my computer, you’ll find a folder called “File of Funnies.”
is what the actual file is called. As you might expect, this is where I keep
videos, pictures, memes, stories, and basically anything that I find funny.
Some are just for me and others I share.
you have ever been in one of my audiences, you know that I love to use a funny
video, first to make people smile but also because I believe that when we
laugh, we let the learning in.
turns out the science would back this up. Laughter raises our overall
Increasing perspective and creativity.
Decreasing stress hormones such as cortisol.
Triggering the release of endorphins, our body’s natural feel-good chemicals.
In fact, my research on exceptional leaders and what differentiates the people that experience higher levels of Leadership Vitality versus Leadership Fatigue, (appropriate) humor and laughter are consistent contributors.
This makes sense as laughter inspires hope, it strengthens relationships, it is grounding in the midst of chaos, and it can lessen our burdens, even if only for a short time.
I’ve seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful. ~Bob Hope
I have been filling up my “File of Funnies” lately, not just because there is a lot of funny things being shared, but because with the accumulating impact of social isolating, I need to go into the file a little more often.
Every time I scroll through, I am reminded never to underestimate the power of humor.
With all of the uncertainty everyone is facing, there are three guarantees that you should expect :
1. Everything will take longer. Conferencing everyone in, trying to call into a customer service center, or waiting in line at the grocery store, expect everything to take longer.
2. Emotions will be running high. Everyone is facing uncertainty, but each person’s circumstances are different. It serves us to remember that as empathy is often the first causality in stressful situations. Even if you can’t see emotions, they are there and will influence people’s effectiveness and productivity, hence point number one.
3. Your colleagues, employees, and direct reports are TRUSTWORTHY. Please don’t make people earn your trust – start by giving it. Even if you can’t see them at their desk, even if they don’t respond immediately to your email, assume that points one and two are contributing to any delays, not that they are slacking off, untrustworthy, and lacking commitment.
It’s natural when dealing with sudden change and uncertainty for our brain to look for shortcuts via assumptions and expectations.
Shift these positively to strengthen relationships and help people be at their best.
How to stop to them from filling your day and draining your energy
I once read a story of a college professor who
became stranded in the desert after Google Maps directed him to turn left –
onto a non-existent road. He obediently followed and ended up stuck; for 11
days. This was a professor! I’m guessing that those reading this are thinking,
You’d never do that, right?
Maybe not with Google Maps, but what about meetings?
Have you ever blindly accepted a meeting invite?
At the start of a workshop a couple of years ago, I
opened by asking what had brought the attendees there that morning. One woman
joked “my calendar!”, which was followed by knowing laughs from her colleagues.
Following a hunch, I asked how many other people had automatically accepted the
meeting invite to be there that morning. Hesitantly, nearly half of the people
put up their hands.
Much like the professor who blindly followed the
Google Maps directions, these intelligent, busy, senior leaders automatically
accepted a two-hour meeting invitation simply because it was in their inbox. This
example isn’t an isolated incident.
Excessive meetings are consistently named as one of
the most prominent organizational vitality drainers. Studies suggest as high
as 73% of
people say that they attend too many meetings too often.
In our research at BrainAMPED, we have found that
there are two primary reasons people automatically accept meetings.
Or secondly, they feel they don’t
have the time to make a different choiceat
the moment, so they default to automatically accepting the meeting. Put another
way, people believe that it would take too much time and effort to decline or
negotiate their attendance, so they make the most straightforward choice available at that moment,
which means simply saying yes.
Though understandable, each of these tendencies will
leave you spinning in a self-created, negatively reinforcing meeting vortex.
More meetings leave you with less time. Less time leaves you feeling like you
have less choice. Less choice and less time will drive you to automatically
accept more meetings – spin and spin.
So how do you ensure you don’t
get stranded in the meeting desert even when your calendar is trying to divert
you that way? Here are two strategies to break out of the meeting
When you feel like you don’t have a choice, turn on your high beams.
Typically, your car’s automatic daytime running
lights are designed to show the objects on the road in front of you. When you
turn on your high beams, it illuminates the objects around you.
Depending on your company culture or role, there are
undeniably specific meetings that you are expected to attend. That is the road
in front of you.
However, what possibilities on the periphery do you
have some discretion to make decisions around? If declining a meeting isn’t an
option, then take control of how you manage your energy, actions, and time
around those meetings.
Perhaps, you go in and block the hour following a
group of back-to-back meetings. This predetermined time block ensures you can
address follow-ups while things are fresh in your mind. Or maybe you pre-plan
some portable snacks to take to meetings to keep your energy up.
