I am the Chief Energizing Officer for the Matchbox Group. We ignite. involve. inspire.
I am a keynote speaker, author and positive change consultant.
I energize people to improve their cultures.
I am the Chief Energizing Officer for the Matchbox Group. We ignite. involve. inspire.
I am a keynote speaker, author and positive change consultant.
I energize people to improve their cultures.
Think of the top masters in your field. Those credible role models people turn to for insights. They have spent a tremendous amount of time building those strengths you admire. Do you want to be more like them?
Welcome to the third installment in the Best DNA Series! You are on your way to discovering the best of yourself that the world values. Last month we completed a Passion Brainstorm. If you haven’t already completed that brainstorm, it is worth taking a few minutes to check out. It can be helpful in this month’s activity—the Strengths Brainstorm.
These two brainstorms are really at the core of discovering your Best DNA because Passion and Strengths are what you do well and are motivated to do.
So why are we focusing on strengths?
There is ample evidence that suggests we can improve our performance more quickly when we focus on our strengths more than our weaknesses. World-renowned business guru Peter Drucker said it the best: “One should waste as little effort as possible on improving the areas of low competence. It takes far more energy and work to move from incompetence to mediocrity than to move from first rate performance to excellence.” Obviously we have to be good enough at compensating for weaknesses, but strengths are where it’s at!
Identifying strengths can often be a challenge. We are conditioned to believe that we are bragging if we say we’re good at something. But this brainstorm helps you recognize strengths as a factual inventory instead.
Like a lot of people, I have been afraid of saying what I am good at because I didn’t want to be thought of as egotistical. For example, one of my strengths is public speaking. Early in my career, I found that I really enjoyed working with large groups, but I didn’t see myself as a presenter or speaker back then. I just saw myself as a team-building guy. It wasn’t until I got into improv comedy that I saw speaking as a real strength instead of just something I liked to do. My comedy and public speaking mentor helped me develop my skills, and over time people started calling me a motivational speaker and a keynoter. I just wish I had the Best DNA tool at that time because I would have started improving it sooner!
For this Strengths Brainstorm, you are going to come up with as many ideas as you can around your strengths. First, a few guidelines to help you define strengths:
A strength can be an activity, or a behavior or a skill that makes you stand out while performing that activity. For example, if “Blogging” is a passion of yours. Your strengths under blogging could be “Writing” or “Editing blog posts” or “Designing a blog” and so on. Also consider specific skills or outcomes that people frequently compliment you on. (E.g. “You always inspire me.” or “I’m amazed at how easily you organize complex projects.”)
Hearing our strengths from others is one of the most uplifting activities during my Best DNA Teambuilding Programs. As you can imagine that it is also a big morale booster as well to hear our strengths!
Give the gift of strength awareness to others! Encourage others to discover their strengths and build on them. Recognizing and respecting others’ strengths can also help you build a successful team/family. Where can you play to others’ strengths to make you both more successful?
Once I understood about natural strengths, I started to hire people who had strengths in areas where I was weak. It improved my business—and I learn from them! I once had a warm and caring colleague who was so appreciative and supportive that everybody loved working for her. I wanted to know her secret. I once followed her around to observe what she was doing. She asked a simple question that I had never thought to ask: “How can I help you?” As simple as that question was, it was mind-blowing to me with my more directive style. People just opened up to her. They felt more supported and did a better job because of it. I was much more successful with her on my team playing to that strength.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the Strengths Brainstorm—and learned a lot more about yourself in the process. Next month we will talk about Value Add!
In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences with this brainstorm. Feel free to comment below or connect with me on social media.
Welcome to the second installment in the Best DNA series. Last month we gave you an Introduction to Best DNA—which is essentially the best of who you are that other people value. This month we’re continuing the journey to discovering your Best DNA with the Passion Brainstorm.
The Passion Brainstorm is an important part of the Best DNA process because of our negativity biases. The negativity bias is something we all share. It helps us anticipate and prepare for threats and problems. These are good things when it comes to survival, but bad things when it comes to self-confidence and a seeing a better future. The Passion Brainstorm exercise helps you to balance the negativity bias and to see yourself as the full-of-potential person that you really are.
As you go through this fun and rewarding exercise, hopefully you will gain more clarity on what really makes you happy, what your strengths are, and what steps you can take to use your passions and strengths to make this world a better place. Your goal is to discover what is best about you that you can bring to the world (Insert a dramatic pause here!) and get rewarded for it. Plus, why not be happier too?
