Top 5 Morning Activities that Successful Leaders Do While Still in Bed

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Do you reach for your smart phone as soon as you wake up? If you answered ‘yes’, you’re not alone. According to a 2013 study by IDC and Facebook, 4 out of 5 people reach for their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up. However, most of the world’s successful leaders are not just waking up super-early, but are spending their time on very different morning rituals.

Successful leaders, such as Tim Cook (Apple), Bob Iger (Disney), David Cush (Virgin) and plenty of others are all up and ready to go by 4:30 in the morning! So just what morning activities do successful leaders do during the pre-dawn hours that provides them with such pep? Here are my favorite top 5 morning rituals to do before you even get out of bed:

1.    Center your Thoughts
The power and benefits of meditation (or prayer or affirmations) have been promulgated extensively. Spend a few minutes to quieting your brain chatter and then visualize how you want to feel. Take this time to consciously feel grateful, blessed, empowered, confident and at peace. End with focusing on what success might look like for you today – I promise you that your day will rock!

2. Start your Day with a Dopamine Rush
Exercising early in the morning gives you a sense of achievement, gets the ‘be happy’ hormones (endorphin and dopamine) in your system, and readies you to conquer anything that life can throw at you. But wait, are you wondering what exercises you can do without even getting up from bed? Look no further than yoga! Some basic yoga stretches are all you need to build strength, relieve stress and have a happier disposition. Try out these yoga in bed poses for inspiration.

3. Wipe the Slate Clean
Your REM sleep is essential in restoring mental functions. The information consolidation theory of sleep is based on cognitive research that people sleep in order to process information that has been acquired during the day.  Sufficient sleep cleans your slate and allows you to start the day generally mentally sharper and gives you an opportunity to plan your day with greater clarity. And the good thing is that you get to wipe the slate and start anew every day!

4. Slay your Big Fear
One of the benefits of waking up early is that you have undisturbed quality time to slay your biggest fears and insecurities. We all have concerns that hold us back and make us procrastinate and doubt ourselves. Can you imagine how good your day is going to be if in those first few minutes of wake time you can conquer your fear and start your day with a firm resolve? Your day is already a success before it has even started for your colleagues!

5. Spend Time with Whoever or Whatever is Important to You
The best thing about being an early riser is that you get some quality time to be with someone important or spend time on something that is important for you. Starting early, visualizing and planning your day will give you tons of reward time. It will allow you to connect with your loved ones or take the time to leisurely think about all the stuff that keeps you charged.

Of course all of this only works if you still make your sleeping hours. Waking up early also means going to bed early. Do clock your 7 – 8 hours of sleep, as lack of sleep will reduce your emotional intelligence, increase cortisol levels, reduce your ability to learn and deal with stress and therefore, reduce your ability to lead. Successful leaders wake up early and then use that time to gain an advantage!

Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do share your morning ritual in the comments below and tell me what works for you and why.

– Paul Keijzer

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How To Become A Female Friendly Workplace

Today is the third blog of the Women @ Work series. We spoke about how Pakistan has a long way to go in driving gender diversity, what women are looking for and how Pakistani companies are scoring against these expectations. Today, it is all about how organizations can create a Female Friendly Workplace, a workplace that genuinely believes in the value of a more gender diverse workforce and is committed towards creating it. Our research, backed by findings from all over the world, has provided us with a clear 5 step recipe:

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Step 1: Visible and Genuine Executive Commitment
The first step is for the organization’s leadership team to be convinced that having a more gender-balanced organization is simply smart business. It is not about being politically correct, or morally doing the right thing. It gives better returns.

In doing so the executive team has to be able to focus on the long-term benefits and not be swayed by the ‘naysayers’ that focus on short term issues such as maternity leaves and all kind of other gender related performance biases. The stronger position it takes on this the more successful any gender diversity initiative will have.

The executive team has to build a business case for gender diversity, set themselves an audacious goal (like doubling the number of women in 3 years at management level), come up with a solid actionable plan with key performance indicators and then go public. The last element is important as public commitment increases personal commitment levels, as well as it creates a platform for change in the organization.

