Take the leap. How to develop yourself as a leader.

According to Deliotte’s “Global Human Capital Trends 2016” report, today’s organisations face a leadership gap. 89% of executives found the need to strengthen and improve leadership within their organisations. However, 56% said their organisations are not ready to meet leadership needs, and one in five (21%) have no leadership programmes at all.

In any event, expecting your organisation to develop you as a leader is rather antithetical to the notion of leadership. What these statistics tell us, is that those who are willing to develop themselves have an opportunity. Leadership requires heavy introspection. It is the understanding (and concession) of great leaders that their work must be executed, “under the microscope”. As such, when you climb onto the leadership stage, you’re not just gambling company profits but also your hard earned credibility – which takes years to build and minutes to tear down.

If you believe you have what it takes to lead, the first step is to build yourself as a leader, from within. Here are 6 proven ways to build yourself into a successful leader;

1) Self examination

No man is free who is not master of himself” – Epictetus

Only, when you examine your life do you get to know yourself and understand your motivations, values, weaknesses and strengths. Developing these personal insights, provides the foundation of all successful leadership.

Practical methods for self examination include performing “Socratic method” conversations with yourself. This involves starting with an (assumptive) belief for example “I don’t think I’m competent enough to be a leader” and asking continual questions until a contradiction is exposed. For example, “Why did you get your current job?” thereby proving the fallacy of the original belief. Tools like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory or DiSC personality assessment can give you clues about leadership qualities for your personality.

2) Nurture others

“No one cares how much you know until they know how much your care”

You need to recognise early on that your intellect is not going to be the thing that persuades people to follow you, it will be your humanity. Matt Fawcett GC of NetApp reflects that, the only reason he has been able to successfully lead, 70 people, in 15 countries and 23 cities globally, is by treating his role as that of a coach and mentor.

3) Outsource help

Truly developing yourself as a leader requires strictly objective input – sometimes we are too blind to see our own flaws. This means, allocating time and resources to attend leadership/career coaching sessions or lectures. Take a look, for example, at the work of leading coaches Joe Frederick’s and Charlie Swan – who presently train highly experienced CEO’s, it’s never too late to self improve.  Just like you invest in property or your health, you should do the same in terms of money and resources for your career development – the same logic applies – you get out what you put in.

4) Refine your leadership presence

To quote my previous blog “How great leaders inspire a loyal following”, you need to start with “Why”. Once you understand why you are leading a specific area, you will know your audience and in turn, better understand how you want to be perceived by this particular audience. Presence is a blend of poise, self-control and style which all adds to your perceived credibility. However, different audiences will be persuaded by different styles. You need to know your audience well enough to gage when you’re “barking up the wrong tree” for example, British idioms won’t go down too smoothly when pitching to your Asia team. Examine the previous leaders in your field, think about their style, how it resonates with you and how it motivated those around you. Think how you can make it better.

5) Versatility

Leaders often fail because they gravitate to others like them. This insulates them from cutting edge ideas. To really bring success you need to lead your team onto new paths. Remember innovation occurs at social crossroads. You cannot, reasonably, be aware of every innovative idea, therefore surround yourself with those with differing viewpoints and you won’t exclude yourself from opportunities.

6) Get to know your moral compass

You must know your moral “remit”. This will draw strict lines around what you will and will not do to pursue an objective. Without this you risk, amongst many things, straying so far away from your principles, when under pressure, that you resent who you have become when you step off the leadership ladder. It’s surprising what pressure does to people. Don’t become surprised by your own lack of internal strength. Lay your values on the table before you start leading and hold yourself accountable to them, every step of the way.

 

Written by Leila Mezoughi on behalf of PCA, read more of her blogs here.

Image courtesy of Yuganov Konstantin on Shutterstock.

 

Effortless success: Wu Wei the central principle of ancient Chinese philosophy

Loose control; Wu Wei

Most of us like to feel that we’re in control. We like to feel that we take a proactive approach to our goals because it feels better than doing nothing. However, as paradoxical as it sounds sometimes doing nothing is doing something. Early Chinese thinkers from the Taoist school of thought emphasised, effortless action “Wu Wei”, founded on the belief that our best performance is unleashed when we act without deliberation. For example, you can say what you like to make people trust you but if you’re not sincere, people can tell. Sincerity is an effortless action.