The four questions in the Passion Brainstorm are designed to help you examine the spectrum of your life. It is important to look at both work and personal aspects to understand what is most satisfying to you. One good way to activate this part of your mind is to imagine that you are already living your ideal life. No restrictions on money, time, or anything else—just your ideal life. What does that look like? List activities you imagine you’d be doing for career, for family, and even for hobbies.
Many of the things you list during this exercise may not be directly applicable to work, and that’s OK. Some are, but what you will see is that the answers you come up with will help you have a very fulfilling life in general. Research shows that being fulfilled in your home life helps you become more creative and resilient at work as well.
My suggestion is to dedicate at least 10 minutes for this exercise in a quiet space free from distraction, ideally with your favorite beverage (to calm or stimulate you).
Here are a few important tips before you get started:
Here we go! Put your fingers on a pen or keyboard. Brainstorm answers to any of the following questions:
Once you’ve listed at least 10 different answers, go back and underline the three activities that are most important to have in your life. What you are looking for are the ideas that spark joy, a sense of happiness, and enthusiasm. At least one of these three should be something you can do more of at work.
Sometimes when we look at these types of lists, our negativity bias kicks in yet again, and we start thinking about how we don’t do enough of these things or how hard they are. If you do start thinking in this way, just notice those thoughts and let them float away.
After you’ve underlined the top three, keep that list somewhere safe. We’re going to build on your discoveries, and we will also talk about how to apply these things in a work and home setting as we move through your Best DNA discovery.
Now start to consider the ways you can do more of what fulfills you at work and at home. For example, at work your Passion Brainstorm answers may affect the way you accomplish tasks or help other people. You may notice certain activities you really enjoy at work that energize you.
At home, you may identify things you do with your family, friends, or community groups that are meaningful to you. Things you wouldn’t give up or activities that make you feel like you’re making a difference in the world. How can you do more of these in your life?
We are what we do. Everything that we do shapes our habits and the way people see us. Doing what you love to do is extremely personal and subjective. Only you can know which activities fit you best. For example: Much of my work right now is not within my Best DNA. I’m doing a lot of development work, which is good to do, but it is higher stress and doesn’t play to my strengths. To help energize myself, I contacted one of the organizations that I care deeply about—The Department of Children, Youth and Family Services here in NH—and did a couple of Re-energizing experiences to their staff for free. This is my passion: I love talking to and interacting with crowds, and feeling like I’m making a difference live. (I’m smiling just thinking about it!) I’m lucky because this is what I do for work, but it’s also my personal passion. I want to feel like I’m making a difference in kids’ lives. One of the ways I do that is helping the people who work with kids to be even more passionate about their work.
Next month we will talk about the next step in the Best DNA process: the Strengths Brainstorm. I look forward to continuing this process with you. And of course I invite you to comment on this post and to connect with me on social media. I love chatting with people about these topics.
Masters Make Money & Meaning by Living their Best DNA
Think of people you know who have mastered their craft. They both love something about their work, and have significant strengths in it. They are living what we call their “Best DNA”.
Ray Bradbury, Maya Angelou and Steve Jobs are among many who have suggested that we follow our passions in our careers. This doesn’t mean you should quit your job today and try out for the NBA or become a starving artist. Following your passion doesn’t necessarily have to be an activity like sports, art, etc. Many people can find fulfillment in their work by doing work in a way that is meaningful to them. Depending on who you are, this could mean “helping others,” “solving interesting problems,” “discovering new facts,” “experiencing wonder,” or so many other, highly subjective passions.
Back in 2008, in the midst of the recession, my business was slowing. Budgets were being slashed, and it seemed like I was seeing client after client postpone our programs, or drop them altogether. Scary times!
As a positive change consultant, I was lucky that I had plenty of tools for high-stress situations such as these. So I decided to use one of these tools to propel myself forward. I turned to the Best DNA Assessment, a tool that I had used on many occasions with my clients.
At the time I had only used the Best DNA model for organizations, not people. But as I reviewed it in more depth, I began to see how easily it could be adapted to help individuals as well.
