Shortly after launching the Apple I, in 1976, Steve Jobs had the “ah-ha” moment that would change the world. Jobs had decided that computers should come as a complete package. Jobs and his co-founder Steve Wozniak had sold a couple hundred of their first computer, the Apple I, but the Apple I could hardly be called a finished product. It comprised of a circuit board with no power supply, no keyboard, no monitor and no case. As a result, the market ended at computer hobbyists.
Jobs’ big insight was that the Apple II need to be a fully “integrated consumer product” that could be sold to the average consumer. It needed to be ready to go out of the box with a keyboard, monitor, power supply, all beautifully wrapped up in a moulded plastic case. But, to achieve this he needed cash. After approaching a number of venture capitalists, he connected with Mike Markkula an ex-Intel executive who was enamoured by the Apple II prototype, and hence, invested $250,000. This enabled the two founders to turn their hobby into a business. Unfortunately, the brilliant co-founder and engineering genius Steve Wozniak wasn’t interested. He refused to quit his full-time job at HP. While Markkula shrugged and said okay, Jobs refused to take no for an answer. Walter Isaacson explains Jobs’ reaction in his new biography, Steve Jobs:
He cajoled Wozniak; he got friends to try to convince him; he cried, yelled, and threw a couple of fits. He even went to Wozniak’s parents’ house, burst into tears, and asked Jerry for help. “I started getting phone calls at work and home from my dad, my mom, my brother, and various friends, “ Wozniak recalled. “Every one of them told me I’d made the wrong decision.” None of that worked. Then Allen Baum, their Buck Fry Club mate at Homesead High, called. “You really ought to go ahead and do it,” he said. He argued that if he joined Apple full-time, he would not have to go into management or give up being an engineer. “That is exactly what I needed to hear,” Wozniak later said. “I could stay at the bottom of the organization chart, as an engineer.” He called Jobs and declared that he was now ready to come on board.”
In the early 1980s, Robert Brockhaus began to explore personal traits that separated entrepreneurs from the general population. Brockhaus discovered that ‘internal locus of control’ was a powerful predictor of both a person intention to start a business and the success of that business. This finding has been replicated in many studies since.
A person with an internal locus of control believes that effort, skill and ability are what lead to success. They minimise the importance of fate, luck and chance in achievement. The problem with people who have an extreme, internal locus of control, is their beliefs often don’t fit with reality, they believe too much in their ability to shape their destiny. Steve Jobs is one such example. So extreme was his belief that he could shape the events in his life that colleagues described it as his “reality distortion field”.
Tribble, a former college, explained, “In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything. It wears off when he’s not around, but it makes it hard to have schedules.”
It enabled him to convince co-founder Steve Wozniak to write a programme that should have taken months in just four days. Similarly, when Jobs decided he wanted one of the world’s top designers, Paul Rand, to work with him, IBM had already contracted him. Jobs was so persistent with phone calls that, after two days, the Vice Chairman of IBM Paul Rizzo concluded, “it was futile to resist Jobs” and gave the go ahead.
When he was launching iTunes, and many believed it would be impossible to get all the artists and record label’s to sign up. Roger Ames the head of Warner music describes the Apple founder’s behaviour, “He would call me at home, relentless at ten at night, to say he still needed to get to Led Zeppelin or Madonna. He was determined, and nobody else could have convinced some of these artists.”
Isaacson’s biography is peppered with incidents of Jobs acting on his belief that he can, and would, shape the world around him. Again and again Jobs indomitable will, charisma and belief that he would prevail, helped him reimage seven industries. As a former team member commented on his reality distortion field, “It enabled Jobs to inspire his team to change the course of computer history with a fraction of the resources of Xerox or IBM.” In short, Jobs was a living example of “people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.”
Developing your internal locus of control
A large volume of research has shown that you can develop a deep belief in your ability to influence the world through four mechanisms:
- Doing it: The best way to change your belief in your ability to control your destiny is by actually doing it. Setting and achieving goals has been shown to raise a person internal locus of control.
