Thursday, January 22, 2009

CLUES Are you worried about money?

There has never been a more important time to be emotionally strong and mentally tough, to control your amygdala rather than the other way around.

Job cuts are now announced daily. We see iconic brand employers laying off staff. We watch well known retailers closing their doors. Does it cross your mind: “will I be next?”

In most organisations you will be under pressure to cut costs, reduce budgets, remain competitive, deal with your employees’ uncertainty and stress as well as your own and yet still manage your team’s performance for strong results in an economy lacking in confidence and optimism.

And how are things at home?

We haven’t even started to talk about the pressures and decisions you might be faced with at home.

If you have young kids – how do they ‘get it’ that in the course of six months, the ground has shifted under things they took for granted.

If you have parents – are they fretting about the drop in the value of their superannuation fund – in some cases of 50% or more. At least with our parents, many of them lived through tough economic times before – and if they can keep their ‘almonds’ under control, they’ll know it’s cyclical. But who would blame them for saying – I may not have time to wait out the cycle!

Don’t succumb to The Almond Effect®

It would be easy to give in to fear and alarm. That’s what your amygdala wants you to do. That’s what The Almond Effect® is all about. It’s the stronger and dominating emotional response – it’s automatic while being calm and optimistic requires a deliberate choice.

Remember it is The Almond Effect® that initially caused (and is still causing) people to react to appalling financial events way out of proportion to the threat that existed at that time. I strongly hold the view that this global financial and economic mess is the result of uncontrolled panic and fear reactions to perceived threats that in many cases were not real – but our reactions have now given those fears substance and reality.

I want him on my plane

In stark contrast think about the way Captain Sullenberger landed Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on January 18 saving the lives of all 155 people on board.

Through his training and experience, the pilot showed complete mastery over the potential disastrous consequences of The Almond Effect®. Using his pre-frontal cortex (PFC) he over-rode his amygdala – and focussed on acting calmly and logically to get the best possible outcome to the crisis. I am sure that the passengers and crew were also very happy that he also glided planes for a hobby!

Yes we can

The saving of Flight 1549 was an example of self-control in a life threatening situation. You too can do this and rule your amygdala - especially in challenging but not actually life threatening situations such as the ones the economy is creating right now.

Lack of confidence, fear about the future – you can discipline yourself to think rationally and with hope about what this really means for you. Learn to ‘Flick the Switch’.

Flick the Switch

Here is an introduction to one of the tools we use when teaching the STAR method for mastery of The Almond Effect®. It is a simple process that we can use to respond thoughtfully rather than react emotionally.

I created the tool based on research from neuroscientists showing that a conscious act such as naming our emotions produces a decrease in amygdalic activity and an opportunity for the PFC to assert control. It is a clear example of STAR in action Stop - Think – Act – Rewire.

You’ll learn to do this quickly in your head but do it on paper the first time and at any time when you want to really take the time to think through what’s worrying you.

Create it as a flow chart for optimum visual impact.

What’s worrying me most at the moment?
Can I control it?

Best outcome?
How can I work towards this?
Physical actions? Now/future?
State of mind needed? Now/future?
What does the change and outcome look like?
Activate feeling or behaviour!
Triggers/techniques to Flick the Switch!

Worst outcome
How can I work to minimize this?
Physical actions? Now/future?
State of mind needed? Now/future?
What does the change and outcome look like?
Activate feeling or behaviour!
Triggers/techniques to Flick the Switch!

What can I do to manage my stress?
Physical actions? Now/future?
State of mind needed? Now/future?
What does the change and outcome look like?
Activate feeling or behaviour!
Triggers/techniques to Flick the Switch!

We expand, explore and practice these steps in our workshops. If you want more information on our workshops and tools, let me know.

Stop reacting, start responding at work

A major concern I have about the rapid increase in redundancies and sackings is the message it sends not just about the organisation’s lack of loyalty and compassion but its lack of leadership insight, courage, tenacity and strategic thinking. Not just to the retrenched but to all staff and customers.

We’ve been through it before in the 80’s and the 90’s. Mass redundancies and layoffs in a panic situation resulting in lowered engagement, innovation, teamwork and performance – everything that organisations in the 00s have invested in.

And will organisational history repeat itself? In the past, these actions resulted in bringing about the very things they thought they would avoid including increased costs, poor retention, low engagement and re-hiring on a more expensive basis.

Clever organisations and thoughtful leaders will react strategically at this time. They will not be frightened. They will see it as an opportunity to review, change and revisit the existing way of doing things. They will make hard but wise decisions with a view to the future as well as the short-term. They will respond not react.

And most importantly of all, they will stay the course back to prosperity and success. That will take intestinal fortitude on their part and yours.

Stop reacting, start responding at home

It’s a similar message for home. If you apply the same thinking you’ll insert a pause before acting, you’ll consciously take time to reflect and plan your responses, you won’t panic, fret and stress.

STAR tools can help you achieve that ability– based on neuroscientific research that is unlocking doors into the reasons why people behave the way they do – and what to do about it.

Scared again - I’m practising what I preach

This weekend I am swimming in the scary 2.7km ocean swim from Palm Beach to Whale Beach – my response to the cancer-related deaths of family and friends and for so many other friends who are dealing with this dreadful disease.

Thank you to the many of you have supported me with your words and your sponsorship in my quest to raise funds for Cancer Research. Perhaps the short video I sent influenced that - see it at

In any event I want you to know that I am Flicking the Switch every time I think about the swim. If I wasn’t actively using STAR tools, I know I would be feeling sick (and wanting to break a leg or something so I didn’t have to do it) at the thought of Sunday. The adrenaline is still running I can assure you but I am visualising what it will be like to emerge from the sea at Whale Beach in one piece and constantly Flicking the Switch to that feeling.

I’ll let you know how I go.

You can still be part of Team Anne

And it’s not too late to sponsor me – it truly adds to the motivation I need to conquer The Almond Effect® and get into the water. Please go to to be part of Team Anne as my wonderful supporters call themselves. I would be really appreciative of any contribution no matter how small.

Hope you enjoyed this edition of CLUES.

Till next time, take care.