Issue 202 - January 2020
What if you invited me into your house and I sprayed a noxious gas that made you and your family sick? What if I also dumped a big barrel of stinking sewage on your kitchen floor? You'd likely have me arrested. You'd get out of the house until the mess is cleaned up and the air's safe again.
Yet we watch toxic videos, read poisonous social media feeds, or consume contaminated news. It's making us sick. This pessimism plague is a major contributor to lower mental and physical health.
Psychologist Steven Stosny calls this "headline stress disorder." As he explains, "there's a lot more competition, so the headlines have to get more sensational to grab your interest. And the easiest way to grab people's attention is through fear or anger. "
This barrage of negative news makes it seem like the world's going to hell. A survey of people in 17 countries asked, "All things considered, do you think the world is getting better or worse, or neither getting better or worse?" 58% choose worse, and 30% choose neither. Only 11% thought things were getting better. In the U.S., only 6% thought the world's getting better. Another poll of Americans, Canadians, and Australians found that 54% thought our way of life would end in 100 years. A quarter of those polled put the chances of humankind being destroyed at greater than 50%. Now that is sickening.
Does this sound familiar? "We have fallen upon evil times and the world has waxed very old and wicked. Politics are very corrupt. Children are no longer respectful to their parents." Sounds like a recent news feed. It was an inscription on a stone from Chaldea in 3800 BCE.
Over millions of years of evolution, our brains hardwired to keep us on high alert for what might kill us. We're constantly scanning for danger and preparing (i.e., worrying) about how we'll handle a myriad of potential threats. But what kept our ancestors from being eaten by tigers or killed by neighboring warriors is now poisoning us. The stress is killing us.
Ironically -- and tragically -- the purveyors of pessimism call their "news" reality. They're so far from reality they may as well be living on another planet. A very favorite book of mine is Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker's, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. He tells us, "optimists are the true realists, and gratitude for progress is good for your mental health."
In 1783 Benjamin Franklin said, "The progress of human knowledge will be rapid, and discoveries made of which we have at present no conception. I begin to be almost sorry I was born so soon, since I cannot have the happiness of knowing what will be known 100 years hence." Over 200 years later, he'd think we're living in paradise.
Johan Norberg writes in his book, Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future, "contrary to what most of us believe, our progress over the past few decades has been unprecedented. By almost any index you care to identify, things are markedly better now than they have ever been for almost everyone alive."
This issue kicks off our new decade with a reality check. You can face the facts with a tiny sample of just how far we've progressed. We are living in the best of times. The world's never been better -- and it's constantly improving.
May you hack through humanity's deep pessimistic neuro programming and realize that we're living the dream.
It's the most wonderful and inspiring time of year. After many hours of researching books, articles, and websites, let's kick off 2020 with what's become my annual New Year's blog on how the world keeps getting better, and better, and better, and better...
This tradition started six years ago with "A Dose of Reality: Our World is Dramatically Better." The following year we reported, "Despite Dire Headlines, the World is Getting Much, Much Better." The next year we added to our long and growing list of positive facts with "Beyond the Doom and Gloom: Over 65 Ways Our World Keeps Getting Better." After another trip around the sun, we piled on more evidence with "Don't Get Dragged Down by all the Negative News: Life's Better Than Ever." Last year we continued getting real with "Don't Get Sucked in by the Gloomy Headlines: The World's Getting Better and Better."
Here's the tip of a very big research iceberg that's just a tiny sample that this year's research uncovered:
Sources and Further Reading
Would you like to:
What leader or development professional doesn't want those results? But traditional development approaches fall woefully short on delivering these outcomes. Numerous studies report that 80 to 90% of senior executives are extremely unhappy with their leadership development efforts. That's because they don't work.
You don't have to be Einstein to know you drive yourself crazy when you continue doing the same things, but expect different results.
Here are the same-old-same-old traps that lead to the same old results. How many ensnare and impair your development efforts?
If you're going to shift leadership and coaching effectiveness, you need to use approaches proven to work. Why don't senior executives and development professionals do that? A big reason is simply ignorance -- they don't know what they don't know. Another reason is traditional thinking -- we've always done it that way.
