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Thinking about Thinking

Thoughts on thinking about thinking from the Raising Thinkers Series

 

Emotional Intelligence Part 1: The Neuroscience Of Emotions

Tremaine du Preez

Tremaine du Preez for the Huffington Post and the Coaching Club

Emotional intelligence is no longer simply about understanding and managing our emotions. Neuroscience continues to reveal the origins and impact of our emotional language, giving us clues as to how to wield emotions intelligently in both our personal and professional lives. But before we can use EI as a tool we need to understand emotions; how they are generated and affect our thinking, decision making and actions.

Here's a brief introduction to the neuroscience of emotions - what we know today. 

What are your emotional red flags? Coach Tremaine du Preez helps you explore your emotional language and lay the foundation for the 3rd domain of EI: emotional regulation.

Want the rest of the series delivered to you?

Subscribe on Youtube to Coaching Club TV for the rest of the 4-part series on Emotional Intelligence or sign up for our monthly newsletter here. 

3 Small Steps To Being More Resilient

Tremaine du Preez

Tremaine du Preez for the Huffington Post and the Coaching Club

In this post you won’t be inspired by the resilience of someone who has overcome devastating trauma. As much as I am deeply humbled by these incredible human beings - my life, perhaps like yours, looks a little different, a little more ordinary. Yet it is still incredibly messy with lots of moving parts, unfolding in a system that I have little influence over. In short, my life is completely normal.

Almost. As a serial expat, entrepreneur and business coach I find myself increasingly exploring resilience as an antidote to the unexceptional stresses and challenges that I, and my clients, face on a daily basis.

 

RESILIENCE DOESN’T COME NATURALLY

Resilience is our emotional immune system. Like your physical immune system, we only really think about it when flu season hits and our throat starts to tickle. The strength of our immune system relies on our genes, our average level of stress over time, diet, exercise and how healthy we believe ourselves to be. You read that correctly - our beliefs about our health have been found to be a key component of how healthy we actually are *.

Like our immune system, resilience is built up over time. Every challenge we overcome has the potential to better prepare us for the next. But, unlike our immune system, this doesn’t happen automatically. We must choose whether the really bad days break us down or build us up. A lot easier said than done, I know. So to help you, here are some ideas to pack into your resilience starter pack.

 

1.    LIE WELL, LIE OFTEN

The mind-body connection is a hot topic of mainstream research at the moment, for good reason. It turns out that being able to deceive yourself is an essential component of being resilient. Highly resilient people truly believe that everything will work out OK in the end. You may have grown up with mom or dad always saying: everything will be fine honey, and now you say that to your children and they believe you and pick themselves up and carry on. The truth is that we don’t know if it’s going to be fine but the belief is enough to motivate us to move through adversity.

Such (ungrounded) positivity actually flushes our brain with the feel-good hormone, serotonin, and strengthens connections in the left prefrontal cortex. Along with serotonin, a strong neural activation in this area of the brain is our most powerful weapon against the ravages of stress.

Clearly Shakespeare was ahead of his time when he penned the line: “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. (Hamlet)

 

2.    KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT THE EVENT AND THE EVENT IS NOT YOUR LIFE

I’m no Pollyanna, I’ve been around the block too many times, but putting setbacks into perspective and not allowing a small set of bad things to influence how I feel about the rest of my life, or even my day, is working well as part of my resilience training. But only if I actively remind myself. I have to say: This thing (insert; traffic fine, losing account to competitor after working on it for six months, bad presentation, losing someone I love) is not my whole life, only a part of it.

There’s even a ‘scientific’ ratio for this. Apparently if we have a 3-to-1 ratio of positive to negative experiences on a daily basis we’re set to thrive. I’d hesitate to quantify life in such a narrow frame but I do know that our beliefs about the setbacks that we face affect our overall wellbeing.

 

3.    FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL

As a coach I spend most of my time helping clients think differently about the issues that vex them. It’s no secret that believing that the bad stuff is fixed and unchangeable results in learned helplessness. If we can adjust our frame, even slightly, to find those areas where we have some influence, we can move from feeling powerless to proving that we are not.     

Susan had been asked to speak at a conference but she’s terrified of the spotlight, knee-shaking, sweaty-palms terrified. A voice coach was duly called in to ‘help’ her. He correctly pointed out everything that was wrong with her ability to present and left her with instructions to present morenaturally.

But Susan has no ‘natural’ way of presenting. I began working with her two days before the conference. She had learnt her presentation by heart and was not prepared to veer from her carefully crafted sentences and accompanying slides. She was also not prepared to distract herself by thinking about body language. She wanted to present better but had already resigned herself to the fact that she couldn’t. Even a small change would throw her off. We stared at each other for quite a while as her words settled on the conference room like dust.