Wu Wei and Western conflicts

Early Taoist thinkers focused on how to encourage or trigger effortless action, (“Wu Wei”) as this was considered to be the embodiment of knowledge. Taoists  therefore, took a holistic view of knowledge – emotion and rationale were not mutually exclusive as acting without deliberation, in accordance with your goals, requires heavy reliance on your intuition. However, Western philosophers significantly favoured logical thought and focused on grasping a set of abstract principles.

Many commentators believe this early philosophic divide between Asian and Western thinkers plays a large role in how we define success today. In the West we are taught that the best way to achieve our goals is to think more rigorously and strive harder. However, in key areas of life this is untenable advice. Some of the most elusive objects of our incessant hard work – happiness, attractiveness, sincerity, charisma – are best pursued indirectly and, in fact, are strikingly resistant to conscious pursuit.

Achieving Wu Wei

More recently, the business world has recognised the significant influence of  “effortless action”-  things such as sincerity, charisma or spontaneity are often used to describe leaders. Wu Wei attempts to hone in and cultivate how one can achieve spontaneous flares of success, or put in another way “body thinking”.

Have you ever felt so focused on a task, that time falls into your peripheral and you become incredibly productive? This state of “flow”, which in the sports world is called being in “The Zone”, is in essence “Wu Wei”. It is a semi-automated state and the moment we think about what we are doing it seems to get compromised.

How to achieve Wu Wei

Practice focus skills

  1. Focus with intensity on your task, dive totally into it
  2. Do it for a reasonable period of time, 30 minutes, is recommended.
  3. Avoid any distractions by creating the necessary environment.

Clear your mind

  • With too much on your mind natural action is very difficult. Often it helps to just take a break or change your environment.

Conscious awareness

  • Self-awareness is key to achieving Wu Wei – you have to understand your goals to be able to naturally flow into them! Here mindfulness or meditation is recommended.

Image courtesy of Markus Mainka, found on Shutterstock

How the low-information diet can triple your productivity in 24 hours.

Put a stop to unhealthy growth

Everyday we dream about our goals. We chase growth in line with our ambitions – a  promotion or a 10% increase in clients per month. We readily take on more work but rarely think about the consequences of doing so, until circumstances such as, overwhelming workloads, force us to. The issue is, we are so focused on obtaining growth that we pay little attention to the scalability of our present behaviours and processes. Can we respond to 1000 emails as easily as 100? No. How long until a permanent back log of unanswered and unread emails becomes our norm? Very quickly we go from being on top of our workload to constantly fighting to keep our head above it. It doesn’t make for a happy work or productive work life, that’s for sure.

Infobesity and unhealthy growth

For Tim Ferriss, author of four hour work week, breaking point hit him four years after becoming founder and CEO of his highflying Silicon Valley firm. After four years of clocking 7am – 9pm hours, 7 days a week and responding to 1,500 emails per week he concluded that he could no longer fight his overwhelming workload in this way. His role was increasingly growing and his processes and routines were 100% unscalable, in fact they were barely making a dent in his work. His behaviours needed to change because he physically couldn’t log anymore hours. In light of the increase in his demand but hindered ability to supply Ferriss conducted an experiment. For the past four years Ferriss had chained himself to his desk, increased his hours but still felt he was drowning in work this time he decided to do the complete opposite.

The low-information diet

Ferriss decided to leave his office and work remotely from 20 countries all over the world. His one golden rule was that he could only check e-mail once a week, for 15 months. What happened? In short by embracing what he calls the “low-information diet” Ferriss defied the logic of excessive working cultures. His business did not fail, it thrived. In the first month alone, Ferriss saw an increase in his profits by 30%.

Why?

During his time away, Ferriss identified the biggest, and most time consuming pitfalls of the modern worker;

1. We are information gluttons

The biggest downfall of individuals (and firms) is not clearly defining objectives. If you don’t define your goals clearly, everything seems important, and you attempt to assimilate all of the information thrown your way on a daily basis. Not only is this incredibly exhausting but it’s entirely inefficient, especially if a large portion of this information is irrelevant to your critical goals.