Moving through the Best DNA steps, I listed my top clients (they liked my work, and I liked the work I did with them) and asked them to identify the value I added to their organizations. Many of their answers surprised me. There were facets of what they valued that I only did sporadically or that I hadn’t put much energy into. Their answers helped me realize that my Best DNA was relationship-based, and came through when I partnered with my clients, rather than treated their programs as transactions to complete.
This realization was especially exciting because it helped me shift focus to what I loved to do and was naturally good at, instead of what I thought I should do. This new focus resulted in writing a book, booking more speaking engagements, and attracting additional clients that were a great fit. Before this realization, some of my work had felt transaction-based, but Best DNA helped me to grow my business, and to be more fulfilled as well.
Today, I regularly use the Best DNA model with my clients — both companies and individuals — and the tremendous results have inspired me to share it with you. Over the next several months, this email/blog series will help you identify, clarify, and utilize your Best DNA in order to become more fulfilled and successful.
So let’s get started with an introduction to Best DNA. Best DNA is essentially the best of who you are that other people value — what you’re passionate about, and skilled at, that you can bring to the world. There are two major facets of Best DNA, much like the double helix of a strand of DNA. These are Core Self and Passionate Strengths.
Here’s the catch: Best DNA has to be what you are both passionate about and what others value. For example, one of the things I’m passionate about is the Lord of the Rings, but none of my clients listed my in-depth knowledge of Middle-earth as valuable to their organizations. If it’s not valuable to others, you won’t get paid for it; it’s just a hobby. So, I don’t talk about Frodo and the Ring of Power at work. 🙂
Once you’ve discovered your Best DNA, you will be able to put more energy and time into what makes the most impact. Building on your Best DNA can lead you to the greatest heights of professional and personal success. It also improves your ability to lead others, and to motivate them by helping them live into their Best DNA.
This month’s activity: Think about a time in your career or life that you felt the most fulfilled and successful at the same time? What were you doing?
In the following months, we will explore specific questions and techniques for discovering what made these events so special and how to replicate the fulfillment and success tied to them.
Next month we will talk about the first step in the Best DNA process: the Passion Brainstorm. I look forward to taking you on this journey, and as always, feel free to comment on this post and connect with me on social media. I would love to hear your thoughts.
And because I was reminded of my love for Lord of the Rings, let’s have a little fun. Answer this trivia question correctly in the comments, and I will randomly select one lucky winner to receive a free copy of my book, Energize! Entry will close on February 14, 2016. Question: What was Gollum’s name when he was one of the Riverfolk?
To learn more about Best DNA, subscribe to my Best DNA YouTube channel and check out these videos: Using Best DNA to Help Determine Your Personal Brand, and Best DNA in Strategic Planning.
Notes: The Best DNA tool draws heavily on the Hedgehog Concept from Jim Collins’ book Good to Great. I highly recommend reading Jim’s book! I’ve also drawn from positive psychology and appreciative inquiry.
The principles and tools that energize our daily lives, our careers, and our organizations can be scaled up to all of humanity.
I love to think about the future of humanity and what we can do to make it the best we can.
This is a wonderful way to build connection, happiness and enjoy the beauty you already have in your life even more.
It was late in the afternoon and I was tired. A knock on my office door. One of my students came in and started to read to me from a card. “I want to thank you for all your help in my self-healing project…I didn’t know the improvements were possible for me in a span of 5 weeks…. I thank you so much for encouraging and supporting me…. I have taken back control of myself and continue to make new discoveries about my identity and find my own happiness and fulfillment.,,, Thank you so much.”
I was deeply touched and my eyes started to fill with tears. At that moment, I felt so appreciated. We hugged. My tiredness disappeared and I felt at peace.
This student had completed the daily self-healing practices . When the university students practice a sequence of daily self-healing exercises outlined in the book, Make Health…
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I often hear the time-honored trope “We learn the most from our mistakes.” It is intuitive. However, it is false.
We certainly remember our big, painful mistakes the most, and hopefully learn from them. Of course, we need to learn from some of our mistakes. However, we learn far more from experiencing, or witnessing, something done correctly.
That’s why if you want to create a great product you study the best in the industry, not the worst. If you want to learn golf you go to an expert, not to me. I can show you tons of mistakes, but I doubt that will be worthwhile (except for laughs).
The caveman part of our brain focuses far more on mistakes, because it sees them as threats. So that part of our brain confuses us into thinking that those are the most important. They are more important for survival, but most of what we do at work or in relationships is about building, not surviving.
