Connections – United we stand…

Connections build a united culture… (Connections Part 2)

hand-1030565_960_720Pixabay – Geralt

United we stand, divided we fall … the leadership choices that you make today shape the culture you live in tomorrow.

If you want to increase the effectiveness of your team and achieve goals you thought were out of reach, it begins by creating a culture in which people not only feel safe, they feel valued.

In “Leaders Eat Last,” Simon Sinek (2014) introduced us to the Circle of Safety.   Knowing that you are part of the circle of safety frees up people’s minds to focus on the team’s goals.  When a leader creates a culture where you “trust that the people to the left…[and] to the right of us have our backs, the better equipped we are to face the constant threats from outside together” (p. 22). Sinek wrote that you can feel it.  You can feel when you are surrounded by the circle of safety.  We feel valued and cared for by our colleagues and superiors.  We feel like we belong and our confidence grows along with our connections.  All of the group’s energy is directed towards the greater good (p. 24).

group-157841_960_720Pixabay OpenClipart-Vectors

When the circle begins to falter, we become suspicious of those around us and our brains go into survival mode. Our energy is redirected into watching for the dangers all around us instead of trusting our team (Leaders Eat Last, p. 22).  When trust goes down, speed goes down and costs go up (Speed of Trust, 2006, p. 13).  Trust, as Covey (2006) pointed out, is one of the most highly valued competencies of the new global economy (p. 21).

Daniel, Schwier and McCalla (2003) pointed out that “in almost every discussion of social capital, trust is treated as a central variable” (p. 6). While the development of social capital isn’t as simple as a direct cause and effect relationship with trust, Daniel et. al. noted that opportunities for positive social interactions do build trust.  Over time, increased trust is an integral part of growing social capital within a community (p. 6).

trust-1418901_960_720Pixabay – lcaroselli

In recent body language and confidence workshops and coaching sessions, Carla Gradin (2015-16) shared building connections is all about building on your know, like and trust factors.  As soon as you meet someone their brain automatically starts to process their first impression of you. Keep in mind first impressions happen in 2-3 seconds, likely before you’ve actually said anything (Gradin, 2015, p. 9). She reminded that our primitive brains immediately sort people into 4 categories:

  1. Friend
  2. Foe
  3. Sexual Partner
  4. Indifferent
    (page 8)

So if you want to build positive connections with people not only does what you say matter, how you say it has more impact than you think. Gradin reinforced Sinek’s 2009 TED Talk comment

“that people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it”
(minute 4:00).

In order to believe your why, people need to make a connection with you.  Gradin noted that people first notice your hands.  If I can’t see your hands or more specifically the palms of your hands, my primitive brain becomes quite concerned with what you are hiding and if you are a threat (p. 8).  Even palms facing down tells my brain that you could be hiding a weapon and I need to be on alert.  The story people’s body language tells is often more honest than what people actually say.

So how can you help build connections?

Touch, builds connection.  As Sinek (2014) explained in Leaders Eat Last, it’s all about the hormones.  Oxytocin in the right balance can enhance positive, trusting connections. Gradin (2015) explained that when we touch people, it has the potential to release oxytocin, “which can evoke the same feeling of connection equal to 3 hours of talk time” (p.10).  In Super Better, Jane McGonigal (2015) explained “touch and gratitude are two of the most effective” (p. 17) ways to increase your social resilience.  In particular, McGonigal noted that 6 seconds of holding hands or touching someone not only increased your oxytocin level but theirs as well.  The more oxytocin you release the more likely you are to help and protect that person which deepens your connection (p. 18).  Gradin added that when shaking someone’s hand making eye contact also enhances oxytocin release (p. 10).

Interestingly, McGonigal highlighted research by Dr. Robert Emmons & Cheryl A. Crumpler along with Sara B. Algoe, Jonathan Haidt and Shelly L. Gable when she wrote:

“gratitude is the single most important relationship-strengthening emotion because, as researchers explain, ‘it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people'” (p. 18).

It turns out that expressing your appreciation is one of the best ways to build positive connections with others (McGonigal, p. 18), which is why Gradin highlighted the significance of the handshake.  When done well, it’s a socially accepted greeting that can enhance how people see your agreeableness (you appear more extroverted), your open mindedness and your emotional stability (p. 10).  Wonder what a great handshake is – check out our video on the handshake.

Interested in learning specific behaviours that can increase your trust factor?  Check out our next post on Covey’s Recommended Trust Building Behaviours.

 


 Resources Referenced:

Who’s TED and Why would you want to talk like him?

