Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Learning from Differences

When did we start being afraid? Really. What has contributed to many people hesitating, fearing people who are different, and worrying way too much about what other people think? Many people stay inside their heads analyzing way too many things - halting any action that can move them forward.

Josh Havens is the lead singer of the band, The Afters. He is a member of the church in Plano, Texas where my boys and I attend. Aren't we lucky to have him most Sunday mornings belting it out as we get grounded for the week? He recently posted photos (taken by his oh so talented sister, Esther Havens) on his Facebook page from his trip to Rwanda. Josh took his daughter Adeline with him. Adeline is six years old and she may not know how much impact she had on the community of children she met.

When I looked at this picture, Adeline had an impact on me. She reminded me of the importance of exploring, asking questions, and embracing differences. People in the Smart Zone seek differences. They ask questions. All in the spirit of working to the best of their ability emotionally, behaviorally, and intellectually.

Here are 5 ways to learn from Adeline and Live Smart in the Smart Zone:
  1. Meet new people and expand your circle. Too often we stick by those we know. I've been to holiday parties and watched men and women arrive with a few friends, hang out with the same friends, and walk away with the same friends. They hardly branch out to meet anyone else in the room. People are more likely to do this when they are uncomfortable meeting new people - or if they have anticipatory anxiety which I was interviewed about on Channel CW33 recently. Holiday gatherings, conferences, even PTA meetings are a good time to Live Smart by making it a point to introduce yourself to at least 5 new people. At a conference, sit with people you don't know. At a soccer game, introduce yourself to the other parents in the stands. By branching out and meeting new people, we are exposed to differences which can only make us better.
  2. "Get out of Dodge" and try new places. In the past year, I have made it a point to take my boys to new restaurants, to drive them a different way to events, and to expose them to different kinds of people. I want them to embrace the opportunity for change and the unknown. By staying in a routine of going to the same restaurant, out with the same people, and not exploring surrounding communities, we may be more comfortable but I promise you it won't be as interesting. 
  3. Deliberately learn new things. We don't have to take a class to learn new things. One of my big diversions is to get on the website Pinterest. It is a website where people exchange ideas, get exposed to different ways of doing things, and where you can stoke your own creativity. Many of you have heard about my Director of Patient Relations, Tari Jacobs. Tari is so talented and she comes to my clinical practice to help run the place, even though she could work anywhere else she wanted to. She is a great fit because she puts her family first and because she challenges me to be creative. This year I made subway art as a Christmas gift for many of my friends. I also have started to try new recipes (my favorites come from CrockPotGirls.com), read books not from the psychology or business sections (right now I'm reading the Steve Jobs biography), and stepped out by letting someone else cut my hair (find out who on my facebook page). 
  4. Embrace differences. The next time you are in a discussion with someone at work or in your neighborhood and the other person has an idea that is opposite of yours, deliberately listen to the polar idea and learn where it comes from. Don't dismiss it because it is not the same conclusions you made. I recently disagreed with Tari about the Amanda Knox trial. Tari had been following it way more than I had and I "didn't know what I didn't know" (a famous quote I use to hear a lot when I worked for Dr. Phil). Luckily, Tari was willing to go over the missing pieces with me and I was able to see that the differences in our thinking were due to my limited understanding of the trial. When you engage in discussions when differences occur, you are more likely to Live Smart in the Smart Zone. 
  5. Tolerate Mistakes - those you make and those made by others. Some of our best learning comes from mistakes. When we try and hide our mistakes, we miss the juice. It is the juice of learning that moves us forward. If you are intolerant of mistakes, then you are more likely to try and hide it or create conflict because of it. Why would you do that when it is inevitable that you will make mistakes? We should always be trying something new because mistakes can make us better.
Live Smart in the Smart Zone by learning that differences can be good. New can be good. Feeling out of place can be good. It's all in how open minded you want to be. For most of us we were born fearless and risk tolerant. We should work hard to not lose it along the way.

If you are interested in booking me to speak at your meeting or conference please email  Zan Jones.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Book Review: Great by Choice, Reviewed by Zan Jones

Jim Collins' new book Great by Choice (which he co-authors with Morten Hansen) made for a fun Thanksgiving break read. Susan had family in town last week and so I asked if I could review the book for her. If you enjoyed the book Good to Great then you will like this follow up. I enjoyed it more than his most recent book How the Mighty Fall...And Why Some Companies Never Give In, which we reviewed a few years ago.

The most poignant quote is in the Epilogue and the entire book disproves this idea:

"We sense a dangerous disease infecting our modern culture and eroding hope: an increasingly prevalent view that greatness owes more to circumstance, even luck, than to action and discipline - that what happens to us matters more than what we do." 
One thing I've noticed about Collins' books is that his examples of great companies sound so simple. Duh, you should be disciplined. Duh, you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket. Duh, you should hire the right people. But every example is backed up by extensive years of research and analysis. It makes me wonder - could it be that simple to be great?
Companies called "10Xers" (pronounced "ten-EX-ers") are identified. These are companies who outperformed their industry index by at least 10 times during the specified 20 year period. Here are surprises about 10Xers:

They're not more creative.
They're not more visionary.
They're not more charismatic.
They're not more ambitious.
They're not more blessed with luck.
They're not more risk seeking.
They're not more heroic.
They're not more prone to making big, bold moves.

But all 10Xers share these 3 core behaviors:

1. Fanatic Discipline
Weaving in a great example of Fanatic Discipline is the story of 2 teams of adventurers who, in 1911, set out to be the first people in modern history to reach the South Pole. One explorer used the "20 Mile March" where he over prepared, trained in multiple ways for years, carried additional supplies even though they weighed more and paced his team by stopping at a certain time even on good weather days so the team could rest. One explorer wasn't as successful because he used new and untested equipment, carried just enough supplies and pushed his team to exhaustion on good weather days.

The premise of the 20 Mile March is to create 2 kinds of discomfort:
1. The discomfort of unwavering commitment to high performance in difficult conditions.
2. The discomfort of holding back in good conditions. Good intentions do not count.

Companies such as Southwest Airlines, Stryker, Intel and Progressive Insurance are examples of how the 20 Mile March creates consistency within companies even in turbulent times.

2. Empirical Creativity
On the flip side of discipline is creativity. The 10X companies validate their creative ideas with empirical evidence. Collins and Hansen say to, "Fire bullets, then cannonballs." A bullet is a low cost, low risk test of the market. Once a bullet has hit the target then you fire calibrated cannonballs to take the market by storm.

A good example is Apple's iTunes and iPod for non-Mac computers. Neither were new market categories. Apple developed the iPod first as a better MP3 device than already existed. The next bullet was iTunes for the Mac. The next bullet was Apple's online music store. With cumulative proven success they were able to fire the calibrated cannonball: iTunes and iPod for non-Mac computers.

A bad example is Southwest Airline's comparison company, PSA. In 1968 PSA launched the cannonball called "Fly-Drive-Sleep." It seemed to make sense. People who use airlines will also need rental cars and hotel rooms. PSA moved into both the hotel and rental car market by signing 25-year leases on California hotels and buying a rental car company and expanding it to 20 locations with 2,000 cars. Instead of firing bullets and buying just one hotel or partnering with a rental car company to test out markets, PSA went big. "Fly-Drive-Sleep" lost money every year and was the beginning of many uncalibrated cannonballs that led to PSA's eventual demise.

