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“Laughing at our Stress”

Watching Jon Stewart on The Daily Show several nights ago I was struck with his capacity as a humorist. He took fear about the swine flu outbreak and brought it to a universal level. First, he talked about himself, how grateful he was to get outside and exercise on a beautiful Sunday and his relief over a slight upswing in our down economy. Then how the news of a potential pandemic had him look up and wonder why God is so angry with us. I had a good belly laugh, recognizing my own similar thoughts. Humorists are critical to us in dark times. We need the brilliance of those who can connect to our pain and help us laugh, even for a brief moment. In “Don’t Bring It to Work: Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success” I talk about how the office clown, as irritating as squeaky chalk on a board, can become a humorist and give us moments of respite. Why does the clown annoy and the humorist enhance? The pattern of becoming the office clown originated in the family. It was a survival role to make up for sadness, fear, and to deflect the family away from tension. Youngsters who take on the role of clown develop a strong inner radar detector that goes off when stress is in the room, any room. They take this sensitivity to school and then to the workplace. Here’s the difference. Clowns put all the focus on themselves. They are the cut up, the court jester, and the fool. They need to be the center of attention. After all, how else...

Light Up Your Life

“Economically induced stress” is affecting everybody. It grabs us when we go to the grocery store or think about taking a summer vacation. At work most folks are feeling the strain of doing more with less; much, much, less. Employees are sitting at desks with heads down and you can hear mutterings “being buried under the workload”. It is so easy to slide back to old survival behaviors when stress hits the hot button. That’s when the old fight or flight parts of the brain light up. Fear of not having enough, be it food, time or money plays an endless song that makes us depressed. Did you ever notice when you feel under siege the tendency is to talk caveman (or cavewoman) style in short grunts? Someone asks, “Did you get the proposal done?” and the answer is a quick “Yup”. Or another queries “Will we meet the deadline?” and the response is “Nope”. How about “Do you have any ideas for getting new clients?” to be greeted with a guttural “Ug”! When we understand the dynamics of relationships and how our brains operate under stress we can make some subtle yet significant changes. In my book “Don’t Bring It to Work: Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success” and in my Total Leadership Connections program I give lots of tips and tools for breaking the cycle of pattern repetition to help you move into new brain territory. Here’s one for starters. The front of the brain, the neo-cortex (new brain) likes it when we do something to help others. So, one way to bring the stress meter down is to...

BNET: “Is Your Firm Cost-Cutting To Death?”

Need to cut back? How about cutting back on back-biting, gossip, human resource complaints, in your face arguing, and legal issues. In my book “Dont Bring It to Work” I show why most workplaces are rife with negativity and tension. And with the economy causing stress to hit the hot button most of us are reverting back to patterns we learned as children that were survival mechanisms. Picture the family dinner table and overlay with the office meeting table. Same behaviors. No wonder we see our co-workers acting like babies. It is less expensive to get along! And when companies invest in helping emplyees learn to harness their old, outmoded reactions there is room for innovative ideas to show up. Yes, even in this economy. These concepts may seem counter-intuitive in a world of judging and blaming. Yet, we have a great opportunity to respond to the present economic downturn learning how to turn complaining into cooperating. No, this isn’t fluff, it is at the core of understanding the secret of relationships at work. See “check me out” for link to this...

BNET: “What Does Brain Evolution Mean for Business?”

If we take seriously the research in brain evolution words like reciprocity, cooperation, tolerance, and helping will become a vital part of the lexicon. We can move away from the trappings of success through “stuff” and begin to look towards happiness as being part of something greater than ourselves. We will do what we ask our kids to do, share and be inclusive. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood we forget about the social brain. Business and business leaders are in a unique position to contribute to whole system change that will make the pleasure centers of the social brain light up. We will experience delight in moving past the past, the place of fight or flight and create work environments with the motto we use in our “Total Leadership Connections” program — We are all connected and no one wins unless we all do. When we first talk about this in our four session seminar most think this is “tree hugging” jargon. However, by the last session, when those brain centers light up from “doing well by doing good” there is a sense of comfort and deep intuition that yes, there is a better way to be together in business, that more is not always better, sometimes it is even toxic. Maybe this economy is preparing to show up that unemployment and meaningless work may well beome obsolete and we can create a society in which evereyone has the oportunity to be engaged in dignified and satisfying work. It’s what our brains want! See “Check me out”  for link to this...

The Age of Altruism

During times of vast change Charles Dickens dictum “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times” is right. We are in what can be called the “ugly middle” of economic turmoil where we cannot turn back to the way it was and the new way is still unclear. Everyone is rethinking fiscal priorities, looking at issues regarding money, and what matters through a different lens than was used even one year ago. Many of us turn to old survival methods of behaving and are rude, angry and defensive. It is then “the worst of times”. Others, however, are taking a new tack and looking at how to find creative ways of working together. Then it can become” “the best of times”. In my book “Don’t Bring It to Work: Breaking the Family Patterns that Limit Success” I show the route out of the old, survival modes of behaving learned as children to help the family survive and function to their healthy opposites that benefit the individual and the community. Interestingly, evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and economists have been researching the what and how of cooperation between human beings that underlines what I talk about in my book.  Unselfish behavior, called “altruism” is showing up in many work settings where folks are willing to take pay cuts so there do not have to be layoffs. Those who would ordinarily only work for personal gain are suggesting bonuses be put in a pool to keep everyone’s job safe. Sharing rather than protecting one’s turf is happening in organizations everywhere. What is most interesting is that people are talking about the fact that when they...