Think Your Way to the Top

Do you know how powerful your mind is? A lot of us might take for granted what it can do. Maybe we shouldn't. 

Visualizing yourself doing a task, called mental practice, has been studied rigorously over the past couple decades, and the research reveals that it enhances your skill level, whether you're a surgeon or a basketball player. A meta-analysis (cross-examination of almost all available research) published in the reputable Journal of Applied Psychology concludes "results indicate that mental practice has a positive and significant effect on performance.” Even neuroscientists are making headway, showing that the brain and muscles activate in areas associated with the imagined task.

We’re going to discuss the steps involved in mental practice, but before we do, let’s talk about the potential uses for it beyond sheer performance. This may be a pretty big paradigm shift.

The Power of Intention

Princeton University had a long-standing department (called PEAR) that probed a peculiar aspect of the human mind – namely, how it interacts with the world around it directly. In its own words: “Nearly three decades of intense experimentation leave little doubt that the anomalous physical phenomena appearing in the PEAR studies are valid.”

One example of these experiments consists of asking participants to affect a Random Event Generator (basically, an electronic “roll of the dice”) by focusing on a number, in the hopes that the chosen number will repeat more than others. PEAR found a noticeable effect. The neuroscientist Mario Beauregard further attests to this when he says “looking at 832 [Random Event Generator] studies conducted during the last decades showed odds against chance beyond a trillion to one.”

Numerous other experiments are outlined by Lynn McTaggart in her book The Intention Experiment. Nearly all of them point to the possibility that our minds have some influence outside our bodies (an effect known as psi). This is a radical idea for our current way of thinking, but has existed for millennia, often wrapped in cultural superstition.

Perhaps because of this, and of careless researchers and psychic charlatans being put in the limelight, psi is often disregarded. Yet, as we’ve just discussed, legitimate research exists that paints a remarkable picture. If you're interested in more of these studies, please visit this list of articles featured on consciousness researcher Dean Radin's website.

Mindcraft

If this is hard to swallow, you can still use the exercise below for mental practice. It can be applied before interviews, board meetings, networking events, or any workday to boost your performance. But if you have an open mind, you can experiment with this skill to test what else you can do. Try visualizing a fat paycheck, receiving an award, hot new deals, a surprise vacation, your sales going up and more customers coming in – don’t be bashful! Consider yourself a lay researcher and pioneer of possibility.

Steps

1) Clarify. Figure out your intention, and be specific. The more detail you can add to the visualization, the better.

2) Relax. Use a familiar meditation exercise, or you can find one in this blog under "Surfing Brainwaves for Creativity." In short, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and release tension. 

3) Emote. Emotions are powerful, so use them to your best advantage! They will help flesh out your visualizations. Recall a time you felt a particular feeling strongly, then transfer that mental state to the new experience you are creating. Confidence, love, courage, focus, peace, joy, enthusiasm - each is a valuable ingredient. 

4) Immerse. Use all of your senses to find yourself in the desired situation. Feel it as vividly as possible, as if you were literally there. Experience it in first person, not as a spectator looking at yourself. If you are training in a skill, go through all the moves and gestures. This takes practices, but make the best effort you can to really feel it - and smell, taste, hear, and see. 

5) Predict. In real life, you could run into any number of challenges. In your mind, experience these. Think of anything that could arise to deter you, and face it gracefully. Use this as an opportunity to embed countermoves. 

6) Recite. You may want to add verbal affirmations before, after, or even during the exercise. Make these specific and positive statements. For example, instead of saying "I don't get nervous in meetings" you could say "I confidently interact with people in every board meeting" or even just "I am confident and comfortable around other people." 

7) Return. Open your eyes, smile, and feel an inner conviction that what you just imagined is real. Go about your day with this calm conviction. No need to obsess, no need to forget. Try to experience gratitude alreadyAlso, you should act in ways that maximize your success. If you visualize yourself speaking like an expert, physically practice, too. Go to the mirror and work it! And give yourself opportunities to get up in front of an audience. Like the investment brokers say - diversify. If you've done the exercise right, you should see yourself progressing efficiently. 

Note for Extended Intention

If you are going to practice affecting something "out there," Lynn McTaggart says it is a good idea to be precise. If what you want is quantifiable, use a specific amount ("I earn $3 million a year" as opposed to "I am rich"). Set an exact deadline, including month, day, and year (but give a reasonable amount of time - don't say you are going to be a millionaire tomorrow).

