Category Archives: team building

Your brain wants to be negative… RESIST!

The human brain fascinates me. This author of this article explains a biological evolutionary characteristic – the human brain wants to be negative. 

The explanation makes sense but is equally fascinating: Negative-feeling hormones like cortisol are immensely valuable from an evolutionary standpoint. These help a person to identify and respond to obstacles that may endanger a person. Negative hormones are super accessible in a healthy brain.

Our brains are meant to find problems. Our brains like to be negative.

Conversely, happy-hormones like serotonin are in shorter supply and are much less accessible. From an evolutionary standpoint, they have their place, but are harder to tap into. They’re frequently in short supply and are evolutionarily meant for short bursts of activity and hyper-focus.

Our inner selves want to be positive. The self and the brain are often at odds with one another.

If you’ve felt this inner game of tennis, like you’re traveling down a negative feedback cycle and struggling to snap out of it, it’s nothing to feel ashamed of. In fact, given the previously stated facts, it’s no wonder that we – as leaders and professional problem solvers – can be so focused on the glass so frequently being half empty. If we weren’t good at identifying these solutions, we wouldn’t be good at our jobs – so this is to be embraced to a degree. But how do we identify when things are out of balance? And how do we keep things together and maintain our position of positive influence on others? There are three things that help me:

1. Recognize what is happening. If I get too focused on all of the things that are not perfect, I hear it in my social circles. My friends approach me less. I might even hear comments that let me know I’m being too negative. I am always listening for these flags to pop up so I can course correct ASAP.

2. Externalize the negativity. I am frequently inundated with solving problems, so much that it can feel like everything is a problem that needs to be solved. I will create lists or journals to itemize everything I am currently trying to optimize in my job environment. This serves to remind me that the amount of things I’m focused on solving are fewer than it feels – and if I need to, I can systematically mark each off the list sequentially.

3. Do things that perpetuate positive hormones. Don’t be afraid to use reasonable bio-hacks when necessary. Going outside, exercising, socializing, and laughing allows you to feel dopamine and other happy-hormones. I personally enjoy doing really intense Crossfit WODS (workouts), as I find they bring on that endorphin rush and snap me into a positive mindset quickest. These grand moments interrupt chains of negativity and allow for new feedback cycles to begin.

What works for you? How do you stay balanced on identifying problems without letting everything feel like a problem in life?

 

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Normalizing Celebrity

Everyone has been starstruck at some point or another.

This can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks for people as they encounter higher-ups in their company.

I remember being 6 years old and going to a White Sox/Brewers game. We would arrive an hour or two early to seek autographs. On this day, I had the good fortune to attain a Russ Morman autograph.

I was on cloud 9. Seriously. As a 6 year old, within a foot of a real life baseball player, this was a big deal. If you haven’t ever heard of Russ Morman, you’re definitely not alone, as he never really developed into a strong major leaguer. In fact, he spent year after year unsuccessfully pursuing that baseball dream, earning a small stipend, and eventually he retired. He then became a minor league instructor and coach, the baseball equivalent of a blue collar job. And then he retired.

The person whose autograph I once was so excited to get was just a normal dude.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve met other people of varying celebrity status. I continue to realize that… they’re all just normal people, pursuing a better version of themselves and living life as best they’re able.

I’ve learned…

We’re all imperfect people.

We’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

We’re all humans, composed of the same cells, matter, and chemical reactions.

We all deserve the same respect. 

The next time you meet a person you’re starstruck by, try to remember that the person you’re looking up to is just like you, just like me, and just like everyone else. There’s no need to get jittery or nervous. Keep cool and connect.

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when to not be a leader

So many of these articles are about becoming a leader, leading others, increasing potential, etc… I guess that’s the theme of this website and a theme in the jobs and lives that so many of us lead on a daily basis.

However, something I’ve recently been thinking about is when we as leaders are not actually called to be the leader of a group. It’s a weird feeling and kind of hard sometimes. Finding contentment in that different role is stretching.

