A Little Mindfulness Goes a Long Way

You walk in for your appointment.

You greet the receptionist. She says, “Just have a seat. We’ll call you when we’re ready.” You turn around and there are three chairs, two of them already occupied by people reading a magazine or looking at their phone. You take the empty seat and wait.

A few minutes later a woman on crutches, with a clunky orthopedic boot on, comes hobbling down the corridor toward the waiting room. She struggles with the door, enters, looks around, and seeing no empty chairs, she slumps against the wall, wincing in pain.

What do you do? Do you stand up and hold the door for her? Do you offer her your seat? Of course you do, right? That’s what any conscientious and thoughtful person would do. In fact, when David DeSteno and his researchers asked people what they would do in that circumstance, the overwhelming majority said they would stand and offer their seat.

Then they staged the experiment, with an actor on crutches and actors in the other chairs instructed to ignore the injured woman. Initially, they picked 19 people to go through the experiment. The participants thought they were in a room waiting for the experiment to begin, but the waiting room was the experiment. Of those 19 people, only 3 actually stood and offered to help. Three. That’s 16%. The researchers were so surprised they repeated the study and got the same results.

I know. It’s appalling. But in his research, DeSteno admits that they stacked the deck a little. Since the other actors were told to ignore the person on crutches, they had set up a classic bystander effect in which it’s hard to act against the behavior of those around them.

But still, 16%? That’s pretty disappointing. Then the researchers added just one change to the experiment. The next group of research participants were asked to engage in eight weeks of meditation training before they entered the waiting room. For eight weeks participants met regularly with Buddhist master Lama Willa Miller who offered instruction and guidance in meditation practice. Lama Miller also provided audio recordings for participants to practice at home.

That’s it. That’s the only difference. All participants had no prior meditation experience at all. Half of the participants meditated regularly for eights weeks. The other half did not. The results? Fifty percent (50%) of the group that meditated acknowledged the woman’s distress, stood up, engaged her in conversation, helped her with the door, and offered her their chair.

DeSteno has been researching the impact of regular mindfulness practice on human behavior for years, and what he has discovered is that simple meditation and mindfulness leads consistently to empathy and compassion for others. That compassion for others leads to a sense of self-control, willingness, and ability to make a difference to others.

In short, then, our research suggests that mindfulness’s most profound benefit may not be the one that’s most often touted—adapting to a stressful, competitive, even unkind 24/7 world. Instead, meditation might fundamentally alter how we treat those around us.
– David DeSteno, Ph.D.

Don’t be put off or intimidated by the idea of meditation. You don’t have to get into the lotus position, invoke a deity, and unlock your third eye chakra. The basic ingredients of meditation are simple and readily available – even in the midst of a crazy day. You need only a quiet place, focused attention, relaxed breathing, a comfortable position, and an open attitude.

Grab a copy of David DeSteno’s book here. It’s packed with research and ideas on the power of leveraging emotion – not just sheer willpower – to live a more connected and fulfilling life.

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Our company Mindscaling, is busy building powerful human and digital learning experiences for companies of all sizes. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, is a Washington Post bestseller! You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? I love to work with groups large and small. Let’s talk.

In other news, our son and I bicycled across America with two other dads and their teenagers. We published a new book about it called Chasing Dawn. I co-authored the book with my cycling companion, the artist, photographer, and wonderful human jon holloway. Buy a copy. I’ll sign it and send it to your doorstep.

Passion Doesn’t Appear. You Create It.

Do you know anyone who has been called ‘gifted’? Anyone ever call you a ‘natural’? To begin with, being called gifted or a genius at anything can be a curse. It can also set you up for a nasty case of Imposter Syndrome.

I’m suggesting that not many people start out being “gifted” at much of anything. We develop interests. Interests lead to dedication and work. The work pays off. We get skilled. We deepen our focus. We get even better. Now we’ve developed a passion that someone else starts to call a gift. But the passion started with work.

Some studies designate only the top 3% as actually gifted. But even among those identified as gifted and talented, there is quite a bit of debate about how to handle them, and guide them in development.

The one thing that is clear is that ‘giftedness’ presents itself in different ways. IQ tests alone can benefit students from particular backgrounds and be biased for cultural specificity. For example, you could take a highly intelligent person from the Amazon rainforest who can identify and correctly use medicinal plants, and yet they might be baffled by a standard IQ question such as: “4, 9, 16, 25, 36, ?, 64. What number is missing from the sequence?” (Answer and explanation here.)

Back to the point: While people might start with a mental or physical attribute that allows them to be more inclined toward excellence at something, the truth is that almost all of the excellence you may witness is generated by hard work and showing up day after day to put in the hours. Passion doesn’t often arrive fully formed, but instead is cultivated over time.

Evidence also suggests that we learn what we are passionate about not through dogged persistence of one singular goal, but through experimentation, failure, learning, and then moving on. David Epstein chronicles the story of Roger Federer who, unlike the Tiger Woods story, did not specialize in tennis at all. In fact, Federer bounced from swimming to badminton to soccer to skateboarding before finally deciding to pursue tennis. Epstein calls this a “sampling period” and argues it’s much more common that the heralded stories of Tiger Woods.

Not only is the sampling period important, but the simple fact of allowing the child to choose the sport, or the instrument, or the academic area, or the profession, or whatever – is critically important to maintaining and developing that passion. This allowing-my-kid-to-quit debate has certainly struck a nerve with some people. I have some thoughts on the matter as well.

There is some evidence to suggest that if you’re on the fence, maybe you should take the leap and quit. Steven Levitt, the author of Freakonomics, conducted a study online in which participants who were considering a career change could flip a coin, heads for quit and tails for stay. He found that six months later, those who flipped heads and changed jobs reported that they were substantially happier. (The more consumer friendly podcast version is here)

We know Vincent van Gogh as a famously gifted artist. But he didn’t decide to paint until he was 27. Prior to that he studied theology, worked as a clerk, a bookseller, and aid to an art dealer. It seems the strongest path to finding your passion is not determined specialization, but instead intentional exploration. Consider that Nobel laureates in science are 22 times more likely to have artistic pursuits outside their field, than their less recognized colleagues.

Stay curious my friends.

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Our company Mindscaling, is busy building powerful human and digital learning experiences for companies of all sizes. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, is a Washington Post bestseller! You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? I love to work with groups large and small. Let’s talk.

In other news, our son and I bicycled across America with two other dads and their teenagers. We published a new book about it called Chasing Dawn. I co-authored the book with my cycling companion, the artist, photographer, and wonderful human jon holloway. Buy a copy. I’ll sign it and send it to your doorstep.

Small Acts of Leadership: You Can Ask for More Than You Think

Transcript:
– [Narrator] Have you ever asked for more and then instantly regretted asking? Like asking for more responsibility or promotion and immediately feeling like you are not worthy? Try to move beyond it. Research suggests you can ask for more than you think.

– People who are seen by others as getting assertiveness right often mistakenly think they’ve gotten it wrong. In 2014, there was a study by some students at Columbia Business School and they’ve found that 57% of those who believed that they were appropriately assertive in their requests, their negotiations, their conversations, they were actually seen by the other party as not really very assertive at all and not really very demanding at all. In other words, more than half didn’t ask for enough. On the other hand, those who believed that they’ve been overly assertive, overly demanding in their requests, they often fall victim to believing they’ve crossed the line, they’ve gone too far, they’ve overstepped their bounds, and the result is that they backpedal. They try to smooth things over. They try to acquiesce. They accept a lesser deal, and that’s a bummer, because in the study, those who were assertive and demanding were often then interpreted by the other party as being very fair, very appropriate. According to the research, we should go for it. We should ask for a little more. We should not back off, and we should not feel badly about what we do ask for. The research tells us you can ask for more, and you are probably more valuable than you think.

– [Narrator] Terry’s team is under a lot of pressure to meet tight deadlines. He has noticed many team members are stressed and overtired. Terry decides to ask the client for some extra time in delivering a project deadline. This request seemed perfectly logical to the client, and Terry’s team felt relieved and grateful. Take a small step in learning to ask for more. Maybe something simple in a coffee shop, a store, or a hotel. Identify something that would greatly improve the quality of your experience. Make the request reasonable, but don’t apologize or backpedal. If you ask for it and get it, be grateful. And if you ask for it and get turned down, think about what you can do differently next time.

Small Acts of Leadership: Nourish Your Team

Transcript
This is a true story. Rona Cant is an adventurer. She taught me something kind of fascinating about dog sledding deep in the northern wilderness of Norway. Each evening on her expedition, her team of three sleds and 28 dogs, they’d usually camp near a frozen lake or maybe a river, and while her traveling partner Cathy put up the tents, Rona, she’d build a fire and she would untether the dogs and inspect each and every one of them for cuts, for injuries, for soreness. And their guide, his name is Per Thore, he would take this huge auger and he would go out onto the ice and he would drill a hole through almost a meter of ice to retrieve fresh water and then Rona, she would hike out to the well through waist deep snow and ladle 40 liters of water into these plastic containers. She’d haul them back to the campsite.

Several more trips were required to deliver all the water to the spot by the fire, where Per Thore was busy sawing chunks of frozen reindeer meat to then mix with some dry food and the water to set over the campfire and make a stew, and it was all for the dogs. The dogs required more than 60 kilos of food every single day. And then finally, Rona would return to the hole in the ice one last time to retrieve 10 liters of water for the humans. You see, only after the dogs were fed and cared for would the three adventurers take their first sip of water and the reason is obvious. Without your team in the wilderness, you die. Without your team, you are going nowhere. They are the engine that makes the expedition possible and without their health, their well being, their rest, their focus, all is lost.

Nourish your people first. The only difference between ordinary and extraordinary is the strength and the conviction of our teams. Teams can take us places that we can only dream of alone.

You may not be racing a team of dogs through the wilderness, but as a leader, you must always nurture your team or your projects will be stuck and lost in the woods. Sanjay’s team has had many disappointments lately. Product tests have failed, systems crashed, and it takes a lot of time to get the operation up and running. What the team needs is support and lots of it. Sanjay knows he cannot solve these problems alone, and he needs to stop and support his team so they can be at their best. Play the video clip for your team. Ask them to think creatively about what nourishes them, what makes them strong and healthy enough to work together every day. Together, think of a few things that leaders can do more regularly to keep the team strong.

The Subtle Art of Being Direct Instead of Being Blunt

“If you want to get your point across, be direct; if you want to destroy any chance of doing so, be blunt.”
– Mark Goulston, Ph.D.

Have you read any David Sedaris? Or better, have you seen one of his shows? The things he says are appalling. My wife and I went to see Sedaris recently. He stands at a lectern and reads his own material in a fairly deadpan manner. In the first few minutes I thought it might be boring. Oh, was I wrong.

He says things out loud in front of a thousand strangers that most people would blush just thinking about. He says things that leave you gobsmacked, wondering, “Did he just say that?” It’s a kind of shock theater he is especially good at.

We go to comedy hour or the theatre to hear something surprising or alarming or shocking. But we don’t go to work to hear our colleagues be crass or rude or smart-ass.

There’s a subtle difference between being blunt and being direct. Think of these two things in terms of tools. A sledgehammer is a blunt force tool. Needle-nose pliers or wood planes require subtle care, even artistry, to use well. It’s the same idea with words. Remember, the words we use not only shape other people’s impression and reaction to us, our words also shape the way we think and act in the world. Choose well, and use words with care.

I’ve been re-reading Goulston’s book Get Out of Your Own Way, and he has some great advice for trying to discern between being blunt and being direct.

  • Slow down. The next time you think about barking out a response or shooting from the hip, take a deep breath and sit up straight. Those two little things will slow you down, and help you think.
  • Respect boundaries. You may think someone else’s boundaries are stupid, but respect them. If you colleague says they want a quiet hour to get something done, give them that space. You may only have a quick, easy question, but that small disruption could derail their thought and energy.
  • You do care. When you get ready to spout off about something and you think to yourself, “I don’t give a damn what they think.” Think again. If you really didn’t care you would walk away. Ask yourself instead, “Why am I trying to get a reaction out of them?” You might have a good reason, and you might craft that comment better.
  • WWJD? What would ______ do? It doesn’t have to be Jesus, of course. Think of someone you love and admire, and ask yourself, “What would they do in this situation?” Do that instead.

Remember, you’re an artist, not a rock-smasher. When interacting with other people, you want influence, and influence starts with empathy and understanding.

Learn how to be confident, consistent, and calm in the middle of chaos by elevating your leadership presence. Check out the Art of Leadership Presence from Mindscaling.

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Our company Mindscaling, is busy building powerful human and digital learning experiences for companies of all sizes. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, is a Washington Post bestseller! You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? I love to work with groups large and small. Let’s talk.

Last summer, my son and I bicycled across America with two other dads and their teenagers. We published a new book about it called Chasing Dawn. I co-authored the book with my cycling companion, the artist, photographer, and wonderful human jon holloway. Buy a copy. I’ll sign it and send it to your doorstep.

What’s Your Habit Trigger?

“In a nutshell, advice is overrated. I can tell you something, and it’s got a limited chance of making its way into your brain’s hippocampus, the region that encodes memory. If I can ask you a question and you generate the answer yourself, the odds increase substantially.” – Michael Bungay Stanier

Recently, I had a habit I was trying to get rid of. Sometimes I was in a bad mood in the morning. It’s a drag. It affects everyone in the house and sets me up for a distracted, frustrated day.

One morning, my wife’s alarm went off at 6:15am, which is fine since it’s not my alarm. It’s her alarm. I don’t use alarms. Don’t be impressed, I just don’t need one. If I want to wake up, at maybe 6:30am, I just tell myself to and I will open my eyes at 6:29am. It’s not a superpower, it’s just a thing I have. I can’t remember the last time I set an alarm.

So when my wife’s alarm goes off at 6:15am, it can’t be for me because, like I said, I don’t set alarms. Then she says, “We should help get Annie ready for the bus.” But I don’t hear we. In my mind I hear, “You have to get up and get Annie ready for the bus.”

So I get annoyed and say, “What would you like me to do?” Which instantly I know is a stupid thing to say becomes it comes from a place of resentment. To which she says, “I don’t want you to do anything. I want you to do whatever you want to do.” She’s smart that way. She doesn’t get baited easily.

Now my day is now only 60 seconds old and already I’m annoyed. I close my eyes and ask myself a new question, what is the most useful thing I could do right now? Then I answer myself, the most useful thing I could do right now is gently wake up Annie, make the coffee, and prepare her breakfast. So that’s what I do.

And suddenly I’m not frustrated, resentful and annoyed, because all of my actions have a different intention. My motivation is to be helpful, not to satisfy what I imagine to be someone else’s expectations. If the goal is to be helpful there’s nothing to be resentful about. By recognizing what triggers my bad mood, and then choosing a different response to that trigger, I changed my outlook and changed my day.

Take a tip from a master of understanding habits, Charles Duhigg. In order to change a habit, we first have to:

Understand the trigger. According to Duhigg there are only 5 types of habit triggers: location, time, emotion, people, and the preceding action. The goal is to be as specific as possible in identifying the trigger. For example, “I get annoyed (emotion) when my boss Sally (person) reviews my project report each week (time).”

Next identify the usual response. So if your usual response is to make a smart-ass comment to Sally and then fall into a funk for the next hour and complain to your colleagues, you should clearly outline and understand, with as much detail as you can imagine, what your habitual response is. Envision what you usually do each week when the trigger occurs.

Finally, define a new behavior. Envision reacting to that trigger in a new way. Again, be specific and imagine something that takes very little time, only a minute or less. Imagine your very first response being different. For example when responding to Sally, you might say “How would you approach this problem?” And then really listen to the answer. Don’t wait for your turn to talk. Listen to what Sally has to say. If you think her suggestion isn’t constructive, instead of reacting, keep your remarks to yourself, then let it go.

