Author Archives: Admin

  1. 7 Steps to Finding Your Professional Mission

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    The idea of having a “professional mission” is not something I’ve ever really articulated to myself; but it turns out I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. crafting and refining mine. without really knowing that’s what I was doing. It has helped me forge a career path.ok, make that “paths”….and it’s also been an effective guide to saying no to opportunities that weren’t the right ones.

    Now that I’ve thought about it a bit, here’s what I can share about defining a professional mission:

    Think hard about what you’re good at, and not so good at. Me? I’m a research analyst by training and temperament. I am happiest with an Excel spreadsheet and can pull patterns out of numbers. I also like to write and love the back-and-forth of a debate. I’m not a full-on process person or a conventional-wisdom-follower (to put it mildly). What is on your “good at” and “hate to do” lists?

    Ask yourself what you care about. What do you care enough about that, once you get going on it, your friends shoot each other the “Here he goes again” look, and even start backing away? For a period of time, for me, it’s been how to prevent the next financial crisis. My work on that led to a real interest in the impact of the financial and economic engagement of women.

    Your interest doesn’t have to be just one thing. And it can change.

    Ask yourself how what you’re good and what you’re passionate about can intersect. That is the point at which you can use your skills to make a difference in something you care about. Perhaps you can make films about the crisis in education. Or write blogs on global health challenges. Or work as a Financial Advisor to help families get their finances straight.

    Note that your mission might be right in front of your nose. Heck, it might be part of your company’s value statement already, if taken literally. For example, almost every Wall Street firm, for as long as anyone can remember, has said they put clients first. At Bernstein, we chose to really, really do it. We defined who our client was (the investing client) and then asked ourselves what truly putting them first mean. Our conclusion was that it meant getting rid of the conflicts inherent in also working for clients issuing stock, since their interests were in direct opposition.

    But it may not be that easy. Getting to these insights sounds easy, but it’s often not. Experiment, and give yourself some time. For me, these insights involved lots of trial and error, lots of time with paper and pen, lots of glasses of wine, and lots of discussion with colleagues and mentors.

    I didn’t realize I was a research analyst at heart until I was nearly 30 (which felt pretty old at the time). I didn’t find a different path for navigating the conflicts of Wall Street until I was in my mid-30s, and I didn’t come into my convictions on the positive business and economic impact of diversity until I was in my 40s.

    Be prepared for some near-term sacrifices. At Bernstein, as we changed the way we did business, we lost revenues. We even had existing clients (whom our actions were intended to help) tell us that our strategy was a poor one.…and that they wanted us to continue to work for underwriting clients. Their rationale was that this would mean more profit for us, and thus more investment into our business on their behalf.

    Finding your professional mission in a never-ending process. Your interests change, your skills can change, business changes. What you’re passionate about in your 20s may not be the same as in your 50s. Thus, this process is in fact a process, not a one-time question.

    Via LinkedIn

  2. Are Leaders Born or Made?

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    Which came first the chicken or the egg? To be or not to be? Nature versus Nurture?

    Can we finally put this age old argument to rest and come to a conclusion.

    Leadership: “Exercising of influence over others on behalf of the leader’s purposes, aims or goals. “

    Leaders are born not made:
    Great Man theory and Trait theories believe that people inherit certain qualities and traits that make them better suited to leadership.
    To suggest that leaders do not enter the world with extraordinary endowment is to imply that people enter the world with equal abilities, with equal talents.” (Thomas Carlyle 1840)

    There are certain inborn characteristics that predispose people to be and become leaders. There is a significant difference between “learning a skill” and mastering one, in the same way that others are born with amazing musical gifts or athletic talents. They will excel naturally in these areas but others would be like a fish out of water and may struggle to get to the same point.
    Born (natural) Leaders are different to made (artificial leaders). All remarkable leaders have great history behind them. They were leaders from the onset of their journey.

    If leaders were solely born what is the point of the rest of us studying leadership or management?
    Birth is a natural process and the notion to associate leadership with it is arguable.

    Leaders are made not born:
    Behavioral Theories believe that people can become leaders through the process of teaching, learning and observation. Leadership is a set of skills that can be learned by training, perception, practice and experience over time. Leadership learning is lifetime activity. Good leaders seek out development opportunities that will help them learn new skills.

    The military embraces this doctrine which is evident through its leadership training programme.

    Can enrolling for a programme on management and leadership makes someone a leader upon completion? Can Charisma, Influence,Integrity and the ability Inspire be taught? Will the granting of a certificate and a few letters after one’s name make them a leader?

    Soft skills can be explained, but not implanted. The ability to share your vision takes more than a sophisticated PowerPoint presentation and some crisp words on a bunch of 4×6 cards.

    Leadership can be learned by anyone with the basics. But an awful lot of leadership cannot be taught. Some do well but others find themselves poorly equipped rendering mediocre results.

    The Verdict:
    Leadership is an art rather than a science. It is a set of innate traits, refined and perfected over time with education, training and experience.