A Review of
Talk Like TED:  The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds
By: Carmine Gallo


book Cover      It was one of those books that kept appearing in my amazon and audible suggested reading list.  I’m a avid consumer of TED Talks, TED radio hour and local TED X events.   I love learning and 18 minute TED Talks are just enough time to learn a little bit that will hook me into learning more.  I’ve listened to hundreds of TED Talks as I drive from one location to another or weed the garden.  And you know when you find the one TED Talk that changes your perspective or just makes you stop what you are doing and think.  Sometimes I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with friends and colleagues.  I’ve often wondered why I can explain the concepts and tell the story of some TED Talks like I just listened to them, while others were interesting but I can’t remember them for very long.

In “Talk Like TED,” Carmine Gallo shared why some talks go viral and the ideas stick.  While a sticky idea is an important part of getting people to remember the information, it turns out great public speakers employ several key strategies.  Gallo explained that ideas are the currency of the 21st century and if they are delivered well, they can cause lasting change.

Based on his extensive analysis of TED Talks and presentation strategies, Gallo shared 9 key strategies that will change how you share information in a presentation.  Here’s a very quick overview as I highly recommend you listen to or read his book.  It’s filled with practical strategies.

  1. Unleash the Master within – Find what you love to talk about and share your inspiration.  Your audience will know if you don’t love what you are talking about.  Your passion shows not only in your voice but in your body language.
  2. Tell stories – Gallo noted brain research showed that stories better engage listeners.  They help you connect with your audience by sharing a piece of you.
  3. Practice – There’s no way around it.  Great TED Talks are the result of hundreds of revisions, test runs and practice.  They become a conversation not a lecture.
  4. Teach your audience something new – Humans love novelty and our brains will tune in to learn new things.  So teach them something they didn’t know before.
  5. Deliver jaw-dropping moments – This means sharing something that causes a strong emotional response.  We encode emotionally charged memories better and more accurately. So help your listeners make a connection.
  6. Use humour without telling jokes – It better connects you with your audience.
  7. Stick to about 18 minutes – Much longer and you overload people’s memories and they won’t remember what to share.
  8. Favor pictures over text – we are more likely to recall a picture that a text based bullet.
  9. Stay in your lane – Share your story and what you’ve learned.  People will connect with your authenticity.

Gallo shared personal experiences and numerous TED examples to explain the 9 strategies in a detailed and engaging way that not only makes you think about why some speakers are better able to draw you in, but how you too can share your ideas.

Leadership Connections:

  • Being a leader means sooner or later you are going to have to speak in front of other people in order to share your ideas.  Sharing ideas that connect with an audience requires more than making it up as you go along.  Keeping these 9 ideas in mind can help you shape and refine your presentation skills each time you speak to an audience.
  • Teachers address students each day.  Understanding how to share ideas not only increases the chance that students will remember but it also models presentation techniques.  Just think back to the teacher you remember the most.  I’d wager it’s not the content specifically you remember but how they delivered the content or engaged you in learning that sealed it in your memory.
  • Enhancing your ability to communicate increases the chances that your message is not only heard and understood but that it’s remembered.  Clearly communicating where you are going and how you are going to get there will move your followers forward.

 


Gallo, C. (2014). Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds. New York: St. Marin’s Press.

Image – Screenshot of the cover from Amazon.ca

 

What or Who causes ideas to tip?

A Review of
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
By: Malcom Gladwell


book coverJust as the title promised, Gladwell explained how it’s the little things over time that make the difference and in the end cause the change to tip.  Despite being written in 2006, the basic ideas still resonated strongly with me and added to my perspective of how change comes to be in the world around us. As leaders, The Tipping Point reminded us to appreciate the people in our network and value the the small changes because in the end it’s more often the combination of small consistent changes that have shaped the world around us than large sweeping initiatives.

Gladwell skillfully uses real life case studies and stories to engage the reader in an interesting journey through the evolution of an idea.   He compared an idea to that of an epidemic.  One moment or perhaps for years it’s just an idea or how things have always been and then it hits the tipping point and everything changes. He referenced New York City’s drop in crime and why Paul Revere’s ride changed history and the other guy’s didn’t.  Did you know there was another rider that tried to warn of the British invasion?  By encouraging us to reflect on the world around us, Gladwell opened our minds to the possibilities of change and helped us understand why some ideas spread. He also noted the factors that help ideas catch fire.

It seems simple that good ideas will spread.  People get excited, they share their ideas and the effect ripples out.  It would be interesting to read an updated afterword by Gladwell based on the changes in social media in the last 10 years, but I imagine he’d say the same types of people still exist.  It’s just their medium and perhaps sphere of influence that has broadened.

“The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts” (p. 33).  That is the law of the few.  Gladwell explained that there are three key types of people in our world. Connectors, Maven and Salesmen.

Connectors are those in our networks that know lots of other people and their networks cross into many different types of social circles.  They enjoy bringing people together from different circles and introduce you.  Gladwell encouraged the reader to pause for a moment and think about your friends.  How did you meet them?  Who introduced you? More than likely, there’s one or two people that made those connections.   As an introvert, connectors are very important people to me.  They eliminate the need for small talk and connect you with people without requiring the extra energy it takes to meet strangers.  When you are brought together by a connector, you already have something in common to talk about.

