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Guest Post: How Yoga Can Help You De-Stress At Work

Stress management in today’s work environments is extremely important. This was true long before the CoV19 outbreak, and will continue to be into the future. In many industries, people have been working longer hours for several years now — and the problem has only gotten worse in 2020, with 44% of people putting in more hours at home according to RTE. This naturally leads to stress (as if we don’t all have a bit too much already these days), which is not only bad for employees’ personal wellness but also has a negative effect on productivity. Virtually any experienced leader in business will attest to the fact that a stressed-out employee is generally a worse one.

An employee who feels overworked will ultimately “burn out” — an idea we covered in our piece on ‘How to Access Your Peak Performance’ back in 2018. In that piece we focused more on some of the mental and strategic things people can do to avoid feeling overwhelmed (such as saying “no” to more tasks, when possible). But sometimes physical activity can help to offset the burden or the modern work schedule as well.

One idea with regards to the physical dimension that become increasingly common is yoga. A simple search for “corporate yoga” will reveal pages upon pages of write-ups about various companies that have infused yoga and wellness programs into their cultures. They include the likes of Aetna, Blue Chip, and Eventbrite. But now, with so many people working at home, yoga is an even more appealing option, because it’s that much easier to sep away from your desk and knock out some downward-facing dog!

So let’s identify a few of the specific ways an activity like yoga in the workplace can help employees to manage stress, and thereby keep workplaces (even the remote ones) more productive and healthy.

#1 – Yoga is actually feasible

Yoga in the office can take a lot of forms. In the best of cases, a company will establish communal space where yoga or other light physical activities can be practiced, so as to incentivize employees to take care of themselves. However, the point here is that even in a more traditional office environment, yoga at work is completely feasible! Sure, you might not be able to do the full routine you’d ordinarily do at home with your favorite yoga app, or in a local studio or gym you might go to. But there are some things you can do without taking up any more space than you normally do when you’re sitting at your desk.

Thrive Global wrote about practical stress management and revealed some of the specifics behind simple yoga exercises that most anyone can do at work. Declaring yoga “hard to beat” as a stress management technique, the article revealed some basic poses — such as spine twists, rolling shoulders, and back-and-forth twists — that you can do quite literally while seated at your desk. There are more like these out there, and there are also some effective yoga exercises you can do standing behind your chair, if you have the option. Whatever the specifics may be though, the point is that one reason office yoga is so effective is that you can actually practice it regularly, no matter what your working environment may be. So yes, Yoga is feasaible!

#2 – Yoga Can Be Social

Socialization in the workplace is a somewhat polarizing topic. Some believe that employees becoming friendly with each other can lead to the working environment becoming somewhat less serious, and ultimately less productive. Others, however, believe that when employees are encouraged to socialize, they generally stay happier, and thus avoid burnout. To that point, Forbes covered multiple benefits of social connections specifically for employee wellness. Their article made note of broad concepts like increased happiness, less stress, increased engagement, and so on.

Considering these points it’s fair to say that socialization itself helps to keep workplace stress under control. Yoga, however, can help to drive that socialization. We mentioned above that some offices have spaces set aside for yoga and similar activities, and in these cases the exercise can help unite people. Even if employees aren’t necessarily chatting a whole lot while practicing yoga, they’ll be doing something together aside from work. It can help to build a sense of community that can in turn help to reduce stress. So yes, Yoga is quite but there is a very social, team-dimension to it!

#3 – Yoga Has Plenty Of Physical Benefits

Last but not least, there are physical benefits to consider! Healthline sums up the benefits of yoga in a fairly comprehensive manner, and includes improved heart health, reduction of chronic pain, better flexibility and balance, better breathing, and increased strength — not to mention the promotion of better eating and sleeping habits.

All of these perks are associated with regular yoga practice. And while they may not seem directly relevant to workplace stress, it’s reasonable to expect that employees who feel healthier in all these ways will simply feel better at work. They might be inclined to eat healthier lunches, they might feel more natural sitting at their desks, and they might simply operate with a more refreshed, energetic attitude. All of this, in turn, can amount to fairly effective workplace stress management. All it takes, as demonstrated by some of the companies listed previously, is the designation of a space and the offering of free yoga classes. Employees will do the rest. And your organization will experience one additional way to making your employees healthy high performers!