How could I help Susan?

Rhythm! The one thing that she could change without throwing her off were the words that she emphasised and the position and timing of pauses. This lead to the realisation that she could present more naturally with just a very small change. It put her in control and changed her entire outlook on the forthcoming conference.

Of course (without knowing if it was true) I had Susan believe that she would be just fine on the day – and she was!

Resilience is a huge and powerful topic, which I’ve only just touched on here. I’ve had several requests to spend a bit more time on it and so I’m delighted that our Coaching Club© Club Lunch for February will explore this topic in more detail. International coach, graduate of the School of Positive Psychology, expert in resilience and all-round superwoman, Maria Kassova, will join us and share her tools for increasing your resilience quotient.

Check out our Members’ Lounge Page on 15 February 2016 for the full interview.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110301122156.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/nov/13/nocebo-pain-wellcome-trust-prize

Tremaine du Preez is an executive coach, Huffington Post Blogger, Bayt.com blogger and lecturer in Critical Thinking, based in London. Her book Think Smart, Work Smarter - a practical guide to making better decisions at work is available from AmazonHer next book Raising Thinkers will be out soon.


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Copyright @ The Coaching Club 2016

3 Secrets to Achieving Your Toughest Goals in 2016

Tremaine du Preez

I’ll get straight to it; less than 10%* of us are set to achieve our new year’s resolutions this year. Every year I remind readers not to set these sparkling little goals on their horizon for the year, not because I’m a jaded, cynical old bat but because I’m a coach and know that setting processes instead of objectives is the best way to make lasting change. I’ve written about that here, if you need a refresher.   

But what happens when setting processes isn’t enough, when your dreams are bigger and riskier than losing weight or learning interpretative dance? Here are some inside tips that us executive coaches use when conventional goal getting isn’t working as advertised for our clients.

When thinking about the change or the goal you’re after it's easier and more fun to focus on what you want and how life will change when you have it. This is unhelpful if the reality of achieving something significant is never addressed. A bit like going to a Motivational Mega Conference and leaving all pumped up to 'go get it' but not knowing what to do when 'getting it' brings unforeseen challenges.

Once you know what your goal is, take some time to explore these simple questions:

1. How much am I prepared to fail before I succeed? 

Really fail? 

Sir James Dyson worked through 5,126 failed prototypes of his revolutionary vacuum cleaner along with 15 years of savings. Stephen King’s first novel was rejected 30 times. Katy Perry was dropped from three music labels before she became the teenage dream. How did each of these failures feel at the time? The first one is usually the hardest, after that, if you’re paying attention, you get better at failing.

I have a chart on my study wall that I’m very proud of. It lists how many times my book manuscripts have been rejected before being published. My goal is to get at least 50 rejections before I even think of giving up or doing a complete rewrite. (Yup, it’s a sticker chart for failure.) If you remove the emotion from a rejection then each one becomes a source of information. (Except for the one I received on 25 December 2014. Who sends pithy rejections notes on Christmas day!?)

If you can establish upfront how much pain, frustration and old fashioned failure you are willing to invest in pursuit of your goals then you are already improving your odds of ultimately achieving them. Decide how many rejections, failed prototypes or cheating days on your new diet you can withstand before you give in. Quitting then becomes a choice not an emotional reaction to circumstances.

2. What beliefs do you need to let go of, give up or stop doing in order to realise your goals?

Are your beliefs about yourself tripping you up? To be a better public speaker many people have to give up the belief that they can’t present or release their fear of being judged as not good enough. Before you can write that children’s book you’ve always dreamed of, you’ll have to give up the idea that it’s just a silly dream of yours. Desperate to lose weight and be healthier? You may have to give up the idea that you will be judged if you say no to a glass of wine or that giving up smoking will be bad for your social life. 

The last question is the clincher.

3. What happens if you don’t succeed … ever? 

If you never lose weight or lower your blood pressure, don’t get that degree, give up on getting your novel published, never start your own business or spend even less time with your children this year? Never, ever, make the change you want? If you plot the effects of giving up on your dream say over 1, 5 and 10 years you should have all the motivation you need to dig deep and find the resilience you need to push through.

Finally, it takes courage and clear thinking to look past the glitz and sparkle of a shiny new year and focus on the small steps needed to move towards your goal, anticipate the challenges and failures you are likely to encounter and then set aside a reserve of resilience to meet those obstacles. And once you get the hang of failure, nothing can stop you, truly.

