Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

The other day I was preparing for the “Pulling the Stress Plug” workshop as a free “Thank you!” Training Demo for one of our long-term clients. Of the various stress mastery techniques and mindsets that we teach in this workshop, one of them involves a neuroscience bio-feedback technique called Quick Coherence as developed by HeartMath. You can read more about the three steps here, but in a nutshell, Quick Coherence is an unusually simple, highly effective, and rapid method for reducing stress, anxiety and improving performance. HeartMath describes it briefly as follows:

“Create a coherent state in about a minute with the simple, but powerful steps of the Quick Coherence® Technique. Using the power of your heart to balance thoughts and emotions, you can achieve energy, mental clarity and feel better fast anywhere. Use Quick Coherence especially when you begin feeling a draining emotion such as frustration, irritation, anxiety or anger. Find a feeling of ease and inner harmony that’s reflected in more balanced heart rhythms, facilitating brain function and more access to higher intelligence.”

emWave-smIn preparation for the workshop, I brought the various HeartMath emWave equipment home to test it over the weekend, thinking my family would find it interesting. Using both sophisticated technology and simple instructions my two youngest (Matthew, age 8, and Molly, age 10) quickly and easily kept achieving optimal coherence levels, as indicated by a green light on the emWave Personal Stress Reliever (PSR). Well, Matthew took to it right away and kept asking if he could use it over the weekend.

Matthew-09Monday, as I was heading out the door to work, Matthew exuberantly exclaimed as he held the green-lit emWave PSR aloft, “Hey Dad! All I’m doing is saying ‘La la la’ in my head and smiling!”. I laughed, hugged him and left. I thought that was all, however, for the rest of the day his words kept coming back to me: “All I’m doing is saying ‘La la la’ in my head and smiling.” There you had it: My 8-year-old son had mastered the Quick Coherence technique in only a few tries. Nothing fancy. Nothing complex. No muss. No fuss.

Some people, usually adults, worry that mastering stress is too complicated and/or that it will involve too much time that they don’t have for mediation or yoga. Take it from a child, folks: Effective stress management isn’t in long-involved methods; It’s in the simple. “La la la” is a child’s version of a mantra—just something to fill the mind (i.e., the practice of mindfulness) with something else other than distraction and worry. The simple act of just physically smiling shifts our neurochemical state by releasing stress-relieving and pleasure-inducing endorphins and DHEA in the brain. Repeated simply over and over produces a coherent, stress-relieving state, quickly.

For years I have said in my stress management workshops that children are little Zen masters and that we would be wise to learn from them. My son proved it to me again. As Darth Vader said to Obi-Wan Kenobi, I can say of my son: “Now the student has become the master.”

An 8-year-old nailed it. Not only that, his example helped me nail it the rest of the day. In fact, it’s helping me right now. I feel fully coherent and peaceful as I’m typing this for my deadline. No stress. No muss. No fuss. I’m just, “La la la” and smiling. I feel just fine.


Jonathan Sherman
Director of Training and Development


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Performance management is one topic on which we provide training at PeopleSmarts.  Over the course of the past several weeks we have been internally discussing this topic and the launch of a software application to support and provide additional resources in conjunction with our trainings.  While performance management is a comprehensive process, one piece of that process is the performance review.  This week I ran into a former colleague from the retail industry who was telling me horror stories of his schedule right now because his company is currently in the midst of their bi-annual performance review process.   I suppose as this topic we have been working on it seemed fitting to write about it today.

Talking with my former colleague reminded me of some of the stories and inefficiencies of some organizations performance review process.  The first mistake they make is confusing the annual performance review with being the entire performance management process.  It seems like managers and employees don’t take the time to talk throughout the year, so often the employee is surprised by the feedback received during the review (and therefore dread the annual review because it is negative).  The second problem is lack of preparation.  Maybe the manager is too busy, maybe it is a time-management issue, but either way the result is that the manager waits until the very last second to “Rush” a review by the deadline – and therefore fails to give the employee any constructive feedback on their performance.  As a result the employee dreads the annual review because there is no value in the feedback.

