Category Archives: Learning

Improving your E-Mails

Source: Fast Company, Feb 2017

Before you dash off a hasty email and risk offending or annoying the receiver, check out these common but unpopular lines and opt for an alternative instead.

1. instead of “SORRY TO BE A BURDEN/BOTHER”

say: “Thank you for being patient with me.”

2. Instead of “WHATEVER YOU THINK”

say: “I’m open to your ideas and am happy to do some more brainstorming.”

3. Instead of “PLEASE ADVISE”

say: “Let me know if you have any thoughts on how to proceed with this.”

4. Instead of “I HOPE IT’S MORE TO YOUR LIKING”

say “I’m interested in your feedback on this update.”

 

“Delayed Gratification” is over-rated

Source: Psychology Today, Mar 2017

In a series of five studies recently published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers Kaitlin Wooley and Ayelet Fishbach at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business found that the experience of immediate rewards—such as enjoying the taste of a healthy food—predicted, more strongly than anticipated rewards did, how persistent people would be in pursuit of their goals to exercise more; study longer; eat healthier; stick with a new year’s resolution; or sustain a lifestyle change.

It turns out that long-term desires like making the honor roll, getting a promotion, or fitting into a smaller pair of pants fuel the motivation to set goals in the first place.

But after we define that future vision of where we wish to end up, reminding ourselves how badly we want to get there—how much we really want to squeeze into those skinny jeans or earn that raise—does a relatively poor job of keeping us motivated to resist temptation for the weeks or months it will take to achieve the goal.

The Chicago studies found that those who succeed at doing something new are not just those who are better at delaying gratification. Those who succeed are better finding other ways to gratify themselves until they reach that bigger goal.

Instead of simply grinning and bearing the misery of jogging, people who successfully meet their goal of exercising more are the ones who switch to Zumba or find a jogging partner they like talking to everyday.

The grittiest college students aren’t those who constantly sacrifice pleasure by imagining the day they’ll finally get to become an investment banker. They are the students who focus on the satisfaction they feel every time they accumulate a new piece of knowledge or on the immediate pride they feel each time they crack open a book instead of a beer.

This also explains Teresa Amabile’s and Steven Kramer’s discovery that the number one predictor of work engagement is a phenomenon they call “the progress principle.”

At work, we throw ourselves into challenging projects not because our boss blankets us with warm fuzzies or because we think it will add another zero to the east side of our paycheck. More than anything else, people stay engaged in hard work when they feel like they are making progress on a project that matters.

The Chicago studies tell us why. By setting and achieving tiny goals every couple of days, we tap into a constant flow of immediate gratification needed to keep us motivated in pursuit of that distant goal. 

Relationship Advice

Source: Mark Manson blog, Dec 2016

BE TOGETHER FOR THE RIGHT REASONS

The only reason you should ever be with the person you’re with is because you simply love being around them. It really is that simple.” … everything that makes a relationship “work” (and by work, I mean that it is happy and sustainable for both people involved) requires a genuine, deep-level admiration for each other. Without that mutual admiration, everything else will unravel.

HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS AND ROMANCE

a love that’s alive is also constantly evolving. It expands and contracts and mellows and deepens. It’s not going to be the way it used to be, or the way it will be, and it shouldn’t be. I think if more couples understood that, they’d be less inclined to panic and rush to break up or divorce.”

Romantic love is a trap designed to get two people to overlook each other’s faults long enough to get some babymaking done. It generally only lasts for a few years at most. .. So, once it’s gone, you need to know that you’ve buckled yourself down with a human being you genuinely respect and enjoy being with, otherwise things are going to get rocky.

True love — that is, deep, abiding love that is impervious to emotional whims or fancy — is a choice. It’s a constant commitment to a person regardless of the present circumstances. It’s a commitment to a person who you understand isn’t going to always make you happy — nor should they! — and a person who will need to rely on you at times, just as you will rely on them.  … But this form of love is also far more satisfying and meaningful. And, at the end of the day, it brings true happiness, not just another series of highs.

THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN A RELATIONSHIP IS NOT COMMUNICATION, BUT RESPECT

“What I can tell you is the #1 thing, most important above all else is respect. It’s not sexual attraction, looks, shared goals, religion or lack of, nor is it love. There are times when you won’t feel love for your partner. That is the truth. But you never want to lose respect for your partner. Once you lose respect you will never get it back.”

the only thing that can save you and your partner, that can cushion you both to the hard landing of human fallibility, is an unerring respect for one another, the fact that you hold each other in high esteem, believe in one another — often more than you each believe in yourselves — and trust that your partner is doing his/her best with what they’ve got.

what this mutual respect means is that we feel safe sharing our deepest, most intimate selves with each other.”