You may notice that these guidelines apply to goal-setting in general. The whole conclusion of psi research is that our minds seem to be able to influence probability. So see this as raising your odds; and, in theory, the more you practice, the better you get. 

Check out this video featuring Jim Carrey.

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

Head in the Cloud

Did you know that 84% of businesses sampled by CWD Tracking Poll are now using the Cloud? This internet storage system has become wildly popular and is even making entry into small businesses. Some entrepreneurs are hesitant to adapt, but it truly serves its users well. Here are some reasons why:

Money

First off, the Cloud saves money (and, in connection, time). Many Cloud services are priced at reasonable rates. Even if you choose to purchase a physical device to house your own personal Cloud (e.g. My Cloud), costs are still fairly low.

Amenities

Most companies that offer Cloud hosting provide a range of tools that come with the service. A professional suite is a common add-on, which includes some form of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Syncing is another asset, which makes life so much easier by allowing you to bring up important documents or presentations on your computer, laptop, tablet, or phone. 

Ease

Telecommuting is a growing trend, and the Cloud definitely helps enable this. You can literally access information anywhere and anytime, as long as you are logged in. This allows unprecedented levels of sharing and streamlined collaboration. And with speeds that are virtually instantaneous, there will be no time wasters.

Flexibility

One of the more overlooked benefits of using the Cloud in business is its scalability. A company that expands can add more data capacity in increments. This is easy to do on most Cloud services, and is economical.

Security

Despite some publicity, the Cloud is generally safe. You just have to use common sense when using it, like with any other secure program. If you’re concerned about security, there are many password generators that can help you produce rock solid codes. Here are some password generators:

PERSONAL CLOUD

Having a personal Cloud was mentioned earlier, but what can you expect? It costs about $150-500 for you own Cloud hardware, depending on the brand and data capacity. A small business with a team of 8 could buy this and give each member 1 gigantic Terabyte of data. Yet it's a toss-up. You would save money in the long run, but would miss out on the many benefits that the hosted Cloud services offer.

Check out this list of the big shots in professional Cloud hosting:

To grow your business and keep up with the times, it really pays to have your head in the Cloud!

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

Words Make Us One: The Magic of Communication

One of the top skills employers across the board value is communication. And yet, this is something that isn’t thoroughly taught in school and is severely lacking in many firms. The staffing agency Accountemps conducted a survey that reveals the number one problem CFOs identify is lack of communication within the company. Also, the Chairman for Hewlitt-Packard, Ray Lane, mentioned, “This [business] is 90% about leadership, communications, and operating execution.” 

Radiologist and neuroscience researcher, Dr. Andrew Newberg, has been investigating the process of communication from behind the scenes - in the brain. Distilled from his explorations with advanced scanning technologies, such as fMRIs, Dr. Newberg has developed a method called Compassionate Communication, which improves understanding, empathy, problem solving, peace, and content recall between people engaged in dialogue.

Here is a breakdown of the technique that you can use in myriad situations, including the workplace:

Relax

This is the most important factor throughout the whole process. Tense each muscle group, hold for a few seconds, and release. Take slow, deep breaths. Close your eyes for a moment, if you need to. Dr. Newberg recommends yawning - it physiologically helps you to relax. Now you have an excuse!

Visualize

It’s been demonstrated repeatedly that mentally rehearsing an activity before doing it improves performance. Communication is no different. So vividly imagine your ideal interaction - see, feel, smell, touch, even taste, if you can. Immerse yourself in first person. In addition, reflect on something you really like about the person you’re about to speak with. If this is challenging, then relive a general moment of bliss, some past experience you supremely enjoyed. 

Soften

Smile warmly and use friendly eye contact. Open with a sincere compliment. Speak in a slow, calm voice. These actions will all contribute to creating pleasant flow. Humans are wired to neurophysiologically sync with each other (called isopraxism). If you are relaxed and warm, the other person will likely mirror you, even unconsciously.

Chunk

Try to remember the last full conversation you had, in every single detail. Unless your memory is exceptional, there are probably many gaps. Our working memories can only store a limited amount of information (about 7 “chunks”), and they maintain it for 30 seconds at a time. Because of this fact, it would be wise to keep your words brief and direct. Rather than detracting from the conversation, this will actually enhance it by teaching you to be more selective and mindful with what you say. As you become more adept at Compassionate Communication, this rule can be loosened a bit. 

Surrender

Let go of your ego and immediate desires. (Are you still relaxing?) Listen patiently and alertly to the other person. Feel the words being born, and the emotions behind the words. Give him or her enough time to speak. When it’s your turn, allow yourself to speak from deep within you, almost spontaneously. See this as an exercise in observing where a conversation leads, rather than trying to force it.

When you can step aside in your own mind and speak freely (yet compassionately), the most important underlying concerns may arise. In Dr. Newberg’s experience, problems approached this way tend to be resolved in less than an hour. He also reports that after about 30 straight minutes of empathic, mindful dialogue, boundaries between speakers dissolve and they feel unified (which is actually observable by decreased activity in the parietal lobes).

Practice

Since this is a skill, it’s vital to ease into it. The best way to practice is to start with situations that are less stress-inducing, such as with a friend. Romantic partners might be tricky to do this with on your first few attempts. As you feel more confident and comfortable, go ahead and step it up. Also, when you start Compassionate Communication, it may feel “fake” or “not right,” but you are literally retraining your brain. Work through the discomfort, it may take a handful of times to begin feeling natural. By then, you will have given yourself an ENORMOUS advantage in business and in life.

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

Eating Your Way to Success, Part 2: Superfood Edge

If you’ve left the Standard American Diet and started eating whole foods, congratulations! You’ve made a challenging yet important step towards improving your life.  Hopefully, your colleagues are noticing, too! In this post, we’re going to offer tips for getting an extra edge in health and performance. Are you ready to step it up a notch?

Superfoods

These are nutritional powerhouses that give significant benefits. There are many types of superfoods, some of them obscure and expensive, and others unsuspecting items on your plate. For example, have you ever heard of maca, lucuma, and kamu kamu? Maybe not. But did you know broccoli, blueberries, and the same seeds used in Chia Pets are considered superfoods?

We'll focus on just two items that give the most ROI. Growing or making them yourself doesn't require much time and saves you a ton of money in the long run. 

 

Kefir: The Russian Elixir

This fermented milk beverage is believed to have existed for centuries in Eastern Europe and has a long track record of increasing longevity, fighting off disease, and promoting wellbeing. This is most likely due to cultures of friendly, probiotic bacteria (up to 32 different strains) that proliferate in it. Probiotics are now esteemed as vital for optimal health. The Harvard Medical School states, “Gut-dwelling bacteria keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid digestion and nutrient absorption, and contribute to immune function.” 

While scientific research of kefir is still in its infancy, there are studies on rodents that indicate kefir could slow tumor growth and protect against radioactivity. Plus, it has a host of nutrients, such as protein, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

Homemade kefir is simple to make and can have up to 22 more strains of probiotic bacteria than its store-bought counterpart. After your initial batch, you'll only need to pay for the milk for each cycle, since the culture can be reused.

A Note about Grains

Kefir cultures come in “grains,” which resemble a hybrid of cauliflower and cottage cheese. There is also a water kefir spin-off that comes from a different set of grains (resembling small crystals), yet has about the same amount of probiotic strains. The main differences are that water kefir has a higher sugar content and lacks some of the nutrients found in milk kefir. But it is more versatile – you can combine it with any fruit juice and sweetener to get unique nutritional profiles and flavors. Coconut water kefir is a popular choice since it has nearly half the calories of most fruit juice kefirs.

Kefir grains can be easily found on Amazon, Etsy, or Kefirlady. 

Click on these hyperlinks to learn how to make milk kefir and water kefir.

 

Lion’s Mane: Nature's Brain Food

This odd mushroom, also resembling cauliflower (albeit with teeth), has been a powerful ingredient in Ancient Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Its most notable effects are in cognitive enhancement and memory, making it a nootropic, or brain booster. Japanese Buddhist monks once used it to help their concentration in meditation. Can it help you in work?

It seems so. The Huffington Post discusses a Japanese study on the mushroom, "Giving lion's mane to 30 Japanese patients with mild cognitive impairment resulted in significant benefits for as long as they consumed the mushrooms." Scientists have discovered that lion's mane stimulates Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which helps build and maintain nerve cells. It also improves myelination, referring to the coating around neuronal branches (axons) that contributes to nerve processing. Like the kefir studies, research into lion's mane is also just beginning. But the long-documented history and results so far make a compelling case. 

For best results, it is recommended to take lion's mane in powdered form, mixed into hot water to make a tea. Or you can grow your own and eat the mushroom fresh. 

Concluding Points

Take this as your launchpad to learning more about nutrition, superfoods and nootropics. Remember that supplements of any type, even organic ones, are not a replacement for a healthy diet and lifestyle - which is why they are supplemental!

Please keep in mind that there are many foods and supplements touted as miraculous, and they're often insanely priced. Be discerning and selective. Look into quality research and history. At the same time, there are some foods that just haven't been researched yet. Experiment for yourself to see what works, and pay close attention to your body. Awareness is key!

Here's a brief list of evidence-based superfoods and nootropics for you to explore:

  • Fish
  • Barley
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Blueberries
  • Bacopa

You truly can eat (or drink) your way to success!

This information is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. Please consult your medical practitioner if you have any concerns about how the foods discussed will affect you. 

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

Eating Your Way to Success

Did you know the World Health Organization estimates that proper nutrition would increase productivity by 20 percent? It seems incredible, but simple changes in diet can have a profound effect on work performance. 

The Standard American Diet consists of copious fast food, junk food, microwave meals, sodas, and candy - in short, anything loaded with artificial ingredients or devoid of real nutrition. Consuming this type of food impedes our cognitive abilities and overall health. We seem to save money and time, but in the long run, a poor diet steals from us through medical costs and lower productivity. 

We all have a rough idea of what’s bad for our bodies. Do your best to ditch:

  • Refined foods (usually white)
  • Highly processed foods (usually with long lists of ingredients)
  • Most fats and oils (e.g. lard, margarine, corn oil, and processed vegetable oil)
  • Excessive sodium (above 2300 mg a day)
  • Excessive amounts of meat, particularly red meat (stick to small portions of poultry or fish)
  • Excessive sugar, in particular refined, white sugar and all types of corn syrup

What is ideal for optimum nutrition? Here are some guidelines:

  • All vegetables, in large portions
  • All fruits, in moderate to large portions
  • Whole grains in moderate portions (brown or wild rice, quinoa, barley, spelt, oats)
  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes in small to moderate portions
  • Healthy oils, such as coconut, olive, canola, and sunflower oils

As a general rule, try to prepare as much of your food as you can with the freshest ingredients possible. Seek out organic produce, as it is grown in richer soil, is pesticide-free, and non-GMO. There are many ways to buy quality produce economically, such as:

  • starting or joining a Food Buying Club
  • asking for “seconds” from local farmers
  • growing some of your own at home or in a community garden
  • searching for great deals at various stores and farmers markets

Final Tips

It is important to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need. A very helpful tool is a nutrition tracker, which you can find online or in a mobile app store. Some top-rated ones are MyFitnessPal, CRON-O-Meter, and SparkPeople

If you’re clueless on how to prepare healthy meals, there are excellent resources out there. You can take the 10 Day Pledge or receive free meal plans on 100daysofrealfood.com. The Whole Foods blog also has free recipes and weekly meal plans. 

Treat your body with care, and it will treat you well in turn with increased energy, improved mental function, and well-being!

Kong Ren Consulting unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. To learn more about our programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for our email list here. To discuss how we can support you, your organization, and teams, contact us today! 

Communication and curiosity go hand in

Have you ever been in an argument with your partner or 'special friend'? Me too…

There can be so much love and frustration in one conversation. Where does the frustration come from?

What I'm trying to say is…

I believe that we get frustrated most in a conversation when we're trying to convey a point and is just not landing with the other person. In this sense, communication and curiosity can compliment each other in a conversation.

Frustratingly, we often don't get accurate feedback on our communication. I've decided that this is mostly our own fault. I can remember times when listening to another person, they were so set on their point there wasn't much room to offer another perspective. I know I've been that knowledgeable, passionate speaker before as well, but truth be told a passionate speaker doesn't make a logical one, or even a common sense one.

Curiosity did NOT kill the cat

In communication, curiosity never killed that cat. In fact, asking questions to check for understanding is one of the best things you can do to avoid miscommunication. Why don't more of us do it? Is it that we afraid our message didn't land perfectly? Does it ever?

Where have you let your passion get in the way of a good source of feedback?

Now, add a computer

And if communication in real-time, synchronous communication is so complicated, imagine the conundrum when we throw a device in the middle and introduce an unknown time between when the message is sent and received (asynchronous) This is called Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC).

CMC is still largely misunderstood, not only due to the lack of research around the topic, but because it's hard to identify and isolate the factors that make or break an asynchronous communication.

As a great friend often says, there is more to be revealed.

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today! 

Surfing Brainwaves for Creativity and Performance

We all know what creativity is: a finger-painting child, a dancer in ecstasy, the sounds of Bach or Stone Temple Pilots. But it's one of those ambiguous things that's hard for us laypeople to pin down. Luckily, scientists have been studying creativity for awhile and research has shed some light.

The Imperial College in London has found that different brainwaves have different effects. Most of us are used to Beta, which is an alert state of mind typically accompanied by stress or anxiety. But with training, we can learn to lower our brainwave frequencies to Alpha and Theta, which are more relaxed and conducive to learning. Professor John Gruzelier, psychologist at Imperial, claims that Theta is ideal for creativity and enhanced performance. Experiments have proven that musicians, dancers, and surgeons who increase their Theta waves are more capable in their respective fields.

While the research at Imperial involves sophisticated equipment to stimulate Theta waves, you can achieve this on your own. Meditation, though tossed around a lot, is a simple way to relax, improve focus, and surf those creative brainwaves! You'll also get the added benefits of enlarging parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus and anterior cingulate, associated with learning, memory, emotional control, and seeing different perspectives.

Meditation: a simple process

There are tons of ways to meditate, but here's a simple step-by-step process. To fully reap the benefits, make this a daily commitment of at least 15 minutes:

1) Find a quiet place. Turn off your phone, and if you need to, let people know that this is YOUR time.

2) Get into a comfortable posture. Avoid lying down, as it's easy to fall asleep.

3) Relax your muscles and release as much tension as you can. Tightening a muscle group for a minute and loosening it is an easy way to do this.

4) Close or relax your eyes. Focus on your breathing. Inhale deeply, using your diaphragm to expand your stomach. Breathe slowly.

5) Choose an object of focus. This can be your breath, a sound or word (mantra, such as Om), a prayer, or an object you stare at. Use what feels right, just make sure to devote your WHOLE attention to it. Thoughts will naturally come to distract you. Don't be aggressive, just gently refocus. Practice makes perfect.

Once in your meditative state, you can then listen to your inner voice and allow new ideas to surface. Simply practicing this 5 Step Process, though, will have great benefits on its own.

Good luck!

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today! 

From Ping-pong to Post-Modernism

Intention and interpretation are the vital leaps in communication we make to bridge the gap left by the symbolism of our words.
— Matthew Koren

Intention

You speak and have intention. I listen and have interpretation. How do you know that I know what you meant? 

In our last post, we talked about communication ping-pong and some strategies to get out of it when you find yourself 'in the game'. Boy, did I opened up a can of worms!

And I've always wanted to write more about these concepts, so here we go. So let's start simply: what do we mean by meaning?

Meaning

I have an Albert Camus quote next to my desk that says, among other things, "meaning, a growth in experience as a result of receiving the communication, requires the hearer supply the imaginative link from the hearer's fund of experience to the abstract language symbols the speaker has used." I couldn't agree more.

Unless I pump you up with voltage-sensitive dyes (VSDs) and point a CCD (charge-coupled device) camera at you, I can't actually see any neural growth or changing activity. The rest is just inference. Said another way, blind faith that you understand me.

The hearer is taking the symbols of my words and matching them with symbols in her head. In even the best case scenario, this is like mixing apples with oranges.

So how do we know we've been heard? We listen to the symbols given back to us, and they aren't always words.

Are they of the same nature? Do they reflect understanding in the way we expected? If not, then what?

As we explore this concept over the next couple blog entries, do me a favor? Let me know if you get my drift? Thanks.

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today! 

3 ways to avoid communication ping-pong

Had you ever had an argument that didn't get anywhere? Don't be shy, my hand's up too.

Communication Ping-Pong

Oftentimes I see communication cycles that look like ping-pong tournaments. There's motion back and forth, but we're getting nowhere fast. The ball bounces off one head, and then off the next. It's clear that the meaning of the words (aka ball), isn't penetrating. The ball keeps on bouncing like that's the object of the game.

If that's not the object of YOUR communication game, then try some of the strategies below to avoid the trap.

Try these strategies:

1) Try to repeat the last thing you heard. Verbatim.

2) Acknowledge what you're afraid of, and then listen.

3) Ask an open-ended question that you really don't know the answer to—people tend to hate leading questions.

How about them ping-pong balls?

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today! 

Cooperation Wins. Again.

The ancient traditions are starting to penetrate the corporate organization, and with good reason. 

