Category: Self-Improvement


                                                Leadership in Chaos                                                                    Photo Credit-courtesy of Scoop.it

Texas Church Shooting Leadership Lessons

As a generation Xer, there used to be a time when as an elementary school girl, I walked 10 miles from home to school, in the busy streets of a major city, walked back home, stopped by on the way home, bought a snack from my favorite snack shop with my money in my pocket for snacks, and got myself home with my own key to the house. I enjoyed the freedom and safety of learning, experiences and autonomy, as I grew in a very metropolitan and crowded city. Now, as a mom, I would not dream of having my children at 8 and 10 walk outside past our own street. We drive to most places during the week for school and extracurricular activities, and on weekends for events and fun outings. Driving, in my car gives me a sense of safety and security. However in reality, this is just an illusion. The truth is, the world has changed. Life has changed.   And in spite of the advents of technology, flooding of products from all over the globe, going well beyond meeting our basic needs, safety is in fact just an illusion.

 

Last weekend, on Sunday Nov. 5th, there was yet another horrific event that took place in our country. A shooting at a Texas church, killing 26 people, as young as 5 years old. That could have been any of us. There was a time where, churches similar to schools, were considered a sanctuary for people. Not anymore. Chaos is all around us, and as much as we want to ignore, blame, and shout at it, it is inevitable. It is in our homes. It is at our place of work. And it is even at our “sanctuaries”.

On a daily basis, the global economy, the growth of the population, and technology among many other variables continue to change the way our daily businesses are conducted.

Evidence of chaos is even more visible in the world of commerce and business as venture capitals, leverage buyouts and government bailouts continue to become the norm and layoffs ensue. There was a time when businesses could succeed as stable, bureaucratic and regulating institutions. The didactic, structure oriented processes were considered a key to performance and success. Involuntary Turnover and job loss were uncommon phenomenon.  In fact, the belief in order and structure crated the false notion that reorganizations were the key to productivity. Up to today, reorganizations are still very popular with the C-Suite. It has been found that nearly half of all CEO’s execute a reorganization within the first two years they join an organization. Regardless of the “reason”, these reorganzations are usually about immense structural changes in hope for better performance. In reality, according to a Bain & Co. study, out of the 57 reorganizations they studied, only one-third produced results; a profound mistake to completely buy-in to the idea that there is a link between structure and performance.

 

Beginnings of Chaos

Chaos Theory, which was most fully explored and recognized during the mid-to-late 1980s, has the premise that systems sometimes reside in chaos, they are constantly moving, but without any predictability or direction. According to Margaret J. Wheatley in Leadership and the New Science, “Chaos is the final state in a system’s movement away from order.” According to her, when a system does reach that point, the parts of a system are manifest as turbulence, totally lacking in direction or meaning.

When Chaos Theory was first implemented in to businesses in various forms, organization management also gave way to organization management. Agile methodologies were introduced as a way for modern corporations to be able to respond as markets expanded and technologies evolved.  And the evolution of high-functioning teams gave life to Members of effective teams to frequently recreate their roles depending on the needs of the team at a given point.

Embracing change therefore does not mean to necessarily try and predict every possibility and structure the organization accordingly to reach order. It is to lead with the idea that change is constant and chaos is the way of life.

Leadership Redone

When it comes to leadership, as a Human Capital Partner to Fortune companies and Leadership Coach to the C-Suite, I have worked with organizations to recognize that leadership in today’s world, is a game of balance between innovation and Emotional Intelligence, not a commandment as many see it. During times of turbulence, change, and chaos, I have often times seen more control, more structure, and more top down decision-making; a very fear-based thought process that usually ends in disengagement by followers. In today’s economy, leadership of organizations is no longer the management of day-to-day operations. It is rather, seeing the functioning of the organization as a unified system. Therefore rather than dissecting for causes in the organization for organizational problems, according to chaos theory, organizational patterns can be studies to find behavior patterns.

In working with organizations and leaders, I first start by having a value-based conversation around respect.  What is respectable to one defines their values, motivations and aspriations.  That provides a muriad of data with the identification of Pillars of Safety which is a guided exercise I practice to get at the heart of many automatic behaviors.  The assessment of  emotional intelligence ; Identifying emotions and uncovering blockages in thinking and behavior. In embracing change and innovation, rather than a hierarchical, process oriented dynamics, I help him or her to view their role as a catalyst and a support, rather than a perfect, all mighty and in control responsible party. We then drive toward allowing talent and employees to lead with their competencies, with autonomy, functionality, support and 360 degree feedback and effective communication. We therefore, allow the system to naturally organize itself.

 

 

Top Ten (10) Tips on Leadership In Times of  Unpredictability and Chaos

 

