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Category: Water Cooler Chat (Page 1 of 27)

How to Improve Your Memory, According to Neuroscience

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Article Written by:  Sarah Digiulo, nbcnews.com

Mental tricks like “memory palaces” and mnemonics can actually help make memories stick.

If you really want to remember something, your best bet is trying to connect it to some other part of your life or a topic you already know.

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Why is it that you can perfectly recite the words to *NSYNC’s “Bye Bye Bye,” but can’t remember the title of the new TV show you started watching on Netflix and wanted to tell your coworker about?

We remember things because they either stand out, they relate to and can easily be integrated in our existing knowledge base, or it’s something we retrieve, recount or use repeatedly over time, explains Sean Kang, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Education at Dartmouth College, whose research focuses on the cognitive psychology of learning and memory. “The average layperson trying to learn nuclear physics for the first time, for example, will probably find it very difficult to retain that information.” That’s because he or she likely doesn’t have existing knowledge in their brain to connect that new information to.

And on a molecular level neuroscientists suspect that there’s actually a physical process that needs to be completed to form a memory — and us not remembering something is a result of that not happening, explains Blake Richards, DPhil, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

In the same way that when you store a grocery list on a piece of paper, you are making a physical change to that paper by writing words down, or when you store a file on a computer, you’re making a physical change somewhere in the magnetization of some part of your hard drive — a physical change happens in your brain when you store a memory or new information.

“So the ultimate question, at the cellular level, as to whether or not a memory gets stored [in the brain] is does that process actually complete properly,” he explains. “Do all of the molecular signals get transmitted to ensure that that cell changes physically?”

So there are strategies for better organizing what may at first glance appear to be unrelated information to connect it to what we already know to help us better remember things, according to Kang and others. But as far as changing the physical processes in the brain that make memories stick, there’s likely not much you can do now to affect that, Richards says.

And that’s probably a good thing, he adds.

THERE MAY BE A REASON OUR BRAINS FORGET THINGS
In a recent paper, Richards and his colleague Paul Frankland, PhD, senior scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children and Fellow at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, looked at previous studies that have investigated the physical changes in the brain associated with memory — and why sometimes that process completes and sometimes it does not. “We found that there’s a variety of mechanisms the brain uses — and actually invests energy in — that undo and override those connections, ultimately cause us to forget information,” Richards says.

And that would mean that some “forgetting” is actually a very natural and normal process, rather than a “failure” of our memory, Richards says. “Our brains may want us to remember the gist of what we’ve experienced because that will be most adaptive for making decisions in the real world.”

For example, let’s say you remember a friend’s phone number, but that friend moves away and gets a new phone number. Remembering the old number becomes useless and may make it more difficult to remember your friend’s new number.

“It’s not the case that as much forgetting as possible is good, obviously,” he says. “But at the same time it may not be the case that as much remembering as possible is always the best course either.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP MAKE MEMORIES STICK
Sure, some of what determines how well you remember things are the genes you’re born with, Kang says. But training can definitely plays a role in memory, as is the case for people who compete in memory competitions, he adds. “No one suddenly wakes up one day being able to memorize 60,000 digits of Pi.”

If you want to hone your own skills (whether that’s for memorizing Pi or better remembering names or facts), here’s what might help:

1. GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
Decades of research support the fact that sleep is a critical time when memories consolidate and get stored. And that means missing out on sleep — or high enough quality sleep — can compromise some of those processes. The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimal health and brain function.

2. EXERCISE REGULARLY
What is exercise not good for? It’s important for your heart, your mood, your sleep and your mind, particularly the part of your mind involved in memory. In one study in middle-age women with early signs of memory loss, starting a program of regular aerobic exercise actually increased the size of the hippocampus (a part of the brain known to be involved in the memory storing process) and improved verbal memory and learning scores when the women were tested.

And a new 2018 guideline from the American Academy of Neurology recommends regular exercise as one of the things people with mild memory problems should do to help stop those problems from getting worse or turn into serious neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

3. REPEAT OR RE-LEARN THE INFORMATION LATER
Psychologists and others call this one the spacing effect. The idea is that the more you re-learn or remind yourself of information again and again spaced out over time the better you’ll retain that information.

Perhaps you first learn about an Olympic figure skater’s difficult upbringing watching a news clip about his story; then a day or so later you read an article about that same skater; and then a few days later a coworker starts telling you about the same figure’s skater story. Repetition helps make that story stick in your head — and so does the fact that you re-learned that information on different days in multiple different settings, Kang explains. (Multiple studies show that there is indeed merit in this approach.)

“The richer the contextual details associated with a particular memory, the greater the number of possible cues that could be helpful in evoking the memory later,” Kang says.

4. TEST YOURSELF
People often think testing is useful because it tells you what you know and what you don’t. But the more important power of testing is giving you practice retrieving information you’ve learned and establishing that connection in the brain, explains Rosalind Potts, PhD, teaching fellow at the University College London, who researches how cognitive psychology applies to education.

For example, in one study that tested a group of students on new information they had learned one week earlier, students who were also tested on the new information immediately after learning it outperformed students who were simply instructed to study the information on the test they all took one week later.

5. PUT THE INFORMATION IN YOUR “MEMORY PALACE”
Some say this approach dates back to ancient Latin scholars, but it’s also been proven in much more recent literature to work. The idea is if you want to remember something, such as a shopping list or a code, you visualize those items or numbers in different rooms of your house (or some other physical place you are very familiar with).

The “memory palace” approach (also called the “Method of Loci”) has been studied extensively in psychology. Research shows it can be more valuable in terms of remembering than having more intellectual capabilities in the first place, and that it can be more effective for remembering than straightforward repetition and memorization.

6. USE A MNEMONIC DEVICE
It’s easier to remember things that relate to knowledge we already have because we connect it to what we already have stored in our memory, Potts says. That’s why mnemonic devices work — they create a bridge between two pieces of information.

“So when we want to call that memory to mind, there are lots of different possible routes to it,” she says.

If you want to remember the meaning of the Spanish word “zumo” (“juice” in English), you might conjure up an image in your head of a sumo wrestler drinking juice. When you hear the word “zumo,” you might then think of that sumo wrestler drinking his juice and remember the meaning of the word.

7. PAY ATTENTION
Sure, it’s obvious. But concentration is important if you’re trying to learn something, Kang says. “If you don’t pay much attention to the information, the likelihood you encode that in your long-term memory is low.”

For example, he says, how many Americans could accurately draw the details of the dollar bill, even though they likely look at it all the time?

8. MAKE IT RELEVANT TO YOUR LIFE
Based on the neuroscience explanation of how memory works, if you really want to remember something, your best bet is trying to connect it to some other part of your life or a topic you already know, Richards adds. “Figure out some other facet of life why it’s relevant — and use it.”

Dear Dan: I Put Stuff Off And Work All Weekend

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Article written by Dan @ www.leadershipfreak.blog

May 19, 2018

Dear Dan,

I read and love your blog. Your post on procrastination hit home because I am a procrastinator.

My director-level job involves deep-dive creativity, research, writing, deadlines, and teams. I’m good at what I do, not a lot of people are, and the revenue from my work actually keeps the company afloat. But obviously, my behavior is helping no one.

How can I lead myself out of procrastination and into better honoring my team members? I think a fear of failure tied to the creative process is at the root, but I can’t figure out more past that.

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9 Negotiation Tips for People Who Hate Negotiating

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Article Written by:  Sara Lindberg, Business Insider

  • Negotiation is not the same thing as conflict— you have to be willing to compromise and/or say no if you don’t like the offer.
  • Though it’s widely hated, being able to negotiate is a skill you need if you want to get ahead in your career.
  • Being optimistic, prepared, and using active listening can boost your changes of success.

When I left the comfort of a steady paycheck to pursue full-time freelance work, I had no idea how difficult negotiating in the work world was going to be.

For the prior 20 years, I’d lived in the land of education. I worked in a system that pays a set amount of money based on two criteria: the number of years you’ve been working, and the amount of education you have.

As a result, I was poorly prepared for the world of freelance, where being successful requires you to be a master negotiator — something I’ve always hated doing.

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Stop Hating The People You Serve

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Article Written By:  Dan @ LeadershipFreakBlog
May 8, 2018
Leaders get frustrated with the people they serve. You hear them grumble, “What’s wrong with people?” It happens in the business world, education, church world, and governments as well.

“Dissatisfaction – apart from loving action – eventually morphs into hate.”

10 symptoms of hateful leadership:

Minimizing or ignoring your impact on others.
Peevishness that won’t let go of small issues, faults, or offenses.
Withholding help when you’re able to make work easier for others.
Criticism that points to wrong without working to make something right.
Complaining that camps in the past.

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Survey: These Are The Top Office Stress Factors

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Written by:  Jane Burnett, www.theladders.com

Recent research ahead of National Stress Awareness Day on November 1, from compensation, culture, and career monitoring site Comparably, shows that the top cause of stress cited by 42% of employees is “unclear goals.”

Looks like some workers really feel like they could use more direction – even more so than these other factors: “commute” and “bad manager” followed (both at 16%, respectively), then “difficult coworker” (14%), and “too long hours” (12%).

The report also pointed out something dire: “[R]ates of burnout are nearly the same for employees of nearly every age, with 48%-50% of employees saying they feel burnt out at any given age.”

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The End of Water Cooler Conversations

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“Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.” – Mark Twain

Managers no longer try to have a conversation with their people. While social media has proven itself to be very beneficial in some areas of communication, I believe it has also to some extent has sabotaged in-person communication.

Meaningful Conversation is an Overlooked skill

“A single conversation across the table with a wise person is worth a month’s study of books”- Chinese Proverb

Good news, bad news, or any kind of news, gets communicated through email and WhatsApp. These may not always convey the correct meaning of what one wants to say.

Effective conversation is more important than just communication. Technology has helped us to connect and communicate, but these are superficial connections.

Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, and author of the book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, talks about CEO’s who now make it a point of instructing employees to work out disagreements and apologize in face-to-face meetings.

Imagine that you have to deliver a poor performance review to one of your team members or have to ask one of your best team members to resign since his role has become redundant. It is not proper to do this with an email or WhatsApp. But nowadays, many managers fear doing this in person and shy away from a conversation because it is painful.

Conversational competence is the most overlooked skill today. It’s time organizations review their competency list and add this one as most critical. Not just effective communication, but effective conversation. Conversation builds respect, empathy, friendship, love, and also improves productivity.

Stephen R. Covey in his book ” The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” talks about Seek first to understand, then to be understood (habit 5).

Importance of good conversation with your team

The days of water cooler conversations are coming to an end. You now see a bunch of people standing around the water cooler or the coffee machine, but each is engaged and focused on their mobile screens.

If you notice someone under-performing, engaging with the person in a conversation would be more constructive than just emailing. It would be a difficult conversation, but as a manager and a leader, you need to face it. You cannot run away from it.

Allowing your team member to talk is very important. Give him your full attention and be non-judgmental.

You need to develop successful working relationships with your team and you cannot depend on technology and social media alone to do that for you.

You may be a great communicator, an excellent orator, and speaker who knows how to make a compelling presentation to the bosses, but that is not enough. In the VUCA world, you need to be a great conversationalist. You need to have a frequent conversation with your teams. They are the ones who would drive your goals for you. You need to, therefore, connect with them at a deeper level.

Tips to having a meaningful conversation

  • Don’t shy away from open-ended conversations. Talk with a wish to understand your team member and connect at a deeper level.
  • LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN and connect. Show interest in what they are saying. Refrain from the urge to get your point across.
  • Do not judge, ask questions, give a solution from your point of reference or your experience. Listen and be nonjudgmental.
  • Put away your electronic devices and ask others to do the same when you are getting into a conversation.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

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You’re More Likely to Screw Up in The Afternoon. Here’s How to Stop It.

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Written by:  Daniel Pink is the author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, from which this article is adapted.

It’s a cloudy Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and for probably only time in my life, I’m wearing hospital greens and scrubbing in for surgery. Beside me is Dr. Kevin Tremper, an anesthesiologist and professor of the University of Michigan Medical School’s Department of Anesthesiology.

“Each year, we put 90,000 people to sleep and wake them up,” he tells me. “We paralyze them and start cutting them open.” Tremper oversees 150 physicians and another 150 medical residents who wield these magical powers. In 2010 he changed how they do their jobs.