*Source: University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Research Date: 1.1.2014

The Coaching Club is launching in March 2016. We’re currently discounting our private client coaching rates as we set up our new HQ in London. Email hello@coachingclub.co.uk to find out more.

Tremaine du Preez is an executive coach, Huffington Post Blogger, Bayt.com blogger and lecturer in Critical Thinking, based in London. Her book Think Smart, Work Smarter - a practical guide to making better decisions at work is available from AmazonHer next book Raising Thinkers will be out soon.

The terrorism talk - what every parent should know​

Tremaine du Preez

If you're a parent of enquiring minds you've had to face the terrorism question. If you're lucky it was only, What is a terrorist?. If you're less lucky you had to satisfy,What is ISIS? and if you're downright unlucky, your offspring demanded an explanation for, Why does someone kill for ISIS? Honestly, I'd rather have the S.E.X talk than this one.

I've had all three questions and more. My initial reaction was to quote the news of the day and Mr John Kerry in particular with; They are psychopathic monsters.Replacing psychopathic with 'evil' to fend off further enquiry. That about covers it, doesn't it? They're the bad guys - end of story.

I'm not a scholar of terrorism, politics or religion but if that truly was the end of my explanation, I would be failing in my efforts to raise a child that is capable of reasoning with a curious and critical mind. A mind open to the possibility that we are not helpless in the fight against terrorism nor indeed the bully next door.

How can we discuss the frightening yet inscrutable concepts of terrorism with our children? As a parent you know that your beliefs will shape your children's beliefs and actions, which will ultimately shape tomorrow's neighbourhoods and societies. Helping children understand an evil that is foreign yet right in our midst is a contemporary parenting imperative.

So how do you explain the inexplicable to impressionable minds? No matter how true it is, telling your children that terrorists ar 'psychopathic monsters' will engender even more fear and more helplessness against the 'bad guys'. Showing our children instead that the problem has a caus, and therefore a solutio, will do the opposite. In critical thinking we call this a thought experiments and, with the help of expert knowledge, it goes like this:

Q: What if we knew what makes an ISIS fighter?

What if we knew that ISIS fighters who had been interviewed in prison are generally ignorant about the religion and politics of their paymaster, that they know little of it's most extreme requirements? What if we knew that the average age of a fighter is 27, with 2 children. That they came of age in a war torn Iraq during the American occupation that began in 2003. As teenagers they couldn't go out to parties or even have girlfriends. Many of them grew up without fathers. They blame the Americans for this and leaving them in the middle of a civil war where food, safety and shelter were scarce and fear was plentiful. Violence a way of life. For many of them, fighting for ISIS is seen as a way to avenge that. To take action and not wait for someone else to do it on their behalf.

Armed with information like this, we have a way of making the truly incomprehensible, comprehensible. As uncomfortable as it is to think and talk about, we can only change what we understand.

Q. What about the big question? What is ISIS?

What if we knew that ISIS was formed around ancient texts called the Prophetic methodolog. Texts that followers are not allowed to question, for to question them would mean certain death. These medieval texts were written at a time of war when brutality and bloodshed were the norm. Experts like Bernard Haykel tell us that the Islamic State is trying to recreate these earliest days and reproduce its norms of war. They want to create a ast empire filled with loyal subjects who abide by their extreme laws. Much like Hitler and his Nazi party, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people who disagree with their beliefs. They see the world in black and white. Their propaganda tells us that they categorically reject peace and aim to bring about the apocalypse in all of its headline hyperboles, even if it means their own destruction. Perhaps this is why we find them so hard to understand yet their propaganda is clear and available.

Q. Why do they commit acts of terror?

It would seem that terrorism is their way of making us (their enemy) feel afraid. They hope that fear will create intolerance and hatred, driving a wedge between different religions and people. Perhaps they've been watching Star Wars' reruns and know that hatred is the path to the dark side. If we are weak, full of hatred and focused on what divides us more than what unites us as people we will be easier to conquer.


Q. Am I powerless to help?

While the the leaders of the free world go to war against ISIS, hunt their leaders and stop young people from traveling to Syria to join them, what can we do? We can fight a movement that is closing young minds to the beauty and potential of a free world by opening our children's minds to their own power. This means giving them information and tools to think critically, to probe and dissect confusing information and the permission to question everything. verything.

Because physical freedom is nothing without freedom of thought.

Sources
1. Lydia Wilson's report at www.thenation.com/authors/lydia-wilson/
2. Graeme Wood's study of 'What ISIS Really Wants' as published in the Atlantic, March 201
3. Bernard Haykel, the foremost secular authority on the Islamic State's ideology.