  1. Check your Emotions at the Door. One of the common misunderstandings about leadership is lack of fear. But if the opposite of fear is courage, we know courage is not the absence of fear, it is choosing to act with love in spite of fear. The reason one of the pillars of Emotional Intelligence is Self-awareness is largely because Emotion Regulation is a must part of not only living a healthy life, but difference making, business leader in the 21st century. Not admitting to fear, means not accepting yourself as a human being and that creates fear in your team. If you acknowledge your fear but show fortitude and strategy you are inviting trust and courage and unity. 
  2. Make aware rather than frighten. Yes, in uncertain times people do need communication of information, otherwise, they will assume and gossip. However, there are two types of information, the kind they can do something about, and the kind they cannot. Using the advents of neuroscience I work with my  leaders to do just that.  Rather than invoking fear, in engaging your team and activating their sense of empowerment, it is pertinent to Ignite the reward centers of the brain by tapping into the belongingness need. As human-beings if we feel scared, and insecure, we will feel hesitant to take action. But if we are made aware, we will be empowered and courageous.
  3. Talk less, do more. Often times, leadership becomes the generator of opinions and not the generator of action. Input that doesn’t add value, is not leadership. Instead it’s best to resort to responsibility. Sometimes resources may not be readily available or training may not be sufficient. Taking ownership and preparing to accept the challenge is a great tool for trust building and encouragement from a leader. Our brain’s frontal cortex associated with problem solving and decision-making has the capability to dissipate fear toward best performance, if we rise above the reptilian and the mammalian parts of the brain associated with survival.
  4. Mobilize and utilize. We have all heard of the phrase “Analysis paralysis”. There are so many different ways we problem-solve, process information, communicate,  etc.  The power of a team is in it’s synergy and ability to utilize all of it diverse talent.  There are the communicators, analyzers, and creatives etc.  For example, creative and analytic types in teams, will feel more energized, hopeful and joyful when they can do just that, analyze. Rather than get busy without knowledge. Utilize this group to team up to gain knowledge and insight quickly.  Google did just that and look where they are today.  Strategize and Make a Move. Different personalities have a propensity for analyzing decisions more than others and prefer to delay decisions as much as possible. Learning when not to postpone decisions, when you are naturally aiming for perfection, and waiting for additional information, could mean failure. It takes an opposite personality or a coach to help you bounce off ideas so you can decide to do what you need to do with what you have, and don’t look back. Indecisiveness is the surest way to undermine credibility. 
  5. Lead with Inclusion, not diversity. During the past centuries, we have gone from segregation, to diversity but not necessarily to inclusion. Diversity seems like a forced mentality. A thought that by its mere existence casts doubt on reality. Diversity is all around us. We need only to learn to be inclusive. Leading with inclusion would invite different thinking, culture, skills, experience and innovation rather than simply standardization of the same old.
  6. Be a Connector. A leader takes the time to get to know the talent in the organization. Walking among the people and learning about their world. Communication failure, is most often the key to organization effectiveness and disengagement. So elimination of silo’s and physical space and internal networking opportunities throughout is they key to building connections among people and leadership. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes connectors as “multipliers who help create relationships between people”.
  7. Innovate, Don’t Dictate.  In uncertain times, arrival of new information often times means a challenge to the previous plan. Keeping an open mind to problem-solve with all levels of the team, encouraging creativity and innovation, rather than added control or measures to increase certainty will allow room for adoption of better solutions as they arise. The goal is to move forward at the best pace possible.
  8. Be an example of team not just a leader of it. During chaos, servant-leadership is the only leadership model that truly inspires a team, because it demonstrates that we are all in it together. To do this, you must stay consistent no matter how big or small the acts or tasks. That means no special treatment.
  9. Be Humble and honest. Much of the old leadership mentality is “no apologies”, “not admitting to mistakes” and certainly no “I don’t knows”. This is not confidence it is actually fear. Fear of not being adequate, not being taken seriously. In truth, people trust those leaders that they can trust, not those who are know it alls. Nobody knows all things, all of the time. So let the ego out the door, and be honest. If you don’t know something, tell them. The thing about ego is it goes both ways. You act with fear, you get fear in return; in reflection, acting based on ego, your team will not come to you with what they know or don’t know.

 

Conclusion

Following the Sunday mass shooting at the church, in response to President Trump’s tweet in that the shooting is a “mental health problem”, Puente said firearms restrictions for people with a history of domestic violence, substance abuse disorders and other high-risk groups have been shown to reduce gun violence. He went on to say that “Calling this shooting a ‘mental health problem’ distracts our nation’s leaders from developing policies and legislation that would focus on preventing gun violence through a scientific, public health approach.” Both suggesting point to control, regulation and division. Neither is actionable. Neither is working with chaos. Both comments are divisive as one blames the mentally ill, and the other Gun owners. Meanwhile the chaos continues to consistently move forward. Don’t we owe the victims and their loved ones more than simple statements of “the problem”?

One of the most influential business writers of the 1980s and 1990s, Tom Peters in his book Thriving on Chaos wrote “we live in a world turned upside down, and survival depends on embracing revolution.”

The most successful leaders understand that it is not the organization or the individual who is most important, but the relationship between the two. Guns are not going anywhere and neither is mental illness. Working as a society to accept both entities and learn to innovatively work with both is going with the times. Rather than constant blaming, accusing, and attacking, we can begin by accepting diversity of thought, culture, skills, experience and yes mental health. Design conversations around all layers of the population, and all groups. In truth, by doubting, blaming, and assuming members of society, we are creating more of the same and manifesting more fear, more pain and more threat. Hope is only in acceptance and in inclusion and that is what a leader brings to the table.

 

 

 

Photo credit: Naional Geographic Kids

We all know that negative thoughts directly impact our happiness.  But did you know that negative thoughts are actually literally poisonous to our psychological and emotional health?

Case in Point

 Let’s imagine you are sitting in your family room after having watched the news on TV regarding the much anticipated hurricane Irma. You are by yourself and go to bed immediately after, with thoughts of worry and concern. Am I prepared? Did I buy what we needed? Is our home insulated well? Then all of a sudden, the rain starts outside and you hear drops of rain tapping on the window. Before you realize it, the sound magnifies and all you can hear are the water droplets on the window. You start by thinking “oh my gosh, what if that leaky faucet we’ve had in the kids bathroom doesn’t handle the pressure? “ “What if the pool overflows into the house? “What if Katie accidentally falls in the pool when she is out doing her business?” And on and on and on, your thoughts are racing. You have to wake up early the next day and you have now spent over an hour tossing and turning in bed, flooded with so many negative thoughts about a hurricane that has not even been determined to effect your area.

How Did You Get Here?   

All of this was triggered by the sound of rain. Something simple, was transformed into something very hazardous by your thoughts. Automatic Negative Thoughts are just exactly that. Slow, but consistent at first, and then turn by turn, they have the potential to form in to a category 5 hurricane if we allow them. Its possible to stop them, but very difficult.   Why? Because they have literally gotten your mind sick!

Here’s how thoughts grow into a phenomenon in our brain within the Limbic System. The two very serious illnesses of depression and anxiety are heavily caused by rumination, obsessions and the elaborate need for control of people and our environment. The need for control first begins with a single thought “what is going to happen?” Then it begins to take hold of our psyche and quickly turns in to fear, if it is not reasoned with. Why fear? Because the answer to “what is going to happen?” will always be “I don’t know”. If voluntarily stopped right away with a statement such as “I guess we will have to see” or “god knows” or “no one knows” or my personal favorite “let the chips fall where they may” we will ride through a few seconds of concern and then the gateway to fear will close. Otherwise, if the gate is opened and we answer “gosh, what if ….”, or “this is not good” , or “why did he say that and not …’, or “is it because I said,,,,”, we have now entered the land of chaos, despair, hopelessness, and self-doubt. There is a Liberian proverb that says: “ Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.”

What Are you Thinking?

Every time you have an angry, scary, sad or happy thought, your body releases chemicals that activate your brain’s limbic system. Dr. Mark George, M.D., from the National Institutes of Mental Health, demonstrated this in a significant study. He studied brain activity in 10 healthy women under three different laboratory conditions. Through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), their brains were viewed as these women were illicitted to think happy, neutral and sad thoughts. During the happy thoughts, the women’s brains demonstrated a cooling of the deep limbic system. During the sad thoughts, there was a significant increase in deep limbic system activity. This is evidence that our thoughts tell our bodies what to do and hence we can tell our thoughts what to think. Polygraph and Lie detector tests, or what we actually believe to be most accurate here at the Center for Work Life, through Credibility assessment and Facial Action Coding, are based on this Limbic System response algorithm.

The Make Up of the Limbic System

The various parts of the the Limbic System, the Hypothalamus, the Amygdala, the Hippocampus, and the Cingulate Cortex all have different functions and hence different hormones associated. The hormones are impacted by our thoughts and set the tone for our emotional wellbeing. The more unhappy, fearful, anxious thoughts we have the more sick our brain will get and the more those thoughts will form within us.   The same way, our immune system weakens with lack of sleep, alcohol, poor diet etc. Happy, positive experiences and thoughts are like boosters and vitamins for the Limbic System.

Photo Credit: Think Tank Centre

 

 

To Be or Not to Be Following our Thoughts

Just the same way as our thoughts can work for us during a speaking presentation, when we are excited and a surge of adrenaline allows our brain to give the best performance, or when we meet someone, and know we are attracted to them because, butterflies form in our stomach and think we want to have a meaningful relationship with them, it can work against us. Many people believe just because it is a thought, it must be true. Well, that is not correct! Unless you consciously think about your thoughts, they can form pretty automatically. We can think of them as pimples. Yes, your skin can automatically form pimples, but with a good skincare regimen coupled with the proper water intake, and diet and exercise, your skin is constantly resurfaced and cleansed, training everyday to not have pimples.

Socio-cultural Influences

Our culture is one of future planning. College savings, Life Insurance Policies, 401K plans, Saving’s Bonds, Mutual Funds, and even Home Mortgages etc. are all designed tools for the future. Forget about the concept of Capitalism and who profits here, and let’s stay with the “what” part of it. As human beings, were we meant to be future oriented? Or did we become conditioned somewhere along the way to become that way? Well, looking at Research in to other mammalian species, the dog for example, could help us realize that, we could be perfectly content living in the moment. Now, we are not advocating going out and maxing out credit cards, and forgetting about saving for our future, but we are saying, we can plan for tomorrow but live for today. In other words, when we think about happenings around us, we can use our Emotional Intelligence and divide them in to three categories easily: 1. the plannable, 2. The unplannable, 3. Somewhere in between.

 Whether we are working a full-time job out there, or working full-time at home, as a home maker or parent, our work week is in The Somewhere in Between category. We can plan what activities we want to be engaged in, whom those activities will be involving, and even times those activities can be scheduled for. However, the outcomes of those activities, the length in real time it will take to complete the actitivities, the propellers vs. the hinderers will not be plannable. If you try to plan or analyze, or predict outcomes, you will spin yourself in to anxiety. The trick: You have to stop any future oriented, uncontrollable outcome related thoughts right away before they get hold of your brain. In other words, if they have already gotten to the 3rd scenario or “what if,” in this case, they are way too powerful to stop.

8 Everyday Exercises for a Healthy and Happy Brain at Work or in Life

  1. I am not in control; a power greater than me is.
  2. I surrender and accept whatever comes my way
  3. Uncertainty is a part of being alive
  4. When I am faced with an activity that worries me, I will imagine my favorite beach and I will get in, prepared but free to experience every wave.
  5. I will cross bridges as I arrive at them, and enjoy the process no matter what
  6. As soon as a negative thought enters my head, I treat it like a hurricane warning, I prepare, stay alert but calm, and use my support system.
  7. Keep record of my past trials and accomplishments and send empowering messages to my psyche
  8. I push myself to stay present in every task circumstance and tribulation.

 

 A very powerful quote by one of the most celebrated Persian Sufi Poets of the 14th Century Mahmud Shabistari said: “The past has flown away. The coming month and year do not exist. Ours only is the present’s tiny Point.”

 

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 1.19.22 PMIn a previous LinkedIn post, we had discussed that as a culture, we are apparently not the only people duped by narcissistic leaders. “While narcissists may look like good leaders, according to a new study by University of Amsterdam, they’re actually really bad at leading”. As published in the journal of Psychological Science, “because narcissistic individuals are particularly skilled at radiating an image of a prototypically effective leader, they tend to emerge as leaders in group settings. But despite people’s positive perceptions of narcissists, when it comes to performance, narcissists actually inhibit information exchange between group members and thereby negatively affect group performance.”

 

In today’s blog considering the state of our nation in both business and political management, weScreen Shot 2017-04-20 at 1.19.37 PM want to add to that yet another of the dark triad traits; Machiavellianism “It is much safer to be feared than loved,” writes Niccolò Machiavelli in The Prince, his classic 16th-century treatise exemplifying manipulation and occasional cruelty as the best means to power. In the same spirit we have had many more recent business leaders, philosophers and believer alike within a 500 year span, such as Jack Welsh, whom in his Four type Model of Managers states: “Type 4 (the manger who delivers results but does not live by values espoused by the organization) is the toughest call of all: the manager who doesn’t share the values, but delivers the numbers. This type is the toughest to part with because organizations always want to deliver and to let someone go who gets the job done is yet another unnatural act. But we have to remove these Type 4s because they have the power, by themselves, to destroy the open, informal, trust-based culture we need to win today and tomorrow”.

 

Robert Greene’s national bestseller, The 48 Laws of Power, make Machiavelli’s’ ideas seem like child’s play. Greene’s book, is pure Machiavelli. Here are a few of his 48 laws:

Law 3, Conceal Your Intentions.

Law 6, Court Attention at All Costs.

Law 12, Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victims.

Law 15, Crush Your Enemy Totally.

Law 18, Keep Others in Suspended Terror.

 

Furthermore, a 2004 Harvard Business Review article by George Stalk Jr. and Rob Lachenauer states: “winners in business play rough and don’t apologize for it”. In fact, in their article titled Hardball: Five killer strategies for trouncing the competition, the authors make reference to three Organizations: Dell, Toyota and Walmart, clearly stating that the way they have achieved their success has not been “quite kosher”. However, nevertheless they stay on their course supporting their claim that in order to be the epitome of corporate success, organizations have to play “hardball” like the trio above.

 

Several decades ago, as a leader of our nation, Theodore Roosevelt’s foreign policy was famously to “speak softly and carry a big stick“. Which technically, refers to practicing strategy and diplomacy rather than showing your hand at all times. Today, Trump’s is “carry that big stick and be very loud’. Meaning, no need to beat around the bush, but rather be controversial and unaffected by criticism, get to the point, show them you mean business and win at all costs. Guided by centuries of Machiavellian advice like the above, many have come to believe that attainment of power requires force, deception, manipulation, and coercion. In fact, a larger percentage of our society assumes that positions of power demand this kind of conduct; that to run effectively, we need leaders who are willing and able to use power abusively.

 

 

Well, a new science of power would reveal that this is not further from the truth. In fact, the use of power is most effective, when it’s used responsibly. Individual(s) whom are accustomed to being connected and engaged with the needs and interests of others, are most trusted and hence most influential. The many years of research studying power and leadership suggests that empathy and Emotional Intelligence are vastly more important to the attainment and exercise of power than force, deception, or terror. This research debunks myths that misinform about what constitutes real power, and how it is really obtained and used.

 

So what is it about the position of power that becomes all about winning and not necessarily about achieving the greater good? Studies show that once people assume positions of power, they’re likely to act more selfishly, impulsively, and aggressively, and they have a harder time seeing the world from other people’s points of view. For instance, studies have found that people given power in experiments are more likely to rely on stereotypes when judging others, and they pay less attention to the characteristics that define those other people as individuals. Predisposed to stereotype, they also judge others’ attitudes, interests, and needs less accurately. One survey found that high-power professors made less accurate judgments about the attitudes of low-power professors than those low-power professors made about the attitudes of their more powerful colleagues. Power imbalances may even help explain the finding that older siblings don’t perform as well as their younger siblings on theory-of-mind tasks, which assess one’s ability to construe the intentions and beliefs of others.

Power even prompts less complex legal reasoning in Supreme Court justices. A study led by Stanford psychologist Deborah Gruenfeld compared the decisions of U.S. Supreme Court justices when they wrote opinions endorsing either the position of a majority of justices on the bench—a position of power—or the position of the vanquished, less powerful minority. Sure enough, when Gruenfeld analyzed the complexity of justices’ opinions on a vast array of cases, she found that justices writing from a position of power crafted less complex arguments than those writing from a low-power position.

 

Hence, it seems, the skills most important to obtaining power and leading effectively are the very skills that deteriorate once we have power. In order to answer the question above, we must first clarify the definition of power. I particularly like the way power is defined in the science of psychology because it applies across relationships, contexts, and cultures. In psychological science, power is defined as one’s capacity to alter another person’s condition or state of mind by providing or withholding resources—such as food, money, knowledge, and affection—or administering punishments, such as physical harm, job termination, or social ostracism. This definition de-emphasizes how a person actually acts, and instead stresses the individual’s capacity to affect others.

 

This brings us to the third trait of the Dark Triad, psychopathy. There is a wealth of evidence, which clearly demonstrates that having power makes people more likely to act like sociopaths. High-power individuals are more likely to interrupt others, to speak out of turn, or to avoid looking at others who are speaking. They are also more likely to tease friends and colleagues in a hostile and humiliating fashion. Surveys of organizations find that some typical rude behavior such as shouting, using profanities, or shaming type of criticism are most often acts of individuals in positions of power.

Research by Dacher Keltner has found that many individuals with power tend to behave like patients with damaged orbitofrontal lobes (the region of the brain’s frontal lobes behind the eye sockets); A neurological condition causing overly impulsive and insensitive behavior. Psychopaths display lack of empathy and socially inappropriate behavior in addition to harmful forms of aggression.

 

When separated into traits as we have done here, the use of power as we have demonstrated here, doesn’t look that appealing. However, in society, we have had many examples of “powerful” people with the ENTJ personality type known as “the commander” who have been very “successful” at what they were tasked to do because they had a strong following of believers; Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Jeffery Dahmer, Winston Churchill, Jack Welsh, Steve Jobs, Martha Stewart. But why are these personality types, which may normally look appalling given power? We believe the answer lies in the fact that as humans we are attracted to controversy or radicalism even if it’s not good for us. The most “influential” leaders as mentioned above, armed with their manipulation, thirst for power, and lack of empathy, are often found reinforcing ideals for mockery and anger during times of mass weakness and despair. Only this type of leader is able to fulfill a tribe’s hunger for power because they bring with them a false sense of security. This serves a symbiotic relationship for the leader as well because the surrender of power by the followers, feeds the narcissism, machiavillianism and psychopathy of the leader that much more. It serves as a cyclical infinite process.

Although as humans we naturally strive for power, those with the above traits thirst for it in an insatiable way and if the environment calls for it, they are in the most desirable habitat to become more and more powerful. In the famed Stanford Prison Experiment, psychologist Philip Zimbardo randomly assigned Stanford undergraduates to act as prison guards or prisoners—an extreme kind of power relation. The prison guards quickly descended into the purest forms of power abuse, psychologically torturing their peers, the prisoners. Similarly, anthropologists have found that cultures where rape is prevalent and accepted tend to be cultures with deeply entrenched beliefs in the supremacy of men over women.

So when Jack Welsh was typifying his managers, he wasn’t necessarily referring to their work ethics but rather to their personality types. In a recent study on representative German businesses, narcissism was positively linked to salary, while Machiavellianism was positively linked to leadership level and career satisfaction. These associations were still significant even after controlling for the effects of demographics, job tenure, organization size, and hours worked.

Previously, an impressive 15-year longitudinal study found that individuals with psychopathic and narcissistic characteristics gravitated towards the top of the organizational hierarchy and had higher levels of financial attainment. In line with those findings, according to some estimates, the base rate for clinical levels of psychopathy is three times higher among corporate boards than in the overall population. This is also consistent with earlier conceptualizations of psychopathy among businessmen.

 

 

Instead of succumbing to the Machiavellian worldview—which unfortunately leads us to select Machiavellian leaders—we must promote a different model of power, one rooted in social intelligence, responsibility, and cooperation.

 

“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said the British historian Lord Acton. Based on what we know now, this is not entirely a myth. Power encourages individuals to act on their own whims, desires, and impulses. But thankfully new scholarship is bringing fresh subtlety to psychologists’ understanding, clarifying that power doesn’t have to corrupt everyone because it doesn’t affect everyone the same way. In fact, for some people, power seems to bring out their best. In a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, DeCelles and her co-authors found people’s sense of “moral identity”, the degree to which they thought it was important to their sense of self to be “caring,” “compassionate,” “fair,” “generous” shaped their exercise and response to power. Among the 195 subjects, while primed to think of themselves as powerful, the people with low moral-identity scores grabbed 7.5 points—and those with high moral-identity scores took only about 5.5. In other words, with the high moral identity group, power led them to take a broader, more communally centered perspective.

 

Another experiment involving adults found a similar relationship between moral identity, ethical behavior and innate aggressiveness. Assertive people who scored low on the moral-identity scale were more likely to say they’d cheated their employer in the past week than more passive types with similar moral-identity scores. But among those with high moral-identity scores, the assertive people were less likely to have cheated. In sum, the study found, power doesn’t corrupt; it heightens pre-existing ethical values.

 

So, in practicing power and surrendering it, it is imperative that we are ever vigilant against the corruptive influences of power and it’s ability to distort our views of humility and treatment of others. The goals is also remain critical in challenge myths about power, which persuade us to choose the wrong kinds of leaders and to tolerate gross abuses of power.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Would you say that Trump’s proclamation Patriotic Day of Devotion, which was made official on Monday, and previously uttered by Kim Jong-un in speeches to his 1.2 million-strong military and members of the ruling Korean Workers’ party echoes those of Dark Triad Leaders prior?

 

Evolution. What does it really mean? The first creature we would recognize as human called homo ergester first appeared in Africa two million years ago. Not long when compared to the Oldest species that inhabited earth over 600 million years ago. These species include sharks, ants, Jelly Fish and Sponges among others. The phrase survival of the fittest is what has been described as the outcome of how species with certain talents and capabilities are able to manage environmental threats and reproduce and therefore continue to prosper as living creatures rather than die out or become extinct.

 

Environmental threats exist no matter what. Any time there are multiple interests or forces at work, there is conflict. It is believed that Conflict is a result of various reasons. Malthus, the eminent economist says that reduced supply of the means of subsistence is the root cause of conflict. According to him, conflict is caused by the increase of population in geometrical progression and the food supply in arithmetical progression. According to Charles Darwin, the biological principles of “Struggle for existence” and “the survival of the fittest” are the main cause of conflict. Sigmund Freud and other psychologist hold the view that the innate instinct for aggression in man is the main cause of conflict. So we know conflict is an inevitable fact of life. However, in spite of the various causes the dynamic of conflict is founded on one main phenomenon; Power.

 

Even, in job related or interpersonal relationships where there is no tangible resources to be controlled per say such as money, food, autonomy, process, etc. the exercise of power could involve control of intangible resources such as decision-making, attention, freedom, time, love, etc. even though it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, in an abusive relationship whether a bully-type dynamic at work, an abusive personal relationship or an abusive marriage, one party establishes a pattern of unhealthy control. Even though there might seem to be times of peace and affection, these good times linger in the shadows of the subtle or not so subtle controlling tactics the abuser uses for the purpose of getting his or her own way.

For example, an abusive spouse may prevent his (or her) partner from seeing family members, going out with friends, or going back to college. He may try to regulate the people his spouse talks to, where his spouse goes, or how and when his spouse spends money. He may demand all of his mate’s attention. He may put his spouse on an irrational guilt trip for talking to or doing things with other people. He may consider his spouse’s needs as an infringement on or a betrayal of his own needs. He may act insanely jealous and falsely accuse his partner of cheating on him. He may constantly monitor and check up on the whereabouts of his spouse. Many are known to lash out and belittle their spouse when they don’t get their own way or when they feel betrayed or abandoned. Others threaten to divorce or to physically hurt their spouse or destroy a cherished possession, all in an effort to intimidate and punish their mate.

 

So let’s take some evolutionary theories regarding conflict resolution; Darwin’s theory regarding conflict for example. What does the term “fittest” really mean? Is it referring to our physical embodiment, like our body mass index, speed, skeletal build, or height? Is it referring to our cognitive intelligence like the size of our brains, how good we are at problem solving or finding food during difficult times? Or is it referring to our ability is to prevail through the process of conflict against the opposition or worst yet predators? The answer cannot be our physical embodiment because if that were the case, the dinosaurs would not have gone extinct. In fact one of the most successful species that has ever lived, the ant is one of the smallest and most fragile species. The answer also cannot be our cognitive intelligence because our mammalian brains evolved to the cerebral capacity they are today only since 200,000 years ago, while the successful species described above were around way before our time and have continued to prosper.

 

So how does this relate to survival of the fittest you ask? According to the various personality inventories, with the DISC being one of them and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator being another one, it has been studied that certain personality types are more likely to be entrepreneurial. According to Timmons New Venture Creation: entrepreneurship for the 21st century, entrepreneurship is “the ability to create and build something from practically nothing. It is initiating, doing, achieving and building an

enterprise or organization, rather than just watching, analyzing or describing one. It is the knack for sensing an opportunity where others see chaos, contradiction and confusion. It is the ability to build a ‘founding team’ to complement your own skills and talents. It is the know-how to find, marshal and utilize resources (often owned by others) and to make sure you don’t run out of money when you need it most. Finally, it is the willingness to take calculated risk, – both personal and financial – and then do everything possible to get the odds in your favor.”

Entrepreneurs take a stance on their vision, even if it means they might fail. Dozens of studies over the last three decades link risk-taking propensity with entrepreneurial achievement. Tony Tjan calls this trait guts: the ability to take action. An entrepreneur, he sums, must have “the guts to initiate, the guts to endure, and the guts to evolve as a new company changes”; we call it being emotionally intelligent. The ability to take risk in spite of fear, the ability to curb anxiety in spite of uncertainty, the ability to cope in spite of failure and the ability to persevere in spite of failure.   Two out of the four Emotional intelligence characteristics involve recognizing emotions in oneself and being able to work through them in spite of how difficult they may be in communicating with others.

 

One particular article has actually emphasized that these four personality types are more likely to be financially successful. But let’s put money aside and concentrate on just the entrepreneurial personality type for now, because as we know money can come from doing good and doing evil and it can do good as well as do evil. We believe that the “entrepreneurial spirit” or personality in this case, is not just relevant to the world of business, but rather to any venture that requires similar skills such as starting a new relationship, or a marriage and working though and nourishing it to flourish year after year. The four MBTI personality types ENTPs, ESTJs, ENTJs, INTJs, and ISTJs which are entrepreneurial are all curious, creative, take responsibility, and are decisive. According to Gallup, knowledge seekers increase their company’s chance of survival. Likewise, a 2015 Slovenian study revealed that entrepreneurial curiosity is positively correlated with company growth. According to the Journal of Small Business Economics as a result of these four sub personalities, they are Persuaders (enterprising) as measured by the Holland Occupational Themes. However, persuasion can either be tied in with psychopathy, machiavelian and/or narcissism or it could be tied in with conscientiousness, social helpfulness, and absorption; a disposition or personality trait in which a person becomes absorbed in their mental imagery, particularly fantasy. In reviewing the Big Five personality components, Contrary to expectations, a study in the Journal of Business Venturing found a negative relationship between the entrepreneur’s openness and long-term venture survival. On the other hand, according to the Journal of Management Decision, creativity was the single most critical and prevalent trait associated with entrepreneurship. However, in a recent study in the issue of Harvard Business Review, Target Training International Ltd., a research firm, a multi-variable analysis of a group of serial entrepreneurs identified five personal skills that clearly made them unique. The above personality traits applied but according to the study, the glue that held them together was “Personal skills” — often classified as “soft skills”. These include effectively communicating, building rapport, and relating well to all people, from all backgrounds and communication styles. Our research at Center for Work Life in working with hundreds of executives over a period of 18 years has found similar results.

 

It is believed that personality traits are usually pretty stable. However, interpersonal skills as practiced through emotional intelligence training are learned and open to change.

 

So how does this all tie in with our original question of what is evolution? Whether in the work place or in interpersonal relationships with friends, spouses or loved ones, we are constantly striving to either survive or evolve. Of course, similar to many other aspects of life, this is not an all or none dichotomy, but rather a spectrum. In Darwin’s terms, these two concepts were one and the same, but we say they are very different when it comes to social and psychological development. There is a difference between the individuals who tolerate, hide, ignore, avoid and stay on their own path when the evidence clearly calls on them, versus those that turn the system up side down because they strive for a different vision and are unwilling to take it as is. They resist control and instead choose cooperation.

Of course in symbiotic relationships where there is equity or a balance between give and take the power is distributed equitably.  We believe that Emotionally intelligent individuals are the highly evolved members of our society and of our species. Remember the sponge we talked about earlier? The one who has lived on earth for over 600 million years ago? What is the secret to its long and prosperous existence? It has been studied that as sponges feed, they filter out tiny particles of organic matter from the water. Researches believe, millions of years ago these particles would have included dead microbial matter, which rots and consumes oxygen. Sponges helped to clean water of this material. Without all of the rotting going on, the water would have experienced a significant decrease in oxygen levels.

More oxygen in the water then set the stage for more complex life forms to emerge, such as the first predatory animals with guts that started to eat one another, marking the beginning of a modern marine ecosystem, with the type of food webs we are familiar with today. So rather than merely surviving, the most successful species on the planet, thrived by “thinking” outside of itself and enterprising on the vision of coexistence, support and a symbiotic relationship with other species that it yearned to neighbor some day. So in spite of having no IQ at all, no cerebral cortex, no significant size or particular muscular strength, the sponge could just have been the most emotionally intelligent species that lived.

As humans, we have achieved so much through the art, science and technology. However, the illusion of control, or the misrepresentation of the power to guard resources has led us to kill, repress, exclude and severely harm our own kind. Rather than control, what if we shared our resources, capabilities, and strengths with others. Rather than possess, what if we freed rights and took responsibility not just for ourselves but also for other human beings and species. What if we learned to be better communicators? Being intelligently aware of our own challenges and communicating them while seeking others challenges and empowering them. Interestingly, it turns out that fortunately we have the wiring to do just that. As opposed to homo ergaster and homo erectus, as homo sapiens we surpassed the test of time and were the only species that continued to live on the planet as descendants of apes some 6 million years ago. But why? Homo erectus was slightly bigger and more powerful than Homo sapiens, so why did we survive when they did not? The most simple answer could be that this happened because we had bigger brains. But it turns out that what mattered was not overall brain size but the areas where the brain was larger. “The Homo erectus brain did not devote a lot of space to the part of the brain that controls language and speech,” has said John Shea, professor of paleo-anthropology at Stony Brook University in New York.

