The Happy Secret to Better Work

Here is one of my favorite TEDTalks—The Happy Secret to Better Work.
 
 
 

In his very humorous talk, Shawn Archor talks about how we view the world and how that affects our happiness. Seems obvious.

He also says, though, “75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.”  

So what do you, as a manager, do to build that optimism and resiliency among your team? I’ve written about the need for feedback, both constructive and positive, in the past. How can we link that to building that ability to see stress as a challenge and not a threat?

I’ve incorporated several of the lessons that Shawn talks about here (and elsewhere) in my life, including keeping a running list of what I am grateful for. Even on the most craptastic days, there is always something out there that can add beauty to our lives. And if I am really struggling to find something, I create something by reconnecting with a friend, setting a (virtual!) coffee date, or even planning a trip (one of my favorite activities! We can hope, right?). I usually write my list before I even get out of bed in the morning as a way of framing the day in the most positive sense possible.  

Of course, we are in trying times, indeed. When Shawn delivered this talk, we were not months into a global pandemic. I, like many, am managing an entirely remote team. One of the things that seems to be going well on my team is that we’ve built and constantly reinforce the expectation that we will change, evolve, and pivot as needed to address COVID. In some ways, knowing that more change will come, even if we don’t know what it will be, disallows the team to settle into complacency or routine. The routine IS change. That clear-as-can-be communication has been crutial.  What tricks do you have up your sleeve for keeping the optimism on your team?

How have you built up your own optimism and resiliency? How have those skills served you now, given that we are living through this pandemic? What new skills have you been able to tap into?

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

I was recently reminded of this great TED Talk by Simon Sinek called Why good leaders make you feel safe.  

In his talk, he suggests that when the right environment is created, we are all capable of doing remarkable things and acting in great service to others. He attributes trust and cooperation to building that great environment.

I have found that, perhaps oddly, when I’ve worked in really fast paced environments (ie: disasters, pandemics, epidemics), the tolerance for mistakes is higher. We know that we are making decisions quickly and not everything will go right. But, in some ways, that increases the trust and feeling of safety. It allows for honest conversation. It encourages people to ask for help.

But, how do you do you build a sense of safety? Simon proposes some suggestions, have a listen!

What are your thoughts?

How do you make your team feel safe?

Or, in your own heart, what could you be doing to increase that level of safety and security?  

Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers

I’ve often witnessed an amazing power in collaboration around brainstorming and great ideas; it is amazing when it happens and has led to some of the best work in which I’ve participated.  At times, though, managers will need to nudge their teams along when it comes to brainstorming. We’ve all been in a position where we don’t want to be the one to share the dumb idea or to be the one to suggest something that has been tried before.

This talk by Adam Grant about the Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers and the accompanying discussion guide may help you to appreciate how your team may process their ideas, come up with creative ideas, and communicate about those ideas.

In global health, we strive to be innovative and come up with creative approaches to solving complex health issues.  It is a task with significant weight–truly lives are on the line.

Might you be up for leading your team in a discussion about creativity and original thinking?  Hopefully we can help to support the creativity of our teams and help to grow comfort in thinking about the same old problems in new sorts of ways.

PS: The Lean In website has lots of great resources that you can use. I am a fan of the discussion guides that can be used to guide our teams through difficult conversations or to help set team norms.

 

Everyday Leadership

This week, I have been thinking a lot about the role of a manger and how complex it can be between driving a project or program forward, supporting our teams, helping our teams grow and develop, and strategizing about the future.

At times, our own growth and development can get lost in the mix. For me, I have had a wonderfully fulfilling time focusing on my career. My development has certainly not made it to the top of my to-do list. So, today, in some ways, I am letting us all off the hook.  There are many moments where we can seize the moment to be a good leader without planning or forethought. There are leadership moments at every turn.

Take a few minutes to watch this Everyday Leadership talk by Drew Dudley where he describes the everyday leadership as “lollipop moments”.

His call to action for us today is…”that we need to get over our fear of how extraordinarily powerful we can be in each other’s lives. We need to get over it so we can move beyond it, and our little brothers and sisters and one day our kids — or our kids right now — can watch and start to value the impact we can have on each other’s lives, more than money and power and titles and influence. We need to redefine leadership as being about lollipop moments –how many of them we create, how many we acknowledge, how many of them we pay forward and how many we say thank you for. Because we’ve made leadership about changing the world, and there is no world. There’s only six billion understandings of it.

Let’s start our day by thinking about someone who has made an impact in our lives—who should you acknowledge and thank today? How are you going to pay forward the impact that person had on you?  How can you make your team feel like they have an “everyday leadership” role on your team and in our work?

Enjoy the everyday leadership in your day!


Want to watch this with your team? Awesome!

Here are some discussion questions that might help to spark a conversation!

