Friday, September 3, 2021
Thursday, September 2, 2021
Article by: Sophie Poulsen
You just got promoted. Now you’re the boss.
There’s just one problem: You want to maintain the same relationship and dynamic with your co-workers, but you are torn between being a “member” and being a leader.
We spoke to over 50 participants in the THNK EMERGE: Lead With Courage program about the challenges they face as (new) managers. One of the most common challenges that came up was navigating the transition from membership to leadership.
In the EMERGE program, we focus on six key skills we believe will make young professionals more effective leaders, ready to drive positive change:
It all starts with you.
In order to be an effective leader, you must first know yourself: What drives you? What are your strengths, passions, and values?
By becoming more self-aware, you will be better able to recognize your weaknesses and hidden biases, thereby gaining the trust of your team members and increasing your credibility.
Luckily, self-awareness can be taught and practiced.
In the EMERGE program, we use the Leadership Compass, a tool for participants to explore their strengths, passions, and values to paint a picture of the type of leader they want to be.
2. LEARNING MINDSET
All leaders – but especially emerging leaders – need to have a desire to learn as well as encourage their teams to learn. Fostering this kind of learning culture can only have positive effects, such as improved employee engagement, happiness, and retention.
Research from Deloitte also shows that organizations with a strong learning culture are 92% more likely to develop innovative products and processes, 52% more productive, 56% more likely to be the first to market with their products and services, and 17% more profitable than their peers. Their engagement and retention rates are also 30-50% higher.
A key ingredient of a healthy learning culture is the ability to give (and receive) feedback effectively. By making feedback a regular part of the cadence of work, leaders can create an environment where teammates are giving and receiving feedback regularly, and therefore flexing their feedback muscles. Feedback is an important prerequisite for a culture of continuous improvement.
3. DEEP LISTENING
In the EMERGE program, we focus on topics like psychological safety, healthy conflict, and building a learning culture.
Deep listening lies at the core of all of these topics.
For new leaders, deep listening allows you to connect, empathize, and truly hear someone. When you practice deep listening, you’ll find yourself uncovering the other person’s needs and values. As a result, your people will feel heard, valued, and cared for – and when your people feel heard, they are more engaged and effective in their jobs.
A global study of over 4,000 employees found that 74% of employees are more effective at their job when they feel heard and 88% of employees whose companies financially outperform others in their industry feel heard compared to 62% of employees at financially underperforming companies.
Here are some tips to improve your listening skills:
Use mindfulness to calm your own inner chatter.
Let go of your own agenda to open your mind to new information and perspectives.
Ask “what if” questions to connect with the other person in a safe, optimistic, and productive way.
4. CONFLICT MANAGEMENT
As a new leader, avoiding conflict is not an option. It can be tempting to bottle up your feelings, but these conflict-avoiding tendencies can cause dysfunctional work environments, mediocre results, strained communication, and high turnover.
The opposite of avoiding conflict is not seeking conflict. The opposite of avoiding conflict is “effective assertion”: an honest and appropriate expression of your opinions, feelings, and needs. Being assertive can reduce conflict, build your self-confidence, and improve your personal and work relationships.
Everyone approaches conflict differently – but as a team leader, you can learn how to manage conflict in a healthy, productive way. In the EMERGE program, participants explore the idea of “healthy conflict,” a constructive approach to solving conflict that fosters respect and enables everyone involved to grow. As part of this, participants will learn non-violent communication techniques to improve their conflict management skills.
Want to get a head start? Check out these five tips to practice healthy conflict.
5. INFLUENCING WITHOUT AUTHORITY
You don’t have to be the CEO, the investor, or even the most senior person in the room to have influence.
Gaining influence in your organization can empower your – and your team’s – development. It can also make you feel respected, appreciated, and acknowledged, which will boost your performance and career growth as a result.
While a managerial title might be one of the most obvious sources of authority, it isn’t the only place influence comes from. There are many sources of authority you can leverage to inspire others to follow your lead, including:
Your organizational understanding.
Relational skills such as deep listening, effective assertion, and self-awareness are all tools you can use in order to influence the system around you in an authentic way. In the EMERGE program, you will explore the ways in which you can influence your organization using the skills you have developed during the six-week journey.
We won’t solve problems with the same kind of thinking that created them.
Innovation happens when you challenge conventional wisdom, allowing you to see things from a different perspective. Research shows that changing your mind is critical for growth. It’s called neural plasticity; each time we learn something new, the brain’s neural pathways are changed to accommodate the new information.
