Motivation, Commitment, and Intention: The Secret Sauce to Success

February 27, 2018 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“Our intention creates our reality.” ~ Wayne Dyer

It’s a general management belief that employers are able to get the best out of people if they follow what motivates them. While it’s true that to lead people effectively, you must first understand them, research suggests that the link between motivation and performance is not a linear causal chain.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is broadly defined as the willingness to exert energy and effort toward goals. The root word, ‘motive,’ is defined as something that causes a person to act. There are two basic types of motivation:

1.      Intrinsic Motivation: Intrinsic motivation is done for reasons that are internal to one ’s self. It is for self satisfaction and not for the fear of a consequence. The reward is within the action itself and does not need external factors to guide behavior.

2.      Extrinsic Motivation: Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors where the actions are done because of what has been said. This means that if we are told to do something, we do it because of extrinsic motivation.

It is generally believed that when a person’s behavior is aligned with a sense of personal causation and self-interest, i.e., intrinsic motivation, it is self-sustaining. Extrinsic motivation is less powerful because when the external reward is taken away, so is the motivation. Therefore, intrinsic motivation is the more desirable and self-sustaining of the two.

Furthermore, new brain research suggests that dopamine – a neurotransmitter that carries chemical messages from your brain to the rest of your body – plays an important role in motivation. Long thought to be the happy neurotransmitter, dopamine is actually the reward and punishment transmitter. This means that its real job is to encourage us to act, either to achieve something good or to avoid something bad. These neuroscience discoveries point to the idea that the brain can be retrained to increase a person’s motivation for rewards. That means there is hope for your teenage slacker after all.

But wait. This is where things actually start to get complicated.

The Role of Commitment

Have you ever wondered why you can’t stick to your new year’s resolution? Research has shown that the better we feel about our new year’s resolutions and our ability to stick with them, the less likely we actually will. Or have you ever wondered why after motivating yourself to exercise and making progress on your goal, you still eat that yummy piece of cake? It’s your brain’s reward system kicking in and wanting to be indulged. Research has discovered that we are all too eager to use progress as an excuse to slack off and indulge. Dope-a-mine.

It turns out that commitment, rather than progress, is the deeper source of motivation. Commitment to the goal is even more important than progress made towards it because it changes how you feel about the reward of self-indulgence. So that reminding yourself why you set the goal in the first place, is a more motivating and self sustaining force for positive change. Ultimately it seems, we are more disciplined about our goals when our deeper commitment is activated than when we are just focused on progress.

Implementation Intentions

So you have motivation and you have commitment. Then why is it you still can’t implement?

It turns out intentionality is the key missing ingredient for most. When researchers in the UK gathered together a group of volunteers with the goal of regular exercise, the group that was asked to plan and write down their “implementation intentions” – where, when, what, they were going to do for exercise, and how frequently, and for how long – achieved far greater success. Amazingly, 91 percent of this group achieved their goal, as compared to just 29 percent of the control group (commitment) and 39 percent of the group who learned extensively about the benefits of exercise (motivation) but did not have an implementation intention. Over 100 separate studies in a wide range of experimental situations have come to the same conclusion: people who explicitly state when and where their new behaviors are going to happen are much more likely to stick to their goals. For whatever reason, our brains need that extra nudge.

A Final Word…

Success, motivation and progress are not so straight forward. But deciding in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal can double or triple your chances for success. By simply writing down a plan that outlines exactly when and where you intend to do your thing – whether it’s a new exercise routine or finally writing that first novel, you are much more likely to actually follow through. As the research indicates, what pulls that desire out of you and turns it into real–world action isn’t your level of motivation, but rather your intention for implementation.

In the end, both the journey and destination need to be intentional.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

You Can’t Have Success At Work (or in Life) Without This One Thing

February 21, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Coming together is a beginning; staying together is progress, working together is success.” ~ Henry Ford

Everyone wants success. And success comes from results.

No matter what the pursuit, be it for profit or non-, a new product or collaboration, whether you are selling a house or developing your leadership team, or whether you are a new startup or long standing stalwart of business, results are the name of the game.

But what people often overlook is that results and relationships are two sides of the same coin. In fact the quality of the results you get is a direct output of the quality of the relationships you’ve built.

Here is how the process works.

Results come from actions

If you want results, you have to take action. But how many times do you take action without getting the results that you want?

The reason why people don’t get the results they want is often because they have not spent the time developing the required relationships or the shared understanding that is required to achieve those results.

Instead, they charge straight into action without the necessary relationship equity, the trust, and the shared agenda needed to help facilitate their action. This is particularly evident when people take on a new role or project. They charge in to objectives and targets and get busy at work without realizing that the time spent ensuring everyone is on the same page will triple or quadruple their productivity.

Relationships generate opportunities

When you’ve got good relationships in play then things become possible. Out of these possibilities, real opportunities emerge.

I was recently speaking to a police officer about community policing. His approach and how he builds trust with young people is a perfect example of how relationships lead to possibilities which lead to opportunities for action and results.

He told me that he often starts with visiting schools in plain clothes and when there has not been an incident. The police uniform is such a strong symbol of power that it becomes a barrier to authentic relationship building. This approach makes it ‘possible’ for him to have presence on the campus without ringing alarm bells creating ‘opportunities’ to listen and hear. Over time, the kids get used to his visits and begin to think: “maybe he really cares about us,” which in turn helps to build trust, a cornerstone of strong relationships. It is these relationships, the officer explained, that have helped him keep his community safe because they become a valuable source of information and because he is able to design an alliance with the community through the relationships.