Mavens are the “people we rely upon to connect us with new information” (p. 19) about specific topics. They are passionate about the topic they care about and you trust their advice. Just think about it.  Who’s your tech person?  Who recommends the best places to eat? Who do you ask when your car doesn’t work?  We all know mavens.  They want to share and they are often skilled communicators.

Lastly, Gladwell referred to the salesmen or those who are good at persuading.  Not only are they skilled verbal communicators, their body language seals the deal.  Interestingly, Gladwell mentioned the role of body language and the subtle ways these people exude persuasive body language.

Share your idea with one of these people and the chance of it spreading greatly increases, however, just sharing the idea won’t cause a word of mouth epidemic. He explained the message has to stick.  If people don’t remember it, they won’t share it.

What truly resonated with me, partially because the idea has come up in several other reads, was the power of context. People’s behaviour is reflective of the type of environment that’s been created.  It’s what he called the broken windows effect.  In short if we walk down a street with dilapidated old buildings, dark alleys, filled with garbage and lots of broken windows, we will act differently. The theory suggested that you will also see a higher violent crime rate.  Literally, clean up your streets and your crime rate will drop.

Filled with moving examples, Gladwell repeatedly draws the connections back to case studies and the complimentary research in a way that is sure to keep you turning the pages. It increases your awareness of the change happening around you and the next time something tips…maybe you’ll spot one of the reasons why.  Interestingly, Gladwell explained it’s not the huge changes that cause ideas to spread it’s the small, consistent actions that happen everyday that build into lasting change.

Leadership Connections:

  • What’s this have to do with being a leader?  Change is always happening.  As a leader, we are often asked to move change forward.  Understanding how change works and how you can tip change in a positive way, increases your chances at successfully reaching your goal.  Whether you want to improve your school or lead an effective team, understanding change will help you better support your team.
  • Do you know your people?  Can you spot the connectors, mavens and salespeople on your team?  The diversity of your team is an asset on which you can build the skills of everyone.
  • Understanding the value of the tipping point means that you don’t have to stand at the front and lecture people on what to do.  You need to come up with a sticky idea and shape the environment and then work with your team.
  • Gladwell offered interested readers the gateway to working on change. If you are ready, you have the opportunity to add more to your Leadership Toolbox.  Because you just never know when you might need to fix a broken window.

 


Gladwell, M. (2006). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference . Little, Brown and Company.

~ Thanks to Eric Hufnagel, Superintendent of Learning NESD, for recommending this book. 

Image – Screenshot from Amazon.ca

As Dr. Henry Cloud says, Why not be ridiculously in charge?

A Review of
Boundaries for Leaders
Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge
By Dr. Henry Cloud


book screenshotI came across Boundaries for Leaders after listening to an Entre Leadership podcast on the importance of mentors. What really drew me into the book was the idea that learning to lead required us to better understand how the brain functions.  Dr. Henry Cloud explained that if you aren’t leading in a way that people’s brains can follow you are losing out on your most talented resource – the skills of the people on your team (p. 25).  Being ridiculously in charge means that you as a leader are in control and Cloud emphasized, “as a leader, you always get what you create and what you allow” (p. xvi). It’s your responsibility as a leader to set boundaries.  Essentially, you have to decide the positive boundaries and what negatives are off the table.  (Screenshot from Amazon.ca)

Cloud explained the importance of understanding the brain’s executive function.  In particular, he focused on attention, inhibition and working memory.  As a leader, we need to help people focus on specific goals, help them stay on the right track (inhibit distraction and toxicity) and retain and build on relevant information to create a repeatable pattern in our working memory (p. 27).  When you consciously lead with these in mind, you can unleash a whole other level of efficiency for your team.

As a consultant, I attend many meetings.  Cloud shared that it’s not necessarily less meetings that we need it’s better meetings. It’s your job as a leader to focus your team on the purpose of the meeting, prevent distractions and enable a flow of ideas so that meetings energize your team.  Cloud reminded that not only is positive or negative mood contagious, emotions will affect your team performance.  Take fear, for example.  There are different types.  Healthy fear or positive stress will help people to achieve clear goals or meet their deadlines.  Toxic fear, however, paralyzes people.  Their brains are physically unable to focus on what they need to do (p.65).  As Simon Sinek explained in Leaders Eat Last, their primal brain is taking over to promote survival over everything else.

Cloud shared a story of a young Olympic gold medal athlete whose performance had surpassed and surprized those around her.  She explained the conversation that her parents had with her when they noticed how her fear of failing affected her ability to do her best.  She noted how her parents had sat her down and said that it was okay to make mistakes and not win.  They would still love her just the same. She told the interviewer “knowing that failing was OK made her able to succeed” (p. 71).  Cloud highlighted that this freed her brain up to “use every mistake as a learning opportunity” (p.71).

What type of environment or culture do you help to create?  Brain research shows that a constant ongoing threat  invokes the flight or flight response rather than increasing self awareness so that we can learn from our experiences.  As leaders, it’s important for us to remember that for our team to learn from their mistakes, they have to be in a state where they know it’s okay to make mistakes.  If your followers live in fear of what you’ll do to them next, no one wins (p.74-75).

Leadership Connections: 

  • As an educator, it’s reminded me of the importance of consciously creating a positive collaborative learning culture.  Both students and teachers have to know that it’s safe to step outside their comfort zone because experience is how we learn.
  • Leadership in any style influences the lives of the followers.  Regardless of whether or you are a transformational servant leader or a strong transactional leader, the effectiveness of your team lies in understanding how what you do impacts and sets the tone for all other interactions.  After all you do get what you create.
  • My only challenge with this book is that Cloud referenced many research based concepts and while he credits specific people, studies or institutions in the context of the book, there isn’t a collection of references included in the edition that I had access too.  While I don’t doubt his scientific links, I’ve just appreciated the access to the specific research cited in other books that I have read.
  • Cloud also noted the value of clear communication including being aware of what your non-verbal body language is saying to your team.
  • Cloud offered practical strategies and reflective questions to help readers better understand how they can make a positive difference as a leader. He also acknowledged that change isn’t easy and there is no quick fix, but when you lead in ways that make sense to people’s brains they will follow.

It turns out that what you do today matters in the story that you write tomorrow… not just for yourself but those around you.


Cloud, D. (2013). Boundaries For Leaders Results, Relationships and Being Ridiculously in Charge. USA: Harper Collins.

 

 

 

 

Body Language- What you are really saying…

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are ~ Amy Cuddy

TED Talk
Interactive Transcript

One of my favourite TED Talks, okay I have lots of favourite TED Talks.  It turns out what you can learn in 18 minutes truly change your life.  This one in fact has impacted my daily interactions and lead me to attend more workshops on non-verbal communication.  Did you know how you carry yourself and how you stand can change not only the way you think about yourself but the hormone levels in your body?  Strong leaders are able to clearly communicate their message and this includes the non-verbal aspects, as well. I do have to warn you, once you learn more about body language it has the potential to change the way you see the world.  Do you think two minutes of power posing can change how you feel? Are you ready?

Cuddy noted in her 2012 TED Talk that “we make sweeping judgement and inferences from body language” (time 2.04).  From deciding whether or not we like someone, to whether a physician is nice (turns out nice Doctors are sued less often) or if we will vote for a political candidate,  those seconds before you speak shape lasting impressions. As a social scientist, Cuddy wondered “do our nonverbals govern how we think and feel about ourselves?” (time 6:57). Can you fake till you make it?

By examining levels of “testosterone, which is the dominance hormone, and cortisol, which is the stress hormone” (time 7:57), Cuddy tracked hormone levels in both powerful and powerless people.  Research showed that “powerful and effective leaders also have high testosterone and low cortisol” (time 7:57). Based on her team’s experiments, Cuddy had people pose in high power and low power poses for two minutes prior to the testing of hormone levels and then in the second experiment an independent panel of body language experts evaluated them during an intense interview.  What she found was that 2 minutes of power posing (think wonder women) changes your hormone levels.  Power posing increases testosterone and decreases cortisol, whereas weaker poses like hunching over and checking your phone in the waiting room have the opposite effect (Time 11:44).

Cuddy explained “that our bodies can change our minds and our minds can change our behaviour, and our behaviour can change our outcomes” (15:35). Anyone can be a leader but part of that is in our minds.  People respond to our non verbal communication, so paying attention to the signals you are sending makes a difference in the congruency of the messages you convey.  As Amy Cuddy says, “don’t fake it till you make it.   Fake it till you become it” (time 19:14).

Leadership Connections: 

The more I learn about body language the more I understand how  nonverbal communication impacts our daily interactions.  Many leadership theories talk about the charisma and other dominant characteristics of leaders, while only a few acknowledge body language directly.  It’s importance is embedded into every interaction a leader has with a follower.  In fact, Cuddy explains that if one person has bigger body language the other person doesn’t mirror it rather they do the opposite and become smaller (4:55). Learning how to read the nonverbal signals in the room isn’t easy and learning how to respond is even harder but in the end your conscious body language choices will become more automatic and you will change your relationships with those around you.

Now imagine yourself as a teacher or team leader that’s aware of  body language.  The ability to consciously share the strategies with those around you has the potential to change their self-confidence. It has the potential to transform your team.


TED Talk – Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are – Amy Cudy
Interactive Transcript