How to get useful answers to your questions

Often when you ask a vague or underspecified question, one of these happens:

  • The person starts by explaining a bunch of stuff you already know.
  • The person explains some things which you don’t know, but which you don’t think are relevant to your problem
  • The person starts giving a relevant explanation but using terminology that you don’t understand, so you still end up being confused.

Here are a few question-asking tactics to get your required answers.

Ask yes/no questions

The best thing about asking yes/no questions is that there’s a much lower chance that the person answering will go off on an irrelevant tangent – they’ll almost always say something useful to you.

It’s often possible to come up with yes/no questions even when discussing a complicated topic. You’ll notice that some of those questions are “check my understanding” questions which will ensure that your knowledge on the given topic was right or not. Besides, yes/no questions get you answers faster because they’re relatively easy to answer.

State your current understanding

State your understanding of how the system works. You’ll find the process of writing down your understanding will clarify your thoughts. Sometimes by the time you’re done, you’ve answered your question.

Stating your understanding is a kind of yes/no question – “this is my understanding of how X works, is that right or wrong?” Often the answer is going to be “right in some ways and wrong in others,” but even so, it makes the job of the answerer a lot easier.

Be willing to interrupt

If someone goes off on a very long explanation that isn’t helping you at all, it’s important to interrupt them. This can feel rude, but ultimately it’s more efficient for everyone – it’s a waste of both their time and yours. Interrupt by asking a more specific question because usually, if someone has gone off on a long irrelevant explanation, it might be because you asked an overly vague question to start with.

Don’t accept responses that don’t answer your question

If someone finishes a statement that doesn’t answer your question, it’s important not to leave it there! Keep asking questions! A couple of ways you can do this:

  • Ask a much more specific question (like a yes/no question) that’s in the direction of what you actually wanted to know.
  • Ask them to clarify some terminology you didn’t understand (what’s an X?).

Take a minute to think

Sometimes, when asking someone a question, people will tell new information that’s really surprising. You need to stop and think about the implications of that and other questions you had based on that new piece of information. When this happens, say something like, “wait, that’s surprising to me, let me think for a minute,” and try to incorporate the new data and come up with another question.

It takes a little bit of confidence

All of these things – being willing to interrupt, not accepting responses that don’t answer your questions, and asking for a minute to think – require a little bit of confidence! Always remember that:

  • People usually want to help even if their first explanation was full of confusing jargon.
  • If you can get even one useful piece of information by the end of the conversation, it’s a victory.

A common assumption is that the people answering the questions are ‘Super Smart Perfect People,’ and you’re probably wasting their time with your dumb questions. But in reality, your coworkers answering the questions are probably smart well-meaning people who want to help but aren’t always able to answer questions very clearly, so you need to ask follow-up questions to get answers.

How to give useful answers

There’s also a lot you can do to try not to be the person who goes off on a long explanation that doesn’t help the person you’re talking to at all.

It’s especially important to check in if:

  1. You haven’t explained a concept before because your initial explanation will probably not be very good.
  2. You don’t know the person you’re talking to very well because you’ll probably make incorrect assumptions about what they know/don’t know.

Being good at extracting information is a superpower

Find someone who has the information you want and then asks them specific questions. It’s more effective to ask questions that will get you the answers you need. And if you get good at asking questions, you can often find a set of questions that will get you the answers you want pretty quickly, so it’s a good use of everyone’s time!

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How to develop your leadership style

A great leadership style can make people appear more competent than they truly are, and a poor style can drag down a superior skill set. 

So how can you go about improving your leadership style?

Social markers can be expressed through language, nonverbal communication or context setting. Your choice of markers determines how others view you.

Some most commonly used markers or signals in the workplace to express status and make up your leadership style.

The signals we send to others about our status fall into two categories: power and attractiveness. Powerful markers are associated with expressions of confidence, competence, charisma, and influence but also arrogance, abrasiveness, and intimidation.

