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Articles & insights from Mariposa coaches

April 11, 2017 / Articles We Like / Stress / Work-Life Integration

On “Balancing Parenting and Work Stress: A Guide”

Being a working parent is tough. The stress of trying to achieve a balance between career and children can really take a toll on your personal and professional life. If you could ask hundreds of high-performing working parents for advice, what do you think they would say?

In her recent Harvard Business Review article, “Balancing Parenting and Work Stress: A Guide,” author Daisy Wademan Dowling gathered this advice to address some of the biggest working-parent problems. In her article, Wademan Dowling has come up with a list of specific actions that she believes “will work for you, your people, and your organization.”

What do you think of Daisy’s advice?

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February 27, 2017 / Articles We Like / Stress / Work-Life Integration

On “8 Tips for Tackling Political Stress Now”

Feeling stressed out by politics? According to a new survey by the American Psychological Association, 57% of their respondents said the current political climate is a very significant source of stress. Studies also show that nearly a third of people say they have been less productive at work since the election.

Dr. Andrea Bonior, a Georgetown University Professor, believes there is a need for a healthy balance. Her recent Psychology Today article, “8 Tips for Tackling Political Stress Now,” highlights practical tips on how to cope during this stressful time.

Let me know your thoughts.

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February 5, 2017 / Stress / Work-Life Integration / Wise Talk

WiseTalk Summary on the Upside of Stress

On January 26, 2017, Sue Bethanis hosted clinical psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist Professor Ian Robertson. Dr. Robertson is an expert at applying the latest psychological and neuroscience research to contemporary political, health, social, economic and business affairs in a very accessible manner. Professor Robertson discussed his new book, The Stress Test: How Pressure Can Make You Stronger and Sharper, a revelatory study of how and why we react to pressure in the way we do, with real practical benefits to how we live.

Favorite Quote:

“In order to control your anxiety you have to believe that you can.”

Robertson says in order to gain control of your emotional state, thinking patterns and behavior there is a fundamental prerequisite that must exist before you can exercise that control – you need to believe that it is possible.

Insights:

Stress plays a huge part in leaders’ lives and can be both a hindrance and motivator. When your perception of a demanding situation exceeds your ability to cope with that demand – you feel anxious. Anxiety is the activation of the autonomic nervous system which prepares us for fight or flight. This is meant to prepare us to deal with short term danger or opportunity and also gives us the ability to focus.

Too much stress can be debilitating. A moderate amount is extremely good for the mind. Robertson explains that stress causes the brain to secrete a chemical called noradrenaline. “The brain doesn’t perform at its best with too little or too much of this chemical. There’s a sweet spot in the middle where if you have just the right amount, the goldilocks zone of noradrenaline, that acts like the best brain-tuner.”

Anxious responses are habits that we learn. To overcome a habit you need to engage in repetition in order to reshape and gradually replace your old habit with a new habit. Most of us are impatient and easily get demoralized or discouraged. Often, taking a medication reduces your belief in your own ability to control these habits and sabotage the hard work you need to do in order to change an emotional habit. People have a desire for a fast fix.

Robertson says that here is evidence that young adults that have little to no adversity in their lives end up becoming more emotionally vulnerable than those with moderate levels of adversity. “Paradoxically, there is a sweet spot of stress that people need to experience in their lives for them to achieve emotional resilience when they are adults. The overprotection of young people and having a slightly coddle existence means that they are going to be more emotionally vulnerable in the real world of work and all the stresses that go with it.” They experience symptoms of arousal because they have never really experience failure or threat.

Unlike animals that live in the moment, humans can torture themselves with past memories and anticipation of future ones. We can expand this indefinitely and make ourselves anxious long beyond the period of acute stress and make it become chronic.

According to Robertson, there are distinct techniques we can learn in order to reframe our approach to stress. “We can change the chemistry of the brain just as much as any antidepressant or anti-anxiety drug can, but we have to learn the habits to do that,” he says. Genes cannot be changed by environment or experience but the functioning of genes can. “We have the ability to shape our mental destiny.”

