Author Archives: Aaron Wallace

Want Larger Profits? Let Things Get Out of Control

16 Nov 16
Aaron Wallace
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goodbye“I’ve had it! I’m leaving this Hell! Good luck finding someone to put up with your Sh*t! You’ve got a whole month to find yourself another sucker! And by the way, I’ve got plenty of vacation days left, so you won’t be seeing me around the office much next week, but don’t worry, I’m sure Bob can takeover!”

The door slams and you hear, “Bob, Hahaha!

Bam. It can happen that quick. Feeling underpaid and under-appreciated, a star player leaves, with intentions to start his own firm and run it his own way. But strangely enough, it doesn’t really go his way. By just about any measurement available, things are about to get much worse for this enterprising talent.

He’ll works longer hours without earning any more than his previous salary, once he pays his vendors and covers overhead. He’ll shoulder more pressure now, because if he doesn’t sell, he doesn’t eat. And though his wife does her best to be supportive, there are times when she won’t be able to help but to lash out at him over his frequent absence from the family.

The irony is, he’ll likely feel much better about his circumstances now than when he had his steady gig. There have been several studies that measure the subjective well being of employees before and after they launch out on there own. And they frequently say strange things, such as they are enjoying more work-life balance as an entrepreneur than as an employee, even though the numbers clearly indicate otherwise. But why is that? I’m suggesting here that it’s our innate craving for autonomy. Our subjective well being, motivation, and self-efficacy are all greatly influenced by whether or not we believe we have reasonable control of the situation that we are in.

A very powerful illustration comes from research in nursing homes for the elderly. Ellen Langer, a Psychology professor at Harvard, found that life expectancy and health outcomes could be influenced by increasing the level of choice for the residents, even in trivial matters. Choices like deciding between omelets or pancakes for breakfast, watering the plants in their room, or which movie they watch on movie night actually effected the length of people’s lives!

So what effect do you think you might be having when you outline precisely what you want your team to do, when you want them to do it, and exactly how you want it done? That’s one way to look at the issue, another is, what could happen in your business if your talent were excited to get to work everyday because they empowered in their work?

Be careful, you might find your business profiting insanely.

You may be familiar with Google’s “20% Time,” where employees are allowed to use up to 20% of their working time to develop anything they want. Gmail, Google News, and Google Adwords, all were a product of self-directed work. So maybe you can’t afford not to give up a degree of control.

Thoughts from a NLPer

  1. Grab yourself a copy of Drive from Daniel Pink. This book sheds light on what motivates us, largely debunking Rewards & Punishments motivation myths. He speaks on giving your employees Autonomy as one of the three primary levers for Intrinsic Motivation. A point of particular interest might be the business case he makes for Results Only Work Environments. Overall it’s a great read with highly actionable content.
  2. Take 5 minutes and brainstorm a list of simple choices that you could give your employees around the office. It’s doesn’t matter if it seems insignificant to you,choice is choice. Oddly enough, gamblers are more likely to step to a table that has two available Russian Roulette wheels than a table that only has one. Theres no rational basis for this choice, besides the fact that the unconscious mind simply prefers having a choice!
  3. Here’s what you could do to intervene at the unconscious level. You could start to notice, what happens as you begin imagining giving your employees more autonomy over their tasks. Many of us resist this because giving up control is scary! Notice how that resistance manifests itself. Which of your muscles tighten and which loosen? How does your breathing shift? Does it feel like certain parts of your body are colder or warmer than other parts? What sense of motion is there in your gut, chest, or mind? What is this emotion like?
  4. Now drop that image from your mind, and focus on creating a deep and steady breathing pattern. I recommend trying out the Box Breathing Technique that former Navy Seal Mark Divine made popular. Four seconds breathing in, hold for four seconds, four seconds breathing out, hold for four seconds, and repeat the cycle. After about four minutes of focused breathing, again imagine giving an employee more autonomy. Notice the ways your internal sensations about this have changed, as this change is a good sign that you might be more prepared to let go of the reigns the next time the opportunity presents itself.

Let’s start the discussion…

What have you found is a great way to increase your own sense of control in life? I’d love to hear your stories or other research you’ve found. In what ways have you seen former employers fail in this regard? I respond to every comment.

And if you’ve found this valuable be sure to like the article and share with your colleagues!

Beating Uncertainty in Business, Even if You’re Bad at Basketball

09 Nov 16
Aaron Wallace
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Uncertainty, Bringing Productivity to a..

 The Prophet Inside Your Brain

Our brains are hardwired to scan the environment, detect patterns, and make predictions. Understanding what your friend is saying in an environment that’s too noisy to actually hear the words, is the by product of the prediction machinery in the brain. Your brain even gets imperceptibly happier every time you correctly predict where your foot will land when you are walking. Yet of course we cannot predict everything accurately, and when that uncertainty creeps in, psychological pressure multiplies.

To quote David Rock, “When perceived uncertainty gets out of hand, people panic and make bad decisions.” Have you ever been walking to a meeting in an unfamiliar area, and large portions of the map wouldn’t load on your Smartphone? Instant anxiety. And then what do we do?  We stand there indefinitely, waiting for it to load.  We do this because in the face of uncertainty, the brian enters a unanimously inconvenient no-decision mode.

 It’s like taking a road trip to Seoul from Shenyang

We then stand there, waiting for several minutes, hoping that it will finish loading, when we could simply ask someone else on the street or in a nearby office for directions.

How does this show up at work?

  1. New boss comes in to “shake things up”
  2. New ERP, CRM, OS, or any other IT changes
  3. Is what I wrote in this report, actually what my boss was looking for?
  4. Will I be rejected again during this next sales call?
  5. Will the higher ups accept my proposal?

First I want you to know this, the longer you stay in this no-decision state, the worse it is for you.  Your brain is going to drain excess energy, by remaining on high alert attempting to update information regarding the decision.  The problem is, we can’t always have the most relevant, high quality information that we want, can we? So let’s briefly explore a couple of options that you might have to deal with these scenarios effectively.

Thoughts from a NLPer

1. Turn ambiguity into risk.  Risk is an uncertain outcome with certain probabilities.  Ambiguity is an uncertain outcome with uncertain probabilities. Researchers now know that the brain processes risk with much less overwhelm than it processes ambiguity, which means whenever possible try to downgrade ambiguity to risk.

Talk to your mentor, someone who has been down this road many times before you, and ask her how things might turn out.  Get them to help you to assign likelihoods to the various possible outcomes.  Bonus, if you discover that this particular uncertainty can’t be measured, even that knowledge itself puts your brain at ease, so that’s a fantastic finding.

2. Alternatively, you can change your focus to what you are certain about.  Of course, you don’t know if upper management will respond to your intrapreneurial seizure positively; they may reject you.  But you can be assured about your own performance, can’t you?

You may have heard about the experiment that proved that visualization has enormous advantages.  A psychologist took three groups of basketball players. One group practiced 20 minutes per day shooting free throws.  The next group visualized shooting free throws, perfectly, for 20 minutes per day.  Third group did nothing.  The group that actually showed up and physically practiced only improved one percentage point more than the visualizers!  24% improvement versus 23% improvement.

You can do the same. Watch, listen, and feel feel yourself delivering the perfect pitch. Your smile is bright and wide.  Your stance is powerful, yet non-threatening. Your voice modulates in tone and volume to emphasize various points.  Your metaphors are tight, and your energy is infectious.

Maybe you see the people asking engaging questions.  You might see heads nodding almost imperceptibly in agreement.  You could also see yourself fluidly dealing with objections, just as planned, feeling more confidence by the minute.

Let me hear your thoughts below!

If you been stuck before like I’ve described above, then you know how relieving it is to get out of the uncertainty.  Share this article with a friend or  colleague so they can experience the same good fortune.

Now, I’m curious, what happens to your level of certainty after you’ve spent 15 minutes practicing this perfectly in your mind?  What other other ways have you discovered to tame uncertainty? Let me know what you think in the comments below, even if you aren’t convinced by visualization yet, we can open up an interesting dialogue about it.

Stop Threatening Your Team!

02 Nov 16
Aaron Wallace
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Take a look at the following two scenarios, and ask yourself, “Which is worse for a new employee?”

A recent graduate and new hire, Matthieu, comes into the office after doing some field research off-site. At 15:00, just minutes after he walks in, his four team members stand up and walk off to the conference room to meet you. He might not have been aware, but the meeting had nothing to do with his assignment, and being the absolutely amazing and highly empathic manager that you are, you didn’t want to waste his time.  Nice.

Having worked double time since entering the firm, Matthieu thought he had finally entered your good graces, and would later describe this particular event as, “a punch in the gut.” Compare that experience, with calling Matthieu into your office and literally punching him in the gut. Which is more painful?