Step 2: Setting the Foundation
As soon as the executive team has made a public and genuine commitment to enhance the participation of women in their organization, the company has to set its foundations. This includes:

  • Creating policies on matters such as equal opportunities, reward and sexual harassment to solidify their commitment
  • Adjusting HR processes on hiring, development, promotions and succession planning to ensure at a minimum that gender bias is reduced and possibly that women candidates are at least included in people decisions
  • Creating a safe and female friend work place by providing facilities that ensure the safety of female staff at all times and enables them to perform to their ability
  • Helping male colleagues and specifically male line managers to become aware of specific gender related barriers and how to create a supportive and female friendly work place

Step 3: Enabling Female Employees to Combine Work and Home
Pakistani society has not progressed to a point where it is acceptable for a woman not to be a home maker. As a result she always has to be able to manage the pressures that come with managing both home and work. For companies in Pakistan to be successful in their gender diversity initiatives it is important for them to extend their support in enabling women to do so and not make it a reason for women to leave after they have gotten married or have had children.

Companies should as much as possible create flexible work arrangements and allow, if required, employees to work from home allowing them to fulfill personal commitments. This flexibility should not only be offered to women but to all employees alike as to not create a visible distinction between gender in the organisation.

This approach also applies for the matter of maternity. The more a company is able to support women during their maternity leave and upon their return to the workplace the more women will stay. Providing child care facilities will not only support women in focusing on their work and therefore be more productive upon their return it will also create a tremendous loyalty from working mothers and be a ‘attraction magnet for other working mums.

Step 4: Maximizing potential
With the foundations and enablers in place it is time to focus on providing high performing women with specific support and opportunities. This can be done in the form of:

  • Assigning executive mentors and coaches
  • Nominating women for specific training and development opportunities
  • Creating networking occasions (with other women) in the company
  • Omen talent review sessions in which the senior leadership team reviews and agrees development interventions for high performing female talent

Step 5: Influencing the Outside World
The final step is to come out in the open and use the traction and success that you have generated inside the company to influence other companies and society. This can be done through:

  • Sponsoring of gender diversity initiatives and events,
  • Specific female candidate outreach and sponsoring programs,
  • Taking ownership of specific female friendly initiatives such as:
    o– Supporting women to came back to work after a long maternity break
    o– Launching part-time work or job-sharing initiatives

By publically supporting gender diversity initiatives you will not only position yourselves as the employer of choice for female talent and positively influence your company’s reputation, but you will also be able to influence society and more specifically spouses whose support is essential for any talented woman to go out there and join the workforce.

However, be aware, you can only do this if your house is in order and females in your company are indeed recognizing you as a female friendly workplace. Based on our survey of 14 leading companies in Pakistan only two companies would be able to do that at the moment. Others still have some way to go in creating the environment where women unequivocally will recommend their company as a female friendly workplace.

Read more about our Women @ Work Study 2013 or watch the 4 minute summary presentation.

Next week is the last blog in our Women @ Work series. In this we will focus on how women can drive their own success in managing their career. Keep on sharing your views and comments!

– Paul Keijzer

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Only 2 Out Of 14 Leading Pakistani Companies Are A Female Friendly Workplace

BusinessPeopleSilhouetteWomanLast week we launched our Women @ Work Pakistan 2013 report. We had some great responses and would like to thank you for your interest and support in moving the gender diversity agenda in Pakistan forward.

One of the key objectives was to find out what women in Pakistan are expecting from their employers and how some of Pakistan’s leading companies do against these expectations. The answer was almost a Maslowian pyramid of needs, with more than 50% of all women indicating that their first and foremost concern was a safe work environment and a strict enforced sexual harassment policy. Followed by the ability to look after personal and work commitments and being given equal career and development opportunities. 

More so, than in many other societies around the world, Pakistani women are supposed to be the homemakers. No matter whether she works or not this expectation doesn’t change. Due to these expectations she is looking for an employer who can provide flexible work arrangements. This doesn’t only include the possibility to have flexible start and end timings, but also the opportunity to fulfill personal commitments during the day and maybe work in the evenings or work from home. 

So how are Pakistan’s leading companies doing? First of all, female employees of the different participating companies gave their own employer significantly different score cards with the difference between the best and the least female friendly workplace a whopping 35%. Only 2 out of the 14 leading companies in Pakistan can be described as female friendly workplaces. 