2. We are innate people pleasers

Trying to make everyone happy – besides being impossible – is the surest way to make yourself miserable. You should not be sacrificing your quality of work for the sake of quantity, especially if you want to obtain long-term clients. Turning away work may initially not be a popular decision but you will be far more unpopular, in the long run, if you produce low quality work – even just once!

Steps to achieve the low-information diet

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”.

In a bid to stop wasting time on things that didn’t pertain to his overall goals Ferriss applied the following 3 steps to his work. In doing so he managed to increase his efficiency by 30%, increase his companies bottom line and achieve a healthy work-life-balance.

If you constantly feel overwhelmed by a mountain of increasing work, then arguably it’s time to change your processes too.

Step 1 Decrease frequency

In 2005, King’s College, London conducted a study to explore the differentiation in IQ between one group of candidates high on marijuana and another group distracted by e-mail and ringing phones. By an average of 6 points the e-mailers did worse than the stoners.

Why? Interruptions cause a psychological uprooting to focus. Once interrupted it takes the brain up to 45 minutes to regain concentration and resume the original task. More than a quarter of each 9-5 period (28% or 134.4 minutes) is consumed by such interruptions, and 40% of people interrupted go on to a new task without finishing the task that was interrupted. This is how we end up with 20 windows open on our computers and nothing completed at 5pm.

Multi-tasking is a fool’s plan. It never worked and never will. It not only breeds inefficiency but also puts you at certain risk of cognitive impairments.

Excellent ways to decrease frequency are;

  1. Batching

Batching is scheduling the completion of time-consuming but necessary tasks at set times, as infrequently as possible. This can be done with everything from e-mails – bills. For example, Ferriss recommends only checking your email twice per day. Once at 12 noon, and again at 4pm. Obviously, this is subject to your career and it’s demands but do remember that responding to emails throughout the working day is wasteful of your time. You become distracted, it takes you longer to complete tasks that you are distracted from (in some cases you leave them incomplete) and it is inevitable you will be interrupted by a significantly less important email than the present task you are attempting to action.

Step 2 – Decrease volume

You do not need to respond to every e-mail. In line with the belief that we people please at our own expense Ferriss recommends the following strategic choices for a more efficient mailbox

1. Set expectations so you don’t have to respond to non question emails (or just don’t respond).

Ferriss recommends adding an explanatory sentence to your auto responder that reads “if your email doesn’t contain a question that requires a response, please don’t be offended if I don’t reply with an e-mail. This is to keep back-and-forth a minimum for both of us! Please feel free to call my phone if you need a confirmation or anything else.

2. If you ask a question, include “if then” instructions to prevent back-and-forth.

For example, “Dear John, have the presentation papers arrived? If so please give them to… if not please contact Sally on 555-555.” This maximises efficiency and eliminates most follow up questions. Get into the habit of considering what “if..then” can be used in any email where you ask a question.

Step 3 – Increase speed

With the use of science, you can increase your reading speed by at least 200%. Reading isn’t a linear process but a series of jumps (saccades) and independent snapshots (fixations). Reading speed increases, to the extent, that you reduce the number and duration of fixations, per line. That is the science of speed reading in once sentence. Below is a explanatory diagram from Ferriss.

Speed reading explained for the low information diet

 

We are subjected to an overwhelming and increasing amount of daily distractions. Learn to recognise and fight the information impulse. Most of the interruptions stop us from progressing more important tasks. Having a set of rules and routines to follow helps keep you away from distractions. This is what the low-information diet seeks to achieve. Focus on being productive rather than busy – your life will change for the better.

Whilst some of Ferriss’ suggestions may seem too wild for your workplace. It should be remembered that without change everything remains the same… if you’re suffering from increasing workloads and decreasing hours, than it’s certainly time to change your processes.