The absurdity of the illustration has probably alerted you to the fact that this must be a trick question, and it is. Social Neuroscientist Naomi I. Eisenberger’s studies have shown that although the circuits in the brain processing rejection and physical pain are not wholly identical, the neurochemical reaction to the stimulus is the same. So if those two events actually had occurred, in a very real sense, this poor fellow is likely not to be able to judge much difference between the two.

But Why Should You Care as a Leader?

Rejection like this, doesn’t just make us feel bad, it makes us quantifiably more stupi—less productive. Research coming from Case Western Reserve University shows that an instance of social rejection, not only caused people to become more violent and aggressive, but it also caused IQ to drop by 25% and analytical reasoning skills to decrease by 30% in test subjects. This finding is not alone; many other studies have shown that we do our worst thinking when under emotional duress.

A relatively recent finding in neuroscience that has massive implications in the workplace is that social phenomena are processed using threat and reward circuits in the brain. That means from an fMRI’s perspective, there is little difference between a dictatorial boss and a bear grunting into the room. In the comfort of our plush office chairs, we experience fight or flight; our muscles tighten, breathing heightens, vision tunnels, and critical thinking all but goes dead.

Interestingly, it also means on an occasion of receiving public praise from your boss, you feel a very primitive reward kick in, like returning to your tribe with a stag after a successful hunt—and as a young boy growing up “in the south,” though I never went hunting myself, on many occasions one a close friend would return to school on a Monday morning withdeer jerky, and BIG SMILES on their face as they mentioned slaying a “12 point buck.”

David Rock, best-selling author and Director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, has combed through the extensive research emerging on social threats and the mind, and has created the SCARF Model to help leaders recognize and prevent these adverse effects. As the direct reports of the readers of German Chamber Ticker, aren’t likely to be sweating in blue suits making widgets, applying this model can be crucial to enhancing your success as a leader in a knowledge-based economy.

Status

In his book The Status Syndrome, Michael Mormot shows that status is positively correlated with overall health and longevity. Cortisol levels can be measured, and they do indeed shift when a person of higher status walks into a room. Cortisol is the hormone associated with stress, and on the whole, consistent, excess amounts of stress have deleterious effects on the body; thus the correlation between status and health.

You may choose to note, that status is not purely awarded based on position. Status is gained and lost in any formal and informal competition, no matter how in consequential. If you win a friendly tennis match, a board game, and even a game of Solitaire—a card game one plays against oneself—the scales of status readjust to encapsulate that boost. In the office this tends to play out in the form of giving unsolicited feedback to others, attempting to ask the smartest questions, or having a more perfect answer than your colleague or boss.

Tips from a NLPer

1. Imagine you are about to have a meeting with a colleague or some other relevant stakeholder.  Set up two chairs.  While standing, imagine yourself sitting in one chair and your colleague in the other.  In what ways are these two figures distorted from reality?  Is the projection of your colleague significantly shorter or taller than he/she actually is in real life?  Notice differences in posture and gestures.  Is your boss taking up lots of space, while you’re collapsing inward?  These are representations of how you really feel subconsciously.

If you recognize these distortions, or any additional others, level the playing field!  Use the power of your right brain and make things more even, by shrinking/growing your partner so that it seems like there’s a conversation between two equals happening.  Follow your gut, and when you get to the point where you feel comfortable with having that conversation in real life, you can put your chairs back where they were and walk confidently into the meeting room.  You’ll be surprised by the subtle internal shift that occurs…

2. If you are a leader in your organization and you’d like to put your team at ease so that you can get their best ideas, you also have several options available to you. But I’ll warn you, as you’ll soon see, these tricks are much easier when you are assured of your own self-worth.

Expose a personal weakness of yours to the group.  Periodically surprise them with self-deprecating humor.  Actively inquire about their perspective on various issues.  Apologize. Concede to their judgement when the stakes are low, and occasionally when the stakes are a bit higher.  Change your opinion when presented with compelling new data. Regularly remind them how specifically their expertise has been valuable to you.

Your Massive Guide to Thinking Better for both Geeks and Normal People

24 Jun 16
Aaron Wallace
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In my favorite coffee shop in the city, I over hear a lot of conversations.  It’s not that I’m being noisy, it’s that there are only three chairs in the place.  You can hear thoughts with that kind of proximity.

