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Friday, December 12, 2014

Are You Really as Good at Reading People as You Think?

Career Guidance - Are You Really as Good at Reading People as You Think?When you meet someone new, how long does it take you to size him or her up and come up with your first impression?
Most people would say less than a minute, but science proves it’s a lot less time than that. Psychologists at Princeton have found through a series of studies that it only takes people one-tenth of a second to make an initial judgement of someone, primarily based on body language. And once you get past that initial judgement? Most communication is still nonverbal. In his book Silent Messages, Dr. Albert Mehrabian discusses the fact that only 7% of communication is through words; the rest of it comes from vocal cues and nonverbal messages, like facial expressions and stance.
To put it simply, if you’re not aware of how others are coming across to you and how you’re coming across to them, you’re missing the vast majority of human interaction. If you’re an ambitious young professional, understanding these cues could make or break your career. And if you’re looking to move up the career ladder, being able to harness your knowledge of body language can put you at a huge advantage in the office, in front of clients, or in other professional situations. An accurate, quick read could be the difference between impressing your boss and falling flat in front of colleagues.
Of course, all of this brings an important question to mind: How do you know if you’re reading body language correctly?
If you’re not sure, you’re in luck: The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley has devised a tricky body language quiz to test if you can correctly guess what emotions people are expressing. (Think: Is someone feeling embarrassed or amused? Expressing interest or just being polite?) The differences are often more subtle than you’d think.
Take the 20-question quiz—getting tips along the way about what to look for in people’s facial expressions. And if your score isn’t as high as you’d like, check out this resource for becoming more aware of the different types of nonverbal cues, and then start focusing on irregularities with those cues.
With a little work, you’ll be a body language-reading machine in no time.

Lily Herman

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What Maslow’s Hierarchy Won’t Tell You About Motivation

At some point in their careers, most leaders have either consciously — or, more likely, unwittingly — based (or justified) their approach to motivation on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s idea that people are motivated by satisfying lower-level needs such as food, water, shelter, and security, before they can move on to being motivated by higher-level needs such as self-actualization, is the most well-known motivation theory in the world. There is nothing wrong with helping people satisfy what Maslow characterized as lower-level needs. Improvements in workplace conditions and safety should be applauded as the right thing to do. Seeing that people have enough food and water to meet their biological needs is the humane thing to do. Getting people off the streets into healthy environments is the decent thing to do. But the truth is, individuals can experience higher-level motivation anytime and anywhere.

Despite the popularity of Maslow’s Hierarchy, there is not much recent data to support it. Contemporary science — specifically Dr. Edward Deci, hundreds of Self-Determination Theory researchers, and thousands of studies — instead points to three universal psychological needs. If you really want to advantage of this new science – rather than focusing on a pyramid of needs – you should focus on: autonomy, relatedness, and competence.

Autonomy is people’s need to perceive that they have choices, that what they are doing is of their own volition, and that they are the source of their own actions. The way leaders frame information and situations either promotes the likelihood that a person will perceive autonomy or undermines it. To promote autonomy:

Frame goals and timelines as essential information to assure a person’s success, rather than as dictates or ways to hold people accountable.
Refrain from incentivizing people through competitions and games. Few people have learned the skill of shifting the reason why they’re competing from an external one (winning a prize or gaining status) to a higher-quality one (an opportunity to fulfill a meaningful goal).
Don’t apply pressure to perform. Sustained peak performance is a result of people acting because they choose to — not because they feel they have to.

Relatedness is people’s need to care about and be cared about by others, to feel connected to others without concerns about ulterior motives, and to feel that they are contributing to something greater than themselves. Leaders have a great opportunity to help people derive meaning from their work. To deepen relatedness:

Validate the exploration of feelings in the workplace. Be willing to ask people how they feel about an assigned project or goal and listen to their response. All behavior may not be acceptable, but all feelings are worth exploring.
Take time to facilitate the development of people’s values at work — then help them align those values with their goals. It is impossible to link work to values if individuals don’t know what their values are.
Connect people’s work to a noble purpose.

Competence is people’s need to feel effective at meeting every-day challenges and opportunities, demonstrating skill over time, and feeling a sense of growth and flourishing. Leaders can rekindle people’s desire to grow and learn. To develop people’s competence:

 Make resources available for learning. What message does it send about values for learning and developing competence when training budgets are the first casualty of economic cutbacks?
Set learning goals — not just the traditional results-oriented and outcome goals.
At the end of each day, instead of asking, “What did you achieve today?” ask “What did you learn today? How did you grow today in ways that will help you and others tomorrow?”

Unlike Maslow’s needs, these three basic needs are not hierarchical or sequential. They are foundational to all human beings and our ability to flourish.

The exciting message to leaders is that when the three basic psychological needs are satisfied in the workplace, people experience the day-to-day high-quality motivation that fuels employee work passion — and all the inherent benefits that come from actively engaged individuals at work. To take advantage of the science requires shifting your leadership focus from, “What can I give people to motivate them?” to “How can I facilitate people’s satisfaction of autonomy, relatedness, and competence?”

Leaders have opportunities every day to integrate these motivational practices. For example, a leader I coach was about to launch a company-wide message to announce mandatory training on green solutions compliance. Ironically, his well-intentioned message dictated people’s actions — undermining people’s sense of autonomy and probably guaranteeing their defiance rather than compliance. His message didn’t provide a values-based rationale or ask individuals to consider how their own values might be aligned to the initiative. After reconsidering his approach, he created this message embedded with ways for people to experience autonomy, relatedness, and competence:

Don’t underestimate your people’s capacity — indeed, their longing — to experience high-quality motivation at work anytime and anywhere.

Susan Fowler

Friday, December 5, 2014

Getting Started is more than half!

It’s something we’ve all said: “I really want to start task X, but I just don’t have the time I need to do it.”

Many of the items on your to-do list may seem overwhelming (especially piled on top of one another), but we’ve got a secret for you: Getting started doesn’t take much time at all. All you need is a little push.

Nicole Antoinette, founder of the blog A Life Less Bullshit, has a really great suggestion: Set a timer for 13 minutes and just work on the project or task for that amount of time, without interruption or distractions.

Antoinette notes that a lot of the time, productivity is a game of mind over matter, and getting started is about 90% of the battle. “This approach is how I get past the fear of diving into a new project,” she explains. “It’s how I move beyond the resistance I always feel to doing something hard. It’s how I overcome the frustration of dealing with annoying tasks I don’t want to deal with. I take a deep breath and tell myself: ‘You just have to do this for 13 minutes.’”

And once you begin? Well, you just might find that it’s easy to keep pushing forward. Soon, 13 minutes can turn into a half hour, and a half hour can turn into an hour or more. The next thing you know, your task is complete (or at least has a pretty big dent in it).

Not too shabby, right?

Of course, you may still be thinking that you can’t complete anything in 13 minutes or less. Want to take the challenge? Try breaking down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces. Here are three examples to try out.

1. You Want To: Organize Your Office
In 13 Minutes You Can: Tidy up Your Desk

Most of the time, your desk, cubicle, or office space gets messy or cluttered without you even realizing it. And while, sure, overhauling your filing cabinet is probably a good idea, often a quick clean is all it takes to make a big difference.

So, set your phone’s timer to 13 minutes and get cleaned up. Do you have a pile of trash just waiting to be taken to the dumpster or a stack of papers that’s taking up half of your desk space? Deal with just that. An even slightly tidier workspace can lead to a more productive workday, and you’ll be surprised how much you can do in so little time.

2. You Want To: Stay in Touch With Your Whole Network
In 13 Minutes You Can: Draft an Email to Your Contacts

It’s great to send an update to your professional contacts a couple of times per year, but the task of sending emails out to all of those people may seem daunting, especially if you have other work-related things on your plate.

So start by just writing one email to blast off to your network. In 13 minutes you could write a quick note updating your contacts on any new happenings. And you never know what opportunities might come along from shooting off a check-in email!

3. You Want To: Tackle That Big, Hairy Writing Assignment
In 13 Minutes You Can: Get All Your Thoughts on Paper

Whether it’s your next blog post, an all-staff email, or the financial report you’ve been putting off all week, taking on the challenge of writing for 13 minutes is a great way to get going on a tricky assignment.

A lot of the time, it’s hard to sit yourself down and just write without editing, and attempting to get a huge chunk of your work done in 13 minutes is a great way to force yourself past this barrier and just get what’s in your head on paper. I promise, you can edit it later.

Telling yourself you’re going to sit down for four hours and write a report or completely re-organize and clean out your office can seem intimidating and impossible. But setting a timer for just 13 minutes? Now there’s a time limit anyone can live with.

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