Sleep; why society needs to universally embrace the lie in

Why we need more sleepWe can ignore our yawns. We can ignore the devastation that strikes us, when our morning alarm wakes us after yet another late night at the office. The one person we can’t ignore, is mother nature. If she tells us we need more sleep, we should listen. The Earth has a rhythm. Every 24 hours it rotates on its axis, basking its surface, alternately, in darkness and sunlight. In turn, quite magnificently, evolution has provided all of Earth’s organism’s – from bacteria to humans – with the ability to coordinate their internal, metabolic processes, with that of the environment around them. This evolutionary masterpiece is called our “Circadian rhythm” which is also known as our “internal body clock”.

Listen to mother nature

Circadian rhythms, regulate the periods of alertness and sleepiness experienced throughout a day, in response to the light and darkness of surrounding environments. It controls our physical, mental and behavior changes – making us feel sleepier, if we are sleep deprived. The advantage of having Circadian rhythms, is that they influence us to perform activities at biologically advantageous times during the day. This means, reflects Issac Edery in his influential paper on Circadian rhythms, for the American Physiological Society, although we have tried to create “cities that never sleep” we cannot escape the resistance of endogenous clocks that regulate much of our physiology and behaviour. Whilst everyone has a unique Circadian rhythm, 7.5 – 9 hours a night of sleep is, generally, considered sufficient sleep for adults.

The diligent worker

Edery and several other prominent scientists including Paul Kelley, of Oxford University’s Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, note, that modern working culture of “being the first to arrive and the last to leave” means that our work schedules are now, entirely, at odds with our Circadian rhythm, we are sleeping far less, which is not without consequence to our health. Malfunctions in our Circadian system can lead to chronic sleep disorders, depression, obesity and at the very least unproductivity which, appears to defy the very objective of lengthy work schedules. Kelley concludes that most of the working world are still waking up far too early. “It’s not rational to start the day at 8am” he continues, its simply just to feed into the bias that you’re only a committed worker if you’re chained to your desk. Kelley suggests that 10am is the ideal work day start time. Experts are now urging employers to reconsider long work schedules in favour of ones that sync with our body clocks.

More sleep = More productivity

Christopher Barnes in his white paper on “why it pays to ensure adequate sleep for your employees”, argues, many organisational leaders do not understand health and organisational benefits of monitoring healthy sleep schedules, for their company’s performance. Bad habits include sending emails during the night which shows a “no sleep” culture in the company. Barnes makes 7 helpful suggestions for companies to promote better sleep habits for employees here.

In a series of studies carried out, respectively, by scientists Roenneberg and Ryan Olsen, workers who adjusted their work schedule to their individual biological clocks were far more productive, healthier and focused, both in work and out of work. Olsen suggests “with technology today there is no reason to have a rigid schedule” he continues, productivity is when “you stop focusing on time and decide what results you are paying people for”.

Written by, Leila Mezoughi for PCALaw

Partner performance to be one of the biggest challenges facing firms this year

Partner performance to be one of the biggest challenges facing firms this year

Making partner, is a dream shared by many young, ambitious solicitors. However, research revealed by Smith & Williamson’s, 2016, Professional Practices survey, found that in reality the career climb is becoming a nightmare. 63% of those in senior management positions report having little, to no support, in their new role. 36% of respondents felt the help from their firm was effective, while 44% were left to prepare for their new role, themselves. The remaining 20% reported their firm’s assistance was of limited effectiveness.

These statistics place a huge strain on newly appointed leadership figures. Law firm professional development director and lawyer Marian Lee, in her book Partnership: It’s Not Just Lawyering Anymore, acknowledges that promotion to a senior management role is not a decision to reward you for previous work but instead, a leap of faith based on what the firm thinks you can contribute in the future. This means, Lee continues, newly appointed partners in management positions “remain relatively vulnerable until they fulfil their perceived potential.

The duties required of individuals in senior management roles, differ, somewhat significantly, to the responsibilities held by junior lawyers. Arguably, law firms should provide training for newly appointed leaders so they do not feel ill-prepared or lost, when they are expected to be the face of the firm. However, Smith & Williamson noted, “This year’s survey suggests a worrying lack of preparation and support for senior leadership roles within firms. Only a quarter of managing partners have a mentor or coach in their roles.”  The survey forecasts “partner performance” to be one of the biggest challenges facing the legal profession, this year.

In light of these statistics firms should focus on what they can do to support newly appointed managing partners. Firms such as A&O and Ashurst provide short courses for newly appointed managing partners. Other successful initiatives involve bespoke training with a focus on particular areas to suit the firm and the individual. If firms are looking for a more thorough induction, one-to-one training with external coaches, allows individuals to work on key leadership skills, in a discrete environment, where any concerns or fears over an upcoming role can be voiced.

A mindset to change your life path

A mindset to change your life path

A mindset is a set of assumptions held by individuals that creates a powerful incentive to continue, adopt, or accept prior behavior.

Phycologist, Carol Dweck’s, research on the significant relationship between mindset and ability, took the academic, sports and business worlds by storm. A mindset is a set of assumptions held by individuals that creates a powerful incentive to continue, adopt, or accept prior behavior. Dweck found two distinct mindsets that individuals typically exhibit when perceiving their own ability; the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. The growth mindset is the understanding that you can always improve upon your abilities through practice and exertion. A fixed mindset however, denotes that successful abilities are innate and inflexible and that you are either born talented or not talented.

Which mindset are you? How you view your failure can determine which mindset you hold in relation to your abilities. When you have a fixed mindset, failure defines your limits, your capabilities and who you are as an individual. In comparison, the growth mindset views failure as a lesson. The core tenant of the growth mindset is that failure is used for self improvement and does not create a barrier to perfecting abilities.

Case studies

In a 2004 case study Dweck, Mangels, & Good investigated whether a fixed or growth mindset could influence academic ability. Here, students were asked to perform complex tasks whilst fitted with an electrode cap to record the parts of the brain that reflect attentional processes. After each task the students were told whether their answer was right or wrong. The research found that students with a fixed mindset paid attention to only whether their answer was right. If wrong, they had little interest in learning what the right answer actually was. Being right outweighed their desire to learn. In contrast, those with a growth mindset wanted to assimilate both types of answers; whether it was right or wrong. Subsequently, in a follow up exam, the students identified with a growth mindset did significantly better than those with the fixed mindset.

The results of this study can also be seen in the business world. Successful business leaders typically possess a growth mindset. Rather than trying to prove they are better than others and work out success benchmarks and boundaries, they focus on internal improvement. Dweck states “leaders with a fixed mindset believe that some people are superior and others are inferior and their companies are a reflection of their own superiority.” These leaders will not be open to collaboration because they prefer dictating and only need helpers to implement their ideas. Business leaders who have a growth mindset, are more likely to encourage similar mindsets amongst their employees, inspiring innovation, hard work, and productivity.

Dweck explains that her research into the growth mindset does not seek to undermine the importance of “talent”, especially in the sports world but instead seeks to show that the growth mindset is of equal importance when measuring success. Sports phycologist Richard Cox found, that athletes who believed success was attributed to practice and hard work, and not exclusively natural talent, had more overall success in the next athletic season. Cox further found, that the highest performing participants believed their coaches also understood success was attributed to practice and hard work, not exclusively natural talent.

Are you ready to change?

Dweck’s research positively disrupts the idea that natural talent supersedes hard work, practice and self belief. The growth mindset can be a powerful tool for those willing to embrace it, it can change the course of your life and push you out of your comfort zone to achieve things you thought unachievable. For business leaders, the above studies identify that the growth mindset is contagious in organisations. The employers that can cultivate a growth mindset workforce and embrace failure when it occurs will find increased innovation, creativity and cohesion in their work environment.

Read more from Carol Dweck here

The power of listening

If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.” Mark Twain.

Quite simply, listening, is twice as importance as talking. However, we receive virtually no training in good listening. Many of us believe we are listening but in reality we are just waiting for our turn to respond. Really “hearing” is not a passive activity. How many times have you responded to a speaker with “yes but”. I know I have. This common response, undermines everything the speaker has just said. It can cause people to clam up and not be open in their discussions with you. Professionally, if employees feel too uncomfortable to ask for clarification on delegated tasks, it will kill productivity. Socially, you can isolate yourself from people as you will never reach that deeper level of understanding. Something that happens when two people really open up to each other and share stories. “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force” writes Brenda Ueland in her essay On The Fine Art of Listening. The people who “really listen to us are the ones we move toward, and want to sit in their radius as though it did us good.”.