I'm starting to see calls for longer-term vision, rather than fighting quarter to quarter for that elusive edge over the competition and a continually tighter profit margin. I 'liked' a recent blog post on giving up on the endless march towards greater productivity—and I can't even find it now due to information overwhelm. 

Long-Term Thinking

In their recently released book The Alliance, the authors (one of them co-founder of Linkedin, Reid Hoffman) note, "A business without long-term thinking is a business that's unable to invest in the future." They encourage us to "think of employment as an alliance: a mutually beneficial deal" so that companies and people thrive together.

In fact, Darwin is well-known for the meme 'survival of the fittest' but "evolutionary theorist Peter Kropotkin pointed out in his landmark 1902 book Mutual Aid, evolution is driven by cooperation as well as by competition." If you read the book, you'll find that Darwin spends more time on this element of social behavior than competition.

I believe this thought of mutual caring, compassion, and commitment as an access to success is not so new. 

Communities have been operating this way tacitly since the beginning.

So what's the message? Cooperation wins. Again.

 

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today! 

 

How to get your people to express your brand

Yesterday I walked by a man downtown that, I swear, said the exact words "My needs as a human being were not being met." I'll spare you the details of his tirade, but he went on to describe an unfortunate circumstance in his organization. I was just passing by, but it made me a little depressed.

Having worked with top level executives, I know that they usually value two things above all else in their organization: their BRAND, and their PEOPLE.

So if people are such a top priority, why are they less than valued in our organizations? The #1 reason people leave their job is that they do not feel appreciated (U.S. Department of Labor). 

"Recognition is an important psychological need." says Gallup Organization's "State of the American Workplace Report". "Employees who know that they will receive recognition for acting on a brand promise will have a strong incentive to do so."

It's time for leaders to do something about this sad state of affairs. If you don't have enough time to treat your people like people, then don't expect them to stick around for long, let alone stick to your brand promises.

Appreciate your people

That's an active verb, not a passive one. Here are a few ways to show your appreciation, pulled from Connect, a booklet about how to create the culture of appreciation in your organization:

  1. Handwritten notes—Leave a note of appreciation for colleagues you feel are deserving of praise. This can be done anytime, anywhere, and can be anonymous.
  2. The Tribute Wall—Hang a large bulletin board in a conspicuous location. Colleagues are free to add notes which highlight what another colleague has contributed, specifying how she has been especially helpful to the author of the said note.
  3. Marvelous Mentor—After a new employee has begun, ask them who mentored them the most. Have them give a short speech to the mentor along with a lightbulb or candle representing how they lit up their way.

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today! 

What kids can teach us…

Kids say the darnedest things, like "Is putting flowers in one shoe against the law?" or "I bet this hot dog is full of MSG and GMOs. I'm gonna get fat." I certainly wouldn't piece together the puzzle of this world we live in and come up with THAT!  

I see a Portlandia episode coming up… 

I swear, kids see possibility everywhere. Nothing is too fantastic for them. Where do they get this stuff? Where does all this creativity come from?

POSSIBILITY.

When I look inside my brain at what I think is possible, I'm always surprised. I can be fairly cynical. I'm often shooting down big ideas, changing my plans ever so slightly so as to avoid a big mistake (or a big win), or outright assuming certain things won't happen!

I think I had more creativity back when I was a kid, back when more was possible rather than impossible.

How many times have you hesitated to think big, and then kicked yourself in the butt later for not going for it? Where are you holding yourself back? 

Reflect on this: Write out those areas where you're holding back. What would need to be extant for you to step into your power? Think back to when you were a kid. What would your kid-self do? 

Maybe you were on to something…

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today! 

3 Ways to Have Fun and Be Productive

Have fun

Summertime for me is about having fun and reconnecting with my sense of play and wonder in the universe. I like to have highly structure 'work' time abut my totally unstructured, unplanned 'play' time to keep my creative juices flowing.

And Be Productive

Here are three ways to have fun AND be productive this Summer:

  1. Add a 'play' break to your calendar and stop working when the time comes. Sit and think about what you'd do if you were your 5-year-old self and have 30 or 60 minutes to do whatever. How would you spend your time? Go do it!
  2. Stuck on a problem? The shower's not the only place where inspiration can strike! Pull out a blank sheet of paper, some crayons or colored pencils/markers and start drawing your 'problem' and potential solutions. Don't be afraid to doodle while you're thinking, it's OK to give your mind a break from focused problem solving. Sometimes, that's where the breakthroughs lie…
  3. 4 Words: Conference call exercise routine. If you're feeling antsy while on a conference call, and you're imagining the warm wind that hits your face as the breeze blows through the trees outside, then GET UP! Start moving around. Do some push-ups or twist and turn your joints—ankles, knees and toes count too! Do me a favor: make sure you're on mute first!