Tremaine du Preez is an executive coach, Huffington Post Blogger and lecturer in Critical Thinking, based in London. Her book Think Smart, Work Smarter - a practical guide to making better decisions at work is available from AmazonHer next book Raising Thinkers will be out soon.


Choosing Happiness When It Doesn't Feel Like A Choice

Tremaine du Preez

Experiencing change or loss is often out of our control but how we respond to it isn't 

A ginger fox trots casually past my study window; his brazen daylight excursion signalling colder nights and food that’s harder to find. Changes that he simply takes in his stride. As a serial expat who’s lived in 4 countries across 3 continents in 7 cities and over a dozen homes, change is a large part of the undulating life that I have chosen. Neighbourhoods, schools, work, climates, routines and faces change every few years along with the things that get broken and go missing every time.

Our most recent move from Singapore to London - codenamed Operation Winter - had been planned for two years and when the time came, we felt ready to transition again - excited actually. But three months into the move things went horribly wrong with the loss of a loved one. Someone small and helpless and so dear to us that our hearts broke wide open. We moved into our new home not knowing which shelf to put our sadness on, or where to find the smile we needed for the new neighbours or the inspiration to start new jobs.  

As a coach I often work with loss and change and the tremendous stress that these two partners impose. I knew how to work through this with a client but I had no will to do so myself. Instead I withdrew into a small, solitary routine where I could be heartbroken without being judged. 

My partner was going through exactly what I was, but he didn’t have the luxury of withdrawing, of saying that everything was fine when it was not. After some weeks I noticed that this man, who had faced the greatest change and deepest loss of us all, was not giving in to it. He stayed stubbornly optimistic about the future. Not because he wasn’t hurting but because he had made a choice to focus on those things he could control in his life and make peace with what he couldn’t. When I was ready to listen he told me how. 

Happiness is a choice

So is being angry or sad or staying positive when there is no logical reason to be. An emotion is a chemical (hormone) signal that our body produces in response to certain stimuli, after the initial response has passed it’s up to us to consciously perpetuate the feeling or let it go. My partner chose to hold on to the happy memories of our little loved one and focus on moving through the transition while I dug an emotional well so deep it became difficult to climb out of.

Moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting

Honouring your life and your own future is not selfish. Moving forward with all the joy and the laughter that you shared with your loved one but not the pain that their loss brought, will not harm them or their memory. Forgive them for leaving, forgive yourself for grieving. Refuse to stop seeing the beauty that persists in the silent morning mist, the new neighbours that take time to wring a smile out of you before they head off to work, the unprovoked kindness of strangers and the fact that the earth refuses to stop turning despite your best efforts. 

Your pain is directly proportioned to your loss, no-one else’s

The European refugee crisis has shrouded the news’ headlines throughout our move. I see the agonising, inhumane conditions that these mothers, fathers and children face and admonish myself for the effort I have put into maintaining my own sadness. There will always be someone with less and someone with more money, joy, pain and suffering than I have. To compare pain like postcodes was not going to make me feel better about it just better off than someone else. If I honour my pain instead and know that my loss was enormous to me then I can move forward having fully loved, lost and grieved.

Connect with Tremaine here:

Tremaine du Preez is an executive coach, Huffington Post Blogger and lecturer in Critical Thinking, based in London. Her book Think Smart, Work Smarter - a practical guide to making better decisions at work is available from AmazonHer next book Raising Thinkers will be out soon.




Two Simple Secrets to Getting More Out of Your Time

Tremaine du Preez

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives."

~ Annie Dillard, The Writer's Life 

In my coaching practice I have an unusually high number of clients right now who feel unfulfilled, time-constrained and doing what's expected of them rather than what they want to do with their life. The year is not panning out the way they thought it would way back in January. Personal projects are lagging, dragging or even sidelined. And the reason I hear most often is that they simply don't have time for personal pursuits. They thought they would, but they really don't.

So I tell them this story

Some time ago my family decided to give up watching TV. We were so committed to this that we handed back our set top box - gulp. This was as hard to do as it sounds, especially over school holidays. Why would any family deny man's evolutionary right to waste away in front of scheduled programming? The short answer is that we were tired of never finishing our personal projects. "I just don't have time" had become our mantra.

So we took the plunge and channelled our evening down time into personal pursuits. I wrote a middle grade children's book (that I'm immensely proud of) in nothing more than 1/2 hour slots 3 nights a week over 3 months. Was I exhausted and wanting to chill in front of the tube, or Facebook, with a shiraz after hours? Yes, initially, but when I saw my story coming together and the real progress I was able to make - writing time with a glass of red became my after dinner treat that I wouldn't trade for anything.

