Create A “Go To Hell” Plan to Help Survive Your Next Crisis Reply

PlanningBy Chris Simmons

From my earliest days in the military, I was taught to always have a plan. It made sense. After all, if something is worth the investment of your precious resources (i.e., time, talents, and treasures), it merits a well thought-out roadmap to success.

But it didn’t stop there. “Your adversary has a vote” we were told, or more emphatically – “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” To offset our foe’s “vote,” we needed to create a “Plan B” (also known as a “back-up” or “alternative plan”). The purpose of Plan B was to have a viable option when the unexpected occurred.

Then they forced us to develop a contingency for when the seemingly unimaginable occurred. This contingency, known throughout the military as a “Go To Hell” plan, forced us to consider and plan for nightmare scenarios. Saddam Hussein got schooled in this concept a week into the 2003 invasion of Iraq when, with all his military forces fighting in the south, a brigade of US paratroopers unexpectedly jumped into northern Iraq. He lost control of the entire northern third of the nation immediately.

Note to self — luck and hope are not planning factors.

We enhanced the value of our plans by role playing through all three scenarios: the most likely, the supposedly less likely, and then the improbable. The mere act of visualizing the “what ifs” better prepared us for a range of situations, not just the ideal one. This de facto rehearsal also had a calming effect. When we needed to jump from Plan “A” to Plan “B” (or worse), we already knew the key planning issues: who, what, when, where, why, and how. This familiarity bred confidence and reduced stress.

That said, we always kept in mind that our personal experiences and biases skewed what we considered to be possible and probable. We knew we could still misread our adversary. This awareness helped reduce the impact of the shock anytime we were surprised.

Finally, a plan need not be perfect. A good plan well executed now is infinitely better than the perfect plan too late.

I quickly grasped that this planning methodology wasn’t just for the military. It is applicable and relevant to everyone’s personal and professional lives as well. Job relocations, births, deaths, accidents, illnesses, promotions, marriages, divorces, financial ups & downs….the list is endless. Life is unpredictable and demanding. Planning adds clarity and reduces anxiety. Life happens, be ready for it.

91% of Executives Mismanage Their Time – At What Cost? Reply

wasted timeBy Chris Simmons

In March, Inc magazine ran a very interesting feature called “Time Troubles.” This article claimed that only 9% of executives are satisfied with their seemingly optimal time-management skills. The vast remainder of corporate leaders Inc assigned to one of four failed executive types: Crisis Managers, Cheerleaders, Online Junkies, and Schmoozers. While Inc did not say what percentage of executives fit into each category, it did reveal the major failings which resulted in said assignments:

  • Crisis Managers: Spent 67% more time on unanticipated, short-duration problems than the optimal group.
  • Cheerleaders: Mis-spent 45% more time on employee pep talks AND 39% less time with business clients.
  • Online Junkies: Wasted 36% more time on email and voice mail than more effective and efficient face-to-face communication.
  • Schmoozers: Squandered 17% more time with clients than necessary by stealing time that should have been invested in communicating with their workplace colleagues.

The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. As such, I thought the Inc item was a great starting point. We, collectively, pay a huge price for poor time management. It drives up personnel turn-over, miscommunication and bankruptcies while driving down morale, engagement, and profit margins. In keeping with this theme, the next question I would love to see Inc tackle is: “what is the cumulative cost of these time-management failures?”

 

Interpreting the Different Messages of “Barrier” Positions Reply

Boss using his desk as a barrier as he addresses a subordinate standing in the submissive, fig-leaf pose.

Boss using his desk as a barrier as he addresses a subordinate standing in the submissive, fig-leaf pose.

By Chris Simmons

“Barrier” positions are displays of emotional distancing. Some are planned, overt signs of power intended to reinforce the stiffness of the boss-subordinate relationship. Meeting with your boss while she remains seated behind her executive desk would be such an example. [Note: This contrasts with a more visually-open boss who sits in a chair adjacent to her desk so she is kitty-corner and barrier free].

To display power and emotional distancing while seated, Americans – especially men, will sit in the “Figure-Four” pose.

President John F. Kennedy sitting in a “figure-four” stance; generally viewed as a distancing or “barrier” position.

President John F. Kennedy sitting in a “figure-four” stance; generally viewed as a distancing or “barrier” position.

Very different barrier positions are seen in reactive body gestures that demonstrate either a lack of power, disengagement from the speaker, or increased tension/hostility.

Known as the fig-leaf, the disempowerment pose occurs when an individual covers their groin with their clasped hands. Understandably, it is a major display of submission. Interestingly, you will also see this stance at funerals and memorial services. In this context, it displays emotional loss and a subconscious demonstration of man’s subjection to death. Note: you will also often see this stance in staged photos wherein the subject(s) didn’t know where to put their hands. 

The most commonly seen and misunderstood barrier position is crossed arms. It can indicate the person is cold, disengaging from the ongoing discussion, or becoming antagonized. To distinguish between the latter two stances, look for signs of tension. A puffed up chest, tense arms, or fingers clenched into fists or around the arms reveal anger. In contrast, a person who is simply disengaging will be relaxed, as they will likely be disinterested, skeptical, or otherwise uncaring regarding this particular issue/person.

Similarly, an agitated person who is seated may wrap his/her ankles around the legs of a chair, “locking” or anchoring themselves down. The use of this barrier signals physical restraint, as the individual is taking measures to keep from springing out of their seat.

 

 

Six Simple Steps to De-Escalate a Tense Situation Reply

President John F. Kennedy sitting in a “figure-four” stance; generally viewed as a distancing or “barrier” position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Chris Simmons

Previous posts have addressed the principle that emotions – not logic – are the core drivers in any decision. As such, when engaged in a discussion wherein tensions are rising, you can quickly lower stress levels by using these simple forms of nonverbal communication:

(not in priority order)

  • Change the angle of your body vis-à-vis your counterpart.
    • Shift your stance so your torso is not parallel to his/her upper body (i.e., you’re not “squared off” as in boxing).
    • If standing, cross your legs.
    • Tilt your head during the discussion.
  • Concede space, by either stepping back or leaning back.
  • Lessen the frequency and length of eye contact.
  • Avoid “barrier” behavior, such as crossed arms or a figure-four sitting position.
  • Take a deep breathe and audibly exhale. This gesture gently expresses your frustration while concurrently calming you and those around you.
  •  Enjoy a “change of scenery” together. Take a short walk or go get something to eat or drink.

In every human interaction, the majority of one’s message is conveyed nonverbally. Thus, rather than telling someone you want to defuse a tense situation, show them. Given our reliance on visual cues, “show, don’t tell” always achieves faster and more effective results.

Kelly McGonigal: How to Make Stress Your Friend Reply

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

What Volleyball Huddles Can Teach Us About The Dynamics of “Personal Distance” Reply

By Chris Simmons

Most of us don’t realize that the distance we place between us and others greatly affects our communication and relationships. To illustrate my point, let’s look at a real life situation that clearly demonstrated the dynamics of closeness.

I was thoroughly enjoying the volleyball tournament my talented daughter was competing in when a team huddle caught my attention. “That’s not the way they huddled last week,” I thought. Just seven days earlier, the girls were 6-1 going into the championship round. Their teamwork and technical skills had been nearly flawless and it showed in every time-out prompted huddle. The girls stood in a tight circle – many hugging their teammates on both sides.

But today – several things were different. They were off their game and they knew it. They were winning, but the game was closer than it should have been. The other team wasn’t scoring points as much as much as my daughter’s team was giving away points with sloppy play. When the coach called a time-out, the girls huddled but with 12-18 inches between every player. Shoulders sagged. No one touched, laughed, or even smiled. They were frustrated and disappointed in themselves.

As the tourney continued, three of the girls hit a slump and their opponents used the opportunity to take a small lead. At the very next huddle, not only was there now one to two feet of daylight between most of the players, but the three slumping girls stood loosely together five feet outside the circle.  No one had said anything to them – the three had excluded themselves. Later that afternoon, they settled down – regained their focus – and played the best game I’d seen in years. Their re-found camaraderie and joy again showed in their huddles. Everyone was hugging and smiling.

The girls had played together for months at this point. They were all good friends – some had been best friends for years. Even so, the ebb and flow of emotion visibly displayed the expansion and contraction of  their individual and collective personal space needs. The “intimate zone” bonding of a seasoned team gave way to physical distancing among players as a result of their stress.

Known as “proxemics,” this occurrence refers to the distance between interacting people. Personal distance is a key element for judging and then displaying how a person aids our self-interest. It’s a subconscious survival instinct derived from gathering visual clues and deciding to move towards someone, let them come to you, or move away. The fluid dynamic of this physical space reveals a great deal of information, as the four “proxemic” zones (listed below) are circular areas in which others enter or stay based on the relationship we have with them at that exact moment.

   The Four “Proxemic” Zones
Intimate Space: Within 18 inches.
Personal Space: 18 inches – 4 feet.
Social Space: 4 – 12 feet.
Public Space: 12 – 25 feet.