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...]

How to Think Like A Queen

I’ve been reflecting on being queenly lately. I’ll ‘fess up. Like most everyone I know, I caught a nasty bug that drove me to bed, giving me a chance to guilty-pleasure-binge on Phillippa Gregory’s novels brought to TV, BBC miniseries-style. Gregory’s historical fiction involves witchy queens who are often brilliantly strategic. Usually, the queens (or queen-wanna-bees) can give porn-stars a run for their money. After all, the queen’s ascension and power depends on her sexual prowess as much as anything else. Once my flu-haze lifted, a Huffington Post article caught my eye because it mentions women being treated “like queens.” A Saudi Arabian historian, speaking to his nation's ban on female drivers, says women who drive in other countries such as the United States don't care if they're raped and that sexual violence "is no big deal to them." Instead, in Saudi Arabia (a place I once resided), women are treated like queens. Case in point, he says, women are driven around by the men of the family or male chauffeurs. Before exclaiming outrage, let’s look at how we in the West might be getting “queen” royally wrong too. How (Some) Americans Think-Like-A-Queen Reading … [Read more...]

Leadership Lessons from World’s Youngest Human Cannonball

Elliana Grace Hentoff-Killian is the world's youngest female human cannonball. Just twenty-one years old, she performs with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey show "Built to Amaze." She shoots out of a canon at 65 miles an hour, that's a g-force of 7, similar to what astronauts experience reentering earth's atmosphere. Last year on NPR's Talk of the Nation, Elliana described what being part of a circus is like. I fell a little in love with her and listened as other circus performers, past and present, called to weigh in. They explained that to thrive in circus culture you must: Trust others with your life.  Embrace global diversity - human and animal.  Keep yourself mentally and physically well.  Remember, you're in the greatest show on earth. Imagine if all work cultures were all like that! Imagine what we'd accomplish and the problems we'd solve! Cannonball Insights We Can (& Should) All Use Elliana also shared three amazing insights about her unusual work that I believe we can apply to leadership.  Take the leap with me. Let's emulate the world's youngest female human cannonball. 1. When Done Right...Fun & Fabulous "(NPR … [Read more...]

Giving Is Your Greatness

“It is the heart that does the giving; the fingers only let go.”— Nigerian saying Choosing "growing greatness" as a tagline for my business was intentional. But greatness can easily get distorted in our minds. Greatness sometimes seems synonymous with celebrity or fame, wealth or power. Greatness can become:  great job, great car, great house, or great bank account. Let me set the record straight. I want to you have all you need. I want you to be well and succeed. I want you to shine and soar. Yet greatness to me is not really about what you have or what you achieve: it's what you give. Interestingly, researchers have found that keeping our giving precise, narrow, focused on just one person rather than thousands or millions in need motivates us more. NPR reports on one great study, Why Your Brain Wants to Help One Child in Need But Not Millions, that illuminates why. As a gentle reminder that greatness isn't what you have but what you give, here are eight quotes from some of the world’s greatest givers, and a couple from little ol’ me (that I’m sure came from someone who gave me the ideas). Gentle reminders about your greatness.  Giving is the purpose of living. “No one … [Read more...]

From Stuck to Brioso

“I don’t think anyone would find me inspirational,” were the first words out of Julie’s mouth when I told her I wanted to share her career change story. “Hold on,” I sputtered, “don’t you realize I see you as heroic?” As a leadership coach, I frequently draw upon Julie’s radical career change to illustrate what redefining your success can look like. Of the courageous women I know, Julie is easy to point to and say, see, you too can reclaim your joy for living. Goal set & met I met Julie when she began dating my brother. At 19, she said her goal was to become a VP at a major corporation by the age of 35. I was secretly appalled, being 21 and having little clue what I would ‘be’ when I grew up, I worried my brother had found a not-much-fun kind of girl. Julie met her VP goal well ahead of schedule. An actuary earning $200 thousand a year, she was the major breadwinner in a household made up of my brother (a physics teacher) and my two nephews. Over the years, Julie and I both worked six days a week, leaving little time or energy to connect. We did become “can’t–have-to- work” allies. Life is short A couple of years into her VP role, one of Julie’s employees took … [Read more...]

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