Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Would you ignore a dying child?

Can you say no to your boss?

What have the deaths of 18 month old twins and a murder-suicide got to do with saying no to your boss?

Quite a lot if you ask yourself - how could this happen?

Some years ago, the twins died, apparently from malnutrition, and their bodies left in their cots for over a week. The alarm was raised only when their 11 year old sibling noticed the smell.

The murder-suicide happened after the perpetrator mailed a stream of letters to the media warning of his intention.

Another example - surveillance camera footage from China showed a two year old knocked over and dying on the road. 18 people passed this child before anyone stopped to do anything to help.

And in Connecticut, USA in a similar horrible incident a 78 year old man was left lying in the road after being hit by a car, ignored by bystanders and motorists alike. It made me giddy with disbelief to watch it.
What was your reaction to those stories?

Mine was - didn't the neighbors notice anything? Why didn't the media do something? What were people thinking to leave the any injured child or a paralyzed man lying helplessly on the road? These were my thoughts but the critical question is, would they have translated into any action on my part? On your part?

The Power of Fear

Let's consider some other situations.For example:
  • What do you do when you hear the alarm go off in a neighboring property? Do you call the police or choose not to get involved? An Australian 000 operator - that's emergency services like 999 (UK), 911 (USA), 111 (NZ) - said on the local radio that the majority of calls to 000 about burglar alarms were not concerns that a robbery might be taking place but complaints about the noise!
  • What would you do if you suspected that your brother or sister might be dealing in drugs?
  • Why do you put off having that important conversation with your spouse about the spiraling credit card debt?
  • Why do you put off having that important conversation with your spouse about what's happening to your relationship?
And at work:
  • What would you do if you saw your manager instructing staff to ‘cut corners', putting employees' safety at risk to reduce costs?
  • What would you do if you saw a fellow employee falsely trading in foreign exchange options - to the tune of $118 million dollars and getting a performance bonus of over $100, 000 for his work? (This was what happened in 2005 at NAB.)
  • What would you do if your managers were both ignoring potentially catastrophic warnings from you and other engineers about the dangers of launching a spacecraft on a really cold day and failing to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors? Click here if you want to know where this happened.
  • What would you do if you strongly suspected that your most successful salesperson was sexually harassing a colleague but no formal complaint had been made?
  • What would you do if your boss asked you to do something that was:

    1. Ethically but not legally wrong? 
    2. Against the best interests of the shareholders
    3. Contrary to the strategic direction of the company?
    4. Didn't contribute to the strategic direction of the company
    5. Required you to work such long hours (for the 4th week in a row) that your family life was beginning to fracture?

Are we callous? Or are we afraid?

Have you, have we, lost confidence in our ability to get involved, to tackle the really difficult situations in our lives? What holds us back?

Are we fearful and therefore so protective of our self-interest that we don't step in when we should because we are concerned for the consequences?

How prepared are we to accept responsibility for what goes on in our own lives and in our community, our workplace?

Our ‘almonds' (amygdalae) have a lot to answer for. When we find ourselves in such situations, The Almond Effect® mobilizes and propels us toward actions that ensure our ‘survival'. But how many of the examples I have given truly put us in physical harm's way?

Most of them, and particularly the work ones, raise questions about our values and our ethics and how far we are prepared to confront our fears to act? How comfortable are you living with the knowledge that you did not act.

If you find yourself saying: ‘I should have...', then it's time to think and focus some more on what held you back.

The impact of fear on company culture

Clearly these are conversations that go to the core of who we are and what our companies stand for. But they are hard questions. I wonder if such courageous conversations had been held and resolved, would the outcomes have avoided the corporate collapses like HIH, Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing, Qwest, Dynegy, CMS Energy, Tyco, Peregrine, Sunbeam, Baptist Foundation of Arizona?

Would employees, shareholders and all the other stakeholders have been spared not only financial devastation but also the very high personal and professional cost?

Most of these companies were destroyed by a culture of unethical conduct, greed and dishonesty. But surely not everyone in these companies subscribed to these cultures? So why didn't they speak up? Or did they just leave?

Tips for saying no to the boss

Standing up for yourself, your company, your department, your team or even for the best interests of the boss themselves, can be hard. There is a good chance it will set off The Almond Effect® just thinking about it!

So there are a number of components to the preparation to be able to do it.

The first is to manage your own reactions. That's where STAR comes in.

STOP - Catch your fears. What is it you are feeling? How is it going to express itself? Blushing, stuttering, passivity, anger? What emotions could you be dealing with when you speak up?

THINK - Why am I feeling this way? What in the past history of my dealings with this boss, or any boss, has caused me to experience these emotions? Where did they come from? Are the situations the same? What's different? What were the consequences then? What would be the consequences now?

ACT - Prepare yourself. There are many ways you can do this. For example, rehearsing, visualizing, and calming exercises. For resources for more ideas click here.
REWIRE - When you've had the conversation with your boss, whichever way it went, talk it over with your mentor, coach, partner, friend -anyone who can help you analysis what worked, what didn't, and what you would do differently in future.

And write it down somewhere so the next time you want to say ‘no' to the boss, The Almond Effect® won't get in your way.

Managing upwards - a free guide for you

In addition to STAR, the most effective way to be able to say ‘no' to the boss and keep your career and yourself intact are to:
  • build your credibility
  • earn the respect of your boss
  • understand where, when and how they like to hear ‘no'
For more information and a short PowerPoint I've prepared that gives more information on how to do this, click here.

Managing your fears - an essential work and life skill

Identifying and managing our fears has major ramifications for the way in which we live our lives - far beyond how we respond to a shadow in a dark lane or a noise in the grass.