Make sure people experience how to do something right as soon as possible. What we’ve experienced primes us how to do it next time, for better or worse.
In building we most want to learn from what does work. There is tons of research that support this. Here is an article that describes some of that research in a compelling way…
This Fast Company article starts out …
Remembering the past can negatively impact your self-control and decision-making process.
Regardless of what you celebrate, this season can be stressful. Thinking about buying the perfect gifts, putting up magazine-worthy decorations, creating magical evenings with family, and hosting fun-filled parties is enough to make anyone feel some anxiety.
Yet if you look at the deeper meaning of the holidays, most people will agree that it’s about love, family togetherness, and meaningful connections. How we relate to each other is what makes the biggest difference. I want to talk about how to genuinely achieve what you’re looking for this holiday season, instead of merely the appearance of it.
When I was a kid Christmases were often disappointing to me. There was a lot of hype, but stress and family drama overshadowed our holiday activities, and I didn’t end up feeling the love and warmth that I’d hoped, even though we went through all the motions of what “you’re supposed to do.”
Here are a few tips to help you determine what is most important this holiday season, and to organize your time and energy around it:
Simplify the Season
The simpler you can make the holidays, the more enjoyable they will be. If you aren’t focusing on the endless to do list you’ve created, you will have more time for genuine connections with your family—those that build great memories.
The most important thing is to make sure that the time you spend as a family is comfortable and happy. (So try to minimize exposure to that uncle who always gets drunk at dinner and rants about politics.) But in all seriousness, a holiday with fewer conflicts and less stress is better for everyone.
People often make gifts the center of the holiday, but making it about “things” only creates superficial happiness. Studies show that gifts only create a spike in happiness, and the level of happiness quickly goes back to where it was before the gift was given. Conversely, research has shown that experiencing fun and meaningful events together creates more lasting happiness.
Positive memories come from doing special things for and with each other, rather than from buying things for each other. When you focus more on the person than on the gift, it is far more powerful and sustainable than any material item.
Focus on Feelings
I want to suggest something that may be radical: This season, take some time to step back with your family and think about how you want to feel about each other during the holidays and afterward. Then talk about the traditions and activities that have fostered those feelings in the past. Also, discuss what you might be able to cut out this season to make it simpler and more enjoyable for all.
When holiday rituals begin to take on a life of their own, people stop enjoying them. Get rid of any tradition that causes more stress than joy. It’s okay for traditions to change and evolve as the years go by. Don’t be afraid to change traditions if they cause too much stress or don’t make people feel closer.
Instead focus on small traditions and activities that mean a lot to people right now. It doesn’t matter what mattered ten years ago, what mattered in your childhood, or what you think you should do. If you have children, allow them to choose a tradition that they enjoy; it will have much more meaning than your choosing for them.
This is helpful whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza or any other holiday. If you make sure the focus is on deepening your connections with family, every other part of your holiday will benefit because the true magic is the love.
Sometimes we have a tendency to believe that doing and giving more around the holidays will increase happiness. This is especially true with parents; it’s natural to want to give our children everything we can. But the truth is that all they need is one or two things done well. Simple yet meaningful activities like driving around looking at Christmas lights, making and enjoying a favorite food, lighting a candle, or talking about the highlights of the year can be some of the most lasting memories of the season.
Prime for Peace
This holiday season, try priming yourself to be in the kind of mood where your presence is a gift. You can help yourself have a great attitude for the holidays by thinking about what you have loved most about past holidays, and replaying those great memories and the feelings associated with them whenever you need a boost. Think about why the holidays are important to you. This type of priming helps improve your mood and your outlook.
Priming can also help you navigate the stress and the emotions of the season brought on by other people. For example, when you hit the stores you may experience frenetic crowds and chaotic shopping, and when you get back home those feelings can spill over into what you’re doing with your family.
Priming yourself before you get into situations that you know will be hectic can help as well. Thinking about what you love about the season, and trying to carry that joy with you, even when you’re out on traffic-filled roads, will keep you in better spirits. And don’t forget to give yourself enough time (again by simplifying!) so you don’t become one of those people who stresses other people out.
Another great way to prime is to think about somebody who is wonderful to be around during the holidays. What is it that makes you admire that person and what can you emulate? I’m not talking about somebody who looks perfect on the outside; choose someone who brings an authentic and caring presence whenever you see them. It’s so easy to get caught up in appearances, and it’s easy to accidentally get negatively primed by what other people appear to be doing and judge yourself poorly by comparison.