Attractiveness markers are related to expressions of agreeableness, approachability, likability but also diffidence, lack of confidence, and submissiveness.

The more consistently we express ourselves using the same markers, the more distinctive our style becomes.

Change the frequency or mix of these markers, and others’ impressions also change.

The set of markers that you default to in neutral situations or when the social context is unclear is your natural style. 

Most people’s natural style falls into one of five categories along a spectrum: powerful, lean powerful, blended, lean attractive, and attractive.

Leaders often need to tweak their style multiple times in a day. Most successful leaders create a blended style. You can achieve a blended style by following several steps.

Know thyself.

To balance powerful and attractive markers, start by figuring where you fall on the leadership style spectrum.

If you’re unsure where you fall on the spectrum, keep a list of markers in front of you during various interactions and check off the ones you use.

Experiment with various markers.

After you know where you stand on the spectrum, start experimenting with markers to try to move toward a more blended style. 

Rehearsing with a friend, mentor, or coach can help make the new behaviors more familiar.

Successful leaders are true to who they are while continually making small adjustments depending on the circumstances.

Read the room.

How to know when to lean powerful and when to lean attractive?

Gaining the ability to “read the room” is part of fine-tuning your leadership style. You should assess the markers you’re receiving from others before deciding on your approach. 

Lean powerful with more-senior people, and lean attractive when talking to more-junior people.

Dynamically integrating a broader range of powerful and attractive markers in everyday interactions can make a big difference in how we are perceived. The result is a true blended style that enables leaders to become powerful enough to be heard and attractive enough to be followed.

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7 Strategies To Stay Super Focused

Staying focused on your task, priorities and mission is vital to your success. But it doesn’t come easily when you’re overwhelmed with daily distractions, a long to-do list, and multiple projects that demand your attention.

Here are seven strategies to stay super focused.

Say “No, thank you.”

Get clear on what you really want to achieve. Choose deliberately. Prune your to-do list. Declutter your schedule. Shed meaningless tasks. Forget about goals that no longer serve you. Switch gears or change the channel. Drop, delegate or barter assignments that don’t cater to your core strengths and true purpose.

Having too much on your plate weighs you down and creates a leftover mess. Tackle three essential tasks to complete on a given day or three major goals to accomplish in a week. When something isn’t right for you, say “no, thank you.” 

This will give you more time and space to commit to things that matter.

Mentally rehearse the task.

Visualize the ideal process, instead of obsessing over desired results. Picture yourself performing the task brilliantly and with ease. See yourself overcoming obstacles and maneuvering around hurdles. 

How will you feel when the deal is done? Elated? Excited? Evolved? Use these positive vibes to inspire you, pull you in, and take focused action.

Keep your energy up during breaks.

When you’re in a state of flow, it’s invigorating to stay on task. But forcing yourself to soldier on, when you’re drained, impairs your creativity and productivity. 

Regular breaks, for as little as 5 to 15 minutes, can do wonders. Take a walk, chat with a friend, grab a healthy snack, or get some fresh air.

Without consistent renewal and rejuvenation, it’s hard to stay alert and maintain focus. Set a regular bedtime routine and get a good night’s rest to avoid zoning out. Step away from the task when your interest in it begins to plummet. Go back to it when you refuel your energy.

Stop multitasking.

Doing multiple things at once or switching rapidly between tasks is the opposite of focus. So pick one important task and fully engage with it. 

Before you move on to the next thing, pause intentionally, take a deep breath, and bask in gratitude for the thing you just did.

If you tend to get bored doing one task, you could set a timer to perform it in short bursts of 15 to 25 minutes.

Boost your willpower.

Focus requires self-control and the ability to resist short-term temptations for long-term gains. Breath-work, yoga and meditation are among the most effective ways to boost your willpower. 

These mindful practices help you take deliberate action, regardless of your shifting thoughts and volatile emotions.

Make it automatic.

Develop regular habits and simple routines to make a task more automatic. Lay out the tools you will need to complete it. Pick a specific time to perform it. Set up reminders to work on it and reward yourself when you do.

When an action step is part of your routine, you are bound to resist it less. This helps you preserve your energy and attention span for more difficult tasks that aren’t easily automated.

Create a supportive environment.

Constant interruptions and unnecessary distractions dilute your focus. Arrange your work space to discourage unscheduled visits. Plug in your earphones and listen to soothing music or white noise. Move to a quieter place if you can’t block out office banter. Schedule time blocks to focus on the task at hand.

If you want to complete a challenging project, turn off your phone, mobile devices and email and IM notifications. Disconnect from the Internet. Optimize your environment to keep your focus, find flow in your work, and experience real progress.

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Beat distraction with these 4 easy steps

“If a person gave away your body to some passerby, you’d be furious. Yet, you hand over your mind to anyone who comes along, so they may abuse you, leaving it disturbed and troubled — have you no shame in that?” 
Epictetus, Greek philosopher

Our lazy brain is happy to just react to that relentless bombardment of stimuli coming its way. Be it friendly texts or work mails; the world is constantly demanding our attention. 

And while you’re doing something, you’re rarely achieving your goals.

That’s because when you’re reacting, you’re not in control of your life.

Control your context.

Research says that we tend to indulge more in an activity if that seems easier to us. For example, we don’t eat because we want to, but because of the context. We eat whatever is there around us and is easily accessible. 

When you have fewer things to react to, or you make it harder to react to them, you’ll be less reactive. Make distractions harder to reach.

Stay calm.

Stress takes your prefrontal cortex — the rational part of your brain — “offline.” And that’s why just reacting often makes you do stupid things.

Staying calm is key to making good decisions in the heat of the moment. 

“…the basic idea is that in many situations, you’re reacting with instincts programmed into your dinosaur brain, rather than thinking through a situation. If you’re in your dinosaur brain, you’re going to play out a 6 million-year-old program, and nothing good is going to happen.” 

 – Albert Bernstein, Clinical psychiatrist

Think about your goals.

Make sure the most important thing stays the most important thing. Questioning the action, its purpose, and the path rationally helps us focus on our goals. 

Thinking about your long-term goals when you’re tempted by distraction gives your brain a sense of control and can release dopamine, making you feel better and more motivated.

Make a deliberate decision.

Turning down fun distractions is hard. On the other hand, resisting the urge to procrastinate is really hard.

Neuroscience proves that taking some time before making a decision saves you from bad situations. 

It also helps you to overcome striatum activity which pushes you towards negative impulses. It is important to think of a long-term goal rather than doing things for instantaneous pleasure. 

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4 Types of Workplace Culture

When it comes to company culture, what is it that one looks for?

Almost immediately, qualities such as excellence, innovation, knowledge, and industry leadership come to mind.  But are these enough? 

One must remember that all the qualities that we want in our company culture stem from strong people with a healthy sense of being. Therefore, your company culture needs to strike a balance between individual well-being and relationships among employees.

The School of Sharks Culture
  • Relationships matter, but well-being is unimportant.
  • Relationships are transactional
  • Relationships are valued for their utility.
  • Business results are achieved.
  • Employee morale is low.
  • Employees are least loyal.
  • The mascot of this workplace is the shark; a hard-driving workplace where if you falter, you’re dead meat!
The Doom Loop Culture
  • Nothing matters – neither relationships nor well-being.
  • Employees can be at either end of the spectrum – either too hard or too little.
  • Performance, in general, is low.
  • The mascot of this workplace is the opossum; a sense of drift fills up this workplace.
The Lone Leopards Culture
  • The focus is on individualism and not teamwork.
  • Individual well-being is essential, but human relationships are not so much.
  • Ideal for people who want to work alone and not collaborate.
  • The mascot of this workplace is the leopard; strong, capable, and a loner.
The Trusted Teams Culture
  • The ideal workplace culture that values both individual well-being and relationships among employees.
  • Abundance and the “respect everyone” mindset are prevalent.
  • Communication is key.
  • The team works around common goals and mission.
  • The mascot of this workplace is the dolphin; social, good communicators, strong team players, and capable alone.

Teams may not fall into just any one single quadrant. For example, some team members may be sharks, and others may be leopards.

Ask the team to consider where they are and where they want to be. Then, discuss and decide which is the best scenario for your team and work towards it.

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5 Steps to Remembering Names

A person’s name is to [them] the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” – Dale Carnegie, American writer

When Shakespeare famously wrote – “What’s in a name?” – He was certainly not talking about humans. 

Not only do others identify us by a name, we too identify ourselves with our name.

Meeting someone and addressing them by their names immediately sets a connection and opens the gates to a great productive relationship.

But often, people face the issue of forgetting names when they meet someone again. 

Here are some simple tips to remember names.

Stop saying that you’re bad at names

When you say you’re bad at names, it is almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

You also get off on the wrong foot in any conversation by saying you can’t remember names. 

Not only do you come across as arrogant but the person you’re meeting may feel that they’re not worth a little extra effort on your part.

Say their name back to them

When someone introduces themselves, shake their hand, smile, and say it back to them with thoughtful intention. 

Make it about the other person. This will make the person you’re meeting feel important.

Make associations in your head

When someone tells you their name, discreetly and quickly, make as many associations in your head with this person’s name as you can.

And take the liberty to make the association as crazy as it takes to stick. Whatever it takes! But Ssshhh…Don’t let the person know about the internal associations.

Say their names slowly – one more time – before parting ways

After the conversation is wrapping up, repeat the person’s name. Look them in the eye while you do it.

Make it slow and intentional, and you’ll ensure that the person you’re speaking to you feels heard. That’s a great start to any relationship.

If you do forget, own up and ask

It’s only human to err. So, own up and ask again. Only shows that you’re willing to ask for help and are trying to do better. 

Ask for the person’s name again and apologize. Remember to point out something else you were talking about so that the person knows you were paying attention to the conversation.

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10 (Repeatable) Things To Do for Being Successful

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Will Durant, Historian (Based on the interpretation of Aristotle’s writings)

Routines can be tedious, but they can also be rejuvenating and energizing. 

Daily routines help you to:

  • Establish priorities
  • Achieve goals
  • Limit procrastination
  • Be more productive

However, remember routines that work for someone may not work for you. So stick to daily tasks that resonate with your goals and energy. 

Here are ten things that you can do in your daily routine to get more clarity and be successful.

Start your day with a positive mantra! 

It can be something like “Today is going to be the best day ever!” or something that Ben Franklin said, “What good shall I do today?” 

Say it out aloud and see yourself getting in the right mindset for the day!

Be proactive and not reactive.

Don’t start your day by checking your emails or social media. Instead, start your day by focussing on YOU, and you’ll accomplish a lot more in your day.

Visualize your success.

Harness the power of your subconscious mind. Visualize yourself in situations where you excel. Ensure you’re specific and positive.

Read!

Even if it’s just a page – read! Various studies have proven that reading helps you relax, reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, and at the same time increases brainpower.

Be accountable.

Find an accountability partner or mentor who shared your passion or can steer you in the right direction.

Write

Journal every day. Writing helps you get clarity and become a better communicator. You can write about every idea, big or small. Who knows, the next big idea may be born out of this journal?!

Create a To-Do list.

A To-Do list enables you to structure your day but keep it short and manageable. Remember to cross off items as you’re done!

Take regular breaks.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. 

Taking regular breaks is a must if you don’t want to get bored and see low productivity. There are various techniques, such as the Pomodoro Technique, that you can use to ensure you take a break when needed.

Break your day into chunks.

This enables you to prioritize. You know which tasks need more time and effort, and you can plan it that way. Also, it limits the time for your boring tasks to a minimum!

Theme days!

Themes are not just for new-year parties. Have themes for every day of the week. Make headway in particular areas without an overload!