3. Productive Paranoia
"As soon as there is life there is danger," is what Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote. 10X companies know they cannot predict the future and so they prepare ahead of time, obsessively. Planning for the worst case scenario, contingency plans, determining what is out of their control and how to minimize exposure to such forces gave the 10Xers their advantage. Unexpectedly, 10X companies took fewer risks than their comparison companies yet produced superior results.

My favorite chapter:
The final chapter in the book was the most interesting. It takes an in depth look at luck and "Return on Luck (ROL)."  Both the 10X companies and their comparison companies experienced good and bad luck. A single stroke of good luck cannot make a great company. But a single stroke of bad luck can create a catastrophic outcome. 10X companies had just as much bad luck as their comparison companies. But the fact that they had fanatic discipline, fired bullets and then cannonballs and planned for worst case scenarios helped them emerge from unlucky situations even stronger.

In the end, Collins and Hansen concur that it may not be simple to become great - but we are all free to become great by choice.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What To Do When You Have a Secret

Have you ever been afraid you might get in trouble at work for reporting something bad that you are told to keep secret? A horrible secret was revealed last week with Joe Paterno and Penn State. Secrets also come out during presidential campaigns and in some companies when someone leaves the company. As a psychologist I hear secrets and private information all the time. Many times when I'm told a secret, it's the first time that person has revealed it to anyone. 
There are many secrets that can be serious and harmful. No one should take this subject lightly. Harmful secrets like those about abuse, addiction, neglect and dishonesty define people and their outlook on the world.
Use these Smart Moves when you have a secret and you will Stay in the Smart Zone:
  • Secrets can bring happiness.  Think of a surprise party your friends are planning or a gift someone is about to receive. My friend Julie gave her 14 year old daughter a surprise party this past weekend but someone spoiled it and her daughter found out (Darn!).  Maybe a friend is expecting a baby and waiting for the right moment to tell the news.  Most people will agree, these are secrets you should keep. 
  • Secrets give you perceived power over someone else. "I know something you don't know - nana nana boo boo." This may sound like elementary school but you and I know that grown-ups do this, too. Think about it. Even at work knowing secrets can give you an edge over your coworkers or competitors. This type of power can be dangerous and even illegal. Proceed with caution. 
  • Secrets give you Brownie points. Telling secrets can elevate your status with friends and coworkers. Think about how you feel when someone reveals a secret to you. Letting others in on your secret gives them a stronger connection with you and vise versa. It can sometimes build trust but it can also build suspicion. Me, I tend to err on the side of caution. Brownie points sometimes are really not worth it. 
  • Secrets can cause anxiety. Keeping a secret often prevents people from dealing with the problem at hand and creates more stress. Revealing secrets is very helpful when it is done in a safe, non-judgmental environment. It helps people let go of an issue and think about it more clearly.
  • Confidence in your confidant. We tell secrets because we trust others not to reveal them. Remember Deep Throat in the Watergate scandal? In reality, people are pretty likely to tell your secret - even if it's just to their spouse or best friend. It's human nature. Have confidence in the person you confide in. 
  • Know the Smart Zone Secret. If you have attended my presentations you know I always end with the Smart Zone Secret which is to take the focus off yourself. Now that is a secret worth telling!
Secrets can be harmful and can abuse power. Secrets can sometimes make a person feel special. Err on the side of caution and learn from others' mistakes. I like the kind of secrets that make a person feel special because many times that gesture is returned. Now that is a great way to Live Smart by Living in the Smart Zone.

Monday, November 7, 2011

5 Ways to be More Productive in the Smart Zone

A few weeks ago I ran the first 5K I've run in a long time. Many of you know I trained triathletes in my undergraduate school years and used to be quite the "Work Out Queen." But now I'm more of the "At Work Queen" and my running days have been shortened to fast gym workouts and early morning dog walk jogs.

Sam at 5K Run
I ran the race with my youngest son Sam and my oldest Alex. I actually had to stop running and walk part of the race. I was really disappointed when I had to stop and walk. But after walking a few minutes and catching my breath I was able to start back up and finish the race running strong.

This is such a metaphor to how a day can be. It starts off productive and then something happens to break your stride and your productivity all goes to "Hell in a handbasket," as my oh so sweet grandmother, Ga Ga, used to say. Just because you get derailed in the middle of the day doesn't mean you can't course-correct.

People in the Smart Zone use their emotional intelligence to get back on track. Know your weak spots for when you are about to get derailed so that you finish your day running strong. Use these 5 Smart Moves to get more done this week:
  1. Sleep in your work-out clothes. It's so difficult to get out of a warm bed for morning exercise but a morning walk or jog will help you feel better the rest of the day. Eliminate the step that keeps many of us from getting out of bed by sleeping in your work-out clothes. Keep your shoes, your water bottle, and your keys by the front door for an added time saver.
  2. Clean off that desk. When I'm having trouble concentrating or getting things done it often helps to focus on a single mindless task. Your brain doesn't have to work so hard and you'll feel a relaxation response in the rest of your body. Plus, having a clear work space means you actually accomplish one thing that day! 
  3. Don't try to make use of the time you save. Managing your time is really about managing your energy and attention. Resist the urge to cram in more "stuff" when you've found a way to save time. Instead use the extra time do something creative, read or just sit (it really is okay to just sit!).
  4. Stop obsessively checking your emails and text messages. Guilty! With 3 kids in 3 different schools and 2 businesses to run, I can get caught up in checking on everything. If you've read any books on productivity then you know that checking email at prescheduled times each day will help you get more done by not getting bogged down.
  5. Sit up straight and open the blinds. Be mindful of your posture and the light in the room. Bad posture causes your body to work harder to oxygenate your blood which makes you feel tired. Poor lighting causes you to strain and causes "tired eyes."
I'm so glad that Sam, Alex and I participated in the 5K together. They enjoyed it and so did I. We plan to do more. So much more works out the way you want it to when you work in the Smart Zone.

By the way, I reveal how I "do it all" in this Leadership Plano Alumni article. You'll also learn my nickname!

I've also listed a few more Smart Moves in this article on how to manage your emotions under pressure in the Fall issue of the Texas Credit Union League's LoneStar Perspectives magazine.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How to be a Smart Zone Guy in Relationships

I was speaking at a conference in Atlantic City recently and during the banter of my presentation (okay, sometimes we get off topic), I gave a tip about Valentine's Day for men. Apparently that tip proved valuable since I've gotten a few emails telling me that what I had to say made sense. I'll take that compliment.

In my presentation I was talking about "forethought" and "intention" and how important it is in work relationships. People you manage and your coworkers don't always remember what you say but they ALWAYS remember how you make them feel.
I used a more personal example to make the point and it seems I gave advice that was better than that of Dr. Phil (yikes!). I told the audience, made up mostly of men, that flowers on Valentine's Day mean less if a man goes on the day, to the tent, in the parking lot of their local grocery store, and buys flowers for his sweetheart - sometimes not even having to get out of his car. It is not the flowers that count. It is the forethought and intention in giving the flowers that will lead to sweetening the relationship with a sweetheart.

Valentine's Day is on a Tuesday in 2012. That means that a man has the opportunity to order flowers to be delivered on Monday morning, February 13, for his sweetie if she's in an office. That way, when they are delivered, she is envied by all when she gets flowers EARLY so she can enjoy them all week long. It shows forethought and intention that someone had to think ahead and realize that an early delivery is better for making someone feel special just like a new kid bringing cupcakes to school the first day.

Deviating from my usual business advice, here are tips for men on how to be a "True Smart Zone Guy" in relationships (you can thank me later ladies):

  1. Make sure you look at her when she talks to you. Do you believe some people need to be reminded? This is a good reminder for men and for women at work and at home. That means keep the iPhone, Blackberry or Android in your pocket and resist the temptation to check it multiple times during your conversations.
  2. If you are good at being nice to everyone, then the woman you are with will need to know that her relationship with you is different from the rest. I've had couples dating and married couples talk about needing to have their partner bump it up a notch in their primary relationship. This isn't usually about jealousy or insecurity. It's about continuing to differentiate your main relationship with relationship dynamics that create a "we'ness" with behaviors and not just words. Consider for yourself how this can be beneficial in your work environment with your business partners, clients, and members of your team.
  3. For some men, texting and emailing are good enough for communication. Oh no. Say it isn't so. The spoken word or even a handwritten note still carries a punch when it comes to making a valuable deposit in a relationship.
  4. Make sure you introduce your girlfriend or wife (you better not have both or there will be much bigger problems) to people by her first name, rather than just her title of "wife" or "girlfriend". Men don't overlook this on purpose. They tell me that many times it doesn't occur to them and they don't mean it as an insult. It is just an oversight. Well - the way you prevent oversights (which my friend Amber and I think are poor excuses) is you get intentional and "engaged" in your relationships - both personal and in business. Find out if your relationship could be heading for destruction.
  5. Even though you might be a good problem solver, not all problems need to be solved. Sometimes women talk about a dilemma or a challenge and all they want is to get it out so they can solve it, not to have it solved by someone else. Acting in the role of problem solver in a relationship, ultimately can make a man seem controlling or unemotional. Most men that I meet are not controlling and are pretty good at emotions. But, over time, when men take on this role of problem solver, they shape their image in a way that sometimes is at the expense of a woman being able to have room for her own successes and mistakes.
I know the men at the conference in Atlantic City last week understand these points and are already fully functioning in their relationships. The banter during my presentation brought to light ways that a man can not only be Mr. Nice Guy, but also he can be a Hero by using forethought and intention. Valentine's Day isn't for four months but it is worth thinking about now...and isn't that the ultimate in forethought and intention guys? More importantly, it will help keep your relationship functioning in the Smart Zone.

Friday, September 30, 2011

What Rude People Won't Tell You

When someone is rude to me I sometimes wonder what I've done to provoke the rude behavior. Then I think, "Why am I feeling bad? THEY were rude to ME - and not vice-versa."

Last week I experienced rudeness from a radio host who invited to be interviewed on his show. The show found me because they saw me on FOX 4 Nightly News discussing the recent "SpongeBob SquarePants " research study. By the way, I want to clarify that everyone at FOX 4 is wonderful and is always extremely respectful and great to work with! If you missed the FOX 4 segment, here's the footage:

The radio personality (a nationally known talk radio host that I won't reveal - but if you are on my Facebook page you saw me mention him) was planning to discuss the study on his show and learned that I had appeared on TV discussing it. He invited me for a radio interview and then proceeded to ask me questions and mute my responses. He was rude throughout the interview both on and off the air.

At first I thought I may have been partially responsible. Later I found out he was trying to get a whole different message across using his own children on the air. Then I learned that his staff of 15 has been reduced to 3, which is why I was provided with so little information ahead of time.

It seems like it might be "in" to be rude. Reality TV is full of rude people and people find it entertaining. (Oh, but I do love Survivor!). And some TV sit-coms use funny/rude humor. In reality, being rude means you lack emotional intelligence in the areas of self-awareness and empathy.

Here's what rude people are really telling you:

  • I have a problem that I don't know how to solve. To deal with a rude person, acknowledging his/her problem or point of view is sometimes all that needs to be done. Whether or not you solve the problem, just showing concern and making a goodwill effort to make things better does some good emotionally.
  • I'm not confident in my abilities. This is what we see in bullies. People with high self-awareness are naturally confident. They exude charisma, are likeable and often inspire confidence in those around them. On the flip side, extreme lack of self-confidence can show up as arrogance and rudeness. 
  • I'm depressed. When a person is clinically depressed they have an intense inner focus that can cause them to appear selfish. When you see someone being rude because they've "had a bad day" or are "really tired" you may be seeing depression. Depressed people are so focused on how they feel that they are unaware of how their emotions affect others. Watch for warning signs of suicide.
  • I've disengaged from people. It's easier to be rude in an email or on Facebook than face-to-face. When people are rude to you in these mediums hold them accountable for their actions by communicating with them on a higher level. For example, if you receive a rude email pick up the phone and call the person. I just had a patient today tell me how her recently divorced daughter found out that the ex-husband posted atrocious, untrue stuff about her on his Facebook page. Yikes. Some people don't mind being so rude in such a public arena. I say: "DEFRIEND IMMEDIATELY". It's true, Facebook can make you sick.
  • I'm uninformed. Talking loudly on your cell phone around others, strong cologne, disturbing someone who is concentrating at work, and allowing your children to continually misbehave in public are all ways people show rudeness. Many times people are unaware of how their actions are perceived and, quite frankly, they don't know better. When you know better, you do better.
Stay in the Smart Zone by taking the focus off yourself. Acknowledge rude behavior for what the rude person isn't telling you.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Suicide: Warning Signs & How to be Helpful

A suicide is horrible for everyone.  When we lose a youth to suicide it can be even harder to cope with. When I heard about the recent suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer it brought to mind how it can be difficult to identify warning signs of suicide.  Here are a few warning signs:

  1. Threatening to hurt or kill him/herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself.
  2. Looking for ways to kill him/herself.
  3. Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person.
  4. Increased substance use (alcohol and/or drugs).
  5. No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life.
  6. Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time.
  7. Feeling trapped – like there is no way out.
  8. Hopelessness.
  9. Withdrawing from family, friends, and society.
  10. Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge.
  11. Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities,seemingly without thinking.
  12. Dramatic mood changes.
On my website I have a suicide article that discusses the facts and how to be helpful.

Watch to see if your child is participating in online forums like formspring.com that allow kids to make comments anonymously.  I was interviewed on FOX 4 News about this website.  Watch the segment here.

Also, if you'd like a few tips about how to bullyproof your children here is another FOX 4 segment on the topic.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Watching SpongeBob SquarePants Doesn't Mean You Aren't in the Smart Zone

"Fast-paced, fantastical television shows such as 'SpongeBob SquarePants' may harm children's ability to pay attention, solve problems and moderate behavior, according to a US study published Monday," was what prompted FOX 4 to invite me to their station last night to comment on the study.  Click here for the full study on LiveScience.com.

Personally, I'm more concerned with the content of TV programming versus the pace of the screen changes.  But I do believe that good sleep hygiene dictates that fast-paced TV programs or even video games shouldn't be watched/played at bedtime because the brain then has a hard time resting.  Here's the video of what I had to say about it last night on FOX 4.

