The Three Steps Maximizing Your Collaboration Skills Reply

CollaborationAs a leader you should be consistently improving how you collaborate.

by Thuy Sindell, Ph.D. and Milo Sindell, M.S. in The End of Work As You Know It

Unless you live and work alone in a cave, it is almost certain that you have work relationships that involve some level of collaboration.  Collaboration is vital not just for getting work done as efficiently as possible; it is also critical for optimum workplace satisfaction, because true collaboration increases an individual’s morale, sense of accomplishment, and identity within their team and company. As a leader or an aspiring one, you should be consistently reflecting on how you collaborate and seeking opportunities to raise your “collaboration game.”  Not only will being a strong collaborator raise your productivity and job satisfaction, it will reinforce to others that you are a leader.

Every day, without thinking about it, you head to work and spend the day interacting in a number of collaborative relationships. You might collaborate with your closest team member, your supervisor, someone in another department, or maybe someone in a satellite or overseas office. When collaboration is easy, the process flows effortlessly. You explore ideas and approaches to the current project or task, go back and forth over how to get it done, divide duties according to individual skills, and move forward to complete the job. Sometimes, however, you wish it would be this easy. Occasionally, things just don’t click with the other person, despite a mutual desire to be successful. 

1. Start with a strong foundation

But why are some relationships easy and fluid while others feel like an uphill battle? In any human interaction, there is a host of things of things going on that can influence the outcome. In order to maximize effective workplace collaborative relationships, they must have the following:

  • Clear objectives
  • Clear roles
  • Trust that each party will fulfill what they have agreed to do
  • Communication that is open and timely

2. Optimize and refine

Fine-tuning your collaboration skills begins with assessing all of your existing collaborative relationships.

  • First, confirm the people with whom you have strong relationships. Think about the personality traits you and the other person share that enable you to work so well together.
  • Next, think about the complimentary skills the two of you share and how they mesh together.
  • Finally, ask what enables strong ongoing collaboration to take place.

Feature continues here:  The Three Steps

Maysoon Zayid: I Got 99 Problems… Palsy is Just One Reply

“I have cerebral palsy. I shake all the time,” Maysoon Zayid announces at the beginning of this exhilarating, hilarious talk. (Really, it’s hilarious.) “I’m like Shakira meets Muhammad Ali.” With grace and wit, the Arab-American comedian takes us on a whistle-stop tour of her adventures as an actress, stand-up comic, philanthropist and advocate for the disabled.

The Science Behind “Self-Fulfilling Prophesies” 1

By Chris Simmons

It goes without saying that how one person treats another determines how that individual performs. What is not so well understood, especially by bosses and parents, is the legitimate science behind this occurrence.

An individual’s performance goes up or down, in large part, based upon the expectations levied against him/her. When high expectations are placed on a person, he/she will perform better. This phenomenon is called the Pygalion or Rosenthal Effect.

At the other extreme is the Golem Effect, which occurs when decreased performance results from low expectations.

The Rosenthal Effect takes its name from a study on student performance, while the Pygalion reference is taken from an ancient Greek legend. In the Rosenthal-Jacobson research, elementary school students were given a disguised IQ test. Twenty percent of the schoolchild were then randomly chosen — and for experiment purposes — identified as “peak performers.” The names of these purportedly high-potential students were then shared with the teachers. During the course of their study, all the schoolchildren advanced academically. However, the falsely labeled “peak performers” universally exceeded all expectations and past achievements.

Part of this phenomenon derives from how we make decisions. The 1st Rule of Human Nature, Self-Interest Trumps Best Interest,” captures the core principle that all decisions are based on emotion, not logic or reason. Furthermore, since Self-Interest is strongly tied to  Identity and Self-Image, the positive reinforcement that comes from high expectations triggers internal motivators that drive one towards the identified goal. Additional research has discovered that these affirmations and positive social interactions prompt a favorable chemical response in the body. This “endorphin rush” makes you feel better (and happier), which legitimately amps up one’s performance and emotions.

Ultimately, the increased performance by the employee/child also alters the behavior of the boss/parent. The leader will invest more time, attention and effort in their protégé, further incentivizing and sustaining the increased performance.

Taken in their totality, these actions create a self-sustaining feedback loop of positive emotions and in short order, this repetition creates a highly rewarding self-fulfilling prophecy. Sadly, the inverse is equally true. As Calvin Lloyd noted, “Nobody rises to low expectations,” succinctly highlighting the crippling impact of negative feedback and the Golem Effect.

What Al-Qaeda Taught Me About the Frailty of Loyalty – Redux Reply

Al-Qaeda in Iraq (Courtesy: Fox News)












This award-winning post was originally published on May 29, 2013.