We became Zenger Folkman partners in 2012 because of their approaches to leadership and coaching development work. The Extraordinary Leader and The Extraordinary Coach have an evidence-based track record of boosting leadership effectiveness and strengthening coaching skills.
On January 21 at 1PM ET, I am delivering an overview of the key lessons learned from developing thousands of leaders. Many lessons are counterintuitive and challenge conventional thinking. But they're built on a firm research foundation with proven, measurable results.
Click on Powerful New Approaches to Leadership and Coaching Development for more information and complimentary webinar registration.
Stop the insanity. Learn how powerful new approaches produce great new results.
There's a direct line between levels of employee engagement and service/quality, productivity, innovation, safety, revenue, profitability, and other key results. That's well documented, and most leaders strongly agree.
Where agreement falls apart is how to boost engagement levels. Some leaders feel that running organizational surveys and giving that aggregated data to managers will somehow get them to improve engagement. Like getting data on our weight from an annual doctor visit, little changes if we keep doing the same things.
Other leaders try organizational solutions like flex hours, onsite daycare, social activities, better benefits, senior leadership visibility, boosting interactions such as town hall meetings, etc. Yet a steady stream of studies show employee engagement is stagnating or declining. Leaders keep doing the same things while hoping for different results.
The data on employee engagement is overwhelming and very clear; the biggest factor -- by far -- is the immediate manager. It's become a truism in the organization/leadership development field -- people join an organization, but quit their boss.
Some people quit and leave. But most team members quit -- and stay. This is especially true if pay, benefits, pensions, and the organizational perks are good. Numerous studies show that 60 to 70 percent of engagement levels are directly determined by the team member's boss. That's the heart of the engagement problem.
Last month I delivered a 45-minute webinar overview of the key elements in leadership effectiveness that determines outcomes like engagement. This was followed by insightful participant questions and discussion. Click on The Leading Edge: Transforming Good Managers into Great Leaders to watch the archived webinar with Q & A. This fast-paced session covered:
We were hired to help an organization shift its culture toward higher performance. Quality and service, productivity, and other results were good but not great. During a focus group with frontline team members to assess their current culture, participants weren't participating. Finally, someone spoke up, "Jim, I think you're confusing us with people who care."
Strong leaders engage and inspire people to care.
The week before Christmas was that exciting time when kids crammed for their big performance review. Where did the big guy watching from the North Pole mark them on the naughty-nice scale? Would it be enough to get them into the next gift bracket?
During the hustle and bustle of cramming, busyness, traveling, and shopping, I offered a few leadership lessons we could learn from Santa.
We Create Our Own Reality
Being Nice Has Its Rewards
Leadership Can Come from Unlikely Places
Setting Priorities and Managing Processes
Stay Nourished and Get Help along the Way
Or...how about Life and Leadership Lessons from Scrooge?
If you didn't learn from Santa's elf-help manual or Scrooge's ghostly facilitators in December, you can still take time to reflect on what's really important as you head into the New Year.
This section summarizes last month's LinkedIn Updates and Twitter Tweets about online articles or blog posts that I've flagged as worth reading. These are usually posted on weekends when I am doing much of my reading for research, learning, or leisure. You can follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JimClemmer and connect with me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jimclemmer
My original tweet commenting on the article follows each title and descriptor from the original source:
The items in each month's issue of The Leader Letter are first published in my weekly blog during the previous month.
If you read each blog post (or issue of The Leader Letter) as it's published over twelve months, you'll have read the equivalent of a leadership book. And you'll pick up a few practical leadership tips that help you use time more strategically and tame your E-Beast!
I am always delighted to hear from readers of The Leader Letter with feedback, reflections, suggestions, or differing points of view. Nobody is ever identified in The Leader Letter without their permission. I am also happy to explore customized, in-house adaptations of any of my material for your team or organization. Drop me an e-mail at email@example.com or connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or my blog!
Live, learn, laugh, and lead -- just for the L of it!
In this Issue:
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©2020 Jim Clemmer and The CLEMMER Group