Check out more stuff from Tim Ferriss here

 

Emotional intelligence (“EQ”) and your ability to rule the workplace

An abstract picture depicting EQ

Numerous studies over the past decade have shown the significant connection between emotional intelligence (“EQ”) and high performance. In the first known study of EQ and work performance the US Air Force tested potential recruits for EQ abities – only hiring those with the highest degrees of EQ. Within the first year they reported a 92% cut to their financial loses due to higher employee performance and increased retention. A consensus of findings in the studies accumulated over the past years confirm that the most powerful EQ contributors to performance are:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Awareness of other’s feelings
  3. The ability to manage emotions
  4. The ability to be realistic and put things in perspective
  5. The ability to have a positive disposition and outlook on life

As you can see, people with high levels of emotional intelligence control their emotions rather than allowing their emotions to control them. A study by TalentSmart found that 90% of the best performing employees posses the ability to stay calm under pressure. If you combine all of the most powerful EQ factors you have one incredibly smooth individual who greets stressful situations with unshakable equanimity. No wonder individuals with high degrees of EQ are most likely to be in leadership roles.

The ability to manage your emotions is no easy task but with practice it leads to an increase in your EQ, performance and career sucess. When clients were surveyed in relation to the most desired skills of trusted business advisors emotional intelligence significantly trumped technical knowledge.

Here are four tips, which if practised regularly will increase your overall EQ and in turn promote career success

1)Keep things in perspective

We cannot control everything that happens to us but we can control how we respond to adverse situations. The best way to respond to a stressful circumstance is to ask yourself “what is the worst case scenario as a result of this situation?” This allows you to keep perspective and not loose yourself in a whirlwind of stress. More often than not the worst case will not be loss of life or limb and you will be able to respond in a way that can help to resolve your situation, instead of making an impulsive over reaction. By getting into the habit of instantly asking yourself the worst case scenario question when faced with stress you can avoid an inefficient meltdown.

2) Remain positive

The key to a positive outlook is having a positive mindset. A positive mindset is half the battle to finding a solution to a stressful situation. Instead of giving up when faced with a potential hurdle think “where there is a will – there is a way”. Another great reason to remain positive is because positivity is contagious! Instead of mourning with the rest of the team due to a workplace disaster, be the positive vibe that brings everyone up. Remaining positive in the eye of the storm is a key leadership skill and something that encourages others to rely on you.

3) Get off grid

Working 24/7 damages your body and brain. It’s just not possible to be productive when you never have a break. Research proves that productivity diminishes once you hit the 50 hour work week – so just don’t do it to yourself.

In today’s connected world it’s virtually impossible (no pun intended) to completely disappear –  so to really get off grid, you need to switch off your phone and computer. Doing this for a specific timeframe every day can have wondrous results for your work and mental health. Just try for one hour a day, for one week to feel the difference. Control technology rather than allowing technology to control you.

4)Breath

The importance of breathing properly is undervalued. The best way to stay calm is to practice breathing on a daily basis. When we breath properly it promotes oxygen to the brain, allowing us to think with clarity. By simply breathing properly in stressful situations we trick our bodies into thinking we are relaxed – this then triggers our bodies natural relaxation responses, calming our mind, allowing us to asses the situation objectivly instead of through foggy stress tinted glasses. It may seem simple but you would be surprised how tense we become in stressful situations and forgetting to breath properly is rife amongst stress heads.

5)Mindfullness

Just 6 seconds of mindfulness can make you more effective. The practice of mindfulness is now prescribed by the NHS to resolve stress related health issues which is ubiquitous amongst work professionals. Mindfulness focuses on developing a depth of self knowledge, the objective being self-mastery. When you can clearly and objectively see how you are triggered you can begin to effeictivley deploy emotional and mental strategies to skilfully navigate problem situations such as feelings of stress or anxiety.

This blog used the helpful insight of Dr Patty Ann Tubin, her blog on how to increase your EQ, published here.

Image curtesy of agsandrew published on Shutterstock.

 

 

3 proven ways to overcome self-doubt for good

 

cutting paper in half that says I can't and removing self-doubt

Negative thinking, especially self-doubt consumes the very best of us. Some of the most successful people still consider themselves to be frauds, regardless of how well they are doing and how many awards they win. This type of negative thinking stems from deep insecurity and unless fixed can haunt people for life, stopping them from enjoying their own success. There’s no shortage of self-help guru’s who swear that repeating positive phrases to yourself can change your life, encouraging that if you recite to yourself “I am successful”, your self-doubt will wash away. Unsurprisingly, positive affirmations won’t remedy all our deep seeded insecurity.