  • Breathe. Take five long, low breaths in and out. Temporarily apply a routine that you have practiced and anticipated in advance can change the chemistry of your brain and help you build confidence.
  • Set goals. Setting goals for ourselves also helps to change the chemistry of our brain. He says, “It could be as seemingly small as getting out of the house and walking 200 yards down the street — something that challenges you to a degree and gives you a feeling of accomplishment to have completed.” The good feeling you get when you achieve a goal increases the dopamine in our brain and part of the reward network. Increased dopamine is a natural antidepressant and anti-anxiety drug. This is where behavior is very important. If you are feeling anxious setting small goals for yourself can stretch you. Achieving these goals will allow your brain to create this natural anti-anxiety compound.
  • Squeeze your hand. According to Robertson, “One way to give the left frontal part of your brain a boost is to squeeze your right hand for 45 seconds, release it for 15.”
  • Visualize it.  Say the words “I feel excited.” Our mind only knows what emotion we are having by context. So, we can trick our mind to be excited instead of anger or upset. “Practice an imagined situation so when you actually come to that, you won’t have to try to remember how to handle it”, says Robertson. It will become a habit.
  • Posture. You can also change your posture out of the defensive, aggressive, or defeated posture into a calm and erect posture. Robertson believes that people who adopt a power pose actually feel more in charge or confident. Posture affects our psychological state and the functioning of our brain.

What we found most interesting:

“One of the greatest motivations that humans have is to feel in control,” says Robertson. Feeling out of control is hugely anxiety provoking and particularly so for some people more than others. If we can predict what is going to happen even if what is going to happen is no good you can engage in this amazing capacity of the human brain to plan and prepare. “Most people can adjust to most situations. The change is not comfortable, but you can get there.” The trouble with uncertainty is you can’t engage in mental preparation and planning. This creates a sense of being out of control. Being out of control is an extreme example of helplessness where you don’t believe there is anything you can do to change the outcome, and that leads to passivity. According to Dr. Robertson, “If I can predict something that is going to happen in my mind I can enact certain scenarios and anticipate certain outcomes (hopefully success). Once you stop taking positive actions it pushes your brain into a flight response. Once it is in that mode it is difficult for it to activate the reward and anticipation mode.”

To learn more about Dr. Robertson and his thoughts on shaping your brain’s response to pressure, listen to the WiseTalk recording.

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January 30, 2017 / Articles We Like / Stress / Work-Life Integration

On “You Can Improve Your Default Response to Stress”

We often find ourselves in situations that can be quite stressful and as a result, we develop a range of coping techniques to deal with these situations. But it’s important to remember that why we stress is not the problem; it’s our response to stimuli in the environment that matters.

In a recent study with Plasticity Labs, Michelle Gielan, a UPenn positive psychology researcher, concludes that 91% of us can deal with stress better. Her recent HBR article, “You Can Improve Your Default Response to Stress,” highlights three dimensions that can train your brain to positively respond to stress.

Let me know your thoughts.

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December 15, 2016 / Articles We Like / Leadership / Strategy

On “What Great Managers Do Daily”

We’ve all read the numerous articles highlighting the must-have qualities of an effective manager. Beyond the personal traits – what is it exactly that makes a manager great on a day-to-day basis?

Inspired by a Gallup study that found that about 70% of people in management roles are not well equipped for the job, Ryan Fuller and Nina Shikaloff’s recent Harvard Business Review article “What Great Managers Do Daily,” highlights employee engagement results from two Fortune 500 companies. Their conclusion is that most companies understand the importance of having highly effective managers, but few understand how to make them more effective. This article provides five key findings about what makes great managers different than the rest.

What do you think about their results and recommendations?

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December 2, 2016 / Strategy / Wise Talk

WiseTalk Summary on Defining Your Edge of Disruption

On November 28, 2016, Sue Bethanis hosted Julie Williamson, Chief Growth Enabler for Karrikins Group. Julie is a leading voice in how organizations create sustainable growth by linking communication, design, strategy, sales, marketing, and service. Julie and Sue discussed her newest book, co-authored with Peter Sheahan, Matter: Move Beyond the Competition, Create More Value, and Become the Obvious Choice.