So, instead of responding with “yes, but”, try and replace it with a follow up question. Let people finish what they are saying and don’t interrupt if that is your inclination. Genuinely, listen to the speaker. These simple skills can go a long way in building strong rapports with those around you. We shouldn’t just be mindful of our verbal responses. Whilst exact percentages are difficult to achieve, research suggests, above 90% of what we communicate is non-verbal. This means we are also communicating with our eye contact, physical movements and body posture. Body language that expresses you are not engaged with the speaker is fidgeting, lack of eye contact, positioning your body away and tightly crossing your arms and legs. By simply keeping good eye contact and inclining your posture towards the speaker you can invite and encourage expression. When people believe they are truly being listened to solutions and understandings, that were previously unforeseeable, can be found.

Listening is a powerful tool. Not only can we use it to connect with those around us, but we can educate ourselves. We learn, from each others life experiences, knowledge that cannot be read or taught. From the wise words of Dalai Lama “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know; but when you listen you may learn something new”.

Your body language can shape your interview outcome

Body language shapes how others see us but does it also change how we feel about ourselves? Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, explains in her landmark research, how standing in a confident, powerful manner, even when we don’t feel confident, can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain and can have a direct impact on our chances of success.

What is powerful body language?

In humans and all animal species, postures that are expansive, open and take up space are associated with high power and dominance. Postures that contract, with limbs crossed protecting vital organs and take up minimal space are associated with low power. For example, animals that are prey will make themselves as small as possible.

Amy Cuddy showing the typical "power pose" used in her research

Amy Cuddy showing the typical “power pose” used in her research

The science

The impetus for Cuddy’s research came from a breakthrough in primatology.  In primates, powerful postures also correlate with testosterone and cortisol levels. Expansive, high-power postures produce, in both sexes, high testosterone, a hormone that creates feelings of dominance and power, and low levels of cortisol a hormone that produces stress. Interestingly, this endocrine profile is also associated with disease resistance as high cortisol and low testosterone makes you very susceptible to illness.

The breakthrough

Until recently, primatologists, believed that the dominant creatures in their groups had inherited high-power neuroendocrine profiles. However, it was found that those hormone levels change when you take on the dominant role. Primates that were forced to take on the dominant role, due to death of the previous leader, saw their testosterone and cortisol levels change, in just a few days. Likewise, primates that were pushed to the bottom also had drastic differences in their neuroendocrine profiles.

The study

A study carried out by Cuddy, Dana R. Carney and Andy J. Yap measured the hormone levels of 42 male and female research subjects. These subjects were then asked to stand in two high-power or low-power poses for a minute per pose and had their hormone levels re-measured 17 minutes later. They also offered subjects a chance to gamble, rolling dice to double a $2 stake. The results were significant. A mere two minutes in high- or low-power poses caused testosterone to rise and cortisol to decrease and visa versa. Those in high-power stances were also more likely to gamble, enacting a trait (risk taking) associated with dominant individuals. Importantly they also reported feeling more powerful.

This same study was then carried out again but after low or high power posing the subjects were asked to sit a mock job interview. The candidates that had enacted the powerful poses were selected as the most competent candidates.

What does it mean for you and your job interview?

Humans perceive competence in others when they see confidence or power. The candidates that were asked to stand in powerful poses reported feeling more powerful themselves. This powerful feeling was communicated to recruiters, who then deemed these people as the most competent for the role.

Cuddy advises doing two minutes of “power posing” before a job interview as it directly increases your chance of being selected. No matter how silly you might initially feel, results show that after you powerfully pose you will feel more confident and have a better chance of success.

It has been noted that women often tend to take up low power poses in business and social settings. Cuddy advises women to take up more space, not to wrap/twist legs up, as this stance has a direct affect on your mindset. Even if you don’t feel powerful “fake it until you make it” Cuddy advises, as you will eventually feel the powerful rush, as you are changing your neuroendocrine profiles.

You can find out more about Cuddy’s research at









PCA Law (the Personal Communications Academy For Lawyers) are the legal sector’s specialist providers of conversation-based experiential training products

We are the only Personal Communication Consultancy in the world to work exclusively with lawyers...


We are happy to come in to talk with you at your offices, wherever you’re based, so please contact us at: