Monthly Archives: November 2010

Gratitude is Good for Business

 |  Leadership

I wrote last week about the need to own our reality and be mindful of how the real and imagined demands of business can lead us into a pace of working that is not sustainable. I suggested that the fast pace we keep can contribute to reactivity and poor decision-making. We need to get control of ourselves and think through decisions to ensure we choose the optimal COA and not just the obvious one.

A side effect to the crazy pace many keep is that we easily see what’s wrong and miss the stuff that’s right. As folks in the US head into a holiday meant for “Thanks-Giving” it’s a good time for all of us to remember that we have much to gain, personally and professionally, from practicing gratitude on a regular basis.

Recent studies on gratefulness demonstrate that practicing gratitude has a positive effect on both mental and physical health. It also goes a long way in keeping teams and key players engaged and performing at a high level. (No one ever complains about getting too much positive feedback or thanks!)
So if you’d like to begin feeling more optimistic, more socially satisfied, less envious and in a better mood, start expressing gratitude through your words and deeds. You may find that you also start feeling better, sleeping better, and wanting to get out and move around (exercise) more. It’s good for you and good for business.

As I write this I am tremendously grateful for the family and friends who love me and whom I get to love. I am grateful to all the people I’ve met along the way who have contributed to my growth and development – teachers, friends, mentors, and coaches. I am also always grateful every day for the opportunity to do exciting and meaningful work that doesn’t feel like work with terrific people around the world. I’m a lucky man, indeed.

Talk to you soon. Thanks,


Is Your Race Pace Sustainable?

 |  Leadership

I run road and trail races from time to time. When the starting gun goes off, I take off with everyone else, usually going faster than I normally run. I eventually settle in and find my pace. If I don’t, I hit a wall and have a very bad day. It doesn’t mean I’m not competing. I am. It means I have to find a way to sustainably compete in order to go the distance.

We have to do the same in business. We have to find a way to compete in a sustainable way. I have had coaching clients who get caught up in the pace of business being set by others – superiors or external market factors. With compensation and bonuses tied to hitting a number and growing revenue or market share, it’s no surprise that we get caught up in trying to get more and more done in the same number of hours and days we’ve always had.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t race. I’m saying we need to get smarter about how we race. I look at the decisions some leaders and teams are making and have to ask, “Is this sustainable?” “Can the amount of energy and time being expended last for more than a quarter or year?” My short answer is “no. It’s not sustainable.” Even if we hit the target we are aiming at, the experience of achieving the objective is dissatisfying at best, devastating to a team at worst. Relationships get damaged, health gets compromised, morale goes down and engagement and performance drops.

During a race, runners make decisions to expend more energy to overtake someone or get to a milestone in a particular time; but unless you’re an elite runner you don’t sprint for an entire marathon. It’s just not sustainable.

When the call comes from the top to double down and chase growth, the obvious solution (to put more time and energy into the same timeframe) isn’t always the optimal solution. Sometimes it may be; most times it’s not. The optimal solution is to remember how to run smart.

Don’t get caught into the frenzy that happens at the start of a race. Take a moment and attend to where you are now and what your experience is? What is the smartest way to respond to what you’ve been asked to do? What are the obvious gaps? Imagine resetting your strategy and execution game plan to move toward your objectives in a personally and professionally sustainable way. What adjustments might you make to how you spend your time and energy? How might you shift how you engage your team and leverage resources? Move forward with a plan that is sustainable for you and your team.

Don’t just run the race. Run YOUR race.

EI Benefits Strategic Thinking

 |  Leadership

We are in the midst of an LD process with a number of leaders. In a recent conversation on emotional intelligence, we put forth that all decisions involve emotion and that growing our own EI is foundational to effective leadership that drives positive business results and people development. In most conversations with leaders about EI, the discussion goes to its applicability. “How is this EI stuff going to help me in my job tomorrow?” “Why do I need to bother with this?”

Some new recent provides yet another answer to these questions. Strategy (and strategic thinking) and execution are two important and connected leadership tasks. These two kinds of thinking rely on social-emotional reasoning as much as cognitive function. This is especially true for those most adept at strategic thinking. In a study by Gilkey, Caceda, and Clinton (Harvard Business Review, September 2010), the authors write:

“In a recent study we conducted with Diana Robertson and Andrew Bate of the Wharton School, we asked managers in an executive MBA program to react to fictional strategic and tactical management dilemmas and measured their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI. Instead of simply identifying which parts of the brain “lit up” in response to particular tasks, we looked at how the brain regions were interacting.

The area of the brain people tend to associate with strategic thought is the prefrontal cortex, known for its role in executive function. It allows humans to engage in anticipation, pattern recognition, probability assessment, risk appraisal, and abstract thinking. Those abilities do help managers solve problems. However, when we examined the best strategic performers in our sample, we found significantly less neural activity in the prefrontal cortex than in the areas associated with “gut” responses, empathy, and emotional intelligence (that is, the insula, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the superior temporal sulcus). In other words, the conscious executive function was downplayed—while regions associated with unconscious emotion processing operated more freely.

Of course, IQ-based reasoning is valuable in both strategic and tactical thinking—but itʼs clear that managers integrate their brain processes as they become better strategists. When companies realize that, they may approach strategy and execution more holistically.”

Why bother with EI? Being able to understand and manage our emotions enables us to interact with others more effectively. We accept that even if we don’t see that as an immediate business application. The research of Gilkey, Cadeda, and Clinton suggests that growing our EI can positively impact our capacity for strategic thinking and execution. That’s an application most business leaders can understand and get behind.

When Emotional Reasoning Trumps IQ by Roderick Gilkey, Ricardo Caceda, and Clinton Kilts (HBR, SEPT