Monday, November 30, 2015

Finding purpose in work

Last Wednesday I had the chance of listening to Prof. Miguel Pina e Cunha in a key-note speach dedicated to the theme "What is your purpose?". Drawing from the Harvard Business Review article "From purpose to impact" (May 2014, by Nick Craig & Scott Snook) and from the story of the man that serves at the toll at Ponte 25 de Abril in Lisbon, this talk was about self-awareness and "big questions in life" that might move people towards finding their purpose ... not goals... not mission... purpose...
Money alone isn’t enough to push us to do our best - says Daniel Pink - author and expert on the nature of work, listing meaning and purpose as core motivators, alongside autonomy and mastery.

So, how to find purpose through work?
Research from late 90's  (Amy Wrzesniewski et. al) presented evidences suggesting that most people see their work as either a Job (focus on financial rewards and necessity), a Career (focus on advancement), or a Calling (focus on enjoyment of fulfilling, useful work).

In the context of leadership, this process often results in more clarity about each leader's purpose, values, and motivations, and the role these play when that person is leading others. In this line, purpose is a choice and people have purpose in every job and profession; it seems to have more to do with attitude and approach than about the work itself ... In fact, we all can remember about people who work (for example) in medicine and don’t get much purpose from it as well as remember about people in the so called “dirty jobs” that, in turn, get tremendous purpose from what they do. 

Very often people get more purpose and enjoyment out of things when doing something that helps them master what they do, and, at the same time, feel like they are doing something that has an impact. Purpose seems then something that comes much more "along the journey", resulting from "trying and doing", in a process that allows one person to become aware of what matters for he / she, how does he/she learns, how does he/she wants to be challenged and how he/she wants to help other people; a gradual process that brings light to understanding what are the things which serves us well (eg, the ones we accept and commit to) and which ones do not (eg, the ones we need to commit to change).

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The making of an expert - Gladwell and Ericsson and the 10.000 hour rule

There is a story that is usually told about extremely successful people, a story that focuses on intelligence and ambition. However on his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that the true story of success is very different, and argues that to understand how some people thrive, one should spend more time looking around them and at such things as family, birthplace, or even birth date.

Throughout the book, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the "10,000-hour rule", claiming that the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours.

Anders Ericsson is widely recognized as one of the world's leading theoretical and experimental researchers on expertise, sharing such view as you can read this article.

But Malcolm and Ericsson likewise also argue:  before practice, opportunity, and luck can combine to create expertise, the would-be expert needs to demythologize the achievement of top-level performance, because the notion that genius is born, not made, is deeply ingrained. It’s perhaps most perfectly exemplified in the person of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is typically presented as a child prodigy with exceptional innate musical genius. Nobody questions that Mozart’s achievements were extraordinary compared with those of his contemporaries. What’s often forgotten, however, is that his development was equally exceptional for his time. His musical tutelage started before he was four years old, and his father, also a skilled composer, was a famous music teacher and had written one of the first books on violin instruction. Like other world-class performers, Mozart was not born an expert—he became one.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Coaching for learning and development

Whatever the context, people learn most effectively when they are keen to learn and have a clear focus on where and what they want to develop. Thus, it is most helpful that when in a coaching programme you make an initial reflection on your current concerns and challenges, what you would like to address and discuss and what you hope to take away with you at the end of the process.  

Effective coaching often addresses long term issues and challenges rather than simply dealing with the a specific event and a coaching session is not as a standard business meeting; it is the talking and reflection around the core issue that facilitates the discovery of "what the issue really is", leading to moments of relevant insight something not so simple to attain when using a narrowed focus or fixed itens for agenda.

The "focused but flexible" approach is usually of added value both client and coach since it draws for an agreement about actions or ideas to be tried out, upporting the client to put in action what ever that as come out of the reflection and of the feelings from the experience. This also means that there is a reasonable hard work in the coaching sessions as well as in between sessions, both on  reflection and practice levels.  

No client should expect the coach to provide the content of discussion or expect that the coach to ‘tell’ the answers; it is the discovery provoked by the process that allows learning and development for the client, reason why sometimes coaching is not always completely confortable - but will for sure be supportive, enabling and of added value.
At the end, people sometimes come out surprised - sometimes perhaps a little disconcerted - due to what after seems to be "obvious" but all of that is due to what has been unlocked along the process, the sum of the many challenges the client as faced and surpass with full engagement with the coach.
This is often called the release of potential.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The fear of public speaking

Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking that for a large percentage of people holds them back from success. Some studies over the last decade identify the fear of public speaking as # Nr.1 over death!