Guess which element was the largest difference between the best and the worst…guess again…No, it was commitment from their leadership team in driving gender diversity. The best company got an A+ with 87% of the female participants agreeing and the worst scoring company got an E grade with only 27% of their female employees stating their leadership visibly supports gender diversity. 

The good news was that all female employees indicated that they were happy with the safe and secure work environment their companies provided them. They were significantly less positive about their employers’ ability to provide flexible work arrangements (only 50% have some sort of flexible work arrangements, mostly flexible office hours). Another issue raised by female employees was the lack of support from companies to help women transition back to the workplace after their maternity leave. This did not only focus on the absence of physical facilities (i.e. child care facilities close to the office) but also on more subtle attitude shifts towards returning women from the line managers and employers.  

I will be back next week sharing some best practices and insights in what Pakistani companies can do to become a female friendly workplace. If you don’t want to wait till then you can read the Women @ Work Report 2013 and watch a 4 minute summary presentation

See you next week and do share what you have done this week to advance the role of female leaders in your organisation

– Paul Keijzer

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Women @ Work in Pakistan : A Long Way To Go!

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Seven months ago we started on our journey to find out where gender diversity stands in Pakistan. The objective of this study was to gain insight into factors that are important to working women, to identify the best practices in place to support gender diversity and also to capture statistics on female participation in leading companies in Pakistan. We had a fantastic response and over 1000 females from 14 corporations across Pakistan participated.

Our Women @ Work 2013 report is now available. We will share with you the highlights through my blog posts over the next four weeks, but if you don’t want to wait you can read it now by downloading the full report or watch the 4 minute Women @ Work Presentation by clicking here

Many executives both men and women ask me: Paul is it really necessary to focus on bringing in more women, is it not about who is best suited for the job.  And of course the answer is that you should not appoint women if they don’t have the right skill set, knowledge, experience and attitude to perform in a role. However, in a situation where both a male and female candidate are equally qualified, our research shows that women are 8% more energized to go the extra mile, 7% more likely to stay with the organization and 10% more female employees would recommend their organization as a place to work for their friends, than their male colleagues.

So where does corporate Pakistan stand on gender diversity? The picture currently is bleak at its best. According to the World Bank, Pakistan falls in the bottom ten countries with regard to women in the workforce. Our study showed that only 10% of the employees in participating companies are females and only 5% of them are in leadership roles as opposed to the 25% recommended by gender diversity advocates and governments alike. 

But not all hope is lost! With increasing realization of importance of gender diversity, multinationals have started putting pressure on their Pakistani operations to improve gender balance and are setting an example for local companies too. Progressive Pakistani companies are also taking the lead in creating opportunities for and facilitating women to progress in their careers. Companies just need to remember that hiring and nurturing the best is the only key to success!

Next week I will be sharing what women expect from their employers and how Pakistani companies are living up to their expectations.

You can download our Women @ Work 2013 report or watch our 4 minute presentation here.

– Paul Keijzer

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How HSBC Middle East Forces SME’s Out Of Business

HSBC

No this is not a bank bashing story. This is simply a personal experience on how my (ex-) bank, HSBC Middle East, treats its customers.

As a customer, banks are not my favorite destination. Luckily they have over the last decade tried to limit my personal exposure of having to deal with them directly (ATM’s, internet banking, phone banking, and mobile banking). Although at the end we are still dependent on them as we give them control over something that is very important and dear to us, our money!

My aversion towards banks reached a new peak last month, when upon checking my account information online, I was confronted with the fact that my account balance of my company account was zero and the notification read “account closed as per August 25”. My 2 years of company savings had magically disappeared in thin air. A strange sensation crept down my spine realizing that my money was gone.

To give you a bit of a background I have been a happy HSBC customer for the past 10 years with a number of personal and company accounts in a number of different countries. When I opened my company in Dubai I had no second thoughts other than to open my company account with HSBC expecting that my being a premier customer in other parts of the world it would help them in their ‘Know Your Customer’ requirements to facilitate the relation. How wrong could I have been? Yes pretty wrong!