The problem with positive affirmations, explains Melody Wilding expert in Human Behaviour, is that they operate at surface level of conscious thinking and do nothing to contend with the subconscious mind where limiting belief really lives. So whilst it’s important to recognise your tendency to engage in self-doubt thoughts, whitewashing your insecurities with positive thinking is not the remedy you need. In fact, new research has found that while repeating positive self statements may benefit people with a high self-regard, it can be detrimental to those lacking confidence. Ironically those with a high self-regard would not be engaging in the type of self-doubt that plague so many of us, so positive affirmations seem to serve a very limited purpose all together.

How to tackle the problem and mentally empower ourselves away form self-doubt?

Here are some very useful tips provided by Wilding to tackle your negative thoughts at their root instead of using a surface cleanser.

1.Dig yourself out from the “Negative Nancy” or “Negative Nigel” thoughts.

If you’re reading this article the content is resonating with you and perhaps you realise your tendency to beat yourself up. Start with articulating the negative thoughts weighing you down. Instead of beating yourself up for procrastinating, forgive yourself for it. You will be surprised to learn how relieving it is to stop feeling angry at yourself. Wilding advises that if you spend less time beating yourself up for procrastination you can re-direct this energy into focusing on how to action a task to avoid your previous mistake.

2.Interrogative self-talk

Research shows that asking ourselves questions rather than issuing commands is a much more effective way to create long lasting change. Wilding explains that it’s as simple as tweaking the way you speak to yourself. When you catch your inner self shouting commands, undeniably making yourself more stressed than necessary think: how can I turn this statement into a question? Some examples are:

  • When have I done this before?
  • What if (insert worst case scenario) happens?
  • How can I?

This type of self-questioning charges up the problem-solving areas of the brain. You start to meet negative self-doubt thoughts with curiosity instead of fear.

3. Focus on progress not perfection

Wilding advises that to effectively re-frame your thinking, consider who you are becoming and focus on your progress. Play the long game. You might want to re-word your self talk to sound more like “I am a work in progress”, “look how far I come each day and that’s ok”. This points you in the direction of positive growth and is both realistic and achievable. It helps to negate the negative can’t do/ self-doubt attitude that can overcome many of us.

If you’re prone to negative talk, its extremely important to stop this kind of “self-harm”. If you don’t treat yourself kindly with the respect you deserve what can you expect from others? We all deserve to enjoy the success we have worked so hard for without any thoughts taking that away from us.

This blog was written with the help of Melody Wilding’s story for Forbes; Forget Positive Thinking: This is How to Actually Change Negative Thoughts For Success.

If you are interested in reading more about this type of content, I would highly recommend following Melody Wilding’s stories here.

Image curtesy of Marie Maerz sourced from Shutterstock

Age is just a number: study shows you’re only as old as you feel

a young women acting younger than her age

You are as old as you feel

The way you view your age has a direct impact on your physical health. In a study conducted by the University of Exeter, 29 people between the ages of 66 and 98, were asked about their self-perceptions of getting older.

The study asked the participants to place themselves in one of two categories “old and frail” or “strong and healthy”.  Individuals aligning with the typically negative labels of, “old and frail” were far less likely to  participate in social activities and exercise in comparison to their more positive counterparts who – living up to their “strong and healthy” self-perceptions, were far more physically and socially active.

Researchers found that self-perceptions of ageing became a self fulfilling prophecy – negative beliefs regarding the ageing process lead subjects to live a reduced quality of life.

Age perceptions – The long term consequences

A positive mindset as we age can help us to live longer. Older individuals, identifying with positive self-perceptions of ageing, during middle age, lived a whopping 7.5 years longer than those with negative self-perceptions of ageing.

In addition, researchers have also found a strong connection between negative views on ageing and one’s likelihood of developing chronic diseases. In particular researchers found that, people with negative age perceptions, earlier on in life were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and at the very least depression and anxiety. To bolster this finding, another study revealed that older individuals with positive perceptions about age, were 44% more likely to recover from severe disability than those with negative age perceptions. According to the study positive perceptions regarding ageing promote recovery by:

  • Increasing healthy behaviours
  • Limiting cardiovascular response to stress
  • Enhancing self-ability
  • Improving physical balance
  • The mind-body connection has proved to be invaluable in research as it maintains a sense of purpose in our lives as we age

Believing that your life has meaning is linked to lower risk of several serious health problems including stroke, cognitive decline, dementia, physical disability and premature death.

