49In the ancient Greek world human fate was pre-determined and unavoidable. It was decided by the Gods. The Gods gave their human favorites godly powers, took those powers back at a whim, made someone successful only to miserably fail him later on. Humans were all in all tools or toys in the hands of a superpower with no ability to control their own life and its course.
 
If we jump forward to the present day we will see quite a different mindset taking over. A mindset telling us that each and every one of us is a God in their own universe of being and we can control what happens in that universe and what happens to us. We now understand that action has its consequence and we are the makers of our own success...or doom.

In the last edition of his newsletter, Daniel Pink, one of my favorite thought leaders, shared two clips, each about two minutes long, which give tips to solving two specific problems. But I would like to coax you into thinking about these tips on a larger scale, in terms of changing personal habits in an organisational perspective.
 
The first problem addressed is getting people to take the stairs rather than the escalator. We all know we should exercise more — but when given the choice between the really easy (an escalator) and the somewhat more difficult (stairs), we often take the path of least resistance. So is there any way to change people's behavior?
 
Watch the clip
The second problem is stopping people from parking in disabled spaces.
 
Watch the clip
There are two leadership lessons to learn out of these videos, and they are about how important is to have FUN and to make it PERSONAL.

48I have always wondered how much work life and healthy lifestyle compete with each other for one's focus and attention. If you're working intensively with a lot of overtime for an extended period, chances are that you'll want to skip meals, drink a lot of coffee and/or energy drinks, you won't be willing to spend an hour or so in the gym, you'll probably have problems with the sleep and step by step you'll develop some more general health problems. And ultimately this will cripple your performance in the long run.
 
This is of course all so very logical, but we tend to neglect it in favor of short-term productivity gains. People, however, are no freight trains – when we extend ourselves too hard for too long we inevitably lose our stamina and it's only a matter of several weeks to reduce our productivity to catastrophic levels and to become a constant threat to ourselves, our organization and the people around us:
More on this topic here.

47A friend of mine called me last night. "The company I work for, is totally fear-soaked," she said. "I would be grateful if you give me any advice how to survive management by fear."
 
"Hmm, advice different from quitting your job, I suppose? ", I laughed but it was not funny at all.
 
It got me thinking. On a grand scale, history has taught us that ruling through fear based supervision have toppled over and crumbled in the long run. Fear-trampled environment is purely ineffective and can sabotage a company's efforts to maintain productivity in the workplace. But truth to be told, under specific circumstances and for a short period of time it delivers results – by creating sense of urgency, demanding irrevocable compliance and instilling high speed of execution. But the good news end up here. As it is ALWAYS about a short-term win and a big-time failure.

46What do you Guys think about Feedback? Do you consider it important? How do you feel after receiving some "constructive" feedback as they use to call it?
 
In the last month or so the Feedback theme has been present in my thoughts quite often due to various events, discussions, amazing transformations and nearly avoided disasters. But let me go back a little bit...
 
During my first weeks as a Team Lead back in 2004 one of our American supervisors had the task to provide me with a short training on the subject. At that time I was finding out the hard way that this is one of the more stressful parts of my duties and was really looking forward to this training as to learn the secret.
 
What I received was actually summed up on half a page and was more or less this:

45A few days ago I had a dinner with a CEO of a relatively big company, who was nervous and frustrated because of his leadership team underperforming on a critical company project.
 
"The managers of my team do not pay attention, come late to the meetings, not showing any enthusiasm and initiative", the CEO complained.
 
"How do you make sure they understand the importance and the impact of this project?", I asked.
 
"Oh, common, they are not children and they should know this without much of a talking. It is so disappointing they are so resistant and demoralised so these are the reasons we have no progress on that."
 
"No", I said, "these are outcomes."

44Every now and then a colleague of mine and me have the pleasure of leading one of the best Customer Service workshops in existence for our employees. One of the basic requirements for attendance is to have some Customer Service Experience already so we usually have people with between 6 months to many years of experience in the field. We have noticed that in the beginning of the workshop the most unengaged and uninterested colleagues are the ones with more years in this business. This is quite normal – after all they have been attending a multitude of trainings in the past and their expectations are that there is not much that they could learn. And not only that – they have been doing this for quite a while – they are not newbies.
 
To help them understand what the purpose of the workshop is, we begin with a simple scheme – the Competence Model.
 
It describes four states in which a person can be in regard to a specific knowledge, task, etc...

43"Experience is one thing you can't get for nothing", said Oscar Wilde. The price is a lot of effort and persistence and hard work. But if it's easy, then it isn't for you. As it takes certain amount of stretch, endeavor and willpower to expose yourself to experiences that enrich you.
 
The only thing more important than that is to expose yourself to good thinkers and exceptional professionals. John Maxwell wrote that it's hard to improve when you have no one but yourself to follow. You need to find models who are ahead of you to learn from - mentors with proven experience and wisdom, difference makers ready to share their knowledge and insights. Find a job or get involved in projects near them. They'll often be challenging and uncomfortable to work with, pushing you outside your comfort zone, but you'll learn from the best. They will sharpen your strengths and help you navigate through certain problem areas.

42We talked a lot about achieving and maintaining the optimum stress levels, which keep you at your peak performance without pushing you into a burnout phase. All individuals have unique stress resilience levels and preferences, so it's never easy to find one's personal golden middle. However, it's one of your most important tasks, especially if you are in a leadership role.
 
Let's examine what happens with your decision-making abilities in a situation of intensive stress – exactly when it's most crucial for a leader to be at their prime.
 
Under normal circumstances, the brain's thalamus sends information to the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for rational thinking and control, and to the amygdala, the emotional processing center. This is how the brain forms the needed mix of logical and emotional arguments, so that a person can make effective decisions in specific situations.
 
However, in a stressful situation when the amygdala senses danger (no matter if it's real or perceived) it triggers an alarm in the hypothalamus and impairs your prefrontal cortex – milliseconds before it has any chance to provide rational guidance. All this happens in favor of a faster reaction, even if not the most relevant one. You can see how this could present a problem in stressful situations, when irrational leadership decisions might impact entire organizations.
 
But there is also an unpleasant effect in the long-term. The more often the amygdala takes control in such situations, the more it develops: it creates better connections with other parts of the brain and it gets easier for it to overcome the neocortex. This makes you experience irrational episodes and panic attacks even more often.
 
What you can do against this is to follow the tips from our previous articles in the stress management series in order to tackle a specific situation or to improve your general stress resilience. And never forget that the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex inhibit each other in such scenarios, so if you manage to stop your internal panic and give yourself the necessary feeling of control, you'll improve the rational part of your decision-making process.
 
Best regards,
Nikolay

41Last week I've realized that our blog has been in existence for about half a year now, which is definitely not a lot, but for us – the people who write it these six months have definitely been a journey. As with everyone who is set out on a path, there are times when you think about the road behind and the road ahead. Since I was having a moment exactly like this, I've went back and read our articles and our messages and learnings that we have shared with you – our readers. It occurred to me that we might sound idealistic, saying how things should be in the ideal world and that some of you might not relate to a real business environment. In other words – some of you might not see the cow...
 
Let me tell you what we are – we are enthusiastic! Why? Because in the last years we have been practicing exactly what we are now preaching and it did work out so well, that the main drive behind creating this blog was to share our experiences and learnings with the world. We've been blessed to take part in an amazing transformation of an organization that is now peering with top organizations around the globe and has been recognized as such.
 
To mention just a few of our success stories: