The very word “problem” doesn’t normally bring humor to mind. Problem-solving evokes images of late night work sessions – guys with their ties loosened and shirt sleeves rolled up and women with their uncomfortable dress shoes kicked off, all gathered around a conference table looking tense and wondering how to resolve whatever issue they’re working on.
Think how different that scene would be if those very same people were relaxed around that table, tossing soft toy balls to each other, making things out of pipe cleaners (remember pipe cleaners?), or squeezing squishy toys and laughing.
In the first example, their minds are totally focused on the problem. They think they are there to find a solution but it’s hard to get creative ideas when you are tired and stressed out. It’s one of the reasons brilliant ideas come to us in the middle of the night when we’re not actively working on them. Our creativity can finally reach us in our sleep!
Laughter is a gift from the Creativity Gods and a boon to Employee Engagement. That’s not just my opinion, scientists tell us that the more they research the benefits of laughter, the stronger the case for using it in work situations, especially those requiring problem solving. A study out of Wharton, for example found that laughter resulted in individuals demonstrating more creative decision-making and greater flexibility. According to the article Leading with Laughter by Eric Tytslin laughter “clears the mind and improves focus.”
So think about how you can make the problem-solving meetings at work more fun. Ideas could include:
None of these require a lot of time but 5-10 minutes invested in frivolity at the front end will pay off handsomely when the meeting moves into problem-solving mode.
Everyone is beyond busy. There is more work to do than time to do it. It’s one of the primary reasons employee engagement is at an all time low. We are not the only ones under constant time pressure. Our co-workers feel it and so do the bosses. If you’re a boss or the boss, your tension is coming from many angles.
It’s no wonder we become disengaged; it’s an ages-old defense mechanism called fight or flight. Disengagement is a form of detaching or running away. Unfortunately, it never feels as good as we hope it will and it often robs us of enjoying our work.
Action cancels fear – every time.
Disengagement at work is a response to fear. “What if I can’t keep up?” “What if this job really IS impossible to do?” “What if the boss finds out I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing?” These questions are all based on deep-seated anxiety and can paralyze us.
Work Night Insomnia
Beginning in the sixth grade, I suffered from school night insomnia. Does this sound familiar? Maybe you’ve traded it for work night insomnia. Once homework assignments became part of my education, I would lie awake at night staring at the ceiling, obsessing about what would happen the next day when the teacher discovered I hadn’t done my homework.
I remember sneaking into the bathroom at 3am to read books (another form of disengaging). I would examine my face in the mirror for hours, count the tiles on the floor in every direction, finding any distraction to avoid facing my fear. One time I even rearranged my Dad’s medicine cabinet alphabetically. He was not as grateful as you might think.
In all the years I suffered from school night insomnia, it never once occurred to me to sneak into the bathroom and (fill in the blank) ______________. That’s right! DO MY HOMEWORK! (Apparently, my teachers were all correct: not doing one’s homework DOES atrophy the brain.)
Later, as an adult my habits of procrastination began to have some very negative repercussions. I was fired from one job for being consistently late. At other jobs I lived in constant fear that my boss would ask for something I hadn’t yet gotten to or didn’t understand and had been afraid to ask. It was a miserable existence. What would you do? That’s right! You’d look for a solution. I became determined to stop this self-defeating behavior.
What I eventually learned is that action cancels fear—every time! If you are frozen in fear about a task or a project, identify the easiest part of it, tackle that and you will be in action. You will have taken the first step to displacing the fear and what may be hindering any progress. Remember what you learned in physics? A body in motion tends to stay in motion; a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Once you’ve tackled an easy task, you’re already working—just keep going!
The more you’re in motion the less fear can dominate your mind.
The Law of Attraction dictates, “You get more of what you focus on.” When you focus on, “I can’t do this,” guess what? You’ll be right! When you are constantly fearful, you attract more circumstances that only substantiate the fear.
If instead you are focused on action, and another word for action is solution, your fear subsides and you begin to attract more solutions.
Solving problems is why we enjoy work in the first place. Don’t you love solving problems? At the very core of our being we are problem-solvers.
Jump into action, solve what’s in front of you and one morning or afternoon, you may just realize that the fear has been replaced with renewed passion for your work.
The thrill is back and so are you.
Let me know how you have overcome your fears and put yourself back into motion!
According to Wikipedia, Garbage in, garbage out (GIGO) in the field of computer science refers to the fact that computers, since they operate by logical processes, will unquestioningly process unintended, even nonsensical, input data (“garbage in”) and produce undesired, often nonsensical, output (“garbage out”).
I have co-opted GIGO to mean that, if you feed your mind garbage, then your mind will produce undesirable thoughts. Since the Law of Attraction dictates, “You get more of what you focus on,” then feeding your mind garbage results in a garbage-filled life.
Be Careful What You Feed Your Mind
If you want to know the biggest Influencer in your life, the answer would be, “Your mind.” Your mind is with you 24/7 and influences every aspect of how you experience life. When you sleep it influences your dreams.
Western society spends an unreasonable amount of time obsessing about what we eat. Is it too much or too little? Is it good for me or bad for me? One of the fastest ways to make a lot of money is to create a book or video or class that promises a beautiful body while you eat whatever you want.
What we don’t pay nearly enough attention to is what we feed our minds. Oh, we have lots of opinions about what children should be feeding their minds. We know that small, impressionable minds shouldn’t be exposed to violent films or TV shows. We are horrified when parents of teens allow them to play violent video games.
All of the above falls under the category of what our parents said to us that we hated: do as I say, not as I do.
This Really Matters
I am in recovery from a major depression that lasted for 30 years. I can tell you without equivocation that what you feed your mind makes a huge difference in the quality of your life. Since your mind is your constant Influencer, it is imperative that you give it material that will help rather than hurt you. Paying attention to what I focused on was the beginning of my recovery from depression.
Your Mind Doesn’t Know the Difference Between Pretend & Reality
I will never forget the day this was driven home to me with a 2X4 (metaphorically, not literally—a 2X4 would hurt!). I was in a really foul mood. A foul mood is so much worse than a bad mood. It is—well—FOUL. Since I had begun to really pay attention to cause-and-effect in my life, I was confused. I couldn’t pinpoint any reason for feeling so dark. There was nothing going on at the time that would explain it.
And then it hit me! While on the elliptical trainer at the gym I had been listening to books on tape. At the time I was listening to a James Patterson novel. I can’t recall the title but I DO recall it had a lot of graphic violence. Since my brain (like yours) doesn’t know the difference between pretend and reality, at some level my mind thought it was happening to me. The foul mood was the reptilian part of my brain signaling me that I was in imminent danger.
Since that day I am careful about what “entertainment” I choose. Friends who don’t necessarily subscribe to my opinion on this but honor my choices will call and say, “Don’t go see this movie, you will hate it.” I walk out of movies that make me uncomfortable (and ask for a refund) and have been known to throw a book or two across the room when the ending was far from happy. There are authors I will never read again, even though (or maybe because) they are great writers.
Nutritious Food for the Mind
We live in a wonderful time when information is as close as our computers. There are numerous websites, videos, blogs, podcasts and online articles that can inspire and uplift. There are books, movies and TV shows that can do the same. The more we feed our minds a nutritious diet, the less stressed we will be and the more we attract what we want.
In the work we do (paid or not), why not focus on the positive aspects of what we’re doing? What if we celebrated each step of progress? What if we allowed ourselves to feel the thrill of a job well done? Imagine the quality of your life if your mind, your biggest influencer, was consistently applauding your efforts.
Question: Are you careful about the diet you are feeding your mind? Do you remember a time when you realized your mind was being negatively influenced? What prompted you to start paying attention to this? I am gathering these kinds of stories and would love to hear about your experience.
For private coaching, or information on having Silver work with your company on employee engagement, call 877-840-5416 or email: Info@SilverSpeaks.com
If it hasn’t happened to you, you’ve read about it or it’s happened to someone you know: people stranded at a busy airport because their flight was cancelled. It happened to my friend Tom who handled it brilliantly. It’s a great example of how to influence others.
Negativity breeds more of the same
When Tom heard the announcement over the PA, his stomach sank. His flight was cancelled. It was late in the evening and, because he’s a seasoned business traveler, he knew the chance of other flights being available was pretty slim.
He watched as an all too familiar scene unfolded in front of him. Angry passengers were crowding the airline’s customer service desk being exceedingly rude to the unfortunate agents behind it. The agents, who had nothing to do with the cancellation, were losing patience. Tempers were flaring.
Tom asked himself, “Who would know how to get me to my destination?” When the answer came to him, he grabbed his coat and briefcase and headed for the first customer service desk he saw that had agents standing behind it. Happily, their flight had just left and they had no customers waiting in line.
As he approached the desk, Tom glanced at the nametag of the agent who made eye contact with him, smiled and asked, “Sarah, can I ask you something?” Smiling back she said, “Of course.” In a pleasant tone of voice and without placing blame on anyone or anything, he laid out his dilemma: the flight cancellation, the fact that he needed to be in Detroit in the morning for an important business meeting, etc.
Then Tom posed a brilliant question, “If you were in my shoes, what would you do?”
People love to share their expertise
Tom, an executive in his company who had gotten to the C-Suite because of his strong leadership skills had learned a long time ago that people love almost any opportunity to share their expertise. Sure enough Sarah and the other agent Julio couldn’t wait to give Tom all of their inside tips and techniques to solve his problem. By the time he left their counter, he had a ticket for a flight that would guarantee his arrival in Detroit long before his meeting started.
Let other people solve your problem
I’ve written before about unsolicited advice, which most of us don’t like to receive. The reason there’s so much of it being offered is because we love to solve problems, particularly other people’s problems. So imagine actually being INVITED to do so. How thrilling! I can see you rubbing your hands together in happy anticipation.
Using influence as a win/win
The next time you have a thorny problem, ask yourself, “Who would know how to fix this?” and then ask them that wonderful question posed by Tom, ““If you were in my shoes, what would you do?” A solution you might not have thought of may be offered, and the person you ask will be pleased that you recognize his/her expertise.
If someone provides a solution and you decide not to use it, or you’re not sure, let him/her know. Why? Because some people get offended if they think they’ve solved your problem and then find out you didn’t apply their advice. To avoid this you might say something like, “I really appreciate your thoughts on this. I’ll have to make the decision myself but your input helps me think it through.”
People love to help
Our society places great value on lending a hand. In the aftermath of natural disasters we see heart-warming stories about these acts of support in the news. If you think of it, many of the fairy tales that were read to us as children involve some kind of rescue scenario. Most of us cut our teeth on this concept.
When you ask people to help, you are giving them an opportunity to do something they enjoy. It is a win/win of the best kind.
Your input helps me think through what I want to write about and I value it greatly. If you have time, please comment and answer one or both question:
For more information on having Silver work with your company on leadership or employee engagement, call 877-840-5416 or email: Info@SilverSpeaks.com
When you think about influence, what comes to mind?
Many of you think of influential people as those who are in high-level positions—at work, in politics, at church, and in your community. Sometimes it seems you need lots of money to wield influence. (It certainly doesn’t hurt.)
Or do you think of influence as the ability to control circumstances? If you are influential, you wield greater control. BINGO! Influence does give you more control over circumstances.
Why am I so passionate about finding the most effective ways to impact circumstances? Primarily because there was a long period of my life during which I felt out of control; I felt like a victim. It felt awful. When you are a victim, you lack the ability to do something about what’s happening to you.
When did you have a similar time in your life?
At the heart of what we all want is control over our own destinies. If you ever wonder why some homeless people are adamant about staying on the streets versus accepting shelter when it’s offered, it is often because they are determined to control their own destinies.
Controlling one’s own destiny is why I am so crazy about the power of questions. Without a doubt, the easiest and most impactful way to increase your influence has to do with asking the right questions—of others and of yourself.
When I was feeling victimized, I often wondered, “Why me?” or “What did I do to deserve this?” Here’s the problem with questions like that. When you ask your mind a question, it will answer you! So you can imagine the kinds of negative answers I was given in response to those questions.
I wish I had known some alternative questions:
I have a similar wish about my work as a manager and as a parent. Instead of giving others instructions and suggestions, I wish I had asked questions that empowered them. I see now that my team and my children wanted control over their destinies and that too often I robbed them of that. Maybe they couldn’t control the things required of them (we all have rules and laws we have to follow) but certainly they deserved to have some influence over how they performed their assignments.
You needn’t be in charge of others to influence them. You have daily opportunities to influence. In fact, you already do—the question is are you influencing in a positive direction or a negative one?
Here’s an example: instead of asking, “How was your day?” ask, “What was the best part of your day?” This is a particularly good question to pose at the dinner table with your family but it can be used in other situations as well. However you utilize it, the conversation will turn in a wonderful direction. I’d love to hear from you after you do this. What were the results?