How to Get the Most “People Power” from Your Conference (Part 1)

Most people have a certain number of conferences and trade shows they must attend during the year. Attitudes can range from “have to go” to “want to go.” If you’re an extrovert, chances are you’ll welcome the opportunity to socialize and connect with other people. And if you’re an introvert, you’ll likely struggle to stay focused as you contend with sensory overload.  Regardless of personality type, time spent at a conference is a waste if you fail to remain “plugged in” and follow up with contacts when you return home. 

It’s not really about the number of business cards you collect or how much you network. Your goal is to develop relationships with potential colleagues and clients. 

In today’s fast-paced business environment, social contacts often generate new business opportunities. Once you open up to people and connect, you unleash creative energy and power. 

This may happen naturally…or not at all. So, what can you do to pave the way for conference success? Here are some tips for making the most of your experience, maximizing its value through personal contacts. 

1.Be identifiable. Make sure your name badge is easily seen by others. You may have to attach it near your collar or face so others aren’t forced to scan your entire body to locate the end of a lanyard. Secure it so it doesn’t twist or dangle backward.

2.Be identifiable, part 2. Bring your own button or name tag, to be worn alongside the event’s name badge. (Nothing wrong with overkill here.) This serves as a conversation starter. Placing an unusual title after your name, such as Chief Idea Person or Chief Implementer, often spurs people to ask questions about your job.

3.Be identifiable, part 3. Hand out biz cards to everyone you meet — right away — and ask for theirs. If you wait, a distraction may preempt contact. Of course, be sure you have plenty of cards on hand.

4.Be bold. Don’t wait! Take the lead and introduce yourself to people at your table, in line or wherever you’re waiting. You never know who you’ll meet!

(A note of caution: We don’t advise doing this in the bathroom line, as people aren’t relaxed when they’re on a mission. Use nonverbal cues to determine how open people are to a “meet- and-greet.”)

5.Be prepared with a gift or handout. If available, bring a CD or booklet that contains information about you — something of value that demonstrates your knowledge. If you’ve written a book, hand out copies to special people with whom you have a connection.

6.Get other people’s biz cards. Ask if you can email them. Ezines are a great way to follow up after a conference, but don’t add anyone to your subscriber list without securing permission.

 You can write: “Here’s that report I was telling you about. If you’d like more information, we have an ezine. You can subscribe by clicking here…”

Come back to this blog tomorrow for more tips and the conclusion.

The Snowball Effect:Start Change Now (part 2)

To read Part One – Click Here

The Problem with Problems

Focus on what’s broken, and you’ll come up with a long list of things that need to be fixed. In reality, you can’t always fix everything. Sometimes there’s simply no time, budget or realistic deadline for a major overhaul.

Some things may never be completely fixed, and you’ll have to tolerate them – but this doesn’t exclude picking one key behavioral change that can vastly improve both short- and long-term results.

Marcus Buckingham, author of Go Find Your Strengths, urges readers to make the most of their strengths, rather than obsessing over their weaknesses. Despite our natural human tendency to focus on the negative, we can make an effort to override it.

Follow Your Bright Spots

Start by identifying what is working, and do more of it. Clone the behaviors that get optimum results, and set new goals that continue to up the ante.

Many people believe change is hard and must be complicated. Psychotherapy, as originally designed, involved three to five weekly sessions, during which people discussed their thoughts over several years. But people rarely made behavioral changes; they just began to understand why they behaved in certain ways.

More recently, through techniques like Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, people are defining their key strengths, identifying what’s working and following action plans.
By doing more of the little things that work, they create better relationships and successful behavioral changes. When you ask, “What’s working, and how can you do more of it?”you enjoy better results in less time.

Start with the Beginning in Mind

Perhaps the famous Stephen Covey maxim, “Begin with the end in mind,” needs to be revised: Start with the beginning and the end in mind.

Both are important. Without a destination goal, it’s harder to stay motivated and on track.

In researching their classic business book Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry Porras discovered that solid companies with sustained success had BHAGs: big, hairy, audacious goals.

Goals need to be specific and evoke emotions. Use both your rational and emotional brain when setting goals so they make sense and connect to strong desires.

Unleash the Snowball Effect

  1. Identify which behaviors work better than others.
  2. Investigate and then clone successes.
  3. Start with a small change, and make it specific.
  4. Give yourself direction by providing your start and finish.
  5. Energize yourself by identifying the feelings of the finish.
  6. Cultivate a sense of identity that reflects your new growth.
  7. Change your situation; tweak your environment, as needed.
  8. Build habits. When something works, repeat it.
  9. Get support. Behavior is contagious, so help it spread.

The Snowball Effect:Start Change Now (part 1)

To effect change, you must do something differently.

It starts with you. Do it right, and you’ll enjoy a snowball effect that helps your team, direct reports and even family members implement change.

While many books have covered organizational change, business school professors Chip and Dan Heath cover the patterns all successful change efforts have in common in Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (2010).

The Heaths avoid looking at the history of failed changes. Instead, they share stories of spectacular changes that worked because execution built upon prior achievements.

In researching significant social, educational, governmental, marital and organizational changes, the professors came up with a framework that anyone can apply in real-world business situations.

First Steps

In many ways, the first small steps you take to change your behavior are the most important. Once you initiate change, it seems to feed on itself, as two psychological triggers are at work:

  1. The mere exposure effect: The more you’re exposed to something, the more you like it. Initially unwelcome change efforts will gradually be perceived more favorably as people get used to them.
  2. Cognitive dissonance: Once people take small steps, it’s increasingly difficult for them to dislike how they act. We don’t like to act in one way and think in another. And once we begin to behave differently, our self-perception changes and our identity evolves, which reinforces our new approach.


The Snowball Effect

Such changes aren’t the result of “small wins.” Rather, they are automatic forces that kick in as time passes. It’s therefore essential to start as soon as possible and take advantage of the momentum.

While inertia and the status quo may exert an irresistible pull, at this point you need to muster the courage and just do it. Just get it started. Your first attempt doesn’t have to be perfect or complete. At some point, inertia will shift from resisting change to supporting it, and small changes will snowball into big changes.

Recognize up front that it’s human nature to focus on the negative. As you review the behavior you wish to change, it’s only natural to think of what’s not working.

When competing for brain space, bad thoughts easily beat out good ones.
In an exhaustive study of 558 words that represent emotions, 62 percent were negative versus 38 percent positive. When we learn something bad about someone, we pay closer attention to it and remember it longer. The negative receives greater weight when we assess a person.

In another analysis, researchers examined 17 studies concerning how people explained events in their lives. Across all domains-work, politics, sports, personal-people were more likely to spontaneously bring up negative events versus positive ones.

Continued Tomorow: Part Two including The Problem with Problems and Unleashing the Snowball Effect

The Rare Qualities of Leadership

 There’s a difference between a great leader and a notorious leader.

Lao-Tse, the great philosopher, said ‘the greatest leader of all is when the people say they did it  themselves’. A good leader needs to have four essential qualities – to be a good role model, be authentic, be a realist and be an enabler. Rare in combination, these aren’t tools or mindsets or prescriptions – they’re a foundation upon which to build a successful leadership style of your own.


First, you need to be a good role model. If you’re asking someone to do something really tough, would you be willing to do that yourself, have you done that yourself? Would you submit yourself to the very thing you’re asking someone else to submit themselves to? You must understand what they’re going through so you know when they need support, when they need consideration, or when they need a kick up the arse.

In the corporate world, people can achieve great results, but you can do so and trash the environment, trash the community or abuse privilege, so it’s actually easy in many ways to be successful, but to do so in a way that displays character and fine ethics and morals, what people would call the triple bottom line, is harder. Financially, environmentally and socially are the three bottom lines. Share price is determined not just on return on investment, but also on your reputation. If you want to be really mercenary about it, the moral side to business actually makes solid financial sense.