I’ve played music my whole life. Having the natural leadership ability thing, I’ve often found myself leading the band, either through stage direction, recording, writing music, or planning strategies on how to grow our popularity and marketability. However, the last couple of years, I’ve been playing music in an environment where I am absolutely not the out front leader. There are very qualified, talented, and awesome people in that role – and I’ve been learning to be a supporter, an accessory, and a teammate for the group. A spoke in the wheel, if you will.

It’s been a weird feeling.

It’s different.

Humility.

I’ve had to flex.

Keep the ego in check.

Put the group before myself.

Humility again. 

At the church I attend, I’ve been involved in the music/worship ministry. My favorite role in that band is playing guitar. It’s the most enjoyable band role for me because it allows me the most creativity. But we have a lot of guitarists. Josh, the leader of our group, recently asked me what I’d like to play and contribute. I thought about it for a second and (given this recent venture around servanthood) I responded “I’ll do whatever the group needs and wherever I can be most helpful.” I wanted to put my ego in check and attempt to truly benefit our group. So I’ve been working sound and production. I’ve been playing a lot of bass. Occasional guitar. But the band has been better because of that flexibility. And it’s actually been an awful lot of fun.

The group has been better because of my flexibility and attempt at humility.

And that has been incredibly satisfying to be a part of.

I think this venture has made me a better leader. So much of my time and brainpower is invested in skill and behavioral development. Being able to not be a leader sometimes has allowed me to have more energy when I am a leader (avoid burnout). This has stretched me to grow personally, in my ability to flex, and to refine my character. It’s also provided me with additional empathy for the group environment so that I can understand how people around me feel when I am the leader. Perhaps they’ve been in a similar place before as a leader and they are just seeking to help the group.

So to my fellow leaders – how can you be leaders by not leading?

 

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when the fire inside becomes an out of control inferno.

I heard a really interesting talk earlier in the week that my friend, Josh Madden, prepared and gave…and the concept is worth a big share for all of us.

Josh’s audience was about 120 people large. He through out the question “If we’re being fully honest, who here is too hard on themselves?” Just about everyone raised their hands.

The next question was profound. “Who here would ever say the things they say to themselves aimed at other people instead of themselves?” No one raised their hands. Why would we? That would most likely be mean.

We as leaders are too hard on ourselves. We push ourselves, we scratch and claw and scrape and fight until we reach our unreasonably high goal. Or just before we reach that goal, we raise the bar even higher. Sometimes we never hit that ever-moving, ever-increasing target. Or we hit it…but don’t feel that success because we’re already focusing on the next level. This fire is often what makes us successful and effective, but it can grow into a maladaptive inferno and can cause us to beat ourselves up to a fault.

This morning, I was doing the morning workout and felt like garbage. It could be the newer Keto diet I’m on, the lack of sleep I’ve had this week, or just one of those days – who knows? My numbers and my form were uncommonly below my norm – and I could feel my positive dialogue waning. Those feelings of frustration grew and the statements about “why can’t you do this?” became louder and more emphatic (perhaps exacerbated by the embarrassing backward summersault I did when I failed to hit one lift). I was shocked when the frustration boiled over and I threw the barbell down – something unlike anything I’ve never done in my life. This literally has never happened to me. A good friend (the kind that tells you what you need to hear) put me in check and interrupted the non-constructive inner dialogue. “This is fun, it’s supposed to be fun. Stop it.” My brain snapped back into a more normal, healthy place and over the next 30 minutes of working out, I focused my energy less on the exercise and more on allowing my brain to accept those important words of admonishment.

Do you have a healthy inner dialogue? Do you allow yourself to accept grace, compassion, and patience as you grow into a healthier, stronger person? Or do you push yourself too hard?

I’ll close with this. When we were in preschool, one of the golden rules we were taught was to treat others as we’d like to be treated. Perhaps it’s time to also flip the script and to learn to treat ourselves to the kindness, decency, and positivity that we share with our closest loved ones.