What's your thing? Not everybody is a writer. A client of mine has been trying to get his personal travel blog out of his head and onto the web for three years. Three years! Is he super busy with a 100 000 air miles a year job? Does he have 6 kids? No - 1 child, normal working hours and an inability to say no to the many requests that come his way.

1. Good decision making is the first key to good time management 

Do you really need to be reminded that every hour you invest in something that doesn't fulfil you is an hour less invested in your dreams?

I challenge you to find a successful person who makes bad decisions about how they invest their time. Making hard decisions about how you spend your time is the ultimate investment in yourself. Would you hand over all of your monthly earnings to anyone that asks for cash? I'm guessing you wound't. Like me, you'd probably make sure that your financial commitments are honoured before handouts and charity became a possibility.

Our time is our greatest asset yet we often take less care with how we spend it than we do our cash.

There are lots of useful time managements tools, plans and strategies, I teach many of them. But good time management is not much more complicated than a successful diet.

You can't expect to maintain a healthy weight if you don't eat healthily. Healthy eating isn't about taking time to count calories, designing complicated quinoa dishes or spending Saturday mornings at health food stores. A healthy diet is about making good choices in the moment when you are faced with a take out menu, or during the weekly grocery shop.

We all have 24 units of time, everyday, but we make different decisions about how to spend it. Choosing to spend 1/2 hour on Facebook at night or on the novel that's well outside of your comfort zone but burning you up from the inside, is a decision that only you can make.

2. Weed out and scale back on quick-win projects

I'm guilty of pursuing those quick jobs that I can easily tick off my list. At least then I can look back at my day and say, "I got so much done - all the admin, all the chores, dry cleaning, emails, expenses. Boy I'm busy." These are quick win projects that fill our time and fulfil our need to be productive. Could you rather leave the washing on a Wednesday and take that language class that's been on your bucket list since before bucket lists were a thing?

After all, how you spend your day is your decision. Your days become your years and those years can't ever be relived.

Follow Tremaine to receive Monthly coaching tips: 

Tremaine du Preez is a behavioural economist, Huffington Post Blogger and lecturer in Critical Thinking, based in London. Her book Think Smart, Work Smarter - a practical guide to making better decisions at work is available from AmazonHer next book Raising Thinkers will be out soon.

Your CV May Be Holding You Back - Here's How To Fix It

Tremaine du Preez

CV's Are On Their Way Out, Faster Than You Think

In February 2015, French cosmetics giant L’Oreal was faced with 33, 000 applications for the 70 places available in their Chinese graduate recruitment scheme. At the thought of combing through 33, 000 CV’s their recruiters decided that it was time do things differently. Don’t send us your CV, they announced, we won’t read it. Instead they directed candidates to 3 online questions to complete instead. Here’s one of those questions compliments of the BBC and L’Oreal: "If you had one month and a 25,000RMB budget ($4,000; £2,570) to tackle any project your little heart desired, what would you do?" 

There was no call for the name of the school applicants graduated from, their chemistry scores, language proficiency or greatest hopes and biggest failures. The answers to three of these questions in 75 words or more, where analysed by artificial intelligence and suitable candidates were ranked in terms of the qualities most desired by L’Oreal. Only 500 of the initial applicants were invited for Skype interviews thereafter. L’Oreal’s recruitment director confessed that CV’s don’t give insight into what they are really after in students – raw talent.

Your CV Is A Hard Place To Prove Soft Skills?

Raw talent is top of the hiring agenda for forward thinking employers the world over. I’m guessing you didn’t have Raw Talent classes along with Corporate Finance and Mergers and Acquisitions sessions back at your B-School? So what is raw talent? Is it really that important and how can you prove to the employer of your dreams that you have it?

The latest Bloomberg Recruiter Report helps us understand what raw talent is and gets specific on the skills recruiters want but find hardest to get from newly minted MBA’s. Strategic thinking, creative problem solving, communication and leadership skills are on the top of their hit list. Not only are thesethe hardest qualities to come by but also the hardest qualities to convey in a two-dimensional CV. These are all high-level thinking and behavioural skills that aren’t function specific at all - this is raw ability. 

A further flip around online job sites tells us exactly what high-level thinking and behavioural skills mean to some of the world’s most successful and best companies to work for. 

In 2014 Accounting firm Ernst and Young were looking to fill approximately 16500 positions. Apart from technical skills and fit with company ethos, what were they after? Their recruiters were honing in on individuals with a passion for problem solving and the ability to tackle complex issues and generate insights. A global mindset is also essential to work across borders in their connected organisation. 

