic that is specific, consistent, clear and accurate. Spending a little extra time on the front-end of the messaging curve will likely save you from considerable aggravation and brain damage on the back-end. Most importantly of all, keep in mind that communication is not about you, your opinions, your positions or your circumstances. It’s about helping others by meeting their needs, understanding their concerns, and adding value to their world. Do these things and you’ll drastically reduce the number of communications problems you’ll experience moving forward.

 

 

9 Ways to Boost Your Confidence at Work

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Daily Muse,  Contributor,   ForbesWoman 11/02/2011

I recently started my own freelance writing business, so, in fact, I no longer answer to a “boss.”

But, for nearly two decades, I did—and I had bosses that intimidated me to the core, I held positions in which I questioned my skills almost daily, and I took on responsibilities that I was certain would expose me as a neophyte.

And even now, as a brand-new entrepreneur with new clients, prospecting targets, and niche markets that are altogether unfamiliar, I still sometimes deal with feelings of inadequacy and a lack of confidence on the job.

And I know I’m not so unusual: For many women, feeling insecure at work is a constant struggle. But, it’s also a major obstacle to achieving our professional dreams and realizing our full potential. So, ladies, we’ve got to get over it.

The good news is, it’s possible. If you need a confidence boost in your day-to-day routine, check out these tried-and-true tips. You’ll bolster your sense of assurance, come off more poised, and kick some butt in the workplace, too.

1. Ask Questions

Not knowing everything—whether that’s because you’re new on the job or have incomplete information—can make you feel insecure and lead to a lack confidence. But remember that (no matter what stage you’re at in your career) you’re never going to have all the answers. So don’t be shy about asking questions, especially when you’re feeling uncertain or insecure. Instead, arm yourself with the information you need to do your job well by asking for it.

2. Be Curious

Curiosity not only sends the message that you’re ambitious and eager to learn, it also positions you well to interface with more people and take on new projects. So don’t just do the work that comes easily. Try something new, something that scares you just a wee bit—whether that’s asking your boss to lead the next client meeting or learning HTML. You’ll emerge more confident and empowered than if you stick to what you already know.

3. Accept that Everyone Makes Mistakes

If you always need to be perfect, you’ll always feel inadequate: that standard is wholly unattainable. Everyone makes mistakes on the job. You will too, and that’s okay—you’ll learn from them, and you’ll move on. Plus, once you let go of the need to be perfect, you free yourself to take risks and take on new responsibilities.

4. Go Above and Beyond

With each new assignment, think of ways you can knock the ball out of the park. Can you suggest new ideas, clients, or products? Make a process easier or more streamlined? Or even just get the report on your boss’ desk three days early? You’ll feel better about yourself if you go the extra mile—and you’ll probably get some good feedback from others, too.

5. Ask for Feedback

Don’t wait to be told that your work stinks or shines—ask for feedback along the way. Doing so demonstrates that you care about your work and want to succeed in your job. Plus, instead of anxiously wondering what you’re doing wrong, you’ll gain a better sense of your performance, your strengths, and your areas for improvement.

6. Find Supportive Allies

Seek out positive co-workers and mentors who support you, who boost you up when you’re feeling down, and who can help you succeed in your job and within the company. There are always naysayers and jealous types who want to see you fail, but if you reach out to enough people, you’re sure to find a critical mass who have your back.

7. Look the Part

Turns out, there’s some truth to the old adage, “fake it until you make it.” Dressing well, having good posture, being friendly, and making eye contact with people will all give the impression that you’re confident and in control. And when the rest of the world thinks you’re self-assured, you’ll start believing it, too. So smile, stand up straight, and yeah, go ahead and treat yourself to that new blazer.

8. Trust Your Gut

If you feel that you work isn’t getting you where you want to go, it’s sure to impact your frame of mind and sense of confidence. So be really honest with yourself about your personal goals and expectations, and make sure that you’re being true to them. If you find that you’re not able to use your talents to their fullest or your job isn’t putting you on the right track for your career, think about how to change your situation—whether it’s having a discussion with your boss or looking for a new gig.

9. Celebrate Your Achievements

If you’ve received an amazing performance review or nailed the client meeting you’ve been stressing over, celebrate—you deserve it! Acknowledging those successes and rewarding yourself will remind you how great you really are—and there’s no greater confidence boost than a job well done.