Environmentally and socially sound is financially sound. Especially in the long term. I don’t use notorious leaders as role models, because no leader is perfect. Any leader that is a good role model for someone may not be a good role model for someone else. Leadership is in the situation. There are going to be situations where you’re not a great leader. Leadership is fundamentally context dependent. Take for example, Rudy Giuliani, who emerged in the aftermath of 9/11 in a way that he’d never done before. His leadership came from an authentic love for his home town, at that moment.


Knowing who you are, understanding the good bits, the bad bits, the compromising bits and how you look through other people’s lenses and how that impacts them is crucial to good leadership. I don’t think Kerry Packer has any doubts who he is. He accepts the consequences. It’s when you don’t know who you are and you don’t accept the consequences, that’s when you get into trouble. 

Companies don’t necessarily want a particular style of leadership. They may say so, but what they want is effective relationships, they want results, outcomes, they want people staying, they want talented people around, and they want you to be flexible enough to deal with some quirky people. If you have diversity you cover all the angles, all perspectives. The same goes for leadership. A lot of the work that I do is to teach the mindset toenable people to be true to themselves and to be behaviourally flexible to be influential with lots of other types so you can actually embrace the diversity.

There are three main approaches to leadership:

  • The gung ho acerbic type who looks at the world only as results. It’s often effective, but if everyone looked at the world like that, we’d have a real problem.
  • Those who are sensitive to the human dynamic in all situations. That can be a very effective leadership style. But if you’re like that about everything, then it’s not as effective.
  • Another style is the analytic one, the person who likes to think about things deeply, then act on the given data.

If you break them down you can see that that one approach can be better than the others in a given situation. Thus it becomes obvious that you would want to have access to all these styles. A leader can be all three, but you will have tendency to one or the other. If you’re projecting something you’re not, then eventually you’ll break apart internally. You might be able to carry it off for a little bit, but these are the people who have heart attacks and breakdowns and engage in self-destructive behaviour. People who are like that don’t usually know they need to be authentic, but astute people do. They are realists.


The vast majority of human beings do not like facing reality. Reality terrifies people. We have this wonderful human device called denial. Most people think it’s someone else who lives in denial but most human beings live in some sort of denial all the time. You’re taught as children to be in denial, when your parents say ‘don’t do that!’. Denial is legitimised all the time.

Denial is a very powerful coping mechanism that we get really rehearsed in. To learn to face reality, the best thing is to be with people who face reality, who will tell you the truth. A realist understands things as they are, and looks to understand things as they are. They don’t pass any judgment about how people are. They say ‘if I want a particular outcome, what do I need to do to get it?’. You face the reality of what you’re dealing with, whether you like it or not.

Equally, a realist realises that if you don’t take into account people’s sensibilities when you’re helping them face reality, it’s not going to go anywhere either. Good leaders say, “This is reality. Now how are we going to face it? We’re not going to waste our time on things that waste our energy, we’re just going to face it, deal with it and move forward.” There are going to be difficulties – that’s a reality. What did you expect?

People feel far safer with leaders who face reality. But you can’t be a realist and effective unless you are also an enabler.


An enabler identifies what a person can do, where they are limited and what they need, to become unlimited in that area. An enabler allows people to fulfill the potential that you see inside them, even if they can’t see it themselves.

You have to remember, though, people’s right to choose. If they don’t want to be enabled, they don’t want to. The most enabling thing in that sort of situation is to help the person understand the choice they’re making and make them clear that that is the choice that they wanted to make.

Enabling is about helping people understand the choices that they make and making it clear the consequences of those choices. It doesn’t mean that you do it for them, often they do it themselves. Sometimes people want to make a choice that they’re not capable of making – they want to go down a path that they don’t have all the elements that will lead to that.

Enabling is really about testing people’s perceptions of reality and helping them make choices that fulfill what they actually want to achieve.


These four qualities are rare qualities to find in combination, but when you do, they should be treated as a gem. It’s not about having a particular personality type. It doesn’t matter what situation or person you’re dealing with, if you are both an enabler and a realist, authentic and a good role model. In 25 years of working with leaders, these are the things that I see actually produce leverage.

5 Biases That Lead to Bad Decisions (Part 4 of 4)

From the introduction: Each of us is susceptible to irrational behavior’s irresistible pull. Only when we gain insight into our irrationality can we see the extent to which it affects our work and personal lives. Fascinating patterns emerge, and we can master our behaviors and decisions when we connect the dots.

Too Much Information

Today’s 24/7 connectedness to information streams can prevent us from paying attention to what really matters. The brain’s prefrontal cortex can handle only limited facts and figures.

More information doesn’t always lead to better decisions, but gut feelings and emotions do. We must learn to sort out patterns in the most significant data.

Decision Effectiveness

Decisions are the lifeblood of action, and little gets done without them.

A recent Harvard Business Review article recommends a decision audit to identify key organizational needs:

“Ultimately, a company’s value is no more (and no less) than the sum of the decisions it makes and executes. Its assets, capabilities, and structure are useless unless executives and managers throughout the organization make the essential decisions and get those decisions right more often than not.” (Blenko, M., Mankins, M., & Rogers, P., “The Decision-Driven Organization,” Harvard Business Review, June, 2010)

Bain and Co. surveyed international executives from 760 companies with revenues exceeding $1 billion in 2008. Researchers found that decision effectiveness and financial results correlated at a 95% confidence level or higher for every country, industry and company size.

Companies that were most effective at decision-making and execution generated average total shareholder returns nearly six percentage points higher than others.

Rate Your Company

The HBR authors urge leaders to examine their own companies for decision effectiveness, using the following short survey:

How do your organization’s decision abilities stack up against the competition?

  • Quality: When looking back on critical decisions, how often have you chosen the right course of action?
  • Speed: How do you rate the speed of your critical decisions in comparison to your competitors’?
  • Yield: How often do you execute critical decisions as intended?
  • Effort: How much effort does your company put into making and executing critical decisions?

Leaders Can Improve

Decisions can be complex, and we are never going to get everything right. We can improve decision effectiveness by becoming more aware of traps, subconscious biases and logic flaws that lead to errors.

We must also improve our awareness of common judgment errors, which occur when we’re under the influence of the subconscious. These include our biases, commitment to the status quo and counterproductive personal agendas.

Leaders who continue to view strategic decisions as purely rational analyses should seek ways to better position themselves to meet core objectives.

The Certainty Bias

Leaders forget the mind’s fallacies. They believe in their people and senior team. They are generally confident that colleagues are well-intentioned, with the company’s best interests in mind.

After gathering as much information as possible and weighing all of the arguments, leaders must make decisions and embrace an attitude of certainty and confidence. Persuading others to execute the plans is the next step.

Certainty, however, can lead to other errors, such as failure to adjust plans, when required, and shutting out conflicting information. The only way to counteract the certainty bias is to encourage dissonance.

Perhaps Alfred P. Sloan, president of General Motors in its prime, said it best. After adjourning a meeting shortly after it began, he announced:

“Gentlemen, I take it we are all in complete agreement on the decision here … Then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.”


This blog post was part 4 of 4.  If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.

5 Biases That Lead to Bad Decisions (Part 3 of 4)

From the introduction: Each of us is susceptible to irrational behavior’s irresistible pull. Only when we gain insight into our irrationality can we see the extent to which it affects our work and personal lives. Fascinating patterns emerge, and we can master our behaviors and decisions when we connect the dots.

Value Attribution

It takes enormous energy to consciously work through all possibilities and risks when weighing important decisions, so the brain looks for shortcuts. We use unconscious routines, known as “heuristics,” to cope with complexity – and they normally serve us well.

But these shortcuts also present traps because they largely occur without our awareness. Value attribution serves as a quick mental shortcut to determine what’s worthy of our attention. When we encounter new objects, people or situations, the value we assign to them shapes our future perceptions of them.

If, for example, we see a poorly dressed street performer playing music in a subway station, we assume he’s a struggling amateur with little talent, even when the music is good. These assumptions were proved true when Joshua Bell, one of the finest violinists alive, participated in a field study for the Washington Post.

While Bell, dressed in jeans and a baseball cap, played a $3.5 million Stradivarius, subway travelers rushed by without paying attention. While he certainly sounded far from mediocre, he looked the part – and commuters attributed the value they perceived (appearances) to performance quality.

The Bell experiment illustrates why we may turn down a pitch or idea based on appearances, rumors or any other peripheral value. It also explains why we may blindly follow the advice of someone who has been highly recommended.

Our expectations change our reality, as the “placebo effect” demonstrates. Once a doctor or advertisement tells us a drug will relieve pain, the medication has a greater chance of working – even if it has no healing properties whatsoever.

Becoming aware of our brain’s tendency to make assumptions can help us prevent disastrous mistakes and missed opportunities.

Diagnosis Bias

When we encounter new people at a party, we quickly diagnose them by placing tags on them, such as “approachable” or “standoffish.” This helps us quickly decide if we want to engage them in conversation.

By employing this mental shortcut, we fail to see a person’s good qualities. Nowhere is this clearer than in job interviews.

A meta-analysis of data found there is little correlation between unstructured job interview success and job performance in new hires. The marks given to job candidates after a first date-type interview have little to do with how well those hired will actually perform on the job.

Nonetheless, companies are drawn to this interview format. Managers form impressions by asking questions they hope will ensure a person is a good fit:

  • Does this candidate share my interests?
  • How’s the chemistry between us?
  • Is there a connection?

Managers value their intuition and think they have a refined ability to truly see and understand an applicant. They overestimate their ability to form objective opinions and underestimate their subconscious’ biases.

Managers should, instead, forego unstructured interviews and focus on a candidate’s past experience and responses to hypothetical scenarios.

This blog post was part 3 of 4.  If you would like to read from the beginning, click here.   Bookmark us and come back tomorrow for the conclusion!

5 Biases That Lead to Bad Decisions (Part 2 of 4)

(If you missed the introduction of this series, please click here.)

Each of us is susceptible to irrational behavior’s irresistible pull. Only when we gain insight into our irrationality can we see the extent to which it affects our work and personal lives. Fascinating patterns emerge, and we can master our behaviors and decisions when we connect the dots.


Loss Aversion

We experience the pain associated with loss much more vividly than we do the joy of experiencing a gain.

For example, if egg prices go down, sales go up. But if egg prices rise proportionately, sales dip by 250 percent. Consumers stop buying them because the price has increased. This response flies in the face of traditional economic theory, which dictates that people should react to price fluctuations with equal intensity, regardless of whether price rises or falls. In reality, we illogically overreact to perceived losses.

This also explains why people are much more likely to buy meat when it’s labeled 85 percent lean instead of 15 percent fat. Similarly, twice as many patients opt for surgery when told there’s an 80 percent chance of survival, as opposed to a 20 percent chance of dying.

The same irrational force entices us to pay for a loss damage waiver on a rental car, even though we’re already insured by our credit cards and car insurance. Normally, we’d scoff at wasting money on double insurance coverage, but the feelings associated with the word loss stir our emotional brains and influence action.


We’ve all experienced the pull of commitment. We have a tendency to stick with the status quo. We’re predisposed to perpetuating more of the same. It’s an inherent part of our thinking. Deep within our psyches, we are self-protective and risk-aversive.

When we’ve invested our time and money in a project, it’s difficult to let go – even when things clearly aren’t working.

In business, sins of commission tend to be punished more severely than sins of omission, as the status quo holds a particularly magnetic position. Independently, the forces of commitment and aversion to loss have a powerful effect on us; when combined, we find it much harder to break free and do something different.