A few years ago I took over a new division during the annual review cycle – according to my new boss the former division manager had written reviews for each of my 23 direct reports and it would be “easy” for me to simply deliver the review.   So I started reading and found each review to be nearly identical.  The only change was perhaps the addition or deletion of a word like “not”  or “does not” instead of “does”.  Example:  “  Mike lives our company values”  vs “Michelle does not live our company values”.   What!  And this is supposed to be feedback as to how this person performed during the year?  There were no examples to back up the sentence or to corroborate how or why Mike or Michelle did or did not live the company values.  Simply said, I could not “easily” just deliver such a review.

There are two major cost components associated with delivering a review like that in the example.  One is the opportunity cost of the time the former manager spent writing those reviews – while not nearly the amount of time it would have taken to create a comprehensive review, but several wasted hours of that manager’s labor in the writing and delivery.  Maybe one hour total x 23 direct reports or 23 total hours.  To deliver a review with no value and waste half of a work week doing so creates no economic value for the company.

The other cost I see is the lack of impact of the review.  The employee eventually becomes disenfranchised and disengaged as a result of no clear feedback or knowledge of how they fit into the organization.  They simply stop to care, and now you bare the cost of disengagement.

 While we continue to develop our trainings on the basis of EQnomics, or the economic effect on a company of poor management practices or disengaged employees expect to see more on this topic as well.    There are two ways a company can spend their performance management budget:

A company can throw labor dollars and the cost of missed productivity at a poorly developed or poorly executed performance management and performance review process is wasting money on achieving nothing.  


A company can have great processes executed well where employees are valued, employee skillsets are developed and where clear, consistent and measurable feedback are delivered throughout the year.

Each company will spend money, each can say they have a process in place but one company is simply burning dollars that yield no or little return (like simply renting your employees)  while the other is increasing the value of their employees or their “people assets”. The company who invests in their human resources and creates an appreciating asset stands to yield greater returns in the long run than the company who simply rents their employees time.

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BurrastonPond5-09-JDSThe Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my childrens lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
—Wendell Berry, from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, 1999)

Wendell Berry’s poem well describes the experience of mindfulness and it’s relation to ameliorating the effects of stress. In our workshop “Pulling the Stress Plug”, as well as in our executive coaching, we delineate several of the most effective strategies for managing stress in real-time. One of the methods that we frequently employ is the concept and practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is about connecting with things that do not stress in the here and now vs. things that do. In the poem above, as the stress and resultant despair of daily life invade his sleep, the poet (a thing that does stress), seeks in nature (that which does not stress) a connection with peace that then frees him from his stress. “The Peace of Wild Things” describes a classic experience of mindfulness for releasing stress by re-centering ourselves fully on what is.

Generally, however, we humans do just the oppossite.
We worry over what should be or what should’ve been, what was wrong, what is wrong and what will be wrong. Instead, as Thich Nhat Hanh counsels, “We have to learn to practice touching what is not wrong inside us and around us” (Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living, Parallax Press, 1992). Connecting with the “wild things” is one way of touching what is right.

“But, Jonathan I don’t have a serene lake replete with drakes and herons next to my home to de-stress by.” You don’t need it. Thankfully, to experience the full benefits of mindfulness you don’t need any “thing” you just need the life you already have and what is already around you. There is no right way to experience mindfulness. Further, and fortunately, there are also as many ways of experiencing mindfulness as there are people to experience it.

For example, I find my own “peace in the wild things” through the nighttime routines with my children. At the end of the day when my wife is “baked” and off for some much needed down time my children and I prepare for bed. After they’ve brushed their teeth and donned their jammies we tickle each other, play silly monster games, and laugh ‘til they protest with intense delight, “I’m gonna pee!!!”

As they cavort and shriek wildly I find solace in their wildness. They typify in their very being, without wordy discourses such as I am now giving, full presence in the now. They simply are mindfulness personified.  After the wildness finally subsides we cuddle for reading, quiet talking and sharing as they fall asleep in my arms. It is in this moment as I lay down in the grace of these wild things that I too find peace. I too find freedom.

How does this relate to reducing stress in the workplace? Simple. Young children are not troubled by the stress of tomorrow’s workday. So I take my cue from them and remind those intruding work-related stress thoughts we all have, “Not now. That’s for tomorrow. Now I am with my children.” And then I am with them. While I may have to say that to myself several times, it is that simple. I have found that when tomorrow’s workday comes I am then able to be much more present in the workplace, and thus more productive, because I’m not feeling the sting of regret of missing out on my children’s lives—because I didn’t. I was there with them and I was there fully. This work-home balance (some call it work-life balance, but I don’t believe in separating my work from my life) is so essential for stress-reduction and happiness in both arenas.

PullingPlugonStressSo, how does this relate to your workplace? Instead of talking about it, we would love to come to your workplace and show your team just some of what is available to your them and how they and your organization (as well as you ROI!) can benefit from stress-reduction and mindfulness practice. Give me a call at 801.787.8014 or email me at jonathan@peoplesmarts.biz and we’ll arrange a free and fun no-strings attached “Pulling the Stress Plug” Training Demo for your team.

Jonathan Sherman
Director of Training and Development

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When I was 16 I made a decision: I wanted to be happy. So at 16 I began my conscious study of happiness. I was going through the existential angst of adolescence (who hasn’t?). My then girlfriend and I would argue, among other things, about the nature of happiness. Neither of us were very happy. I didn’t know how exactly, but I believed that one could somehow learn how to be happy all the time. She disagreed. She thought I was naive and foolish. “Just look around,” was her argument. “There are so many unhappy people,” herself included she admitted, “and happiness is at best a fleeting, transient experience.” I thought she was too pessimistic. We fruitlessly and repetitively argued who was right.

The truth was we were both right and we were both wrong. She was right, I was wrong. I have since observed that indeed, as Thoreau said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” My adolescent naivete may have been reaching too far to be seeking happiness “all the time”. Most people do indeed seem to experience happiness in a ephemeral way especially when there is so much of suffering in the world.

I was right, she was wrong. While I am not happy “all the time”, those who know me would agree that I am deeply entrenched in the habit of happiness an easy majority of the time and that I have a “knack” for helping others feel happy, too. While I would like to credit that with me just being a real swell fella, the truth of the matter is that I have simply learned how to be happy. Further, I realize now that what I was seeking wasn’t just happiness, but more the peace that comes with knowing how to handle (i.e., via learned skills) the unhappy times of life.

So how does one learn happiness? There are many great answers to that question to be sure. However, my approach was simple, direct and two-fold:

  1. I observed individual happy people, couples, families, employees and leaders and asked them what it was that made them happy. Their responses were as diverse as they were and in the midst of the variety many commonalities arose. I implemented much of what I observed.
  2. I studied large systems of thought through world religion (for connection with the divine), philosophy (for connection with reason), psychology (for connection with mind), systems theory (for connection with relationships), and neurobiology (for connection with brain/body). I practiced what I studied as much as I could.

I found that while I didn’t learn how to be happy “all of the time” I did learn how to be happy a lot of the time. What’s more, when unhappy I learned how to access peace, which, upon reflection, makes me happy to know that even in the rough times of life I can still feel at peace. Wow…. I love that.

The skills, mindsets and practices I have gleaned from these many great teachers and sources have been described for millennia with many terms under many headings. One term, though, that seems to capture a lot of it quite well is that of “emotional intelligence” or “EQ”. Specifically, through EQ skills we are, fortunately, able to teach individuals and organizations how to not only learn happiness, but also how to use happiness in the workplace to get better results in 360º fashion.