Written for: braininspa.com
Submitted by: Jennifer Birch
Image Credits: [PxFuel] – No changes were made to the image

How To Identify And Practice Emotional Intelligence In The Workplace

In years past, the emotional intelligence of employees was low on the list of qualifications, especially for leaders. However, with the way that the market has changed, how someone connects with others on an emotional level is becoming much more important. Company leaders need to understand the emotional connection audiences have with services, products and companies as a whole. The most recent Fjord Trends 2020 even talks about “liquid people” and why it is important to set up human insights teams instead of consumer insights. All this leads to the conclusion that now, more then ever before, if you want to successfully lead your company or grow your startup, you will need to understand what emotional connections are and how they can propel you forward.

How is EQ a KPI for emotional connections?

EQ is a term that describes the emotional intelligence that people in the workplace have with each other, and also with the customers or clients of that company. It propels the relationships that people build with one another and can also be applied outside of work.

In general, EQ is thought to have four distinct characteristics, including self-awareness (being aware of how we respond in situations), self-management (how we apply that self-awareness), social awareness (how we perceive others’ feelings in the context of their environments) and social management (how we apply social awareness in order to have fruitful interactions with others).

How does EQ make leaders more successful?

The way people connect allows them to understand what others are going through, which can be the perfect way to help solve someone’s pain points. Leaders with high levels of emotional intelligence often notice how people around them observe, react and respond. Knowing how to respond appropriately in all situations, both in private and in a group, allows for better experiences with the people around us. As leaders, we want to create the best employee experience possible so that those positive experiences trickle down into how our company’s representatives treat clients and customers. In turn, this can help build positive, trusting relationships with customers.

Where can EQ be utilized in today’s companies?

The greatest thing about emotional intelligence is that it has endless applications. It can be used to help inspire higher performance, develop new products and services, and improve personal development opportunities. It can also be used to prevent burnout, as people who learn how to manage their emotions are often less overwhelmed and benefit from a better work-life balance.

Higher EQ can benefit everyone in a company, from the CEO and founder all the way down to the latest part-time hire. But when it comes to helping improve the employee experience, leaders need to fully understand and utilize EQ regularly. The reason? When you understand where your employees are, both with the company and with the clients, you can better serve them. You can inspire them to strive for more fulfillment and give them challenges that allow them to feel as though they can accomplish even greater things.

Three Ways To Improve Emotional Connections

For many leaders, the question is less about why emotions matter and more about how to create better emotional connections. Here are three practices that you can easily incorporate into your schedule:

• Coffee Surprise: Pick one employee from your team, and schedule a coffee this week. Have a 20-minute conversation about how things are going. Show sincere interest. This conversation is not about facts and figures, sales objectives, or difficult clients. It’s purely about your people and what’s on their minds. You might be surprised by what your employee brings up.

• Listening Marathon: Practice your active listening skills on a large scale by engaging your entire team in a monthly listening marathon. This is a meeting — preferably outside — where two people from your team go for a 30-minute walk. For the first 15 minutes, one person is talking, and the other person only asks questions — no commenting, no telling stories — and practices active listening. Then, switch roles. At the end of the month, take time to reflect with your team on what you’ve collectively learned.

• Gratitude Board: Next to your team bulletin board — whether that’s an objectives and key results board or the spot where you post announcements in the kitchen — set up a gratitude board where every team member is required to post one note every day, stating what they are thankful for. This could be related to work, colleagues, clients, the office building, company events, etc. The point is to get in touch with your emotions and practice positive thinking.

Emotional Intelligence Can Be Taught

If you do not feel as though you have as solid of a grasp of emotional intelligence as you could, then feel better about the fact that you can learn it. You have the opportunity to learn about what makes customers respond the way they do and how to help your employees use that to their advantage. But it’s not a tool or a plugin you can buy. It takes dedication, passion and a real interest in the human beings around you to grow your emotional connections.

This post was initially published on Forbes.com early 2020.

How To Lay The Groundwork For Your Organization’s Next Breakthrough Innovation

All innovation comes from an idea that started with a problem and ended with a solution. It seems simple, right?