I run a small consultancy firm in the UAE and my banking needs are very limited, I only require basic checking account transactions and online access. All my interactions with the bank were channeled through an anonymous customer service email account that responded generally within 48 hours to my questions. Interesting thing was that at no point would an employee of HSBC identify himself as the responses were always signed ‘yours sincerely HSBC Bank Middle East’. This was never an issue as the queries were always small. But as all my money had suddenly disappeared this became a huge issue because I had no one to turn to.

So the only option I had was to write an emergency email on August 26 to the anonymous email address and ask what has happened to my money. I received the following email response the next day:

“Dear Sir,
We thank you for your email.
We hereby take this opportunity to advise that we have sent you the attached important and official communication by registered post with regards to your account held with us.
In accordance with the attached communication, we advise that your account remains closed as of 25 August 2013 and the final balances shall be dispatched by way of a Managers Cheque to the company’s registered address as held in our records.
Should you have any queries or need assistance feel free to contact us.
Assuring you of our best services at all times.

Yours Sincerely,
HSBC Bank Middle East Limited
Corporate Services”

With this mail was the attachment that was sent on June 2 by Mr Rana El-Emam, Head of Business Banking U.A.E. that read:

“Following a strategic review of our business customers, we will now be providing a personal relationship manager in all cases but subject to qualifying criteria…..based on the above, I am sorry to advise that you will no longer qualify for business banking services from HSBC and we will need to close your account with us”

Despite the fact that the bank was instructed and till then had always sent all documents, cheque books and other stuff to my home address, they sent the most important document to my company licensed office address that they knew I only visited once a year. Completely unaware of this notification I continued using my account, intimating the details to my clients for payments and using it to pay my suppliers. The simple fact that I had not approached the bank to move my account  should have lit up warning signals triggering someone to think that ‘hey maybe this client is not aware of our decision to close his account, let me call him’. None of this happened and HSBC continued to close my account.

Let me be clear. I have no problem in the decision that HSBC has made, that is their prerogative. They can decide whom they want as a client and whom they don’t. I can certainly be disappointed about their decision in the light of all my other banking relations with HSBC, but that is not the point.

What completely baffles me is how they went about executing this decision with no respect to their clients and just shutting down accounts. They completely ignored my pleas to either speak to a human (other than the anonymous email) or to re-open my account for a short period so I could continue my business and move my account to another bank. Basically leaving me with no bank account for my business and thereby shutting down my business.

To be honest the customer service I have received from HSBC Singapore has been outstanding. It shows that customer service is personal, no matter how hard you try to institutionalize it.  It differs from one person to another, from one leader to another and proves how difficult it is for a global concern to make sure that each and every operation in every part of the world lives their self proclaimed values (taking directly from HSBC website):

“Our values describe the character of HSBC and reflect the best aspects of our heritage. They define who we are as an organization and what makes us distinctive. By operating in accordance with our values we are: Connected to customers, communities, regulators and each other, caring about individuals and their progress, showing respect, being supportive and responsive”.

HSBC Middle East should read up on that statement again if they want to retain customers as I am moving on, taking my banking business somewhere else.

– Paul Keijzer

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Re-Inventing Executive Search in Pakistan

Double Spiral Staircase Inside Vatican MuseumsThe time has come to re-invent Executive Search in Pakistan as the current way of doing executive search is detrimental for all parties involved; companies, candidates and search agencies.

Executive search was booming in 2006 and 2007. Opportunities in Pakistan were exploding. Banks discovered personal loans and credit cards as the new frontier. Telecoms were creeping into every nook and corner of the country and other industries were using the slip stream of a fast growing economy and a new emerging middle class. In addition the Middle East had an unquenchable thirst for relatively cheap Pakistani professionals creating a perfect storm for aspiring Pakistani career seekers. Companies didn’t know where to find the candidates to fill their vacancies. Salaries were skyrocketing and executive search companies had become very busy and began reaping solid returns. 

It was also the beginning of the end. Everybody jumped on the band wagon trying to cash in on the boom. The number of companies and individuals offering ‘executive search’ in Pakistan at some count reached more than 100. With so many people vested in this business segment the competition started its race to end at the proverbial bottom the moment the economy tanked and the number of vacancies dried up. Fees in the mid ’00’s at 2 months of the placed individuals annual salary dropped to as low as 1/2 month salary for the successful placement of a candidate in the space of a couple of months. 

