An artist I know loves to show me a blank canvas and describe, in detail, the painting. To her, it’s so clear. Where I see only a blank canvas, she sees an entire landscape full of vibrant colors.
An entrepreneur I know once took his family on a tour of a remote piece of property. He shared his vision for where buildings would go and all the customers who would be mingling in various parts of the land. The family couldn’t imagine it, but he saw it all vividly. And, today, it looks exactly like that. It’s a thriving business.
An author friend of mine creates characters in her mind. Month after month, she dreams about them, talks with them, listens to them. They become so real to her that, when she finally starts writing, it’s as if she is merely recording what happens instead of inventing it.
“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” –Vincent van Gogh
On a recent vacation, my wife was relaxing on a deck with a view of a mountain. As she often does, she was bringing people into her mind and praying for them one by one. Mesmerized by the beautiful scene in front of her, she decided to take a quick picture with her phone.
When we returned home, she was looking at her pictures and shared this one with a few close friends. Immediately, the responses started coming back. There’s something in the clouds!
“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.” –Chuck Palahniuk
Daniel Pink’s work on motivation is likely the most well known, the most quoted, and the most discussed in management circles. We tend to think that we are either motivated by a fear of punishment or the excitement of a reward; the positive and the negative, the carrot and the stick. All of these forms are extrinsic, and they work only in certain situations. In fact, rewards can backfire in certain situations.
Instead, Pink concludes that we are more motivated by intrinsic motivation, the desire to do things because they matter. This completely upends the traditional thinking about motivating behavior. We have a desire to be part of something important, something larger.
Study: In 8 our of 9 tasks Dan Pink examined, higher incentives led to worse performance.”
My friend, author and speaker Shawn Murphy is the CEO & Founder of the leadership blog, Switch & Shift. His new book, The Optimistic Workplace, is a guide to creating and maintaining a powerful, positive, optimistic culture that creates results.
Previously, Shawn shared with us the powerful implications of positive, contagious emotions. I wanted to go deeper into the research for his new book, and so I asked Shawn to share more about the leadership insights he gained from decades of working with business leaders.
“Optimistic climates support employees’ exploration of purpose.” –Shawn Murphy
I was fascinated by the research on eyeblinks. How does the eyeblink reflex relate to purpose?
Researchers used startle probes to measure the reflexive eyeblink caused by a stimulus, in the case of this research it was an image. The images ranged from positive, to neutral, to negative.
What researchers learned was the length of the eyeblink gave insight into the person’s emotional response to the pictures. The longer the eyeblink, the more unpleasant the response to the picture.
How this connects to purpose is that the researchers, Carol Ryff and team, found that those who had a clearer sense of purpose in life recovered faster from negative images. The research gets at a person’s resiliency. Purpose in life strengthens the core of our identity. The clearer our sense of purpose, the stronger our resiliency is; we can recover faster from negative stimulus in our life.
In a work context, we can summon our purpose to guide us through difficult times at work. It can also help us make better decisions, as purpose serves as a guide in decision making: Does this opportunity support my purpose?
“Resilience can be strengthened when a person has a sense of purpose.” –Shawn Murphy
To cultivate optimism in the workplace, you say, “Start small,” and, “Forget about the ‘big bang.’” Most people who have a passion for culture want to jump right in with sweeping initiatives and major change. Why start small?
In my 20+ years as an organizational change management consultant and in leading change in my own company, I’ve learned that the big bang causes more confusion, comes across as rah-rah, and alienates people from what the change purpose and message is.
“Workplace optimism is the belief that good things will come from hard work.” –Shawn Murphy
So, rather go for broke, start small. Create a pocket of excellence. The change starts in a small group within the organization. The group is typically a supporter of the change. Let the small group experience success and gradually widen it to other pockets within the company.
Word of the success travels through networks of people. This approach organically builds support through achieved success and not through possible success. It’s the latter that is the focus of big bang change efforts. It’s what disillusions people about change efforts.
Research: You can transform the work experience by focusing on the best positive realities.
There are many articles about how to get people to sign up for email updates. Aimed at marketers, they cover topics ranging from pop-ups to providing incentives to a call to action.
Most don’t seem to cover the question why. Why should you sign up for an email of recent posts? If you have a favorite blogger, why would you choose to opt-in and receive email as well?
I thought about that recently and about this Leadership Insights blog. I decided to ask people why they subscribed and why they didn’t. I learned more from those who said they did not subscribe than from those who did.
Here are the top 7 reasons I was told people do NOT subscribe and my responses:
1. I get too much email.
Sure, you get too much email. We all do. But most email that is in this category is spam. If I opt-in, I want to get periodic emails that will encourage, inspire or teach me something. When someone has spent time reading, researching and writing, and I am interested, I am happy to get those emails.
Key Question: Do I get too much positive email?
