Monday, November 14, 2011

Life is a Theater

• Invite Your Audience Carefully
• Not everyone is healthy enough to have a front row seat in our lives.
• There are some people in your life that need to be loved from a DISTANCE.
• It's amazing what you can accomplish when you let go of, or at least minimize your time with, draining, negative, incompatible, not-going-anywhere relationships/friendships.
• Observe the relationships around you. Pay attention.
• Which ones lift and which ones lean?
• Which ones encourage and which ones discourage?
• Which ones are on a path of growth uphill and which ones are going downhill?
• When you leave certain people do you feel better or feel worse?
• Which ones always have drama or don't really understand, know or appreciate you?
• The more you seek quality, respect, growth, peace of mind, love and truth around you...the easier it will become for you to decide who gets to sit in the front row and who should be moved to the balcony of Your Life.
• "If you cannot change the people around you, CHANGE the people you are around."
• Remember that the people we hang with will have an impact on both our lives and our income.
• And so we must be careful to choose the people we hang out with, as well as the information with which we feed our minds.
• We should not share our dreams with negative people, Nor feed our dreams with negative thoughts.

It's your choice and your life.. It's up to you who and what you let in it..

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Improve Your Concentration

"Achieving Focus amid Distractions"
How many times have you sat at your desk and tried to focus on a task, only to find that your mind is wandering? Despite your best intentions, you just can't concentrate. We've all been in this familiar, frustrating situation, and it's something that can really undermine your performance.

we'll review strategies to improve your concentration and reduce your daily distractions.

Your personal work environment plays a large role in your ability to concentrate. The more comfortable and welcoming your environment is, the easier it will likely be for you to stay there and focus.

Here are some ideas for improving your physical environment:
Make sure you're comfortable – Start by ensuring that your chair and desk are at the right height for you to work comfortably. If your chair is too high or your desk is too low, you'll be uncomfortable, and you'll be tempted to use this as an excuse to get up and walk away.

Put up pictures – Viewing a natural scene or watching wildlife can help improve concentration. If you're able to put up pictures in your office or work area, then choose landscapes or natural images that you enjoy. This can help your focus, especially if you can see the pictures from your desk.

Shut out distractions as much as possible – Listening to music can help, especially if it's instrumental music. Some people even use noise machines in their offices – these produce a steady "white noise," like ocean waves or falling rain. This steady background noise can drown out other noise, helping you focus better and ignore distractions.

Follow some simple nutritional tips:

Drink water – Many of us don't think about drinking water while we're at work, yet dehydration can make us feel tired, irritable, slow, or even sick. When our brains don't have enough fluid, they can't operate at peak performance. Staying hydrated is an easy way to help improve your concentration during the day.

Eat breakfast – Start your day with a healthy breakfast. It's much harder to concentrate when you're hungry, so eat a well-rounded meal before you go to work. You can also help your concentration throughout the day by keeping healthy snacks at your desk. Almonds, whole-grain crackers, fresh fruit, and vegetables are good choices.

Get up and move around – Do you walk around during the day? If you're like many people, you probably don't move around enough. Research has shown that regular walking can help increase your focus during the day.

Constant distractions, and the low productivity that's associated with these distractions, have become so commonplace in today's offices that doctors have even given it a name: Attention Deficit Trait, or ADT. And, they say that entire organizations can suffer from it.

Follow some of these guidelines to help focus your mind:

Set aside time to deal with worries – Many of us have trouble concentrating during the day because we're constantly worrying about other things. It could be an approaching deadline for a project you haven't started, a new colleague who's causing problems, or just the amount of work on your desk. If you find yourself distracted by worries, then note these down so that you don't need to hold them in your mind. Then schedule time to deal with these issues.

Focus on one task at a time – It can be much harder to focus if you take minibreaks (15–30 seconds) to answer emails, send text messages, or take quick phone calls. Some researchers believe that it can take up to 15 minutes for us to regain complete focus after a distraction.

Close your email box and chat program – Let your voice mail do its job. If your office allows it, close your office door or put up a "Do Not Disturb" sign to let colleagues know you need to focus. (If you're a manager and you want to operate an open door policy, then consider working from home or from elsewhere.)

Switch between high- and low-attention tasks – This can give your brain a rest after heavy concentration. For instance, if you spend two hours working on your department's budget, you'll probably feel tired afterward. You can recharge your energy by working on a low-attention task, like filing, for 15 minutes before going back to your budget.

Prioritize – Having too much to do can be distracting, and this sometime causes procrastination. Or, you may quickly jump from task to task, creating the illusion of work – but in reality, you're not accomplishing very much. If you're not sure which tasks to start or which are most important, take 10 or 15 minutes to prioritize your to-do list.
Limiting distractions allows you to get into the flow of your work – so you get more done.

More Tips for Improving Your Concentration

Take short breaks – We can be masters at focusing, but eventually we're going to need a break. Our minds can struggle to focus intensely on tasks for eight hours a day. This is where it can be better to divide your work into one-hour segments, with a 5–10 minute break between tasks. This short break will allow your mind to rest before focusing again.

Do your hardest tasks when you're most alert – This will help you maximize your concentration. Do you want to learn how to schedule your tasks around your energy levels?

Use a phone headset – If you have a headset for your phone, consider using it for a few hours each day. If your colleagues think you're on the phone, they're less likely to interrupt you.

Promise yourself a reward – For instance, make a rule that if you focus intensively for 45 minutes on one task, you can take a break to get a cup of coffee when you're done. Little "self-rewards" can often be great motivators.

Schedule email downloads – It can be tremendously distracting to have emails pinging into your inbox every few minutes – you're tempted to stop what you're doing, and answer them right away. If you can, schedule your email to download only a few times each day, and deal with all of your emails in one go.

Key Points
Sitting down to focus on one task can be difficult, especially when you're constantly interrupted. To help increase your focus, start with a good breakfast, and drink plenty of water throughout the day. Don't multitask, close your door, and listen to music if it helps you concentrate. Although it may sound somewhat counter-intuitive, taking short, regular breaks throughout the day can also help you focus.

Friday, November 11, 2011

How to Keep Your Cool and Achieve Emotional Balance

We can experience a whirlwind of emotions ranging from thrilling to devastating, and if we’re not prepared to deal with them, emotions can lead us to do some very irrational things.
If you’ve ever heard the saying, “"I was so mad I couldn’t think straight",” you have an idea of the importance of emotional balance. We tend to think less clearly and thoroughly when we are highly emotional.
Any emotional extreme can lead us to make hasty decisions we might later regret. Even when emotions are positive our behavior can be erratic and unpredictable. We want to learn how to balance our state of mind to most effectively deal with others and certain situations that trigger us.
Without emotional balance we are like a pendulum hanging and swinging back and forth, not able to find a sturdy or fixed position with which to make decisions.
A good starting place to achieving emotional balance is learning what triggers our emotions in the first place, and then finding ways to deal with these emotional swings that may occur.

What are your triggers?
We all have pet-peeves, things that get under our skin, and certain issues that just set us off. The awareness of these triggers is a crucial starting place to achieving emotional balance. Being prepared and ready to deal with frustration and irritation helps us intervene before our emotions get the best of us.
Think about a situation that triggers you.
What are you doing?
Are you with anybody specific or at a certain place?
How does this trigger make you feel?

Techniques to keep yourself in balance
When we get really emotional this leads to strong physical and mental effects. Our heart rate increases, body temperature rises, and breathing becomes rapid and shallow. We may have racing thoughts and begin thinking in a way that exacerbates our emotional experience.
Learning to settle the physical response and the thoughts that are accompanying them can really help to maintain balance.