Intel is looking for innovative talent. Recruits that can spark new thinking that will lead to new ideas. KPMG wants to see candidates that are able to use social media to their advantage. In Australia, National Managing Partner, Susan Ferrier confessed that soft skills were now valued more than technical ability. Soft skills are the new hard skills, she said. In a world where knowledge is constantly changing and ever easier to access technical skills are losing their value. She feels that the ability to collaborate, solve problems creatively and authentically lead people already matters more. This is particularly important ant if you don’t have years of experience.

How Multidimensional is Your CV?  

A traditional CV is a hard place to showcase soft skills. Submitting nothing but a standard document to a recruiter is also not going to help you stand out from the ever growing, globally mobile, well-educated crowd. Here are some tips that will help you create a multidimensional, cross platform CV.

Firstly, decide on the soft skills that you can legitimately lay claim too. If you have a hair-trigger temper or feel invisible in meetings then you can’t claim emotional intelligence or the ability to influence others - you’ll soon be found out by a web savvy, beady-eyed recruiter. The key here is to highlight skills that you can easily demonstrate.

Start with your online presence because this is where a recruiter will go first. Do you have an digital footprint that backs up your soft skills claims? 

KPMG recommends that you post comments on twitter to show your expertise, have appropriate recommendations on your LinkedIn profile and participate in chat forums of professional interest. Use these forums to showcase your ability to solve problems or influence others - be the voice of reason in a heated debate or bring new insights to old ideas. Then be sure to mention this participation on your CV. Why? Because a recruiter will go straight there. You are saving them time.

Secondly, when you ask for recommendations on LinkedIn be sure to outline what skills you’d like the recommender to mention. For example: “Eileen, it would be great if you could mention how I was able to keep a cool head under pressure and rally the individual strengths of our team members on our last project together.” 

I get dozens of requests for recommendations from students and clients but most of them are bland and generic. It is much easier for me if you tell me exactly what you’d like me to mention - better yet, write something up that I can copy and paste into your recommendation!

Lastly, remember that recruiters see hundreds, if not thousands, of CV’s. Always ask yourself: “How can I make mine stand out?” Do you have a good idea for a new product for the company looking to hire? Do you think you can improve on a service they are offering or raise revenue in a smart way? 

Can You Prove Yourself Even Before A Job Interview?

Your ideas may not be fantastic or even feasible but they don't have to be. The fact that you already have ideas and can communicate them effectively tells a recruiter a great deal about your ability to solve problems creatively and communicate solutions. A coaching client of mine had an interesting and novel product idea for a financial company. She was looking to change jobs but preferred not to work through recruiters. She researched which companies had a gap in their product line up that could benefit from her idea. She then sent hardcopy letters introducing herself and explaining why her idea would work for each of the companies she had identified. There were 7 in total – all addressed to the CEO and sent to the company address listed on their website. Within 3 months, 2 product development specialists had contacted her and one made her a fantastic offer that she simply couldn’t refuse. Yes, it was a lot of work, but she completely removed herself from the slush pile of faceless, generic CV’s that HR departments face everyday. She really stood out and it paid off.

 

Stand Out - Let Your CV Work For You

If soft skills are the new hard skills, think about how you can communicate your talents in this area. Create a new category on your CV right under ‘Tertiary Education’ or ‘Employment History.’ Show what soft skill programs you have attended or discuss what soft skills you ‘are known for’ and how you use these skills in your life. Why you feel they are important and how you intend to develop them further. 

If an employer calls for the ability to take risks, show them you can do this by making your CV different or creating an accompanying online video showcasing your greatest failures! If they call for the ability to influence others, use the language of influence blatantly in your wording.

The traditional CV is a relic of the pre-electronic age, it seems to be going the way of big hair and platform shoes as it retreats into the ever lengthening shadows of the digital world.

You can no longer afford to be a subject matter expert and nothing more. You are a business and your career is the product of how you position yourself across different platforms as well as the risks that you take. Your CV should reflect this in a way that is as unique as you are.

Follow Tremaine to receive Monthly coaching tips:

Tremaine du Preez is a behavioural economist, Huffington Post Blogger and lecturer in Critical Thinking, based in London. Her book Think Smart, Work Smarter - a practical guide to making better decisions at work is available from Amazon. Her next book Raising Thinkers will be out soon. For more Thoughts On Thinking see her blog at http://www.tremainedupreez.com/thoughts-on-thinking/ where this post first appeared. 

Don't Tell Me To Calm Down - The Worst Advice To Give When Someone Is Angry

Tremaine du Preez

Don't Say - Don't Let Your Emotions Get In The Way

In the movie The Judge, Robert Downey Jnr is a high profile New York lawyer of ill repute. Back in his hometown he finds himself in a bar brawl and narrowly avoids having his teeth relocated by the local degenerate - thanks to his quick thinking and very smart observations of the said degenerate's parole status. Downey's character is perfectly calm, logical and confident throughout. Hostage negotiators, lawyers and actors are trained and rehearsed in this superhuman trait of not showing emotion in stressful situations. But what about the rest of us?