Flat on the operating room table is a twenty-something man with a smashed jaw. On a nearby wall is a large-screen television with the names of the five other people in hospital greens—nurses, physicians, a technician—who surround the table. At the top of the screen is the patient’s name. The surgeon, an intense man in his thirties is itching to begin. But before anybody does anything, they call a time-out. Almost imperceptibly, each person takes one step backward. Then, looking at either the big screen or a wallet-size plastic card hanging from their waists, they introduce themselves to one another by first name and proceed through a nine-step “Pre-Induction Verification” checklist that ensures they’ve got the right patient, know his condition and any allergies, understand the medications the anesthesiologist will use, and have any special equipment they might need. When everyone is finished and all the questions are answered—the whole process takes about three minutes—the time-out ends and the young anesthesia resident begins to put the patient, already partly sedated, fully to sleep. Soon the patient is out, his vital signs are stable, and the surgery can begin.

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Holidays Aren’t The Only Time for Leadership GIFTs

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Written by Julie Winkle Giulioni (http://www.smartbrief.com/original/2017/12/holidays-arent-only-time-leadership-gifts?utm_source=brief)

The holidays are a time when many leaders find themselves scrambling simultaneously to meet year-end business goals and punctuate the season with their staffs. Too frequently, the stress overtakes the joy, and gifts become another obligatory to-do on a never-ending list.

What employees really want doesn’t come in a box or require a bow. And it’s certainly not restricted to December. What employees wish for are the special GIFTs that leaders can offer all year long.

Gratitude
Over the past 20-plus years in the leadership-development arena, I’ve never met a person who said they received too much recognition. But I’ve met many who report getting woefully too little. Positive feedback is one of the most cost-effective actions a leader can take to elevate morale, engagement and performance. Catching others doing something well grows that behavior. It also shines a spotlight for the rest of the team on what you value, thus magnifying the message.

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Trust Makes Culture Change Ready

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What is the level of trust in your culture? What do employees think of senior management?

Research says that only 49% of employees trust senior management. The scores for CEO’s are even more dismal; 28% of surveyed employees felt the CEO was a credible source of information.

Trust promotes creativity, conflict management, empowerment, teamwork, and leadership during times of uncertainty and change.  A culture of trust is a valuable asset for any organization that nurtures and develops it. Amy Lyman’s work on the 100 Best Companies to work for concludes, “Companies whose employees praise the high levels of trust in their workplace are, in fact, among the highest performers, beating the average annualized returns of the S&P 500 by a factor of three.”

As a core enabler of a high-performance organizational culture, the absence or presence of trust can be either an accelerator or barrier of organizational strategy and performance. As Stephen M.R. Covey writes in his book “Speed of Trust”, when the level of trust in an organization goes down the speed of change goes down with it and the costs of the change go up.

Before you start that transformational change, ask yourself if your organization is ready for change. Will your organization’s culture, and more importantly, its level of trust support the change you wish to implement?

What is Trust?

Here are three unique qualities about trust; it’s a process, a choice and something that is uniquely human:

  • Process – trust is a learned skill. It involves an ongoing process of relationship building, communication, and action. For example, doing what you say you will do builds trust. Building trust is a process that layers on level after level of deeper trust. When actions do not match words and trust is breached, this is also a process that works in the reverse.
  • Choice – people decide whether or not to extend trust. Trust evolves incrementally over time, is based on sound judgment, and is not without limits and conditions. Those who choose to trust understand that there is the possibility of a breach of trust, and weigh risks and benefits before proceeding.
  • Uniquely Human – while you may consider your car to be reliable transportation, you don’t “trust your car.” Trust is about keeping your word, honoring your commitments and involves a decision, action, and a response. Trust is something that is unique to human beings.

The Process of Trust Building

Relationships are complex and so is the trust building process. Trust comes from who you are, what you say, and how you behave.

Think of trust like a bank account. You extend trust credits proportional to the risk you are willing to take with someone. When that person honors the trust you’ve granted, then he or she gets a deposit in the trust account. When the person says or does something that busts your trust, then you deduct from their trust account.

Components of the trust building process:

  • Code of Honor – the basics like showing respect, telling the truth, and keeping your word are foundational to the process of trust. If you are consistent in keeping the code then you build trust over time.
  • Extend Trust – go first and give trust. Not a blind trust but rather a trust with clear expectations and strong accountability built into the process.
  • Be Open – People who communicate only when they need something or when it’s in their best interest to tell you, limit trust. Those who share information appropriately increase trust. Tell people what they need to know not everything you know. Use judgment to balance between protecting confidential information and sharing needed knowledge. Information that adds to overload or isn’t pertinent diminishes trust.

Trust accounts can become overdrawn and create situations where it’s foolish to extend trust because there is no more trust to give. Be intentional about building trust and recognize that it’s a process. That’s why they say, “trust must be earned.”

To build organizational trust, employees need connection to their work, to what’s going on in the organization, and to the leader. Here are three ways to build that connection:

  1. Help employees understand how they fit in and how their contributions make a difference.
  2. Improve the flow and frequency of communications. Employees often feel they are out of the loop and they are not involved in decisions that impact them.
  3. Close the gap between senior leaders and employees. Leaders need to take time to develop authentic relationships with employees by connecting to their daily reality.

What destroys, breaks or busts trust and how do you repair broken trust? Trust busters are behaviors that destroy trust, sabotage relationships and reduce the balance in the “trust account.” There are two key categories of trust busters.

Expectations that are broken or miscommunicated
Broken expectations occur when you give your word that you will do something and you don’t do it. Broken expectations result in broken trust. Organizations break trust with employees when the employees have expectations of lifetime employment or stable work and layoffs occur. Leaders break trust when they commit to one course of action and take a seemingly different path.

Unfairness – whether it’s real or perceived
The human brain is always evaluating for fairness. Unfairness is a brain threat that creates an instant and automatic negative response. Perceived unfairness creates an environment in which neither trust nor collaboration can flourish.

When undergoing change, there is a significant risk of these trust busters. Too often, communication is emphasized during change as an antidote to trust busting. Leaders believe that if they “communicate better” they would overcome all the trust busters. The problem arises when actions don’t align with the words of the communication or the leader just presents rather than having a conversation.

Beware of trust busters and be prepared to address them or you risk raising the cost of your change and increasing the time it takes to get the change completed successfully.

 

Change Your Mindset: Office Politics Isn’t a Dirty Word

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Article courtesy of Career Advancement blog

When my client, Miles, heard the phrase “office politics,” it brought up negative associations (backstabbing, kissing up, gossip, who you know gets you to advance). One way to embrace and capitalize on office politics is to get rid of the actual words “office” and “politics” so you won’t feel so charged by these words. Instead think of it as “company culture” or “building relationships” or “how work is done.” When you have a better and more positive perspective, you’ll be able to embrace what is actually happening and leverage it to your benefit.

Once Miles changed his mindset, he was able to use these eight tips to harness the power office polit… er, “company culture,“ and you can do the the same:

1. Persuade others to your opinion.
Nobody exists in an environment where everybody agrees. You will work on projects and assignments in which many different approaches will be used by a variety of people. It’s important to understand where everyone is coming from and their different perspective. At the same time, you want to work on getting others to buy-in to your perspective. You can do this by providing factual information backed with logic. Also, strive to build a reputation that creates immediate respect. This will help you get the things accomplished you need to get done.

2. Don’t intimidate superiors. Try to avoid going over your superior’s head.
Most bosses feel a need to establish and maintain their authority. Often, based on their title and that they are a superior, they feel they can leverage and take advantage of their power and authority. It’s important for you to not intimidate them or go over their head because they will feel the threat of your actions and thus could undermine your career.

3. Make your boss look good.
Watch out for your tendency to avoid making your boss look good. Constantly look for opportunities in which you can help your boss shine. Making your boss look bad or saying something negative about him or her will come back and bite you.

4. Cultivate a positive, accurate and likable image.
The image you project can directly impact how well others trust you, like you and want to work with you. If you project a negative and unlikable image, it makes it easy for people to judge and question you.

5. Communicate accurate information.
If you constantly communicate accurate information, people will be less suspicious and less inclined to question your integrity. When the work politics start to get out of hand, others will rely on you because of the established honest and respectful image you have projected.

6. Be aligned to many groups – not just one.
It’s easy to be aligned to one specific group in your company. You either get drawn or exposed to a few people in one group and latch on to them. However, aligning yourself to many groups will help you when the influence of one group gets diminished or removed. You will want to rely on other groups and create a coalition to champion your ideas and projects.

7. Create allies who like you, support you and will go to bat for you.
Having a strong and wide network of allies is vital when the work politics start to disrupt and damage things around you. You’ll see how beneficial it is to have allies who can help mitigate negative situations.

8. If all else fails, move on.
After exhausting all your resources, talents and abilities in working the political system inside the company and getting nowhere, it might be time to move on. Sometimes the politics are so bad that you need to remove yourself from the toxic environment and make a fresh start in a new company.

 

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