For many, the simple tought of having to speak in public triggers such mental and physical discomfort that moves people away from doing it, implementing all sorts of strategies for avoidance. Symptoms go from anxiety to more complex behaviours such as avoiding events were attenstion is focused on the individual, nausea or panic crisis in some circunstances.

The fact is that almost everyone experiences some level of anxiety and stress when having to speak in public; an increased heart rate, dilated pupils, perspiration or dry mouth are some of the signals that you have probably felt at some point; you do not feel "good" neither "in control" but these are reactions that emerge from the quick stress response - meaning it lasts for a while but it is a sort of response that will "shut down". How to handle these reactions requires learning and practice of specific mechanisms to manage this useful stress that in fact energises you.

When struggling with fear from speaking in public, one should start by remembering that you are not alone; there are effective strategies that can assist you to become comfortable and the best is to act before this anxiety rises to higher levels  of stress that may turn out to be a problem.
Remember; we are social beings and we need to communicate everyday of our lives! So, if public speaking is stressing you, understand how Toastmasters can help.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Three Keys to Mindful Leadership Coaching

Mindful coaches perfect a form of conscious and comfortable simultaneous attention to themselves, their coachee, the relationship between them, and the mental, emotional, and relational dynamics occurring in the moment.

There are three aspects of mindfulness that have particular pertinence to leadership coaching:
1)      an empty mind
2)      non-reactivity
3)      permissive attention

Mindfulness practices prepare coaches to really help instead of just trying to be helpful. Read the full article by Douglas Riddle, director of the global coaching practice at the Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked, global provider of leadership education and research.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sharpen focus to survive in a complex world

In Focus, psychologist Daniel Goleman, author of the #1 international bestseller Emotional Intelligence, offers a groundbreaking look at the scarcest resource and the secret to high performance and fulfillment: attention.

Combining cutting-edge research with practical findings, the book delves into the science of attention in all its varieties, presenting a long overdue discussion of this little-noticed and under-rated mental asset.

In an era of unstoppable distractions, Goleman persuasively argues that now more than ever we must learn to sharpen focus if we are to survive in a complex world. Drawing on rich case studies from fields as diverse as competitive sports, education, the arts, and business, he shows why high-achievers need all three kinds of focus, and explains how those who rely on Smart Practices (mindfulness meditation, focused preparation and recovery, positive emotions and connections, and mental “prosthetics” that help them improve habits, add new skills, and sustain greatness ) excel while others do not.

A HBR article - The Focused Leader - click and read

And a vĂ­deo at YouTube to learn more about attention (and focus) - 1.18h

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert says our beliefs about what will make us happy are often wrong — a premise he supports with intriguing research, and explains in his accessible and unexpectedly funny book, Stumbling on Happiness.

Dan Gilbert believes that, in our ardent, lifelong pursuit of happiness, most of us have the wrong map. In the same way that optical illusions fool our eyes -- and fool everyone's eyes in the same way -- Gilbert argues that our brains systematically misjudge what will make us happy. And these quirks in our cognition make humans very poor predictors of our own bliss.

A good video from Ted2004 - click to watch

Monday, February 16, 2015

The key to Beethoven and Mozart ? Brain Study Explores Gift of "Perfect Pitch"

We, "normal and most" people can distinguish between musical notes only in relation to other notes, while some people who have "absolute pitch"can accurately identify notes without having to rely on any reference tones.

This special hearing skill is thought to be a key aspect of extraordinary musical ability, and seems that composers like Mozart, Beethoven and Bach were said to have had it.

Learn more at:

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Scientific Power of Meditation

Meditation is an activity often suggested to those having problems with pain, stress, depression, anxiety and other struggles of the human condition. 

It's easy for some to disregard the activity as new-age nonsense, but is there more to it - AsapSCIENCE explores the study of meditation, considering the findings of relevant scientific research.

Check out the video

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The divided brain and the making of the Western World (by Iain McGilchrist)

In this TED Talk, psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist describes the real differences between the left and right halves of the human brain.

Theories of the 1960s and ’70s, gave rise to a lot of speculation on the "different functions" for the two halves of the brain to do, as if it were a machine with a lot of little specialised modules –language here, maths there, or reason here, emotion there.

Over time, science discovered that each so-called ‘function’ was carried out in both hemispheres, not one, recognizing that the differences lay not in what they do, but how they do it. 

So differences are not simply explained by "emotion on the right brain, reason on the left brain," but something far more complex and interesting.