Simple steps to build focus

Daydreaming in officeDaniel Goleman has a new book titled Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. Goleman defines distraction as one of the most insidious barriers to performance and provides insight into how to increase focus.

While the book provides a number of Smart Practices, learning to attend to the right stuff can be pretty simple. Goleman recently authored The Four Basic Moves to Strengthen Focus, a blog post outlining a straightforward way you can train your brain to concentrate.

The four moves to build focus are:

1) Bring your focus to your breath.

2) Notice that your mind has wandered off.

3) Disengage from that train of thought.

4) Bring your focus back to your breath and hold it there.

That’s it! No fancy breathing techniques, uncomfortable yoga postures or groovy mantra to repeat. As Goleman points out, this exercise is simple and not easy.

Try it for one minute to see for yourself. Make it a daily habit – gradually adding a little time – and you will find that you are able to direct your attention where you need it to be. That’s right – you’ll finally make progress on exciting possibilities and eliminate the pesky problems standing in your way!


Now’s the time to bring clarity to your life, and we’re here to help!

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The best gift for your people

break through wallIt’s not a plant, gift basket or commemorative plaque. The best gift you can give your employees this year is to help them make progress in their work.

You might have thought that the key to motivating people is a heartfelt and specific “thank you.” While expressing gratitude is important, research shows that it does not produce the largest boost in motivation.

Think about the last time you achieved a breakthrough in a project. Did you feel proud, elated and ready to dig into the next assignment? Making progress is energizing and fun, and those emotions feed employee engagement and motivation.

As you ponder the coming end of the year, figure out what you might do that will give a boost to your staff’s productivity – training, a new tool or mentoring, perhaps? Make it your job to clear the way for progress.


It’s time to enable your people to move forward, and we can help!

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Help others work through conflict

referee whistle smallThey’re at it again. Bob and Stefan are arguing over a budget allocation. Last time it was the details of the team retreat. Janel, their boss, has tried telling them to work out their differences. She knows she needs to step in to facilitate a permanent solution to this ongoing conflict.

Janel gets along with and respects both Bob and Stefan. She feels that she facilitate this conflict resolution with a calm, rational perspective. How can she proceed to set up the best outcome?

  • Interview each party separately to understand if there is an agreement on the source(s) of the conflict
  • Arrange a meeting with both people, and set ground rules, including listening completely, being respectful and honest and maintaining confidentiality
  • Start the meeting by helping conflicting parties understand the bigger picture – the impact of their conflict on themselves and others
  • Teach and model carefully listening and summarizing what the other person said to ensure mutual understanding
  • Only delve into history when different perceptions about it are a roadblock; otherwise, stay future-focused
  • Make sure commitments are clear, including the time frame to get them done

Janel is right to expect that her people will learn to “play nice.” When that doesn’t work, it is the leader’s job to help them find a lasting solution.


Let’s work together to keep your people from fighting like cats and dogs.

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Speak No EvilHumanergy’s David Wheatley is reading The Power of Questions by Scott Richards. He mentioned one question I know I should ask myself regularly. “Why Am I Talking?” Easily remembered as WAIT, this should be a slogan for people like me.

In my excitement and sometimes impatience or feeling like I know the answer, I often interrupt, barge into conversations or exhibit other types of over-talking.

Maybe I should get one of those plastic bracelets (like LiveStrong) with the word “WAIT” etched into it. I really should get one in every color of the rainbow. It’s something I need to remember daily!


Need to learn to stop talking? Contact Humanergy.

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Check your attitude

positive attitudeKaren, Humanergy’s business manager was quoted recently, saying “I am so happy that I get to go to work.” Not “HAVE to go to work,” but “GET to!” That warms our hearts – and it is an attitude you can cultivate.

Everyone from Dr. Phil to bloggers at Harvard Business Review know that attitude matters. While some people feel like their negativity is due to external factors, attitude is largely a choice.

Your attitude is composed of thoughts and feelings – about work, other people, etc. There may be times during crisis when it is hard to get your emotional bearings. However, in the normal day-to-day grind, you can control your attitude even when your work is complex and people are difficult.

Geoffrey James at wrote about 8 ways to improve your attitude, including doing something that takes you out of your comfort zone and forgiving people’s limitations and weaknesses. (We’d advise not wasting energy on any of the things you can’t control, and other people’s attitudes are among them.)

James’ best tip in my mind is to hang out with positive people. Scientists have proven that we mirror the behavior of those around us – and aren’t positive people generally more fun to be around?

It’s easier to have a positive attitude when personal and company values align, when your co-workers are pleasant and when your job is fulfilling. And it’s also true that you can choose to approach even the most challenging situations with a positive mental outlook. Don’t be naive about reality, but do adopt a hopeful frame of mind. “Yep, things are tough, and it’s gonna get better!”

You are the master of your attitude – choose positivity!


Want your glass half full? Humanergy can help.

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Listen more, talk less

Shhh“The more you practice listening and simply saying less, the more you will learn.”

Those braniacs at Brains on Fire are at it again. Their blog is full of simple wisdom, including this post called Shhh. Listen.

Keep track of how many times you choose NOT to speak today. Chances are you’ll learn so much that you’ll make silence a part of your daily ritual.


Let’s solve your listening and learning problems together!

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Can you develop natural abilities?

brain trainingJavier has been approached many times by his boss to consider applying for a supervisor job. “I’m not the type who can teach others,” he routinely said.