With an over supply of talent,  companies started to use other sources and channels to identify candidates as well as ‘farmed’ out their vacancies to multiple search agencies, all fighting for the remaining crumbs. As a result the chance for a search agency to close a position and earn a meager success fee dropped close to zero. Search agencies in response were only willing to make a minimal effort to find a candidate which affected the quality of the search, impacting how companies would value the service and increase the number of channels further reducing the chance of a fee etc. A vicious circle was created. 

As a consequence I hear companies complain about the lack of quality of search firms, I hear search firms complain about their lack of revenue and I hear candidates complain that search firms and companies alike show little professionalism in the selection and courting process. In others words a lose-lose-lose situation. 

How to turn this around? The obvious solution lies in breaking this downward spiral and creating a situation where everybody wins. The company finds the right talented resource at the right time, the candidate is approached, selected and placed in a professional manner and the executive search firms earns a decent income. 

To turn this around the ball is in the court of the search agencies. They have to make a first step and commit themselves to significantly improving the quality of the search service and:

  • Adhere to a professional code of conduct highlighting their responsibility and guide their actions towards clients and candidates
  • Truly understand the clients requirements and translate that into search criteria (skills, competencies and fit)
  • Use every channel possible to search candidates (database, social media, referrals etc.)
  • Ensure appropriate due diligence on and permission from the candidate before presenting them to the client
  • Guarantee quick response times to both clients and candidates

The next step is for executive search firms to convince clients that a successful search assignment requires a partnership between the client and search agency. A partnership in which both parties win, a company finds a quality candidate and the agency earns a decent living. For this to work you have to create a mutual commitment towards the search in which both parties have ‘skin in the game’. The best way to create this is by complementing the successful placement fee with an upfront ‘effort fee’ through which both of them commit each other to completing a successful placement. Of course this is not new and is the only way executive search firms in other parts of the world work. In fact some executive search firms have switched to a 100% of upfront fee guaranteeing a successful placement.

Companies have to realize that for them to receive a decent quality service they have to make a commitment and pay for that service whilst search agencies have to commit themselves to providing a quality service. This goes hand in hand and only when both make a move forward will we be able to stop the downward trend in which everybody loses. 

What are the issues that you have faced with either companies or search firms and how do you think can we re-invent executive search in Pakistan?

– Paul Keijzer

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Number 100 and the Half-Life of Knowledge

oceanex-100-years‘Half Life’ is normally associated with science, where it indicates the time required for a quantity to fall to half its value as measured at the beginning of the time period. In physics this is normally related to the time it takes for an object to lose half of its radiation levels. However Half-Life has inspired many and taken all kinds of new forms from a video game, to a comic character, movie, novel and even the title of a song.

Half-Life is also associated with knowledge where it generally indicates the time required for the knowledge of facts to have been proven wrong or lose its relevance. Samual Arbesman in his book the Half-Life of Facts argues that everything we know has an expiry date and goes on to explain that often what we think is true now, is proven wrong at some point in the future. 

In business and certainly in business literature this also seems to be holding true. Ponzi and Koenig argue that if after 3–5 years the number of articles on the idea in a given year decreases significantly then the idea is most likely a “management fad”. Who doesn’t remember the infallibility of topics like Total Quality Management, Japanese Kaizen, One Minute Management, ISO 9000, Business Process Re-engineering, Delayering, Management by Walking Around, Matrix Structures and my all time favorite ‘FISH!’ philosophy?

The moral of the story: Whatever you think holds true today doesn’t necessarily hold true in the future.

For me as a consultant this realization holds even more relevance as companies and leaders pay me for the specific skills and knowledge I have on, in my case, transforming top teams, top talent and organizations. I realize that the value I have for an organization also has a half-life. I can only add value for a certain period or activity for which the organization doesn’t have the knowledge and skills in house. Over time the need for that skill decreases or if it doesn’t the company develops it in house. The only way for me to stay in business is to keep myself relevant to current customers by always re-inventing myself and to stay ahead of the knowledge curve.