If you take one piece of advice away from this blog – ensure you live your life to the full, regardless of the age on your birth certificate – Don’t let your mind give up before your body.

To read more on this topic, click here and read the useful blog written by Paul Ebeling.

6 scientific methods to stop procrastinating

One of the great challenges of our age, in which the tools of our productivity are also the tools of our leisure, is to figure out how to make more useful those moments of procrastination when we’re idling in front of our computer screens.

Finally, the scientists investigated techniques to combat our 21st century idle inclinations. Thanks owed to technology and its incessant distractions for giving us shorter attention spans than goldfish. No, really.

Below are 6 proven methods to help you reinforce the power of life without procrastination. You’re welcome.

1) Choose Your Poison

Clever drinkers never mix their spirits. Just like clever workers never mix their tasks. Overwhelming yourself with multiple responsibilities is inefficient and grey hair inducing. If you don’t believe me read this article on Why multi-tasking is worse for your IQ than Marijuana. Start by choosing one task and make a solid commitment to finish that task within the next week.

2) Start Now

Once you have selected your poison, start now. Right now. Or at the very least after this blog. Be strict with yourself. Not sticking to this rule can propel you right back into the procrastination hole you’re trying to claw out of.

3) The Power Hour

A power hour consists of removing all distractions and putting 100% effort into one dedicated task or project. This one focused hour per day can generate more results than a distracted eight hour day. Science has found that our brain goes through “peak cycles”. Therefore, it is advised that you balance this concentrated focus hour with no more than 20 minute intervals.

4) Five-Minute Miracle

This is the most efficient technique for the professional procrastinator. Simply ask yourself the question “What action can I take in five minutes today that moves me ever so slightly forward?”. Once you have identified your action, set a timer for five minutes and complete the task. Research shows that once you start a task you are much more likely to complete it. Phycologists call this the Zeigarnik effect, which stipulates that unfinished tasks are more likely to be ingrained in our memories. Therefore, what may seem like a five-minute action, is actually a deceiving memory trick that increases your chances of finishing your to-do list. Win/Win.

5) Procrastination Power Song

My personal favourite; the P.P.S. Choose a song that gets you energised, something like,“Eye of The Tiger” and pump this out at the office, whilst shadow boxing in the mirror, when you feel there is mass procrastination. Or you can follow the science backed method and once you select your song – you must listen to it (perhaps in your headphones) whenever you want to tackle a task you’ve been procrastinating. This will cause a trigger effect in your brain. Creating a habit of productivity whenever you hear your P.P.S.

6) Open a Dark Door

This is on here as a warning. It is advised that you properly test the above tips because if procrastination is still an issue for you – the final stage is to delve into why you’ve been procrastinating a task. Are you afraid of something? Are you unhappy in your job? So unless you are ready to open the doors of self analysis, I suggest you repeat tips 1-5 one more time.

I can confirm that procrastination was successfully combatted to write this blog with the help of Forbes and their useful post on procrastination tips.

Food for Thought – what to eat for optimal intellectual output

Brain Food

You are what you eat. Your brain uses 20% of all the calories you consume through food and drink, everyday. You will be shocked to learn just how quickly what you eat directly impacts your brains ability to function. A chocolate bar can cause your blood sugar to spike just 15 minutes after eating it – with cognitive impairments starting soon after. Before a presentation – would you ever consider digesting something to make you feel exhausted and decline in intellectual ability? I’m sure the answer would be no. However, people unconsciously do this to themselves every working day because they are unaware of how different foods react with their brain. Admit it: its not uncommon to find yourself exhausted and unproductive well before the working day is over – this lethargy has a lot to do with what your eating.

Why should I fuel my brain?

Brain cells require 2 x more energy than any other cells in our body. This means keeping your brain properly fuelled can be the difference between mental clarity and total mental fog. Being mindful of what you eat, not only helps you stay mentally awake during the work day, but it also protects you from future neurological dysfunction – which can be largely attributed to a super-fatty diet.