It is the depth of his relationships that determine the quality of his results.

So what do strong relationships look like?

When people at work disagree, two outcomes are in doubt:

1. What decision will be reached?

2. How will we feel about working together in the future?

The first question involves the substantive issue, how the content of the dispute will be resolved. The second involves the relationship issue, how the individuals will deal with each other as people. You can win at one level and lose at the other—get what you want substantively, yet make an enemy. Or vice-versa—you may not obtain what you want substantively, yet strengthen a working relationship. To disentangle the two issues, explicitly separate your working relationship with the other person from whether you agree with or approve of that person’s viewpoint. That means thinking, “I will treat this person well whether or not I like what that person thinks or does.”

The relationship is more important than the issue or problem at hand.

Strong relationships are based on mutual trust and respect. They create shared understandings. They declare when there is a breakdown and repair accordingly. They complete the past before moving to the future. They put people first. That means thinking about other people and acting on those thoughts.

How do you develop strong working relationships?

Harvard professors Roger Fisher and Scott Brown provide several suggestions in their book Getting Together: Building a Relationship That Gets to Yes. Here are some of the major points they make:

  1. Separate relationship issues from substantive issues.
  2. Be unconditionally constructive.
  3. Beware of partisan perceptions.
  4. Balance reason with emotion.
  5. Inquire, listen, and understand.
  6. Consult before deciding.
  7. Be trustworthy.
  8. Use persuasion, not coercion.
  9. Accept and deal seriously with people.

A Final Word

Remember the old adage that being nice to people on the way up is important because you’ll likely meet the same people on the way down. That means maintaining a decent working relationship with your colleagues even though you may not like what someone does. The relationship doesn’t imply that you agree or approve of that person’s behavior. Despite your disagreements, you can keep open lines of communication with people you regard as difficult or even as enemies. That’s the only way improvement can ever occur. It’s possible and sensible to disentangle substantive and relationship issues because at the end of the day, the possibilities you generate in your work (and in life) are as ‘big’ as the relationships you build.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

How to Get Stuff Done

January 17, 2018 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” ~ Mark Twain

The frog in the quote above is the things you don’t want to do, but actually need to do. We all have them. We all struggle with productivity. We all struggle with efficiency. Time is a finite resource and we can’t get more of it. So, the only way around this problem is to use our time better.

Planning ahead is key. So is starting. Above all, taking action and over thinking is what moves the ball forward.

If you’re a maladaptive perfectionist or a procrastinator who is always holding out for perfection, you might spend a lot of time stuck in this mode. Just pick your frog and eat it without thinking too much about it. Don’t confuse activity with efficiency. Being busy all day is not the same as being productive. The most effective way to be productive is to build effective habits and routines and execute them with military-like discipline.

eisenhower-boxOrganize Your Tasks

First things first, organize. Get a birds-eye-view. In order to get an overview of your tasks you can use a method such as the Eisenhower Box Technique to divide your to-do list in 4 categories:

 

 

  • Things you don’t want to do, but actually need to do.
  • Things you want to do and actually need to do.
  • Things you want to do, but actually don’t need to do.
  • Things you don’t want to do, and actually don’t need to do.

Now that you know what needs to get done, here are a few of my favorite ways to get stuff done:

Set it up for Success

One of the greatest barriers to productivity is not having a plan. Many of us want to exercise in the morning but never take our idea beyond that initial thought to set our self up for success. If you want to exercise in the morning, make a mental note before going to bed that you’re going to go for a run first thing when you wake up.  Take out your running shoes and clothes and put them by the door. Get your iPod ready with your favorite playlist or audio book too. Then, once you wake up, you’ll remember the first task on your list for the day and have everything you need right at your fingertips to do it.

Have the Right Tools

The right tools are critical to getting stuff done. Let’s say you’re going on a business trip. Yes, it’s great that you can read emails on your phone, but I doubt you’re going to type out a report on it. So by simply investing in an iPad and keyboard cover, you can multiply your productivity while on the road. I use my cell for all it’s worth so I recently invested in an external battery pack so I don’t have to walk around airports looking for charging stations. Portable MiFi devices can also come in handy. If there’s some item that will help you work better, think of it as a tool in your arsenal.

Set a Deadline

Timeboxing is a technique that encourages you to focus on time rather than tasks. The premise of the principle is simple. Having more time does not mean more productivity. Think about it: When you have all afternoon to finish a task, you’ll take all afternoon to do it. You’ll make fridge runs, go  for coffee breaks, check email or social media here and there, and do other things that are wasting your time. Studies have shown that putting limits on your time to complete a task actually increases the speed of your work. Such deadlines improve your focus and enhance creativity. Time limits are particularly effective because they force you to ignore distractions and prioritize work. Time limits force you to dive in and power through. This is concentrated time and not the false promise of multi-tasking your way into productivity. Once you complete one task, you can switch to the next and timebox that one accordingly. We each have peak productivity periods. Mine is early in the morning. My brain is freshest. My thoughts are crisp. By the end of the day, I’m pretty well fried. So I know that I’ll do my best thinking work between 5-7 AM. It is now 6:31 AM. The critical rule of timeboxing is that work should stop at the end of the timebox and progress should be evaluated to know if the goal has been met. Setting a timer is an effective way to do this, especially if you can see (or hear!) it counting down. Get a big old-fashioned LED or wind-up one to put on your desk, and you’ll have a constant reminder that your “deadline” is approaching. Shorter sprints, by the way, are best because your brain is able to focus on any given task for up to two hours (after which it needs a 20-30 minute break to recharge).

Have an Accountability Partner

Having an accountability buddy helps you get your work done better and faster. Whether it’s having a running buddy for your exercise routine or a team mate at work, the social facilitation of having someone who encourages you when you feel discouraged or someone who shares some of your goals gives you a competitive edge. You need someone nearby to help you keep pace, expect you to keep going, and celebrate with when you’ve made it to the end. The back and forth and inspiration you can get from an accountability buddy is especially good for powering through work you don’t enjoy. So, find a colleague and see if you can hunker down in a conference room one afternoon and power through your work together.  There’s certainly a time for quiet, deep thinking work, a time for working more loosely without a deadline, and a time for solo work. But when you have something that is a challenge or a stretch for your own current capacity, there is nothing like having an accountability buddy.

Bundle  Your Work

In life and work, there are things we like to do and things we don’t like to do. Research suggests that combining the things we want to do, with the things we should do, could be a way to get more stuff done. The so called ‘temptation bundling’ technique says to simultaneously combine two differing, but complementary, activities. The theory is that pairing a thing you like with something you don’t like, will give you a greater incentive to do something you might be putting off. For example, listen to an audio book (something I like) while I run (something I despise). The benefit is derived from simultaneity. The risk is associating your enjoyment of the task you like by pairing it with something unpleasant. I may no longer like audio books after I try this and I end up avoiding both. Nonetheless, the technique is premised on finding tasks that complement each other, and perhaps even work better, when combined. Although sustainability is a question for further study with this technique, we can’t magically become more productive so applying new methods to see what works is worth the effort.

A Final Word

It’s important to note that these aren’t the only strategies or strategies to use all the time for productivity. They are best practices and we have to experiment to see what works best for each of us and when to apply which technique. The bottom line however is that developing lifelong habits of productivity is what leads to success. The business world rewards those who produce results—not those who are simply busy. It is worth your time and effort therefore, to learn the habit of diving directly into major tasks and work steadily and tenaciously until that task is completed. If you regularly set priorities and get important tasks done quickly and efficiently, you’ll be recognized as an effective and productive member of the team or entrepreneur who not only talks the talk but also walks the walk.

So what if I have two frogs you ask. As Twain said: “If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

It’s About Action Not Ideas: Why Inertia and Emotions are Your Enemy

January 16, 2018 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“Ideas not coupled with action never become bigger than the brain cells they occupied.” ~Arnold H. Glasow

You may be married to your great ideas. You may think that it’s your great idea that will change the world or create your next business success. I am here to tell you that you are wrong.

The success of you, your team, your company or your community is reliant on one thing and one thing only: your commitment to action.

As evidence, please consider the work of Bill Gross. Bill founded the technology incubator IdeaLab in 1996. Since its founding, they have created over 150 companies with more than 45 IPOs and acquisitions.

Naturally, Bill has had a unique vantage point on why some companies succeed where others fail. He analyzed the companies founded by IdeaLab and ranked each company on a scale of 1-10 on 5 factors:

·        Idea

·        Team/Execution

·        Business Model

·        Funding

·        Timing

Timing beat out all other factors with Team/Execution coming in a close second. Here is how things looked:

·        Timing (42%)

·        Team/Execution (32%)

·        Idea (28%)

·        Business Model (24%)

·        Funding (14%)

Inertia (and Emotions) are the Enemy

Raymond Albert “Ray” Kroc took over the budding fast food burger chain from the McDonald brothers in 1954 and turned it into a nationwide and eventually global franchise. As he liked to say, the two most important requirements for major success are: “first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it.”

You recognize this pattern. You are frustrated at work or with some aspect of your life. An idea comes into your head and you get incredibly excited. Your passions are stirred. You have found a way out. Your new idea rises to the top of your to-do list. But after a while, after thought, research and reflection, it starts getting pushed back down again.

As Gregg Krech writes in his book The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology, the problem with this approach to motivation is that it’s far too hung up on the importance of being excited about the idea –  on the emotional surge that results in a temporary rush of motivation that comes from believing we are about to change the world or to change our lives for good –  and that eventually gives way to actually doing the less glamorous work needed to advance the idea. The alternative is to stop riding the tide of emotions and do stuff anyway.

“The only way to really deal with the problem of excitement,” Krech writes, “is to stop becoming dependent on it.”

A final word…

All this doesn’t mean resigning yourself to a relationship or job you hate; it just means not relying on excitement, or the avoidance of discomfort, to decide on your next move. It means being a doer rather than a thinker. It means stop procrastinating while you hold out for perfection. It means slaying the fear dragon. Fear of success or failure. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of what others will think of you. It is action, not ideas, that contains the power to dissolve your fears. Non-action is exhausting. Non-action is de-motivating.

Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t overthink. Make a commitment, create momentum and embrace the power of doing something ‘NOW.’

After all, it’s what you do after the excitement fades that defines who you are.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Conflict Resolution Is First Mindset Then Skill Set

December 12, 2017 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“We must not seek happiness in peace, but in conflict.” ~ Paul Claudel

Competition in our society is presented as the norm. In our recent political environment, competition and conflict has even been used to divide us.