In many organizations, we are often told, “This is how we do it here.” But creative leadership is about unearthing assumptions and getting comfortable with contradiction, paradox, and ambiguity to discover new possibilities. As the great Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
In the EMERGE program, we introduce participants to a unique reframing tool, which will help them reframe their limiting beliefs in order to generate new ideas and perspectives.
by Lauren C. Howe, Jochen I. Menges, and John Monks
Now more than ever, leaders are struggling with anxieties, fears, and all sorts of difficult emotions. What’s the best way to handle these internal struggles at work? The authors analyzed journal entries from thirty global leaders in May and June of 2020 and identified three distinct leadership styles: Heroes, who focused on the positive; Technocrats, who focused on results; and Sharers, who openly shared both positive and negative experiences. Despite a common assumption that the Hero and Technocrat leadership styles are best, the authors found that Sharers were in fact most effective when it came to building cohesive, high-performing teams that were resilient in the face of the myriad challenges posed by the pandemic. Based on both their own study and extensive secondary research, the authors go on to offer several strategies to help leaders get more comfortable sharing negative emotions in a helpful, appropriate manner.
“I realize my boundaries are blurred, but I don’t know how to handle everything on my plate. There is a lot to do and a lot to take care of … The team looks for so much in terms of guidance, direction, energy, ideas, structure … I feel like I am carrying the weight of it all.”
We all struggle with stress, anxiety, and other difficult emotions. But it can be tough to figure out what to do with these feelings, especially if we’re the ones who are supposed to be leading and supporting others. What’s the best way for a leader to handle their own emotional struggles at work?
To explore this question, we invited 30 leaders from the US and UK to keep journals for four weeks in May and June of 2020. The leaders were from a variety of global corporations, national and international charities, and startups, and we asked them to write weekly entries in response to three different prompts: 1. What is emerging for you? 2. What are you finding you need? and 3. What are you letting go of? Without exception, every leader in our study described major emotional turmoil. One leader wrote, “Just the stress of lockdown has made me wonder if this is all worth it. I’m struggling to keep my emotions in check, and the people closest to me are getting the brunt of it.” Another shared that on some days, they felt like they had lost their will to live and sense of purpose. Yet another described feeling “a sense of dread. I feel I have little grasp on how to navigate the future, much less to lead others.”
Despite their common emotional experiences, however, the leaders diverged significantly in how they responded to these challenges. Specifically, our analysis identified three distinct types of leaders, each of whom took a different approach to managing their negative emotions:
Heroes: Leaders who focused on the positive, doing their best to convince their teams that they would get through the crisis no matter what.
Technocrats: Leaders who ignored emotions altogether and focused on tactical solutions.
Sharers: Leaders who openly acknowledged their fears, stresses, and other negative emotions.
While there are pros and cons to every leadership style, we found that Sharers were particularly successful in building cohesive, high-performing teams that were resilient in the face of the myriad challenges posed by the pandemic. Why might this be? Both our own work and a vast body of existing research suggests several reasons why Sharers are likely to outperform Heroes and Technocrats.
Technocrats and Heroes Aren’t as Heroic as They Seem
First, while positivity can improve performance, research suggests that trying to ignore a negative emotion actually makes you feel worse. As one leader put it, “I’m sick of reading, self-motivating, learning, staying upbeat, etc. when all I can feel is tiredness from overwork and fear.” Another expressed a similar sentiment: “My positivity, resilience, and outwardly strong mindset … are pillars for those around me — I find that people are gravitating around this, but I have to protect my space and keep looking after myself when I’m tired etc., because I can give others the impression it’s all under control and ‘in good hands’ and that isn’t always true.”
In addition, a Hero leadership style can make team members feel more distant from their leader, since if the leader appears not to be struggling at all, it can put pressure on others to suppress their own challenges. A façade of positivity can decrease the well-being of both team members and leaders, undermine leaders’ relationships with employees, and ultimately reduce self-confidence and performance at work.
Similarly, while there’s certainly a time and a place for focusing on results, many of the Technocrats in our study found that ignoring emotions simply didn’t work. For one, it undermined leaders’ own mental health. As one leader noted, “At the start of the pandemic, I managed the stress and the uncertainty by looking after my own mental space a lot. Now, I am still locked in but I am a lot less kind to myself. My old ‘business as usual’ pushing has come back … I am feeling more and more out of sync and not giving myself any more of the ‘self-nurturing’ space I had at the beginning of the pandemic.”