By Chris Simmons

The most diabolical, manipulative, and extraordinarily successful interrogation ploy I used to interrogate High-Value terrorists in Iraq was the Prisoners’ Dilemma. It LITERALLY never failed. Research the Prisoners’ Dilemma and you will find it called “game theory.” I can assure you its use is neither theoretical nor game-like. It appeals to the strongest and basest instincts in all of us – self-survival –by pitting members of a group against one another for a reward.

More was always better with this technique, but a two detainee minimum was sufficient. In our case, we always began our “theater of the mind” in the Black Room, so named as its floor, ceiling, and walls were painted matte black. We’d also found a way to give the room a slight echo-effect, which many found unsettling. Having captured several Al-Qaeda associates (all believed to have similar information) in a given raid, we would move them from their individual cells to the Black Room. While being moved, our detainees wore blacked-out goggles to increase stress and anxiety.

My guards would place the detainees against opposing walls. Once everyone was in position, they would quickly and briefly lift the detainees’ goggles so they could see their associates. In an amazing performance, one of my staff – in a very calm and confident voice – would then tell the group they needed to listen carefully as we were about to make a limited-time offer. They were told we knew who they were and that they shared similar experiences and knowledge. As a result, we explained, there was no need for us to question all of them. So, the first one (or two, or three – depending on group size) to cooperate would receive lenient treatment and be quickly released. The others would be identified as “uncooperative” and held indefinitely (Note: We were under no obligation to be truthful with our High-Value Individuals).

Pacing back and forth down the center of the room, my “choreographer” would then announce that all those ready to cooperate and be quickly processed for release should raise their right hand – NOW. Since our performance was based exclusively on auditory cues, nothing was left to chance. Regardless of whether anyone raised their hand, my “choreographer” would then loudly announce “Alright, we have one…now two..” (Note: His response was tailored based on group size).

Extra guards we had stationed in the Black Room would then noisily shuffle off, creating the illusion of cooperating detainees. The words and sounds exploited their worst fears. Within seconds, hands would go up (if they hadn’t initially). Paranoia soared as the sound of more exiting detainees echoed throughout the room.

In some cases, every detainee volunteered, creating a vicious race to see who could reveal the most information the fastest. For any that were left, we would wait until the room was again silent and as their goggles were lifted, tell them what their eyes knew to be true –several (if not all) of their colleagues had abandoned them. Invariably, the previously reluctant detainee(s) would suddenly agree to “take the deal.” The cut-throat competitiveness of the Prisoners’ Dilemma also precluded detainees from the self-defeating response of lying to one of my interrogators. It simply did not occur.

The most striking and disturbing aspect of this questioning technique was how quickly self-interest shattered not just the existing cohesiveness of the detainee group, but even their individual values, beliefs, and identities. Blood-ties and Al-Qaeda service together meant little when pitted against our appeal. On every occasion, primal self-interest trumped loyalty and collective needs, not it days or weeks, but in just a few short hours.

How to “Weed Out” The Roots of Jealousy Reply

By Chris Simmons

Academics continued to debate whether jealousy is triggered by low self-esteem or low self-worth. I believe it’s a distinction without a difference.

Jealousy is – at its core – an identity issue. Let’s assume your spouse or significant other is friendly, attractive, charismatic, self-confident, and a gifted athlete. However, he is very sensitive to money issues, as he plays professional lacrosse — a sport where the salaries and financial rewards are poor. Now imagine the two of you are at a friend’s party. Since he is a rich entrepreneur, the affluence of the host or fellow party-goers  could trigger a jealous bout.

In your beloved’s mind, his identity is tied, in part, to his ability to earn a good income. Despite his other blessings, he is insecure about this facet of his identity. This feeling may be further complicated by the human tendency to “mirror image” – that is, he may take his focus on the need for a good income and superimpose that belief on you. In doing so, this further fuels jealous feelings.

All identity issues are rooted in our emotions. As such, his negative feelings are best counteracted by de-emphasizing the importance of his current income. Don’t go “off message” by complimenting him on his athleticism, appearance, etc. – those aren’t the jealousy triggers. Instead, you could simply reassure him that it’s more important to you that you both pursue your passions rather than sell out for a well-paying but soul-killing job. Remind him that together you share a nice income and incredible jobs. Life could not be any better.

Regardless of whether the root cause of the jealousy is low self-esteem, little self-worth, or envy, tread lightly on their emotions. Be empathetic rather than sympathetic and most importantly; be absolutely sincere in diminishing the perceived importance of the “jealousy trigger.”  If they doubt your message, you could inadvertently leave them worse off than when you started.