Remember you can’t change someone else, that’s up to them, but you can have a new response and develop a new habit whenever you’re around them.

When we change our questions, we change the way we see the world. We change the results. See Question Thinking with Marilee Adams. Message me and I’ll send access to preview the course. It’s awesome.

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SmallActs-3DShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Routledge) just released. You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

What were you doing back in the day?

Most of us move through the day without recognizing the alternatives we have and actively deciding among them. As a result, we give up the feeling of control and mastery to mindfully create options and then select among them. – Ellen Langer, Ph.D.

I keep thinking lately that these are the good ol’ days. Right now. What if we could bottle up these moments and not just gaze longingly at them as memories, but instead live the best version of ourselves every day?

Many of us can pick a point in the past and remember a strong, confident version of ourselves. Think back twenty years. Here are some cues. Twenty years ago Alanis Morissette won the American Music Awards, Princess Diana had just died in August in a car crash, the Dow Jones index closed at just over 7000, Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear off, scientists cloned a sheep named Dolly, and the movie Titanic became the biggest box office release of all time. What were you doing then that made you feel stronger, sharper, and more alive? Did you go to the gym more? Travel more? Got a positive image in your mind of yourself back then?

Instead of reminiscing about our past selves, what if we picked up those positive habits and behaved that way today? Ellen Langer performed exactly this experiment on a group of older men in 1981. She, and her colleagues, selected a group of men in their 70s and 80s and took them to a place in New Hampshire which was renovated to look and feel exactly like 1959, twenty-two years earlier. They scattered books and magazines from 1959 around the house. They removed all of the mirrors, and decorated the house to look and feel exactly as if it was 1959, complete with vinyl records, a phonograph, and a black and white television.

To add to the sense of realism, she played “live” radio broadcasts of news reports, of baseball games, and a “live” reporting of Royal Orbit winning the Preakness horse race. The participants were instructed not to reminisce about the past, but to interact and speak to each other, as best they could, as if it really was 1959. They were asked to discuss the plane crash that “just recently” killed Buddy Holly, the importance of Hawaii becoming the 50th state in the union, and the Mercury 7 astronauts. As the week went on, the participants got deeper and deeper into living, and becoming, their past selves.

Before the experiment participants were given a battery of physical and cognitive tests to evaluate them on a variety of variables such as physical flexibility and strength, eyesight, posture, memory, attitude, and outlook.

The results were astonishing. Every single participant showed physical and mental improvement. Their posture got better, their eyesight improved. Their sense of smell, taste and hearing improved. They laughed more. Even their shoulders became more broad as they stood straighter, and their fingers got longer and less arthritic. Ellen Langer was so surprised by her findings that she underreported the results, thinking people wouldn’t believe her. At the time she didn’t report the spontaneous touch football game that happened on the last day on the front lawn. Some of the participants entered the experiment using canes.

Ellen Langer came to believe that we can transform ourselves through our mindset, our environment, and the intentional actions which reinforce our outlook on life. She has conducted similar studies over the past thirty years to demonstrate the power of our minds, and how we conduct ourselves, to show that our attitudes and behavior have significant impacts on our lives, and in turn, the lives of those around us.

In another study she asked nursing home residents to choose plants, assume responsibility for them, and decide how and when to water and care for each plant. She told a separate group of residents that she was placing plants around the facility and not to worry about them. The attendants would care for them. Eighteen months later, the people who intentionally and purposefully assumed responsibility for the plants were not only happier and more healthy, they were alive. More than twice the number of people in the other group had died during that period of time.

Langer believes the key to these personal successes in her studies is intentional mindfulness, which she defines as “a flexible state of mind in which we are actively engaged in the present, noticing new things.” In her explanation it does not necessarily require deep meditation (although that can help), it simply means being present and open to noticing new things.

