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What You Say In Difficult Time Does Matter: Things A Truly Great Leader Says When Facing Challenges

What You Say In Difficult Time Does Matter: Things A Truly Great Leader Says When Facing Challenges

When companies, families or businesses fall into trouble, the group often looks to the leader as if to say, “What now, boss?” And in those moments, truly great leaders know that every word they say matters. Not because they are genius and infallible, but because this is the moment to inspire the group to work together to overcome a difficulty. This is the moment to motivate creative solutions instead of adding to the current problem. This is the moment to drive exciting opportunities from chaos. It’s a leader’s job to rally the team, inspire them to seek solutions and give them hope. So what a leader says in this moment, means everything.

When facing difficult times, a truly great leader will say…

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1. A person’s first name.

A leader see her team. She knows it’s important that each individual is known and recognized for the value they bring. She knows that without this person the team would be lesser, and so she always acknowledges her team members with respect. Using someone’s name perks up their attention, makes them feel seen and inspires their work because they feel valued. Difficult times for a group means all hands on deck, and using someone’s name is the first method a great leader will use to teach that how they contribute matters.

2. Nothing at all.

Sometimes all a team needs at a difficult time is to be heard. To avoid making assumptions, a truly great leader will not try to fix the situation right away with words, but by listening. Listening to team members and making them feel like their words carry weight means they will be more conscious of what they say. When a leader makes his team feel their words will be absorbed, everyone wants to make those words count. A leader knows that listening also sets the precedent for respect, calm and patience.

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3. Why the course is changing.

People are always searching for meaning. A great leader knows that to ask her team to implement a new policy, direction or mode of operation means she has to tell them why the change is meaningful. Disconnecting from the why disconnects the leader from her team. It makes her decision-making more imperative than the team’s ability to effect the change she wants. This divide is counterintuitive to productivity. You cannot build by hoarding meaning. Meaning gives motivation and motivation inspires change.

4. Exactly what he means.

A great leader knows that miscommunications happen and people come to the table with various degrees of assumptions. He knows that the only way to avoid as much miscommunication as possible is to distill his own thoughts into exactly what he means. Saying exactly what he means keeps leading the conversation to the solution and away from misinterpretation. Keeping things concise means his group can count on him to give them clear information every time they need it. It fosters a sense of security. This lack of pretense inspires others to speak more clearly and fewer miscommunications result.

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5. I need help.

She knows when it’s time to delegate, ask for help and get her team to contribute. A great leader won’t play the superhero; she will ask for what she needs because she will expect her team to do this as well. To a great leader, nothing is more important than accomplishing what the team is set to accomplish — so if she doesn’t have an answer and believes someone else can more effectively find the solution, her ego won’t stand in the way. She’ll ask for help and move the project forward.

6. How to move forward.

Most of the time, a great leader invents: new ways of doing things, new products, new connections. He creates something from where there was nothing. In other words, he has a vision. But within that vision, he also sees the steps of how to bring it to fruition and then he communicates the steps clearly. He stays open to improvements upon the plan, but he never comes to the table without a plan in mind. A leader showing up with initiative creates a culture of team members showing up with initiative.

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7. It’s going to be okay.

She won’t lie to her team, but she will see the bigger picture. A great leader knows that perspective is everything when getting around tough problems, and by saying, “We will get through this and all will be fine,” gives her group confidence in their ability to grow. Making a point of saying it’s going to be okay also takes away the dramatic undertone that can develop in a difficult situation. It’s easy to focus on the problem, but calming down helps the entire team focus on the solution instead.

8. Different things at different times.

A truly great leader understands that while we can learn from history, every situation is unique to this particular moment in time. Different people, different locations, and different ability levels all need different solutions. The words a leader might use with a veteran will inevitably be different than the ones he uses with a new team member. They need different ways of being built up, of being encouraged, of being motivated. Every situation will have its own nuance and subtlety and a truly great leader will have the thoughtfulness to address each difficult situation with an equally nuanced approach.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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