This approach can also take a toll on leaders’ relationships with their teams. One Technocrat wrote that they were “letting go of some of the niceties and ‘fluff.’ I just don’t have enough time right now and it’s the softer sides that are being sacrificed.” And of course, letting negative emotions go unaddressed inevitably ends up impacting productivity. Another participant noted that despite (or perhaps because of) his results-focused leadership style, “there are people (and I include some senior people) who seem to be doing the very minimum that is required of them … People are hitting walls, and there are lots of frustrations.”
While emotions may seem frivolous to some, they in fact drive everything leaders care about, from job performance to turnover to customer satisfaction. By ignoring emotions, Technocrats fail both to harness the positive emotions that spur performance and to address the negative emotions that undermine it.
The Best Leaders Are Sharers
In contrast, sharing negative emotions can lessen their impact on the leader, build empathy between leaders and employees, encourage others to open up about their own negative emotions, and help others recontextualize and overcome those struggles — ultimately boosting morale and performance throughout the organization. For example, one leader found that when they opened up about emotions with their team, it allowed them “to get beyond small talk and connect more deeply… it opened up a different and richer conversation, a very ‘data rich’ discussion in a way that can be lacking from video calls.” These “more human conversations” helped teams to weather the days that still felt “very much like a roller coaster — exciting, energetic, and optimistic in one moment and deflated, down, and lethargic the next.”
Another leader wrote about how acknowledging their own emotional turbulence helped them to understand the mental state of their employees and to interact with them more effectively and empathetically. Throughout our study, we found that being open about their own inner turmoil helped Sharers’ teams to feel more comfortable doing the same, which in turn both helped everyone to cope more effectively with their negative emotions and created greater psychological closeness between teammates despite their physical separation.
Becoming a Sharer Is Difficult — But Not Impossible
Of course, becoming a Sharer is often easier said than done. In the journal entries, we found that many leaders had strong biases towards the Hero and Technocrat styles, driven by a widespread assumption that true leaders must always be aspirational and results-oriented, and that admitting negative emotions is a sign of weakness. One Hero-type leader described feeling like they “had to lead others with positivity while fighting fires on a daily basis,” and others even apologized for the negativity of their entries — as if they were ashamed not to focus on the positive, even in a private journaling exercise. Similarly, Technocrat leaders often prioritized “immediate challenges around how to work going forward,” writing that they needed “organization and focus so I don’t get distracted.”
Conversely, despite the well-documented advantages of sharing emotions, many leaders described a “fear of — and desire to shy away from — uncomfortable conversations,” worrying that sharing negative emotions would undermine team motivation and foster pessimism and anxiety. Others noted the lack of time and space for more emotional conversations at work: “None of the current structures and forms of communication seem to be encouraging open dialogue,” wrote one participant. “They are either too operationally-focused — ‘this is what we are doing’ — or too socially-focused — ‘let’s have fun in a light-hearted way.’ How can people talk about the emotional impact and personal relevance of something like Black Lives Matter?” Another offered a similar insight: “People need more than rational updates. We need to find different ways to allow people to express emotions and deeper feelings at work.”
That said, we did see some leaders transform from Heroes or Technocrats into Sharers over the course of the four-week exercise. One leader noticed themselves letting go of their “tendency to pretend things are okay when they’re not,” while another described overcoming their “fear of talking about my emotional state,” choosing instead to open up to their team.
So what does it take to embrace your inner Sharer? Many organizations don’t have a culture or structures in place that encourage openness, but there are a few strategies we’ve found that can help even the most reluctant leaders become more open about their negative emotions:
When you’re working long hours full of back-to-back Zoom calls, it can be hard to find the time to check in with yourself. But you can’t effectively share your emotions with others until you begin to recognize them yourself. If you’re not sure where to start, try one of these techniques:
Track your emotions with a daily “temperature check.”
Set aside time to write or talk about your emotions. This could be through journals (like the leaders in our study), letters to a friend (whether you send them or not), or conversations with a loved one or mental health professional.
Create a routine. Research shows that even fifteen minutes of intentional reflection at the end of the day or during your commute can boost performance and build your emotional awareness.
2. Start small
Building a more open and honest relationship with your coworkers doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, if you share too much too soon, it can backfire. Especially if you have limited existing rapport with an employee or you’re feeling nervous about opening up, start by admitting a minor frustration rather than sharing a major challenge or extreme emotion.