There’s just a small — though very important — differentiator: Everyone can think of problems, but not everyone has the same ability to come up with solutions. That is why collaboration is such a valuable tool. One person might see the problem clearly, but it might take the perspective of another to see the solution clearly.

If your goal is to have your business find the answers for the problems and pain points of your customers, then you need to set your company up to successfully collaborate with the best and brightest in your niche. By following these steps, I’ve found collaboration and innovation can become much easier:

Understand your starting point.

Over time, the knowledge each company brings to its specific niche becomes even more specialized. This is because you get better at what you do and can solve the issues that come up for those specific pain points.

However, to find a solution to a customer’s problem, your knowledge might be too specialized to see a valuable solution. It is vital that you have an understanding of what you know as a company — and what you do not know. That way, you see where the gaps are that you need to fill in.

Many leaders today reach out to startups or collaborate with individuals from completely different industries in order to identify these gaps. My personal favorite (and what I’ve found is one of the most powerful ways to learn) is working with children. What if you asked your employees’ kids to test your product in order to challenge your processes and assess your operations? It can be insightful and a true eye-opener to start asking your next-generation customers (as well as your next-generation talents) for their perspective.

Combine teams to improve the knowledge base.

To make sure your company can come up with as many innovative solutions as possible, make sure your knowledge base is vast. This can be done by mixing employees from different departments and having them work as a combined team on selected company challenges. This way, they can bring in their specific skills and expertise, as well as learn from and train their new team members — an excellent and fast way to build and share knowledge inside your organization.

As previously mentioned, it can be very insightful to conduct “experts workshops” with external experts such as young entrepreneurs, influencers, representatives from suppliers, artists, etc. to get their perspectives on the challenge the team is facing. For extra credit, make sure these teams have access to some guidance or a toolbox of creative and innovate techniques so they get support when trying to come up with innovative solutions.

If your teams are unable to work together at first, provide some team-building exercises to help them learn how to rely on one another and value others’ opinions. The more closely each team works together, the sooner their collaboration can result in innovative thinking. Again, for extra credit, make sure the office space is set up in a way that fosters and supports collaboration and creative brainstorming sessions (yes, innovation is often more of a “people” thing than a “technology” thing).

Encourage people to collaborate on all aspects of a business.

While many believe they already understand how to collaborate, your company might need your teams to work together differently than they are used to. For example, by simply taking two ideas from different use cases or product lines and putting them together, you might get a completely new solution, or maybe even a new business model. However, if you take two known ideas and your teams work together to add in one whole new part, it might be just different enough from what has been tried in the past to create a unique, new and innovative solution.

It’s important that your people understand the power of trying something unique in order to come up with a solution your clients will love. Nevertheless, doing minor adjustments to an existing way of doing it can also sometimes be just enough of what’s needed. The bottom line is that as long as your teams remain open and are willing to give different perspectives and collaboration a try, they are on a good track.

Many companies have taught the value of collaboration to their employees by simply encouraging them to keep striving for new answers. They show through the organization’s culture that they value communication and an agile leadership style in all avenues of how they do business. These companies give rewards to those who continually step up and provide more than what is expected of them. They are set up to listen to new ideas regularly, and they truly understand the concept of “fail fast and fail forward.”

If you want your company to have successful, innovative ideas and collaborative people, then you need to encourage collaboration at every level of the company. Even brand-new employees should be encouraged to be a part of this practice, as you never know where the next breakthrough will come from.

Conclusion

The good news is that your company has all of the innovation potential. You simply need to ensure that you are set up to collaborate with the best talents. Make yourself aware of your shortcomings, and fill in those gaps with people from the outside who can elevate your company. If you are not sure where to begin or what shortcomings you might have, reach out to sparring partners who can show you how to bring your company up to the next level of innovation and collaboration. After all, fast innovation capabilities will turn more and more into a key currency in the digital economy.

This article appeared in its original version on forbes.com late 2019.

7 Must-Haves for Leaders in a VUCA world

Today’s business world is different than it used to be, requiring business leaders to have new sets of skills to succeed. The sheer amount of responsibility that CEOs now must face can be incredibly overwhelming. The term that many apply to this concept is VUCA, which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. This concept shows how the state of the world is in constant flux, which makes leading far more difficult. However, having the right tools can make that prospect a little easier. Let me share with you today some tools many successful entrepreneurs, young leaders and progressive startup founders use that can help you stay in control no matter how uncertain or complex a situation may seem.

1. 360° Talking

In an uncertain environment, communication skills are easily able to make any situation better. Thus, today’s entrepreneurs need to be able to ask the right questions to determine the problem, delegate tasks to the right people or departments and explain how their knowledge and skills can resolve the situation. These skills can reduce the uncertainty of many situations and bring a level of control to an otherwise ambiguous situation.

2. Uber-Management

To get into a CEO position or any position of leadership, people must have above-average management skills. However, in today’s world, it is more important than ever before. Projects have more facets than they used to, with more people in multiple locations and with a plethora of cultural backgrounds required to make those projects successful. Juggling these facets, the people, the budgets and all of the details require someone who can manage a lot while still staying focused on the final objectives.

3. Talent Combination

As mentioned, today’s projects are more complicated than ever before with more people involved. Getting these people to work together is one of the most effective ways of reducing the unknowns of any project while still achieving peak performance. People may be in the office, work remotely or some combination of both, making the ability to get these teams working together essential — and success critical!

4. Lateral And Critical Thinking

Some people accuse millennial entrepreneurs and young leaders of not having lateral or critical thinking skills that are on the same level as those of workers in the generations before them. The question, though, is not which generation is better at problem thinking. The key question is how to improve personal development skills to be able to see what is going on and come up with solutions. It’s critical to alter these solutions to fit a myriad of problems, and people need to be able to implement these solutions into the problems effectively. If one solution does not work to reduce the problem, the solutions will need to undergo alterations to work as imagined.

5. Collaborative Know-How

One of the most sought-after skills for current entrepreneurs and successful leaders is collaboration. This needs to be within the company, with customers or clients and with any other stakeholders. Doing it right allows for increased company performance, as well as more innovative solutions for the company to bring to the market.

6. Underutilized Inspiration

Being inspirational is something that many overlook when it comes to leadership. Today’s CEOs — more than ever before — need to be role models that employees can emulate. Doing so boosts the organization’s culture and allows for a more cohesive experience when a customer or client works with people at different levels within the company. Plus, it allows everyone in the company to reach out in an attempt to reach the same goals.

7. Vital Flexibility

Stress is an inevitable result of the constant change that comes with today’s business environment. Point taken! That is why flexibility is so vital to successful CEOs. It helps avoid some of the stress that comes with these fluctuations and allows for a more agile way of working. Additional plus: Being flexible and working with agile tools is the only way to stay current with fast-moving market trends and consumer behaviors. Evolution is going to happen during every role that we play, so if you want to become a high performer, you need to be flexible enough to evolve with it.

The more of these skills that young entrepreneurs learn to master, the less the VUCA world is going to challenge them. When your goal is to have more healthy high performance in your life as an entrepreneur or young leader, let’s focus on these seven must-haves to surpass even your own expectations and learn to be the leader your company wants and deserves! Reach out to us at braininspa today and let’s jointly work on your skills – because we care for you!

This article was originally published on Forbes.com in October 2019.

How to successfully maneuver your business by creating a smart strategy

A couple of years ago, organizations of all sizes were proud to have their high-caliber strategy department where some young and not-so-young smart brains thought about the best direction for the company given the current situation, anticipated challenges, and upcoming trends. Today things are different. The same companies face fundamental strategic uncertainties, which question the basis of their business models. How will this impact strategy work at your company? Well, consider those 4 key trends we see today in setting the right priorities for your company’s future

1) Digital is really your biggest challenge! 
Although this term resounded throughout the land over the last months and years, it is still the most important challenge to master. This 4th industrial revolution will shake existing business models and supply chains to a level where they collapse or re-invent themselves. It is not a question of which industry you belong to because digital does not stop at music, taxi or retail! It needs smart answers to managing these disruptions – sitting, waiting and watching  are NOT an option!

2) Expect a death in a decade!
More than half of the business models that you know today won’t be successful nor possible in the future. The question we are so used to about our USP and our competitive advantage is no more critical but will be replaced by a temporary advantage. Bundling the right services, products and channels for a period of time in order to serve existing consumer needs is the new approach.

3) Change your strategy development!
There aren’t only new requirements regarding your strategy development when it comes to the content but also for the process of doing so. Prepare for systematical and analytical capabilities combined with a big portion of flexibility. Allowing for and learning by mistakes is not a lip service but existing practice. To plan is one thing and will be still necessary but always leave room in your best plan for some spontaneous adjustments.

4) Strategy is a team approach!
Days are gone when the smartest brains in your strategy department were considered the “Gods in suits” nor is it the task of your c-suite team to define the strategy and then delegate down the hierarchy to execute. Make all your employees – regardless of education, generation and location- part of the process. Even expand your strategy development team to the vertical and horizontal supply chain partners where appropriate.

If you and your company’s strategy team feel a bit like Columbus and his team with a wooden armada sent to discovering virgin soul, make sure you don’t fall in love with your Santa Maria but adjust the ship, the material of your boat, the route and the crew constantly to explore and enjoy one competitive advantage after the other.

How To Access Your Peak Performance And Not Burn Out

There is a feeling some people call “being overwhelmed.” It makes them unsure about where to start because there are a trillion things requiring their attention. Others call it “being off-balance.” Something feels just not right. And then there are those who keep repeating what nobody can hear anymore because everyone is feeling the same thing: “I am so stressed. I don’t even know where to start.”

Do You Know Your Priorities?

Whatever you call it, the feeling is prominent these days, and it is often a sign that you are not living by your priorities. Maybe you live on autopilot and take care ofwhatever others require you to do, what you are supposed to do, or what your family or boss requested that you do. Isn’t it time to get your balance back, to be your own master and complete those to-dos that bring you closer to your desired goals? To do this, it is critical that you define which priorities you have for your life, specifically right now, for this exact moment in your life.

Between Stimulus And Response, You Have The Freedom To Choose

Maybe you’ve heard of Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a Nazis concentration camp but survived and wrote a book called Man’s Search for Meaning. It was during these agonizing days when Frankl became aware of what would later be quoted a million times: “Between stimulus and response, you have the freedom to choose.” Frankl realized that whatever happened to him (the stimulus), he himself (and nobody else) had the freedom to choose his response to the stimulus.

Saying No To Everything — Almost Everything

Transferring this idea to our daily struggle means that at any given moment, you have a chance to choose. Say yes or no; do or don’t; go left or right. Most importantly, once you have identified your vision and your key priorities in life, you should say no to everything that distracts you or takes away time from your priorities.

Assuming you have a clear vision of where you are going with your life, and you have defined your goals, then you can judge which activities help you go in the right direction. In assessing whether something presented to you is a priority and should get your time and attention, ask yourself only two simple questions:

1. Is this really my subject, my problem, or somebody else’s? This question should help you identify who has the ownership of this topic and if that subject is important for you or has an impact on your bigger goals.

2. Will there be consequences that affect my goals if I choose not to respond? This question should help you understand how to prioritize this task, as well as lead you to consider what action is required.

If one or both of these questions is answered with no, there is no required action from you, so either disregard the task/topic presented to you or put it on your “maybe of interest someday” list. Answering both of these questions with yes means that you need to deal with the subject, allowing for your time and attention. Finally, consider the three-minute-rule. If the required action derived from this request takes less than three minutes of your time, and you can do it right away — get it done. If the task needs more than three minutes, delegate it and make sure it shows up on your “waiting for” list.

You can also put a date on the task to indicate when you will schedule time in your calendar to work on it. I learned from true productivity masters to schedule meetings for less time than you might otherwise. For example, 15 minutes instead of the commonly used 30 minutes. Without question, this allows you to fit many more potential discussions or meetings into your calendar and helps participants focus on what really matters. Last but not least, you could place this task that takes more than three minutes on your “next action items” list. Maybe you structure this list by topic or project. This “next action items” list is your No. 1 go-to place when it comes to defining your day or your week.

This article was first published with Forbes®.com