Have some fun this Summer and watch your energy level rise as you free up your mind with playful distractions that actually make you more productive. What's your favorite way to play at work?

 

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today! 

You are what you think

I may have multiple personalities.

Yes, it's true—I'm an entirely different person out on the dance floor or rolling on the ground playing with a child than when you see me in a business meeting. In fact, I've considered taking on a plural pronoun to explore this more deeply. 

I think I even know WHY I'm different.

Context and Communication

I'm playing into a certain context or role that I think you expect of me. You know, what I think you think I think about it.

What if I started questioning what I think you think about me? And what happens when I push the boundaries of what I think you think?

I, for one, get REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE!

As I imagine you would feel too. But's that just what I think you think.

I Think, You Think

We like to fulfill people's expectations of us, what I call 'I think you think'. The PROBLEM is, they're usually exhausting, confining, and inauthentic representations of the real thing. Who really created those weird, inhumane expectations in the first place? 

I say inhumane, because, as you remember, we humans actually strive to live in a certain way. We call it by many names—success, retirement, heaven on Earth, and yet many people have no idea what it looks like at all. I feel for what I think you think about it.

Now

I say we call this way-of-living-which-we-strive-for 'NOW', and refuse to WAIT for it to COME. I invite you to COME back to WAIT in the NOW, in this moment which we're all co-creating. Maybe it will bring some semblance of control over our work, our day, our lives.

Once I center on the NOW, I have a lot more CHOICE over what I think, because I'm paying attention to it. I like to choose bright, happy, successful, motivating thoughts by the way.

By setting up the causes of our success before moving on to the next moment, we can realize success—within ourselves, our team, and our organization NOW.

So next time I think you think happens, pause and consider how what 'I think' creates what 'you think', and choose something positive.

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today!

How stress can be grounding

Your body has an incredible intelligence just waiting for you to tap in. How do you get into conversation with your body?

Executive energy level is a big driver of business success, yet no one teaches us how to manage our own bodies and the incessant stress which work places on us. To be clear, I like how stress urges us to improve and develop. Body changes indicated by stress are an excellent starting point for grounding into your body and serve as a reminder that we are united mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiriturally.

What kinds of challenges inspire stress in you?

What are you doing to ground into your body at work, when you play, or when you dream?

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today!

The P Word

In this series of posts, I’ve been working my way backward through the Power + Authenticity = Accountability equation.  I left power last because we all have different definitions of the word. It’s as hard as talking about success. Success means different things to different people.  

Power is often a personal journey.

What I’m really talking about is personal power— the generative, creative power that we all harness. We harness it by to placing our awareness on our goals and choices.

For me, it's easy to sugar-coat this word, or dress it up so it looks nice. I often use 'empowerment' in this way. But in short, it's really just power. Do I have the power to change things in my life? Are the results of my efforts worthy of the power I'm expending?

In this equation, I'm defining personal power through the lens of choice and awareness and what affect it has on my self esteem and those around me. We all have choices and choices determine outcomes. Do I hold myself accountable as well as speaking up and holding others accountable? Are the effects I'm producing powerful for me and others? Do I feel, viscerally, the impact of my own agency?

Although this concept can seem elusive, I'm going to try and simplify it by just telling you what I believe—that power is self-generated, self-defined, and manifests in all sorts of different guises. The tricky one is the self-critic that can undermine our power if we let it dress up our mind with negative thoughts. How are you dressing up your power?

In short, you get to define your personal power for your own use, but it’s important to know what it is you want and what effect you want to have. If you're not stepping up to the plate, or if you are not staying accountable to your own desires and goals, what generative or motivating force is missing? What can help you become more aware so that you build your personal power, versus deplete it?

Three tips for harnessing your own power:

  1. Own everything you do fully—if you have to apologize, you’re not owning it.

  2. Communicate your intention lest others create their own idea of what you’re doing.

  3. Establish clear boundaries and hold yourself to them, flexibly—the point is that you know when to stop and question whether what is happening is in alignment with what you’re creating.

If you asked yourself what truly matters to you, what motivates you to get out of bed everyday, and what this would inspire—I'd say you've found your personal power.

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today!