Here’s what Jack Dorsey’s (co-founder of Twitter) week looks like: 

•Monday: Management

•Tuesday: Products

•Wednesday: Marketing and growth

•Thursday: Developers and partnerships

•Friday: Company culture and recruiting

•Saturday: Day off

•Sunday: Reflection and strategy

You may not be able to give the entire day to a task, and that’s fine. Block off time as per your availability.

Remember, we all are different, and so will be our daily routines!

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6 Leadership Styles And When You Should Use Them

Not only do the greatest teammates allow different leaders to consistently emerge based on their strengths, but also they realize that leadership can and should be situational, depending on the needs of the team. 

Sometimes a teammate needs a warm hug. Sometimes the team needs a visionary, a new style of coaching, someone to lead the way, or even, on occasion, a kick in the bike shorts. For that reason, great leaders choose their leadership style like a golfer chooses his or her club, with a calculated analysis of the matter at hand, the end goal, and the best tool for the job.

The pacesetting leader 

“Do as I do, now.”

Expects and models excellence and self-direction. 

Works best: When the team is already motivated and skilled, and the leader needs quick results.

 Cons: This style can overwhelm team members and squelch innovation.

The authoritative leader

“Come with me.”  

Mobilizes the team toward a common vision and focuses on end goals, leaving the means up to each individual. 

Works best: When the team needs a new vision because circumstances have changed or when explicit guidance is not required. 

Avoid: When the leader is working with a team of experts who know more than them.

The affiliative leader

“People come first.” 

Works to create emotional bonds that bring a feeling of bonding and belonging to the organization.

Works best: When the team needs to rebuild trust or in times of stress.

Avoid: Using exclusively, because a sole reliance on praise and nurturing can foster mediocre performance and a lack of direction.

The coaching leader

“Try this.”

Develops people for the future.

Works best: When the leader wants to help teammates build lasting personal strengths that make them more successful overall.

Avoid: When teammates are defiant and unwilling to change or learn, or if the leader lacks proficiency.

The coercive leader

“Do what I tell you.” 

Demands immediate compliance.

Works best: Most effective in times of crisis.

Avoid: Can alienate people and stifle flexibility and inventiveness.

The democratic leader

“What do you think?”

Builds consensus through participation.

Works best: When the leader needs the team to buy into or have ownership of a decision, plan, or goal.

Avoid: It is not the best choice in an emergency situation.

Bottom line? 

If you take two cups of authoritative leadership, one cup of democratic, coaching, and affiliative leadership, and a dash of pacesetting and coercive leadership “to taste,” and you lead based on need in a way that elevates and inspires your team, you’ve got an excellent recipe for long-term leadership success with every team in your life.

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How Best to Answer “What Do You Do?”

“What do you do?” is one of the most commonly asked questions – in professional and personal settings.

Most people would launch into a monologue, starting with what they do. But, how you respond to it can open or close opportunities for you. 

How can you answer this question to make the answer work for you?

When asked, “What do you do?” 

Start with what’s called an elevator pitch.  As the name implies, you need to finish telling your story by the time your elevator ride ends. Bottom line –  keep it short, catchy, and engaging.

To ensure all this and more, start your elevator pitch with a hook and end with a question.

Start with something that surprises the listener – almost like it wakes them up from their slumber. This is known as “pattern interrupt.”

Pause

Give the other person a few moments to process what you have said. If you don’t pause, they are likely to miss the next part.

Teaser

Next, give them some context and end with an open-ended question that forces them to engage. Ensure that the question is genuine and more than just a yes/no answer

Question

End with an open-ended (not a yes or a no) question. The idea is to start a conversation.

The Elevator Pitch Template

Practice makes you perfect.

Work on perfecting your pitch. Rehearse your pitch but keep it natural.

Gather feedback from people about your pitch and keep refining it till you get it right.

Tailor your pitch to both the audience and the medium. 

It’ll be different when you’re introducing yourself to a potential client on a sales call versus introducing yourself to multiple people in a group.