I'd even make the argument that TV isn't good for kids to watch at bedtime regardless of the program.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Do You Remember What You Were Doing on September 11, 2001?

I remember what I was doing on September 11, 2001 and I bet you do, too.

I was getting my kids ready for school. They were still pretty young so only one was in elementary school. I remember being glued to the TV and feeling incredible fear about what would happen next. I stayed home that day and held my kids tighter than normal. My neighbor was at her daughter's dance class after school and a man got angry at her over a parking spot. He chewed her out and later keyed her car. The world seemed unsafe, unpredictable, and angry. It was an unsettling feeling.

Just like my parents used to tell me the story of where they were when Kennedy was assassinated, the story of where I was on 9/11 is one I will tell my children. Retelling the story is a coping mechanism that enables us to be more resilient.

Staying in the Smart Zone is NOT about the crisis you are facing, it's about how you think and respond to the crisis.

People in the Smart Zone are resilient. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back, to get up after you're knocked down, and to improve yourself after a tragic incident. Let September 11, 2011 give you a sense of renewal and resiliency in your personal and professional life using these Smart Moves:

  • Reframing. This is the process of shifting from the cup half empty to the cup half full. Some call it serendipity. We have all had bad experiences in our life. When something goes wrong look carefully at your reaction, learn from the experience and do things differently the next time.
  • Make Work a Calling. In his book, The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People, David Niven, Ph.D. says "If you see your work as only a job, then it's dragging you away from what you really want to be doing. If you see it as a calling, then it is no longer a toiling sacrifice. Instead, it becomes an expression, a part of you." What can you do to find meaning in your work? How can it become an expression of who you are?
  • Be a Little Organized. A recent study showed that people who claim to have "very neat" desks reported spending 36% more time looking for things than people claiming to have "fairly messy" desks. This implies that there is a productivity cost to neatness. While it isn't realistic for everything in your life to be completely organized, it is imperative that you develop structured approaches to manage the unknown. Be focused on your life goals to head off potential barriers.
  • "Expect Things to Work Out Well," says resiliency expert Al Siebert, Ph.D. Worrying about failing increases the likelihood of failure. For example, a salesman who is so concerned about his falling sales that he can't bring himself to pick up the phone guarantees that his sales will fall even further. When optimists interpret events, 8 out of 10 times they see the positive aspects. Last week a reporter interviewed me about my "Meredith experience" on my first day working for Dr. Phil and how I expected things to work out well.
  • Express the Right Emotions Openly. The shift in our culture to becoming more compassionate can be tricky at work. Since 9/11 I think we all feel more compassionate and are able to share emotions more outwardly. Click here to read what this reporter has to say about crying at work. Keep in mind the same emotion that causes crying can also cause yelling. Sometimes it takes more courage to cry than to yell. If you tend to be a "yeller" watch my video on how to handle anger instead of hiding from it.
Just for fun take this Resiliency Quiz to find out how resilient you are.

If you let a crisis define you, then it will be in control of you and affect almost everything you have in your life. If you manage the crisis and don't let it define you then you will have an opportunity to grow because of it. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to School & Your Pocket Book

I enjoyed being a guest on the Texas Credit Union League's radio show "Your Money, Your Matters" this morning. If you missed it you can listen to the broadast here:

Some of the things we discussed are:
  • Child care and back to school expenses.
  • Discussing your fear and anxiety over money in front of your kids.
  • Ways to teach your children about money without projecting your anxiety onto them.
  • How to teach your children to be responsible but not feel guilty over money that is spent on them.
  • Ways to manage guilt because you don't have money to give your family certain perks.
  • How to handle lending money to a "career borrower" when you learn he/she never intends to pay you back (a.k.a. "being duped").
Thank you Rick, Linda, Mark and Courtney for having me on the show!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Top 5 Ways Not to Be the Biggest Loser

I was excited to meet Jillian Michaels at a conference where we were both speaking recently. She is known as "TV's Toughest Trainer" on the TV show The Biggest Loser. Check out how "tough" she looks in this picture!

Even though she is tiny she packs a big punch with her enthusiasm and colorful language. She is likeable in person and very authentic. You know exactly where you stand with her and she is comfortable in her own skin. (She even wore flip flops during her keynote address!).

On her show being the "Biggest Loser" means you are in the Smart Zone. But in reality being in the Smart Zone means you are not a loser.
One of my favorite quotes by Stephen M.R. Covey is:

"We judge ourselves by our intentions
And we judge others by their behavior."

No one intends to be the biggest loser but our behavior can make us look like it.  Here are 5 Smart Moves to prevent you from being the biggest loser.

  1. Be the same in public and in private. Some people are better at acting than others. It's better to be transparent than to be fake. When people can count on you being the same in private as you are in public, they'll trust you to be who you say you are. They'll also trust that what you say today will be consistent with what you will say tomorrow.
  2. Don't use knowledge as a weapon. Have you ever worked with someone who set you up to look like a loser because they had information you didn't have? Setting up others to look like a loser makes you more of a loser. If you have information that will help your boss, subordinates, coworkers, or clients then share it with them. 
  3. Be physically attractive. Sounds superficial, but it's true. Social psychology shows that attractive people tend to draw attention and are judged to be smarter, kinder, more honest and more approachable (a.k.a. "not a loser"). This applies to how you dress and your tone of voice. If you smile while talking, even while leaving a voicemail, people are more likely to respond to you.
  4. Have the ability and be willing to use your power & knowledge to help someone else. You become less of a loser when you are able to help someone else solve his/her problems. Even better, help someone without the expectation of anything in return. 
  5. Be loyal to others when they're not present. At work, your alliances may change, and someone who's your peer today could be your supervisor or manager tomorrow. People will trust you when they have confidence that you can be trusted when they're not present, and that may not happen until they experience you behind the backs of others. To keep from becoming a loser don't gossip or speak for other people. Encourage communication between two people instead of triangulating yourself into the communication of others.

Stay in the Smart Zone and you won't be a loser.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

How to Handle Back to School Jitters

School starts for most schools in Texas next week and many children (and parents) may be feeling anxious about going starting back. I have 3 sons and they are going to 3 separate school campuses this year. In fact, one of my boys is going to a brand new school. Yesterday I was interviewed on the FOX 4 Good Day Show about ways to have a "Smooth Start Back to School." Click here to watch the segment.

Be mindful that the anxiety you feel as a parent can fuel your kids' anxiety. The best way to minimize anxiety for your children on the first day of school is to turn things that are "unknown" into things that are "known" by visiting the classroom ahead of time, discussing the routine on the first day including school drop off and pick up expectations, and setting out clothes and backpacks the night before.

A few other tips for the first day of school:

  • Decide with your child the night before what will be for breakfast the next morning.
  • Resist the urge to hang around after dropping your child off. Keep the drop off short to discourage tears from both of you! If your child appears to be tearful try to help him/her become interested in talking to other kids or in an activity at drop off. Lingering around can make it more difficult.
  • Be early. Arriving late makes everyone anxious.
  • Always say "Good bye" and set the expectation for when and where you will see your child after school.
  • Watch for older siblings who may think it's funny to tease younger siblings about the first day. Ask older siblings to help make the transition easier.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Emotional Intelligence Used Productively by Fortune 500 CEOs

I just read this article by Chip Conley called The Top 10 Emotionally-Intelligent Fortune 500 CEOs.  Emotional Intelligence is the basis for staying in the Smart Zone so I was intrigued to see who Mr. Conley selected. 

