In the introduction, you share a powerful story from your childhood and your conclusion that 80% of a leader’s success is mental. You’ve seen “mindset” make or break careers and businesses. How much is hardwired and how much is learned?
Mindset is almost all learned. I learned from my parents that money and financial security are fleeting; I learned from my high school track coach that I was a fast runner, and I learned from a mentor that I was capable of living a flourishing life rather than a floundering life. What’s interesting about the question of whether mindset is hardwired or learned is that all of our experiences hardwire our beliefs, we just don’t know it.
The good news is that when leaders understand that their words, actions and values are creating a mindset with employees and customers, they can hardwire the mindset of their choosing. By doing so, they harness the power of mindset not solely for themselves but also for their customers as well as their bottom line.
“The jumping off point for greatness is a clear and compelling purpose.” –Hugh Blane
Just do the minimum “JDTM”. Why is it so prevalent?
The number one reason is a lack of purpose. In The Purpose Principle, I say purpose is a hope, dream or aspiration that has grabbed hold of you and won’t let go. When employees and leaders have a purpose for their professional lives, they are more enthused, exert more energy, and are vastly more persistent. These are the employees that are running to work in the morning because of the contribution they want to make.
There are also employees that are running from work at the end of the day. These employees don’t have a purpose that is compelling, and they do enough work to keep their jobs and not get fired. But there is no fire in the belly, and they are simply going through the motions of work.
“Priorities without purpose are a catalyst for lower performance.” –Hugh Blane
Some bemoan the constant interruptions and endless internet surfing. Others celebrate the new-found freedom and capabilities.
How has the digital age impacted our happiness?
Amy Blankson is one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between positive psychology and technology. She is the only person to be named a Point of Light by two presidents (President George Bush Sr. and President Bill Clinton) for creating a movement to activate positive culture change. A sought-after speaker and consultant, Amy has now worked with organizations like Google, NASA, the US Army, and the Xprize Foundation to help foster a sense of well-being in the Digital Era.
I want to start with the question that an entrepreneur asked you at one of your presentations: “Social media and technology are destroying our happiness, right?”
In recent months, I have seen a growing number of posts about how bad technology is for us. Technology is blamed for social isolation, disconnection, and corruption. But I’ve also heard and seen how technology can be used for good — a means to connect, to share knowledge, to empower, even to save lives. So, which is it: Is technology good for us or bad for us? Does technology make us less happy or more happy? As Shakespeare once said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Technology is a tool, a means to an end–and WE get to decide how that story ends.
Fact: 95% of Americans spend 2 or more hours a day using a digital device.
Since technology can both bring joy and destroy it, tell us a few ways you’ve used it to your advantage. And tell us about what apps you’re using for happiness, productivity, and to “tune in, not zone out.”
One of my favorite examples of “happytech” is the Spire stone. The Spire stone is a small wearable that clips onto your bra strap or waistband to monitor your respiration and, in turn, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and increase the flow of endorphins in your blood stream. The Spire uses your breathing patterns to figure out when you are tense, calm, or focused, and provides gentle notifications to guide you when you need it most.
When I first started testing out the Spire stone, I had a particularly poignant experience. Last spring, my family jumped into our backyard pool to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather. In an unfortunate turn of circumstances, my younger daughter jumped into the pool a bit too close to her older sister, landing on her neck and breaking her neck. I happened to be out of town when this happened, so I didn’t know how bad the situation was until I returned home and took my older daughter to the doctor. I was wearing my Spire stone the whole time and had managed to stay fairly calm through the doctor visit; however, as I was walking out of the hospital with my daughter in a giant neck brace, my Spire stone began to vibrate to let me know I was feeling tense. Pausing to think about what was going on, I realized that I was actually anxious about how other people would perceive me as the mother of a child with a broken neck. The nudge was just enough to help me reframe my thoughts to be more present for my daughter rather than worried about myself, and I was able to short-circuit an emotional response that might have taken me a week or more to realize before I had the Spire stone.
“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” –Robert Solow
Sometimes tech is fun just for the sake of the endorphin rush and the dopamine boost. But at what point do those focus-altering diversions cause us to lose sight over what we really care about? At what point do diversions turn into fixations that are distracting?
Sometimes we become so engrossed in our diversions that we don’t notice that they are no longer making us happy anymore. Like Wile E. Coyote in Looney Tunes, we get our legs going so fast that it actually takes us a moment to realize that we have run right off the Happiness Cliff. Let me assure you that this never turns out well for poor Wile E.
According to the Law of Diminishing Returns, many diversions can actually be beneficial for our productivity and happiness—up to a point. Beyond that point, the diversion simply becomes a waste of time and eventually a time suck that becomes harmful to our productivity. To avoid falling off the happiness cliff, start your day by setting your intention for how you want to use your time. When you start to find yourself engrossed in a task, pause to ask if your technology use is helping you tune in (helping you to achieve your intention) or causing you to zone out. If your answer is the latter, then try to set a time limit for yourself to engage in that activity so that you don’t get sucked in and lose focus.
Happiness Tip: pause to see if you are tuning in or zoning out.
What does the latest research tell us about our ability to train our brains to be more positive?
The latest research from the field of positive psychology reveals that training our brains to be more positive is not only possible, it’s actually essential to striving after your full potential. Why? Because when your brain is positive, it receives a boost of dopamine, which turns on the learning centers in the brain and makes you able to see more possibilities in your environment. In fact, a positive brain has been linked to: 37% higher sales, 3x more creativity, 31% higher productivity, 40% increase in likelihood of receiving a promotion, 23% decrease in symptoms of fatigue, 10x increase in the level of engagement at work, a 39% increase in the likelihood of living to age 94, and a 50% decrease in the risk of heart disease.
Research: Positive people have a 40% increase in likelihood of a job promotion.
You’ve been a successful broadcaster at CBS News. But your work now is about a different type of broadcasting. You say we broadcast happiness and that creates positive change in those around us. How did this realization come to you?
People talk about how negative the news can be—and they are right. As the anchor of two national news programs at CBS, I saw how not only were the stories largely negative but also told in a disempowering way. We rarely talked about potential solutions.
At the height of the recession, we started broadcasting solutions for every problem we featured. We called it Happy Week. Drawing on positive psychology, the series centered on actions taken to foster happiness (and quite frankly peace of mind!) during some of our biggest financial challenges.
We received the greatest viewer response of the year, but more importantly, this was a powerful example of research in action. I wanted to know more about creating empowerment in others—so I quit to study positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Now as a positive psychology researcher, I see the toxic effects of a constant stream of negative news on the brain. In a study I conducted with researcher Shawn Achor and Arianna Huffington, we found that watching just three minutes of negative news in the morning can lead to a 27% increased chance of you having a bad day as reported 6-8 hours later. The negative mindset we adopt first thing sticks with us all day.
Study: Watching 3 minutes of negative news in the morning increases the likelihood of a bad day.
But CBS News also showed me a better way—which is something I now share at talks at companies and organizations—specifically how to talk about the negative in a way that leaves people feeling empowered and ready to act. In our follow-up study published in Harvard Business Review, we found that by pairing a discussion of problems with solutions, you can fuel creative problem solving in someone else by 20%. For managers, this means you can talk about the negative without decimating your team.
Looking at all this research, I had an epiphany: we are all broadcasters. What’s your broadcast? As you move throughout your day talking to your colleagues, family and friends, where do you focus their attention? Some facts and stories fuel success; others don’t. In my book Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change, I share the science and tools to disrupt negative thinking and revamp our broadcast to fuel success at work and beyond.
Using the science, our clients have been able to increase sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars. Personally, I’m so happy I now get to broadcast these kinds of stories about individuals and organizations creating positive change. This is so much more inspiring.
Study: Optimists at work are 5x less likely to burn out than the pessimist.
The Work Optimist, you point out, is five times less likely to burn out and three times more engaged than the pessimist. Is it possible to move up the continuum and be more positive? What techniques work to do this?
Yes! The most inspiring thing about the results of our research is that many of the elements of our mindset that predict success, like Work Optimism, are malleable. Work optimism is the belief that good things can happen, especially in the face of challenges, and that our behavior matters. We created a validated assessment that tests people on their levels of Work Optimism and two other predictors of long-term success at work.
If you find you’re scoring lower than you wish on Work Optimism, you can adopt a simple 30 second habit: Use the Power Lead. Make sure your lead sentence in conversations or meetings at work is positive. If you start conversations with how tired, sick, or stressed you feel, your body follows, as does the rest of the conversation.
We are taught to mimic the social patterns of others, so if someone starts a sales call with, “I’ve been swamped lately,” then both individuals start to feel more stressed and overwhelmed, which can oftentimes kill the sale. In our fast-paced world, you might have time to relay only one piece of social information at work. If you make it negative, then you get stuck in that pattern. Power leads can be simple, such as answering “How are you?” with some good news, such as, “Doing great! Had an awesome weekend with the family. My daughter scored a goal at lacrosse!”
“Cultivate happiness and you’re cultivating success at the same time.” –Michelle Gielan
Walking through a busy convention floor at Book Expo America, I nearly bumped into him as I dodged through a publisher’s stand on my way to an appointment. It was one of those chance meetings, the ones you don’t expect but you figure somehow it was arranged or planned to happen just that way.
Dr. Samuel R. Chand and I collided, and it started a conversation about leadership and what makes it possible. After our meeting, I had the opportunity to read his books and soak in his ideas. I’m delighted to introduce him to you and share some of our conversation.
“The best use of power is to give it away.” –Sam Chand
Waiting for someone to call me into the auditorium, I stared out the window. As I meditated on the points I wanted to cover as a featured speaker at this leadership conference, something in the street below caught my attention.
A man stood on a ladder painting—not that uncommon a sight. I smiled, remembering my student days in college. I had spent my summers doing that kind of work. Yet I couldn’t take my eyes off the man. For several minutes, I watched his graceful motions as he moved his brush and roller across the surface.
As I watched, I noticed that this painter was only covering a limited area. He stretched as far as he could to the left, to the right and even reached above his head. It also occurred to me that he was only going to the height that he was comfortable at, even though the extension ladder he was using could reach much higher.
From my painting experience, I remembered that once I was on the ladder and had the necessary resources, I painted a much larger area before taking the additional time needed to climb down and relocate the ladder. It was an efficient method.
“Those who know how will always work for those who know why.” –Sam Chand
“Why isn’t he going higher to paint all the way up? What would allow him to go higher?” I asked myself. Then I saw the reason—no one was holding his ladder. By himself, the painter couldn’t go any further. He had done everything he could by himself. He needed help.
As I watched his graceful strokes, I realized the leadership parallels. Whether we’re talking about churches, businesses or non-profit organizations, the effectiveness of a leader depends on the person or persons holding the ladder—those who are in support roles.
The height that a visionary leader reaches on the ladder to their vision is not controlled by the leader’s capabilities. It’s not even controlled by how inspiring their vision might be. It’s controlled by who’s holding the ladder.
Then another thought struck me: Those who hold the ladders are as important as the leaders themselves.
The visionaries could have all the training possible, the most expensive equipment, years of experience and knowledge about painting, and a blend of expertise and passion about their craft. But that’s not the deciding factor. The ladder holder determines the height to which the ladder climber ascends. “That’s it!” I cried aloud. “Those who hold the ladder control the ascent of the visionaries.”
“When you’re 100 percent certain, you’re too late.” –Charles W. Robinson
Additionally, a ladder holder who may be very capable with a 20-foot extension ladder (or vision) may not be the person you want holding your 45-foot extension ladder (a new or enlarged vision). Old ladder holders are rarely adequate at holding new ladders.
I love your focus on those who hold ladders. How should leaders acknowledge the ladder holders?
The greatest acknowledgement is for leaders to recognize that no one would be the leader that they are today had it not been for someone holding their ladder. There’s no such thing as a “self-made” person. Someone gave us our first break. Someone took a risk and believed in us. Someone leveraged their credibility for our sake. Someone forgave us and gave us another chance. Someone knew we had messed up yet defended us to those who wanted us vanquished. Someone funded that shaky idea. Someone gave us our first job. Someone…
Therefore a spirit of humility and dependency will be the attitude that exudes appreciation for our ladder holders.
“More than anything, leadership is about managing expectations.” –Sam Chand
My friend Lee Colan is the author of 13 books and the co-founder of The L Group. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with him about leadership and attitude and consistent execution (or what Lee calls adherence).
Lee reminds us that so much of our success starts with our thoughts. Thoughts influence our beliefs, which influence our words. Our words reflect our commitments, which influence our choice of actions. Ultimately, our actions influence the results we achieve.
But it all starts with the thoughts in our head.
As Lee says it, “Your thoughts today lead to your results tomorrow.”
In this brief interview, Lee shares more about this model and why consistent execution is so important.
Below are a few stand-out quotes from Lee:
“Your thoughts today lead to your results tomorrow.” –Lee Colan