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The Power of Repetition: the Secret of Successful Leaders

“A friend of mine once paraphrased David Gergen, saying on the subject of repetition, “If you want to get your point across, especially to a broader audience, you need to repeat yourself so often, you get sick of hearing yourself say it. And only then will people begin to internalize what you’re saying.” [Jeff Weiner, Ex-CEO of Linkedin]

Get creative with your repetition.

Saying the same thing over and over again is not what repetition as a leader is about. That’s just annoying.

The power of repetition requires a bit more finesse and skill. It’s about finding multiple creative and effective ways to get the same idea across to your team. 

Reinforce your message in multiple ways.


Say it first and then put it in writing.

When you talk about an issue or idea with a team member you have the critical opportunity to hear their side of things. This can help improve the next steps and help get their buy-in

When it’s only words, it’s much harder to tell the difference between a big problem, and minor feedback.

Talk first. And then put it in writing.


Make sure praise and positive reinforcement are fully understood.

The power of repetition is not just about fixing problems. It can also help you when you’re looking to praise and reward your team.

If you like work or actions you see, tell them! As Sam Walton said, praise is free and has a big impact.


Lead by example, repeatedly.

There’s nothing more powerful than the example you set to your team. Nothing frustrates a team faster than “Do as I say, not as I do” situations.

“A manager has got to remember that he is on stage every day. His people are watching him. Everything he does, everything he says, and the way he says it, sends off clues to his employees. These clues affect performance. So never forget you are on that stage.”

Embrace being on this stage! When you want to tap the power of repetition, use your example as a powerful piece of it.


Use your example as a teachable moment.

Just because you do something well does not mean your team understands why you did it that way. When you set a good example and it creates the results you hoped for, use that as a teachable moment.

Take some time to explain to them what happened and why it’s important. This helps your people better understand the approach you want them to follow.


The power of repetition is in its simplicity. A message heard repeatedly is more likely to stay in your mind.

The more senses a concept touches, and times it is heard, the more likely your team will hear your message and help deliver the results you desire.

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Kunal Shah on Startups, Hiring, Building culture and lot more

This conversation, recorded as part of Productgeeks Conf brings you a lot of great insights from Kunal Shah. Some of the topics we discussed:

  • What is your take on fund raising spree?
  • How do you build a team?
  • How did you build a good design team?
  • Do you maintain a journal of sorts, what’s your decision making process and how has it evolved?
  • Being a founder, how do you maintain the spirit and motivation for your team always up to the mark when the things are not working fine?
  • What are your thoughts on single founder vs multiple founders?
  • If you are evaluating an idea, what do you look into an idea beyond delta 4?

This conversation was part of ProductGeeks Conf, India’s largest conference for teams that ship (in partnership with Sequoia Capital and Reverie) and was recorded on FWD app, the learning superapp that enables you to upskill on a daily basis.

The 4 Different Types of Feedback and How to Them Effectively

We’ve all received feedback during our performance reviews. Feedback not only engages the employee in the conversation it also spotlights vital issues.

Receiving feedback is an opportunity to grow. However, many people don’t look at feedback this way. People don’t want to be told what they need to improve, which makes giving feedback challenging. 

There are 4 main types of feedback. Learning about these will enable you to give effective feedback.

Depending on whom you’re sharing feedback with and the context, you can use one or more types of feedback.

  • Directive feedback, as the name suggests, is direct and essentially tells someone what to do though that doesn’t mean it is not put “nicely.”
  • Contingency feedback relies on making the person see the consequence. It talks about what can happen.
  • Attribution feedback describes someone or their actions in terms of quality or label.

Impact feedback aims to educate the person about the effect of their actions on others.

Impact feedback is most useful in performance reviews. Typically, this feedback aims to understand the “why” for a particular action. And this is why impact feedback is most likely to be well-received.

Feedback will also be received well if the giver is not authoritative or commanding, and that’s what impact feedback is.Impact feedback is not authoritative and can be a great starting point if you need to get to the authoritative feedback stage.