“One of the crucial elements of Homo sapiens’ adaptations is that it combines complex planning, developed in the front of the brain, with language and the ability to spread new ideas from one individual to another. Planning, communication and even trade led, among other things, to the development of better tools and weapons which spread rapidly across the population”.  

 

One could argue that not all people have the luxury or even want to be emotionally intelligent, because they have to be strategic. Our response: strategy or strategic action is associated with a competitive advantage-seeking behavior to create value.   If that value were one sided, meaning just valuable to us, or worst, gained at the expense of disvaluing others, that value would surely be short-term. And value, which is short-term, is not value at all. Hence true gain in competitive advantage utilizes Emotional Intelligence within all strategic decisions to create influence rather than control and hence a win-win for all.   Sponges could have ruled the planet. They could have reserved all of the earth resources for themselves. But they were the active agents that oxygenated the ocean around 600 million years ago and created a world in which more complex animals could evolve, including our very ancestors.

Work and Live Your Relationships Like a Sponge

Work and Live Your Relationships Like a Sponge

     During the past few years, I have increasingly come across more and more individuals, both men and women who have expressed “boredom” with their relationships or worst yet, with their marriages. In the tradition of research, I sought to discover what were some of the reasons for the boredom and here is a compilation of some of the reasons I was able to find:

-Busy schedules

-A lot of routine and predictability

-Tedious repetition

 

                     -Lack of surprise or delight in the relationship

                    -All Efforts toward providing for the family financially

                    – The males perception of the females’s lack of hobbies outside of the marriage and family

                    -The females Perception of the male’s lack of initiative and planning for joint and dynamic

                      activities whether as a couple or as a family 

     According to an article in www.foryourmarriage.org, “for some couples boredom is accepted as suffering to be endured. Common passive ways to escape boredom are to sleep or daydream. Other couples expend considerable effort and expense to remedy boredom through elaborate entertainment. These are only temporary fixes, however, since boredom is not so much dependent on one’s environment as a lack of imagination. You might say it is actually the person him/herself who is dull”.

     In a 2014 article in the Huffington Post, a 24-year-old male complains anonymously about the fact that he’s become so bored in his relationship with his wife, that he is considering divorce. His chief complaint: “she’s not passionate about anything, but us”. He goes on to say that although he doesn’t mind that she doesn’t work outside the home, and he’s the breadwinner, but he does mind that “she is not even passionate about a hobby”. Within that same thread, interestingly, a commenter on the thread, a female responds that “may be it’s not her and may be it’s you”. She says this after she says that her husband chooses to go party with his friends in an irresponsible manner, and hence she feels she needs to be the responsible one. We say, it’s probably a combination. It takes two to Tango as they say.

 

     Why not both parties put some effort? And no it’s not just about “spicing” it up with sex toys and other “extracurricular” activities, because those can eventually lead to boredom as well. How about instead, we start by avoiding what we should do, and do what we feel, and treating the relationship like it’s a person rather than a thing. Many couples assume that a good relationship just is. It’s fun, loving, exciting, etc. etc. all on it’s own.  They assume that if their relationship gets stale, it’s a bad relationship and it’s written in the stars. Not True. It was during the Season 6 and Episode 15 of Sex and the City that I first discovered the verb “shoulding”. The episode basically described that as women, we are particularly vulnerable to doing what we should be. For example, the show mentioned, should be married before our 30’s, having a steady income and a high profile job by the age of 30, and children before the age of 35, etc. Samantha had just been in a clinic testing and a not so pleasant experience hit her in the face. Later on, in observation, Carrie reflected in her column and wrote, “Why are we shoulding all over ourselves?”

     Relationships are hard and marriages even harder. This is of course because the investments are stacked up higher. So, in addition to constant problem-solving, Perseverance, and an attitude of “I’m in it to win it” are key during the hard/boring times. As long as you know the relationship is good for you, and I want to emphasize the importance of that differentiation, keep the friendship and the passion alive.

     Here I venture to going in to the topic of Relationship Rut with some of those views but also taking a global view because let’s face it, a 50% divorce rate is not anything to brag about. First comes love, then comes marriage, has turned in to first comes divorce and then comes bankruptcy. What gives?

     I want to first begin with a preface; that not every happy relationship has to end in marriage. Not every happy marriage needs to have offsprings, (one of my favorite parts of the Lion movie was the part where actress Nicole Kidman playing the role of Sheru’s adoptive mom tells him that adopting him was a choice and it was not because her and her husband could not bare children). Also, not every long-term marriage is a successful marriage just because it has lasted. The point is that, we as a species, have many facets to us and one of those facets is our need to relate and feel understood by our partners. We’ve been acculturated to not just mate and then leave one another, but rather to pick a mate and live our lives as partners, and if we decide to procreate, raise our offsprings together. But the trouble is that the work that goes in to that, did not come with an owner’s manual.

     Different cultures and peoples of the world, have lived, loved and perhaps married in their own way and have tales to tell. Those tales have given life to today’s values and as 21st century inhabitants of earth, we live the luxury to pick and choose which values work for us and that we “should” rather than fall into. Even back in the days when options were next to none, and oppression pressed like a cloud hard on women, as per an article by PBS Khadija, the first wife of the Prophet Muhhammad,  a confident and shrewd businesswoman, first hired the Prophet to lead her trading caravans, and then although many years his senior, proposed marriage to him. She was also the first person to convert to Islam.  If she could choose the way she lived her life and led her relationship, then we all can as well.

                                                                                                Here are my top 10 recommendations for 

How to avoid relationship Rut:Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 3.09.28 PM

1.Treat the relationship like a Person not like a thing! Think, Plan, Act is what we call them. Think about how your significant other makes you feel and how you want to make her feel. Plan dates, outings, communication points, getaways for her alone and for you both. And finally, play your part by executing those plans. And if you see shortcomings as far as what they can do better, don’t hold back. After all, a large part of conflict resolution in any relationship is to foresee and plan for positive outcomes rather than avoiding the uncomfortable conversations.

 

  1. How ya doin? Whether by phone or in person, ask your partner, what’s new in their life at least once a day and listen with intent. This helps you keep a pulse on the relationship, and you are a pro-active rather than passive participant. Because women are more communicative, most men falsely believe that they are in charge of the relationship and they wait and wait for the female to express their wants and needs. And that is not only boring but also not very satisfying for the woman.
  1. Confucius says. As a cultural group, Asian Americans are sometimes referred to as the “model minority” This is based on their relative success (in business and education), strong family ties (and low divorce rate), and low dependency on public assistance. As a group, Asian Americans have the highest percentage of marriage (65 % versus 61% for whites) and the lowest percentage of divorce (4% versus 10.5% for whites). No culture is perfect because, as we know, no human is perfect. But, being that cognitions give life to behaviors, it is noteworthy to know some of the cultural values that may help with keeping the longevity in Asian relationships. According to www.healthymarriageinfo.org , one such value differentiation is the fact that Asians do not believe that love in a relationship needs to be vocal; in other words, they believe that rather than extroverted expressions of love, a good relationship is based on silent, yet persevering acts of self-sacrifice and long-term and undissolvable commitment. See other values here.
  1. Singin’ in the Rain. You know that one song or series of songs, which as soon as you hear immediately, brings up a warm feeling to your heart or a fond memory of a happy occasions? What if you could actually duplicate that feeling and multiply by 10? Take some time to make a playlist of favorite songs you both love. Make one list of slow and one list of fast songs and call them “Our songs”.
  1. Vents without borders. One of the biggest complaints that exist in relationships goes like this:

          “he never listens to me”, or “she is always complaining”.

          These statements are one of the reasons boredom creeps in. And in addition to boredom, a myriad of              

         possible other not so positive feelings such as resentment, or annoyance.   Freud the father of

         psychoanalysis believed in a process called Free Association. This is basically where you vent and vent

         and vent and allow your thoughts and feelings freely flow and get expressed without feeling judged or

         interrupted. Almost Everyone’s phone comes equipped with a voice recorder these days. Rather than

        call up your friend, your family member or your partner after not having seen him or her after

        however  long it may be, use the recorder to your hearts content to vent and vent and vent some more.

       And once   your venter is emptied out, you will notice a sense of relief, which will allow you to be less

        neurotic, and more relaxed.  

  1. Mirror, Mirror on the wall. Depending on our current sense of self, and previous experiences with certain tasks, we constantly go from the feelings zone to the cognitions zone. In other words, sometimes we want our partners to be compassionate and just listen, and sometimes we want our partners to help us problem solve. Rather than just vent without purpose, first decide in your own mind which zone you are in before you bring your partner on-board, this way you avoid the pitfall of feeling unheard or thinking your partner is unable to help you.
  1. Simon Says. Share where your head’s at. One sentence is all it takes. Ex. “I have had a very exciting day and I feel very energetic!” , “I Have had a very demanding day and feel exhausted!”, “I’ve Had a situation with a coworker and feel furious!”, “”our daughter has been nagging for the past hour and I feel depleted”. Etc. etc. This emotionally intelligent technique accomplishes two things at the same time: a) it allows you to acknowledge your feelings, and b) it informs your partner what they can expect and what you can expect of them. This step should definitely be done after you’ve already done#3. Then, you start with the sentence, ask for a time line of 5. 10, or 15 minutes for yourself, and then you end with one sentence that summarizes how you feel/think as described in #4 and provide that information to your partner. Ex. I feel stuck with a situation at work and need your help to problem solve. Or Ex. I am very pissed with something that happened today, and I am sharing that with you so you don’t think it’s about you.
  1. Rome was not built in one day. Romance is not just hugs and kisses, flowers and chocolate. It is common interests. You don’t have to hibernate the entire week or the entire month, because you are waiting for that vacation, that event, or that invitation. Live your life for today and build everyday moments together. Build a bucket list of everyday activities, fantasies, places, or discoveries you both like to make together and depending on your schedule, designate one day of the week to take turns and do them together.
  1. Knock it out of the park. For those week days where you have had a very busy, stressful and possibly annoying work day, have on reserve a brainless exercise where you both let off some steam while having a fun and silly time. Yes, rather than the usual “lets have dinner and veg in front of the T.V., how about some of these activities: playing a favorite video game from your “Our Songs” library from #2 above, taking a 15 min walk holding hands, observing the scenery around you and not saying a single word, playing a favorite relaxing/up beat tune (depending on your energy level) paired with a nice glass of wine, cup of relaxing hot tea, or warm milk with honey and ginger and dancing together, etc. etc.
  1. Surprise, Surprise. Many couples, especially those with small children fall into the rut of thinking they need to do every task in their household before venturing to make love with their partner. Big Mistake! Locks, music and action is what we say! Sex before anything else. Saving the best for last is not always the way to go people! Remember the scene in Pretty Woman, where Richard Gere returns to the hotel after work, and Julia Roberts or Vivian as she is called in the movie greets him with her nude body, wearing nothing else, but a tie she has bought for him earlier in the day and Kenny G is playing in the background? Close your eyes for one minute and imagine one of you at the stove, and the other walking through the door. You exchange a quick hello and a quick glance and then off you go to the routine of homework, getting food on the table, then clearing the dishes and cleaning and before you know it, it is 8pm and time to go to bed. By this time, your passion has been replaced by stains on your shirt from cooking, tired feet and over stimulation from adhering to everyone’s needs except for yours and sex seems like another task. Flip the switch and put that fun activity first and what you have is more love in the kitchen, more peace and relaxation over dinner around the kids, and more smiles. Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 3.13.42 PM

And oh yes, do not bring the Tube into the bedroom. I repeat do not bring the Tube into the bedroom This includes, laptops, smart pads, phones, and even books, yes I said even books. Your bedroom should be your sanctuary and retreat cave. The only stimulating and entertaining thing in it should be the two of youAll and all, do not treat your marriage as a finished product, but rather as something to cultivate. That is a realm of Confucianism as opposed to the western thought as well; marriage is the beginning of a love affair rather than a happy ending to a romance.

 

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