10 Steps To Happiness At Work

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Jacquelyn Smith, Forbes Staff 7/27/2011

Here’s a pop quiz for anyone who’s miserable at work. Which action has the biggest chance of improving your happiness? (A) Getting a promotion, (B) seeing your professional nemesis move to the Mongolia office, (C) focusing on the positive aspects of your job and trying to ignore the negative or (D) quitting in a fit of anger and landing your dream job elsewhere?

Sorry, says Srikumar Rao, the author of Happiness at Work. The answer is none of the above. To achieve greater happiness on the job, you don’t need your boss to stop calling you at night. You don’t need to make more money. You don’t need to follow your dream of being a sommelier, or running a B&B in Vermont.

“The exact attributes of what you are looking for do not exist in any job,” says Rao, who taught “Creativity and Personal Mastery,” one of the most sought after courses at Columbia Business School.

He believes that the single biggest obstacle to workplace happiness is the belief that we are prisoners of circumstance, powerless before the things that happen to us. To change your job, he says, you must change the way you think about it. “We create our own experience,” he insists. He relies heavily on Eastern spirituality and draws from many wisdom traditions. “The knowledge that we are responsible for living the life we have is our most powerful tool.”

Rather than encourage people to focus on “positive thinking,” Rao wants to banish the whole notion of good and bad events. “‘When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade’ assumes that you have been given a lemon and that a lemon is bad for you,” he says. “I’m saying, first of all, if you’ve been given a lemon, is that a bad thing? You can train yourself to say, ‘OK, this happened,’ rather than label it as bad.” If you think of events that occurred 10 years ago and seemed bad at the time, he says, you’ll realize that many of those events led to something positive. He recalls a former student who was fired from his job and received a healthy severance deal. Six months later the company ran into trouble and all the remaining staffers lost their jobs without receiving a dime. The fired employee actually came out ahead.

Rao believes that in order to be happy in the workplace, you need to move from personal ambition to “greater vision” ambition. “Personal ambition is ‘I want to be CEO,’” he says. “Greater vision ambition is, ‘I want to lead this company so that people want to work here.’” He says that ambition hinders happiness as long as people employ an “if/then” model: If I get the promotion, then I will be happy. Rao says that a healthier and happier perspective is to think “I have a grand vision and I will try my best to make it work. If I succeed, wonderful. If not, wonderful. My purpose is to give it the best I’ve got.’”

If happiness comes only from within, then how can you tell if you really are in a legitimately bad situation, as opposed just needing to reframe the way you look at it? Rao says it’s better to make a change from a positive place than from a point of anger. “You should make a change from the place of being grateful for your experience but ready to make a change and continue to grow.”

Even in corporate America, where so much of work is every man for him or herself, Rao advocates inhabiting an “other-centered universe.” If the nice guy gets passed over for a promotion, he still may succeed in less tangible ways or land an even better job down the road. “They may rise later in the shootout,” says Rao. “I’m challenging the assumption that you need to be a dog-eat-dog person to survive in a corporate environment.”

To achieve greater happiness at work, you don’t need your boss to stop calling you at night. You don’t need to make more money. You don’t need to follow your dream of being a sommelier, or running a B&B in Vermont. So says Srikumar Rao, the author of Happiness at Work. The biggest obstacle to happiness is simply your belief that you’re the prisoner of circumstance, powerless before the things that happen to you, he says. “We create our own experience,” he adds. Here are 10 steps to happiness at work, drawn from his recommendations.

Avoid “good” and “bad” labels

When something bad happens, don’t beat yourself up, says Rao. Instead, when you make an error, be aware of it without passing judgment. “Do what you have to do, but don’t surrender your calmness and sense of peace.”

Practice “extreme resilience”

Rao defines “extreme resilience” as the ability to recover fast from adversity. “You spend much time in needless, fruitless self-recrimination and blaming others,” he writes. “You go on pointless guilt trips and make excuses that you know are fatuous. If you’re resilient, you recover and go on to do great things.” (He also says that if you fully take his advice to avoid “bad thing” labels, you don’t have to practice resilience at all.)

Let go of grudges

Rao says that a key to being happy at work is to let go of grudges. “Consciously drop the past,” he writes. “It’s hard, but with practice you will get the hang of it.”

Don’t waste time being jealous

“When you’re jealous you’re saying that the universe is limited and there’s not enough success in it for me,” says Rao. “Instead, be happy, because whatever happened to him will happen to you in your current job or at another company.”

Find passion in you, not in your job

Sure, you can fantasize about a dream job that pays you well and allows you to do some kind of social good, work with brilliant and likable colleagues and still be home in time for dinner. But Rao warns against searching for that perfect position, or even believing that it exists. Instead, he advocates changing how you think about your current situation. For example, instead of thinking of yourself as a human resources manager at a bank, identify yourself as someone who helps other bank employees provide for their families, take advantage of their benefits and save for the future.

Picture yourself 10 years ago and 10 years from now

“Most problems that kept you awake ten years ago have disappeared,” says Rao. “Much of what troubles you today will also vanish. Realizing this truth will help you gain perspective.”

Banish the “if/then” model of happiness

Rao says that many of us rely on a flawed “if/then” model for happiness. If we become CEO, then we’ll be happy. If we make a six-figure salary, then we’ll be happy. “There is nothing that you have to get, do or be in order to be happy,” he writes.

Invest in the process, not the outcome

“Outcomes are totally beyond your control,” Rao writes. You’ll set yourself up for disappointment if you focus too much on what you hope to achieve rather than how you plan to get there.

Think about other people

Even in corporate America, where so much of work is every man for him or herself, Rao advocates inhabiting an “other-centered universe.” If the nice guy gets passed over for a promotion, he may still succeed in less tangible ways. “He may rise later in the shootout,” Rao says. “I’m challenging the assumption that you need to be a dog-eat-dog person to survive in a corporate environment.”

Swap multitasking for mindfulness

Rao thinks that multitasking gets in the way of happiness. “Multitasking simply means that you do many things badly and take much more time at it,” he writes. He recommends instead working on tasks for 20-minute intervals that you gradually increase to two-hour spans. Turn off any electronic gadgets that can be a distraction. He claims that with practice, you’ll be able to accomplish much more and with less effort.

The Most Annoying, Pretentious And Useless Business Jargon

Friday, June 22nd, 2012
My Say , Contributor, Forbes Entrepreneurs, 1/26/2012

The next time you feel the need to reach out, touch base, shift a paradigm, leverage a best practice or join a tiger team, by all means do it. Just don’t say you’re doing it.

If you have to ask why, chances are you’ve fallen under the poisonous spell of business jargon. No longer solely the province of consultants, investors and business-school types, this annoying gobbledygook has mesmerized the rank and file around the globe.

“Jargon masks real meaning,” says Jennifer Chatman, management professor at the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “People use it as a substitute for thinking hard and clearly about their goals and the direction that they want to give others.”

To save you from yourself (and to keep your colleagues and customers from strangling you), we have assembled a cache of expressions to assiduously avoid.

We also assembled a “Jargon Madness” bracket—similar to the NCAA college basketball tournament—featuring 32 abominable expressions. Each day, for 32 days, readers will get to vote, via Twitter, on one matchup. The goal: to identify the single most annoying example of business jargon and thoroughly embarrass all who employ it and all of those other ridiculous terms, too.

Core Competency

This awful expression refers to a firm’s or a person’s fundamental strength—even though that’s not what the word “competent” means. “This bothers me because it is just a silly phrase when you think about it,” says Bruce Barry, professor of management at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Business. “Do people talk about peripheral competency? Being competent is not the standard we’re seeking. It’s like core mediocrity.”

Buy-In

This means agreement on a course of action, if the most disingenuous kind. Notes David Logan, professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business: “Asking for someone’s ‘buy-in’ says, ‘I have an idea. I didn’t involve you because I didn’t value you enough to discuss it with you. I want you to embrace it as if you were in on it from the beginning, because that would make me feel really good.’”

S.W.A.T. Team

In law enforcement, this term refers to teams of fit men and women who put themselves in danger to keep people safe. “In business, it means a group of ‘experts’ (often fat guys in suits) assembled to solve a problem or tackle an opportunity” says USC’s Logan. An apt comparison, if you’re a fat guy in a suit.

Empower

This is what someone above your pay grade does when, apparently, they would like you to do a job of some importance. It’s also called “the most condescending transitive verb ever.” Says Chatman: “It suggests that ‘You can do a little bit of this, but I’m still in charge here. I am empowering you.’”

Open the Kimono

“Some people use this instead of ‘revealing information,’” says Barry. “It’s kind of creepy.” Just keep your kimono snugly fastened.

Bleeding Edge

Someone decided that his product or service was so cutting-edge that a new term needed to be created. It did not. Unless you are inventing a revolutionary bladed weapon, leave this one alone.