History shows us how hard it was for Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush to find solutions to the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, respectively. They were strongly influenced by the forces of commitment and aversion to loss.

Kahneman, with his colleague Amos Tversky, first discovered and chronicled the phenomenon of loss aversion.

“To withdraw now is to accept a sure loss, and that option is deeply unattractive,” he wrote. “The option of hanging on will therefore be relatively attractive, even if the chances of success are small and the cost of delaying failure is high.”

When CEOs and boards of directors are charged with making critical strategy decisions, determining the best outcomes often proves challenging when strong egos and competitive personalities are added to the mix.

Over the next few blog posts, we will discuss each of these currents and forces. This was the first two or five.  Bookmark us and come back tomorrow!

5 Biases That Lead to Bad Decisions

Part One

A growing body of research reveals that our behavior and decisions are influenced by an array of strong psychological undercurrents, all of which are more powerful and pervasive than we realize.

Like streams, they converge to become even more powerful.

By charting these undercurrents and their unanticipated effects, we can identify our faulty thinking that lead us to make irrational decisions.

Despite a great need for them, judgment and decision-making skills are only beginning to appear in better business schools’ curricula. But studies show we still don’t know enough about how good decisions occur.

Rational versus Emotional?

Psychologist and political scientist Herbert Simon in 1957 laid the groundwork on the limits of rationality when he attacked classical economics and game theory. Simon’s work made it clear that we must take the real world’s messiness and irrationality into account when making decisions.

“Research indicates that people are myopic in their decisions, may lack skill in predicting their future tastes, and can be led to erroneous choices by fallible memory and incorrect evaluations of past experiences” wrote psychologist and Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman.

Neuroscientific research also proves that the brain is influenced by subconscious emotional reactions from its more primitive centers. We’re not in control of our reasoning capabilities as much as we’d like to think.

Scientists have identified several flaws in how we think when making decisions. Because they’re hardwired into our thinking process, we often fail to recognize them. This means they can undermine everything from new product development to acquisitions and divestiture strategy to succession planning.

These hidden currents and forces include:

  •  Loss aversion, our tendency to go to great lengths to avoid possible losses
  • Commitment, our tendency to stick with the status quo
  • Value attribution, our inclination to imbue a person or thing with certain qualities based on initial perceived value
  • Diagnosis bias, our blindness to all evidence that contradicts our initial assessment of a person or situation
  • Certainty bias, where overconfidence leads us to discount inconvenient truths

Each of us is susceptible to irrational behavior’s irresistible pull. Only when we gain insight into our irrationality can we see the extent to which it affects our work and personal lives. Fascinating patterns emerge, and we can master our behaviors and decisions when we connect the dots.

Over the next few blog posts, we will discuss each of these currents and forces.  Bookmark us and come back tomorrow!

In Search of the Good Life

There are several roads to becoming happier. You can focus on increasing positive feelings, for example, by engaging in more pleasant activities. You can clear up negative emotions about the past.

You can make a concerted effort to increase your positive thinking, and develop an optimistic attitude. A simple step such as becoming more mindful of the small yet positive events that happen daily can contribute greatly to feeling happier.

Research indicates that there are five key strengths that lead to experiencing more happiness:

  1. Gratitude
  2. Optimism
  3. Zest
  4. Curiosity,
  5. The ability to love and be loved


There’s evidence to suggest that counting your blessings, using your strengths regularly, and expressing gratitude can increase happiness (Seligman, 2004).

There are definite steps and actions that one can take to feel happier. But the question is, “Is happiness what one should aim for? Or, is the real goal having a good life?”

The pursuit of pleasure has not always led to a good life, and history is full of examples. Asking “How can I be happy?” is the wrong question because it ignores the distinctions between pleasure, gratification and fulfillment. A truly good life must have more than just pleasure and happiness. It should also include gratification and meaning.

It was Aristotle who asked, “What is the good life?”