3. Plan your disclosures in advance
It isn’t generally a great idea to share every dark thought that races through your head. Aimless venting can lead to emotional contagion, a phenomenon in which excessive negative emotions end up rubbing off on others. For example, one leader in our research described a colleague whose negativity wasn’t helpful: “I was on a call with other agency leaders and we were asked how business had been. One leader spent most of their time recounting all the terrible things that happened. It is important to acknowledge the individual stories and challenges that people have faced, and the emotions that people have gone through. But as a message it was very flat and sucked energy from the conversation.”
To ensure you’re sharing emotions in a productive way, consider creating a rolodex of personal challenges you’ve faced that you can draw on when appropriate. This way, instead of randomly sharing your struggles whenever and however they come to mind (and running the risk of making yourself or others uncomfortable), you can ensure that you’ve thought through the best way to communicate these difficult emotions and are prepared to leverage them effectively.
4. Create dedicated time and space for sharing emotions
Just like oversharing can backfire, sharing emotions at the wrong time or place can also be counterproductive and worsen people’s impression of you. To avoid awkward or irrelevant disclosures, leaders should set aside specific times for these potentially challenging conversations. For instance, consider creating a weekly check-in, or explicitly dedicating the last few minutes of a recurring meeting to sharing highs and lows.
5. Model effective emotion regulation
One of the biggest benefits of sharing your negative emotions is that other people can learn to better manage their own emotions based on how you handle yours. There are a few specific strategies for effective emotional regulation that you can model for your employees:
Lean on your support network. Whether it’s a trusted colleague, a spouse, or even a professional counselor, there’s no shame in asking for help. Show your employees that you reach out for help when you need it, and they’ll be much more likely to do so as well.
Help yourself by helping others. One of the leaders in our research reflected on the power of helping others, writing: “I’ve found new ways to support my wife and daughter through these difficult times, and I’ve spoken to friends properly for the first time in months, which has helped.” Research has shown that supporting others can improve your mood, your confidence, and even your physical health, but the best way to convince others of that is by example.
Change your perspective. While it’s important to acknowledge and embrace negative emotions, one of the most effective coping mechanisms to keep them from overwhelming you is to refocus on the positive elements of a situation. For example, if you’re feeling frustrated about how the pandemic has disrupted normal working life, try pushing yourself to focus on how the last year has also created opportunities to improve the workplace going forward. Or if new office hygiene measures feel annoying or stressful, try to focus instead on how those policies represent an inspiring, collective effort to protect one another — and make sure to emphasize that shift in perspective when describing the negative emotion to your team.
Take time to recharge. Research shows that disconnecting from work when you’re off the clock reduces stress and promotes wellbeing. Don’t be afraid to let people see you taking breaks, keeping your evenings free, using your vacation days, and pursuing hobbies outside of work.
6. Share the good and the bad
No one is perfect. If you’re not proud of how you handled a negative emotion or challenging situation, be open about that too. When your team sees you reflecting productively on a negative experience and thinking through what you would do differently next time, they’ll be better prepared to keep trying if they face similar challenges coping with their own negative emotions.
Even when we’re not in the midst of a global pandemic, negative emotions are a fact of life. The most effective leaders are those who don’t push those emotions under the rug, but who instead openly and honestly acknowledge the challenges they face — and invite their employees to do the same.
Lauren C. Howe is an Assistant Professor in Management at the University of Zurich. As part of the Center for Leadership in the Future of Work, she focuses on how human aspects matter in the changing world of work.
Jochen I. Menges is a professor of leadership and human resource management at the University of Zurich and a lecturer of organizational behavior at the University of Cambridge. He directs the Center for Leadership in the Future of Work.
John Monks is a Co-Founder of Curve, a business consultancy helping organizations and their leaders create their own change.
Article by: Valeria Mecozzi, Rajiv Ball, Paul van ‘t Veld
What happens when we actively reflect on the day’s events? To routinely dedicate a part of your day to look back is humble and powerful leadership tool. Journaling gives the brain an opportunity to pause amid the chaos to untangle recent observations and experiences. We create time to summon our day’s activities and extract meaning, and these will inform future mind-sets and actions. For leaders, this “meaning-making” is crucial to ongoing growth and development in a fast-paced environment.
A team of researchers at the Harvard Business School wanted to explore which of the following learning sources was beneficial to individual performance: was it the accumulation of experiences, or the articulation of reflection? They hypothesized the latter, guided by the Confucian quote, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.”
The researchers sought out to prove this by testing a call-center team in India, made up of qualified, college-educated professionals who had received extensive onboarding training. Their test subjects were divided in two groups: the first as experience-based, and focused on training, automation, and intuitive processes; the other was the reflective group which mixed experience and subsequent reflections in a slow and methodical way.