Lots of Moving Parts

Pinball machines have lots of moving parts. Many of them buzz and clank and induce migraine headaches. Do you want your business to run, or even appear to run, like a pinball machine? Then do not say it involves lots of moving parts.

Corporate Values

This expression is so phony it churns the stomach. Corporations don’t have values, the people who run them do.

Make Hay

This is jargon for being productive or successful in a short period of time. The phrase ‘to make hay’ is short for ‘make hay while the sun shines’, which can be traced to John Heyward’s The Proverbs, Epigrams and Miscellanies of John Heywood (circa 1562). A handy nugget for cocktail conversation, but that’s it.

Scalable

A scalable business or activity refers to one that requires little additional effort or cost for each additional unit of output. Example: Making software is a scalable business (building it requires lots of effort up front, while distributing a million copies over the Web is relatively painless). Venture capitalists crave scalable businesses. They crave them so much that the term now has become more annoying than the media’s obsession with celebrity diets.

Best Practice

This refers to a method or technique that delivers superior results compared with other methods and techniques. It is also perhaps the single most pompous confection the consulting industry has ever dreamed up.

Think Outside the Box

This tired turn of phrase means to approach a business problem in an unconventional fashion. Kudos to a Forbes.com reader who suggested: “Forget the box, just think.”

Solution

This word has come to mean everything from the traditional way to solve a mathematical proof to a suite of efficiency-enhancing software–and it is the epitome of lingual laziness. Says Glen Turpin, a communications consultant: “It usually refers to a collection of technologies too abstract or complex to describe in a way that anyone would care about if they were explained in plain English.”

Leverage

Meet the granddaddy of nouns converted to verbs. ‘Leverage’ is mercilessly used to describe how a situation or environment can be manipulated or controlled. Leverage should remain a noun, as in “to apply leverage,” not as a pseudo-verb, as in “we are leveraging our assets.”

Vertical

This painful expression refers to a specific area of expertise. For example, if you make project-management software for the manufacturing industry (as opposed to the retail industry), you might say, “We serve the manufacturing vertical.” In so saying, you would make everyone around you flee the conversation.

Over the Wall

If you’re not wielding a grappling hook, avoid this meaningless expression. Katie Clark, an account executive at Allison & Partners, a San Francisco public relations firm, got a request from her boss to send a document “over the wall.” Did he want her to print out the document, make it into a paper airplane and send it whooshing across the office? Finally she asked for clarification. “It apparently means to send something to the client,” she says. “Absurd!”

Robust

This otherwise harmless adjective has come to suggest a product or service with a virtually endless capacity to please. A cup of good coffee is robust. A software program is not.

Learnings

Like most educated people, Michael Travis, an executive search consultant, knows how to conjugate a verb. That’s why he cringes when his colleagues use the word “learning” as a noun. As in: “I had a critical learning from that project,” or “We documented the team’s learnings.” Whatever happened to simply saying: “I learned a lesson from that project?” Says Travis: “Aspiring managers would do well to remember that if you can’t express your idea without buzzwords, there may not be an idea there at all.”

Boil the Ocean

This means to waste time. The thinking here, we suppose, is that boiling the ocean would take a long time. It would also take a long time to fly to Jupiter, but we don’t say that. Nor should we boil oceans, even the Arctic, which is the smallest. It would be a waste of time.

Reach Out

Jargon for “let’s set up a meeting” or “let’s contact this person.” Just say that—and unless you want the Human Relations department breathing down your neck, please don’t reach out unless clearly invited.

Punt

In football, to punt means to willingly (if regretfully) kick the ball to the other team to control your team’s position on the field. In business it means to give up on an idea, or to make it less of a priority at the moment. In language as in life, punt too often and you’ll never score.

Impact

This wannabe verb came to prominence, says Bryan Garner, editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary, because most people don’t understand the difference between the words “affect” and “effect.” Rather than risk mixing them up, they say, “We will impact our competitor’s sales with this new product.” A tip: “Affect” is most commonly a verb, “effect” a noun. For instance: When you affect my thinking, you may have an effect on my actions.

Giving 110%

The nice thing about effort, in terms of measuring it, is that the most you can give is everything—and everything equals 100%. You can’t give more than that, unless you can make two or more of yourself on the spot, in which case you have a very interesting talent indeed. To tell someone to give more than 100% is to also tell them that you failed second-grade math.