And managing our fears in the workplace is an essential success factor both in the short and long term. Step one is to recognize when our fears are holding us back. Step two is to do something about it.
Please feel free to forward this to a colleague

Friday, April 04, 2014

PTSD may be a consequence of where you live.

We usually think of PTSD in the context of war, dreadful car accidents or other scenarios that evoke horror.
What if PTSD could be a consequence simply of where you live?

This is an interesting article on PTSD and your postcode.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Changing the Old Guard in IT

Do you agree with this approach?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Do you ever feel like a fraud?

If you ever feel like a  fraud, an imposter - maybe in a job, doing a presentation, leading a project?

If so, please watch this.

You'll learn what you can do about this - simply and clearly.

And pass the link on to anyone else who feels (wrongly)  scared they might be 'found out'.

Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are  TED talk video

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The world's best computer?

Check out this list of 10 things your brain does on automatic

Your amazing brain

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Great exercise for helping people manage feelings during change

This is a worthwhile talk on managing the human side of change from Jason Clarke, an innovation practitioner.

If you just want the exercise, it starts at 4.07

Friday, March 21, 2014

Don't let past memories sabotage you at work

Warning: what you don't consciously remember could mess with your career

Never forget that your unconscious is smarter than you, faster than you, and more powerful than you. You will never know all its secrets. Cordelia Fine in "A mind of its own"

Have you ever seen people at work react to something in a totally illogical way?

OK, I know that's a dumb question but it is rhetorical!

It is interesting to look at this in connection with our emotional memories. The role that emotional memory plays in our everyday interactions and reactions is profound. Not only do our emotional memories cause us to react to perceptions of physical threat but also to certain people and events as well.

The emotional memory function is part of our brain's emotional centre, the limbic system. That is also where the amygdala is, the part of the brain responsible for our instant emotional responses, our ‘I wasn't thinking' reactions.

We subconsciously use our emotional memories to help us recognise threats to our survival. I sometimes think of these memories as stored in our brain's ‘database of nasty things'. Emotional memories are made up of experiences, events, thoughts and feelings shaped and defined throughout our lives. When we form these memories in our childhood, we often do so with limited and inaccurate perception. Then these distorted memories may come back to haunt us in our adult lives.

When a situation or a person triggers an emotional memory of a threat, our brain goes into overdrive to protect us. Often this reaction is outdated, over the top and not even related to the present circumstances.

It's what I call The Almond Effect®.

Her new boss reminded her of her brother

Take this work scenario: Kylie had just been promoted. She had done such a great job in her time with the company that she was asked to train and manage a group of new staff. This meant a move in offices and a new manager. Kylie had heard great things about her new boss and was eager to impress.

Kylie arrived at the new office and was greeted by her new manager. At first, she was a little unsure of what to make of him. She was instantly intimidated which was unusual for Kylie, she even felt a little scared. She found it hard to communicate and was lost for words several times in their first meeting.

This was her emotional memory connecting the past to the present. Her new boss reminded Kylie of her eldest brother who throughout her childhood was dominating and physically abusive.

Kylie was petrified of her brother and those feelings flooded her brain when she met her new manager. This kind of emotional response is the brain's way of recognising and reacting to a perceived threat. The problem is that this threat, although real once, is not relevant to the present situation.

Sadly, after a few weeks, Kylie left the office emotionally shaken and convinced she could not work for her manager. She turned down the promotion and went back to her old job.

The Almond Effect® had taken its toll and it wasn't until sometime afterwards that Kylie realised what had happened. Even then, knowing how her brain had sabotaged her, Kylie said she would still feel uncomfortable if she had to work for the new manager in the future.

Don't let past memories sabotage the present

Can you relate to Kylie's experience? I can. I recently worked for a client and I thought it quite odd that I found it difficult to make ‘small talk' face-to-face with him. It was really weird because we had been exchanging emails and having phone conversations quite successfully for many months before we actually met.

I couldn't work it out so I simply reminded myself that sometimes you have to work with a person who for no obvious reason you don't really connect with on a personal level, but that's life and you get on with the work, professionally.

It was only when we were having coffee one day and the client moved in a particular way that I ‘saw' the image of a person from my childhood. The penny dropped and the reasons for my feelings became clear. He reminded me of someone who also had caused me great distress when I was much younger.

When I shared this in a workshop one day, one of the participants also had an ‘ah ha' moment and said: "I hadn't even thought of it before. I hate the fact that because of the recent re-structure, I had to change workstations and now I don't have a window. And in a CLM (career limiting move), I kicked up a real fuss.

I've just realized that when I was at school..." and then she told us about an emotional memory to do with sitting by a window, that she realized must have been subconsciously at work, in theory to protect her but in fact causing great unhappiness.

Fascinating isn't it? Think about situations or people who might be irritating you. I wonder if they are triggering an emotional memory buried deep in your limbic system? It might also be happening in your relationships outside of work.

Now you know, let it go

Becoming aware of what you are remembering and the feelings associated with that memory is the big first step to take back control over The Almond Effect ®.

Take time to revisit the memory and ask yourself whether it is appropriate that the memory still controls you. It's unlikely so take time to tell your limbic system, thanks but no thanks for the future. Retrain your amygdala that this situation or person is no longer a threat. Get your logical, rational thinking brain working.


One final word - sometimes that ‘gut feel' or intuition that you can't put your finger on, may be coming from an emotional memory. If no amount of logical self-talk gets you past your concerns, they may be real. So talk to someone else and seek assistance to work out where the concerns are coming from. Then you'll take the appropriate action for the situation.

Please feel free to forward this to a colleague