Solitude – the key to self awareness and success

Resilience and adaptability – key to success

The NSW Law Society Journal reported in October 2016 that the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP) Commission of Inquiry had been told by heads of law school that resilience and adaptability are important in order for lawyers to have a sustainable career in the profession.

Self-awareness is paramount to success

Whether in Law or other professions, to be resilient and adaptable necessitate identifying the existing state of which we operate and the places to which we aspire, and the ease we experience through that process of change and often stress. The recognition must therefore be underpinned by self-awareness.

Self- awareness is an accurate understanding of our personality traits, personal values, habits, emotions, and psychological needs, and their implications for ourselves or impact on others.

Through self-awareness,

  • we begin to realise what triggers negative stress within us,
  • we discern methods of coping and ways of being appropriate for us, and
  • we have better response-ability to the demands and changes we encounter daily in our professional work.

Self-awareness comes from being alone.

Solitude, a prerequisite to self-awareness, creativity and innovation

A study undertaken through a collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and the Wellcome Collection’s researchers in residence, Hubbub, showed that the best outcome of ‘rest’ derives from activities undertaken alone. Solitude is a prerequisite to getting real rest.

And it is rest that gives respite to a busy mind and brings clarity and releases creativity. It opens space for introspection and reflection which leads to self-awareness.

Solitude is about being or doing for yourself, alone. Solitude is not being inactive.

Here are some ways in which you can practise solitude:

1.      Have a cup of coffee, alone.

The in-between time when you have finished one job, and about to begin the other. Take a coffee or tea break to put aside what’s gone before, to gather your thoughts and emotions, and to re-balance your sense of identity and purpose. Do this alone. Have a beverage break.

2.      Take a walk, alone.

Beverage doesn’t appeal? Have more time? Take a walk. It need not be in nature. A walk in the bustle of the city is fine. The criteria are be alone and to notice your surroundings. Let your mind wonder about the man in the grey suit, the woman with red umbrella, the children, the cars, the architecture, even the noise. This can be a fabulous time for reflection. Go with it.

3.      Have a meal, alone

Take yourself to a restaurant with an ambience you’ll enjoy. How often do you merely eat and not pay attention to the process of eating? Well, alone in a restaurant, savour the sight and sound, taste the food … let your mind wonder and wander. Enjoy!

4.      Read, alone

Most of us do read on our own, hard not to. This time however, find a spot that you can claim for yourself, away from a communal space. There, read and let yourself journey into the book. Fiction or non-fiction, they are stories to take you into yourself, your reaction or response to the stories. Ask yourself why and lightly explore these reasons. Revel in a different life.

5.      Train or exercise, alone

Heading to the gym with a buddy or two is fun. Doing it alone gives you time to notice and sense your body in action without distraction. It is time to review your routine, and to feel its capabilities. Notice the energy surging within you. Feel alright for yourself.

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.” ~ Maya Angelou

Check out the meaning of solitude, in my personal blog here.

Many things that you do, you can do alone. Try it some time, and solitude – that space for introspection, will relieve the busy mind, recharge the tired body, and boost the creativity we so need in our work as lawyers.

 

What activity do you do in solitude which contributes to your success?    How do you occupy the space of solitude?

 

[An earlier version of this article was published on LinkedIn.]

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

Emotional intelligence for lawyers & corporate executive leaders

(M)en decide far more problems by hate, or love, or lust, or rage, or sorrow, or joy, or hope, or fear, or illusion, or some other inward emotion, than by reality or authority or any legal standard, or judicial precedent, or statute.

If you are curious whose quote that is, it’s Cicero – the Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, and constitutionalist. As it turns out, human nature hasn’t changed much in two thousand years.

We’re Emotional Beings

We’re still profoundly emotional beings. EI (emotional intelligence) has come a long way since Yale research (1990) and popular books by Goleman (1995). Like the study of “mindfulness”, EI has more mainstream recognition and a greater amount of professional “success” attributed to it than IQ and technical skills.

Mindfulness Training is Gaining Professional Recognition

Gone are the days where law firms and the corporate world recruits by academic achievements and IQ alone. So what in brief, is emotional intelligence good for in the professional workplace, business and law?

  • Better judgement
  • Higher productivity
  • More team cohesion and client relationships
  • Higher sales and conversion percentages
  • Great work satisfaction in teams, leading to higher retention rates.
  • Improved customer or client service (due to improved listening and empathy skills)
  • Better organizational communication
  • More effective leadership (leading to a competitive edge).

Specifically for law firms and the daily lives of lawyers, EI can have a significant impact. Historically, the legal profession has been heavily influenced by the Stoic/Puritan frame of reference and an emphasis on ‘reason’, this is changing towards a more holistic model of human behavior.

The “Nimble Heart” in the Workplace

How might emotional intelligence help those in the Legal Profession?

  1. The ability to correctly identify client values and motivations
  2. The ability to suppress emotions that might cloud objectivity
  3. Psycho-social identification & sensitivity, namely: active listening, empathy and compassion
  4. Reading body language, non-verbal cues and facial micro emotions
  5. Correctly matching persuasion strategies with the target audience
  6. Manage stress and self-regulate effectively in high-pressured environments and long work-weeks
  7. Conflict resolution, halting escalations and defusing negative emotions
  8. Establishing rapport, trust and warmth
  9. Facilitating easy exchanges of information
  10. Adapting not just to frames of reference, but to people more effectively
  11. Influencing the emotions of others through effective communication, feedback and motivational impact.