Getting more gratification into your life is more difficult than getting more pleasure. It also involves some delaying of gratification and happiness, and building toleration for discomfort, fatigue, and sometimes pain. But people who take the time and effort to use their strengths to build satisfaction and meaning into their lives have greater ratings of happiness, life satisfaction, and live longer.

Knowing and Using Your Strengths

To obtain more gratification, you must identify and use your strengths. There are a number of online assessments. Two that are recommended are one sponsored by the leader of Positive Psychology, Martin E.P. Seligman, at, the other on the Gallup Organization site at

6 Basic Virtues

Are there universal strengths and virtues that contribute to having a good life? Some researchers set out to catalogue which strengths and virtues appear over history to be basic and essential – not an easy task, given the diversity of human cultures. The results were shocking in their simplicity and commonality.

A review of the literature of all the major religions and philosophies of the last 3,000 years reveals the same six major virtues. Although there was one culture — the Ik, who apparently do not value kindness — there is almost universal agreement on six virtues throughout the world and throughout time.

Here are the six universal virtues along with their components (from Seligman, Authentic Happiness, 2002):


Wisdom and knowledge

  1. Curiosity/ Interest in the World
  2. Love of Learning
  3. Judgment/ Critical Thinking/ Open-Mindedness
  4. Ingenuity/ Originality/ Practical Intelligence/ Street Smarts
  5. Social Intelligence/ Personal Intelligence/ Emotional Intelligence
  6. Perspective




  1. Citizenship/ Duty/ Teamwork/ Loyalty
  2.  Fairness and Equity
  3.  Leadership




10.   Valor and Bravery

11.   Perseverance/ Industry/     Diligence

12.   Integrity/ Genuineness/ Honesty



13.   Self-Control

14.   Prudence/ Discretion/ Caution

15.   Humility and Modesty


Love and humanity

16.   Kindness and Generosity

17.   Loving and Allowing Oneself to be Loved


Spirituality and transcendence

18.   Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

19.   Gratitude

20.   Hope/ Optimism/ Future-Mindedness

21.   Spirituality/ Sense of Purpose/ Faith/ Religiousness

22.   Forgiveness and Mercy

23.   Playfulness and Humor

24.   Zest/ Passion/ Enthusiasm


Moving from a Pleasant Life to the Good Life

Building strengths and virtues and using them in daily life means making choices. Knowing which virtues and strengths to build on is an important step towards becoming more authentic and happy.  It is not only about learning, training and conditioning, but also about discovery, creation and ownership.

The pleasant life is all about pursuing positive feelings and learning the skills to amplify those good emotions. Pleasures can be increase by savoring the little moments and by becoming more mindful.

Gratifications, on the other hand, are more difficult. They are characterized by absorption, engagement and being in the flow or “the zone.” They may not have any positive emotions attached to them. Gratifications come about through the exercise of your strengths and virtues.

The good life consists in using your strengths as frequently as possible to obtain authentic happiness and gratification. It is not about maximizing positive emotions; on the contrary, this may involve less than pleasant feelings. But using your strengths in the service of something larger than yourself leads to a truly meaningful and good life.

Working with your personal life coach can help you to identify your strengths and develop an action learning plan. You can have a happier, more meaningful life– one that is not only pleasant but that is a genuinely good life.

Are You the Master of Your Own Destiny?

Creating True Autonomy

We are most intensely motivated when we’re challenged to complete a self-assigned task that meets our personal needs. When we seek internal satisfaction, we give our best efforts, sustaining attention until resolution— no matter what.

How do we create enough autonomy at work to choose tasks that provide internal satisfaction? Granted, we don’t have 100% control over our assignments, but we do have some freedom over where we place our energies and how we spend our time.

In manufacturing jobs, products need to be produced, packaged, sold and shipped. Divisions of labor and task assignments are clearly delineated and flow charts diagram processes. In these jobs, there may be little freedom.

In  knowledge-based and service industries, however, we have choices and can make decisions about how and where we spend our time and efforts.