On his Top 10 list (in alphabetical order) are:

  • Jeff Bezos (Amazon.com)
  • Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway)
  • Ursula Burns (Xerox)
  • Jamie Dimon (JPMorgan Chase)
  • John Donahoe (eBay)
  • Larry Fink (BlackRock)
  • Alan Mulally (Ford)
  • Indra Nooyi (Pepsi)
  • Howard Schultz (Starbucks)
  • Ken Thirty (DaVita)
Mr. Conley points out the 4 cornerstones of Emotional Intelligence which are self awareness, self management, social awareness and relationship management.

Conversely, people with high Emotional Intelligence can also be exceptionally poor leaders. They can be bullies who intimidate the workforce and create fear-based environments. The same Emotional Intelligence qualities that enable people to motivate people can be used negatively to intimidate people. And it can be similar to the effects of beer. Watch this video where I explain how Emotional Intelligence is like beer.

The Top 10 CEOs have channeled their emotional intelligence in a productive manner. And actually most people do. It's also worth noting that you can improve your emotional intelligence with practice. Who knows - you could be the next CEO in this list!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Could You Have Compassion Fatigue?

Last weekend I spent a good part of Saturday in Waco, Texas talking to heroes. I was asked to spend time with them because they are at great risk for what we call "Compassion Fatigue."

While they don't wear capes or have an "S" on their chests, I believe they have hearts like no other. Over 100 foster parents with the Methodist Children's Home gathered for their annual meeting and awards ceremony. I call them heroes because they provide a stable home environment to kids in crisis who need their love and affection. They change lives and inspire families to do right by their children. They are exposed to domestic trauma and they can't help but get involved emotionally.

If you work in patient care, as a financial advisor, with the court system, or you manage other people who come to you needing support, then you are likely to experience the emotional pain of others every day. People who use empathy in their daily work are at risk of having the symptoms of burnout affect their professional and personal life in severe ways.

When you listen to stories of fear, pain and suffering of others you can easily leave the Smart Zone and suffer from Compassion Fatigue. Compassion Fatigue is also thought of as Secondary Post Traumatic Stress.

Once Compassion Fatigue sets in, the pain of others takes up your mental energy and eventually everything in your life can go dull. It can seem like nothing is fun anymore and you can feel burned out. If you would like to see me discuss ways to add happiness to your life, click here to see one of my FOX 4 appearances.

How do you know if you are suffering from Compassion Fatigue?
  • Mistakes go up and job performance goes down.
  • You can't stop thinking about your job or the problems of others.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  •  General feeling of weariness.
  • You don't feel like doing anything - you feel blah.
  • You feel less satisfied, less energetic and less efficient.
  •  Click here for a longer checklist.
Who is vulnerable for experiencing Compassion Fatigue?
  • Those with empathy skills as primary in their job.
  • Those who work with others regarding highly personal issues such as medical treatment, financial or legal matters, mental health, etc.
  • Those who have themselves experienced traumatic events.
  • Those with unresolved trauma.
  • Those who deal with trauma in children.
  • Those who have underdeveloped Emotional Intelligence.
What are Smart Moves to prevent Compassion Fatigue? 
  • Keep an engaged workforce.
  • Provide a supportive work environment.
  • Improve training.
  • Handle on-the-job victimization.
  • Increase Emotional Intelligence & use it productively.
What are Smart Moves to cope with Compassion Fatigue?
  • Increase Emotional Intelligence.
  • Identify disrupted schemas/beliefs about your job.
  • Maintain a personal life even if you don't feel like it.
  • Use personal psychotherapy.
  • Identify healing activities such as exercising, reading or calling friends.
  • Tend to your spiritual needs.
  • Arrange for personal supervision/accountability.
  • Develop professional connections.
  • Develop a balanced work life.
  • Remain aware of your goals.
  • Modify your physical setting or work space.
  • Arrange for adequate resources to do your job.
  • Create an atmosphere of respect.
Thank you again to the fine folks at Methodist Children's Home and to Jennifer Gregory for inviting me to Waco after seeing me present at a previous conference in San Antonio. You are changing children's lives. Take care of yourselves so you can keep it up as heroes to those kids.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Casey Anthony is Scheduled to be Released from Jail on Sunday, July 17

Casey Anthony is scheduled to be released from jail on Sunday and several people have asked me my opinion of the situation. I recorded my thoughts on what I think she'll do in this video:

My iMovie audio is out of sync with the video. Hang in there - this is short. I'm a psychologist not a techy! :) Thanks for watching it!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

5 Surprises About AD/HD in the Workplace

Do any of these statements apply to you?
  • "I know what I want to say but I can't get the words out."
  • "I have trouble getting the little things done each day."
  • "I get really frustrated when I have to wait in line." 
  • "People accuse me of lying but I'm don't lie." 
  • "Crowds and noisy places bug me." 
  • "My teachers didn't like me in school." 
The above statements are what adults I have diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) have said to me as I interviewed them during my evaluation. I was recently interviewed by D Magazine for an article called "AD/HD in the Workplace."

Approximately 5% of the adult population is estimated to have AD/HD. It wasn't long ago that AD/HD was seen as a childhood disorder where symptoms were thought to disappear with the onset of puberty. Clear scientific evidence shows that AD/HD continues into adulthood. While most adults were diagnosed as children, there are many adults who are undiagnosed.

Symptoms of AD/HD that you probably already know are:

  • Difficulty concentrating and paying attention to details.
  • Trouble sitting still for long periods of time.
  • Short fuse.
  • Putting things off.
  • Tardiness.
  • Forgetfulness in daily activities.
  • Getting criticized for interrupting people.
  • Being disorganized and having a messy car, home or office.
  • Starting projects without thinking through the steps.
  • Failing to finish tasks.
  • Click here for a longer checklist.
Adults with AD/HD are more likely to:
  • Buy on impulse and have trouble saving money.
  • Receive speeding tickets.
  • Be involved in car crashes where they are at fault.
  • Smoke and/or use drugs.
  • Exhibit road rage and aggressive driving when angered.
  • Get fired or quit a job out of boredom.
  • Be disciplined on the job by a manager or supervisor.
  • Have higher marital dissatisfaction although not a higher divorce rate.
    Here are 5 surprises about AD/HD:
    1. AD/HD does exist and is not a conspiracy by scientists to medicate people. It is a real medical condition that is biologically based.
    2. AD/HD is not simply a lack of willpower.
    3. Bad parenting does not cause AD/HD. However, studies show a genetic predisposition for AD/HD within families.
    4. Adults with AD/HD are not stupid or lazy. Recent studies reveal that people with AD/HD actually tend to have above average intelligence but it does not show because of the AD/HD.
    5. AD/HD can be treated without medication. New research indicates that you can improve brain functioning with direct, deliberate practice. This is called neuroplasticity. Relaxation, concentration and other self management exercises can improve the ability to sustain attention in some people.

    Before starting any medication you should be properly diagnosed. Anxiety, depression or learning disabilities can be disguised as AD/HD. In my clinical practice I use the Quotient/ADHD System to assess for AD/HD in children, adolescents and adults.