Favorite Quote:

“Change is not an event it simply is how we are.”

Insights:

Successful leaders need the courage to challenge tradition, the optimism to envision opportunity amid change and the curiosity to explore new territory. These leaders’ cutting-edge knowledge and flexibility at “the edge of disruption” give them an “elevated perspective” on the market. Their deep connections result in “elevated relationships” and their value-based work create an “elevated impact.”

Julie’s interviews with worldwide leaders show they share similar strategies for building businesses that “matter” to their industries, employees, customers and communities. They consider their companies’ distinctive capabilities and reputations, and they work with their clients to learn what issues are most important to them and what problems they need to solve. Established companies are afraid of disruption. The process of discovering your edge of disruption goes beyond looking internally. When you are standing on the edge of disruption you are escaping the “gravity” to who you have always been and you are starting to look out towards what you can be. Julie believes that there is a thrill that come along with standing at the edge and asking “What else could we be doing?”

The “edge of disruption,” which leads to an elevated perspective, marks the collision of new and old technologies and strategies. People who believe passionately about what they do are able to create a spark and light a fire for an entire industry. These leaders are inspired to help companies grow by creating more value and not just by taking costs out of the business.

Elevated Perspectives – It takes courage, optimism, and curiosity to have an elevated perspective. You need to know what is going on outside of your own “organization container.” As a leader you need to model the way. If others don’t see you looking around the corner, asking questions, being curious and being optimistic they are going to model your behavior. You need to figure out how to make time for your people to think, read, listen, and participate in things that take them out of their day-to-day.

Elevated Relationships – In today’s interconnected world there is no major problem that matters that you can solve on your own. When you start to solve problems that require interconnectedness then you are really starting to tackle the big issues for your industry. You need to rethink your current relationships and leverage them to solve the biggest problems that are out there.

Elevated Impact – An elevated impact aligns with an elevated perspective and elevated relationships. The leaders who’ve built companies that matter share certain personal attitudes. This includes a belief that they can negotiate win-win outcomes to benefit their companies, employees, clients, industries and communities. They all share an “authentic commitment to doing well by doing good” and taking a stand for the best interests of their customers and community.

What we found most interesting:

The desire to control and anticipate and dictate the future is something that scientific management has always emphasized (predictability, patterning, etc.). In today’s world, things happen too quickly for this to be too relevant or useful. Things are also not as linear as they once were. Julie says, “We are seeing the need for people to be comfortable with ambiguity. You need to have the confidence to know that you have the courage, skills, knowledge and expertise to step forward even when you don’t know exactly what you are stepping into.”

To learn more about Julie Williamson, listen to her WiseTalk recording.

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November 1, 2016 / Strategy / Wise Talk

WiseTalk Summary on How to Win in the Age of Disruption

On October 20, 2016, Sue Bethanis hosted Terence Mauri, a highly regarded leader speaker, author, and Entrepreneur Mentor In Residence (EMiR) at London Business School. He is an Inc. Magazine columnist, and advisor to executives and entrepreneurs around the world. Terence discussed his new book, The Leader’s Mindset: How to Win in the Age of Disruption, and spoke with Sue about how to inspire new leadership thinking to help you disrupt your industry, your organization and, ultimately, yourself.

Favorite Quote:

“If we are lucky, we get about 960 months (80 years) on this planet. Use that number as an energizer. We often accommodate what we should not accommodate for far too long.”

Insights:

Disruption is a word that can easily lose its meaning. Disruption means thinking and doing what others are not doing. Every disruption is innovative by virtue of it being a disruption, but not every innovation is a disruption. An innovation is an incremental improvement, where a disruption is when you do something big and bold that is 10x different or 10x faster. Many companies are still doing things the old way. According to Mauri, “It is time to upgrade, let go, and refresh.”