Whichever type of feedback you choose, remember these 10 mistakes to avoid while sharing feedback.

Avoid:

  • Judging individuals.
  • Sharing vague feedback.
  • Speaking for others in your feedback.
  • Trying to soften negative comments by sandwiching them between positive messages.
  • Exaggerating feedback with generalities.

Avoid:

  • Psychoanalyzing the motives behind the behavior.
  • Lengthy feedback.
  • Sharing implied threats via feedback.
  • Using inappropriate humor.
  • Phrasing feedback as a question.

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates, Co-founder of Microsoft

While what Bill Gates says is accurate, as someone who shares feedback, you need to be watchful and customize your feedback to reduce resistance

Points to consider to reduce resistance to feedback

  • Consider the specific situation of the receiver.
  • Remember, everyone processes information differently.
  • Factor in the receiver’s personal situations.
  • Individualize your feedback by considering the receiver’s strengths and weaknesses.

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How to Turn your Anxiety into an Entrepreneurial Superpower

Given the fast-paced world we live in with numerous pulls and tugs on us, we all have experienced some degree of anxiety now and then. And to top it all, we were hit by a  pandemic, and our worries soared high.

“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” — Jodi Picoult, Author

It turns out if you pay attention and work with it; your anxiety can become a superpower. All you need is to look at it from a different perspective.

Like Maya Angelou put, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

So how can you embrace your anxiety and turn it around?

Many times anxiety manifests itself as a premonitory feeling.  You constantly feel like something bad is about to happen. 

For example, you may be dreading being late for crucial meetings. Channel this fear to prepare for situations. 

Once you’re prepared, you’ll note that you’ll be more organized and also punctual. 

And we all know that being organized and punctual are traits of great leaders!

Embrace your vulnerability. 

For best results, people you work with need to connect with you. Show yourself and be authentic

If you’re nervous about speaking to someone in a meeting, admit it; the openness and sincerity will get you further than what you think.

Be uninhibited about your anxiety. This will enable you to help others face their fears and anxieties

Studies have proven that being able to help others releases dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone.

Jason Saltzman used his anxiety and empathy to channelize his venture Relief App to help people tackle their debt.

“Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.”

—Walter Anderson, Political analyst

What you think is your “weakness” can be your superpower!

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The Rise of the monk mode mornings

 Do you ever get frustrated with being interrupted? Do you wish you had a place to retreat at work to do serious thinking? Do you believe the quality of your work would go up and your stress go down if you had more time and space to really concentrate? Well, you can. Welcome to the new world of Monk Mode mornings.

What exactly is monk mode?

Between when you wake up and noon: no meetings, no calls, no texts, no email, no Slack, no Internet. You instead work deeply on something (or somethings) that matters.

What makes this hack particularly effective is its simple regularity. If someone wants to schedule something with you, it becomes reflexive to respond “anytime afternoon.” 

There’s no guesswork or inconsistency: everyone’s on the same page, and you make 3 to 4 hours of deep progress on valuable goals, every day.

It means shutting out the world for a time. It is a relatively extreme approach to take, but we decided I would write from 5 AM to 1 PM every day. I did that five days a week for about 9 months. I worked from a small office — tiny really—but in it I found space. And in that space, I found creative freedom. – Greg McKeown [2X New York Times bestselling author]

 The work world is infected with the disease of busyness. People often experience motion sickness rather than momentum. They become tricked by the trivial. 

As knowledge workers, we need to advocate for space so we can find the signal in the sound. As managers, we need to protect our people’s space to think, concentrate and get things done. There is a time to collaborate together; there is a time to be in monk mode. As Pablo Picasso is credited with saying, “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”

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How to Make Virtual Meetings Effective

When Covid-19 hit the world, how we look at the world changed, and so did our working styles. 

Overnight meeting attendees switched from rushing between conference rooms to rushing to find the right Zoom link. 