That might be true, or Javier could be assuming that leadership is something he should be naturally good at without training and practice.

It is true that some people have natural talents, and sometimes they blossom into greatness. Other “naturals” start strong, but don’t develop their talents further. They peak early and fade, often because they operate under the assumption that true greats don’t need to work at their craft.

How do you make the most of your natural talents – and develop new ones? Your mindset about your ability matters. Carol Dweck studies the mindsets of athletes and has found that there are two distinct assumptions.

Some hold a fixed mindset, in which they see abilities as fixed traits. In this view, talents are gifts—you either have them or you don’t.

Other people, in contrast, hold a growth mindset of ability. They believe that people can cultivate their abilities. In other words, they view talents as potentialities that can be developed through practice.

Javier doesn’t see the potential – that with study, coaching and practice, he could be a great supervisor. Javier believes “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Maybe that’s true to dogs, but not people, at least according to the latest brain research.

The idea of neuroplasticity is simply that the brain changes in response to experience. It changes in response to our actions. It changes in our response to our relationships. It changes in response to specific training. These activities will shape the brain, and we can take advantage of neuroplasticity and actually play a more intentional role in shaping our own brains…

Self-perceptions (like “I can’t be a supervisor”) can be limiting, and they are one of the first things that you should work on changing. Figure out what specific behaviors you think good supervisors do, and start emulating those.

Over time, a growth mindset and some hard work can make new behaviors a part of your natural repertoire.



Need help developing new skills? Contact Humanergy.

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Are you passionately stuck?

Tendonitis in my knee has resulted in a fairly long stint in physical therapy. During the course of treatment, my regular therapist took a vacation, so received treatment from a different therapist. I expected to receive the same type of treatment, but what I got was a very different approach.

Therapist #2 did deep tissue massage (aka torture) and more strengthening exercises. When my regular therapist returned, she was surprised (maybe it was the bruises?) and, thankfully, went back to her original treatment plan.

We’ve seen a similar scenario countless times. Each person thinks he is right. Each has the experience, training and data to back up their perspective. Because each person holds these perspectives as “the truth,” there seems to be no way for them to recognize the other’s equally-compelling “truth” and find common ground.

Finding your truth and sticking to it has merit, but there are downsides. When we are sure we are right, we are no longer curious. We can begin to perceive that this belief is a part of ourselves. Once we identify with that position on an issue, we don’t examine it with the same rigor we apply to other positions. Australian comedian Tim Minchin advised recent college graduates to “think critically, and not just about the ideas of others” and “be hard on your beliefs.”

Thinking critically requires detachment. As August Turak wrote in A Leadership Lesson from Trappist Monks that Made Me Rich, detachment means you stay consistent with deep values, but don’t define yourself by a particular idea.

Rather than assuming you are right, examine your unyielding positions to ensure that you have a clear understanding. Only then can you take a stand. As wise Abraham Lincoln said, “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”


Want to get unstuck? Contact Humanergy.

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Do you really know your organization’s culture?

Top leaders think they have their finger on the pulse of the organization. In reality, what they believe about the culture (how things really work) is often based on misconceptions or incomplete information.

As Hagberth Consulting Group puts it, CEOs are personally invested and don’t really want to admit that their “baby” is ugly. CEOs can also be removed from the day-to-day dynamics and therefore not able to observe how people interact and things get done.

Getting a grip on the reality of culture is essential for leaders. Otherwise, subsequent strategies and actions may be ineffective, because they don’t align with the reality of how the organization really operates.

There are many tools for assessing culture, like the Denison Organizational Culture Assessment and Human Synergistics’ Organizational Culture Inventory®. Leaders can also make a concerted effort to seek out their employees’ ideas, recognizing that it can be hard to tell the boss what she doesn’t want to hear. Try asking employees questions like, “If you could change one thing about how we operate, what would that be?” or “What advice would you give a new employee that would help him navigate our culture?”

Choosing the appropriate assessment method may be easy compared to admitting that you don’t know what you don’t know about your own organization’s real culture.

Need help understanding how your organization really works? Contact Humanergy.

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Does size matter?

Is it easier to communicate effectively in a small organization? Not necessarily. I have talked with many employees and owners of small businesses who bemoan the fact that they find it difficult to communicate even with a handful of employees.

Ian Langworth moved from corporate giant Google to co-found a gaming start-up with two partners. He noted that communicating more often was a lot easier with fewer players. He also said, “But it’s not enough to simply communicate more. You have to communicate well.”

Some of his tips for communicating well:

Achieve mutual understanding on important issues. Langworth noted that the three founders would sometimes get caught up in long debates simply because they hadn’t defined the real issue. To ensure mutual understanding, name the issue, identify the facts and allow people to clarify their needs and wants.

Discuss critical issues in private. Your organization may feel like a family, but that is no excuse for publicly airing every conversation. Closed-door, frank conversations will enable you to share important feedback and hear others’ candid perspectives.

Be cautious when communicating via email. Langworth recommends being transparent when there is any chance of the email being misunderstood, even adding “mood: agreeable” to communicate that you’re coming from your happy place. I would recommend that if you have to “emoticon” your email, you should talk in person. If that isn’t possible, the telephone might be a better bet than email.

Probably the most important tip about communicating in any size organization is not to take it for granted. Spend more time planning and executing communication than you think you need. You’ll reap many rewards, including happier coworkers and fewer time-wasting misunderstandings.


Want to make your communication unmistakeable? Contact Humanergy.

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