    To stay in the Smart Zone learn more about AD/HD. If you think you might have it, get tested by a qualified professional. It could help you refocus your career and personal life.

    All assessments for AD/HD should be comprehensive and also assess for emotional factors and the influence of present stressors. Your quality of life, your effectiveness at work and home, and your relationships can benefit from knowing if you truly have the disorder.

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    How to Answer: 'What Have You Been Doing Since You Were Laid Off?'

    I enjoyed being interviewed by Kaitlin Madden for this article. She makes great points about how to answer the question about being laid off in a job interview.

    AT&T - How to Answer: 'What Have You Been Doing Since You Were Laid Off?'

    Also, if your spouse has been laid off here are a few tips from one of my previous blog posts for helping him or her deal with the change.

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    How to Stay in the Smart Zone

    I enjoyed being interviewed by Colette Harrington for her show "Sweet Carolina" on WLCN while I was in Charleston, South Carolina a few weeks ago. We talked about the Casey Anthony trial, balancing work and family life, emotional intelligence and how to stay in the Smart Zone.  Click here to watch it.

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    6 Ways to Keep Meetings From Getting Off Track

    Check out my #1 tip for keeping a staff or board meeting (or even a family meeting) on track. Click here to watch the short video:

    Many of you know my Director of Client Relations, Zan Jones, who books me to speak at conferences around the country. She has worked with me for 6 years.

    When she first began working with me I noticed she would sit quietly in meetings. She has an outgoing personality so this surprised me. When I asked her about it she shared how one of her bosses in her prior corporate job used to attack people personally in meetings and embarrass them horribly if they made statements he didn't agree or that weren't 100% accurate. Because of this she was guarded about what she said in meetings.

    Think of all the good ideas Zan's boss missed out on because people were afraid to speak up. If her boss had focused on the issues rather than the people his meetings may have been a more productive.

    Stay in the Smart Zone by using the following Smart Moves for keeping your meetings at work and at home on track:

    1. Focus on what is right rather than who is wrong when dealing with confrontational issues. Address issues, not personalities. Ask "What" and "How" questions instead of "Why" questions. Ideally the conversation style should be open with quick and honest communication.
    2. Take it offline. It's okay to acknowledge issues that aren't on the agenda and tell the person voicing the issue that you'd like to discuss it after the meeting.
    3. Hug the Tree. This is the concept of sticking to the main point in a meeting. Think of the tree representing the topic and the tree branches other tangents. When having group discussions don't allow the conversation to go off point by discussing an old issue or something unrelated. Avoid "war stories" from the past that take the discussion off track. I discuss how to hug the tree in this video.
    4. Recognize what high emotions mean. Regardless of personality type, as long as a person is communicating with high emotion, he or she does not feel understood. And before someone can trust others he/she must first feel understood. Without trust among meeting members there will be suspicion within the group and less cohesion. Click here for a short video on emotions and trust where I talk about this in more detail.
    5. People will behave differently in a meeting setting than they behave one-on-one. Peer pressure and intimidation affect how people interact in a group. Be cautious about calling on a new person in the meeting unless you've given him/her a heads-up beforehand. What is no big deal to you could be really embarrassing to a new person.
    6. Set a time limit and start on time. Not only should a time limit be set on the meeting itself but time limits should be set for each agenda item. This will keep the meeting moving and forces the meeting leader to be organized. Staying on one topic too long or not knowing when the end is near will send your meeting attendees to browsing their Blackberries. Consider starting a meeting at odd times. In his book, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, Verne Harnish says to start meetings at a time like 1:07 pm vs. 1:00 pm. He says that irregular starting times are more memorable.  

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Sex Before 16 and Divorce Rates

    A recent study from the University of Iowa suggests that women who have sex too early in life may be more prone to divorce.  I was asked to comment on this study this week on CW 33.  Watch the segment to learn more.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on this study. It would seem that other causes/effects should be considered - demographics, religious faith, marital status of parents, etc. What do you think?

    The Emotion Behind Money and Spending

    If you missed the Texas Credit Union League's radio show this week where I talked about staying financially responsible even when emergencies occur you can listen to the broadcast  here.


    Listen to internet radio with Texas CU League on Blog Talk Radio

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    How Not to be the Cause of a Workplace Accident

    I still get chills thinking about what happened a few summers ago. Several friends and I were sitting around the pool while our kids were swimming. If you are like me, you do a mental head count every few minutes when watching kids swim.

    All of a sudden one child was missing because he had slipped under water in the hot tub where no one could see him. Sitting closest, I yanked him out of the water. After a few coughs he was fine and back to swimming. But I wasn't fine and neither were the other parents. We still talk about the close call years later.

    The same close calls happen in our homes, on the way to work and on the job every day. But if a close call hasn't happened to you recently, you may be getting complacent about safety.

    June is National Safety Month and there is a spike in workplace injuries in the summer - especially in construction and manufacturing industries. I was shocked to find out that the frequency and severity of accidents is actually highest among the most experienced workers because they become too comfortable and less aware of potentially hazardous surroundings. Click here to watch this video where I discuss this fact.

    An injured employee hurts profitability. Not only is the injured person suffering from his injury but surrounding co-workers are left to pick up the slack during the injured employee's absence. Companies in the Smart Zone use their emotional competency to stay self aware and manage themselves to stay safe. Here's how:

    Provide Training that Pays Off. In one study supervisors in a manufacturing plant received training in emotional competencies. They learned how to listen better, how to help employees resolve problems on their own, how to empower and inspire others, and how to become more effective personal leaders.

    After training:
    • Lost-time accidents were reduced by 50 percent
    • Formal grievances were reduced from 15 to 3 per year
    • The plant exceeded productivity goals by $250,000

    Boost Confidence in Your Organization. People who feel insecure in their jobs are more likely to ignore safety procedures at work than are people with greater job security, according to a study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. This study goes on to say, "When people are told layoffs will occur, production numbers go up, but safety compliance and product quality suffer." As a result, workplace accidents and injuries increase. If employees don't trust you or the company then safety compliance suffers.

    Delay Immediate Gratification. "Being safe (feels like it) wastes time," is what field supervisors at a major building products company tell me. It's true that attending a safety meeting, putting on your seat belt, taping down an extension cord or stretching your muscles all take time. But I bet you never worried about the time it took to put a life jacket on your child at the lake? Preventing an accident is significantly less timely that dealing with an accident.

    Know your Blind Spots. In a study of highly successful executives the following blind spots led to less self awareness:
    • Unrealistic, or unattainable, goals
    • Compulsively hardworking to the point of burnout
    • Drives others too hard
    • Insatiable need for recognition
    • Power hungry
    • Need to seem perfect

    If you have these personal characteristics it can lead to a higher risk of you getting hurt both on and off the job.

    Use Empathy to Motivate. Empathy is the awareness of the feelings, needs and concerns of others. Build employee buy-in for safety compliance by having workers commit to safe work practices for the sake of their own families.

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Why You Should Leave Work on Time Today

    I know people who are addicted to anxiety who work themselves into a frenzy- and not just because I'm a psychologist. You probably know people like this, too. They are chronic multi-taskers, over-committers, Blackberry-reading, Energizer bunny types who work long hours. While they may be exciting to work with, they are also easily agitated and prone to meltdowns. Recently I was interviewed for a Channel CW33 TV segment on anxiety addiction. Click here to watch it.

    Like any addiction, the anxiety/frenzied addicted person feels they "need" to feel anxious and busy even though they don't "like" the feeling. If you recognize this in yourself or you know someone who is like this, you will especially like this newsletter because it will help you become more effective. Believe me when I say that people in the Smart Zone are able to manage their emotions and leave work on time.

    Keep in mind these Smart Moves to help you be more effective and leave work on time today:

    Are you tired by 3:00 in the afternoon? Eat a late afternoon snack that is low fat and high in protein like nuts, yogurt or a small tuna sandwich. A high protein snack stimulates the brain's neurotransmitters that promote energy and alertness.

    Are you just waking up by 3:00 in the afternoon? Eat a late afternoon snack that is high in carbs but low in fat and protein - like a granola bar, fresh fruit or a bagel. This type of snack jump-starts the amino acid in the brain that promotes a relaxation response.

    Master the ability to end conversations that are not productive: If your day includes having people come by your office to shoot the bull and at the end of the day you wonder where the time went, learn to monitor your downtime at work. When you have to make a phone call to someone who could keep you on the phone too long, say up front, "I only have a minute but I wanted to get back to you before this afternoon." That sets the expectation that the call will be short.

    Devote Your Energy to the Task at Hand:  Make a point of focusing on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking moves us out of the flow. Don't have an important conversation with a coworker while making copies at the copy machine. Put away your Blackberry while working on a task. Turn the volume down on your computer so you don't hear your emails pinging. Immerse yourself in whatever you are doing.

    Look at but don't answer email in the morning:  I can easily use up a lot of time and energy early in the morning by getting lost in my email without realizing that I'm negatively setting the pace of the day. Review emails in the morning but get in the habit of setting aside a dedicated block of time to respond. Stick to the schedule and you will avoid getting lost in email adventures that misuse your energy and attention.

    Just for fun, watch this short video on why you should leave work on time today.

    Sunday, May 29, 2011

    How to Manage Mom Guilt

    Recently Fox 4 Good Day invited me to discuss Mom guilt. Click here to watch the segment.

    Here are a few of the tips we discussed:

    Take time for youself:  If your needs aren't met you won't be able to meet the needs of those that need you most. Set your alarm to wake up 30 minutes before everyone else in house so you can enjoy your morning shower and cup of coffee in peace. Whether it is grabbing a cafĂ© mocha at your favorite coffee place, going to dinner with a friend, getting a pedicure or reading a favorite book, schedule in time each day, week and month for you.

    Secure and maintain quality child care.  Knowing that your children are in the best hands while you're at work will give you the confidence you need to be productive while you're away. Take time to get to know who is caring for your kids and develop a relationship with your child care provider.

    Delegate, delegate, delegate.  Assign tasks to others when you can. Perhaps you can't afford to hire a full-time housekeeper, but you can afford to have someone come in once a week to do the ironing. Consider what tasks you can delegate to others so you can have more time in your day for your family.

    Establish your "Momtourage."  Become familiar with the people, places and things in your community that can make your life easier. Do your grocery shopping online after the kids go to bed and have it delivered. Choose a drycleaner that picks up and drops off. The less time you have to spend on tasks, the more time you have to spend with your family.

    Manage your expectations.  You can't be all things to all people. Once you're able to grasp your limitations, you're better able to manage your expectations. Perhaps you can't be the weekly classroom volunteer, but you may be able to be the snack mom or assist the teacher in other ways.

    The truth is all moms, working or not, will at some time or another experience mommy guilt. The key is to manage it so that you can evaluate your choices based on what's best for your family.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    5 Ways to Kill Trust

    I love the new Fruit and Maple Oatmeal at McDonald's! And even though McDonald's almost always gets my order correct when I drive-thru I have a habit of double checking my order before pulling out of the parking lot. Do you do this? I know it irritates the people waiting behind me but I've learned what can happen if I don't double check my order. The short iMovie video below is an example.

    In Stephen M.R. Covey's book The Speed of Trust he states that, "When Trust goes up, speed will go up and costs will go down. Conversely, when Trust goes down, speed will go down and costs will go up." In my case, my lower Trust of the drive-thru reliability reduces the speed at which I leave the parking lot.

    The following are Trust Killers that can take you or your organization out of the Smart Zone:

    1. Acting "Large and In-Charge" by making sure everyone knows you are at the top of the pecking order. Trust is established whenever even the lowest paid or lowest ranked employee feels part of the team. This applies to your household, too. Aloof management is a trust killer. Stay in the Smart Zone by knowing the names of your employees and co-workers, honoring their family and personal beliefs, treating others with genuine respect, and giving credit where credit is due.
    2. Using incentives that aren't pure. One of my clients worked for a company where the team was financially rewarded for achieving zero accidents in a year. Did this encourage people to work safer or actually provide an incentive not to report accidents? This same principle applies to projects where the team is rewarded for an increase in sales or a decrease in costs. Make sure the incentive rewards the desired result fairly.
    3. Being inconsistent. I believe we judge ourselves by our intentions but judge others by their actions. Be mindful of what you say you are going to do and do what you say! No exceptions. People become confused by inconsistency. Keep these 13 Behaviors of Trust in mind to help with consistency.
    4. Lying. Duh! But people can lie inadvertently. They may misjudge their own abilities and make a promise they aren't physically or mentally able to keep. Telling half-truths or withholding necessary information is the fastest way to kill trust. The best way to rebound from this breach of trust is to right your wrongs quickly. Admit what happened, take responsibility for what you did and apologize. Check out these 2 words every CEO hates to say.
    5. Losing your sense of humor. Have fun! Laugh at the stupid things you do (believe me, your co-workers will!). You may feel the need to blame others for your silly mistakes or to get angry. But people will trust you more if you embrace the fact that we are all human. Think of the immediate sense of closeness you get with someone when you share a nice hearty laugh. For that moment it's like you are in sync with each other's thoughts.
    Stay in the Smart Zone by keeping in mind that, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it," according to Warren Buffet. People in the Smart Zone use their minutes wisely.

    If you are interested in booking me to speak at an upcoming meeting or conference please click here or email my Director of Client Relations, Zan Jones.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    What I Want to Tell Maria Shriver

    Watch this video to hear what I want to tell Maria Shriver. (The video and audio are out of sync - a glitch when uploading iMovie to YouTube. Hang in there because it's less than a minute long!)

    Young women and men everywhere are watching you. We know you will respond with style and substance. It's not what happens to you. It is how you respond in the face of disappointment. We know you will do your children and family proud in the next few days.

    Saturday, April 30, 2011

    Emotional Spending: Who Does It, Why & How Can You Stop?

    This week I enjoyed being a guest on Texas Credit Union League's internet radio show were I discussed emotional spending with co-hosts Rick Grady and Todd Mark.  Click here if you'd like to listen (it's about 1 hour long) or you can download it to listen later.

    Listen to internet radio with Texas CU League on Blog Talk Radio

    In addition to having a lot of fun with Rick of  Texas Credit Union League and Todd of Consumer Credit Counseling Service, here are some of the items we discussed:

    People and organizations in the Smart Zone have control over their emotions and are able to better manage the impulsivity that leads to overspending. Smart Zone communities create a high trust environment that is free from suspicion and blame.

