Reversing the Brain Drain
Before my maternal grandmother passed away, she had thirty-three grandchildren along with a few great-grandchildren. When I would go to see her, she would go through several of my cousin’s names before “landing” on mine. She would say something like, “Well hi Mike, Gary, Jimmy, Terry, I mean Billy. It’s good to see you!” I always thought it was pretty funny. It wasn’t like she had mental issues, she was just older with a lot of grandchildren!
Research indicates that the human brain begins to slow down after a person turns forty. No matter what you do or how sharp you are mentally, over time, complex mental processes can dull. Effective leaders need mental sharpness, so what can you do as you age to keep that mental edge?
The Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas offer these ways to reverse brain drain:
- Rest your brain and then reboot. Each day, disengage briefly to free up your mind. A few short mental breaks can help improve decision-making, problem solving and productivity.
- Focus on one task at a time. Multitasking can impede productivity. Interruptions can impede productivity. Multitasking and interruptions can also add time needed to complete a task. By giving full attention to one task before stating another you can be more effective and more productive.
- Prioritize your daily to-do list. Identifying the most crucial tasks on your to-do list boosts productivity, efficiency and the quality of your work.
- Say no to the status quo. Stop doing things the same way. Experiment with new ways of doing things. Try new approaches. The result will be a healthier brain and more creative solutions.
Effective leaders are always evolving, always learning. Doing so can plug the drain, the brain drain that is.
By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.
INTRA-Personal Leadership is the leadership of self. Being an effective leader requires a solid foundation of INTRA-Personal Leadership. The more competent you are at leading yourself, the more effective you can be leading others. Dealing with stress influences INTRA-Personal Leadership. Stress can have a negative impact on one’s health and emotional well-being. Worrying about stress can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Meditation, exercise, massage and other activities have been identified as effective stress reduction strategies. No matter what you do, stress will be part of a leader’s life. New research indicates that stress can actually help us be more effective leaders as long as we aren’t afraid of it.
Researchers Shaun Achor and Alia Crum, Ph.D., worked with managers in the investment banking industry. They divided the group in half and showed one group a video on the benefits of stress; the other group did not see the video and simply continued as usual. The video on the benefits of stress demonstrated how stress can 1) enhance mental toughness, 2) create a heightened awareness, 3) provide new perspectives and a sense of mastery, 4) strengthen priorities, 5) provide a greater appreciation for life, 6) deepen relationships and 7) provide an increased sense of meaning. 23% of the group that watched the video reported a reduction of stress related health issues; they reported fewer headaches, fewer backaches and less fatigue even though stress levels remained the same. On-the-job productivity also increased as did life-satisfaction scores. Members of the other group who did not see the video did not experience any changes in health, productivity or life satisfaction.
Stress is inevitable, but how we deal with it is not. How you decide to deal with stress can have an impact on you and your effectiveness as a leader.
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Baggage in My Head
By Bill Auxier, Ph.D.
My niece had a beautiful wedding ceremony recently; exchanging vows before family and friends with the love of her life. Our daughter was a bridesmaid and my wife and I were there in our aunt and uncle roles; our family was honored to both witness and participate. Before we arrived I started thinking about how I would be in the company of some family members I hadn’t seen or communicated with in quite some time. I looked forward to being engaged with some of them, not so much for others. This realization made me look in the mirror to see just how big my head was. Boy, there was a lot of baggage stored inside! I felt like I was looking at the luggage holding room at the Hilton!
Refusing to interact with someone that you attach negative emotion to or not bringing up a difficult topic can be detrimental to your health. Studies have shown a link between symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and other negative implications to your health when you avoid difficult situations that create stress. For example, oftentimes when a family member has been diagnosed with cancer, some family members refuse to talk about it. Numerous studies indicate that cancer patients often get sicker when family members avoid discussing the fact that they have cancer. For the most part, discussing a difficult topic or situation often yields better results than you might think.
This concept becomes even more potent when the difficulty is internal. If you find yourself obsessing over a difficult situation inside your head that involves only you, you have a potential double-whammy! For example, if you are overweight, you know you need to lose those extra pounds. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last fifty years, you know that being overweight causes negative consequences to your health. If you do not deal with this internal situation you have the double impact of the negative repercussions of stress the situation is causing and the negative implications to your health and well-being that all of those extra pounds are causing. You cannot afford NOT to deal with your own internal baggage. You cannot afford to NOT deal with your internal conflict. Putting off facing unresolved situations “until tomorrow” just puts more obstacles in the path to becoming the person that you really want to be.
Likewise, at my niece’s wedding, I engaged with family members that I had not spoken with for a long time. While I had anxiety going into the weekend, I was able to push past it, interact with those family members in a positive way, and leave feeling refreshed. Pushing past the anxiety of dealing with the issue NOW is the first step in overcoming this internal baggage.
Effective leadership begins with YOU. Effective leaders deal with internal conflict. Effective leaders unpack the baggage stored inside their heads and sort through the dirty laundry. Effective leaders deal with those difficult internal struggles which frees them up to handle difficult situations with others. Leadership begins with YOU!
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