After a recent espresso, I may or may not have listened in on a conversation that a young woman was seemingly having with herself.  Frustration with work titled her troubles, and I thought it might be a really cool post for all of our readers.  As No-Limit People you know you don’t have to put up with circumstances like this girl did, but check it out first, and then lets take a look at how she could have handled things if she understood just a bit more about how the mind works.

 

 

I can’t keep taking this abuse for 20k a month, I’m outta here! Let me check LinkedIn to see what jobs are out there. Sales manager oh, that seems nice. Yikes!  They want someone with 5 years experience! Ughh, my CV is garbage; I’ve wasted so much time at this place.  Lets click a different one.  

Ughh. Another job in procurement? God no! I hate this job enough already.  Oh wow, 25k a month, that’s not bad! It looks like the same thing that I’m doing now, and I can make another 5k?  I bet I could handle it, this job isn’t so bad, it’s just my boss is the devil.  A different job, means a different boss.  Hell for that much money I’d put up with anything!

 

Let me spruce up that CV.  Why do I have so many? Which one did I finish last? Maybe this one.  Oh wow, I didn’t notice those bullets weren’t aligned properly. Let me fix that.  Damn it, now everything else is out ofline. Working resumes with Microsoft Word is impossible.  Let me search some CV templates.

 

Ugly.

            Nope.

                            No.

 

Eh, maybe this one will due.  My name should be bold. Should the dates be aligned left or right? Much better.  This CV is really going to stand out!

 

And the dive further into details continues…Really, the first thing you do is whip out your CV and start stylizing? News Flash! If you do your job hunt right, the type face on your CV is the last thing they care about!  I bet her next step is to write some generic cover letters and post them in 10 or 20 black holes–I mean job boards.

Because she didn’t take the time to get strategic about thinking, this poor woman may end up taking another job that she hates, instead of actually getting what she wants. But I know you can think smarter.

How could we think about this sort of a problem, if we knew a teeny tiny bit about neurology?  The following couple of frameworks can make your life a whole lot easier.

Cut Off Distractions

 

Let’s turn to jumpstarting productivity.  I’ve found a very underrated productivity app that I’ll suggest here, and luckily it’s even in the Chinese app stores.  Open the store and search “Power Button.”  Figuring out how to use this power button is pretty simple, typically it’s built right into the hardware of your machine and you just hold it for a few seconds.  Then just like magic, 80% of your distractions have vanished and you can be productive!

 

The Power Button is certainly a luxury that we will want to continue enjoying before iPhone 12s: Sentient Siri is released, I don’t think that the ReallySmartphones of the future will enjoy being turned off so much.

Jokes aside, studies have shown, that staying continuously connected via our mobile devices can lower your IQ as much as loosing a night of sleep.  Turning off your phone or WIFI can help keep your stress down, because that ping, buzz, and beep are actually registered as threat sounds in your brain.  It’s like hearing a growling predator in the bushes; and when there’s a lion 100 meters away, do you think your bodies resources are more primd for thinking or running? So tell your clingy girlfriend you learned it here, “Alerts make you stupid.”

When those things are off, it’s much harder to distract yourself!  Normally, if you get a message, you have three options

  1. Check it
  2. Ignore it
  3. Ignore it until you give in and check it

 

 

Remember the five primary tasks of the cognitive mind are understanding, recalling,  and memorizing information, deciding between options, and inhibiting action.  Trying to NOT look at your phone, check your email, look at the clock all drain much more energy than you imagine, and even worse when NOT DOING you can’t focus on DOING.

And don’t forget as well inhibiting drains your mental energy AND telling yourself ”no” is more difficult the longer you wait AND each time that you resist your temptations it becomes even more difficult to reject the next urge. Is that convincing enough yet? Turn off the phone!

No, finish reading this, THEN turn off the phone, or at least put it on Airplane mode.  And if you don’t trust yourself to remain unplugged, head over to freedom.to and download the app for a modest fee after your free trial.  It will restrict your access to certain sites for a set period of time that you determine.  It’s like having personal control over the Great Firewall of China.  If you aren’t in a factory making widgets for Foxconn then you need to dedicate time to dive deep into work, otherwise kiss your hope for mastery goodbye.

Additional Pro Tip: If you can give yourself 5 minutes of silence before you began any deep work, you’ll be doing yourself a great service.  Especially if it’s a mindfull five minutes, you’ll reset your brain.  It’s like deleting cookies or closing tabs in your web browser so you can pick up speed again.

