The Mentorist

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Talk a Mile in My Shoes: Overcoming Conflict with Your Boss (or, Really, Anyone)

I like to hire strong-headed people.  They’ve got minds of their own — and have no problem telling me when they think I’ve lost mine.  (Imagine teenagers, but with highly developed executive functions….)

Most of the time, this approach works wonders:  I feel challenged, they feel respected and the entire team produces results we couldn’t have otherwise.

But with strong wills come occasional strong impasses.  I’m thinking, in particular, of a time when one of my trusted ‘lieutenants’ handled a work travel situation in a way that — although quasi-legitimate — served his personal interest a bit too much, while making it harder for me, as team leader, to meet the budget numbers I had signed up for.

I was not amused. Continue reading

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Where Never Is Heard an Encouraging Word: Frontiers of Motivation

Think your performance would soar, if only you heard a few more words of encouragement from your boss?  Well, the Gershwin brothers had it right:  ‘It ain’t necessarily so….’

The latest Harvard Business Review (July–August 2013) reports some eye-opening results from a study designed to measure the impact of encouragement on performance levels.

In the study, subjects were arbitrarily assigned to three groups, then asked to do two sets of ‘plank’ exercises.  (Those of you who don’t know what these are, please look in the direction of your stomach. Can you see your toes?) Continue reading


Color Outside the Lines: Basic Training for Creative Thinking

Maybe it’s because I’m left-handed.

For whatever reason, I’m fascinated by the growing research focused on how people in ‘analytical’ or ‘logic-based’ professions can access the so-called ‘right-hand’ side of the brain.

Being called ‘right-brained’ has become code for being regarded as ‘creative’ — and, indeed, research has shown that certain regions of the brain’s right hemisphere are activated when creative thought is going on.  What I find exciting is that people — no matter how ‘left-brained’ they may feel — can train themselves to tap into these brain regions and develop their creativity.  Just like any other muscle.

So why is this important to someone who’s not interested in becoming an artist?  Because creativity isn’t limited to artistic ability.  Nor is it limited to inventing something that’s ‘Capital-N-New.’

Rather, creativity often is more like playing around with a set of Legos:  It involves finding a new pattern or ‘whole’ in the course of uncovering, choosing, reshuffling and combining already existing facts and ideas.

Seen from that perspective, who doesn’t need to develop his creativity? Continue reading