Thinking Big Mindset – Most of the time we think too small and think in incremental change. Thinking big is about imagination. Thinking big is also about acting small (disciplined) to execute on the details. The big problems that exist in the world are not going to be solved with incremental thinking.

Acting Bold Mindset  – To get ahead you need to have courage and resilience. You need Sisu – a Finnish word that means resilience, courage, and fierce tenacity. It is a mental toughness that happens in the face of adversity. Acting bold is also about having a voice and having the confidence to speak up. We can teach that by modeling that behavior. You need to give others permission and a signal that they have a duty of care and responsibility to speak up when they have an opinion, idea or contribution to make. That is how we grow and develop as a society. People are more courageous when they have a clear purpose and passion in life.

Learning Fast Mindset – The speed of change is breathtaking in the age of disruption. Unless you are constantly learning you are going to become the status quo very quickly. The learn fast mindset is about becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Reading, connecting, networking, putting yourself in new situations, and asking yourself – When was the last time I learned something new? You need to be passionate about your business and industry and the trends that are both exciting and scaring you. Learn fast is a survival skill in the age of disruption.

On Moonshot Thinking  – Moonshot thinking is about reimagining the future and trying to think 10X bigger rather than 10% bigger. The idea is to disrupt your thinking and take yourself out of the status quo. You need to shift your perspective so you can have the breakthrough ideas. Moonshot thinking demands you to rethink assumptions about what is possible. If you don’t have a strategy for changing the status quo at a personal or professional level you end up becoming it.

The 3 Box Tool for Disruption

  • Box 1 – Is about optimizing the present. Putting your best foot forward and doing the basics brilliantly. That’s what we are good at and where we spend most of our time.
  • Box 2 – Is about selectively letting go of the past. Let go of things that are holding you back. We need to be more courageous in doing this.
  • Box 3 – Is about creating the future. You need to have a plan and vision for your future. This is very difficult because we live in a time of constant noise and distraction. Too much information can lead to a poverty of attention. We have an attention crisis. Most managers and leaders struggle to focus on what matters every day.

What we found most interesting:

“Most successful people are self-confessed failure pioneers.” They are adept at failing faster and using failure as a learning tool. Failure is not the opposite of success; it is the stepping stone to success. Failure is a fundamental part of innovation and creativity. We need to look at failure as a way to get a step closer to success.

To learn more about Terence Mauri and his thoughts on disruption, listen to the WiseTalk recording.

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October 1, 2016 / Strategy / Wise Talk

WiseTalk Summary on Embracing Disruption for a Competitive Advantage

On September  22, 2016, Sue Bethanis hosted Cat Lee, Head of Partner Marketing at Pinterest. Known as one of the most innovative shopping platforms in the world, Pinterest has revolutionized how people discover products and content, and how customers engage with businesses. Cat gave WiseTalk an insider’s view on how Pinterest has become an extremely disruptive social media powerhouse while building a marketplace of 100 million users.

Favorite Quote:

“Authenticity is about not holding back your point of view and saying what needs to be said in a skillful way with warmth and respect.” 

Insights:

On How Pinterest is a Disruptor in Advertising
At its core, “Pinterest is about exploration and discovery. The big opportunity for businesses on Pinterest is that there is no trade-off between the experience it provides to users and businesses.” Pinterest customers are open-minded to the ideas that come from businesses because they are native to the Pinterest experience. 75 percent of the ideas on Pinterest are from businesses because they are useful, actionable and relevant to users.

What’s unique about the Pinterest platform audience is the intent that can be modeled out based on user actions. The way that people search on Pinterest is based on exploration.  If you look at the consumer journey through a partner’s point of view (business), it closely resembles the marketing funnel. The consumer starts with casual browsing, then moves on to engagement (pinning), and then finally the consumer moves to the mindset of wanting to take action.

The Importance of Talent and Processes to Disruption
Cat believes it is important to focus on organizational health in addition to organizational smarts. Through both, you get efficiency and speed in how the teams can work together and ultimately disrupt the market.  A key component is communication. If all employees have the same information it empowers everyone to do their best and be in alignment of what’s most important to the company. Macro level processes helps teams go faster.