I like to put my favorite kickboxing class on my
calendar at the end of a day filled with meetings. This commitment forces me to
leave my work and helps me clear my mind. I am always more efficient the
following day or if need be, later that evening, if something urgently needs to
Push back on the feelings of
meeting overwhelm by turning on your high beams to see where you can take
deliberate control of your choices around future meetings.
When you feel like it’s easier just to accept, create a fork in the road.
This strategy is meant to force you to slow down,
analyze the terrain ahead, and make a thoughtful choice before automatically
accepting a meeting invite.
The decision fork is derived by asking yourself a
series of questions before accepting the meeting. Examples of the ones we use
at BrainAMPED when helping our clients deal with meeting depletion include:
Are you clear on the purpose and what is expected of you in this meeting?
Do you have the physical time and energy to be fully present and effectively contribute?
How will attending this meeting impact on your productivity and critical priorities?
The goal of the
first question is to help you take personal accountability in collecting
Too often, people complain about meetings without
taking action to change them.If you don’t have these necessary details,
graciously ask for them before accepting it.
Remember, the meeting organizer has included you;
assume they see you as a valued attendee. In your request for details,
acknowledge that and let them know that your questions are to ensure you can
contribute best to the success of their meeting.
The goal of the
second question is to push you to be proactive with your time and energy
Take a step back and look at where this meeting
falls within your calendar. Consider both that day of the meeting and perhaps
that entire week. How many meetings do you have?
For example, maybe you need to let a meeting
organizer know that you are in back-to-back meetings in different locations, so
you will be late or may need to leave early. This clarification can help them
proactively adjust the agenda so that you can still contribute or be present
for decisions critical to your work.
I often choose a different location to take a
conference call to decrease distractions. Challenging yourself with these
considerations motivates you to manage your time and energy.
The goal of the
third question is to help you to think about goals and workflow more
If the answers to these questions suggest that your
attendance isn’t ideal from a business perspective, now you have a thoughtful
conversation template to have with the appropriate people.
And if it turns out you still need to attend, go
back to strategy number one and turn on your high beams.
Reframe the first part of the question to “What can
I do to ensure”…I am clear, I have the time, and it has the best
impact possible on my productivity and priorities. You will be surprised how
creative you can be when you make intentional decisions.
Whether Google Maps or meeting invites, you always
have some choice, so double-check before proceeding. It will surely help ensure
you don’t end up stuck somewhere you shouldn’t be!
Three questions to help busy managers lighten their load while developing their people
As a manager you know there is never a shortage of problems that
need fixing. Consider how many times this occurs in a typical day; someone
knocks on your door with a problem, a complaint, a request, or an idea that
they want your help addressing.
Who should be the first to offer a solution in these typical
types of conversations?
When I ask this of audiences, the room is always quick to
pipe-up with a communal “THEY SHOULD!” My follow-up question is always, “who
usually offers a solution first?” With much less enthusiasm, some of the braver
soles in the audience admit “we do.”
There are very good reasons why managers tend to be the first to
offer solutions and advice to other people’s problems, even if a little too
quickly or a little too often.
For starters having the answers, figuring things out, and
solving problems are precisely the skills that have helped many smart and
accomplished people achieve their success. Not to mention most managers that my
firm works with are genuinely just trying to be helpful.
On the other side are a whole host of workplace frustrations
that leave managers feeling like the only way to survive the day and protect their
energy and sanity is to solve things as quickly as possible and move to the
Do any of the following
scenarios sound familiar?
It feels like people are constantly dumping their problems on you to fix?
It feels like you keep having the same conversations again and again?
It feels like people are continually complaining about problems instead of bringing solutions forward ?
It feels like your job description should also include workplace firefighter, or worse, babysitter?
That to save time and ensure things are done correctly, it feels easier to just do it yourself?
If you find yourself nodding along in agreement to three or more
of the scenarios, chances are, you are at risk of what I call
This is a form of decision fatigue,
which refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual
after an extended period of decision making. The consequence of decision
fatigue may be the tendency to go for takeout over a healthy salad or skip the
gym for a Netflix binge following an intense day of decision making.
Fixer-Fatigue can be thought of as the deteriorating quality of solution-seeking conversations led by people dealing with a high volume of problems.
As a result, many managers stop asking questions and instead find themselves diving directly into fix-it mode, problem-solving and advice-giving.
Whether you want to develop your team to become more
self-reliant problem solvers, or you are tired of other people’s problems
suddenly becoming your problems to fix, there are three questions that when
asked consistently, will help decrease the potential of Fixer-Fatigue.
Take two; someone knocks on your door with a problem, complaint, request or idea. Instead of jumping into solutions, advice and fix-it mode, start by asking the following questions:
Question #1: What have you tried
This may seem like an obvious question but is surprisingly
under-asked. The benefit of opening with this question is that it immediately
starts you from their perspective and establishes a two-way dialogue.
Unfortunately, managers suffering from fixer-fatigue often respond
by stating the most obvious solution. Rarely is it helpful and instead, often
shuts people down.
I have witnessed the most well-intentioned people fall into this
trap (myself included). Liz Wiseman, the author of the New York Times Bestseller:
calls these leaders the “accidental diminishers.” This is because they
accidentally shut down the conversation, the intelligence, and the ideas of
others by taking-over the problem at hand.
The power of starting with the simple “what have you tried so
far?” has a two-fold advantage. First, asking it shows that you respect the
person and their abilities, especially if they are skilled and experienced in
the area they are bringing to you. Secondly, their response establishes a
starting point. This is true even if their answer is, “I haven’t tried
Especially in the latter case, it is critical to resist jumping
to solutions or offering your ideas as it will only reinforce the expectation
that you will fix the problem for them. Instead, look to challenge them to
think about their problem more deeply. Questions could include: What ideas do you
have? What has stopped you from acting on them?
If you consistently have people showing up at your door with the
expectation that you will solve their problem, it should raise a red flag.
Instead of getting angry and judging others for a lack of initiative or
motivation, use it to prompt your curiosity.
Why do people feel like they need permission to make a decision?
Look internally, what might you, as their manager, be doing to promote this
If you habitually fall into the advice trap and default to
solving other people’s problems, you may inadvertently be training people to
drop their problems on your desk.
Question #2: What else would be
helpful for me to understand about this situation?
This is a personal favorite of mine because this question helps
bring to light the periphery information. It also challenges people to think
more broadly and empathetically about their problem and the different
perspectives others may have about the same situation.
Additionally, it helps you avoid the trap of escalating a
problem with the intention of helping someone only to learn additional context
that would have changed your approach or your stance altogether.
People naturally tend to start from their perspective, remembering
and sharing information selectively to help build their side and justify their
actions. Your job is to make doing so more difficult and thereby challenging
them to think more broadly.
Other variations of the question include: What might this
problem look like from the outside?
What would the other side say is the most important thing for us
to understand? Or finally, what else could be contributing to complicate this
By committing yourself to ask this question, and the initiator
to consider their answers, you both get a fuller view of the situation and
ensure neither succumb to confirmation bias or
move forward on too narrow of a view.
Question #3: How are you looking for to move this forward?
This final question puts the accountability directly on the person
bringing the problem. It engages them to think about how they see things moving
forward and what (if any), help they need in the process.
Often this question is phrased as, how can I help? Or, what do
you need from me? As helpful as they
seem, they often initiate unintended consequences. Challenge yourself to frame
the question in a way that doesn’t automatically insinuate that you need to be
involved. If they need your help or support, they will ask. And if you can
support, now you know the best way to offer it.
Surprisingly, even though many managers say they are frustrated
with dealing with the constant barrage of crisis crossing their desks, it can
also be rewarding, especially if you can save the day. Be careful not to react
by rescuing people or interjecting yourself into a solution to make yourself
feel valuable. Instead, refocus on developing people to need you less and
trust themselves more.
Asking these three questions will undoubtedly save you time,
frustration and energy. Not only that, but simultaneously they will ensure you solve
the right problem when necessary, stay involved where needed, and step
back more often.
Besides, people are almost always more motivated to act on their
own ideas versus advice from others, no matter how good your solution is!
I recently spoke at a conference where the theme was “Learning to Fail in the Spirit of Innovation.” In preparation for my talk, the senior team shared that they aspired to create a high-trust, highly collaborative environment to enable people to take risks without being afraid to fail. Unfortunately, that was not currently the case. As a leadership strategist, I have found that there is a strong connection between failure and forgiveness.
Weeks later with approximately 500 people in the room, I tested the potential of this connection. I asked the audience to please stand up if, in the spirit of innovation, anyone had ever felt wronged by a colleague at work. Examples could have included someone had taking credit for their work, inappropriately blaming them for a mistake, circumventing them in the decision-making process, questioning their integrity, or wrongly accusing them of acting with self-serving intentions and motivations.
As you may have guessed, everyone in the audience was standing. I then asked how many of them had fully addressed, let go and forgiven their colleagues for these wrong doings? There were squeamish, quiet laughs in the audience.
Making mistakes and conflict among colleagues are both inevitable and required in the process of innovation. However, what is spoken of less often is how we respond to each. Withholding forgiveness has a far-reaching ripple effect, starting with those involved and out to the organization as a whole. Complicating matters, most colleagues depend on one another so holding a grudge and commiserating while letting frustrations fester only serves to drain energy, increase negativity and draw out a difficult situation. Ultimately, the quality and quantity of innovative results are lost because no one is willing to risk failure in that environment; the cost is far too high.
Many organizations are quick to talk about the concept of failure yet miss that the impact of failure on humans is an emotional one. Acknowledging that is the first step. The second step is practicing it. Below are some strategic and productive practices to support forgiveness, repair relationships, restore trust, helping people feel safe enough to take risks and learn from their failings.
1. Practice Holding onto Forgiveness versus Holding onto Resentment.
There is a saying: “Holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” The research on resentment is clear. Not only does it consume valuable time and productivity, but it also taxes your emotional and mental health. For example, there are strong connections to cardiovascular implications, such as increased blood pressure. Other studies have shown that the increased stress of perceived injustice can compromise your immune system, sleep and pain tolerance. While the other person may have wronged you, the only damage is to yourself by holding onto the bitterness.
Alternatively, you can choose to forgive. This doesn’t mean you condone or accept the actions of the other person. Instead, you make a conscious choice that after you have addressed it with that person, independent of the outcome of that conversation, whether they apologize or not, changed or not, you make a choice to hold onto forgiveness instead of being pulled into the negative hold of resentment. If you are looking to positively participate in a “fail and learn” culture and contribute to a happier and healthier workplace, this is an essential skill. The first person that forgiveness impacts is the forgiver, so hold onto that freedom.
2. Practice Holding the Person Accountable versus Holding the Transgressions Against Them.
Forgiveness and accountability are not dependent on one another, however, when paired are a very powerful couple. Outside of your home life, you spend the greatest amount of time at work. Your coworkers are going to make mistakes, feelings will be hurt, and both sides will feel misunderstood at times. To manage this, don’t lower your expectations, instead clarify them to establish accountability.
You can set behavioral parameters and agreements on how things will be handled next time if a similar situation arises. Increase touchpoint meetings to monitor accountability and be open to adjusting to changing requirements. Innovation means new, and anytime people are doing something new they are bound to do it imperfectly. Holding someone accountable catalyzes learning, forgiving failure enables innovation.
3. Practice Focusing on the Future versus Staying Stuck in the Past.
Forgiveness is a complicated concept, often misunderstood and more often said, but not genuinely given. It’s not uncommon for someone to say they forgive, but then hold an internal grudge over someone’s head for weeks, months or even years at a time. As a result, emotional residue builds, and distrust keeps them in the past. Forgiveness is not the same as trusting someone. Forgiveness is free while trust must be earned.You can’t move the needle on trust when withholding forgiveness keeps you stuck in the past.
In the age of innovation and disruption, it is easy to talk about failure. It takes courage to practice it, and even more, it takes courage to forgive it.
This article was originally published on Thrive Global on April 17, 2018: https://www.thriveglobal.com/stories/27619-does-your-company-need-to-replace-fail-with-forgive
How to check if the protector bias is holding women back in your company
After six years of working for a mining company, Joanne was considering
leaving. It wasn’t due to a lack of
support or the hostility of working in a male-dominated industry. Instead, she
wanted to quit because her performance reviews were too good.
Knowing there were things she needed to learn, she was open with Paul, her leader, asking for performance feedback. During their one-on-ones, Paul praised Joanne’s passion and drive. Instead of actionable, specific feedback, he offered to reduce her workload to alleviate the pressure. The problem was, Joanne didn’t need less work, she needed the feedback not only to learn and grow but to gain exposure and credibility with the senior team and evolve in the company. Without feedback, she felt stunted in her development. Unfortunately, research suggests she’s correct.
When she told Paul that she felt underused, Paul was
surprised. He didn’t believe Joanne was
less competent than her male counterparts. In fact, he viewed her as a high
potential. However, he knew that Joanne
was taking care of a sick parent.
Although she had a support network at home that allowed her to be
present and focused at work, he buffered her from critical feedback because he
didn’t want to hurt or overwhelm her. His justification was simple: he was only
trying to help.
the surface, it appears Paul is a supportive, empathetic leader. Unfortunately,
Paul’s underlying assumption that Joanne needed to be protected was turning out
to be more detrimental than helpful.
Women in the Workplace Report,
a comprehensive study of the state of women in corporate America, shows women receive as much as 20% less specific and
developmentally focused feedback to help them improve performance and
address potential career derailers vs. their male counterparts. These findings
are reinforced by Shelley
Correll and Caroline Simard’s research.
After reviewing 200+ performance
reviews, they found women consistently receive vague feedback both in terms of praise and constructive direction.
Paul was falling into a common bias towards
women: the “Protector Bias,” or better known in psychological circles as
the benevolent bias. He was demonstrating excessive concern for Joanne’s
welfare, casting her as weak, less able to handle pressure and in need of his
protection (Glick et
Unlike overt sexism, the protector bias appears
in the form of excessive praise and kindness, especially in male-dominated
industries. What’s less obvious (but
more dangerous) is that when it comes to developmental feedback, promotions,
challenging projects and high-pressure roles, women are often overlooked by
these same managers. While these male leaders often have good intentions,
the protector bias can damage women’s careers.
How does this fly under the radar?
First, the protector
bias is hard to identify because it doesn’tseem discriminatory. To determine if the protector bias
is holding women back in your organization, look for indicators in direct
conversations with women, discussions
about women and written performance
reviews. Are women being highly and
generally praised for their performance but getting less performance-specific
feedback? Look for generalities like “we
love her work ethic” or “people love working with her.” Though nice sentiments, they don’t provide
actionable performance feedback to drive growth. Specific feedback could include: “find
opportunities to attend regional meetings and share your division’s goals and
priorities to aid in buy-in alignment.”
hard-to-detect bias can be far more detrimental than overt discrimination. In a 2007 study, researchers investigated the impact of
benevolent sexism versus overt sexism on women’s performance. They found
benevolent sexism more negatively impacted women’s performance, increased their
self-doubt, and eroded confidence. These cues of women needing more direction,
assistance and protection were picked up by others, further undermining women’s
competence, confidence and increased the chance of achievements and ability being
overlooked when promotions and challenging opportunities arose.
Finally, it’s hard to
address because the “offender” feels like they’re helping women, not holding
them back. Most
men would say they believe women arejust as capable as men. Andrea Kramer, the author of “Breaking through Bias” found that only 12% of men think
gender bias is a problem in their organization, yet looking at the disparity in
pay, promotions, and female executive leaders, the problem is vastly
research shows that women have a second layer
of pressure that men don’t. Women must fight harder for status, are
under-represented, have smaller networks with less support, and must “prove”
themselves in a still-patriarchal business environment.
If feedback is expressed differently for men than women, a check-in is
Paul needs to consider if providing “kind” feedback is a
pattern with just Joanne (the only woman in his group) or with all his direct
Ask these three questions to determine whether the Protector Bias is
holding women back in your company when it comes to giving feedback:
Is it for
you? Are you being too
“kind” with feedback because you don’t want to look bad, hurt the relationship,
or have employees dislike you? If so, you’re
missing opportunities with your female employees and all your potential higher
performers. Constructive, development-focused
feedback is key to professional growth and competence.
Is it for her? You don’t want to hurt her feelings, or worry
that she won’t be able to handle the feedback?
Do you want to “protect” her? If
so, you’ll limit your female employees’ growth and/or retention of high
If a male colleague were standing in front of you, would you feel
the same apprehension in giving feedback? If there’s any hesitation in your answer, pay
A Strategy for Paul. Paul should consciously shift his
mindset and think about the specifics.
Before his next conversation with Joanne, he needs to consider how
specific feedback could help her grow. He should also realize that a lack of
information will hold Joanne back and imply that she’s less competent than her
A strategy for Joanne. Joanne needs to continue pushing for
specific feedback. After the next
conversation with Paul, she needs to continue to focus on her performance and
keep the intrusive self-doubts at bay.
Joanne needs to trust herself, continue to build her awareness, and
elicit feedback from others as well, taking her development and career
evolution in her own hands as much as possible.
As Dr. Kristen Jones shared in her article Stop protecting Women from Challenging Work, “All people like to be treated with courtesy and respect. But it does mean that some behaviors — those that are patronizing, overly protective, and unsolicited — can be harmful”. Don’t let kindness impair a career.