- Learning from others: Studying and meeting entrepreneurs who have a deep belief in their ability to control their lives, you realise, so can you.
- Persuasion: If you don’t believe the you are totally in control of your company’s destiny read Great by Choice it gives a convincing argument why luck and chance play little role in business success.
- Manage your moods: Emotions have been shown to alter your belief your own ability. Being happy raises perceived beliefs, while being sad lowers them.
Get the book: Steve Jobs is available from R187 from Kalahari.com and all good book stores.
Re-engineer Your Performance Culture To Avoid Disruption
52% of the companies on the Fortune 500 in the year 2000 no longer exist today. Simply put, they were disrupted. If you want to survive and thrive, you need to learn to be the disruptor, and that starts with your employees.
“It’s been discovered that traditional performance reviews trigger the same threat networks in the brain as those that are triggered when we are being attacked by a lion in the wild.”
Developing a performance culture
Performance management is not just about a system, it’s a culture. At its very core it shows what a company values and what it does not. It’s a means through which we reward and encourage certain behaviour and provides a process that enables us to correct behaviour that is not considered helpful in the business.
If a company rewards both quality of client relationships and sales targets for example, it displays a different culture to a company that only rewards sales targets. The way in which companies reward behaviour, be it individual bonuses, team bonuses or incentive trips demonstrates what values they hold.
It’s therefore imperative that businesses begin this process by first defining what they want their performance culture to look like. What does ‘good’ look like and how do we recognise it? I recently read that the best way for top talent to figure out if they want to work for a potential employer is to ask the interviewer how they reward and recognise talent.
This will indicate the type of culture a business has and whether you may be a good fit. From a business perspective, it will determine what types of employees you attract, and how customers are treated by your organisation.
There are a lot of reasons why more than half of the Fortune 500 companies from the year 2000 no longer exist today, but one of the most important is that their decline is simply indicative of disruptive times.
In disruptive times we experience changes in the workplace that fundamentally shake up and change how we do business. The most disruptive times force us to take an honest look at ourselves and reconsider what we need to change to survive. Those that do not adapt often die. But it’s also true that in moments like these industries, societies and cultures move forward.
Be in-tune with your company’s performance culture
One of the biggest areas of reflection for businesses in recent years has been our traditional methods of managing performance. Performance management is considered to be one of the most important functions of a business, no matter the industry or size.
The outcomes of how we manage performance may be the most impactful events in how we get the best out of people, define and execute strategy and ultimately survive as a business. As times change and we move into the next industrial revolution, the pressure has started to mount on many companies that have to reengineer a dated system.
They are being asked to align it with the actual dynamics of work and reflect the nuances of how business has changed. This is even more important when we consider that most of today’s traditional yearly target-review processes stem from the first industrial revolution, which occurred a century ago. A survey of global executives recently admitted that they had only a 4% approval on current performance management processes.
Performance reviews trigger fight or flight
If we consider that most employee performance review techniques are linked to a basically antiquated system, then how we understand the brain can determine what modern-day performance management should look like, starting with how we review our employees.
A major breakthrough in neuroscience has led the field in reengineering performance. It’s been discovered that traditional performance reviews trigger the same threat networks in the brain as those that are triggered when we are being attacked by a lion in the wild.
When these networks are triggered the brain does not prioritise its higher-order thinking and rather resorts to instinctual, unconscious behaviour in order to ensure survival. This has commonly been known as the fight or flight response. In this state the brain’s best thinking is not prioritised as the brain relies on the quick and instinctive thinking needed to ensure survival.
What’s important to remember here is that the brain uses the same neural networks for both physical and social threat. This explains how the same areas of the brain light up when we feel socially threatened in a performance review and when we hurt ourselves physically. It also explains why social isolation is used as an effective form of punishment in prison.
How to achieve a successful performance review
The challenge with performance conversations is that a crucial outcome of the conversation is for the brain to be at its best to prioritise its best thinking. A successful performance review occurs when individuals think reflectively about performance feedback and are able to adjust behaviour and move forward with a plan of action.
