Monday, October 7, 2013

Executive Presence... a must have!

Executive (or Leadership) Presence can be defined as an intangible quality that makes one person distinctive or attractive in such a way that make heads turn as they enter a room. Something makes people pay attention to every word and everybody on the audience wants "to be like this". 

So, is this some kind of talent you are born with, or can you develop your own irresistable presence?

Some say it takes only 30 seconds to make a first impression; if so, you better start to learn because it involves appearance, body language, posture, expression, voice, vocabular and whole lot more; good news is that any person can improve and learn how to increase impact and presence.

Appearance is usually the first filter and the way someone dresses plays an important role; this means that dressing properly is a part of your personal brand alongside with having strong communication skills. But is not just that; having leadership presence is about being adaptable and catering to each specific situation one finds itself.

Do not "mime" leaders you admire or fake it; you need to find a way of being authentic without changing who you are. It’s about broadening your repertoire on three main aspects of your executive presence: the assumptions that you bring to every situation, the communication skills that you use and the physical aspects of your presence.

Read more in this article from Washington Post:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Laughter; a powerful antidote

Humor is infectious and laughter is the best medicine - ever heard this?
­But laughter is not the same as humor; laughter is a physiological response to humor and is more than just a person's voice and movement. 

The understanding of how it affects the nervous system and rest of the body is study area of psychoneuroimmunology (combining methods and techniques of psychology, neuroscience and immunology) and the studies of the interactions between the brain and the immune system have shown evidences of how laughter relaxes the whole body (relieving physical tension and stress), boosts the immune system (decreasing stress hormones and increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies), triggers the release of endorphins (promoting an overall sense of well-being and even temporarily relieve of pain) and protects the heart (improving the function of blood vessels and increasing blood flow).

Paul Macgee, a pioneer in humor and laughter research says "“Humor and laughter are powerful tools humans have to make daily mood and emotional state support good health.”  The psychological benefits seem to be quite amazing; people often store negative emotions, such as anger, sadness and fear, rather than expressing them and laughter provides a way for these emotions to be harmlessly released. Laughter seems to be cathartic and when is shared, it binds people together, increasing happiness and intimacy.

With so much power, seems that laughter can be a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Why having a coach or a mentor?

If you are looking for change, personal and professional development, having a coaching or a mentor is most probably a good decision for you to get that extra support.

At workplace, coaching and mentoring is often used to support people who need to learn, perform better and to be more productive; it is a way of strengthening skills, overcome lapses in working behavior and issues in performance output. The coaches are usually supervisors, managers or external people that "have been there". This means that the coach / mentor plays a very important role in transferring and sharing knowledge that will help the person in enhancing his/her personal and professional growth.

Coaching and mentoring have been refered to support increasing job satisfaction, enhance skills and professional development in several areas such as problem analysis, strategic thinking, decision-making, time management, amongst many others. Overall benefits for the coachee are found in many aspects being amongst others the development of self-confidence and self-esteem, promotion of career growth based on enhancement of skills especially working arround weak areas and turning those into strengths.

Coaching and mentoring therefore create a collaborative atmosphere wherein learning is productive for individuals that are willing and committed to develop and improve themselves.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Great Leaders ... Don't Need Experience !

Gautam Mukunda studied political, business, and military leaders, categorizing them into two groups: “filtered leaders,” insiders whose careers followed a normal progression; and “unfiltered leaders,” who either were outsiders with little experience or got their jobs through fluke circumstances. He then compared the groups’ effectiveness; for instance, with U.S. presidents, he looked at historians’ rankings from the past 60 years. He discovered that the unfiltered leaders were the most effective—and also the least effective—while highly filtered leaders landed in the middle of the pack.

Check out the video about this research and understand how how the best leaders tend to be outsiders who don’t have a great deal of experience:

Sunday, April 28, 2013

What CEO's Really Think of Their Boards

Over the past several years, in the wake of corporate missteps that have taken a toll on shareholders and communities alike, we’ve heard plenty about how boards of directors should have been more responsible stewards. Corporate watchdogs, investors and analysts, members of the media, regulators, and pundits have proposed guidelines and new practices. But one voice has been notably missing from this chorus—and it belongs to the constituency that knows boards and their failings best. It’s the voice of the CEO.

