Monday, March 23, 2015

Three no-cost elements to inspire motivation at work

A group of managers from a local manufacturing company and I recently explored the power of feeling motivated.  Three no-cost elements can produce an energetic and productive staff:  

  • an environment of interpersonal support,
  • clear work goals, 
  • and opportunities to be creative.
Our group reflected on times they felt especially motivated.

And we looked at what happens when we feel that motivation.

When we face challenges, isn't it great to know our capacities? 

Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Leaders Institute on television.

I love working with The Leaders Institute.  Their  2 hour Build a Bike events build stronger teams and create great memories for colleagues at work,  (and for happy local kids). 

UNC masters students build bikes for kids

Monday, July 28, 2014

Do we have the courage to create the lives we truly want?

This six minute interview offers a dose of truth. Author Greg McKeown's new book Essentialism, gives us this awesome challenge: pursue only those things that are truly important — and eliminate everything else. Listen below for some other great tips on getting our lives back.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ancient Emotional Intelligence

“Do not conquer the world with force, for force only causes resistance. Thorns spring up when an army passes. Years of misery follow a great victory. Do only what needs to be done without using violence.”- Tao Te Ching

I led a wonderful virtual workshop on assertiveness yesterday.  Many participants spoke of their desire to "do what needs to be done" without slipping into aggressiveness.   It's true that force can yield an immediate "victory" but teams and companies can pay a price for brutal management styles.

During one of my Emotional Intelligence workshops a group of managers insisted that they had to yell at their workers.  Later, the HR manager mentioned that the company had several safety violations.  I saw a link between the stressed (and resentful?) worker and an unsafe facility.

Do we manage our own emotional reactions instead of taking out our fear and anger on others?  Do we use the least amount of force necessary to achieve our goals?

Monday, July 14, 2014

What doesn't kill me.....

While preparing for an upcoming workshop I came across some research on resiliency --the ability to “bounce back” after hardships.  Dr. Mark Seery’s studies show that moderate adversity early in life can actually help us develop resilience and cope with life’s challenges.  The study suggests that the adage, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” is psychologically true.  Researchers offer the example of children contacting germs in play and how this helps their immune systems grow stronger.

In my garden I’m finding the same lesson.  Last year our terrier, Reggie, in his hunt for chipmunks dug up a lanky raspberry bush.  The bush looked half-dead but I covered it with dirt and fenced off the area.  The bush had grown vigorously but had produced only a few tiny raspberries in its first few years.
This year, instead of growing more canes, the bush is much more compact, and has produced many very large, luscious berries. 

On the other hand, my spinach lacks resiliency.  It can’t seem to thrive even in a shady spot during our cooler summer.  It has bolted almost immediately. 

 The work of emotional intelligence can guide us toward changing dysfunctional thought patterns that hamper our ability to bounce back from life’s changes and challenges.

How resilient are we to the hardships of life?  Can we  appreciate our daily annoyances and smaller challenges for the gift they may offer? 

© 2014 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Maybe Training isn't the Answer. Have you considered "Dynamic Faciliation?"

Dynamic facilitation is a structured discussion that sees all team members as having valuable insight into their complex challenges. The simple but powerful format allows old gridlocks and frustrations to be acknowledged and released. The process can help groups arrive together at creative, practical, and elegant solutions to challenging issues.

Does your team have an issue that could benefit from a facilitated discussion?

Thanks to Jim Rough for this great image.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fun team building events from The Leader's Institute!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Are you speaking with clarity?

Fewer words often lead to better communication.
Consider these word counts!

— Pythagorean Theorem = 24 words
— The 10 Commandments = 179 words
— The Gettysburg Address = 286 words
— The Declaration of Independence = 1,300 words
— U.S. Government regulations on the sale of cabbage = 26,911 words!

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Tension is who you think you should be. 
Relaxation is who you are.
~Chinese Proverb

Friday, March 7, 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014

What is the difference between a dream and a goal?

Dreams can become goals once they're written down.  

Are you writing down goals to guide you?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

First skill of emotional intelligence -- Self Awareness

“Without self-awareness, you cannot understand your strengths and weaknesses, your ‘super
powers’ versus your ‘kryptonite,’  It is self-awareness that allows the best business-builders to
walk the tightrope of leadership: projecting conviction while simultaneously remaining
humble enough to be open to new ideas and opposing opinions.”
--Anthony K. Tjan, “How Leaders Become Self-Aware,” Harvard Business Review, HBR Blog
Network, July 19, 2012.  