Participants who recorded their day’s events with regularity were recorded to have improved performances. By journaling in 15 minute windows each day, researchers observed an improvement of confidence among the diarists: motivation was stronger, and actions deliberate towards learning. Turning it into a part of life expanded a cognitive understanding of the effects of learning opportunities between actions and outcomes. Participants sought more challenging tasks, exerted greater effort, and were observed to face professional adversities with greater stability. The diarists improved their learning curves for faster and visible growth spurts.
Journaling for leadership is the tangible action of reflection designed for deliberate learning. The articulation of an experience gives us a greater understanding of it. When we consistently reflecting on what feel significant, we hone in on what matters most to us.
“Designing a product is keeping 5,000 things in your brain, these concepts, and fitting them all together in kind of continuing to push to fit them together in new and different ways to get what you want. And every day you discover something new, that is a new problem or a new opportunity, to fit these things together a little differently.” Steve Jobs
This purposeful learning sets the brain’s mode into a constructive reflection, which acts as a crucial aspect of development. When we see our thoughts and our words reflected to us on paper, we learn more about ourselves, and our reality. Brains benefit from codifying experiences in a reflective state. The participants in the Harvard study understood the effects of learning opportunities between action and outcomes, and how it worked as motivation.
The results are promising, but there are plenty of blockers from turning the practice into routine. In busy times, and busy is the reality of the entrepreneur, no-one needs another obligation. Reflecting smart, and not hard, is key. Give yourself a week’s test period, and tinker around with what worked and didn’t as the weeks progress. You can, in fact, reflect about reflecting.
We found a sweet spot for even the busiest entrepreneur, who juggles a million ideas and responsibilities. Fifteen minutes on a regular daily or biweekly rhythm worked best for optimized returns. The rule is that there isn’t a strict rule: reflecting before leaving the workplace is as effective as the end of the day. Explore what works best.
Do you prefer long-form or bullet points, fragments or short paragraphs, or do you like to expand freely but with days in between? Do you prefer to draw out our reflections, or record a conversation with yourself? Different days will bring different needs for your reflections so your approaches will change.
GETTING BACK WHAT YOU GIVE
As with everything in life, what you put into reflection is what you will get from out of it. What turns your focus will feed your actions, so beware turning reflection into rumination. Unpacking the learnings from an event is healthy, but psychology professor and happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky warns of the risks of dwelling for too long. This can create nasty cycles of ineffective attitudes, which lead to stress and negative responses. Gratitude journals might not be for everyone, but choosing a positive point of entry won’t hinder your efforts.
Journal prompts like 'What did you learn today?' and 'What did you do well today and what could have gone better?' are great ways to get you started on a reflective #journaling practice.CLICK TO TWEET
Here are some prompts to get you started with journaling every day
Give yourself a prompt (see inset) or a question to get you started. We invite you to take it one step further: setting an intention at the beginning of each day. Take a moment early in the day to give yourself a challenge, or a motivation. Revisit this thought as your return to your journal that evening. Buy a beautiful notebook, one that fits your need.
THNKer Regine Zamor, an entrepreneur and experienced journaler, keeps a classic Leuchtturm with dotted pages: “Lines suggest order and rules, and with dots I am free to explore my thoughts and feelings as they are, not as the page dictates.”
Keeping a healthy cycle of communication with yourself will sow behaviors where thoughts become words, then actions, then habits. The researchers found that the effect of journaling is beneficial over time, so keep at it. Watch yourself flourish.
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
Wanting to learn more about unschooling?
Saturday, July 17, 2021
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
During a typical summer, Plum Village hosts hundreds of families that come with their children to practice mindfulness. We invite you to enjoy a selection of Plum Village practices created especially for children.
How do we cultivate stability and freedom in our daily lives? Can we enjoy eating our food in mindfulness? Brother Phap Luu offers a pebble meditation for children to use and Kaira Jewel shows them how to enjoy a simple snack in mindfulness.
Inviting the Bell
Inviting the bell at home is an important practice for the family to return to themselves, or to calm a tense situation. Anyone with some mindfulness in the present moment can do it, including our children.
Handling Strong Emotionsons
When children learn how to calm their strong emotions, they begin to learn how to take care of themselves and bring stability into their lives.
A hug always makes everything better! Brother Phap Lai teaches hugging meditation to the children.
No Plum Village practice is complete without singing! Singing helps us to cultivate joy and mindfulness.
Friday, December 11, 2020
If you’re interested in understanding human behavior, psychological development, cultural dynamics, leadership, and communication, jump in!
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