The problem is that most performance conversations do not achieve this result successfully because traditional performance reviews trigger a threat response that prevents the brain from being at its best.
Our work at the NeuroLeadership Institute has cumulated in a model of social triggers that can be used to better understand how these social triggers play out. The SCARF model was developed by Dr David Rock and focuses on what triggers a threat state in the brain and what can be leveraged to put the brain into its best state. These could be summarised in the questions:
- Am I being valued and respected? (Status)
- Am I in the loop? (Certainty)
- Do I have a sense of control? (Autonomy)
- Do I belong? (Relatedness)
- Am I being treated fairly compared to others? (Fairness)
A typical performance conversation is started with something along the lines of “Come in, let’s do your performance review,” or if you would like to start the conversation, “I need to give you some feedback.” This may trigger all five of the SCARF triggers and put the brain into a natural fight/flight mode.
There is no sense of what the conversation is about and no degree of control and there is a clear distinction made between manager and feedback receiver. However, by being aware of these triggers we are able to structure the same conversation in a different way.
You could begin the conversation by saying, “I need to give you feedback about X and I need 20 minutes of your time. What time is good for you today?” This conversation puts the brain into a state where it can prioritise its best thinking and is better prepared to actually think differently when given the feedback — the desired outcome of most performance management conversations.
How you can re-engineer your performance culture
At the NeuroLeadership institute we have found that many of our clients are trying to reengineer their performance culture and change the three most critical stages of the performance cycle.
These are Goal Setting, Performance Feedback and Rewards. The changes have largely been influenced by an understanding of threat states in the brain. There are a number of ways that companies are experimenting with changing performance that include removing performance ranking and decoupling bonuses from performance discussions — some of the things that actively trigger the brain’s natural threat network.
We recommend starting the change where you are in your performance journey. Some industries and cultures are more fertile for more radical changes, while others are not. In some cases, you cannot take away ratings or individual targets as the business model does not allow for it.
Some cultures are not always ready for 360o-feedback right away and some remuneration schemes are not always ready for group or shared bonuses. Further technical and system constraints may also impact what is possible. One thing everyone is ready for is to improve the quality of conversations and have them more often.
Why are you conducting performance reviews?
When we think about the performance conversation, we have to remind ourselves what the point of it is. They often deteriorate into conversations that attempt to justify performance or fight for an increase.
This is why a lot of businesses are decoupling bonus or remuneration outcomes from the outcomes of conversations. When we do so, what do we really speak about then? Performance and behaviour change, not a fight or an attempt to justify a salary or performance.
We have found that it’s useful to separate conversations. A salary discussion should ideally happen once a year and check-ins and progress conversations should happen more often. There should be more conversations about performance in a year, done in a brain-friendly manner.
It can sometimes be more stressful for the feedback giver than the feedback receiver and that is why we often delay a conversation until it’s necessary to have one and it becomes a tough conversation.
Figure 1 demonstrates the benefit of having more frequent conversations. When you have regular check-ins you are more able to catch behaviour when it is moving off course and correct the trajectory of growth so that targets are achieved and there isn’t a big surprise between planned and actual performance.
Why Stress Can Actually Be Good For You
For years we’ve been told how unhealthy stress can be and how important it is to manage our stress. Turns out, everything we thought we knew about stress might actually be wrong.
As a high-performing entrepreneur, there are few things more irritating than being told to work less and manage your stress. You’re building a business, which by its very nature requires a lot of time and is stressful.
Here’s the good news. Health psychologist and author of the best-selling book The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It, Kelly McGonigal, has one mission: To help people be happier and healthier. For many years this meant sharing the message that stress makes you sick. It increases the risk of everything from the common cold to cardiovascular disease. Basically, she turned stress into the enemy.
But thanks to some ground-breaking studies, Kelly changed her mind. As it turns out, stress doesn’t kill you. Thinking that stress will kill you is the real killer.