Changing contexts and expectations can change results. An eye chart, for example, practically shouts out your limitations. You know that as the lines of letters get smaller and smaller, you won’t be able to read them, so you give up earlier. Langer did an experiment in which she simply turned the chart upside down and asked people to read from the bottom up. She revealed that by simply changing the experience and expectation, people can read smaller letters, and their eyesight is better, than they expected.

“Once you’ve seen there is another perspective, you can never not see that there’s another point of view.” – Ellen Langer, Ph.D.

You know there’s another way to see and experience the world. You’ve done it before. Try searching your past. Recollect, and envision deeply, a moment when you were at your best. As Tim Sanders likes to say, “What were you doing back in the day, that you’re not doing today?”

To learn the art of improv, and how to stay calm in chaos, see The Art of Leadership Presence with Karen Hough. Message me and I’ll send access to preview the course. It’s awesome.

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SmallActs-3DShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Routledge) just released. You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

Never Believe You Are Helpless

“You must never confuse the faith that you will prevail in the end… with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.”

That quote comes from U.S. Navy Admiral James Stockdale, who was captured by the Vietnamese, tortured over twenty times, and imprisoned for eight years during the Vietnam War. During that time he observed that those POWs with a deep sense of pessimism and dread would lose hope, succumb to their conditions, and eventually die.

But he also observed those who were wildly optimistic eventually became overwhelmed with despair, and false hope. According to Stockdale,

“They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

This is also why the feel-good self-esteem movement started in the 1960s may not have worked out as planned. Simply feeling good about yourself doesn’t necessarily translate to a higher sense of capability. To put it another way, according to psychologist Martin Seligman, the feel-good self-esteem movement made “competition” a dirty word.

There is very little evidence that simply feeling good about oneself causes better grades, better work performance, or better thinking. Instead we should be focusing on self-efficacy – the strength of our belief in our own abilities to reach our goals and achieve our potential.

Those who persevere in the face of daunting obstacles are those who have a sense of realistic idealism. They have the ability to visualize and identify an ideal outcome, yet also an ability to realistically face challenges, including the unexpected challenges which will surely arise.

Another trait of those who possess realistic optimism is they lift other people up. During the depths of despair during their incarceration, James Stockdale used an alphabetic communication code by tapping on the walls of the prison cells. In this way the prisoners were able to communicate and not feel completely isolated in captivity.

Our world view is not simply a fixed condition of our situation. We have the power to choose our reaction to changing circumstances, and also to decide whether or not we have the ability to make a difference.

Pessimists, on the other hand, believe that bad events are someone’s fault, will last a long time, and undermine everything.

When things go sideways, remember that circumstances are temporary, local, and situational. It won’t last forever, it’s not everywhere, and it’s not someone’s fault.

Remember James Stockdale. Believing you can make a difference is a choice.

  • In Mindscaling’s newest course, Karen Hough teaches you how to lead in chaos. Check out The Art of Leadership Presence. Message me and I’ll send access to preview the first module of the course. It’s awesome.
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SmallActs-3DShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Routledge) just released. You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

The United Airlines Crisis of Human Dignity

Someone working in that situation should have had the strength and presence to say, “Hold up a minute. We don’t do that. We don’t treat people like that. It’s not who we are.”

The United Airlines event yesterday was an attack on human dignity, the most basic of human needs. The people staffing that flight and gate could have averted the horrific scene of dragging someone from the plane by putting human respect and integrity before United’s business interests.

Human dignity is the basis of human rights, the basis of civility and social structure, the center of our identity, the foundation of who we are. China is outraged. We should all be appalled.

It wasn’t just the unfolding of the event itself, but also the way in which United Airlines defended the action in an internal statement to employees. The language in the statement is defensive, suggesting the event was “unfortunate”, while United employees “politely asked”, the passenger “refused.” The whole statement is defensive instead of apologetic. In part, it says:

Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.

What saddens us the most is the motivation of United Airlines. After the gross incompetence of overbooking the flight, United made a business decision to prioritize their own crew over a paying customer. The rationale for removing several passengers was so a crew could be transported to service a flight out of Louisville to maintain their business operations.

