Tag Archives: focus

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.

Preframing and Pre-suasion: Shifting attention to get what you want

02 May 17
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How are you using your most precious resource?Cialdini literally wrote the book on Influence. Last year his long awaited followup was released: Pre-suasion. That Amy Cuddy (Presence), Adam Grant (Originals) and Richard Thaler (Nudge) have written endorsements suggests there’s probably something good there. Much of it validates (often by little more than rephrasing) what we train as NLP but I wanted to share with you a few things that relate directly to what we do in NLP: The primacy of attention, the importance of preframing and the dangers of channelled attention.

Cialdini emphasises the importance of attention: What we are noticing in any given moment becomes our experience. In a sense, your attention is your most precious resource. Whether you are being mindful or distracted, focused or relaxed, focusing on what you resent or what you feel grateful for in this moment, attention is our ultimate currency, our purest resource.

John Grinder talks about “training attention” being the cutting edge or even next generation of NLP, which is something that we explore as “Attention Training” in our trainings.

So how can we influence attention? How can we help guide our listener to be receptive to our messages and open to the important ideas we want to convey?

Cialdini’s answer is that the best communicators are the best because of the way they frame their message, preparing their recipients to be receptive to a message in advance: Great communicators preframe.

Preframing frontloads the attention and thought patterns of the recipient, priming them to be receptive to your message. Preframing is the set before the spike, the foundations before the walls, the training before the competition. The introduction for the speaker. A special moment in a movie is made more special by the music that prepare us.

Preframing makes everything that follows easier and more effective. We all know that a first impression lasts but we often forget that we are always making that first impression.

Focus inflates perceived importance

The few bits of information to which we are paying attention in that moment become more persuasive and influential simply because we are noticing them.

A distinguishing characteristics of many ‘masters’ of a domain is that they see the best move first. Masters tend to unconsciously know the answer and then work backwards to the present moment. Whether in chess or maths or business, real masters of a domain seem to ‘just know’ the answers, or at least can cut through to the most critical assumptions to test and questions to ask. The novice – including the novice who will eventually become a master – will see one move, perhaps a good move, but only sometimes will it be that best move. Because in noticing that first move we are all blinded to the other alternatives.

My son is a keen chess player. A local International Master coached him recently and complimented him on how my son saw the whole board rather than fixating upon one area or another. (If only he did that more consistently in his games, when he falls into the trap of channelled attention just like the rest of us!) So by consistently having him practice seeing at least two or three other reasonable moves, he can train himself to look beyond the tendency to be blinded by the first thing that he sees and more habitually consider the alternatives that will allow him to make even better decisions.

Some key points:

  • What you focus upon becomes important and influential in your thinking. Carefully choose how you use your attention and consider how you can train yourself to more effectively use your attention. So: How well are you using your attention?
  • Preframing or “Presusasion” allows us to be better communicators by priming the ideas and associations that we want our listeners to make. This helps them be open to our message, understand our message and ultimately can allow us to be more persuasive. So: Learn to deliberately preframe.
  • Channelled attention biases us to treat what we are noticing and paying attention to as being more important. We can train ourselves to consider a fuller range of issues to make better decisions while remembering that our listeners are strictly limited in what they are noticing. And what they notice becomes their reality. So: Train your attention.

Influence and Pre-suasion are great reads. To learn about how to put these skills into action, to be more effective in whatever you are doing, find a way to learn more. Our next trainings are coming up in June and it would be great to have you there.