But our species actually relies more heavily on cooperation for survival and self-preservation.

Have you ever watched two children engaged in conflict over a toy? Then you may have observed them appealing to fairness and striving towards resolution and negotiation rather than stoking the fires of conflict.

If you’ve followed my writing for any time, you will know that I like to talk about the unity of mindset and mechanism.

When we humans witness pain and grief, we become sad ourselves; when we are in the company of someone positive, it brightens our day. These are neurological mechanisms that develop empathy for others, which builds trust, a prerequisite for cooperation.

New studies have found that in fact cooperation, not competition, is the normative mindset in nature. This is because it is more energy-efficient and because predators and their prey actually strive to maintain a kind of balanced coexistence. Nature’s bias is towards harmony and balance, not destruction and chaos.

But conflict is inevitable. No relationship is immune. It is a normal, and even healthy, part of relationships.

But when handled in an unhealthy manner, it can cause irreparable damage. In a work context, it can be disastrous.

To manage conflict effectively, first, we have to define it.

What Is Conflict?

Conflict is a disagreement over issues of substance and/or an emotional antagonism. Conflict arises from differences in values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. Managers and leaders spend a lot of time dealing with conflicts of various forms. In a work context, there are two basic forms of conflict:

  • Substantive Conflict – This involves disagreements over goals, resources, rewards, policies, procedures, and job assignments.
  • Emotional Conflict – This results from feelings of anger, distrust, dislike, fear, and resentment as well as from personality clashes.

Not all conflicts that arise are bad, but not are always good either.

What Causes Conflict?

  • Role Ambiguities – unclear job expectations and other task uncertainties increase the probability that some people will be working at cross purposes, at least some of the time.
  • Resource Scarcities – having to share resources with others and/or compete directly with them for resource allocations creates a potential situation conflict. You can imagine how in society, politicians exploit resource scarcities.
  • Task Dependencies – when individual or groups must depend on what others do to perform well themselves, conflicts often occur.
  • Competing Objectives – when objectives are poorly set or reward systems are poorly designed, individuals and groups may come into conflict by working to one another’s disadvantage.
  • Structural Differentiation – differences in organization structures and in the characteristics of the people staffing them may foster conflict because of incompatible approaches toward work.
  • Unresolved Prior Conflicts – unless a conflict is fully resolved, it may remain latent and later emerge as a basis for future conflicts over the same or related matters

Conflict Resolution Strategies for Leaders (Using Your IQ)

In workplace conflicts, differing needs are often at the heart of bitter disputes. When you can recognize the legitimacy of conflicting needs and become willing to examine them in the context of the larger environment, you can begin to solve conflicts strategically.  As an organizational leader, you can use various approaches to deal with conflicts between individuals or groups. These may include:

  • Appeal to Goals – You can focus the attention on one mutually desirable end state; i.e., shared goals. The appeal to higher-level shared goals offers all parties a common frame or reference against which to analyze differences and reconcile disagreements.
  • Change the People – Replacing or transferring one or more of the conflicting parties, conflicts caused by poor interpersonal relationships can be eliminated.
  • Change the Environment – Facilities, work space, or workflows can be rearranged to separate conflicting parties and reduce the opportunity for conflict to exist between the parties.
  • Change the Structure – Using liaison personnel, special task forces, cross-functional teams, and the matrix form of organizational management, can change interaction patterns and assist in conflict reduction.
  • Change Reward Systems – Creating systems that reward co-operation can encourage behaviors and attitudes and promote teamwork and reduce conflict.
  • Change Policies and Procedures – A change in policies and procedures can redirect behavior in ways that minimize the likelihood of known conflict-prone situations.
  • Train People – As a proactive measure, you can prepare people to communicate and work more effectively in situations where conflict is likely by training them in interpersonal skills.
  • Throw Resources at the Problem – You can use this strategy to resolve conflicts whose antecedents lie in the competition for scarce resources. Although it might be expensive, it removes all reasons for conflicts in the future.

Conflict Resolution Strategies for Individuals (Using Your EQ)

The ability to resolve conflicts positively is a key emotional intelligence skill. Conflict resolution is both mindset and skill set. Attitude towards the conflict and towards the relationship is a key mindset component while listening is a key skill set component. When you enter a conflict with a positive attitude and when you listen for where the pain points are for the other person, you are a quarter of the way towards resolving the conflict.

  • Self Awareness – As with most things, success in conflict resolution starts with self awareness. If you don’t know how you feel or why you feel that way, you won’t be able to communicate effectively or smooth over disagreements. If you are out of touch with your feelings or so stressed that you can only pay attention to a limited number of emotions, you won’t be able to understand your own needs. Your ability to handle conflict depends on being connected to your feelings and your values.
  • Social Awareness – The most important information exchanged during conflicts and arguments is often communicated nonverbally. You can avoid many confrontations and resolve arguments and disagreements through effective communication. When people are upset, the words they use rarely convey the issues and needs at the heart of the problem.  Listen carefully for what may be behind the words. Clarify. Restate. Reflect. Validate. Use empathy to develop your awareness of others.
  • Self-Management – One of the key components of conflict management is the ability to self-regulate. The capacity to remain relaxed and focused in tense situations is a vital aspect of conflict resolution. Try not to overreact to difficult situations. By remaining calm it will be more likely that others will consider your viewpoint.
  • Relationship Management – During conflict it’s easy to forget about the other person or to disregard the importance of the relationship. Rupture in relationships is to be expected. But when there is rupture, there should also be an attempt to repair. Sometimes the best way to fix conflict is to apologize. This requires putting others before yourself. Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on.