Monday, December 30, 2013

Listening with Empathy speeds up Problem Solving

In our frantic "every second counts" world, taking a moment to listen empathetically can seem unnecessary or a poor use of time.  But empathetic listening can save time.  When people believe that we truly understand their frustrations, they stop repeating themselves,  trying to "make us understand."

As we listen empathetically, we acknowledge what we hear -- both verbal and nonverbal messages.

Try an experiment.  Listen deeply (especially if someone is upset) and watch for subtle (or sometimes large) shifts in the conversation.  Voices raised in anger (a symptom of trying to be heard) often soften to normal levels.  The speaker (a customer, colleague, spouse, or child) may stop repeating their complaint and move from being stuck in the problem to focusing on solutions.    © 2013 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved

Friday, December 20, 2013

Don't look Down. Can you guess the 5 statements that customers hate?

That's not my job.

I don't know.

That's our policy.  Sorry.

I'm not allowed to do that.

You'll have to come back later when someone can help you.

Customers love initiative, creativity, and caring.  Even if we can't solve the problem, we can make a commitment to find the answer or the person who can help them.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why Don't We Study This in School?

 George has 3 dollars   $$$
-If Rick takes 2 dollars  $$
How will George feel??

Empathy is one of the most vital skills in Emotional Intelligence and it is a skill that can be learned.  Like math, it must be practiced to gain mastery.  We can cultivate empathy on a daily basis by imaging and observing how others feel.

Friday, November 8, 2013

More on building empathy

This video is amazing.  Sometimes sad but incredibly powerful and a great reminder of building empathy.  Designed for healthcare providers, this can be a reminder to imagine the experience of your customers.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Cultivating empathy

Empathy is the WD40 of relationships.  We can become more empathic by:
•  Increasing awareness of our inner emotional states. It's easier to recognize feelings
in others when we are familiar with feelings in ourselves.
•  Teaching ourselves to pay attention to the emotional states in others.
•  Looking for similarities between ourselves and others and remembering times that we felt similarly (even if the circumstances are very different).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tips to Stop Procrastinating. Do it now!

Just had another Time Management workout and have heard again the Procrastinator’s Refrain:  “I work best under pressure.”  Research suggests that this isn’t true.  While deadlines can dramatically increase our focus, how can we know we’re producing “our best” work if we don’t have an option of revising or refining?  Pressured thinking may work for some projects but for highly complex or creative work, the brain needs time to mix, blend, and percolate ideas. 

Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago identifies three basic types of procrastinators:

  • arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.
  • avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
  • decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.
              • (from a Psychology Today 2003 article)

In my workshops, participants who label themselves as perfectionists report a high degree of procrastination.  The project that demands the most from them will be the one that is ignored day after day.  If new, unforeseen priorities emerge—they may miss their deadline entirely.  This may provide a “good excuse” but they will also miss the opportunity to shine at work.  These same participants admit that their delays greatly increase their stress at work and at home. 

Using emotional intelligence to overcome procrastination. 

As a writer I well understand the difficulties in starting new projects.  Strong emotions often emerge.  Simply noticing the emotions and enduring them is a form of emotional intelligence.  Trusting in our own skills and the creative process requires positive self-talk, another EI skill. 

Here are some steps have helped me overcome procrastination when I’m faced with blog posts, training proposals, and even screenplays.  Try it on yourself or a member of your team. 

1.    Identify the looming project that needs completion.

2.    Arrange for 10-15 minutes without any interruptions:  phone, email, visitors.

3.    Sit with the blank page or forms that need attention.

4.    Allow yourself to feel any emotions that might emerge:  fear, anger, overwhelm.

5.    Give the project your attention, even if that consists of sitting and staring at the page.

Within 15 minutes I’m betting that you’ll discover some preliminary ideas.  Write these down.  Don’t expect perfection. Every writer knows that the first draft may be disastrous but it is the only way to get to the next (much better) draft.  If possible, continue to allow yourself undisturbed time (30-60 minutes) to make some headway on the project. 

Remember, those 15 minutes of staring at the page are NOT a waste of time.  Sitting in front of the paper sets the intention and alerts our larger mind (both conscious and unconscious processes) to the project/problem that needs a solution.  Allowing random thoughts to kick around our mind (doodling might help here), primes the pump for our creative process.    
© 2013 Laura Lewis-Barr all rights reserved