Read More at HBR:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Three Rules for Making a Company Truly Great

Much of the strategy and management advice that business leaders turn to is unreliable or impractical. That’s because those who would guide us underestimate the power of chance. Gurus draw pointed lessons from companies whose outstanding results may be nothing more than random fluctuations.

Read more at HBR:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sex and brain differences

Embarking on the journey of reading "zillions" of papers for several different fields, amongst others emerges gender and stereotype threat as required areas. Organizing materials, I've crossed one of several MIT books - Sex and the Brain (Gillian Einstein, 2007). In a brilliant introduction, the author "sets the pace" for talking about sex and brain:

"(...) when purporting to show sex differences, let’s lay out what is meant when we use the expression ‘‘dimorphism’’ (...) that literally means ‘‘of two forms,’’ and this is an interesting formulation of sexual display in all its variations. It means that there are two forms of behavior, two forms of what things look like, two mechanisms underlying those forms: female and male. XX and XY. (...) This is a key concept in this field and underlies the interpretation of the science — that there are, indeed, two distinct forms."

If female and male sexual behaviors differ and behavior is mediated by the brain (via endocrine system), one hypothesis is "that just as the body has a phenotype, so does the brain" and the book includes a section building on that hypothesis. But, because much of making two sexes is a biological process, things do not always go according to plan and many research findings postulate that there "may be at least five sexes" and that it is a "disservice to nature to insist on only two".  
Sex differences and the brain are a sexy theme for so long!!
Einstein challenges the reader:"Ask yourself if, just like the rest of the body, diferentiation of the brain into two distinct types might not also be less likely. Attend to suppositions about what is ‘‘female’’ and what is ‘‘male’’ (...)."
People love to speculate about differences between the sexes, and neuroscience technology for brain imaging has boosted the number of studies published reporting sex differences in the brain structure and/or in patterns of neural activity.

But, as one of my MsC teachers once said "Please, not so fast!"
How to interpret sex differences in the brain can be a problem and "you need to understand that neuroscience is only at the beginning of understand how neural activity brings about complex psychological phenomena" he said. And looking quite worried, he continued "Do not fall in the temptation, to which some popular writers have been vulnerable to, of using gender stereotypes to bridge that gap in scientific knowledge. Do not fall on temptation of getting an answer the the age-old question “Why can’t a woman think or act like a man?” (or vice-versa).  Do dare instead to ask; should they? must they? why? You now acknowlegde that XX and XY are two distintic forms with own distintive behaviors, so think back on how behavior - even sexual - is situational and influenced by other so many other cues."

Fields of research for my MsC thesis

Here it is! My MsC project research was approved! Yeah!
The research and experimental work will be developed under support of the Cognitive Psychology and Social Psychology departments of FPUL (Faculdade de Psicologia/Psychology Faculty) at University of Lisbon .

The main focus is Judgment and Decision Making (the mental and cognitive processes that result in the selection of an action / choice among several alternative scenarios/options), grounded in the dual process theory that accounts for two different systems for decision making; System 1 (automatic, unconscious, implicit, associative and heuristic) and System 2  (evolutionarily recent, explicit, rule-based and analytical, monitored and controlled).

It has proven over and over that humans often violate "rationality" (ruled by logic, statistics, expected utility theory or other normative models of rational decision) and instead of making decisions based on those models, we tend to use heuristics that sometimes lead to commit systematic errors or biases. It is accepted that when deciding, quite often human use the "first that comes to mind" which means that preventing errors requires ability to resist to that intuitive response!

Stanovich attempts to resolve the "great rationality debate" in Cognitive Science, explaining why humans are sometimes irrational even though they possess remarkably adaptive cognitive machinery (reason why IQ tests fail!) using arguments that "we need to replace dual-process theories with tripartite models of cognition". In this line, the traditional System 2 of the dual-process theory must be further divided into the "reflective mind" and the " algorithmic mind" where the key function of the reflective mind is to detect the need to interrupt autonomous processing and to begin simulation activities, whereas that of the algorithmic mind is to sustain (control) the processing of decoupled secondary representations in cognitive simulation.