And this is where Engage Asia and my blogs come in. Forcing myself to write and engage you has given me the opportunity to:

  1. Explore new ideas, concepts and opinions through other people’s books, blogs and articles on the most eclectic topics possible
  2. Share this knowledge with others and
  3. Learn (the best way to learn is to teach others)

This is my 100th blog post and you reading (some of) them has given me not only the opportunity to do the above but also made it worthwhile. I wanted to thank you for your readership, comments and encouragement. It has been an amazing journey so far and I am looking forward to your continued readership.

Happy Reading but above all Keep on Learning – you never know which half of your knowledge will expire.

– Paul Keijzer

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How To Avoid Procrastination

procrastination2I just completed the procrastination survey and according to the outcome I rank in the bottom 10% of the population in terms of my level of procrastination. According to the procrastination equation website, (at least) 95% of each one of us sometimes procrastinate and for 15-20% of us it is consistent and problematic. These figures have significantly gone up since the 70’s, where there were only 5% of self-proclaimed procrastinators.

Despite the low survey score (explains how anyone can cheat with personality tests) of course I also do procrastinate and sometimes finish a movie, play that game on my phone, check my emails, go for lunch with my wife; postponing all my work to the latest possible moment. The excuse that I always use is that I work better under pressure and an even better excuse I tell myself is that I am subconsciously preparing myself the whole time. So far it has worked and I have (almost) never missed a client deadline!

According to Dr. Ferrari in Psychology Today “Procrastination: 10 Things To Know”, procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time…”Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up.”

So how are the people who have been studying the topic of motivation and procrastination and are self-proclaimed sufferers dealing with it? Professor John Perry, an emeritus professor of philosophy from Stanford University, has written a wonderful essay on how he deals with procrastination. He calls it Structured Procrastination and it “requires a certain amount of self-deception, because one is (in effect) constantly perpetrating a pyramid scheme on oneself,” he writes. “One needs to be able to recognize and commit oneself to tasks with inflated importance and unreal deadlines while making oneself feel that these tasks are important and urgent.”

While reading 59 Seconds: Think A Little, Change A Lot, I came across the topic of procrastination once again and found the “just a few minutes” rule to be helpful. According to psychology graduate Bluma Zeigarnik, who first experimented with this idea in the 1920’s, this rule is a highly effective way of overcoming procrastination. The idea here is to work on an activity for “just a few minutes” which leaves the procrastinator with the urge to see it through to completion. This creates an “anxious brain” which makes you want to see the job finished!

I am trying to deal with my procrastination bouts by trying to create new habits, habits in which I force myself to do things and hope that over time they become automatic. Luckily for me my guilt kicks in if I am not able to do stuff as planned (must be the Dutch work ethic that my parents have pumped into me) and this pushes me to get things done.

How do you deal with procrastination?

– Paul Keijzer

Breaking Bad Habits

good-bad-habits-300x263We all have bad habits. Some people bite their nails, some smoke, some can’t resist that last cupcake and some just can’t get out of bed in time. Some bad habits are small nuisances (mostly to others) while others can be detrimental to our own, and other peoples, happiness (addictions of any kind). We often try to break them, but the majority of people fail to kick their bad habit to the curb. Only 5% of people that join Weight Watchers achieve and sustain their target weight for 2 years!

What are habits, how do they come about, how do you recognize them, and if you know what they are, can you change them? These were some of the questions that New York Times business writer Charles Duhigg tried to answer in his new book; The Power of Habit.

According to Duhigg, habits are powerful things. They prevent you from having to make millions of decisions every day; from how you brush your teeth, to what you eat for breakfast, how you drive to work or to what you do first when you open your computer (read the sports page, check your Facebook page or dive right into those big tasks that you have to complete today). When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in any decision-making and your behavioral pattern unfolds automatically.

The problem is that your brain can’t tell the difference between good and bad habits and as a result, whenever a behavior has become a habit, your brain just waits for the cue and then simply executes it.

So what is a habit? A habit is a loop in which a specific action is triggered by a cue and followed by a reward. Whether it is a sugar rush from eating that chocolate bar, the caffeine kick from your morning coffee or the endorphins that get released by regular exercise, your mind becomes trained to expect the same certain reaction to your actions.