Chunking & Abstract Thinking

You’re brain is both super powerful, and super clumsy at the same time.  It’s a strange paradox indeed.  The amount of data that you take in and process at any given moment is astounding, yet try to remember a string of numbers or names without weaving a story or some other memory trick, and you’ll fall flat on your face.  Chunking is a tactic that can help greatly. As an example, is it easier to memorize these seven numbers,

7-4-9-3-1-9-6 or these eight numbers 36-52-18-95

My bet is the second wins the prize.  When working with higher order concepts, you can use a similar idea.

You could chunk the job search process into steps

  1.     What do I want?
  2.     Where should I look?
  3.     How do I get it?

Notice the distinction between “What do I want?” and “Take some time to figure out what job I actually want to be doing.”  Wherever possible it’s best to simplify concepts, as abstract ideas pump our creative juices.  Asking “what do I want?” is likely going to engage the emotive and intuitive processes, and associative machinery typically attributed to the right brain.

Once you’ve done your chunking, and engaged the whole brain, you might choose some way to externalize these ideas.  We are using our memory to hold these pieces in our conscious attention, which is stealing from our ability to prioritize and think of creative solutions.  This can be as simple as writing them down, or having cups, or pens, or whatever, represent the ideas spatially.  My artsy readers might even choose to make doodles of the concept, or draw up mindmaps.  The author approves of all of the above methods.

Though this sounds simple enough, you might consider thinking twice before skipping over it. Remember that Jewish scientist with the funky hair?  You know, the one from the patent office?  A fun fact about Einstein, did you know that he didn’t know is his own phone number?  He would tell people, “Why would I cloud my mind with information that I can find in a phone book?”  It sounds like Einstein knew about this technique before the neuroscientists picked it up, follow suit!

Prioritization

Before you do anything, prioritize!  It’s one of the most demanding tasks that our mind will engage in, so you want to have as much of your mental energy about you as possible.  If your outcome is quality of work, then scheduling the most difficult tasks first is going to help you out the most.

There’s a debate going on between the self-help geeks of the world.  How should we prioritize?  Should I do the big hairy stuff first?  Or should I rack up a bunch of quick wins? Maybe doing easier things first will help with motivation?

In my opinion there’s no real debate here, it makes much more sense to me to do the tough stuff first.  Tiny tasks help create for you an overinflated sense of accomplishment.  And the trouble with feeling accomplished, is that we tend to slow down or stop all together, because subconsciously it feels like the work is already done.

You feel proud, so you get up from your desk to flirt with the receptionist again.  Shame on you.

Had you devoted three hours to your research in the morning like Aaron told you, the receptionist would have left for lunch by the time you finished.  Which means you get to stay happily married.  You’re welcome.

As an example, today I got up, pulled out my list of things to do, said to myself, “well all of that certainly isn’t going to get done,” then I picked four things that I would be happy with completing.  I chose to block out time for writing first, as creative work can be a big drain.  After this I’ll check in with a couple of our clients, and suprise them with a bonus I’ve been secretly working on for them, and then I’ll do some basic scheduling for the next couple of weeks.

 

Returning to the CV, you might start by focusing on, “What do I want?” asking yourself what it would take to get clear on that.  If you’ve had consistent problems answering this question in the past, before you get stuck again not knowing where you want to go in life, you could make a note to talk to a mentor or schedule a session with a great coach to help you get clarity here.

Then comes, “Where should I look?” Before punching in any URL, you first, write down all the different places you might find some useful leads.  That list might include, LinkedIn and echinacities, though it may also include a few names of people that could point you in the direction of some opportunities that haven’t even been advertised yet.  Top performers know that the best jobs get filled before they are even announced. These are my favorite people to coach, and I love helping others to think and act like these top performers.  Yet I digress…

In the end, just imagine all of the points we could get trapped in sorting through all of the tiny details.  We can easily loose track of the big picture.  Details are important, and going broad first will help make sure that your most ingenious ideas are getting center stage.

I’ll invite you to consider, the next major project that you have coming up.  If you were to take half an hour to disconnect from the world to chunk and prioritize like you’ve just read, how would you go about doing it?  With your thinking clearer, how much more do you think you could get done?

A question for you…

Who do you know who has said they are overloaded?  I bet they would appreciate any upper hand that they could get, so show that you care, and share!

~Stay Excellent

Aaron & China NLP