    Verdict
    There is also an aspect of being in the right place in the right time. You may be a leader but also a matter of whether or not you are in the position within which your talents can shine forth.

    The discussion about leadership also needs to identify the location as well as the environment. Are we speaking about these major performers (born or made) in a small organization, in an industry, in a society, in a country or in the world?

    If the fear of leading overrides the willingness to take on the responsibilities then one is a follower. Not everyone can be a leader just like not everyone can become a good actor. Some people will never have that aspect in them while others have the latent ability and thus can be taught how to lead. All the books, classes education and training cannot turn a follower into a leader.

    To be a leader in a structured environment, one needs some formal training. Most people can learn to manage well, start a business, lead a project team since good management is based on rules – rules that can be learned and mastered.

    Leadership is often a Choice. A leader is a person who comes forward to take the challenge. If a leader rises up from the multitude, then that person was already a leader to begin with. Should someone have all the best training, nurturing and opportunities, but would rather be hidden in the crowd, an unwilling participant…not a leader.

    Leadership styles varies with maturity, followers and situations.

    In the GLOBE research across 60 countries leader attributes conclusions were thus: “Integrity; charisma, inspirational, visionary, encouraging, positive, confidence builder, dynamic, foresight, effective team building, communicating, coordinating, decisive, intelligent, and win-win problem solver,” These attributes are a combination of personality, character, skill, communicative ability, and emotional intelligence. Therefore a leader is born, developed, skilled in communications, and cultivated through life experiences.
    The best estimates offered by research is that leadership is about one-third born and two-thirds made.

    It all depends on how one defines leadership. It is possible for either. Depending on how you define leadership everyone can lead and be a leader.

    Perhaps we should seek to quantify leaders rather than qualify.

    Remarkable LeadersRemarkable Leaders would include the likes of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr, Aung San Suu Kyi…etc. Individuals that seek neither wealth nor fame, selfless, loved justice, passionate about people and worked for the greater good of others.

    In studying leadership, the theories can be overwhelming. It is evident you cannot really support a side and negate the other. Although there are thousands of books, decade’s worth of well documented studies, the debate can go on forever without converging to a logical conclusion.

    via LinkedIn

  3. Six Toxic Beliefs That Will Ruin Your Career

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    There is nothing wrong with making a mistake. It’s what you say to yourself after you mess up that matters. Your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either magnify the negativity or help you turn that misstep into something productive.

    Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of.

    All self-talk is driven by important beliefs that you hold about yourself. It plays an understated but powerful role in success because it can both spur you forward to achieve your goals and hold you back.

    As Henry Ford said, “He who believes he can and he who believes he cannot are both correct.”

    TalentSmart has tested the emotional intelligence (EQ) of more than a million people and found that 90% of top performers are high in EQ. These successful, high EQ individuals possess an important skill—the ability to recognize and control negative self-talk so that it doesn’t prevent them from reaching their full potential.

    These successful people earn an average of $28,000 more annually than their low EQ peers, get promoted more often, and receive higher marks on performance evaluations. The link between EQ and earnings is so direct that every point increase in EQ adds $1,300 to an annual salary.

    When it comes to self-talk, we’ve discovered six common, yet toxic, beliefs that hold people back more than any others. Be mindful of your tendencies to succumb to these beliefs, so that they don’t derail your career:

    Toxic Belief #1: Perfection = Success

    Human beings, by our vary nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish, instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve.

    Toxic Belief #2: My Destiny is Predetermined

    Far too many people succumb to the highly irrational idea that they are destined to succeed or fail. Make no mistake about it, your destiny is in your own hands, and blaming multiple successes or failures on forces beyond your control is nothing more than a cop out. Sometimes life will deal you difficult cards to play, and others times you’ll be holding aces. Your willingness to give your all in playing any hand you’re holding determines your ultimate success or failure in life.

    Toxic Belief #3: I “Always” or “Never” Do That

    There isn’t anything in life that you always or never do. You may do something a lot or not do something enough, but framing your behavior in terms of “always” or “never” is a form of self-pity. It makes you believe that you have no control of yourself and will never change. Don’t succumb to it.

    Toxic Belief #4: I Succeed When Others Approve of Me

    Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain⎯you’re never as good or bad as they say you are. It’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, but you can take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what people think about you, your self-worth comes only from within.

    Toxic Belief #5: My Past = My Future

    Repeated failures can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, these failures result from taking risks and trying to achieve something that isn’t easy. Just remember that success lies in your ability to rise in the face of failure. Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed.

    Toxic Belief #6: My Emotions = Reality

    If you’ve read Emotional Intelligence 2.0, you know how to take an objective look at your feelings and separate fact from fiction. If not, you might want to read it. Otherwise, your emotions will continue to skew your sense of reality, making you vulnerable to the negative self-talk that can hold you back from achieving your full potential.

    Via: LinkedIn

  4. How Successful People Stay Calm

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    The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.