As a habit is a simple cue, action, reward loop, you can actually go about to change it. Duhigg offers a four-step framework to change a habit:

Step 1: Identify the routine
Step 2: Experiment with rewards
Step 3: Isolate the cue
Step 4: Have a plan

At the end of his book, Duhigg himself concludes, “All patterns that exist in our lives are habits that we know exist. Once you understand that habits can change, you have the freedom -and the responsibility- to remake them. Once you understand that habits can be rebuilt, the only option left is to get to work and change them.”

Today I started trying to create a new habit for myself. Instead of waking up lazily at 7:30am to check the sports pages, my blog counts and my emails, today I woke up at 6:00am, had 90 minutes more to get in some exercise, meditate and start the day with my writing. This blog is a result of my first day! My cue was my desire to get more out of my day with the personal insight that I am most productive early in the morning. My reward; exercising and writing gives me the discipline that I crave and producing something early in the day gives me that feeling that, no matter what happens later in the day, I have still achieved something.

Will keep you all posted on whether I am able to translate this intention into a good habit! Good luck changing your bad habits!

– Paul Keijzer

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Using Office Gossip To Your Advantage

bigbookpic-1All of us do it; we gossip. There are some stunning statistics available as to how much the passing along of information contains traces of gossip. Did you know that one out of seven emails sent in office contain gossip? And that negative gossip outweighs positive gossip by a factor of three. No one really thinks of the statistics behind gossip, because for so many people adding those extra “juicy” details into a conversation comes naturally. We love to gossip, certainly when it is about other people, but what do you do when the gossip is aimed at you?

What To Do If You Are The Subject of the Gossip:
The first thing you have to do when you hear gossip about you is to know exactly what is being said. Find out where the gossip originated from and confront that individual. How do you do this? Let’s give an example: You have heard in the corridor that people are talking about the fact that they feel the boss is favoring you and giving you opportunities that others don’t get. After asking around, you have been able to identify one colleague (the one you have always been in competition with) who is behind originating this gossip.

So, how do you confront this individual? While it may be your first instinct, do not run over and start shouting at your colleague, throwing around accusations. Instead, take a couple of breaths, think about your actions and plan on how you should approach this situation. Choose the best moment (preferably when no other colleagues are around and when you know your colleague will have nothing to fear) and prepare how you will start the conversation. Instead of an aggressive “I have heard that you are spreading rumors about me and I want you to stop” try the following opening: “I know that it is your right to say whatever you want to whomever you want and I don’t want to deny you this right, but I would like you to know that it really hurts to hear that you are implying that the boss is favoring me for reasons that are not performance related. If it is your intention just to bad-mouth me, then go ahead and continue. However, if you really think that this is an issue then I would like to discuss this with you and the boss to sort this out, as this is certainly not the way I want to be seen”.

Tough, yes of course, but at least you show that they can’t simply get away with talking about you. Even if the person denies being the originator, addressing the issue will ensure that you have nipped the problem in the bud.

If you don’t know or are not sure who the source is, bring it up with your line manager or HR director (whomever you feel more comfortable with) and ask for advice.

Two Big No-No’s
There are two big no-no’s when you are sharing rumors. First, never share company sensitive information. Certainly if it is a listed company it can get you into serious (legal) trouble. And although studies show that sharing negative feelings about a third person can increase the closeness between the two people sharing it, no matter how tempted you are or how upset you are with your boss, never speak negatively about him/her to others. Almost always the negative comments will come back to him/her and put you in a position you don’t want to be in.

How To Use Gossip To Get People To Like You
Not many people would associate gossip as a tool to make other people like you. However in his book 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Professor Richard Wiseman shares an experiment that shows when you gossip about another person; “…listeners unconsciously associate you with the characteristics you are describing, ultimately leading to those characteristics’ being “transferred” to you. So, say positive and pleasant things about friends and colleagues and you are seen as a nice person. In contrast, constantly bitch about their failings and people will unconsciously apply the negative traits and incompetence to you”.

So say good things about your boss and colleagues, keep away from negative gossip, share accurate market information and other trends you have picked up from friends and from the web and see your likeability and your career skyrocket.

– Paul Keijzer

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