How to Feel your Authentic Self

Authenticity is the compass that keeps us on that narrow edge we so raucously trapeze across in this beautiful dance called life. We can't necessarily see what the compass says, but it is something we can learn to feel.

You can start sensing this by looking into another person's eyes. Can you see if they are living the life they are meant to live, or if they're escaping from some fear wedged between their true Self and what they're currently expressing? What story do their eyes tell? Is it one of Wisdom and Compassion? Fear, Struggle, or Pain? Or is it Pleasure, Happiness, and Joy? Maybe it depends on when you look!

Similarly, you can imagine the story your own eyes tell. Sensing what you need in every moment and making the effort to move towards that need aligns you with your authentic self.

Self-examination

One of the sources of my greatest confidence is the faith that when I take the time to examine myself, and bring my current state closer to how I want to feel with my choices and actions, beautiful things erupt. The results are not always easy or painless, but they are exactly what I'm looking for.

Also, authenticity is a community effort. Who I 'am' and whether that is authentic is informed by my context and the people around me—even if I say I eat gluten-free foods, you'd find it odd if I was walking around in a bread factory or shopping for donuts with my friend.

To really 'pull off' authenticity, we must constantly be attentive to our internal thoughts and our external circumstances, AND make the effort to true them up with our authentic desires. If success is the result of causes and conditions that we have  control over, setting those up to bring out our authentic expression gets us closer than you might think.

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today!

Success is Not Just About You

You know how sometimes you're relying on someone else (or yourself)  to do something and then they flake (or you mess it up)? This particularly gets under my skin when it involves food. There's nothing worse than forgetting to buy eggs the night before. I can be a sorry sight staring into the empty refrigerator door wondering what I'm going to do for breakfast.

It's easy to get angry and frustrated by this, but the fact is we all struggle with varying degrees of integrity and accountability. Sometimes we forget the eggs AND the bacon gets burned.

Personal power makes a difference for everyone around you

It takes a team

Making a stand for yourself is not just about you. You change the world around you by setting an example, and you change your own life when you observe yourself following through with your goals and dreams. This can be scary. What if you fail? What if something gets in your way? What if you get hurt?

Think of the alternative, If you were to walk around life afraid to take a risk and shy away from making a stand for yourself, and what you believe in, it's hard to ask others to do the same. In fact, you're liable to begin to talk yourself out of your greatest passion just before your greatest success. After all most people give up when they are the closest to their biggest win.

Your integrity and alignment with your true desires, combined with your dedication to pursuing them to the ends of the earth are a reflection of your power. Are you willing to do what it takes to see your dreams come true, and thereby help others do the same? Or are you afraid to stand up to what you really want?

Failure to perform is an opportunity to improve

Hold yourself with compassion but be real with yourself. Pull your power back inside. Feel it in your body. Power isn’t just in your mind. When you step away from your power, or go against your word, you can truly feel it. You either did what you said you would do, or you didn't. The person you were relying on either pulled through, or chose another road and flaked. Did you hold that person accountable? Do you hold yourself accountable? The bottom line is it feels good to be accountable.

If this happens to you, and you flake out,  recognize your failure not as chronic but temporary, and make a new promise. If it's someone else, make a request. It all starts with accountability and the desire to evolve and grow.

Now think about those eggs. Even if you have to walk back to the store and buy them in the morning, it’s worth it. You’ve stayed true to your word, and everyone loves a good omelette.

Matthew Koren unleashes the leadership potential in your people so teams can thrive. He is based out of Portland, OR. To learn more about his programs, click here. To receive great, useful content each month, sign up for his email list here. To discuss how Matt can support you, your organization, and teams, contact him today!

Power + Authenticity = Accountability

I've been working on a new formula.

No, not like a baby formula for grown-ups (although there's more and more talk of babies around my household recently)! That would be a protein shake. Add blueberries, they're good for you.

By formula I mean, something easy to remember that adds a valuable tool to your leadership toolkit.

As always, I get the best inspirations from the people I know the best—my coaching clients!

Here's the draft version:

Power + Authenticity = Accountability

By power, I mean personal power—the power of your word, the power of your results, the power of your impact on others.

By authenticity, I mean truth—are you being who you really are?

By accountability, I mean being responsible for producing powerful results in alignment with purpose.

I know, that's a bit of a jump, but in the next few posts, I'll go into more detail on the dynamics of this formula—how it's constructed, how it works in various contexts, and what it means for today's dynamic, innovative leaders.

Comment below to let me know what you think!