Too many choices can lead to inertia and procrastination. Knowing what motivates us, and from where we derive our internal satisfaction, helps focus our attention and time on what matters most.

Having  more autonomy over our work sounds great, but it also presents new challenges. How can we identify our internal drives? What brings us the most satisfaction? How can we select tasks and work projects that ignite our passions and internal drives within the scope of our jobs?

The Third Drive

A now-famous experiment with monkeys reveals how motivations are linked to internal satisfaction. In 1949, psychologist Harry Harlow placed puzzles in monkeys’ cages and was surprised to find that the primates successfully solved them.

Harlow saw no logical reason for them to do so. Their survival didn’t depend on it, and they didn’t receive any rewards or avoid any punishments. Apparently, the monkeys solved the puzzles simply because they had the requisite desire.

As to their motivation, Harlow offered a novel theory: “The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward.” The monkeys succeeded because solving puzzles offered gratification. They enjoyed the task, which was its own reward.

Further experiments found that offering external rewards to solve these puzzles didn’t improve performance. In fact, rewards disrupted task completion.

This led Harlow to identify a third drive in human motivation:

  1. Our first behavioral drive is survival. We drink, eat and copulate to ensure our species’ longevity.
  2. Our second drive involves seeking rewards and avoiding punishment.
  3. The third drive is intrinsic: to achieve internal satisfaction.

Harlow’s theory was met with disdain from the behavioral scientists who dominated motivational theory at the time. It took almost two decades for scientists to recognize the value of intrinsic drives.

The third drive is even more important as our society moves from a manufacturing-based economy to one of knowledge and services.

Carrots and sticks continue to provide effective incentive and motivation for routine and repetitive work tasks. But for jobs that require complex creativity, intrinsic motivation works best.

3 Keys to Intrinsic Rewards

There are three critical conditions for an intrinsic motivational environment, according to Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Riverhead Books, 2009).

  1. Autonomy: Give people autonomy over what they’re doing and how they do it, including choosing their time, tasks, team and techniques.
  2. Mastery: Give them an opportunity to master their work and make progress through deliberate practice.
  3. Purpose: Make sure people have a sense of purpose in their work—preferably toward something higher and beyond their job, salary and company.

Autonomy may seem daunting in terms of practical implementation. Some companies, however, have already forged new and innovative work environments that are generating huge results—most notably, Best Buy’s ROWE (“results-oriented work environment”) program. With ROWE, employees have no schedules and are measured only by what they accomplish.

Google is famous for its “20-percent time” program, which allows engineers to spend 20 percent of their time on projects that interest them. Google Mail is one example of a successful project that came from the program.

The Australian tech company Atlassian implemented a similar program, with engineers given a full day each quarter to work on any software problem they choose — a ritual the company calls “FedEx” days. (Completed projects are delivered overnight.)

Creating Flow

People are most productive and satisfied when their work puts them in a state of “flow” — commonly recognized as being “in the zone.” In the flow state, one experiences a greater sense of focus and satisfaction.

What we know about flow is based on the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whose seminal book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, describes it as the moment in which “a person’s body or mind is stretched to the limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

You can create opportunities for flow experiences by seeking autonomy, arranging time to practice mastery and finding a sense of purpose.  Regardless of your job title, description or requirements, there are ways to engage in autonomy, mastery and purpose.

The main elements for flow experiences include:

  1. Clear goals every step of the way
  2. Immediate feedback on actions
  3. A balance between challenges and skills
  4. A merging of action and awareness, with focused concentration on tasks
  5. Elimination of distraction
  6. No fear of failure
  7. No self-consciousness or over concern with ego
  8. Activity that becomes inherently enjoyable

Look for challenges that stretch your capacity, without overwhelming you. You may be able to influence your work assignments more than you think. Smart managers know the benefits of having people who work in states of flow.

Managers are looking for ways to create optimal work conditions that bring benefits to both the company and the people who work there. Perhaps it’s time for you to look at ways to design your work to match your internal drives.