Whatever your favorite hobby or topic, you can find an exceptional blogger writing about it and providing free updates.
“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.” -Elbert Hubbard
This is a flavor of too much email. In today’s world, so much is coming at us from social networks, phone calls, emails, texts, and everything else. One way to deal with it is tune out. I get that, and I do that.
Key Question: Are you more likely to achieve your goals with regular reminders?
Regular updates connect you to ideas in a powerful way. You are fueling your subconscious, revving up opportunities.
“Positive communication fuels your subconscious, readying you for opportunity.” -Skip Prichard
Sure, you do. It’s not even close to the same. You miss too much. Jim Rohn once said, “The book you don’t read won’t help.” That’s exactly right. The blog post you miss won’t help either. And, it is far more efficient and much easier to have an email sent to you than trying to remember what you viewed on your last visit and where you left off.
Even a single idea that makes you more effective, saves you time, increases your earning potential is invaluable.
Key Question: Do you want to miss the one idea that could change your year?
Find a blog and subscribe for a period of time. If you don’t find one thought, fact, or idea that you can use or refer to after two months, then drop the subscription.
4. Some of the topics don’t interest me.
Two things come to mind. First, it takes a second to delete it if you are not interested. Second, I have seen extraordinary benefits to reading widely. Someone once told me to make sure you are exposed to different ideas, different points of view. That will strengthen your arguments, challenge your thinking, and make you more empathetic. You will understand what someone else is thinking. And, if nothing else, you will never be at a loss at a party. Read as much and as widely as you can, and you will never be at a loss for good conversation.
Key Question: Do I want to miss everything because I don’t like something?
“The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinions.” –James Russell Lowell
I would be surprised if anyone did. Most people don’t realize that I don’t agree with all of the opinions expressed here either. That’s the point. When I was growing up, I learned a powerful lesson. If I agreed with a teacher, I did not learn because the conversation ended. But, if I disagreed and argued, I learned more than I ever thought possible. Adults would become animated, passionately defending a position. And, for me, that’s where I learned best. Here’s the other benefit. Often, it made me change my opinion. What if you are stuck in a mindset and changing that opinion is the key to your success?
Key Question: If I only listen to people who agree with me, am I any better off?
“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” –Leonardo daVinci
Now this one, I definitely understand! I am constantly worried about spam and receiving unwanted offers. Know that Leadership Insightsdoes not share your email with anyone. Another concern I have heard is that you may want to opt out later. The email from this blog includes an easy link at the bottom of each post so that you can unsubscribe, at any time, for any reason. It’s easy.
Key Question: Are you allowing a possible fear rob you of a definite benefit?
“Always do what you are afraid to do.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’ve heard this in various forms, and it stops me because I think, “No one really can feel that way!” Apathy is insidious. When I hear this, I am passionate in my response. I believe that everyone has the opportunity to improve, to do something great, and to serve a greater purpose. Of course, not many people tell me directly, “I cannot change.” Yet, that’s the feeling they are telling me.
Key Question: Are you more or less likely to get what you want with your current habits?
If you are not currently subscribing to blog email updates, I am asking you to change. Try it for 60 days. Not only do you have nothing to lose, but you will also be able to download my free ebook on Servant Leadership: Leading With Others in Mind. Making this small change in your weekly routine may give you just a bit more of an edge. And winning often happens right at the edge, where you are distinguished from the competition.
Every year, people ask me to recap the year’s most popular posts. It’s always a challenge to develop a list. For this list, I am including only some of my original posts. I will separately share the interview list.
Talk to any blogger and you will likely hear the same thing. It is always a surprise to see what becomes popular. I may work like crazy on something for hours, post it and it may see very little traffic. Something else ends up taking off and it was almost a last minute thought. You just can’t predict.
In putting together a list of popular posts, there are also so many ways to look at the data. Do you measure purely by the traffic? If you do it that way, doesn’t that give an unfair advantage to content posted in January?
After looking at the statistics, I decided to pick the top posts by traffic with a weight based on the date. If a post was dated later in the year, it received a slightly higher weight to equal things out.
The 14 Top Original Posts
In reverse chronological order, here are the top 14 original posts of 2014:
My mission for this blog remains the same: to have a place to rant about whatever I want! (Ahem! Let me try that again.) It’s all about leadership insights, ideas, and information that will make us all better leaders. Whether through more productive meetings, healthier living, better use of social media and technology, deeper friendships or strategic vision and execution, I hope you find it a useful resource. I’d love to hear your ideas for future posts or the direction for Leadership Insights.
I especially want to thank you for reading and a special thanks for those who have taken the time to comment and share these posts. For years, I would read blogs and never comment. When I started to participate, it was amazing how different of an experience it was. I began to develop relationships and get to know people on a deeper level. Try it – consistent sharing and commenting will likely help others as you share your own experience.