Monthly Archives: October 2015

Making Meaning Out of What’s New

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

berries in tea cup

“What’s new?”

It’s a phrase we hear often from colleagues at various moments during the day: as we pass in a hall, while awaiting coffee to brew, at the start of a meeting. More often than not, our response is something short and empty, “Oh, not much.” And indeed, it’s just small talk, just a friendly greeting. No one asking actually expects – or even wants – a detailed account of what is new in your world.

And that’s a missed opportunity. It’s a missed opportunity for a meaningful conversation – however brief – between colleagues that could go a long way toward building trust, compassion, a relationship. And we know that strong relationships account for a lot of our success at work.

In the coaching world, the phrase is augmented just slightly, but meaningfully, to “What’s new and good?” Adding the simple “and good” not only awakens a tired phrase, but also spins it to elicit a more upbeat response. And I think it’s safe to say we’d all rather hear good news, rather than bad news, or no news at all.

But more than that, hearing the phrase “What’s new and good?” also shifts our own thinking in a more positive direction, compelling us to share not just what’s new, but also what’s going well in our lives and at work. Hearing “What’s new and good?” instantly shifts our thoughts from complaints to compliments, from scarcity to abundance, from apathy to awareness.

Ultimately, “What’s new and good?” invites an exchange that benefits both the person asking and the person answering. Of the person asking, it relays engagement and compassion for others. For the person answering, it’s an easy mental boost. For both, it’s an opportunity to acknowledge, celebrate and perhaps even build on a success, as well as strengthen a relationship.


Your Role in Cultivating a Healthy Culture

By Sameer Bhangar, Simple Intentions Awareness Consultant

By Breather, on unsplashAs a corporate manager, thinking about squishy things like culture can be an afterthought – especially when there are more pressing deadlines, business strategy discussions, quarterly objectives, and customer demands to be met.

One solution for busy managers is to delegate the task of creating a healthy and engaged work environment. One might delegate this to HR counterparts, business managers, passionate employees, or bring in external consultants and trainers.

Considering two ends of a spectrum, two approaches a manager might take are:

  1. Delegate all culture-related activities and conversations to the “support” team, or
  2. Act as if you have it all figured out and don’t require any support.

As a leader, where are you on this spectrum? What is your role in creating a healthy team environment? How do you participate in team culture-related activities, and what message does this send to the team? Is this a conscious decision, or are you simply following along and checking boxes? Are you asking for help, or do you have it all figured out?

I was recently leading a series of workshops with a large team that included a number of managers and sub-teams. I was struck by the difference in the quality of conversation when a manager was engaged and present with the team, versus when the manager sent the team to attend or showed up, but sat in a metaphorical ivory tower position “outside” the conversation.

When managers engaged in open conversation, they created implicit permission for the team to also speak openly. The conversation had a feeling of enthusiasm and active curiosity. The team engaged in topics they had never before discussed. Greater trust began to form in an organic way that no training slide could ever accomplish.

For example, one manager raised a question on fear and disempowerment, which led to an unplanned breakout activity that prompted a healthy exchange around what currently feels empowering versus disempowering to the team. In addition to the insights raised during this activity, it initiated a conversation the team planned to continue during regular staff meetings. The ice had been broken so to speak – or, more accurately, it had started to melt away.

In contrast, at sessions to which managers did not attend – or attended but disengaged – I noted a clear missed opportunity. The opportunity to create a richer, more open conversation at a team level was unfortunately lost. I was left with a lack of optimism that the workshop would initiate any kind of sustainable change for the team. It was a loss for the team.

This experience reinforced for me the seemingly obvious truth that “culture starts with the leader.” If, as managers and leaders, we are interested in creating a healthier work environment, we need to show up first. Show up with an open mind to participate in the conversation, ask for help when needed, and learn with the team along the way. This is one responsibility that does not belong on a manager’s list of tasks to delegate. Nor is it common that a manager already has it all figured out.


Mindfulness and Work-life Balance: What’s the Difference?

By Jae Ellard, Simple Intentions Founder

[Note: This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.]

worklifebalanceIs mindfulness the new way to talk about “work-life balance”? Has work-life balance been a conversation about mindfulness all along?

As with other conversations around the topic of mindfulness and balance, it’s complicated. In fact, the answer is yes and no, because with both mindfulness and work-life balance, we desire the same outcome: easy joy and meaningful engagement with the roles, responsibilities and relationships that make up life – including the relationships we have with ourselves and those with whom we work.

Some believe that mindfulness is just meditation. It’s true, mediation is one of many tools and skills we can develop to cultivate mindful living, which broadly means living with greater presence, being in each moment you are in, regardless of where or with whom that moment occurs – at home with your children, alone in your car, at work among colleagues.

But at its core, mindfulness is much more than meditation. It starts with choosing to see how we show up in life, and making conscious choices about what our presence looks and feels like in each moment. That choice can comprise meditation, but it doesn’t have to. I’ve met many people who live very mindfully but don’t have a traditional mediation practice. Rather, their “quiet” moments look a bit differently: running, cooking, playing music, taking a bath, slowly sipping their morning tea.

Some believe that work-life balance is something granted by employers. It’s true, a company can create a culture that promotes balance. But company support is a small part of the work-life balance equation; individual accountability is another factor, and that includes a host of choices: aligning work with core values; setting and communicating boundaries; managing stress; knowing the difference between urgent, important and excitement; and paying attention to what we are doing while we are doing it.

Mindfulness usually starts with personal awareness and skill development that radiates out into our relationships, including the relationships we have at and with work. Work-life balance usually starts at a company level and expands to include reflection and action among teams and individuals. It’s the same conversation, just a different starting point.

Mindfulness is not better than work-life balance, or the other way around. There is no good, better, best, right or wrong way to learn skills to create easy joy and meaningful engagement with the roles, responsibilities and relationships that make up our lives.

And it doesn’t matter what companies, practitioners, publishers, journalists, or teachers call it. What matters is people willing to make the choice to live more mindfully and balanced, and having resources and environments available to develop mindful living skills.

Let’s ditch the discussion around the labels and focus instead on creating these environments where we can make the choice for mindful and balanced, as individuals and employees.


Prime Your Mind for Better Engagement

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

We prime walls before painting them. We warm up our bodies before exercising. But how often do we purposefully prepare our minds for thinking, communicating, engaging?

Visualization is one way to prime our minds, perhaps most commonly used to prepare for an important event like a presentation or competition. In visualization, we use our imagination to virtually see and feel ourselves having or doing something, whether closing a deal or winning a race.

Done repeatedly, visualization works by “tricking” the subconscious mind into thinking our visualizations are real, thus priming the conscious mind, influencing our actions and ultimately affecting the actual outcome. Visualize yourself nailing a presentation, and theory says, you will nail that presentation.

But what about the simpler things we do every day: planning, meeting, creating. Can we prime our minds for these more routine events – and more simply than having to close our eyes and go deep into our subconscious?

In this video, game designer, co-founder of SuperBetter and senior researcher at the Institute for the Future, Jane McGonigal, promotes predictions as another — and appealingly simpler — way to prime the mind.

Making a prediction – about anything, McGonigal says – sends a shot of dopamine to the brain, which in turn prepares the brain to learn, boosting our focus, energy and engagement. And because dopamine is linked to feelings of pleasure and reward, making a prediction can bring about a feel-good bonus.

So today, while you’re walking to your next meeting, make a prediction (“I predict the boss will love our new design!”) and see what happens. I predict you’ll at least feel good – even if the boss doesn’t love your design.