    Why do emotions fuel excessive spending?
    Emotional spending occurs when you buy something you don't need, or even really want, as a result of feeling stressed out, bored, under-appreciated, incompetent, unhappy, or any number of other emotions. In fact, we even spend emotionally when we're happy. For example, I bet you bought yourself something the last time you got a raise.

    When does emotional spending occur?
    It occurs when we are trying to:
    • Improve or maintain a mood.  We think by looking forward to our new purchase we will feel happier. “I will be so happy wearing these new shoes!” Initially when we buy something we DO feel better and this can condition us that to feel better we need to buy something.
    • Cope with stress.  Spending is used to self-soothe and help you feel calm but it can actually backfire on you and, as I say, it can fill your bucket.
    • Deal with loneliness.  We think buying something will help fill the void in our life.
    • Improve self esteem.  We think our purchase will make us a better person or look better to others.
    What are ways to control emotional spending?
    • Avoid impulse purchases.
    • Limit your temptation.  For example, if the mall tempts you then find another way to enjoy an afternoon.  If you are tempted to buy more when hanging around a certain friend or relative then try to find less expensive things to do with them (like going for a walk, cooking dinner or drinking coffee).
    • Don’t shop when you are feeling emotional.  If you are feeling bummed out at home don’t get on the internet and go shopping, for example.
    What is Severe Overspending and how do you know if you are doing it?
    For some people, shopping is much more than a pastime - it's actually an addiction called oniomania. While it may not seem like a dangerous addiction, many of the psychological characteristics of compulsive shopping are identical to those of chemical dependency.

    What are characteristics of extreme emotional spending?
    • Buying more than you can afford
    • Getting a rush when you make a purchase and then feeling anxiety and guilt later
    • Going on a shopping binge where you way overspend
    • Taking a second job to accommodate your out-of-control spending
    • Having items around the house you never use that still have price tags on them
    • Fights with your spouse over your spending

    Thursday, April 28, 2011

    Top 5 Truths a Marital Therapist Might Not You (or Will & Kate)

    On a recent windy day here in Texas, my son Sam and my dog Sophie helped me reveal a few juicy things about marital therapy. In this video I reveal 5 tidbits that most marital therapists will never tell you.


    There are tons of misconceptions about marital therapy. Many times people wait up 7 years to seek treatment for their issues and by then there is a lot of work to be done.  

    Being in the Smart Zone means you are working to the best of your ability, emotionally, intellectually, and behaviorally. Even though marital therapy isn't a requirement for staying in the Smart Zone I think the following is worth revealing.

    Here are some truths I give people when I see them in marital therapy and a few tips Will and Kate might appreciate on the eve of their wedding.

    1. Always go to bed angry. I believe it's a myth that you should always make up with your spouse before going to bed. You are tired at bedtime and trying to settle a dispute when you are tired is futile. Plus, sleep is a great stress reducer. I say, "Go to bed - you're tired!"
    2. Fighting is a good sign. One indication that couples are in trouble is when they aren't engaged or talking to each another. Indifference to each other tells me a marriage is in big trouble. At least couples who are fighting are interacting. Couples who care enough to fight still care about each other.
    3. Communication isn't the most important thing. Talking about your feelings and making "I" statements doesn't solve problems. What's more important is the way couples respond to each other after an argument in order to build your relationship and make it stronger.
    4. Don't try to resolve issues. Some issues just aren't resolvable. For example, Easter and Passover were in April this year. Fighting over different spiritual beliefs is not a resolvable issue. Repairing your relationship should be the focus. Acknowledge that your differences exist in a satisfactory way rather than trying to get your spouse to see your point of view at the expense of the relationship.
    5. Every marriage is saveable. Both people have to be committed and it will be a lot of work. But it's worth repeating that - every marriage is saveable.

    Wednesday, April 20, 2011

    How To Deal With Anger Instead of Hiding From It

    Traditional ways to manage anger don't always work. Watch this video for better ways to manage anger that that will make a difference and how you can get anger under control.

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    The Celebrity Apprentice Freak Out - How to Control Anger in a Tough Situation

    I have seen anger.  I've worked with people who have been victimized, couples whose marriages have suffered extensive damage, and various people coping with trauma.  Anger is an emotion that communicates a lot to other people but it may have incredible consequences to the person who feels it and expresses it.  Did you see the anger displayed by Meat Loaf on the Celebrity Apprentice a few weeks ago?  Click here to watch it.

    Anger can contaminate your gut, create shaky emotions, and push people away. It is the extreme to being a "Debbie Downer." I enjoy reality TV because I can watch it and I don't have to process, defuse, or redirect anyone. But when I saw Meat Loaf on Celebrity Apprentice recently loose it with Gary Busey, it was a bit uncomfortable, even though I was just a spectator...sitting on my couch...eating ice cream...with my kids.

    Being in the Smart Zone means you are working to the best of your ability, emotionally, intellectually, and behaviorally. The Smart Zone is where you display well developed Emotional Intelligence. When the tirade during Celebrity Apprentice happened between Meat Loaf and Gary Busey, it was a classic example of an exaggerated response. Meat Loaf was way, way out of the Smart Zone. He was freaking out.

    We all would be lying if we said we haven't had an exaggerated response ourselves. We have all freaked out before. We just flew under the radar because it wasn't on national TV. Next time you feel like Meat Loaf, here are some Smart Moves that will keep you from freaking out and help keep you Living in the Smart Zone:

    • Try to feel your toes: I don't mean literally. You start bending over when you are angry and people will really be worried about you. Instead in your mind, concentrate on what the bottom of your feet feel like and get your breathing under control. I'd tell you to walk away but many times you can't. I'd tell you to count to ten, but that isn't enough. Concentrate on your feet and get your breathing under control.

    • Identify your one key message you want to communicate: Often when people are really angry, they say way too much. Sometimes people don't make sense. Do you want to say, "What you are doing is unfair" or "I'd like to suggest an alternative to your proposal" or "How can we work together to find a solution?" It is like a sound bite on TV. You will benefit from identifying the main message you want the other person to hear as their take away.

    • Keep it short: Especially in a work environment, don't let expressions of anger be a tirade where you go on and on about whatever it is you are upset about. But don't be a pigeon either. A pigeon is someone who swoops in and drops ammunition (my mother will appreciate my censoring this) and then immediately flies away. If you do that when you are angry then you will condition people to be fearful of you when you appear (just like I'm fearful with seagulls being fed French fries on the beach when I am visiting my hometown of Clearwater Florida).

    • Check your emotional temperature: If people in your circle of trust have told you more than once that you don't have control of your anger - believe them. It is very difficult for each of us to know how we actually come across to other people when we feel emotions of anger. If you have been told that you can be "scary", "like a bully" or "out of control" when you are angry, you will benefit from taking responsibility for the perceptions that other people have of you. Each of us is a bad judge of how we come across when we are angry, even if your intentions are good let yourself get caught up before reacting. 
    Let's all hope that Meat Loaf learned something about himself when he watched how he acted on Celebrity Apprentice. It was a bit of a mess, even if his reaction to Gary Busey was justified.

    If you are interested in booking me to speak at an upcoming meeting or conference please click here.