Why we say things we later regret

When our brain senses that we are being threatened by a word, a gesture or even a micro expression on someone's face, something incredible happens that is completely outside of your control. Activity in the frontal parts of the brain where rational thought occurs is suppressed. Can you see why we say things we later regret, or don't say things we should have said? It's our cognitive conditioning working against us.

At the same time, blood flow increases to our emotional circuitry and our instinctual hindbrain. This is the moment we become a warrior. It's also the moment we literally lose our ability to think clearly. It's physically impossible not to experience emotion at this point, but it is possible to manage the emotions that arise. Understanding this is the key to staying cool when agitated.

Tell tale signs in your body warn you when this is about to happen. You heat up, especially your face or neck, your heart rate speeds up a little or a lot. Your palms may get sweaty and you feel a burst of adrenaline, like a kick of energy flowing through you.

I had a coaching client who told me that once he felt this burst of energy during a conversation, there was no going back. He could not back down. It was as if the only thing that mattered from there on was the need to settle the conversation on his terms.

2. Don't Say - If She'd Said That To Me I'd Be Angry Too

Have you ever blamed someone else for making you angry? That idiot that cut you off in the traffic this morning, your teenage son who thinks curfew is only a suggestion or the incompetent salesperson at the end of an unhelpful helpline? Do I even need to mention your boss?

For most people getting angry feels good, the hormones that are released when we rage make us feel powerful. People stop and pay attention to us when we yell - unless we're the crazy on the street corner who yells all day at imaginary evils. More dangerously, stress hormones increase our risk tolerance. Making us more likely to do or say something foolish that we'll regret later - cue crimes of passion or football hooliganism.

Emotions are gone in 90 seconds

This initial bout of stress hormone (a chemical) burns up in 90 seconds. That's it. After that you have to choose to be angry to continue to be so. Thinking angry thoughts such as, how dare you say or do that? who does she think she is? will tell your brain to continue being angry and it will oblige with producing more stress hormone. If someone else ticks you off, you can blame them for how you feel in the first 90 seconds but how you respond to these feelings in your body is your choice alone.

Don't get me wrong, this is as easy to do as eating jelly with chopsticks. Take a breath, use a filler phrase that you can say in different situations such as, that's an interesting point of view or, I appreciate you sharing this with me, I hear what you're saying, do you really think that's appropriate behaviour? This tells your brain that you are not under physical threat and gives a you few precious seconds to think about how to respond as the first wave of stress hormone passes. Us coaches call this increasing your stimulus-response gap - and that's a good thing.

3. Don't say - Think Like A Hostage Negotiator And You'll Win Every Argument

This is popular advice from corporate trainers and bloggers. It's simply not possible that an 8 hour Sniper Mentality or Hostage Negotiator training program will turn anyone into a poker-faced boardroom negotiator. A hostage negotiator trains for years in the science of influence, mental agility and tactical combat. Even so, they don't win every argument.

There are two ideas from hostage negotiations that we are able to implement rather easily. The first is never to ever tell someone to calm down, that's like putting a fire out with gasoline. Instead, let them go on, for as long as possible, let them rant and rage. Fuming is hard work and requires a tremendous amount of physical resources. It won't be long till they stop and this is when you implement your strategy. What strategy?

Ask open questions such as Why do you think this has happened? This will get them thinking about your questions. Thinking forces blood back into their prefrontal cortex (the thinking part of the brain) helping them overcome fear and think a bit more logically.

4. Don't say - No-one Really Wins An Argument

Someone always wins an argument. Every argument will leave you changed. You can decide to brush it off as a bad experience or debrief it like you would an important client meeting.

I'm betting that the person who sits down and truly thinks about why they argue, what makes them angry, what they say and how they can be more constructive about it, is the winner. If neither one does this then my money is on the big guy.

Tremaine du Preez is a behavioural economist, author of Think Smart, Work Smarter, and lecturer in Critical Thinking. She blogs at The Huffington Post and bayt.com. Her next book Raising Thinkers - Preparing Your Child For The Journey Of a Lifetime, will be out in 2016.


How to Survive An Emotionally Unintelligent Boss

Tremaine du Preez

My boss has the emotional intelligence of a wrecking ball. This was the opening line in a recent coaching conversation I had with Pat (not his real name, of course). Divisive, two-timing, self centred, political, insert your own adjective here, bosses and colleagues are very familiar to coaches. It's not a new topic.

