Archive for 2018

What Is Resiliency?

July 24th, 2018 • by Laura Scott •

Photo by Laura S. Scott

When I began to offer Pause II Power workshops for resiliency and self-mastery, I noticed that most people had a very narrow definition of resiliency. To them resiliency was the “ability to bounce back” after a challenge or setback. To me resiliency means that, and much more. It means self regulation in the presence of a threat or uncertainty. Resiliency requires more than just courage, it requires an infrastructure; a positive, growth mindset, and an ability to find equanimity—that feeling of calm in the midst of chaos—allowing us to quell the brain’s automatic, reflexive threat response.

The human brain has a negative bias, a tendency to err on the side of fear, a tendency to turn the unknown into the “worst case scenario.” If we let our brain fly on automatic pilot, it makes it difficult for us to turn lemons into lemonade. Yet, resiliency is more than just putting a positive spin on a situation, and adding sugar to a bitter brew; it’s a practice that begins with a high level of awareness around our triggers and hot buttons and the stories we tell ourselves in the grip of fear or uncertainty. Most of all it’s about creating a safe space in which to be curious and open to solutions and responses that are out of reach when we are in the grip of the threat response. I invite leaders I coach to find ways to make their team “feel safe on your roller coaster.” Otherwise, you won’t get the best out of them.

A good real life example of this kind of leadership can be found in the NetFlix documentary series titled “The Horn” about the incredibly brave and resilient men and women who staff Air Zermatt, a helicopter service that rescues injured extreme athletes and climbers from the icy peaks and glaciers of Switzerland’s famed Matterhorn, and the surrounding mountains and glaciers. CEO Gerold and his team are called on to execute the most challenging rescues and save lives every day. Rapelling down 100 meters into a glacier crevasse is not for the feint of heart, particularly when the person you are “rescuing” took his last breath well before you arrived.

After a few episodes, I realized that bravery was only a small part of the mix of what makes these pilots and rescuers so resilient. Also present were people who really respected the specialized talents of the other, consistently honored the team’s shared values of life, achievement, challenge, and had total trust in their fellow pilots, rescuers, doctors, and the crack team of mechanics and medics who insured that the helicopters were in top condition and loaded with the supplies to face any situation with extreme confidence. Safety was honored and assured. Everyone in the Air Zermatt team was quick to credit their success to the culture that had been fostered there; a culture that supported emotional self-regulation, trust, camaraderie, healthy living, safety, and a sense of being a part of something much bigger than themselves as individuals. It was clear that all the staff members were proud to be part of the team and hyper aware of their individual contribution to the shared success of Air Zermatt.

The Air Zermatt team showed me how important trust, mutual respect, shared values, and safety is to building high performing teams. What was noteworthy was what I didn’t see as I watched this show: ridicule, blame, or unreasonable demands or expectations. No one asked anyone to do what they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves. And when things didn’t go as planned, no one pointed a finger.

How do you ask for the help you need (even though your brain resists!)?

May 30th, 2018 • by Laura Scott •

Why is it sooo hard to ask for help?

While there are many reasons why you might resist asking for help, such as ego, fear, rejection, relinquishing of control, it’s impossible to succeed if you don’t ask for assistance. Success is not created in a vacuum and no one achieves anything amazing without the help of others. You might be alone in a lab finding a cure for cancer but you still owe it to the researchers before you who tried and failed (not to mention the poor lab rats) who had a hand in informing your research.

Neuroscientists have noted that the brain likes to be right.  Heidi Grant, writing for HBR, reports that:  “the social threats involved [when asking for help] activate the same brain regions that physical pain does. And in the workplace, where we’re typically keen to demonstrate as much expertise, competence, and confidence as possible, it can feel particularly uncomfortable to make such requests.”

In her HBR blog post, How to get the Help you Need, Grant identified 3 reinforcements, or benefits, for those who agree to help:

–Effectiveness: People want to see or know the impact of the aid they will give. This isn’t an ego thing. Many psychologists believe that feeling effective—knowing that your actions created the results you intended—is the fundamental human motivation; it’s what truly engages people and gives their lives meaning.

–In-Group: Assure your helper that you’re on his or her team and that the team is important. This taps into the innate human need to belong to—and ensure the well-being of—supportive social circles. Align around a common goal, enemy, or trait, if appropriate.

–Positive Identity: Show how they are uniquely placed (by virtue of their attributes or role) to provide assistance and that they are not merely people who might help you but helpful people who routinely come to others’ aid.

It’s been my observation as a coach that creating the opportunities for shared success around shared values is how we build strong teams. Asking for help, acknowledging the efforts of others, and sharing the credit for the resulting success are the key actions in building trust and ensuring that you will have the support you need to meet your goals and feel a part of something bigger than yourself.

Questions to ask before you ASS-U-ME

January 3rd, 2018 • by Laura Scott •

You know the old saying: “When you assume something, you make an Ass out of U and Me.” What is it about assumptions that make them so asinine? Well, mostly it’s because assumptions are rarely 100% accurate and that yawning gap between your assumption and the actual truth is sometimes, well, embarASSing.

Blame it on our brains. To shorten our response time during times of threat, our brains became hard-wired to jump to conclusions based on just a shred of evidence. This so-called “evidence” triggers us to recall past incidents (usually stored and labelled as “Very Bad” by the brain) and we react based on the fear-based assumption that what happened before will happen again. This default response time is so quick that the rational, thinking part of our brain can’t keep up, and the primitive part of our brain executes a response based on an assumption before our thinking brain has a chance to investigate further.

So how do we stop the brain default from making an ass of us?

Simple. Recognize when you feel threatened. Then, ask your brain a question as soon as you feel threatened or anxious. This question will invite the thinking part of your brain to pause and investigate, quelling the immediate knee-jerk threat response. Here’s a few simple questions that will challenge the assumptions your brain wants to make and allow you to truly see what is going on in your present world:

  • I feel some anxiety. What’s going on?
  • I have just been triggered. How do I want to respond?
  • Some part of me feels threatened. How can I turn this threat into an opportunity?

Try this for a week, observe how you feel, and report back by commenting below. If you want to quickly get into the habit of asking these questions, there’s an app for that: My Leadership Coach, available for less than $20 by downloading this session on the MindPT app (free in Goggle Play or iTunes). For additional tips, you can also subscribe to our quarterly newsletter and get a free excerpt of my new book: Pause Power.

If you are assuming this is some gimmick, or some martian mind control trick, we have some work to do!