Here are five steps to center your state of mind and regain balance.
  1. Pause
  2. Slowly breathe in and picture a calming person, place, or object in your mind.
  3. Exhale slowly through your mouth breathing out the negative feeling.
  4. Continue deep breathing and as you inhale imagine taking in the calming peaceful image, and breathing out the negative feelings and thoughts.
  5. Continue breathing in and out at least 10 times, and incorporate some stretching and muscle relaxation by rolling your shoulders and stretching your neck from side to side and front to back.

Another way to deal with the flood of disturbing thoughts that can accompany emotional extremes is to re-frame the way we are thinking and interpreting the situation. This requires that we alter some the thoughts and beliefs that are taking place.
Try these techniques to help re-frame the thoughts that may be triggering you.

What would you tell in friend in the same situation?
A great technique is to consider what you would tell a friend in the same situation. If you are considering someone you care about, wouldn’t you give them positive uplifting advice? Of course you would! You would offer them support and encouragement to deal with their struggle.
Often we are much harder on ourselves than we are on others. Maybe you’re saying critical and belittling comments to yourself and making the situation more difficult to handle. If you wouldn’t tell a friend these things, why would you tell yourself?

Learning from past experience
In retrospect we would probably deal with many situations differently. Fortunately learning from our past experience offers a great technique to help change troubling perspectives. Consider how you have handled a similar situation in the past. Did it work out well? What did you learn from it?
Reviewing a similar situation from the past helps us to understand what we need to do to get the results we desire. This can be a reminder that some of our worries may be exaggerated and we have been able to successfully deal with a similar situation before. Or, it may just be a chance to pause before acting to make sure we don’t impulsively make an unhealthy choice.

Do a reality check
This is where we consider if we may be overreacting and exaggerating what is taking place. We may tend to catastrophize and think of the worst possible scenario, or we might using restrictive words like always, must, and never.
Have you ever said, “"This always happens to me!”" Or, “"I never have any luck!”"
These types of statements can really amp up the emotional distress, and more often than not, are major exaggerations.
Instead, we want to ask some different questions. Ask yourself, "“what’s the worst that could happen, or what do I want from this situation?” “Is there a positive way I can look at this that I’m overlooking?”"
These type of questions help change our focus from feeling out of control to having a chance to determine how we want to feel and making changes that help us get our needs met.
When we experience extreme emotions it can put us off balance and lead to some unintended behavior and consequences. These tips and techniques can help us to keep things in perspective and deal with matters more effectively. When we are triggered we can maintain self-control and begin reaping the benefits of healthy relationships, more effective communication, and unwavering poise and confidence.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Expert Power - Lead from the Front.

There are many different power bases that a leader can use and exploit.

These include problematic ones such as the power of position, the power to give rewards, the power to punish and the power to control information. While these types of power do have some strength, they put the person being lead in an unhealthy position of weakness, and can leave leaders using these power bases looking autocratic and out of touch.
More than this, society has changed hugely over the last 50 years. Citizens are individually more powerful, and employees are more able to shift jobs. Few of us enjoy having power exerted over us, and many will do what they can to undermine people who use these sorts of power.

However there are three types of positive power that effective leaders use:
Charismatic power, Expert power and Referent power.

This article teaches the technique of building expert power.

Using the Tool:
Expert power is essential because as a leader, your team looks to you for direction and guidance. Team members need to believe in your ability to set a worthwhile direction, give sound guidance and co-ordinate a good result.
If your team perceives you as a true expert, they will be much more receptive when you try to exercise influence tactics such as rational persuasion and inspirational appeal.
And if your team sees you as an expert you will find it much easier to guide them in such a way as to create high motivation.
·  If your team members respect your expertise, they'll know that you can show them how to work effectively.
·  If your team members trust your judgment, they'll trust you to guide their good efforts and hard work in such a way that you'll make the most of their hard work.
·  If they can see your expertise, team members are more likely to believe that you have the wisdom to direct their efforts towards a goal that is genuinely worthwhile.
Taken together, if your team sees you as an expert, you will find it much easier to motivate team members to perform at their best.