This is key path for research;  Why do we mistake our answers? What are the representational and processing factors of judgment and decision making? And do negative emotions provoked by gender stereotype threath count for performance differences?

I'm on the run.... excited!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Leadership and Management; different flavours of the same thing?

In Harvard Business Review dated January 9, John Kotter  writes an interesting article titled "Management Is (Still) Not Leadership".

The author's arguments are that management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well. Management helps you to produce products and services of consistent quality, on budget, day after day, week after week. In organizations of any size and complexity, this is an enormously difficult task. Kotter says that we constantly underestimate how complex this task really is, especially when people are not in senior management jobs. So, the author sustains that management is crucial — but it's not leadership because leadership is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it's about behaviors.

After more than 20 years of working experience, still often I find my self unable to take party in discussions that tend to divide in such a strict way the fields of management and leadership. Having done "the talk and walk" from business administration, management and leadership perspectives I acknowledge that in this "ever-faster-moving world", leadership is needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy, no matter what their functional role.

So, what is the difference between a leader (who sets goals, organizes, uplifts and motivates people, and controls their performance), and a manager? Jorge Vasconcellos e Sá poses the question and gives the answer in his 2012 book (Title: There is no leadership: only effective management); "A leader must manage, and a manager has to lead. They are one and the same thing”. And, from Kotter's point of view "The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it's a recipe for failure."

Monday, January 21, 2013

Are your business results suffering? 8 tips for Strategic Thinking


Everything that happens in your business happens at the hands of a human being. Do you find that people come to work every day, ready to do their best? Or do you feel that some employees could do better or more?

It is possible to have an integrated perspective about why people do what they do and to identify what is really happening. If you understand your behavior and the behavior of others whilst helping others to understand their own behavior, this may work out as a fresh perspective to solve business issues.

A relatively primitive portion of the human brain (sometimes called the "Old Brain") is a powerful center that takes charge when people are fearful or threatened, and can quickly take action without thought. It is a sort of protection scheme from all forms of threat that leads people to blame others to avoid responsibility, forming stories to explain the world in ineffective ways.

But most of what is necessary for business resides in the "New Brain" were clear and complex thinking, deep analysis, computation, language, creativity and other higher-order brain processing happens. Yet you need to learn how to use it in order to achieve a positive impact on your business performance.

The process that defines the manner in which people think about, assess, view, and create the future for themselves and others is known as Strategic Thinking, an extremely effective and valuable process that involves developing an entire set of critical skills.  What are these critical skills? Some tips:

#1: Think in a blended way, using logic and creativity to define clear and focused business vision and objectives
#2: Balance creativity with a sense of realism and honesty about what is achievable in the longer term
#3: Have an action plan to each objective broken down into tasks and each task having a list of needed resources and a specific timeline
#4: Define milestones to review progress, proactively antecipating necessary changes
#5: Be amazingly aware and perceptive, recognizing internal and external clues, listening and understanding what is said and observing all that is happening without being judgmental
#6: Be a committed lifelong learner, take positive learning from each experience in life and seek advice from others; using a coach, a mentor, a peer advisory group or some other group where you can confide in and offer up ideas for feedback
#7: Be patient; great ideas require time to develop into great successes
#8: Take time out for yourself; great insights often arise from an "offline" status

3 Clues to understanding your brain

A TED Talk by VS Ramachandran (click to acess bio), dated from 2007 and entitled "3 clues to understanding your brain".

 click to view

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Science learning in a fun and easy way

Check out how science can be so well communicated that is not only easy as well as fun to understand!  Many diverse subjects from creation of life on heath to human behavior and brain functioning...

Check out the You Tube channel. These are some of my favorite :

The Science of Productivity

The Science of Procrastination - And How To Manage It

The Science of Lucid Dreaming

Your Brain on Drugs: