Tag Archives: Skillset

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

You know that shocking experience when you are driving to a known destination and then get lost in your thoughts? At some point, you snap back to attention and wonder, “How did I get here, I wasn’t even thinking about it?!” That is neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. It is an amazing capability we all have and can be nurtured and utilized throughout our lives. Yes, “old dogs CAN learn new tricks“.

What is this phenomenon?

Mike Torres, of Refocuser, gives an excellent definition, as well as an explanation of function, in his piece Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice. An example of how neuroplasticity works: when you view the brains of people who frequently practice playing the violin under fMRI (functional MRI) they appear to have developed a larger area of their brain devoted to mapping their fingers.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This change is directly related to the quantity and the quality of the practice they’re performing – their brains are adapting in very real and tangible ways unbeknownst to them... The more practice you accumulate, the more ingrained or grooved the pathways become.  Of course the inverse happens as well: if those pathways aren’t utilized, the space will be used by other pathways needing room to grow. Use it or lose it! …Your brain can change based on repeated experience…People of any age have the ability to learn new things and form new habits. Mike Torres, Refocuser

Watching Nathan play intricate, complicated runs on his classical guitar boggles my mind. How can he think that fast? It’s lots of practice that causes the brain to connect to the hands, and those difficult pieces get “under his fingers” almost without thinking.

Years ago a friend gave us this book Never Too Late by John Holt. In his “musical life story”, Holt describes how he learned to play the cello in his 40s. We were encouraged by this during a time we moved to Egypt and learned Arabic in mid-life…when language-learning is supposed to be especially difficult.

I love neuroplasticity but it gives me hope, in getting older, of keeping skills and developing new ones, even as an aging person…unless I give in to dumbed-down practices excusing myself for the same reasons of “getting too old”.

When my older brother suffered a stroke, it was neuroplasticity and the repeated efforts of his medical and therapy team that got him back on his feet. He finally “repeatedly practiced” his way back to independence. The personality changes seemed more ingrained, however, they changed, too, as he exchanged his anger and bitterness for a hopefulness and longing for healthy, loving relationships. As he refused to give into anger and chose soft responses, his personality seriously changed over time…with conscious that eventually turned unconscious practice.

How does all this apply to us in the workplace and life, in general? We are confronted at times with a situation that confounds us – a new uncomfortable skillset, an unpredictable relationship, or an unfamiliar decision-making process. Neuroplasticity helps us to not just give up on mastering either a new work process or a complicated interpersonal situation.

Debbie Hampton has written an excellent summary piece on this that will help kick-start any new habit formation necessary for us to continue to do excellently in our work. She was influenced by Dr. Michael Merzenich’s work published in his book Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life. I have listed below Merzenich’s 10 elements of how we can rewire our brain. You will find Hampton’s summary on each very instructive. [I comment briefly on each but don’t miss what she says in her article.]

10 Core Principles for Remodeling Your Brain

1. Change is mostly limited to  those situations in which the brain is in the mood for it. We have to want to learn and change. If we give up, stay resigned to the status quo, or remain fed-up, change will not happen. Want change!

2. The harder you try, the more you’re motivated, the more alert you are, and the better (or worse)  the potential outcome, the bigger the brain change. Focus and persistence or key to mastery.

3. What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, in time. Practice strengthens pathways for behavior. Whether it’s learning a new computer system or developing a different way of communicating with a boss…practice hard-wires.

4. Learning-driven changes in connections increase cell-to cell cooperation, which is crucial for increasing reliability. I see this in musicians who live-stream and can read listener chats, respond to them, and continue playing all at the same time. Crazy.

5. The brain also strengthens its connections between teams of neurons representing separate moments of successive things that reliably occur in serial time. This is definitely the mechanism that gets us to our destination when we stop thinking about where we’re going.

6. Initial changes are temporary. Habit formation takes time, and somehow the brain interprets whether the change is vital. Amazing.

7. The brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal in the same ways and involving precisely the same processes that control changes achieved through interactions with the external world. At the simplest level, this is the mechanism of how we “talk ourselves through” a situation. Or when an athlete goes through his routine in his mind before he’s back out on the track or in the pool.

8. Memory guides and controls most learning. Our brain actually helps us to remember what we did well and discards what we didn’t.

9. Every movement of learning provides a moment of opportunity for the brain to stabilize — and reduce the disruptive power of — potentially interfering backgrounds or “noise.” The more we practice, either a physical skill or a way of thinking through a problem, we actually get better at it because somehow the brain reduces the background noise (which can include insecurity, fear of failure or self-doubt).

10. Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it is just as easy to generate negative changes as it is positive ones. Dr. Merzenich warns us, as we get older that we “use it or lose it” by our own decisions to stop learning and mastering new skills and behaviors.

Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia

How are you using neuroplasticity to help you continue to grow in your work and personal life? Trevor Blake encourages us to set the tone of the day positively and don’t defect from that. Using self-defeating language can blur our focus and mental capacity for mastery. Read more of his excellent counsel here.

As we age, or give in to “what is” at the moment (tracks greased by depression sometimes, or perceived lack of ability or opportunity), we may not realize the great positive effects of neuroplasticity. However, the good news is that we can keep learning and changing and mastering what work and life and relationships bring our way. It’s never too late.

 

Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits – Mike Torres

How to Rewire Your Brain for Success – Trevor Blake

Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life – Trevor Blake

Brain HQ Website

How Does Neuroplasticity Work – an Infographic

Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story – John Holt

Deadly: Brain on Multitasking – Bukunmi Adewumi

Toxic Thoughts – Dr. Caroline Leaf

Monday Morning Moment – 7 Skills of the Top Leaders of Tomorrow – Whatever Your Age or Stage – with Matt Monge

Blog - Tomorrow's Leaders - Mojo companyPhoto Credit: The Mojo Company

[From the Archives]

Leaders of Tomorrow. What age group came to mind? Probably not your own. Maybe that’s one of our dilemmas in life and work. We either think we have already arrived as tomorrow’s leader today (ugh!). Or we stop thinking of how we can develop into that change agent of tomorrow because we’ve fixed our course…or settled into what we know already. It’s served us well so far, right?

Here’s my Monday morning gift to you: an introduction to the person, writing, and wisdom of Matt Monge.  Earlier in his career, he worked in finance (credit unions, in particular), and had fascinating titles like Chief Culture Officer and Vice-President of People and  Development. Currently he is is president of The Mojo Company, a leadership development consulting firm. His Facebook page bio reads: “My mission? Make the world a better place by helping people, leaders, & workplaces be more human. Depression fighter. Keynote speaker. Head of The Mojo Co.”

Blog - Monday Morning - Matt Monge - Leadership is about serving - FacebookPhoto Credit: Matt Monge Facebook Page

I read everything Matt Monge writes. Even his promotional video taught me more about leadership (you’ll want to take notes).

Monge posted a blog a few weeks back and I’ve been thinking through it since… It’s his 7 Skills Tomorrow’s Top Leaders Are Developing Today. I decided to post his bullet points here and how they stirred my thoughts on skill development today. [Don’t miss reading his thinking on this and other leadership topics in links.]

  1. Being Others-Oriented – While other employee development folks have moved away from “servant leadership” language, Matt Monge continues wisely to be a strong supporter of it. I, too, am delighted by leaders who continue to seek out the greatest good for both employees and customers. The bottom line is best served here. As the years go by, or as tribes are built, our temptation is to coast in this area…making the negative assumption that someone else is serving while we’re the idea leaders. As leaders go, so go the organizations.
  2. Persuasion, Logic, & Negotiation – First, Monge sees top leaders as practicing persuasion and negotiation differently “not with power, position, coercion, or even deception; but rather through logic, reason, and with an eye toward the good of the whole.” It’s funny how unaware leaders can be in thinking that manipulation and coercion go unnoticed by employees under their authority. It’s always better to do the work of taking the high road of negotiating and persuading. When we engage in the give-and-take of healthy debate and problem-solving, it’s a win-win for everyone. It does require time, trust, homework, and humility.
  3. Reframing – This is a discipline of looking at a problem or situation from different perspectives. Monge talks about doing this in such a way that we wrestle with our own biases and blind spots. Reframing can make for a decision or problem solved that have wider success or effectiveness.
  4. Knowing How to Think about and Make Decisions – Monge makes the distinction of being decisive vs. being a good decision-maker. I love this because often we experience leaders who get the job because they are decisive. Period. Full-stop. What does it take though to be a good decision-maker? To become an effective leader is to examine how we make decisions – what are my decision-making processes, who are my guides, what are those factors that always weigh in on my decisions? [Monge names those factors as presuppositions and core values. We need to think about what those are.]
  5. The Ability to Work and Build Community with Others – This is such a core value of mine and yet after years in my career, it bears refreshing. I’m reminded, as Monge writes about this, of the Old Boys’ Network. Today, maybe it’s less-gender-defined and called other things, like C-Suite executives, or even tribe. Still, if it’s a few making decisions for the many, it’s not community. Monge’s constant message is that the strength and health of an organization is in the community. Leaders must do the work of leaning in to their colleagues (outside the executive suite) to draw on the wealth of knowledge there and to affirm the value and varied roles of those coworkers.Blog - Matt Monge - human - twitterPhoto Credit: Twitter
  6. Leadership – The leaders of tomorrow are continuing to develop themselves toward that future. We can be always learning, always growing – not necessarily just like other leaders in our lives, but learning what we need to learn to remain relevant/useful. Resting on the laurels of past successes or doing “what we’ve always done” will eventually pull us to the sidelines. I’m in the painful, personal throes of dealing with this right now myself. Shaking it off and moving forward!
  7. Understanding Humanness & Emotional Intelligence – Monge defines emotional intelligence as having “four basic components: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management”. Foundational to emotional intelligence, in Monge’s thinking, is this whole element of humanness. As the workplaces of the future give way to more and more technology, we will be wise in tuning into the growing need for humanizing our organizations and our human employee experience. Being tech-savvy and not people-savvy misses what could be. Leaders of tomorrow, take note.

So that’s it for today. I love Mondays because they bring another opportunity to hit “the refresh” key of our work lives. We are not only motivated for the week ahead – differently than Fridays when the focus is the weekend – but we’re fresh in our view of our work community…and hopeful.

Matt Monge and others like him give me the encouragement I need to cast off from the safe, still shore and re-enter the fast and deep water of today’s work environment, determined to maneuver well there…and maybe even coax other quality people back in from the shallows. Whatever our ages or sensibilities, we can work toward being tomorrow’s leaders of excellence.

Monday Morning Moment – Matt Monge on the 7 Skills of Tomorrow’s Top Leaders – Whether You’re 26, 56, or 72

Blog - Tomorrow's Leaders - Mojo companyPhoto Credit: The Mojo Company

Leaders of Tomorrow. What age group came to mind? Probably not your own. Maybe that’s one of our dilemmas in life and work. We either think we have already arrived as tomorrow’s leader today (ugh!). Or we stop thinking of how we can develop into that change agent of tomorrow because we’ve fixed our course…or settled into what we know already. It’s served us well so far, right?

Here’s my Monday morning gift to you: an introduction to the person, writing, and wisdom of Matt Monge.  Earlier in his career, he worked in finance (credit unions, in particular), and had fascinating titles like Chief Culture Officer and Vice-President of People and  Development. Currently he is is president of The Mojo Company, a leadership development consulting firm. His Facebook page bio reads: “My mission? Make the world a better place by helping people, leaders, & workplaces be more human. Depression fighter. Keynote speaker. Head of The Mojo Co.”

