Like Songs, Leaders Can Produce Earworms

I woke up today with an earworm. It’s driving me nuts. No doubt you’ve experienced annoying earworms too. You know, that “little fragment, often a bit of the chorus of the song, that just plays and replays like it's stuck on loop in your head,” explains Elizabeth Margulis, director of the Music Cognition Lab at the University of Arkansas and author of On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind. Researchers have found that over 91% of us get a song stuck in our minds—earworms—at least once a week. The term "earworm" originally comes from a translation of the German word 'Ohrwurm'. If you’re a songwriter, earworms are the stuff of dreams. You want your song to stick in people’s minds. Songs like "What Does the Fox Say?" by Ylvis, and The Baha Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out?" are tunes researchers say generate earworms. I've noticed that Meghan Trainor’s "All About That Bass" seems to catalyze earworms in old and young alike. But alas, (most) leaders are not songwriters. If we’re not careful, repetition of catchphrases or buzzwords become earworms that can blow our chance to inspire others or worse, close followers' ears completely. Earworms at Work As an entry-level employee, I … [Read more...]

Clarify Your Definition of Success: Joan Bunashe

Does fear of success sometimes stop you? It used to stop Joan Bunashe but it definitely doesn't now. Once Bunashe, "The Optimization Coach," got clear on her own definition of success, fear flew and joy-based choices became her norm. I first met Joan on Twitter. She stood out in the often noisy twitter universe initially because we're both Joans (though I'm J-o-n-e), we both have the initials JMB, and we're both leadership coaches. But its Joan's joy and positivity that truly attracted me: she shines so brightly--in just 140 characters! Joan is a certified professional coach currently based in Southern California. During her 15 years working in Real Estate and Homebuilding in a broad range of roles, Joan was continuously drawn to helping others grow potential and better their lives on the job. Joan holds a B.A. from UCLA in Philosophy and a Minor in Anthropology with an emphasis on socio-cultural fieldwork. She started her own coaching practice in 2010, and is devoted to helping executives optimize their leadership abilities and build thriving teams and cultures. Fearless Females 5Cs with Joan Bunashe "Once I clarified that my definition of success is to help others … [Read more...]

Dead Bodies: How Leaders Can Combat Workaholism

The first time I saw a dead body in a street was outside my Tokyo office. He, "the body," was dressed in a smart business suit; he looked to be in his 30s. Cause of death? Workaholism. In Japan, workaholism is called "karoshi"—death by overwork. Karoshi is estimated to cause 1,000 deaths per year and nearly 5% of that country's stroke and heart attack deaths in employees under age 60. Known as "leisure illness" in The Netherlands, according to one study an estimated 3% of the nation's population is affected. Elsewhere, workaholism is often called "the respectable addiction": Canada. One-third of Canadians consider themselves workaholics. United Kingdom. Full time employees in the U.K. work the longest hours in Europe and a British Medical Association report found that 77% of consultants work more than 50 yours a week and 46% more than 60 hours. United States. While the 40 hour week is generally accepted as “normal,” adults employed full-time have reported working an average of 47 hours each week. North America and U.K. 1 in 6 employees now work more than 60 hours a week. In a recent interview, singer/songwriter Alanis Morrisette spoke about how easily we can … [Read more...]

7 Ways to Lead Like An Ass(umer)

Assumptions. We all make them, all the time. Or at least I assume you do because I do. "When you assume you make an ass out of you and me." You've heard that expression a thousand times. The ever-practical Ellen DeGeneres explains the expression: “You should never assume. You know what happens when you assume. You make an ass out of you and me because that's how it's spelled.” Got it, Ellen, funny. How often do you lead like an ass(umer)? Assumptions can be dangerous. If you don't realize how dangerous assumptions can be, look no further than Lemony Snicket's guidance: Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to make -- bombs, for instance, or strawberry shortcake -- if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble.” -Lemony Snicket, The Austere Academy Think about the last assumption you made. Was it the strawberry shortcake variety of assumption where you landed in a sticky little, lopsided mess? Or, did you make a whopper assumption, the bomb kind where something really threatening happened? Leaders may assume employees know exactly what they want. Family members may believe that others in the family … [Read more...]

Unlocking Leadership

Dust blows across the corral. We toe the dirt. Creative, even scary leadership development activities from the past float through my mind: blister-producing ropes exercise; speed-prep speech giving; psychometric leadership styles assessments; several 360s; cabaret solo-singing. Now, at a ranch outside San Francisco, I’m about to lead a horse. When psychologist Kurt Lewin released his groundbreaking research on leadership styles in 1939, I doubt he anticipated how leadership vernacular, assessments, workshops, and programs would proliferate. Catchy new labels for leadership styles emerge frequently and if we strip away the buzzwords, we find elements of the three core styles Lewin identified: Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-Faire. Perspiration trickles down my back as the timed “Lead a Horse” exercise begins. One classmate decides she’s too terrified of horses to participate and leaves the arena. Another colleague pats and pets his horse, talks quietly, pulls on the reins, and nothing happens.  Flirtatious, the horse flips its mane as if to say, “come on, impress me big boy.” He belly-bumps and begs. The lady horse won’t budge. Colleague number three steps up, … [Read more...]

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