Redesigning your holidays to create joy, peace, and love in your family can be simple. Determine what you can do to enhance the feeling of connection as much as possible, so that everyone can go into the following year with a momentum of love and support.
Have a wonderful holiday season! I would love to hear about some of your favorite ideas to make the holidays more joyful and less stressful. Just comment below or connect with me on social media to share.
Culture is a vague concept, like a cloud. Yet its affects are as real as rain. Culture is a combination of the beliefs, values and behaviors that happen whether or not we want them to. On a day-to-day basis, culture is what really happens behind closed doors. It’s how people authentically behave, as well as the expectations of what will be rewarded and punished. Think about your company and where there are differences between what leaders say should be done, and what is actually done.
Because culture is so ingrained and mostly unconscious, initiating major shifts in it can be a challenge. It’s a little bit like trying to hug a cloud. Simply put, you can’t control the culture of a group. You can only influence it. Here I’m going to give you some tips on how to positively influence your culture.
Rewards and Punishments
In most work settings, there is a system of punishment and reward that is formally (or informally) understood. The metrics that companies use to determine punishment and reward may be helping achieve a certain business goal, but these metrics will also have an impact on your culture—either positive or negative. Statistically speaking, I bet there’s at least one behavior rewarded at your company that also pushed some bad results.
What people are allowed to get away with is also a big factor in terms of culture. There are plenty of smaller issues at work that usually don’t receive formal punishment. Behaviors such as acting rudely during a meeting, avoiding conflict, or disrespecting coworkers or customers will affect culture if left unattended. These types of behaviors need to be addressed quickly. Don’t let it grow! It’s also important to not only tell them what not to do, but how to do it well.
The system for promotions or rewards is also a key part of company culture. If companies promote people solely because they achieve goals, ignoring whether they are team players or have leadership skills, the culture will reflect that. And the other employees will notice it too. More and more research shows that when you promote people who are poor team players, even though they get things done, the end result is more damaging than helpful to the company. The invisible damage to the culture of people acting like jerks usually ends up reducing productivity in many ways that leaders don’t notice. I bet you’ve seen that happen plenty of times.
With culture problems people usually spend most of the time attacking what they perceive as the problems making it worse. That’s helpful in extreme, obvious cases. However, one of the most powerful ways to strengthen a culture is having regular conversations with people to identify what is best about the company—and encouraging employees to have these conversations with one another as well. This primes everyone’s brains, reminding them what to do more of, and what to improve in a motivating way. A great way to start these conversations, and to involve the team in a culture shift, is with our adapted positive change questions:
To energize positive change, employees need the confidence that they can improve the culture, as well as ideas for what to do and how to do it. Start by building on the answers to the positive change questions and brainstorming ideas for implementation. You can’t just give your team ideas; they need to help come up with the ideas for a true culture shift to occur.
It’s really important to start by building on what is good. If you go straight to the gaps in the culture, it will bring everyone down. The next step is to change reward systems based on the input you get. I bet you can think of times you were included in the decision making that make you feel more ownership and motivation.
One of the biggest shifts we’re seeing in the business world today is the trend toward getting rid of annual performance reviews, or at least augmenting them with regular conversations. The theory behind this is that constant dialogue—both positive and constructive feedback in the moment—is more effective than one annual conversation reviewing the year’s performance, particularly focused on a single number, rather than all the factors involved in good performance and culture. Regular exchanges allow changes and improvements to be made instantly—not to mention the encouraging feelings and positive attitudes that result from praise. This is essentially using regular priming to direct people and influence culture.
Another great way to influence culture is to use a tip from The One Minute Manager and to “catch people doing things right”. This is a powerful priming tool catching people doing things right—and commenting in the moment—and providing feedforward on how to do things better in the future. Research shows that this is much more effective than telling people what they did wrong later.
Having confidence and feeling safe in a work environment is very important to creating and maintaining a productive culture. You need confidence and safety to initiate change successfully. Think about when how confidence and feeling safe have made a difference to you. How can you help others to increase their confidence and ability to talk openly? What can you do to prime those around you to strengthen the culture of your workplace?
I’d love to hear your feedback! Just comment below or connect with me on social media.