    If you follow our newsletter, you’ve read some startling research summaries that explore the havoc stress can wreak on one’s physical and mental health (such as the Yale study, which found that prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control). The tricky thing about stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) is that it’s an absolutely necessary emotion. Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some level of this emotional state. In fact, performance peaks under the heightened activation that comes with moderate levels of stress. As long as the stress isn’t prolonged, it’s harmless.

    How Successful People Stay Calm

    Research from the University of California, Berkeley, reveals an upside to experiencing moderate levels of stress. But it also reinforces how important it is to keep stress under control. The study, led by post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby, found that the onset of stress entices the brain into growing new cells responsible for improved memory. However, this effect is only seen when stress is intermittent. As soon as the stress continues beyond a few moments into a prolonged state, it suppresses the brain’s ability to develop new cells.

    “I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert,” Kirby says. For animals, intermittent stress is the bulk of what they experience, in the form of physical threats in their immediate environment. Long ago, this was also the case for humans. As the human brain evolved and increased in complexity, we’ve developed the ability to worry and perseverate on events, which creates frequent experiences of prolonged stress.

    Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity, stress decreases your cognitive performance. Fortunately, though, unless a lion is chasing you, the bulk of your stress is subjective and under your control. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ under stressful circumstances. This lowers their stress levels regardless of what’s happening in their environment, ensuring that the stress they experience is intermittent and not prolonged.

    While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when faced with stress, what follows are ten of the best. Some of these strategies may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.

    They Appreciate What They Have

    Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the “right” thing to do. It also improves your mood, because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol played a major role in this.

    They Avoid Asking “What If?”

    “What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend focusing on taking action that will calm you down and keep your stress under control. Calm people know that asking “what if? will only take them to a place they don’t want—or need—to go.

    They Stay Positive

    Positive thoughts help make stress intermittent by focusing your brain’s attention onto something that is completely stress-free. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or perhaps you’re looking forward to an exciting event that you can focus your attention on. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative.

    They Disconnect

    Given the importance of keeping stress intermittent, it’s easy to see how taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even—gulp!—turning off your phone gives your body a break from a constant source of stress. Studies have shown that something as simple as an email break can lower stress levels.

    Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email that will change your train of thought and get you thinking (read: stressing) about work can drop onto your phone at any moment. If detaching yourself from work-related communication on weekday evenings is too big a challenge, then how about the weekend? Choose blocks of time where you cut the cord and go offline. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing these breaks are and how they reduce stress by putting a mental recharge into your weekly schedule. If you’re worried about the negative repercussions of taking this step, first try doing it at times when you’re unlikely to be contacted—maybe Sunday morning. As you grow more comfortable with it, and as your coworkers begin to accept the time you spend offline, gradually expand the amount of time you spend away from technology.

    They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

    Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyperaroused state of stress, your emotions overrun your behavior. The stress that caffeine creates is far from intermittent, as its long half-life ensures that it takes its sweet time working its way out of your body.

    They Sleep

    I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. Stressful projects often make you feel as if you have no time to sleep, but taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.

    They Squash Negative Self-Talk

    A big step in managing stress involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things, your inner voice says, “It’s time to stop and write them down.” Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.

    You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.

    They Reframe Their Perspective

    Stress and worry are fueled by our own skewed perception of events. It’s easy to think that unrealistic deadlines, unforgiving bosses, and out-of-control traffic are the reasons we’re so stressed all the time. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. So before you spend too much time dwelling on something, take a minute to put the situation in perspective. If you aren’t sure when you need to do this, try looking for clues that your anxiety may not be proportional to the stressor. If you’re thinking in broad, sweeping statements such as “Everything is going wrong” or “Nothing will work out,” then you need to reframe the situation. A great way to correct this unproductive thought pattern is to list the specific things that actually are going wrong or not working out. Most likely you will come up with just some things—not everything—and the scope of these stressors will look much more limited than it initially appeared.

    They Breathe

    The easiest way to make stress intermittent lies in something that you have to do everyday anyway: breathing. The practice of being in the moment with your breathing will begin to train your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and get the stress monkey off your back. When you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing. Close the door, put away all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and breathe. The goal is to spend the entire time focused only on your breathing, which will prevent your mind from wandering. Think about how it feels to breathe in and out. This sounds simple, but it’s hard to do for more than a minute or two. It’s all right if you get sidetracked by another thought; this is sure to happen at the beginning, and you just need to bring your focus back to your breathing. If staying focused on your breathing proves to be a real struggle, try counting each breath in and out until you get to 20, and then start again from 1. Don’t worry if you lose count; you can always just start over.

    This task may seem too easy or even a little silly, but you’ll be surprised by how calm you feel afterward and how much easier it is to let go of distracting thoughts that otherwise seem to have lodged permanently inside your brain.

    They Use Their Support System

    It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To be calm and productive, you need to recognize your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it. This means tapping into your support system when a situation is challenging enough for you to feel overwhelmed. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as talking about your worries will provide an outlet for your anxiety and stress and supply you with a new perspective on the situation. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation. Asking for help will mitigate your stress and strengthen your relationships with those you rely upon.