Pat works in a pretty entrepreneurial environment where wrecking ball bosses are found in abundance. In fact, empathy is the quality that entrepreneurs* have been found to lack the most. Why would they need soft skills when their job is to solve problems, launch product and make money out of it all? I think you already know the answer. For a company to grow beyond the start up phase, its leaders must be able to make good decisions and keep their best people motivated and engaged. Lack of emotional intelligence affects both of these - especially the ability to make good decisions. More about that later.

Stop wishing for others to change

So what would I recommend to Pat? Firstly, you can't change another person, only yourself, so stop wishing and waiting for your boss or colleague to change. Unlike a marriage, your boss may not have enough invested in your relationship to want to change for you. She may not even know she needs to change. Secondly, she won't be your boss for ever, you can either focus on her shortcomings and spend your time complaining about them or work on improving yours.

Finally, (and this is the hardest one) can you see this unpleasant person as a gift on your career path? By working with someone with low EI you are able to feel the impact of it first hand and, perhaps, this will encourage you to turn inward and examine your own emotional intelligence towards your colleagues, friends and family. Without this difficult person in your life, you may never have done this and so not lived up to your own leadership potential. They truly are a gift, if only with hindsight.

Emotional intelligence consists of four domains as coined by Daniel Goleman, namely self awareness, self regulation, motivation, and social skill. Of course, the theory is easier than the practice but the benefits outweigh the effort many times. Let's look at the first two aspects of gaining greater emotional smarts.

Do you know yourself as well as you think?

Self awareness is the first and most influential aspect of EI: the few who are gifted with true self awareness have a realistic understanding of how what they feel affects what they do. They also understand which situations trigger certain emotional responses in themselves and others.

Has your boss ever claimed your idea as his own in a board meeting? How did that make you feel? How did you respond? Do you ever take time after a difficult meeting to think about your behaviour and responses in that meeting? What did you do well and what would you do differently if you could do it all over? As you spend time examining your responses to others you will notice a pattern. Certain things will continuously trigger more emotive responses from you than others. This is when your heart rate picks up, your jaw stiffens or palms get sweaty.

I can keep a lid on my emotions in a meeting but I have a pale complexion and when I feel unduly challenged my neck turns bright red and betrays me. Even though I can keep a poker face, my body still generates stress hormones when I feel threatened, belittled or undervalued (my emotional triggers). So I have had to work out a way to stifle my response to these triggers - or wear a neck scarf, which isn't always possible in sunny Singapore.

Are you always in control?

This is where self regulation comes in. Once you are able to recognise your emotional triggers the next step is to contain your physical response to them such as getting angry, disengaging or other more subtle changes in your body. The first step here is to resist responding instantly when in a difficult conversation.

In the bestseller, Crucial Conversations (McGraw Hill 2011), the authors explain the physiological complexity of a heated conversation. When we feel challenged, or even when someone simply disagrees with us, adrenaline pumps through our body and blood flows away from the brain to the limbs to meet our natural instinct to fight or flee. Leaving a half-starved brain to come up with a coherent argument with sensible facts, whilst processing the torrent of incoming information! This is why low EI affects our ability to make good decisions. You simply cannot evaluate an argument and say the right thing when your brain is in crisis mode - even if you look calm on the outside.

What's your filler phrase?

Take a breath, use a filler phrase that you can say in different situations such as that's an interesting point of view or I appreciate you sharing this with me. This will help you in several ways. It tells your brain that you are not under physical threat even though the hormones it generates are the same as it would if you were. It then gives your brain a few precious seconds to think about what has been said and how to respond. Us coaches call this increasing your stimulus response gap - and that's a good thing.

Take a tour of your self awareness over a week. On your way home from work review your day; where there any situations where you acted impulsively? What emotion was behind that? Did you get any criticism? How did you respond to it? Did you say yes to a request that you really should have said no to because you felt pressured into doing it or didn't give yourself time to think about it first? Do this exercise everyday this week and a mental map of your emotional drivers as well as your ability to self regulate will emerge. If, like Pat, your boss has low EI, take heart that he or she probably won't advance very much further up the corporate ladder than they already are.

* Harvard Business Review, April 1, 2013. The Skills Entrepreneurs Lack, by Bill J. Bonnstetter @ HBR.Org

Tremaine du Preez is the author of Think Smart, Work Smarter, and coach and lecturer in Critical Thinking based in Singapore. She blogs for the Huffington Post where this article first appeared and at www.Bayt.com. Her next book Raising Thinkers - Preparing Your Child For The Journey Of a Lifetime, will be out in 2016.

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