You must also respect yourself. Just as your partner must also respect his/herself. Because without that self-respect, you will not feel worthy of the respect afforded by your partner. You will be unwilling to accept it and you will find ways to undermine it. You will constantly feel the need to compensate and prove yourself worthy of love, which will just backfire.

Respect for your partner and respect for yourself are intertwined. As a reader named Olov put it, “Respect yourself and your wife. Never talk badly to or about her. If you don’t respect your wife, you don’t respect yourself. You chose her – live up to that choice.”

 Respect goes hand-in-hand with trust. And trust is the lifeblood of any relationship (romantic or otherwise). Without trust, there can be no sense of intimacy or comfort. Without trust, your partner will become a liability in your mind, something to be avoided and analyzed, not a protective homebase for your heart and your mind.

TALK OPENLY ABOUT EVERYTHING, ESPECIALLY THE STUFF THAT HURTS

If something bothers you in the relationship, you must be willing to say it. Saying it builds trust and trust builds intimacy. It may hurt, but you still need to do it. No one else can fix your relationship for you. Nor should anyone else. Just as causing pain to your muscles allows them to grow back stronger, often introducing some pain into your relationship through vulnerability is the only way to make the relationship stronger.

Behind respect, trust was the most commonly mentioned trait for a healthy relationship. Most people mentioned it in the context of jealousy and fidelity — trust your partner to go off on their own, don’t get insecure or angry if you see them talking with someone else, etc.

But the deeper the commitment, the more intertwined your lives become, and the more you will have to trust your partner to act in your interest in your absence.

The key to fostering and maintaining trust in the relationship is for both partners to be completely transparent and vulnerable:

A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP MEANS TWO HEALTHY INDIVIDUALS

“Figure out as individuals what makes you happy as an individual, be happy yourself, then you each bring that to the relationship.”

A healthy and happy relationship requires two healthy and happy individuals. Keyword here: “individuals.” That means two people with their own identities, their own interests and perspectives, and things they do by themselves, on their own time.

GIVE EACH OTHER SPACE

“Be sure you have a life of your own, otherwise it is harder to have a life together. What do I mean? Have your own interests, your own friends, your own support network, and your own hobbies. Overlap where you can, but not being identical should give you something to talk about and expose one another to. It helps to expand your horizons as a couple, but isn’t so boring as both living the exact same life.”

importance of creating space and separation from one another.

YOU AND YOUR PARTNER WILL GROW AND CHANGE IN UNEXPECTED WAYS; EMBRACE IT

It logically follows that if there is a bedrock of respect for each individual’s interest and values underpinning the relationship, and each individual is encouraged to foster their own growth and development, that each person will, as time goes on, evolve in different and unexpected ways. It’s then up to the couple to communicate and make sure that they are consistently a) aware of the changes going on in their partner, and b) continually accepting and respecting those changes as they occur.

“When you commit to someone, you don’t actually know who you’re committing to. You know who they are today, but you have no idea who this person is going to be in five years, ten years, and so on. You have to be prepared for the unexpected, and truly ask yourself if you admire this person regardless of the superficial (or not-so-superficial) details, because I promise almost all of them at some point are going to either change or go away.”

GET GOOD AT FIGHTING

Successful couples, like unsuccessful couples, he found, fight consistently. And some of them fight furiously.

He has been able to narrow down four characteristics of a couple that tend to lead to divorces (or breakups).

  1. Criticizing your partner’s character (“You’re so stupid” vs “That thing you did was stupid.”)
  2. Defensiveness (or basically, blame shifting, “I wouldn’t have done that if you weren’t late all the time.”)
  3. Contempt (putting down your partner and making them feel inferior.)
  4. Stonewalling (withdrawing from an argument and ignoring your partner.)

GET GOOD AT FORGIVING

“When you end up being right about something – shut up. You can be right and be quiet at the same time. Your partner will already know you’re right and will feel loved knowing that you didn’t wield it like a bastard sword.”

the most interesting nugget from Gottman’s research is the fact that most successful couples don’t actually resolve all of their problems.

The key here is not changing the other person — as the desire to change your partner is inherently disrespectful (to both them and yourself) — but rather it’s to simply abide by the difference, love them despite it, and when things get a little rough around the edges, to forgive them for it.

the key to happiness is not achieving your lofty dreams, or experiencing some dizzying high, but rather finding the struggles and challenges that you enjoy enduring.