Don’t view stress as harmful
Kelly’s opinion of stress started shifting after a ground-breaking study in the US tracked 30 000 adults for eight years. At the start of the study, participants were asked how much stress they had experienced in the last year, and if they believed stress was harmful to their health. They then used public death records to find out who died.
Here’s the bad news: People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43% higher chance of dying. But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful.
People who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful to their health were no more likely to die than people with absolutely no stress in their lives. In fact, the focus group who had experienced stress but didn’t view it as harmful actually had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study.
Change your response to stress
Other studies have revealed that changing your mind about stress can change your body’s response to it. You can make stress good for you. In one Harvard study, participants were placed in a stressful situation but told that the stress response was good and would help them cope with the situation. Briefed that all the physical signs of stress were helping them to stay focused and perform at their peak — including a heightened heart rate — the participants had a different physiological reaction to someone who believes their stress response is bad.
In a typical stress response, your heart rate goes up and your blood vessels constrict. Constricted vessels are a factor in cardiovascular disease; chronic stress is sometimes associated with heart attacks. It’s not healthy to be in this state all the time.
But in the study, when participants viewed their stress response as helpful, their blood vessels stayed relaxed. Their heart was still pounding, but their cardiovascular profile looked more like what happens in moments of joy and courage. Over a lifetime of stressful experiences, this one biological change could be the difference between a stress-induced heart attack at 50 and living well into your 90s.
Stress also releases oxytocin, which fine-tunes your brain’s social instincts. It primes you to do things that strengthen relationships by making you crave physical contact with your friends and family, enhancing your empathy, and making you more willing to help and support people you care about. So, when oxytocin is released in the stress response, it’s motivating you to seek support.
How will knowing this side of stress make you healthier? Oxytocin also acts on your body. One of its main roles is to protect your cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory that also helps your blood vessels stay relaxed during stress. It even helps heart cells regenerate and heal from any stress-induced damage.
Pulling it all together
The harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and act can transform your experience of stress. When you view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.
Stress gives us access to our hearts, from the compassionate heart that finds joy and meaning in connecting with others, and to the pounding physical heart, working so hard to give us strength and energy. When you view stress this way, you’re not just getting better at it, you’re actually making a profound statement that you trust yourself to handle life’s challenges and that you don’t have to face them alone.
Watch Kelly McGonigal’s Ted Talk on how to make stress your friend:
It’s OK To Not Be OK
First, acknowledge your feelings. Then, follow these tips to do something about it.
We live in an age of image projection. Instagram gets over 95 million posts per day. You can find hundreds of thousands of pictures of engagement rings, new puppies, exotic dinners or washboard abs at any given moment.
Even LinkedIn is probably sending you dozens of notifications each month reminding you to congratulate your high school acquaintances on their job-iversaries. It’s easy to get caught up in the general tendency of creating an illusion that we have our lives perfectly together. After all, people are watching. So, what happens when you are not OK?
When depression sets in, when negative self-talk gets too loud or when you get let go, get dumped or lose a loved one. What do we do when we don’t have a solution?
During hard times, most people want to skip past the moment of acknowledging that they aren’t OK and go straight to working toward a resolution. Resolutions – even tough ones – make us feel in control.
Admitting that you’re struggling doesn’t feel as manageable, or fit in with the sense of perfection that most people get blasted with on social media. But the ability to sit with a feeling of failure can be one of the most important skills you learn, both in life and in work.
The power of saying “I’m not OK”
Embracing tough moments, instead of swiftly moving past them, can be incredibly powerful when practiced correctly.
Framing the situation correctly is validating; you acknowledge that your feelings are justified, and that even though your situation is not ideal, you accept there is nothing wrong with the fact that you’re struggling. This is not about accepting and ignoring, this is accepting and moving through.
A study from Montana State University found that people who are authentic and honest with themselves can overcome feelings of shame – which would otherwise cause them to devalue themselves.