As a result, the medium changed, but the need to work together, discuss project progress and tackle challenges did not.

The virtual context adds layers of complexity for both meeting leaders and attendees. 

A vast majority of surveyed people reported feeling fatigued and drained during and after their virtual meetings — more so than with in-person meetings. 

Virtual meetings can be exhausting.

To make the virtual meetings effective, leaders need to tailor their responses as per the audience.  

Solicit feedback from the attendees. Not only will it help you communicate better, but will also help you plan and lead future meetings.

To help guide this meeting feedback solicitation process, consider these potential questions:

  • How helpful are our team meetings?
  • What is working well and not so well? What should we do differently?
  • To optimize your workflow, should our meetings be scheduled in the morning, midday, or afternoon?
  • How long should our meetings be?
  • How often should we meet?
  • Would you benefit from days or time blocks with no meetings?
  • If you were to lead the meeting, what would you do differently?

Absorb and reflect on the feedback. 

It is essential after gathering feedback to let it sink in. 

Experiment and change things up.

Make some changes based on the feedback. This will let your team know that you’re listening and taking action.

Best practices for making virtual meetings more effective

  • Cancel unnecessary meetings.
  • Make necessary meetings shorter.
  • Assign different roles to attendees.
  • Use breakout rooms.
  • Hold asynchronous meetings.
  • Build-in breaks during long meetings.
  • Moderate and facilitate virtual meetings more actively.
  • Turn off “self-view,” and make camera use optional for some meetings.

To ensure productive virtual meetings, be willing to adapt and grow. 

Experiment with different meeting strategies or platforms. Adjust as needs change or evolve. 

Rely on meeting best practices and develop a tailored response.

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Long-Term Thinking: The Secret Recipe To Keep Moving Forward!

We think we’re being smart by taking shortcuts in life. While that’s great if you’re driving your car from point A to point B, everyone knows that there are no shortcuts in life. To build a strong body, you need to work out and eat healthy food every day.

How to stay focused on the long game?

To play the long game, you don’t need to be overly focused on the future and give up your life in the present. 

  1. The only thing you need is to adjust your expectations. That will not only help you to appreciate the present more, it will also make you more patient.
  2. You want to patiently work towards your goals and at the same time enjoy the process.

Don’t chase short-term goals 

You’re better off improving your skills, building better products, and working on things that you can influence. When you chase short-term goals, you’re often going after things that are out of your control like money, status, and approval of others. 

So instead of chasing those types of things, work on what’s within your control. Eventually, others will come to you. This works on a small and big scale.

Why hasn’t new technology made us more productive than it has?

Balaji Srinivasan asks in a Twitter thread why we’re not far more productive given the technology available. Here I collect the five possible explanations he mentions.

  • The Great Distraction.
    All the productivity we gained has been frittered away on equal-and-opposite distractions like social media, games, etc.
  • The Great Dissipation.
    The productivity has been dissipated on things like forms, compliance, process, etc.
  • The Great Divergence.
    The productivity is here, it’s just only harnessed by the indistractable few.
  • The Great Dilemma.
    Productivity has been burned in bizarre ways that require line-by-line “profiling” of everything.
  • The Great Dumbness.
    The productivity is here, we’ve just made dumb decisions in the West while others have harnessed it.

Three-Act Structure

One of the oldest and most straightforward storytelling formulas

  • Setup — Set the scene and introduce the character(s)
  • Confrontation or “Rising action” — Present a problem and build up the tension
  • Resolution — Resolve the problem

In the first act, set the stage and introduce the character(s) of the story. In the second act, present a problem faced by the character(s) and build up the tension. In the third act, deliver the climax of the story by resolving the problem (with your product or service).

Freytag’s Pyramid: Five-Act Structure

  • Exposition — Introduce important background information
  • Rising action — Tell a series of events to build up to the climax
  • Climax — Turn the story around (usually the most exciting part of the story)
  • Falling action — Continue the action from the climax
  • Dénouement/Catastrophe — Ending the story with a resolution

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