A similar concept seems to be true in relationships: your perfect partner is not someone who creates no problems in the relationship, rather your perfect partner is someone who creates problems in the relationship that you feel good about dealing with.

do you get good at forgiving? What does that actually mean? Again, some advice from the readers:

  • When an argument is over, it’s over. Some couples went as far as to make this the golden rule in their relationship. When you’re done fighting, it doesn’t matter who was right and who was wrong, it doesn’t matter if someone was mean and someone was nice. It’s over. It’s in the past. And you both agree to leave it there, not bring it up every month for the next three years.
  • There’s no scoreboard. No one is trying to “win” here. There’s no, “You owe me this because you screwed up the laundry last week.” There’s no, “I’m always right about financial stuff, so you should listen to me.” There’s no, “I bought her three gifts and she only did me one favor.” Everything in the relationship is given and done unconditionally — that is: without expectation or manipulation.
  • When your partner screws up, you separate the intentions from the behavior. You recognize the things you love and admire in your partner and understand that he/she was simply doing the best that they could, yet messed up out of ignorance. Not because they’re a bad person. Not because they secretly hate you and want to divorce you. Not because there’s somebody else in the background pulling them away from you. They are a good person. That’s why you are with them. If you ever lose your faith in that, then you will begin to erode your faith in yourself.

And finally, pick your battles wisely. You and your partner only have so many fucks to give, make sure you both are saving them for the real things that matter.

THE LITTLE THINGS ADD UP TO BIG THINGS

Don’t ever stop doing the little things. They add up.

SEX MATTERS… A LOT.

a truth about relationships: sex is the State of the Union. If the relationship is good, the sex will be good. You both will be wanting it and enjoying it. When the relationship is bad — when there are unresolved problems and unaddressed negative emotions — then the sex will often be the first thing to go out the window.

BE PRACTICAL, AND CREATE RELATIONSHIP RULES

relationships are imperfect, messy affairs. And it’s for the simple reason that they’re comprised of imperfect, messy people — people who want different things at different times in different ways and oh, they forgot to tell you? 

The common theme of the advice here was be pragmatic.

LEARN TO RIDE THE WAVES

I think the most important thing that I have learned in those years is that the love you feel for each other is constantly changing. Sometimes you feel a deep love and satisfaction, other times you want nothing to do with your spouse; sometimes you laugh together, sometimes you’re screaming at each other. It’s like a roller-coaster ride, ups and downs all the time, but as you stay together long enough the downs become less severe and the ups are more loving and contented. So even if you feel like you could never love your partner any more, that can change, if you give it a chance. I think people give up too soon. You need to be the kind of person that you want your spouse to be. When you do that it makes a world of difference.”

Show How to Innovate

Source: HBR, Jan 2017

  1. … creating a culture of innovation isn’t rocket science. The dynamics are simple: Employees have experiences that come from leaders’ conscious and unconscious decisions and behaviors. Those experiences shape assumptions about what behavior is desirable or undesirable. If you want to change your employees’ behavior, it’s easier to create new or different experiences to shift their assumptions than to directly assail the assumptions themselves.

    How do you do that? Here are four strategies.

    Use Symbolic Experiences

  2. Create Customer Sightlines
  3. Provide “Worthless” Rewards
  4. Develop Talent to Develop the Culture

Use Symbolic Experiences

Zipcar, one of the first ride-sharing services, almost singlehandedly established the “sharing economy” in the United States and paved the way for others in the industry, like Uber and Airbnb. But even a business model innovator like Zipcar must eventually respond to a changing world. A stark reality recently crept up on Zipcar: It had designed its entire customer experience as a desktop-and-laptop experience, so it didn’t have a way to sign up, service, and help members manage their memberships from their phones. The world had changed, and Zipcar needed to change along with it. It would require a big shift in employee mindsets and behavior, and Zipcar needed to move fast.

Zipcar did several things to jumpstart its new mobile model, but one of the first actions orchestrated a surprising employee experience that would immediately become a symbol of its new mobile-first mindset. Employees were invited to a meeting where leadership discussed its mobile business imperative. To help drive home the point, people were given sledgehammers so that they could personally take up arms against the “old view” by pounding on two desktop computers. Smashing the old to bring in the new (literally and figuratively) created a poignant experience and instantly wrote corporate folklore that could be passed on as a symbol of exactly what was needed for the future.

Consciously designing experiences provides the opportunity to intentionally design culture.