 A Final Word…

To be truly effective at conflict resolution, you have to make the relationship your priority. Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Focus on the present. Listen. Pick your battles. Conflicts can be draining, so it’s important to consider whether the issue is really worthy of your time and energy. Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish, which can never compensate for your losses and only adds to your injury by further depleting and draining you of vital resources. It may mean that you lose the argument. It may mean that you give up being right. It may also mean that you end up a happier human being.

Don’t fight it. Just trust me.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…a simple call to action…

I really appreciate that you are reading my content. I am thrilled to share my time, expertise and knowledge with you and to know it’s of value. Please likecomment, and share the article. I consider that my ‘tip jar’ that lets me know I’m providing value to you. Also, feel free to post it on your blog or email it to whomever you believe would benefit from reading it (with the proper credit of course).

Last thing…

If you find this content helpful and if it helps you think a little more deeply about topics of interest, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or on Medium or on my Blog.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal, professional, and organizational development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. I also just love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Best,

Saeed

©2017— All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Unleashing Mindset and Mechanism: Why You Need Both To Succeed

November 28, 2017 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” ~ Wayne Dyer

How We Work…

As human beings, we have two basic kinds of capabilities that must work together to advance our progress: knowing and doing or what I call mindset and mechanism.

Mindset includes learning, discipline, work ethic, transparency, commitment, being proactive, how we orientate towards growth and development, how we make decisions, and how we plan for the future. We plan and make decisions largely based on using past experience to judge the future. Mindset is about readiness. Readiness for opportunity, readiness for change.

Mindset is how you view the world.

Mechanism includes execution, action, methodology, tactics, deployment of resources, mastery of skills, goal setting and adjustment. That means establishing goals, following a plan, and then adjusting it according to both reality and perception. Mechanism is about competency and consistency. Competency to implement solutions consistently.

Mechanism is how you act in the world.

The unity of mindset and mechanism are the pillars that uphold everything else.

Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.

How Teams Work…

People, by nature, have the ability to know and do well. Success is about developing the right mindset and providing the right mechanisms. Then, stepping out of the way and trusting people to do their jobs.

From a team perspective, mindset comes in the form of motivation, buy-in, commitment, and synergy. Mechanism comes in the form of methods and tools the team can adopt and deploy to execute.

Everyone is involved in the planning, and everyone is involved in the execution.

After some time of working in this way, the team becomes proactive and synergized. The managers begin to let go of command and control.

In the old way, the leaders handled the knowing and followers the doing. When mindset and mechanism are separated, plans and decisions are made by a supervisor and tasks are done by lower level staff. Tasks are assigned without full involvement of the team. People don’t see the big picture, have less opportunity for personal development, and can’t feel achievement and growth. They aren’t engaged. They aren’t motivated.

Alternatively, the plan is made by team. Decisions are made by the team. The manager is only a facilitator. The team has the authority to decide how to carry out the project. The team feels empowered and they have buy-in to the process. They can see the big picture, they can volunteer for tasks that interest them (which helps their personal development), and they can feel a sense of achievement from their day-to-day decision making and implementation. They are given the tools to execute on their ambitions.

Old ways won’t open new doors. It is this unity of mindset and mechanism  that releases the team’s full potential and your own.

This is the key to transformation.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

9 Life and Leadership Lessons From the Three Little Pigs

November 14, 2017 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.” ~ Henry Ford

The story of “The Three Little Pigs” was one of my favorite childhood stories. The central idea behind this tale, that taking the time to perform a task the right way is prudent, and that shortcuts are a false economy, has been adopted by many work organizations since the book was initially published in 1849. Here are a few other lessons we can learn from this famed fable:

1.      Hard work pays off – The primary moral lesson learned from “The Three Little Pigs” is that hard work and dedication pay off. The first two pigs quickly built homes in order to have more free time to play. But the third pig labored in the construction of his house of bricks. Compared to the other two pigs, the third pig’s extra effort paid off in the end. He wasn’t eaten by the big bad wolf.

2.      Short cuts can cost you a lot – The first two pigs built houses of straw and sticks. While they were able to get the work done fast and had more time for leisure, their houses did not stand up to the huffs and puffs of the big bad wolf. They ended up losing their homes and in some versions, their very lives.

3.      Plan strategically – While it can be argued that all three pigs created a plan for the future – the first pigs made plans that were ultimately unsustainable. A straw house or even a stick house would not stand up against a hurricane.  Disaster preparedness was not part of their plan. The first two, could not delay the gratification of leisure time. The third little pig, on the other hand, did some future planning and decided to build a house that could withstand any future scenario, including a big bad wolf.

4.      Plan for the worst, hope for the best – The first two pigs never anticipated the big bad wolf. The third pig seemed to take all things into consideration in his choice of building materials. He was prepared when the unexpected happened. As the saying goes: “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” By considering every possible scenario, you can build a stronger house.

5.      Know your limits– The big bad wolf thought he was invincible. His bravado and ego were boosted by his early successes. He easily blew down the house of straw, and the house of sticks, though a little harder to blow down, was still no match for his lungs. But when he came across the house of bricks, he fell short. He had failed to assess the situation properly, and therefore, used his resources up on trying to do the impossible.

6.      Know when to quit – Sometimes it’s worth pursuing a goal; sometimes you need to be willing to let it go. The wolf pursued the three pigs even though he wore himself out trying to blow down the house of bricks. He should have stopped while he was ahead and focused on easier prey. But greed got the better of him and he continued his pursuit which landed him in hot water, or hot oil, depending on which version you read.

7.      Work hard now, reap the rewards later – The first two pigs were more interested fun and vacations. Building safe, sturdy homes was not a priority. They paid a dear price for their inability to delay gratification. But the third pig knew that some extra effort and austerity in the present, would lead to greater prosperity in the future.

8.      Be philanthropic – The third pig spent the time and effort to build a house from bricks and mortar. While his brothers were enjoying a leisurely existence, he was busy working away building a strong house. In the end, both of the lazy brothers found refuge in the sturdy home of their more practical brother in the versions where the pigs manage to escape the wolf. Just because he was the smarter of the three, did not mean he would thumb his nose at them and leave them in the cold. The third pig was a role model for empathy and understanding.

9.      Be Patient – The third little pig is nothing if not patient, a somewhat unrecognized virtue in leadership. Building a career, company, relationship, or in the case of our protagonist, a house, takes time. In his wisdom, the third little pig was deliberate and patient and his reward for his patience was to get away with his life.

There are more than just construction lessons to be learned from the three little pigs. These little characters can teach a lot about life and survival and their personalities reflect their outlook on the world. These lessons are prudent and practical and can be found in many of the writings of the greatest business minds in history – yet everything you need to know, you were probably taught in preschool.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A

How Emotionally Intelligent People Manage Conflict

November 10, 2017 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“Conflict is the beginning of consciousness.” ~ M. Esther Harding

As emotional intelligence gains more traction as a 21st century skill in the workplace, more research is beginning to emerge that demonstrates that individuals with high emotional intelligence prefer to seek collaborative solutions when confronted with conflict. The implications for human resource development will continue to be examined and be of significance in productivity and organizational change management.

In the meantime, let’s figure out how to deal with the pain in the neck sitting in the next cubicle over. I’m kidding of course. It’s actually important to remember that everyone you encounter is doing the best they can from their own level of consciousness.

Let’s get started.

First: Manage the Emotions

Conflict arises from differences. When a conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal and relational need is at the core of the problem. To be successful at conflict management, you have to start by being successful at managing your own emotions.

Therefore, it makes sense to use the frame of emotional intelligence to resolve conflict. Daniel Goleman has identified the building blocks of emotional intelligence to be: Self Awareness, Self Regulation, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.

In a conflict resolution context, that might look like this:

·        Self-Awareness – Manage stress while remaining calm to accurately read and interpret verbal and nonverbal communication. Be aware of your own body language. The capacity to remain relaxed and focused in tense situations is vital to successful conflict resolution.  Staying calm and centered also helps you think through better solutions.

·        Self-Regulation – Control your emotions and behavior so you can articulate your needs in such a way that they are heard by others. Although self-regulation may seem simple on the surface, many people ignore, sedate or suppress strong emotionslike anger, sadness, and fear. This is not the same as self-regulation. Self regulation is about thinking before acting and seeing the good in others rather than the bad. It is about the ability to calm yourself down when angry and cheer yourself up when sad. It is about being flexible and adaptable.

·        Social Awareness – Pay attention to the feelings being expressed as well as the spoken words of the other. Pay attention to the social context. Pay attention to body language. The most important information conveyed in a conflict context is often non-verbal. When you’re in the middle of a conflict, paying close attention to the other person’s nonverbal signals may help you figure out what the other person is really saying, respond in a way that builds trust, and get to the root of the problem

·        Relationship Management – Be aware and respectful of differences by avoiding disrespectful words and actions which will help you resolve the conflict more expediently. Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive or to let go. Be respectful of the other person and his or her point of view.

If you are out of touch with your feelings or so stressed that you can only pay attention to a limited number of emotions, you won’t be able to understand your own needs or the needs of another.

Second: Manage the Situation

Managing conflict takes skilled communication, negotiation, and sometimes mediation. A timely response to conflict situations is essential in finding solutions before conflicts are over inflated and become cancerous cells in the body of the organization (or frankly in the body of the person).

Conflict, handled well, can be a learning experience. Conflict handled poorly, can have a deleterious effect on the working relationship of colleagues.

To manage the situation use this 6 step process:

1.      Acknowledge – First acknowledge the conflict. Acknowledge that something is challenging you in order to open the door to creating a solution.

2.      Affirm – Let individuals express their feelings. Some feelings of anger and/or hurt usually accompany conflict situations. Before any kind of problem-solving can take place, these emotions should be affirmed.

3.      Attribute – Don’t immediately get out the blame thrower. Find out exactly the root of the problem – what it’s attributable to – not whose fault it was. There is a difference. For example, you may find that it was something in the environment that caused the problem and not the other person. If that is the case, an entirely different type of solution may be needed.

4.      Accept –The goal of conflict resolution is not to decide which person is right or wrong; the goal is to reach a solution that everyone can accept. Look first for needs and common ground. Find solutions to satisfy needs. Problem-solve by generating multiple alternatives.