Clearly EI embodies a broad spectrum of rather holistic “soft skills” that are essential to all professional industry for leaders, managers, consultants and employees.

Can Emotional Intelligence be Taught?

In the “real world” of corporate hierarchies and law firm politics, given that candidates have comparable IQ, experience and technical skills, EQ then becomes the unique qualifying differentiator (UQD).

There’s a significant moment now for MBA programs among others, to actively integrate EI and soft skills training in their curriculum, sometimes called applied human science.

  • Graduate leadership programs continue to integrate EI training into their programs
  • Corporate training programs now specialize in EI training
  • Emotional intelligence has been correlated with leadership qualities

 

Professional efficacy is no longer solely correlated with IQ, so what then can it be attributed to?

A Most Vital Trait in a Top CEO

For CEOs and top executives, EI has a lot to offer in terms of global corporate identity.

EI underpins the ability to inspire discretionary effort—the extent to which employees and team members go above and beyond the call of duty.

This is an “intangible” of the charismatic CEO, who champions the corporate entity internally, much as some CEOs harness their personal brand for effective PR external to the organization and corporate brand.

To earn the respect and fidelity, and to motivate and mobilize talent, are what true visionaries do.

Many HR recruiters and analytics talk about a “skills gap”, EI could well be this “gap”. What we might be seeing as well is a “leadership shortage”.

Never in human history has Emotional Intelligence been at such a higher premium. Never has leadership been such a corporate differentiator in its ability to drive ROI.

 

[An earlier version of this article was published on LinkedIn.]

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

Multi-tasking is an illusion, be innovative instead.

“Innovative thinking, after all, comes from extended concentration…” as MIT neuroscience professor discloses that multi-tasking is an illusion.

Humans have limited capacity for simultaneous thought, rather what we perceive as multi-tasking is rapid sequential processing which Prof. Miller states lacks depth and impedes concentration.

If you want to be a leader in your field, try taking long periods of time to focus on the one thing that truly matters.

See this article from Fortune magazine.

Your personality affects your income

 

Your personality traits impact on your success at work and thus your income. What are the traits which are found to positively influence income?

As Adrian Furnham stated, ‘[S]table, conscientious, bright people do better, particularly in more complex jobs. Personality is related to an ability to establish and maintain happy, healthy relationships which is at the heart of business leadership.”

Why and how? Read Furnham’s article “Personality and Income“.

The ABC of leadership

As a leader, you have to be visible.

One cannot be a leader on one’s own. To be a leader is to be recognized as one.

And to be recognized as a leader, one has to Be, to Do and to Relate.

 

This is the second post on leadership, about ‘doing’ leadership.

Leadership can be learned. It is a series of skills which, practiced over time, becomes ‘natural’… as neuroscience indicates, habit-forming. The time and effort invested to learn to lead and to lead often go unrecognized unless we truly see.

How does a leader lead?

  1. Acquire knowledge and improve

A leader aspires and is seen to be aspirational. Bearing the qualities set out in the first post about being in leadership, a leader seeks knowledge. Leaders are humble and ever prepare to admit that we do not have all the answers, that we are researching or obtaining more information, and that we are open to new idea and propositions.

Leaders will be those who seek continuous personal growth, encourage authentic interpersonal relationships, to contemplate product and ways of working beyond what is known.

  1. Bring safety and inspire

Leaders are those who create a safe space within work groups or organisations to allow for creativity to emerge and risk-taking to occur. Creative ventures can fail and this alone will be terrifying for anyone working in an environment that is not tolerant of this. Unless one knows that her job will not be jeopardised for voicing a creative new idea, for trialling an innovative process, for being herself while doing so, nothing will be proffered and all will remain the same.

By being visible in making mistakes, in admitting to mistakes, a leader demonstrates the acceptance of make mistakes, to have gotten it ‘wrong’. A leader will speak of the learning to be had and how to overcome thus signifying the will to continue the good work.

  1. Challenge and support

Leaders see the people around us – people with real emotions, with personal aspirations, hopes and joys, people who face personal trials and challenges. Most importantly, leaders see the strengths, resources and skills of those with whom we work.

With empathy and understanding, leaders challenge and support our colleagues to growth, to aspire, to improve, to be better at what they do and how they contribute to the workplace.

  1. Decide and act

Little can be achieved without our deciding to step into it. Our attention and intention to go into a space of improvement, development and innovation are critical to our leadership abilities. We take risks, we stand convicted of our decisions and we act.

The mark of a leader is one of astute discernment, borne from constant practice of intellectual, emotional and spiritual intelligence; and of incisive unwavering action.

  1. Engage and communicate

Leadership is not without its turbulence… the buzz, I call it, is what informs us. The buzz could be from our personal excitement, nerves… yes, leaders are human after all; or the resistance from within the organization; or an instinctive warning. Listen, evaluate and learn. Positive and negative buzz have lessons to teach.

Leaders engage with emotions and feelings, our own and of those around us. And instead of being a cauldron of emotions or feelings, we communicate them in a constructive way, by asking questions and listening to the answers, without judgement and prior expectations. Leaders have real conversations.

  1. Focus on vision

It is also through conversations that leaders uphold visions. It is easy with everyday humdrum of routine, unavoidable passivity and pessimism to distract us from our vision.

Leaders maintain vision and see how something fits into that vision, not welded to rigidity, instead are prepared to be reflexive.

 

Leadership requires generosity of spirit, dynamic adaptability and grounded vision, all of which are within our grasps, if we commit to it. Yes, leadership can be learned, as every element of what I have indicated above can be learned.

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2016