Create Customer Sightlines

In addition to orchestrating the sledgehammer experience for employees, Zipcar did something even more compelling. The company created a direct line of sight to its new breed of target customer — the “mobile-first Millennial” — by giving employees a direct taste of the 21st century’s mobile reality. Zipcar’s “member roundtables” occur on Saturdays and include about a dozen customers who share their needs, experiences, wishes, and feedback directly with Zipcar staff. Roundtables are undeniable experiences; it’s hard to disregard customer needs after a face-to-face conversation. These types of direct interactions with customers are powerful ways to shift employee mindsets and create the impetus for change, focusing on delivering value that directly meets customer needs.

Companies don’t necessarily have to bring live customers into the office to create a line of sight to them. Spacesaver Corporation, the leader in commercial storage and shelving for libraries and museums, displays giant posters of their customers’ installations throughout its manufacturing facility. Even workers who never step off the factory floor are reminded every day of the value they create through their efforts, such as the gigantic storage system used by the Field Museum in Chicago that houses dinosaur bones that are enjoyed by thousands of visitors every year.

Creating customer sightlines gives people visibility into the all-too-often-missed line of sight between the fruits of innovation, which can be highly motivating, and the day-to-day behavior required for it.

Provide “Worthless” Rewards

Some of the most valuable rewards when it comes to shaping culture cost next to nothing in financial terms. The Chinese company Haier, now the largest appliance company in the world, has a culture of continuous innovation. To reinforce that message, it names new innovations after the employee (called “makers” in Haier’s language) who came up with the idea.

Or consider the public television and radio station in San Francisco, KQED, which designed an award specifically to reinforce both small and large innovations that surface throughout the year. The award is a trophy topped with the letter Q. This subtle branding links the award to the organization and the other innovation efforts happening there, such as the “Q-vation” team, which is responsible for collecting ideas and promoting KQED’s culture of innovation on an ongoing basis.

Other companies give experiential rewards to reinforce innovative behavior. Westin, the hotel chain, awards its top innovators a five-day exotic trip each quarter. Sure, there’s a financial value to the trip, but Westin gives away something that’s inherent to the innovation and to the service the company provides. The award reinforces the value of the customer experience by giving that very experience to those who are most successful in making it better.

While most companies reward those who make a direct contribution to technology or product innovation, the best approach involves recognizing anyone who makes a significant contribution, regardless of the type of innovation. Doing so helps spread the value of innovation into areas responsible for the broader operating model. This cultural diffusion happens as a result of highlighting the underlying values tied to the success story (e.g., this was an HR innovation that transformed how we do college recruiting and now we have a flock of new innovative employees). This can inspire other functions to create the innovations they want to add to the business.

The most valuable rewards go beyond financial incentives to tap into what really inspires people to innovate. It’s the deeper motivations — a sense of affiliation, contribution, and making a difference — that can become infectious across an organization and that change culture for the better.

Develop Talent to Develop the Culture

One of the greatest forms of employee recognition is an investment in someone’s personal growth and development. While many companies provide training, few explicitly link professional development to strategic business growth, let alone create a culture of innovation. NBCUniversal is doing just that. Widely known for its successful television networks, cable channels, motion pictures, and theme parks, the company is facing massive change as it navigates a rapidly changing media and entertainment landscape.

NBCUniversal’s Talent Lab isn’t your typical corporate university. To promote new mindsets and behaviors that grow the top line, the Talent Lab provides programs specifically geared to senior leaders whose role it is to shape culture and business strategy. Its programs aren’t about academic case studies; they focus on high-potential talent, people viewed as game changers, culture carriers, and pioneers for the business. Participants in the Talent Lab’s six-month DRIVE program, for example, comprise 25 top executives from across the company’s portfolio.

The group is divided into five cohorts, all focused on a specific enterprise challenge that requires rethinking the company’s — and the industry’s — business model. Cohorts visit parent company Comcast’s Silicon Valley incubator, meet with strategic partners, and share their observations and recommendations with executive management to conclude the program. Along the way, participants gain new mindsets, strategic frameworks, and tools to use in their day jobs running NBCUniversal’s various businesses. The result is a one-two punch that includes real opportunities for transforming the industry and a talent base that goes back to drive individual businesses with a strategic lens focused on business-model innovation and growth.

Underlying everything the Talent Lab does is the recognition that deep experiential learning viscerally infuses innovation into not only participants’ views of their own roles but also their leadership methods, which helps them to collaboratively shape the future of the company, its culture, and the industry.