How the Brain Creates Personality: A New Theory Reply

Are you a mover, a perceiver, a stimulator, or an adapter? Modes of thinking can be understood in terms of how the top and bottom—rather than right and left—parts of the brain interact.

By Stephen M. Kosslyn & G. Wayne Miller, The Atlantic

It is possible to examine any object—including a brain—at different levels. Take the example of a building. If we want to know whether the house will have enough space for a family of five, we want to focus on the architectural level; if we want to know how easily it could catch fire, we want to focus on the materials level; and if we want to engineer a product for a brick manufacturer, we focus on molecular structure.

Similarly, if we want to know how the brain gives rise to thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we want to focus on the bigger picture of how its structure allows it to store and process information—the architecture, as it were. To understand the brain at this level, we don’t have to know everything about the individual connections among brain cells or about any other biochemical process. We use a rela­tively high level of analysis, akin to architecture in buildings, to characterize relatively large parts of the brain.

To explain the Theory of Cognitive Modes, which specifies general ways of thinking that underlie how a person approaches the world and interacts with other people, we need to provide you with a lot of information. We want you to understand where this theory came from—that we didn’t just pull it out of a hat or make it up out of whole cloth. But there’s no need to lose the forest for the trees: there are only three key points that you will really need to keep in mind.

First, the top parts and the bottom parts of the brain have differ­ent functions. The top brain formulates and executes plans (which often involve deciding where to move objects or how to move the body in space), whereas the bottom brain classifies and interprets incoming information about the world. The two halves always work together; most important, the top brain uses information from the bottom brain to formulate its plans (and to reformulate them, as they unfold over time).

Second, according to the theory, people vary in the degree that they tend to rely on each of the two brain systems for functions that are optional (i.e., not dictated by the immediate situation): Some people tend to rely heavily on both brain systems, some rely heavily on the bottom brain system but not the top, some rely heavily on the top but not the bottom, and some don’t rely heavily on either system.

Third, these four scenarios define four basic cognitive modes— general ways of thinking that underlie how a person approaches the world and interacts with other people. According to the Theory of Cognitive Modes, each of us has a particular dominant cognitive mode, which affects how we respond to situations we encounter and how we relate to others. The possible modes are: Mover Mode, Perceiver Mode, Stimulator Mode, and Adaptor Mode.

Systems, Not Dichotomies

We use what researchers have learned to present a new theory of brain function that hinges on how the top and bottom parts of the brain interact. But we do not try to characterize the top and bottom parts of the brain in terms of a simple dichotomy or set of dichotomies, which was exactly what was done with the existing and well-known division of the brain into two halves: namely the left versus the right, the dominant pop-culture brain story of the last few decades. You have probably heard of this theory, in which the left and right halves of the brain are characterized, respectively, as logical versus intuitive, verbal versus perceptual, analytic versus synthetic, and so forth. The trouble is that none of these sweeping generalizations has stood up to careful scientific scrutiny. The dif­ferences between the left and right sides of the brain are nuanced, and simple, sweeping dichotomies do not in fact explain how the two sides function.

Feature continues here:  How the Brain Creates Personality: A New Theory

Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action 3

Simon Sinek presents a simple but powerful model for how leaders inspire action, starting with a golden circle and the question “Why?” His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers — and as a counterpoint Tivo, which (until a recent court victory that tripled its stock price) appeared to be struggling.

For The Love of Our Brothers: Saving Marcus Luttrell Reply

By Chris Simmons

Trailer for the forthcoming movie, Lone Survivor

Three of the four SEALs we infiltrated into the Himalayas yesterday were already dead or wounded before we even knew they were in trouble.

Known as Task Force 328, we launched Operation “Red Wing” against the infamous Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. The SEAL Team 10 members were on a Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R&S) mission. Their mission was not to kill Shah, but to covertly find and monitor him until he could be captured or killed by other assets. Regrettably, the mission went horribly wrong.

Late on June 27, 2005, two of our twin-engine MH-47 helicopters performed several “false insertions.” This maneuver confused Taliban forces as to the true location of the SEAL’s drop-off point at Sawtalo Sar. Over 2800 meters tall, the peak is in the eastern Afghanistanprovince of Kunar. It overlooks the mouth of the Wakhan Corridor — a narrow finger of territory between Tajikistan and Pakistan.

The R&S team consisted of Navy Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, Petty Officer Second Class Danny P. Dietz, Petty Officer Second Class Matthew G. Axelson and Navy Corpsman (“medic”) Second Class Marcus Luttrell.

Within hours of their arrival, the team was discovered by local goat herders. Although they were deep in “Taliban Country,” the SEALS had no proof the herders were anything more than they appeared. Murphy ordered them released. It proved to be a fateful decision.

Tipped off by the “goat herders,” an estimated 50 Taliban fighters surrounded the SEALs and attacked with assault rifles, light machine guns, Rocket Propelled Grenades, and light mortars.

The SEALs tried using their radio and a satellite phone to contact those of us in the Joint Operations Center (JOC). Geography appears to have crippled their “comms.” The team could only establish and maintain communication with us long enough to say they were under heavy attack.

A rescue mission was immediately launched, comprised solely of volunteers:  eight Navy SEALs and eight Army Special Operations aviators. The crew of the MH-47 quickly found the SEAL’s position and with Gatling guns blazing, descended. As “Turbine 33” descended to a height of 100 feet, a Taliban fighter stepped out of the tree line with a Rocket Propelled Grenade. He fired the RPG directly into the chopper’s rear engine. Needing both engines to stay aloft in the thin air of the Himalayas, Turbine 33 dropped like a rock. The crash killed all aboard.

Meanwhile, Marcus Luttrell was the R&S team’s sole survivor. Knocked out by a separate RPG blast, he regained consciousness to find himself with several broken bones and other serious wounds.

Ghalib, a local Pashtun man, found Luttrell and offered sanctuary in his home. Under tribal law, one is sworn to protect the life of anyone who crosses the threshold of your home. Outraged by Ghalib’s act, the Taliban surrounded his home and demanded he turn over the American. He bravely defied their demands and the Taliban, unwilling to violate tribal law, withdrew after several days.

Shortly thereafter, American forces rescued Luttrell and recovered the bodies of the 19 personnel killed during the mission. The memorial service at Task Force headquarters lasted three hours, marked by personal tributes and anecdotes from 19 brothers-in-arms. Not a dry eye could be found.

The callsign Turbine 33 was retired, never again to be used by a US military aircraft.

Some people say that war changes you. I believe a more accurate assessment is that war sharpens and amplifies who you already are. Bad men devolve into Satan incarnate. Good men become immortal. Their heroic deeds becomes the stuff of legends, but so too their motivation, because they made their sacrifice not for God and Country, but for the noblest of all emotions — love. Shakespeare said it best:  We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”

Why Enemies Are More Important Than Friends 1

Your Friends Like You, But Your Enemies Define You

By Chris Simmons

An individual’s closest friends tell you WHO they are. In contrast, their enemies reveal WHAT they are. It has been my experience that an enemy’s impact on one’s personality is much more personal, memorable, and long-term. Enemies define you:  they tell the world who you are NOT. As such, you can learn valuable insights into the core values and beliefs of others by identifying and understanding not only their friends, but their foes as well.

Friends come and go throughout the seasons of our life. In contrast, opponents are often “frozen in time,” remaining enemies forever. They may be out of one’s life, but the mere thought of them prompts a visceral response. This occurs, in part, because negative emotions can often be stronger than positive ones in the same way insults are often easier to remember than compliments. Additionally, since our enemies define facets of our identity, the impact lasts significantly longer than many friendships.

As you may recall from the June 8th post (“The Secret to Never Getting Blindsided, ) one’s identity and self-image is rooted in our emotions, vice the more dispassionate foundation of logic and reason. As a result, we often make our own enemies.

For example, I’m reminded of a National Guard officer with whom I worked years ago. Lacking any shred of integrity, he was an embarrassment to the uniform. In fact, I can honestly say the closest this Major had ever come to “ethics” was a dictionary. His “protector” was a more senior officer with whom he shared close business, political, and personal ties.

This officer generated considerable victories in service to his “protector,” as well as his own craven desires. It’s unclear, however, whether the Major and his patron saint – a Lieutenant Colonel – ever wondered why all their victories were short-term and hard-fought. The reason, of course, was that their “enemies” list was long, distinguished and its members hungry for payback. These two officers invested so much effort in blindly satisfying their immediate self-interest that they destroyed their reputation, denied themselves endless personal and professional opportunities, and undermined unit cohesiveness.

The “Free Choice” paradigm found that after an individual has made a choice, he/she builds it up to reassure themselves of the wisdom of their selection. Concurrently, we begin denigrating that object/person/etc that we did not choose. In sum, we create a feedback loop validating that we made the right choice. With regard to our personal interactions, this sustains the warmth and intensity of our friendships while fueling and deepening the animosity of those selected as enemies.

Furthermore, research has found that, as humans, we are twice as upset about a loss as we are happy about a gain. Thus, if an enemy is in a position to hurt us, we are even more focused and emotionally invested in reacting to the perceived threat. This negative dynamic then adds yet another layer to an adversarial relationship.

As a result, the study of one’s enemies offers an extraordinary opportunity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person’s true identity, especially the rationale for the “who I am NOT” components.