“Unprecedented times offer unprecedented opportunities for those willing to take unprecedented courage.” That message was my key takeaway from the recently concluded 2020 virtual NeuroLeadership Summit.
Granted, we’re also living in an era of paradoxes. Change fatigue is real. Yet, for those of us who want to make intentional changes while we’re living in volatile, uncertain times, these exact conditions are ripe for creating new ways of working, playing and being.
Interested? Wondering where to start? You can switch the way you think and act about everyday situations. These are my 3 biggest insights from the Summit.
- If you’re a leader, stop asking “What do I need to do?” and instead start asking “What do the people I lead need from me now?”, according to Dr. Joe Magee of New York University Stern School of Business. In his respected research on power, hierarchy and emotions, the Professor of Management and Organizations has learned that power can change our attention and interfere with our value system.
Also, leaders — as well as the rest of us — can often stay in our own head and become insecure about what we’re doing. To break the pattern, it helps to take the perspective of others, which you can do with his proposed question. Dr. Magee also suggests seeking out a variety of different perspectives from team members or teammates. You can then integrate what you’re noticing. And if you’re a leader, you’ll be able to respond to individual needs better, which also means you’ll be using your power more effectively for the collective, and not just your individual needs.
- Stop being exhaustive and start being essential. When you synthesize vast volumes of data into information – such as 3 (maybe 5 maximum) significant points, you help yourself and others understand the meaning. From there, you can better grasp the implications and begin to explore feasible actions to take. Keep in mind, that some view information without action as clutter.
Also, recognize that most of us are now dealing with high cognitive load that taxes our short-term memory and continuous partial attention that hurts our focus. As a result, it’s harder to recall important things quickly under pressure, especially when we’re feeling threatened.
It’s easier and more reliable to recall essential, sticky messages and then act on them. For example, would you rather be a leader at an organization with 3 leadership principles or with 17 or more, which is still more common? (Microsoft’s 3 leadership principles are 1. Create clarity; 2. Generate energy; and 3. Deliver success.)
- Stop being obsessed about lack of time and start paying attention more deeply. For instance, the next time you complain about not having enough time, ask yourself: “Do I have a time problem or an attention problem?”
You don’t need huge chunks of time to tackle high priority items and/or hard to do projects to make headway. Rather, you need to give undivided attention to a task or problem in shorter, more regular bursts. For example, set aside 15 to 20 minutes once or twice a day to tackle a high priority project that requires deep thinking or a new way of working. By working this way, you’re playing to your brain’s strengths. The pre-frontal cortex, that is the brain’s executive function, tires quickly, generally after 20 minutes.
To improve your focus, you may need to manage your environment better. For example, consider removing distractions when you need to pay attention. Or move to a different location inside your home if you react better to changes in scenery. Another option is to go outside and walk if movement helps stir up your creative juices.
Over the next few weeks, I plan to share more interesting and useful insights, which I hope will benefit you. They’ll also help me embed them in my brain and act on them.
For now though, keep in mind that none of us can act on what we can’t remember.
So if we switch things around and start being clearer and more succinct about essentials, we’ll be better able to help ourselves and others deal with all the complexity and uncertainty we now face.
Are you ready to stop and start these new behaviors? They can become valuable habits. If you want to learn more about how to build habits like these and also be more accountable for your behavior change, contact me.