INSIGHTS (on leadership/self-leadership)
• Incredibly, research shows that people who tend to procrastinate lose 218 minutes a day of productivity, or 55 days a year. And the most powerful antidote for procrastination is so obvious it’s often dismissed, which would be a mistake, given the science behind it. In a famous study (famous at least among us research nerds), participants were asked to solve a difficult cognitive puzzle in a set amount of time. Half were allowed to complete it and the other half were told the study was over before any had completed it. The “interrupted” participants recalled two times more detail about the task than those who completed it. And 90% of the interrupted kept working on the puzzle, even though they were told time was up. The study illustrates what’s known as the Zeigarnik Effect, which says that if we can manage to just start a task, we’re far more likely to remember it and be driven to finish it. Our brain just works differently when we’ve begun to engage in something. That’s why cliffhangers are used on our favorite TV shows. Our brain recalls the last episode because it was interrupted, and it wants a conclusion. So, to beat procrastination, take that first step and just…get…going.
IMPERFECTIONS (a mistake I’ve made)
• I admit that I’ve gotten caught up in fueling negativity with my team before, feeding it rather than stepping back as the leader and considering the terrible ripple impact I was having on my team–joining in the “bitch session” if you will. As a leader, you live in a fishbowl, with everyone watching your every move from all angles. The tone you set matters–there’s so much research that shows how positive leaders create positive cultures and vice versa that I couldn’t pick just one study to link to. I also learned that inaction from a leader can be just as negativity-inducing. Especially when it comes to letting cynics ply their trade. The truth is, cynics get their power when no one challenges them—their acidic statements can seem smart in an echo chamber. As leaders, we must challenge their statements and invite them to be a part of the solution instead. If they can’t suggest solutions, they lose their power.
IMPLEMENTATION (one research-backed strategy, tip, or tool)
• As a leader, you can never forget the impact your words can have. I can point to several times when a leader said something callous to me in passing that stung, and it stuck with me for months. Harvard research shows that such off-the-cuff comments can not only make the recipient feel devalued and puncture their self-confidence, it can impact the very sense of meaning they draw from work. Here’s a powerful strategy to ensure that your words and actions never go off the rails in a way that has a lasting detrimental impact. Before you speak, especially in times of frustration, repeat one sentence to yourself: “I can either plant seeds of growth, or seeds of doubt—which will I do?” You know exactly what I mean. You can share commentary and feedback in an empathetic, yet direct way that will help people to learn, grow, and improve, or you can lash out and pummel their self-esteem, causing them to doubt themselves. So, which will you do?