Take It To The Next Level

In theory this means to make something better. In practice, it means nothing, mainly because nobody knows what the next level actually looks like and thus whether or not they’ve reached it.

It Is What It Is

Thanks. Idiot.

Eight Ways Goofing Off Can Make You More Productive

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Susan Adams, Forbes Staff 6/18/2012

One of my colleagues used to head to the men’s room and brush his teeth every time he felt a surge of writer’s block. He swears it did the trick. Another exits the building and walks around the block to clear his head. I like to take advantage of the mid-day yoga sessions that Forbes offers in the gym on the ninth floor. When I return to my desk, my body is relaxed, my mind is clear, and I attack my work with new energy.

A growing body of research suggests that the longer you keep your rear end in your chair and your eyes glued to your screen, the less productive you may be. Getting up from your desk and moving not only heightens your powers of concentration, it enhances your health.

A story in Sunday’s New York Times quoted two sources who have studied productivity. John P. Trougakos, an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management describes how concentrating on one task is like using one muscle for an extended period. The mind needs a break, to rest and recover before it can exert again. Among other things, Trougakos recommends that workers take serious lunch breaks, to recharge with food and a change of scene.

James A. Levine, a professor at the Mayo Clinic, agrees that we don’t take enough breaks. Sedentary work habits are as dangerous as a sedentary lifestyle at home. Levine likes the idea of your standing or even walking while you’re working, including during meetings. If you feel sleepy during the day, you should be allowed to take a nap, he says.

Levine suggests that you work in concentrated 15-minute periods, divided up by breaks. “The thought process is not designed to be continuous,” he tells the Times. He points out that efficient, productive work is much more valuable than long hours of wasted or partially productive time.

Then there is the power of daydreaming, described in science writer Jonah Lehrer’s new book, Imagine. Many of our most creative, productive thoughts come not while we’re trying to force them during long sessions at our desks, but at odd moments outside the office. For instance, Lehrer describes how Dan Wieden of advertising giant Wieden+Kennedy found the inspiration for the famous Nike “Just Do It” tag line late one evening, after reflecting on a conversation he had had with a colleague about the novelist Norman Mailer, who had written a book about convicted murderer Gary Gilmore. Gilmore’s last line before he was executed, “Let’s do it,” popped into Wieden’s head. Back at his desk, Wieden tweaked the phrase. But the idea had come in his off hours.

Many of us feel we shouldn’t waste time chatting with co-workers during the work day. But my colleague Andy Greenburg has written about research showing that talking with colleagues can increase your productivity. Specifically, a team of MIT researchers led by Professor Alexander “Sandy” Pentland discovered that call center workers who took the time to converse with their co-workers, instead of just grinding away, got through calls faster, felt less tension and earned the same approval ratings as their peers who didn’t schmooze at the office.

Finally, there is the increasing evidence for the importance of physically moving around during the day, and how it enhances productivity. My colleague Alison Griswold just wrote about Jack Groppel, a co-founder of a division of Johnson & Johnson called the Human Performance Institute. Groppel, who holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology from Florida State University, insists that stretching and walking around once every 30 minutes throughout the day stimulates blood flow and leads to a burst of hyper oxygenation in the brain, increasing energy and attentiveness.

After canvassing my colleagues, I offer this list of productive ways to goof off during the day and evening. They will boost your productivity and sense of well being. But beware not to overdo any of them. Take too many breaks and you may enter the realm of procrastination.

1. Take a walk around the block.
Fresh air combined with a change of scene can boost productivity.

2. Take a nap.
Some offices offer this as a perk. Closing your eyes for a 15-minute catnap can be hugely refreshing.

3. Chat with a colleague.
Even if you only make small talk, a fresh perspective on your day can help you get a new perspective on the task at hand.

4. Run an errand
Like walking around the block, getting out of the office and taking care of business can give your mind a break and the exercise will get your blood flowing.

5. Brush your teeth.

The symbolism of removing decay and plaque can be especially potent when you are feeling sluggish.

6. Spend ten minutes checking Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites.
This is not as good for you as leaving your desk, but the mental distraction can offer a helpful break. Monitor your time however and don’t let yourself be distracted for more than five minutes.

7. Go to the gym
If your company has an exercise facility, take advantage.

8. Go out to lunch
Judging from the habits of my colleagues, lunch out of the office is a dying American habit. But a healthy meal and good conversation can be nourishing on multiple levels.