BLog - Matt Monge - TomorrowTodayGlobalBlog - Matt Monge - TwitterPhoto Credit: Cues, Twitter

I read everything Matt Monge writes. Even his promotional video taught me more about leadership (you’ll want to take notes).

Monge posted a blog a few weeks back and I’ve been thinking through it since… It’s his 7 Skills Tomorrow’s Top Leaders Are Developing Today. I decided to post his bullet points here and how they stirred my thoughts on skill development today. [Don’t miss reading his thinking on this and other leadership topics in links.]

  1. Being Others-Oriented – While other employee development folks have moved away from “servant leadership” language, Matt Monge continues wisely to be a strong supporter of it. I, too, am delighted by leaders who continue to seek out the greatest good for both employees and customers. The bottom line is best served here. As the years go by, or as tribes are built, our temptation is to coast in this area…making the negative assumption that someone else is serving while we’re the idea leaders. As leaders go, so go the organizations.
  2. Persuasion, Logic, & Negotiation – First, Monge sees top leaders as practicing persuasion and negotiation differently “not with power, position, coercion, or even deception; but rather through logic, reason, and with an eye toward the good of the whole.” It’s funny how unaware leaders can be in thinking that manipulation and coercion go unnoticed by employees under their authority. It’s always better to do the work of taking the high road of negotiating and persuading. When we engage in the give-and-take of healthy debate and problem-solving, it’s a win-win for everyone. It does require time, trust, homework, and humility.
  3. Reframing – This is a discipline of looking at a problem or situation from different perspectives. Monge talks about doing this in such a way that we wrestle with our own biases and blind spots. Reframing can make for a decision or problem solved that have wider success or effectiveness.
  4. Knowing How to Think about and Make Decisions – Monge makes the distinction of being decisive vs. being a good decision-maker. I love this because often we experience leaders who get the job because they are decisive. Period. Full-stop. What does it take though to be a good decision-maker? To become an effective leader is to examine how we make decisions – what are my decision-making processes, who are my guides, what are those factors that always weigh in on my decisions? [Monge names those factors as presuppositions and core values. We need to think about what those are.]
  5. The Ability to Work and Build Community with Others – This is such a core value of mine and yet after years in my career, it bears refreshing. I’m reminded, as Monge writes about this, of the Old Boys’ Network. Today, maybe it’s less-gender-defined and called other things, like C-Suite executives, or even tribe. Still, if it’s a few making decisions for the many, it’s not community. Monge’s constant message is that the strength and health of an organization is in the community. Leaders must do the work of leaning in to their colleagues (outside the executive suite) to draw on the wealth of knowledge there and to affirm the value and varied roles of those coworkers.Blog - Matt Monge - human - twitterPhoto Credit: Twitter
  6. 6. Leadership – The leaders of tomorrow are continuing to develop themselves toward that future. We can be always learning, always growing – not necessarily just like other leaders in our lives, but learning what we need to learn to remain relevant/useful. Resting on the laurels of past successes or doing “what we’ve always done” will eventually pull us to the sidelines. I’m in the painful, personal throes of dealing with this right now myself. Shaking it off and moving forward!
  7. Understanding Humanness & Emotional Intelligence – Monge defines emotional intelligence as having “four basic components: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management”. Foundational to emotional intelligence, in Monge’s thinking, is this whole element of humanness. As the workplaces of the future give way to more and more technology, we will be wise in tuning into the growing need for humanizing our organizations and our human employee experience. Being tech-savvy and not people-savvy misses what could be. Leaders of tomorrow, take note.

So that’s it for today. I love Mondays because it’s an opportunity to hit “the refresh” key of our work lives. We are not only motivated (like we might be on Fridays) but we’re fresh in our view of our work community…and hopeful.

Matt Monge, and others like him, gives me the encouragement I need to cast off from the safe, still shore and re-enter the fast and deep water of today’s work environment, determined to manuver well there…and maybe even coax other quality people back in from the shallows. Whatever our ages or sensibilities, we can work toward being tomorrow’s leaders of excellence.