Be good to yourself. You’re probably pretty awesome. And focus on the good stuff. I couldn’t lift how I wanted to…but I burned like 1200 calories in an hour and I pulled off a wicked backward summersault. 🙂

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Becoming Superfluous

We’re leaders. We’re used to – well – leading our teams and other leaders. That’s sort of our thing.

Being leaders, we’re used to calling the shots, making the hard decisions, and spearheading positivity from the front. But what if we were present with our teams but unable to do most of that when it mattered most?

This was my last two weeks.

In retail, the holiday season is gigantic. Come November, one half of our being is spent focusing on the normal job stuff but the other half is spent preparing for the last two weeks of December. I am no different here. However, around December 15th, something unexpected happened: I lost my voice. When I say “lost,” I mean straight up “lost.” We’re not talking Joan Rivers voice or Dom DeLuise. We’re talking whispering as best case scenario but even then it felt like broken glass in my throat. What’s more is that it was almost totally gone up until today, December 26th. What the heck?

I am a firm believer in the value of learning in every moment. It really bugged me that I was stuck stocking or doing office stuff when I wanted to be sweating and laughing alongside my team amidst the holiday shopping frenzy…but it didn’t take long to realize that I was largely not needed… and that is awesome.

It showed me that I have outstanding leaders just waiting to take flight, waiting for their chance to step up and shine. Everything I’d invested in my people could now be put on display…and did they ever shine!

Customers were happy. The sales floor looked awesome. Morale was great. Numbers were fine. No disasters happened. Everything was awesome.

How often do we stand in the way of our leaders, even when it is well intentioned?

How many people are ready to jump up to the next level and take our place of leading leaders?

So here is my challenge to you: Get the heck out of the way. Let your leaders lead and be awesome. Even if it is uncomfortable – and it should be uncomfortable – trust your leaders to learn on the fly, lead their teams confidently, make some mistakes, and make some awesome decisions. Give them feedback and create factors in the environment that will allow your leaders to grow through that process. It may surprise you who steps up and how they step up.

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December 26, 2016 · 8:14 am

Peer Pressure

First off, this is not a story about gyms. Stick with me.

I am a gym rat. I am really driven to improve myself and especially love the challenge and visible/metric results of weight lifting. I’m that weird guy that finds that fun.

The majority of my gym time the last couple years has been spent alone. Just me, my wireless headphones, and my Science Mike podcasts. The “me time” had been good…but it felt increasingly lonely and I’d lost some motivation. I needed a spark.

Enter CrossFit. I’d never been to a CrossFit class or box (gym) but for some reason I thought the super-intense group fitness of CrossFit might be what the doctor ordered. I took a chance to join a gym where I knew no one and knew very few of the unique movements and vernacular. It’s REALLY hard for us introverts to do this stuff.

From day 1, the workouts were intense. My imbalance of strength was obvious. My lack of mobility was even more obvious. I HATE not being good at something and I hate even more to not be the best. I had last place in this CrossFit box pretty much to myself. I was humbled and even embarrassed at times. But I kept showing up and giving it everything I had.

At 4 weeks in, something changed. Sure, the movements became more natural and I noticed a little more core strength… but the feeling of being at CrossFit also changed. I found myself motivated to work out – not just for my body’s sake – but actually to be around this really cool group of people that I began to understand and appreciate. Some of us started to become friends or at least to know each other. The hour long workouts we did as a class were hard but they were shared experiences. We all kind of struggled through them but we did it together. We rooted each other on. We gave fist bumps (that’s a thing). And we began to converse about non-CrossFit life.

That positive peer pressure and eustress – that bond – has become an X-factor for me in my workouts. I now can understand and appreciate the appeal. Beyond that, I’ve begun to think about how to plug this dynamic into my workplace, my church, and any other team environment I am involved in. Positive peer pressure is making me a healthier person and can be profound if authentically, organically, and deliberately integrated. I believe it can be a great way to build a stronger and more motivated team.

What do you think? Have you had a similar experience with peer pressure?

 

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