So how do you build expert power?
Gain expertise: The first step is fairly obvious (if time consuming) – gain expertise.
·  But just being an expert isn't enough, it is also necessary for your team members to recognize your expertise and see you to be a credible source of information and advice. Gary A. Yukl, in his book "Leadership in Organizations," details some steps to build expert power.

A summary of these steps follows:
Promote an image of expertise:
Since perceived expertise in many occupations is associated with a person's education and experience, a leader should (subtly) make sure that subordinates, peers, and superiors are aware of his or her formal education, relevant work experience, and significant accomplishments.
·  One common tactic to make this information known is to display diplomas, licenses, awards, and other evidence of expertise in a prominent location in one's office – after all, if you've worked hard to gain knowledge, it's fair that you get credit for it. Another tactic is to make subtle references to prior education or experience (e.g., "When I was chief engineer at GE, we had a problem similar to this one"). Beware, however, this tactic can easily be overdone.
· Maintain credibility: Once established, one's image of expertise should be carefully protected. The leader should avoid making careless comments about subjects on which he or she is poorly informed, and should avoid being associated with projects with a low likelihood of success.
· Act confidently and decisively in a crisis: In a crisis or emergency, subordinates prefer a "take charge" leader who appears to know how to direct the group in coping with the problem. In this kind of situation, subordinates tend to associate confident, firm leadership with expert knowledge. Even if the leader is not sure of the best way to deal with a crisis, to express doubts or appear confused risks the loss of influence over subordinates.
· Keep informed: Expert power is exercised through rational persuasion and demonstration of expertise. Rational persuasion depends on a firm grasp of up-to-date facts. It is therefore essential for a leader to keep well-informed of developments within the team, within the organization, and in the outside world.
· Recognize subordinate concerns: Use of rational persuasion should not be seen as a form of one-way communication from the leader to subordinates. Effective leaders listen carefully to the concerns and uncertainties of their team members, and make sure that they address these in making a persuasive appeal.
· Avoid threatening the self-esteem of subordinates: Expert power is based on a knowledge differential between leader and team members. Unfortunately, the very existence of such a differential can cause problems if the leader is not careful about the way he exercises expert power.
· Team members can dislike unfavorable status comparisons where the gap is very large and obvious. They are likely to be upset by a leader who acts in a superior way, and arrogantly flaunts his greater expertise.
· In the process of presenting rational arguments, some leaders lecture their team members in a condescending manner and convey the impression that the other team members are "ignorant." Guard against this.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dealing with Office Politics.

Navigating the minefield
"There's too much wrangling and maneuvering going on – I just hate this office politicking". "Joe, well he's a smart political mover – knows exactly how to get what he wants and how to get on." Whether you hate it, admire it, practice it or avoid it, office politics is a fact of life in any organization. And, like it or not, it's something that you need to understand and master to be sure of your own success.
"Office politics" are the strategies that people play to gain advantage, personally or for a cause they support. The term often has a negative connotation, in that it refers to strategies people use to seek advantage at the expense of others or the greater good. In this context, it often adversely affects the working environment and relationships within in. Good "office politics", on the other hand, help you fairly promote yourself and your cause, and is more often called networking and stakeholder management.
Perhaps due to the negative connotation, many people see office politics as something very much to be avoided. But the truth is, to ensure your own success and that of your projects, you must navigate the minefield of Office Politics. If you deny the 'bad politics' that may be going on around you, and avoid dealing with them, you may needlessly suffer whilst others take unfair advantage. And if you avoid practising 'good politics', you miss the opportunities to properly further your own interests, and those of your team and your cause. 
Why work politics are inevitable:
·         Some people have more power than others, either through hierarchy or some other basis of influence.
·         For many people, gaining promotion is important, and this can create competition between individuals, or misalignment between the team's objectives and those of individuals within it.
·         Most people care passionately about decisions at work and this encourages political behavior as they seek to get their way .
·         Decisions at work are impacted by both work-related goals and personal factors, so there is further scope for goal conflict.
·         People and teams within organizations often have to compete for limited resources; this can lead to a kind of "tribal conflict" where teams compete to satisfy their needs and objectives, even when this is against the greater good. 
Making Politics Work "FOR" You
To deal effectively with office politics and use it yourself in a positive way, you must first to accept the reality of it. Once you've done this, you then need to develop strategies to deal with the political behavior that is going on around you. The best way to do this is to be a good observer and then use the information you gather to build yourself a strong network to operate in. Here are some tips:
*Re-Map the Organization Chart*
Office Politics often circumvent the formal organization chart. Sit back and watch for a while and then re-map the organization chart in terms of political power.
·         Who are the real influencers?
·         Who has authority but doesn't exercise it?
·         Who is respected?
·         Who champions or mentors others?
·         Who is "the brains behind the organization"?