Supporting a culture of innovation doesn’t have to be a multiyear, multimillion-dollar effort. Rewriting the unwritten rules starts with deciding what assumptions will drive the results you want most. If you give people specific, consistent experiences that clearly communicate the importance of those new assumptions, the behavior — and culture of innovation — will follow.

Learning to Listen Better & Asking Better Questions

Source: Farnham Street, Jan 2017

Generous listening is powered by curiosity, a virtue we can invite and nurture in ourselves to render it instinctive.

It involves a kind of vulnerability— a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity. The listener wants to understand the humanity behind the words of the other, and patiently summons one’s own best self and one’s own best words and questions.

Of the many reasons we would want to engage and renew our listening skills, asking better questions is near the top. … hard to resist a generous question. We all have it in us to formulate questions that invite honesty, dignity, and revelation. There is something redemptive and life-giving about asking a better question.

A Century of Research on Gifted Kids

Source: Psychology Today, Jan 2017

… advanced educational stimulation matters for gifted individuals to fully develop their talent and actualize their intellectual potential. One study from SMPY showed that grade skipping is a highly effective intervention on later achievement, and another study showed that it may not necessarily be one specific intervention that matters for the development of gifted youth but rather the right mix and intensity of interventions—the appropriate educational dosage—to keep them intellectually stimulated and engaged. Additionally, findings from SMPY have also shown that the willingness to work long hours varies greatly among the gifted population and thus is also likely connected to long-term development of expertise.

 

Building Resilience

Source: HBR, Jan 2017

people are far more resilient than they imagine. Like many of us, my students systematically underestimate their resilience in challenging situations. Their fears about being assertive, speaking in public, and networking are a completely unhelpful, inaccurate guide to what it will be like when they actually take the leap and stretch outside their comfort zones.

.. we systematically underestimate our resilience in four ways:

  1. We’re more flexible than we give ourselves credit for.Throughout your life, you’ve been trained to adapt and adjust your behavior across contexts. Think about the wide range of people in your social circle who you already interact with. Do you speak with your boss the same way you do with your colleagues? Do your interactions with your in-laws take the same form as those with your friends from university? My guess is that the answer is no. In fact, I find that simply reminding people of this fact can boost their confidence going into an unfamiliar situation. You’ve adapted and adjusted your behavior before; you can do it again.
  2. We’re braver than we think.Consider all the things you’ve already done in your life that took serious guts. For some of us, it was going off to college and living alone for the first time. For others, it was switching jobs or careers, or getting married. One of my MBA students from Israel, fearful of networking in the United States because of how awkward and superficial it felt, used his army experience as evidence of his capacity for bravery. Compared to leading a platoon of soldiers into battle under extreme conditions, he realized that networking just wasn’t that intimidating. Of course, not all of us have been in the armed forces, but we all have our own experiences that required some level of bravery, and we can draw on them when confronting the next situation outside our comfort zones.
  3. The situation we’re worried about probably isn’t as bad as we think.Fear gets in the way of clear thinking. We worry about the worst possible outcome, that we’ll humiliate ourselves onstage during a public speaking event, or that the person that we’re delivering negative feedback to will hate us forever. There’s always a slight chance that the worst will happen, but the reality is a bit more nuanced than that. People are shocked, hurt, and angry when being given bad news, but if it is delivered with compassion and sensitivity, they will forgive the messenger. You might be anxious about speaking in front of a crowd, but research suggests that some degree of anxiety is quite helpful for effective performance. Additionally, though you could embarrass yourself onstage — by saying the wrong thing, for example — it’s far more likely that you’ll do just fine if you’ve prepared, or at least reality will be far less terrifying than what you imagined.
  4. We have more resources than we think. When you face a really tough situation, you often feel vulnerable, perhaps even hopeless. But you’re not alone in the situation. You often have quite a number resources to use — mentors, colleagues, or friends to go to for guidance, or steps you can take when preparing. You can even make slight adjustments to the event itself to make it more manageable. For example, one of my MBA students who feels awkward making small talk in social settings sometimes brings a selfie stick with her as an icebreaker. What’s great about this prop is that does more than generate conversation. When a photo is taken, she can easily exchange contact information so she can send a photo later — and, if she’s interested, make a future connection with the person involved. But that’s just an example. The reality is that few situations are one-size-fits-all, and you usually have quite a few resources to bring to bear to make a situation more tolerable for you.

In situations outside our comfort zones, we can feel weak or powerless. But we can leverage the capabilities that we already have inside ourselves to march into unfamiliar situations with confidence. Don’t underestimate how flexible, brave, and capable you actually are. Give it a go, and chances are, you’ll probably end up surprising yourself.