Cat also believes, “you are doing your best work when you are leveraging your strengths and making sure that they are well balanced.  You don’t need to worry about weaknesses as much as helping people to do their best work.”

What We Found Most Interesting:

  • The Four Values of Pinterest Knit: The best products come from “knitting,” where everyone works together— from engineering and design to marketing and community. Innovation happens when disciplines “knit” together.
  • Put Pinners First: If something doesn’t work for Pinners, it doesn’t work for Pinterest.
  • Go: The best way to find out if something works is to try it and learn as you go.
  • Be Authentic: Being honest and open (and sometimes saying the hard thing) is a core value.

To learn more about Cat Lee and her thoughts on disruption, listen to the WiseTalk recording.

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September 29, 2016 / Articles We Like / Strategy

On Inspire Change: A Step-by-Step Guide to Disrupting an Industry

Disruption involves taking big risks to solve big problems that have never been solved before. If you are looking to know when and how to disrupt a market, take a look at Kevin Rands recent Business article Inspire Change: A Step-by-Step Guide to Disrupting an Industry.

Kevin thinks you need to start by listening to consumers and checking the pulse of your industry. Are there pain points and frequent complaints in social media?  Does the industry lack creativity and innovation? Is there a lack of customer loyalty among the market leaders?  Is it a fragmented market? If there are market issues, you just might be in the right position to change, redefine, or take the lead.

What do think about Kevin’s five recommendations?

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August 30, 2016 / Strategy / Wise Talk

WiseTalk Summary on the Disruption Dilemma

On August 18, 2016, Sue Bethanis hosted economist, Joshua Gans, the Jeffrey Skoll Chair in Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto and author of The Disruption Dilemma. Gans discussed his new research on innovation theory and the range of actions that leaders can take to deal with disruption.

Favorite Quote:

The disruption dilemma is “do we go for gold now or do we settle for silver every year?”

Insights:

  • Why do companies that are at the top of their game seem to get into trouble with disruptive innovations? Successful firms have trouble deciding what path to pursue because at first, their customers reject innovation, but eventually they begin to embrace it and the new entrant becomes a real business threat. That creates a real dilemma for an established firm.
  • Sometimes something new comes along that in addition to being innovative, is put together in a new and completely different way. Blackberry is an excellent example of this supply side disruption. They just didn’t have the right organization to be able to do what Apple and Samsung were doing. Often, the incumbents are handicapped by the operation and structure that made them successful.
  • You need to pay attention to the warning signs: A) a new product comes along and your organization dismisses it without evaluation, and/or B) situations where different parts of an organization have no idea what other parts of the organization are doing.

Tips for managing supply-side innovation:

  1. Your customers don’t know everything: You need to be actively monitoring new technologies and keep track of what’s going to be the next thing. You need to be strategic and anticipate the needs of the future.
  2. Acquire new disruptive entrants: Most firms have dealt with innovation by buying the firms that bring the new innovation to market. You must not only acquire them, but you also need to absorb them and their way of thinking and doing. Developing procedures is one way to make these acquisitions successful.
  3. Have very focused teams on rapid innovation and improvement: There is a cost to this, as you might have a very short time at the top of the industry, but there is the potential to make a lot of money in the short-term.
  4. Choose the life of the firm: By sacrificing rapid innovation you can lag a bit behind. This does come with a cost as you won’t have as many sales and you won’t be the leader in your industry. But, doing so will make your organization more flexible by breaking up silos and making sure that people rotate across teams. This doesn’t guarantee that a company will survive the next big disruption, but it does increase the odds quite a bit.

What we found most interesting:

Do you want to be gold or silver? Historically, when you choose to be gold you are choosing to be there for a short period of time. When thinking about disruptive threats, it is worthwhile to bring different parts of your organization together to identify and decide how you will deal with them.

To learn about Joshua’s theory and research on disruptive change, and more interesting insights about companies that have fallen to disruptive innovation, listen to the recording here.

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