Unplug with Zero Guilt

Taking time off for the holidays can make you happier and smarter.

There's tons of science behind this, but everyone's so busy with the holidays we'll get right to the point. 

When you take a real break (not checking your phone every 3 minutes):

  1. Blood flow increases to the parts of your brain responsible for memory, integrating new information and problem solving. (This is why new parents who never get a break can't remember anything.)
  2. Dopamine, the neurotransmitter of pleasure, in combination with a distraction leads to higher creativity. According to Harvard research, when you feel happy and stop fixating on a problem, it opens your brain to invent new solutions. 

As explained by Tim Kreider in The New York Times, "Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body."

So set up your auto-response email message and enjoy a REAL BREAK (for the good of your work-- of course).

UP wishes you a joyous, guilt-free holiday with your friends and family! 

All the best for 2016!



The Science of Why Generosity Matters


Start with this 10 second exercise:

  1. Choose a favorite food— the most delicious thing that pops into your brain right now.
  2. Remember a recent time when you were really hungry.
  3. Picture a friend showing up (during the hungry moment) and giving you that perfectly prepared favorite food.

How would you feel? Most people would respond— Grateful.

Here’s what’s new: neuroscientists out of USC found a direct link between the neutral pathways of gratitude and generosity. They’re inherently coupled, like two sides of the same coin.

This means your brain activity when receiving an unexpected steak or sushi (insert your favorite food here) is similar to the brain activity of the friend who is doing the giving.

Why does this matter for business? When your brain experiences gratitude/generosity, it activates neural pathways connected with positive emotion, relationship, fairness and economic decision-making. People’s brains literally function differently when dealing with people they have invested in or feel grateful toward.

This takes the old adage, “People do business with people they like,” to the next level.

Generosity and gratitude are symbiotic; if you trigger one, it automatically triggers the impulse for the other. So an act of generosity can start a spiral of goodwill.

As articulated by Antonio Damasio, world-renowned neuroscientist who specializes in how emotion influences decision making, "Gratitude rewards generosity and maintains the cycle of healthy social behavior."

As Thanksgiving draws near, try this out for yourself. Do something kind (and out of your usual routine) for a coworker or client. Notice how it impacts the business relationship.



3 Trans Inclusive Tools for Workplace Communication

Important Note: Just as no one can speak for all women or a specific race, individuals within the trans community vary in how they want to be seen and treated. This list will give you pointers towards appropriate workplace communication. The next step is to get to know trans people just as you would anyone else.

1. Use the Right Pronoun.

The “right” pronoun is whatever that person wants to be called. It may include: he, she, they or something else. If you don’t know, listen for how they refer to themselves or ask.

You would feel weird if someone called you a “she” and you’re a “he” or vice versa. It's just as true for a trans person. Using the right pronoun really matters. 

2. Practice Makes Perfect

Calling someone “they” or changing a pronoun after you’ve known someone can feel awkward at first. It’s okay to not do it perfectly at the start. Just do it anyway. If you mess up, apologize quickly and move on.

3. Ask the Appropriate Level of Questions

If you don’t know what someone wants to be called or you’re concerned you’re being insensitive about something, just ask. By acknowledging you don’t know something, but you’d like to, that’s a way of showing support.

Equally important, just as with any colleague, stay away from inappropriately personal questions. Just because someone is trans doesn’t give you the right to inquire about if they will, or want to, have surgery or the gender of the person they date.

For more information about how to be an ally to trans professionals, consult GLAAD.



Use the Right Currency of Communication

With some people, you just “click.” With others, every conversation feels like hitting a wall or speaking a different language.

What’s not working?

Pesos won’t buy you coffee in NYC, and differing currencies of communication create similar break downs.

We recently worked with an attorney on the cusp of quitting her job. Jan* was a high achiever, but her tense relationship with her boss was undermining her performance, image, and daily life.

When she considered the currencies between her and her boss, Jan realized she values efficiency. She capitalizes upon her expertise to quickly identify issues meriting attention and dismisses the others. This directly conflicts with her boss’s value of safety; he fixates on every detail to prepare for worst case scenarios. 

Jan communicates with a currency of efficiency while her boss listens for the currency of safety. This is inefficient and harmful to the workplace, creating frustration and unnecessary tension. 

Just as the dollar is the obvious currency in America, our assumptions about what’s important in conversation are so obvious to us that it’s difficult to recognize anything else. And for the other person, their currency of communication is the one that matters. 

When something isn’t working, it's tempting to repeat yourself, asserting your own currency, but it’s not useful. Instead, Jan completely shifted the dynamic with her boss when she began to frame her reports through a lens of safety. She increased her level of detail and justified shortcuts as safer because it allowed her to focus on high priority situations. The result— her boss eased up and Jan was able to excel in her role. 

The next time you’re annoyed with a co-worker or client, identify their underlying currency. What are they most concerned with? How can you translate your point of view into a currency they will accept?



Project the Power of Your Brand

Imagine listening to a sales pitch. The presenter looks down to avoid eye contact, mumbles the ends of sentences, and continuously pushes the hair out of his face. 

Would you be compelled to buy?

What if it was Steve Jobs? When he started out, that’s exactly how he looked. Look at the video above.

Why does this matter? In the business world, listeners judge a speaker’s verbal and non-verbal signals as an extension of his brand. Unconsciously, listeners associate the speaker’s nerves or lack of eloquence with a flaw in the product or service.

Steve Jobs realized his presentation delivery made a negative impact. He needed skeptics to believe in him, so he worked with a communications coach and practiced for months before important events (even after his great success).

Now comes the moment of truth. Picture yourself giving a really important presentation in a meeting or to a large group. Would a critical judge be inspired to buy? Can you say the same for everyone on your team?

What can you do right now to improve? Draw inspiration from Jobs— prioritize the presentation delivery of your brand. Talk about presentation skills and notice how you respond to others' presentations... What makes you lean in? What makes you check your phone?

Most professionals do not think about how others judge them. The shift of noticing how people see you in presentations and meetings will lead to a stronger position for your brand.


Radical Empathy


Radical Empathy

The movie Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, is based on Cheryl Strayed’s New York Times best selling memoir. She wrote it about a time when her mother died, her marriage dissolved, and she thought she had nothing left to lose. 

Now a celebrated author, Strayed’s success is due to more than her insightful prose. She champions the practice of “radical empathy."

Radical empathy means sometimes the most powerful tool is genuine, human response. As articulated by her frequent collaborator, Steve Almond, “We’re hurtling through time and space and information faster and faster, seeking that network of connection. But at the same time we’re falling away from our families and our neighbors and ourselves."

The most powerful communicators offer strength, and when appropriate, also display vulnerability. 

Everyone’s heard the expression, “People do business with people they like.” But what does that really mean? Even in business, people respond incredibly powerfully to authentic connection. 

Scientifically, the definition of empathy is a physical matching between two people. If you empathize with someone, you often sync up in heart rate and breath pattern. 

As long as you balance your empathy with effectiveness, people will respect you for it and like you more. 

Although people fear it may be a sign of weakness, this ability to reveal your humanity with a colleague or client is actually a display of strength.



3 Ways to Tackle Tough Questions

1. Stay Open in Your Body Language. 

When the heat is on, it's tempting to want to run out of the room (or at least close off with your body). Instead of closing into a defensive posture, try taking a deep breath to release the tension in your body. Keep your eyes focused on the other person and your arms open. This will communicate you are confident and unthreatened.

2. Validate the Other and Probe for More Information.

It's tempting to want to blurt the first thing that comes into your head, but that's usually not a great choice. Depending on the circumstance, you might say something like, "Great question. Could you tell me a little more ...” or “That’s very interesting, I’m so glad you asked that.” This tactic will validate the other and create a sense that their goals are aligned, or at least in dialogue, with yours. It allows you to gain additional information before committing to a course. And, it often buys you a few extra seconds to calm your body and think your thoughts. 

3.  Acknowledge and Move On. 

Once you've validated and probed for information, the other person will feel heard. If it seems appropriate, set a different time to discuss the question after you'd had time to think. There is no harm in taking the time you need to consider a question. From there, do what’s necessary to close the loop so you've addressed the question in some way. Then shift the conversation back to the main topic or something in your comfort zone. Continue as if nothing happened. Find enjoyment in what you’re discussing. And you will be in the clear!



The Dark Side of Storytelling


It's terrible. And no one wants to talk about it... "The Problem" of a story.

We're not talking about a problem resulting from telling a story. (Stories are fabulous. They can increase buying intentions by 133%.*) We're dealing with a story's key component, "The Problem."

Consider great movies, there's always dark before the dawn. 

Rocky-- Would you care if he wins the fight if he hadn't struggled so hard to get there?

Mrs. Doubtfire-- Would you care if he gets to see his kids if he hadn't worked so hard and then almost lost custody?

In business, people like to speak of positive outcomes, winning and growth. They are often hesitant to share anything negative. But, to pack the full punch of a great story, you need to include a problem or obstacle before you get to success. This applies to case studies, success stories, and a huge range of other story structures. 

When you set up a main character who faces "The Problem" and then he/she must struggle for the win, the listener starts to wonder,"What will happen?" 

If your story can hook the listener into that question:

  1. You bypass the listeners' defense mechanisms because they imagine themselves on the main character's team. They start rooting for him/her to win!
  2. You increase listeners' engagement. They lean forward and want to know more. 
  3. You increase listeners' memory of the story. The human brain records stories much deeper than regular, factual information.

So the next time you find yourself launching into a story, experiment with adding a little struggle. Life isn't always easy. When you embrace "The Problem" within a story, you'll come across as more authentic and bring the listener along the journey with you.



5 Easy Ways to Kill Those Stubborn Nerves

  1. Slow down & breathe. If you calm your body, your mind will follow.
  2. Take up as much space as possible. Sit up tall. Put your feet on the floor. It will make you look and feel like you should be taken seriously. 
  3. Pretend you are breathing from the bottoms of your feet. This technique calms your nervous system because you feel the ground.
  4. Stop the “Bobble Head Effect.” Sometimes we nod because we’re trying to get approval from the other person. It can get out of control before we even know it. (This is very different than a simple nod to communicate understanding.) If you catch yourself head-bobbing up and down, take a breath and find stillness.
  5. Pause for 2 seconds before you speak. Pausing demonstrates you are confident enough to speak in your own time & gives your mind time to process.



The Gift You Can't Afford NOT to Give

Bill Clinton uses the power of his presence to compel an audience. What if you could do it too?

Bill Clinton uses the power of his presence to compel an audience. What if you could do it too?

According to the Wharton School of Business, "facts comprise less than 10% of why people reach agreements.” 

So, what’s the other 90%? Relationships play a huge role in making deals and moving forward. We're smart creatures-- it only takes a 17th of a millisecond to read a person’s face. So, in conversation, if your mind wanders even for an instant, the listener notices. 

Distraction kills charisma. At best, he or she might think you’re a little bored. At worst, you could be seen as disrespectful, untrustworthy or uninterested.

During this holiday season, when everyone’s thinking about giving, the greatest missed gifting opportunity is presence. When you give full, focused attention to another person, the interaction effortlessly unfolds. 

Maximize the power of your presence with the UP 30 Minute Attention Challenge. If you fully commit, you'll be shocked by the results. (WARNING: This takes way more energy than you may think. But, it's worth it!)

UP 30 Minute Attention Challenge
Choose 30 minutes of your day when you will be communicating in person or on the phone. Secretly pretend each person you engage with is the most important person you’ve ever met. Breathe and concentrate on the other person’s point of view. (Bill Clinton does this famously.) Notice how each exchange differed from your typical, run-of-the mill interactions.

For the most powerful results, set a timer to hold yourself accountable for the whole 30 minutes. Expect transformation! 


Warm Up to Play!

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, is known for being a compelling presenter. Just like an athlete, he's energized and his full body is "in the game."

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, is known for being a compelling presenter. Just like an athlete, he's energized and his full body is "in the game."

Presentation Tip: Game On

Everyone knows that feeling when you had a great meeting or presentation because you were “on.” We’re often asked, “How can I be 'on' every time?”

One of our favorite tools is Warm Up To Play. The concept is easy to execute. A professional athlete like Peyton Manning would never head out onto the field without an extensive warm up. Professionals need to warm up too. 

In a state of peak performance, your mind and body work as one. This is equally true for sports and business. Executives must get their mind and body “in the game.”

Want to step UP your game? 

Before an important meeting or presentation, warm up your body by doing something physical to get your blood flowing and oxygenate your brain. 

Most people utilize less than a third of their breath capacity. You need air to be at your best! So take a few moments to walk briskly around the block or stretch and breathe into whatever part of your body feels tight. 

Warm up your mind by actively thinking through the logical steps to reach your desired outcome. Visualize success. 

We recently trained a team that called this, “Game On.” Warming UP to Play had a huge impact on their ability to win new business. 

Give warming UP a try!