*Understand the informal network*
Once you know who's who in the organization, you have a good idea of where the power and influence lay. Now you have to understand the social networks.
·         Who gets along with whom?
·         Are there groups or cliques that have formed?
·         Who is involved in interpersonal conflict?
·         Who has the most trouble getting along with others?
·         What is the basis for the interrelationship? Friendship, respect, manipulation?
·         How does the influence flow between the parties?

*Build Relationships*
Now that you know how the existing relationships work, you need to build your own social network accordingly.
·         Do not be afraid of politically powerful people in the organization. Get to know them.
·         Ensure you have relationships that cross the formal hierarchy in all directions (peers, bosses, executives).
·         Start to build relationships with those who have the informal power.
·         Build your relationships on trust and respect – avoid empty flattery.
·         Be friendly with everyone but don't align yourself with one group or another.
·         Be a part of multiple networks – this way you can keep your finger on the pulse of the organization.

*Listen Carefully*
When you spend more time listening, you are less likely to say something that will come back to bite you later. Also, people like people who listen to them.

*Make the Most of Your Network*
As you build your relationships, you need to learn to use them to stay clear of negative politicking, and also to promote yourself and your team positively. It is up to you to communicate your own and your team's abilities and successes to the right people, and you do this through positive political action. Use your network to:
·         Gain access to information.
·         Build visibility of your achievements.
·         Improve difficult relationships.
·         Attract opportunities where you can to shine.
·         Seek out ways to make yourself, your team and your boss look good.

*Neutralize Negative Play*
Your mapping of the informal spheres of influence in the organization will have helped you to identify those people who use others for their own purposes, and not necessarily for the common good. It's natural to want to distance yourself from these people as much as possible. But what can often be needed is the opposite reaction. The expression, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer" applies perfectly to office politics.
·         Get to know these people better and be courteous to them, but always be very careful what you say to them.
·         Understand what motivates these people and what their goals are, and so learn how to avoid or counter the impact of their negative politicking.
·         Be aware that these people typically don't think much of their talents (that's why they rely on aggressive politicking to get ahead).

*Govern Your Own Behavior*
Through observation you'll learn what works in your organization's culture and what doesn't. Watch other people at work and identify successful behaviors that you can model. There are also some general standards to observe that will stop negative politics from spreading.
·         Don't pass on gossip, questionable judgments, spread rumors – when you hear something, take a day to consider how much credibility it has.
·         Rise above interpersonal conflicts – do not get sucked into arguments.
·         Maintain your integrity at all times – always remain professional, and always remember the organization's interests.
·         Be positive – avoid whining and complaining.
·         Be confident and assertive but not aggressive.
·         When voicing objections or criticism, make sure you take an organizational perspective not a personal one.
·         Don't rely on confidentiality – assume things will be disclosed and so decide what you should reveal accordingly.
·         Be a model of integrity to your team, and discourage politics within it.

Key Points
Positive or negative – politics happens. The philosopher Plato said, "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." And this hold true today in the workplace: If you don't participate in the political game, you risk not having a say in what happens and allowing people with less experience, skill or knowledge to influence the decisions being made around you.
Office Politics are a fact of life. Wise politicking will help you get what you want in the world of work without compromising others in the process. Learn to use its power positively while diffusing the efforts of those who abuse it.