5.      Agree – Always work towards common areas of agreement, no matter how small. Agree on the problem. Agree on the procedure to follow. Agree on worst fears. Agree on some small changes to give an experience of success. Whether small, medium or larger, be sure you get real agreement from everyone.

6.      Act – Finally, put a plan of action in place. Determine which actions will be taken by whom and when and how often. Make sure all parties buy into the action plan. Maintain accountability to the agreed upon actions.

Third: Manage the Solution

If you’ve gotten this far in the conflict management process, you’ve done the major part of the work and you should celebrate and congratulate yourself. But don’t count your chickens before they hatch. You do have to manage the solution too because while there is always good momentum behind the initial agreed upon actions, people have a tendency to quickly slip into old habits. Determine follow-up you will take to monitor actions. You may want to schedule a follow-up meeting in a couple of weeks to determine how things are going. Don’t stockpile issues and grievances in the meantime. Deal with issues as they arise; one at a time. Make sure your responses are healthy and constructive. Finally, determine in advance what you’ll do if the conflict goes unresolved.

Final Word

Conflict avoidance is not a learning mentality. We can actually grow from conflict by becoming conscious about our own participation, our own triggers, and our own ego. Conflict can be good for us.

But for the final word, I want to keep it real.

You may not be able to negotiate your way through every conflict. Some people are simply too stubborn to reason with and sometimes you have to give yourself that reality check. For example, passive-aggressive people are one of the most difficult personality types when it comes to conflict. Their silence, a sign of their passive resistance to resolution, is a non-starter. Some people have learned to only deal with conflict using explosive, angry, hurtful, and resentful reactions. Their ego is so fragile that they must win at all costs. Loss of relationship to these people is an afterthought. In such instances, a neutral outside facilitator (or mediator depending on the severity of the conflict) may be needed . In some cases the conflict becomes a performance issue, and may become a topic for coaching sessions, performance appraisals, or disciplinary action. There are also times when it’s best to cut the cord and move on.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The Most Powerful Self Improvement Strategy Ever

November 1, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Sometimes, only paper will listen to you.” ~ Anonymous

There is only one person who you can be truly honest with and who can truly be honest with you.

You know who that it is. It’s you.

Did you get a passive-aggressive, condescending, or downright hostile email today? Did a client or colleague go off on you for something that was out of your control? Were you just a hot mess?

There’s little value in going through experiences, both good and bad, if you can’t learn from them. So, whether you totally nailed a client meeting or stumbled your way through a presentation you were wholly unprepared for, you have to take note of the lessons you learned. By writing down what you’ve been through, noting what worked and what didn’t, and analyzing what might help you in the future, you’ll set yourself up for much greater success.

There’s no more perfect place to vent your workplace frustrations than in the privacy of your own journal. In fact, sometimes that’s the only place you should be venting your frustrations! I don’t mean to say that you should keep all negative feelings and experiences bottled up inside.

But getting some of the little, day-to-day stuff off your chest, privately, is often the most therapeutic and safe way to move past your dissatisfaction.

So, instead of firing off that nasty email, in your journal, jot down the response you really wanted to send to that colleague or client. Read it a few more times if you want, then let it go.

Here is what else you can do:

1.      Find your ‘Why’

Writing requires you to think through your ‘why’. When you sit down behind a blank computer screen or sheet of paper and begin to write out what you accomplished during the day, you are forced to think through your process on a deeper level. The discipline forces you to answer the difficult questions of “why,” or “why not?” The answers to these questions are not just helpful as you move forward to repeat successes and avoid mistakes; they can be therapeutic as well. As Simon says: we have to Start With Why.This is a great way to find your passion or to find your purpose.

2.      Set Goals

Keeping a journal requires you to think about goals. The importance of committing what you want to achieve to paper cannot be overstated. It is a simple process, but it pays great dividends. Writing out our goals provides the opportunity to articulate them clearly and makes their achievement appear closer. A journal serves as a permanent record of your progress. Success can be quickly forgotten. And when it is, it becomes easy to get frustrated with your pursuit. As with any pursuit, there are times you’ll want to throw in the towel despite all the invested effort and energy. During those moments, it is helpful to look back and be reminded of the milestones you’ve hit and the things you’ve achieved, no matter how small, that have incrementally moved you closer to your goals.

3.      Track Your Progress

Keeping a journal naturally forces you to track your progress and to spell out your next steps. A journal proves you have solved problems in the past. Whatever types of goals you are chasing, be they physical, career, spiritual or personal, not every step in your pursuit is going to be easy. The things that are most worth pursuing never are. At some point, you’ll be required to overcome adversity and challenge. Where you will find motivation and strength is in your own written word of overcoming it in the past. This is where you’ll see the history of your own resilience.  It is difficult to look back without also looking forward. As a result, when you journal, you naturally begin to look forward. And the next steps, inevitably, become easier to see.

4.      Envision the Future

This is the point at which you can use the work you’re doing now and what you’ve done in the past to envision what you want to do (and can do!) in the future. In The How of Happiness , researcher and professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky says that spending 20 minutes each day writing a narrative description of your “best possible future self” can help cultivate optimism and an overall sense of happiness. This exercise, which involves “considering your most important, deeply held goals and picturing that they will be achieved” is a valuable workplace exercise as well. Instead of becoming stuck in your routine, think (and write) about opportunities you see for growth. Then use this narrative to help build a road map. Ask yourself: Now that I know where I want to go, how can I get there? What resources do I need? What obstacles might I face? And who can support me in this journey?