Dwelling on a feeling of failure is paralysing. It will keep you from asking for help when you need it or making good choices.
Understand that sometimes your emotions take precedence over finding a solution. We often discount the value of feelings especially in the workplace – but you need to remember that in the end, emotions are simply information.They are facts of life like any other. Emotions exist, and when you’re making decisions, you’ll have to factor them in.
Everyone has points in their career where they make a major mistake or feel overwhelmed by their workload. Women in particular are usually taught not to talk about it.
But according to the sociologist Arlie Hochschild, suppressing negative feelings can cause an “emotional load” that causes you to burn out faster, give up more easily and ultimately be less successful.
As an entrepreneur, professional woman and recovering perfectionist, I’ve realised I need to give myself permission to be not OK sometimes. I accept that there isn’t a solution right now, and I tell myself that that’s OK. That attitude is what has given me the stamina to accomplish everything that I have, even when times felt dark.
4 Ways to ground yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed at work
Enduring uncertainty isn’t easy. It’s a professional skill that needs to be fostered like any other. I have four main tactics I personally use in order to stay centred during challenging times.
You may have heard it a hundred times from your yoga teachers, but it bears repeating: Breathing is the single best way to get yourself centred. There are many different therapeutic ways to breathe, but here’s a simple one I enjoy: If possible, lie on the floor, knees up but feet planted. Otherwise, find somewhere where you can be seated.
Take one hand and put it on your belly and the other on your chest. Inhale for three seconds breathing through your belly, then an additional two seconds filling the chest with air. Hold the breath for a moment and exhale through the mouth completely.
Breathing effectively can literally cure the physical aspects of anxiety. It’s an underrated skill when we talk about what contributes to professional success, but it can make a huge difference.
2. Find a mantra
You might not consider yourself a “mantra” kind of person, but positive affirmations have been consistently shown to make a major positive impact on confidence and performance.
That said, there’s no need to start memorising inspirational quotes or learning Buddhist scripture. Create your own mantras, ones that resonate for you. Figure out what it is that you need to hear in order to feel stronger.
Some things I find comfort in saying are “I am whole. I am safe. I am here.” Or as Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “Breathing in, I know I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” These are just simple sentences, but I find them to be powerful in their ability to bring me to my current state.
I am huge fan of going for walks when work gets hectic. It’s a valuable way to let your body influence what your brain is doing, instead of the other way around. Try using the power of your steps to help calm your mind and reconnect with the immediate present, so you can keep things in perspective.
The way you hold and move your body can also legitimately influence your sense of person ability. In social scientist Amy Cuddy’s famous TED Talk, she talks about how body language influences confidence.
I teach the power of posture and a strong mind-body connection in the first part of my four-part workshop series, Developing Executive Presence. The goal is to help students develop their own authentic presence as a base necessity for the workshops that follow.
4. Talk about it
Sometimes, you just need a third-party opinion in order to keep things in perspective. Reach out to your loved ones, friends or even coworkers.
Holistic psychotherapist Kat Dahlen deVos has some great thoughts on the subject: “Sometimes, when we are experiencing fear, sadness or any other painful emotion, our tendency is to feel very alone – like no one understands or can relate to us.
As a result, we isolate, which can actually increase the intensity of our suffering by activating our stress response (a.k.a ‘fight or flight’). When we’re talking to a loved one about what we’re going through, we’re doing two things that can actually help us to move through the difficulty: Allowing our vulnerability to be witnessed, and building the capacity to tolerate painful experiences.”
Other people might be able to make a point that you hadn’t considered, or they might just listen and validate what you’re feeling. Either way, talking honestly about how you’re feeling will ground you, and it might even convince your listeners to be more genuine with themselves about their emotions, as well.
We’re conditioned to think that we always need to give a sense of perfection, but in my experience, that hurts more than it helps us. Humans are flawed, and they struggle in their work life just like in their regular lives. The people who end up being the most successful aren’t the ones who don’t struggle. They’re the ones who know it’s OK to not be OK.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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