The 4 cardinal rules of the brain food diet 

Instead of overwhelming you with a huge list of brain “super food” ingredients, because in reality who is going to eat wild Atlantic salmon and walnuts everyday? I have prepared the 4 cardinal rules of brain food  – which if you apply to your daily diet – should set you on the path to ultimate brain health….You’re welcome.

1) Must. Eat. Breakfast – no if’s no but’s

If you skip breakfast, you end up with a huge spike in blood sugar and than an equally huge crash in the afternoon. However, when you eat breakfast, you are kick-starting your metabolism – i.e converting your food to energy at exactly the right time of day – this process than remains stable throughout the day – crucially preventing the, all too familiar, afternoon slump at work.

2)Avoid sugary foods 

High blood sugar temporarily impairs your memory, making it very hard to focus. The optimal amount of glucose for our brain, at any one time, is 25 grams (one banana’s worth). Anymore than this and you are risking temporary cognitive impairments. Frequent smaller meals are a great way to help you keep your glucose levels constant.

3)Avoid high saturated fats 

Foods high in saturated fats increase your chances of memory impairments – this will not only impact your immediate workday, but also increases your chance of developing a serious neurological disease in the future. Stick to foods such as lean protein, low fat dairy, whole grains and fruits and vegetables which all form part of a low-fat diet.

4)Constant hydration

Your brain needs constant fluid to function. Period. Dehydration can cause numerous symptoms including problems with focus, memory, brain fatigue and brain fog, as well as headaches, sleep issues, anger, depression and much more. So, just keep hydrated – OK?!

Nothing beats drinking pure water – your body is 60% water overall, but your brain is a huge 80% waterIt is generally recommended that adults drink 2.5 litres per day. However before you get ready to chug down your water bottle, you already receive a lot of this hydration through food. Fruits, vegetables, juice, tea and coffee all hydrate you. Yes thats right – contrary to popular belief coffee doesn’t actually dehydrate you!

Coffee addiction warning..!

Following a recent study – if you drink coffee at moderate to high volumes (around 4 – 8 ounce coffee cups with of caffeine) you must keep drinking those high levels or risk impairing brain function. In short – your brain becomes so used to working on high doses of caffine that it starts to under-perform without it! Look here for the caffeine content of your favourite drinks. It is advised that moderate – high coffee users slowly reduce their dose of coffee – otherwise they risk facing cognitive impairment consequences if they try to go “cold turkey”.

Read more about this topic on Trello’s blog, here 

 

How to organise your workspace for maximum productivity

Picture of a desk

I’m not talking about Feng Shui (although I’m an avid believer) I’m talking about science based facts that prove the layout of your workspace can either boost or hinder your productivity.

Colour

Colour dictates our mood in powerful ways. All colours influence different emotions – some colours boost productivity more then others depending on your line of work. A recent University of Texas study found that

  • White, grey and beige offices induced feelings of sadness, even depression, especially in women.
  • Green and blue (mother natures palette of choice) are the most universally productivity inducing colours. Both colours are calming – this not only increases overall wellbeing but also helps you to focus on intensive tasks for long stretches of time. Both colours also cause zero eye strain.
  • Purple helps to stimulate problem solving – however this tone is clearly under utilised in the traditional working space.
  • Orange is a social colour which encourages interaction. Perhaps not the best choice of colour for a workspace.
  • Yellow stimulates creativity and optimism. If you work in the creative industry or would like your work to focus on innovation, this could be perfect for you.
  • Red increases our heart rate, giving you a boost of energy and encourages physical activity. Your eye is instantly magnetised to red – therefore it might be distracting for desk workers but increase the productivity of physical/hands-on workers.

Temperature

A recent study found the ideal working temperature to be 25 degrees Celsius. Why is this important? Studies have found that too-cold workers made far more errors and came across as anti-social in social situations. One study in particular estimated that errors, due to cold offices, get as high as 44%!

Lighting

There is no replacement for true natural light. So unless you’re lucky enough to work from a hammock in Thailand, its likely your suffering from over-exposure to harsh artificial light. Artificial light and the “blue” light of our devices messes up your natural rhythm and leaves you drowsy and lethargic all day.

Its advisable to work in the light from the window and then just rely on an LED task lamp for reading or your desk area. If light from the window is not possible – then an LED lamp switched on in the morning and turned off in the afternoon can mimic natural light patterns.

Music

According to a recent study workers showed signs of increased happiness and efficiency whilst listening to music. The best music for maximum productivity is

  • Classical music – especially dramatic pieces with no lyrics
  • Familiar songs – so your brain doesn’t think ahead for what’s next
  • Video game soundtracks – these are specially designed to be atmospheric and not distracting to the focused gamer – Pac-Man anyone?
  • And my personal favorite recommendation – Electronica! The repetitive beat of Electronica has been shown to increase focus. Bring on the office raves!

 

Credit to Trello and their comprehsive post on workspace organisation

How great leaders inspire a loyal following

How great leaders inspire a loyal following

In the summer of 1963, 250,000 loyal people showed up to watch Martin Luther King give a speech in Washington. They sent out no invitations and there was no website to check the date. Dr King certainly wasn’t the only great civil rights orator of the day. Why did all these people show to see him?

In 2015, Apple posted the highest grossing quarter in world history. Apple are just like any other computer company right? Wrong. For example, Apple and Dell started selling roughly the same products, but Apple manages to have customers queuing outside of its branches, for hours, before the release of a new product. How does Apple inspire such a loyal following?

All the great inspiring leaders and organisations in the world, whether it’s Apple or Martin Luther King, they all think, act and communicate the exact same way. And its the exact opposite to everybody else. Its probably the worlds simplest idea but yet the best kept secret in the businesses world, until now. Simon Sinek author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action  has codified this communication secret. He calls this secret formula “The Golden Circle”.

Black and white photo of a lion

The Golden Circle

Sinek uses the “Golden Circle” to explain his concept. The “Golden Circle” consists of three layers;

  • Why: this is the communication of a core belief and why they believe their idea or business will make a difference. Importantly this core belief is not motivated by profit.
  • How: this is how the business fulfils the core belief.
  • What: this is what the company produces that, in turn, fulfils their core belief.

Remember Martin Luther king’s speech? He didn’t go around telling people what needed to change in America. He instead told people what he believed. He started with why “I believe, I believe, I believe,” he told people. And people who believed what he believed took his cause and were inspired to follow him.

Non-leading businesses or politicians, do the exact opposite of “The Golden Circle” they start with;

  • what and they communicate their plan or product.
  • Some may know, how, they produce this product or service.
  • Crucially, non-leaders will rarely know, why, they do, what they do. i.e why they are putting their idea to their audience for reasons not motivated by money.

It is the, why, when communicated properly that creates the loyalty. Back to the example of “Apple” and “Dell”, the key difference is that Apple, started with why.

Apple, before making its products, identified its audience as people with similar core beliefs. Apple asked;

“Do you, like us, believe in pursuing innovation? We will do this by making technology simple to use and reliable. We will produce this in the form of laptops/phones.”

By explaining why first, Apple, communicated to their audience a set of values. People, identified with these values and, in turn, purchased Apple products. Dell, in comparison, told their audience what they had;

“A new innovative product, that is perfectly designed”.

However, without the why, Dell’s communication was uninspiring to its audience.

So, why is starting with the ‘why’ so powerful?

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” explains Sinek.

It’s that simple. If you share a mutual core belief with your audience, they will want to buy from you, not your competitors. People are loyal to their own beliefs.

This principle, according to Sinek, is not a psychological truth, it is a biological truth. The Limbic system, is the part of the human brain that controls behaviour such as motivation, decision-making and loyalty. The Limbic system, does not have the capacity for language and has been conceptualised as, the ‘feeling and reacting brain’ that is interposed with the ‘thinking brain’. During a decision-making process, humans will have a ‘feeling’ (sometimes known as a gut-feeling), which will then be rationalised using language they can understand, such as product description or cost – by another part of the brain. Sinek argues that, generally, even if the product or price description is pleasing, people won’t go for it if they don’t have the right, ‘feeling’. This principle is even more prominent in service industries, such as law or coaching where trusted relationships are critical.

By starting with ‘why’ businesses can communicate their core beliefs to their target audience. When people resonate with these beliefs and follow their ‘good feelings’ in their Limbic brain, their behaviour is motivated emotionally, by feelings of loyalty and trust – which for businesses produces a client, for life.

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