5.      Track Feedback

It may feel a little self-absorbed, but there’s no better place to keep track of the compliments and praise as well as constructive feedback you’ve received than in your personal journal. The value of this is twofold: First, it allows you to quickly remember the great things people have said about you when you need to provide a testimonial of your work. It acts as a quick and easy morale boost on days that seem harder than others. Second, it gives you repeated patterns of behavior and habit that you can work on to self improve. If you’re being praised at work, it’s likely because you did something right. This is a great feedback loop and reinforcing mechanism. Relish it! If you’re doing less well, it gives you information on specific areas you need to improve. See it as your daily debrief with your self!

6.      Keep Yourself Accountable

As you script your journey, a bonus benefit is that you find accountability ― not to the written word, but to yourself. It is truly difficult to lie to your journal. Your past successes and perseverance will compel you forward. But only if you can see the record of this success, can you see how far you’ve come, how much you have left to accomplish, and why giving up would be foolish. Your journal is your story. It is your account of moving from Point A to Point B. And rightly shared, it can inspire others to do the same.

Getting Started

1.      Commit to writing every day. The intention of sitting to write every day will compel your mind to manufacture and recognize progress. It is a bold plan. And you’ll likely miss days. But don’t let that stop you. Commit again to write the next day.

2.       Care more about substance and less about style. Write for yourself, not for others. As you do, write with the truest goal of putting onto paper your thoughts and action. Don’t worry about spelling and grammar if those things tend to bog you down. Your goal is not to get an “A.” Your goal is to articulate progress.

3.      Don’t be motivated by length. There are some days where you’ll be motivated to write much. Others days, only a little.

We’ve all gotten good at sharing publicly—we post our thoughts on public forums, share them at lunch across from our favorite co-workers, and tweet them out to the world. But by sharing your career experiences and your thoughts in a private space, you’re in a better position to analyze your profession, reflect upon your experiences and goals, and plan for next steps as you grow in your career. I hope you’ll start writing today!

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

How To Create An Effective Coaching Partnership with Lasting Impact

October 31, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Partnership is not a posture but a process – a continuous process that grows stronger each year as we devote ourselves to common tasks.” ~ John F. Kennedy

First of all…

Coaching is not just about techniques and structure. Coaching is about developing an effective partnership with your coachee. If the partnership is missing, no amount of technique, however expert will help. The partnership is there as a formal part of the structure because coaching is successful when you have the commitment and cooperation of your coachee to help them learn a new task or skills, or to improve a particular area of their work.

Coaching is about bringing out what the coachee already knows. But there are times when coaching may require you to give feedback. Feedback is best offered in a non-judgmental way, and offered as an opinion. A coach may need to provide two types of feedback. The first type is if the coachee’s ideas are off course. The second type is if their method of approach or behavior is inhibiting their ability to succeed.

However…

Coaching is not about ‘fixing’ people. A lot of people react negatively to advice or suggestions. Often advice and ideas are rejected because the recipient feels no ownership of them and sees this as threatening or as imposed solutions. Aim to ensure that your coachee has exhausted his or her own ideas before you volunteer yours. In this way your suggestions will be seen as additional thoughts. You don’t always have to have additional ideas. In many cases your coachee may come up with all or more options than you would have considered; in which case a word of praise is a better tool at your disposal.

And most of all…

Coaching is about asking powerful open questions and actively listening to the responses.

Asking questions and active listening are the key skills necessary for coaching. There are two main types of questions, OPEN and CLOSED. Open questions are ones that start with what, where, when, how, and who. Aim to avoid the ‘why’ question which can be seen as aggressive. There are three specific types of open questions you may find helpful when coaching. They are:

1. Clarifying questions.

2. Creative questions.

3. Process questions.

Closed questions are less useful in coaching because they only promote a “yes” or “no” response. Open questions promote discovery and stimulate thinking. They are therefore ideal for coaching.

Powerful questions go a long way to helping individuals unlock their own potential.

The bottom line is…

Coaching is a combination of structure and empathy. In order to meet the coaching objectives, be they about leadership, career transitions, or building skills, the art of coaching lies in the ability to manage the human dimensions of the coaching relationship. This takes a foundation of trust, credibility, and authentic relationship. The coaching partnership realizes lasting impact as a result of this foundation, which is built over time. The more trust the coach can generate, the more the coachee can accomplish. Success shouldn’t be measured by how well the coachee performs while the coach is there to help, but rather by sustainable behavioral change long after the coach is gone.

Independence from the coach is the ultimate goal.

To get started…

1.      Establish ground rules for the relationship.

2.      Ensure buy-in.

3.      Secure commitment.

4.      Establish a definition of success for the relationship

5.      Agree on frequency and method of communication.

6.      Have a plan for progress checks to know when the coaching relationship is over or when it needs to be re-evaluated.

And a final word…

Coaching is about intentions, understanding, engagement, and lasting impact. The coach must have a clear understanding of what needs to be worked on by first developing a thorough understanding of the context, and then focusing on behaviors that produce desired outcomes. Body language and the emotional intelligence to be able to read it are just as important as the coaching format or structure. The coach must demonstrate genuine interest through eye contact, posture and attentiveness. The self-awareness and emotional intelligence of the coach is as important as that of the coachee.

Therein lies the symbiotic relationship between the two – the ultimate success of which is measured by the results achieved in partnership.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.