  1. What is a lollipop moment?
  2. What does Drew Dudley mean when he says, “As long as we make leadership something bigger than us, as long as we keep leadership something beyond us, as long as we make it about changing the world, we give ourselves an excuse not to expect it every day from ourselves and from each other”?
  3. How can lollipop moments can change our understanding of leadership?
  4. Who has shaped you are in a positive way? What specific things has that person done to help you?
  5. What are some big moments or milestones in your career? Who were important in making those moments happen?
  6.  Who helped you reach those accomplishments?
  7. Who is someone you never thanked for something they did for you?
  8. How can we have more lollipop moments as a team?

Why Your Doctor Should Care About Social Justice

It seems we’ve all been thinking deeply about race and racism in the United States. My interest in public health stems from a desire to work towards equity and justice.

One of my favorite TEDTalks is by Mary Bassett: Why Your Doctor Should Care About Social Justice.  Dr Bassett is the Health Commissioner for NYC and a long time health activist.

As you may know, I worked for several years at Partners In Health (and am working there on the COVID response now) and so appreciated her nod to the work of Paul Farmer when she says:

“But I knew that epidemics emerge along the fissures of our society, reflecting not only biology, but more importantly patterns of marginalization, exclusion, discrimination related to race, gender, sexuality, class and more. It was true of AIDS. It was true just recently of Ebola. Medical anthropologists such as Paul Farmer, who worked on AIDS in Haiti, call this structural violence: structural because inequities are embedded in the political and economic organization of our social world, often in ways that are invisible to those with privilege and power; and violence because its impact — premature deaths, suffering, illness — is violent. We do little for our patients if we fail to recognize these social injustices. Sounding the alarm is the first step towards doing public health right, and it’s how we may rally support to break through and create real change together.”

She ends her talk with this statement:
“Our role as health professionals is not just to treat our patients but to sound the alarm and advocate for change. Rightfully or not, our societal position gives our voices great credibility, and we shouldn’t waste that.”

Videos like this can be great ways to spark ideas among your team members. What if you showed this video to your team and had a conversation about it?

Here are a few questions that may help to spark conversation:
  • What do you think your individual role is in addressing the social issues that accompany illness?
  • What do you think our collective role is in addressing the social issues that patients experience?
  • Have we pushed the envelope far enough as an organization to ensure that we are using our positions of power to advocate for patients and families?

Center for Sport in Society: Mentors in Violence Prevention

I was in a college-level gender studies course when I first heard the term “toxic masculinity” a term used to describe masculine behaviors that are harmful to men, their partners, and even to society at large .  It’s been, ahem, a few years since I took that course and, since then, the term has gained wider understanding and usage.  It, too, has evolved from a term that was used to describe men who grew up without a sense of “maleness” and a concern about what feminism was doing to men (gasp! the effects of those feminists was horrible in the eyes of the first users of the term!).

At that time, I was working at Philadelphia’s Mazzoni Center, an LGBTQ health center, as an HIV counselor and as an honorary member of the Trans Health Committee (it was an honor, indeed!).  While I was learning about gender in an academic sense, in real life, I was counseling clients through complex relationships with varied risk for HIV where gender and gender expression and identity could play a significant role in their relation to their partner(s).

It is not a stretch at all to imagine how extremes in masculinity and femininity may be detrimental to our health.  For example, toxic masculinity may fuel a desire among men to exert power over women, to take reckless risks, and to be less likely to seek out mental health care. It is also not a stretch to imagine how men may feel alienated from participating in sexual and reproductive health decision making within their partnerships.  Since my days at Mazzoni Center, I have gone on to train young men living with HIV in Cameroon and male inmates in a Malawian prison about their roles in creating a safe and loving relationship and the responsibilities they have as men to challenge these detrimental notions of masculinity.

The curriculum I used, Men As Partners developed by EngenderHealth, evolved from the Mentors In Violence Program (MVP) developed by the Center for Sport In Society at Northeastern University.  So, I was overjoyed to recently be invited to participate in an MVP training! In some ways, I took the long way to get to this training as I have been long familiar with off shoots of the program for some time.

The MVP program created a unique approach to combating violence against women by focusing on empowering bystanders to act when they see or hear something that could lead to violence. The focus of the training was on reviewing common scenarios that young people confront and discussing options for intervening. For example, we discussed scenarios where friends talk about sexual violence towards a woman and our challenge was to suggest options for deescalating the conversation and alerting the speaker to the fact that such talk is “not cool” and inappropriate.

In this era of #MeToo, the more tools we can give men, young and old, to disrupt cultural norms the better.  Far too many young people believe that there are only two options for action in a potentially violent situation: to call the police or do nothing. With each scenario we discussed, we compiled a list of feasible options of what could be said or done to change the outcome.

If you haven’t already, please take a few minutes to watch Jackson Katz, the founder of the MVP program, discuss the role of men in preventing violence against women.