Apparently since the crew on board didn’t have the leadership and emotional intelligence to change their decisions in the face of a growing human crisis, they called the Chicago police to remove the man for them. The official statement later wouldn’t address the incident directly, but instead directed people to the Chicago police for answers.

There were numerous other choices in that circumstance. United could have attempted to assign a different crew for the Louisville flight, offered higher incentives, delayed longer, etc. But most importantly, United employees on that plane and at that gate could have been trained by their leadership and reinforced by their company culture, to make discretionary decisions in the moment which respect the dignity of each and every person.

The definition of a steward is a person who looks after the passengers on a ship, aircraft, or train, and cares for their well-being. Stewardship is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.

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SmallActs-3DShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Routledge) just released. You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com

You Can Reduce Election Stress and Up Your Game

Your value to an organization is not in the hours you clock, the number of emails you flip, slide decks you build, and it’s certainly not in the air miles you punch to get in Zone 1 boarding.

Your value is in the creative energy and impact you bring to the table. The only way we can consistently and effectively bring our best ideas, and our greatest impact to work is if we believe our work matters, and if we believe our actions make a positive difference.

But it’s a stressful time right now. What with the election looming, it’s easy to get distracted and compulsively check the poll numbers (link not provided, check it later).

Over half of Americans are more stressed out now than a year ago. Fifty-two percent of Americans claim that the election is a “very or somewhat significant source of stress,” according to the American Psychological Association.

And when we are compulsively checking social media, we are creating yet more distracted anxiety, which in turn reduces our ability to think clearly, deeply, and coherently on our work. It’s a self-defeating downward spiral.

It’s well understood that high levels of chronic and acute stress impair our ability to think creatively, solve complex problems, and generate meaningful ideas. Stress is a response to a trigger, a circumstance, a rapidly changing environment, or a negative thought. How we react to these triggers can be the difference between positive or negative emotional states.

We can insulate ourselves against these stresses, and increase our effectiveness and impact. For example, public speaking is widely known to be one of the most stressful circumstances we encounter. It’s such a reliable way to induce stress that there is a test named after it called the Trier Social Stress Test.

Here’s how it works in one experiment:

Eighty-five people were asked to prepare a five minute speech on “why I would be a good candidate for an administrative assistant position at __________ university.” Then, they had to deliver their speech to a panel of stern, unwelcoming evaluators. And finally, if that wasn’t quite enough stress, participants were asked to count backwards from 2,083 by 13s for 5 min under harassing conditions. The evaluators would frown, and constantly ask them to go faster.

After the experience, researchers measured the saliva of participants for cortisol, and other stress markers. Those who were asked, prior to the test, to thoughtfully reflect on their own most important personal values, had lower levels of stress during, and after, the experience.

Lower stress also improves our creative impact. In another study, David Crewswell and his colleagues worked with seventy-three people between the ages of 18 and 34 and gave them a series of creative tests that go like this:

Read these three words: flake, mobile, cone. Now, think of a word that, when combined with all three, make a new word. The word “snow” works, because we can now create snow-flake, snow-mobile, and snow-cone. The task requires creative thinking. It requires a little focus and thoughtfulness, which is the kind of thinking we need every day in our work.

Before each small creative task, half of the group was asked to reflect on values most important to them such as family relationships, artistic ability, independence, religious values or other aspects of their life that they valued deeply. These reflections of self-affirmation had a stress-protective effect on their performance.

Every meeting we have, phone call we place, report we prepare, or presentation we deliver, is a performance opportunity. It’s an opportunity to bring our very best ideas, and impact to our work. When we take a moment to reflect on the values and relationships we hold dear to our identity, it reduces our stress, and increases our impact.

To learn more about adopting a growth mindset, and upping your game at work:

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SmallActs-3DShawn Hunter is President and Founder of Mindscaling, a company building beautiful online learning courses based on the work of best-selling authors. My new book Small Acts of Leadership, (Routledge) just released. You can grab a copy now. Have a meeting coming up? Let’s talk.

Twitter: @gshunter
Say hello: email@gshunter.com
Web: www.shawnhunter.com