The idea of happiness isn’t just a nice fluffy idea. It’s not just a “soft” skill. It’s a practical skill that makes a tangible difference. Skeptical? Curious? Want to check it out for yourself? Contact us (info@peoplesmarts.biz) and we’ll be happy to do a free no-strings-attached training demo for you of our “The Science of Happiness” workshop. It’s a fun, informative workshop.

So to review progress to date:

Task: Learn to be happy. Progress: Done… and happily so.

Now to get back to passing on what’s been learned.


Jonathan Sherman
Director of Training and Development

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A couple weeks ago I posted this on Facebook:

Jonathan is wondering if Holland, or anyone else, is drooling over the sweet new iPhone? You know I am!

A disgruntled friend of mine countered,

But does it run on more than one app? Does it cut and paste? Does it forward texts? [actually, yes and yes] Why not just some new apps? No they have to introduce a new phone with a matted finish, no chrome and try and force feed us and make what we have as obsolete. But we “have to have” new and better stuff. Steve Jobs just Jobbed us [i.e., “robbed” us]. And they’re talking about some modifications to skirt their contract with AT&T. Corporate greed at it’s finest.”

Well, gang, I was in a ranting mood and replied as follows:

Some good points my friend. The good news is they also put out v. 3.0 of the software as a FREE update for all current iPhone users so they don’t have to buy the new phone if they don’t want to, which except for a few hardware differences will give users (like me) 90% of the benefits of the new phone. Pretty cool.

The business model of getting “jobbed” is the identical business model to everything from laundry soap to cars to Microsoft—pretty standard. What’s not standard about getting “Jobbed” is actually getting a great product that continually sets the gold standard that every other competitor then scrambles to duplicate.

For example, free MAJOR software updates are also not standard to most companies. So an excellent product that actually works (sorry, Vista users who got “Microshafted”) does create a certain amount of excitement.

Oh yeah, and couple that with superb hassle-free customer service from people who actually know what they’re talking about (yeah, I know, sounds good doesn’t it?). Case in point: My iPhone had one problem several months ago and the solution? One trip to the Apple Store and five-minutes later I’m walking out of the store with a brand new iPhone—no muss, no fuss, no hidden fees or complicated processes. Yeah, dang it! “Jobbed” again!

So, since my current 2G iPhone works so well, and I get a free software upgrade to 3.0 (did I mention free?) I feel no need to buy the new iPhone (thank you Apple). Oh yeah… The no muss, no fuss customer service and support on my current iPhone is still covered for TWO more years by AppleCare which means all repairs or exchanges at NO cost for service, repairs and customer support. Dang! I *hate* getting “Jobbed”!

Does it sound like I’m evangelical for Apple? Does it sound like I should be in sales for them? Well, it’s more than me just being a Mac Addict (and I am). It’s simply a sound business lesson for all businesses and for all consumers: How many businesses would do well to create such great products coupled with such Wow! customer service and customer experience that their customers rant like this?

Really, think about that.

Compare the rant (word of mouth) above to Microsoft’s roll out of Vista and the horrid word of mouth they earned from a crap product coupled with a customer service nightmare that most experienced. How many of us wish we could get a “Jobbed” experience of incredible product and service at Wal Mart, at the car dealership, at any number of stores. Consider the product and service nightmares you’ve had as a customer with many businesses.

If you’re in business or in customer service then I, as a consumer, beg you to please “Job” me because personally I’m sick of sub-standard products and service that unfortunately seem to be all to often the model of “corporate greed at its finest.” It’s nice to have one company that continually provides a product and service that actually makes my life easier (and more fun).

Finally (yes finally!), business leaders take the challenge: “Job” us! Create a Wow! product with Wow! service and you’ll get ALL the FREE word of mouth marketing like this you want. Every business owner knows you can’t buy word of mouth. It’s only earned. Business owners: Please earn it from me. I, and other consumers, are coming to your business and walk through your doors to give you a chance to do just that. Keep us walking through your doors by “Jobbing” us.

Rant out.


PS: via PeopleSmarts.biz I conduct a fun and practical workshop: “The smARTs of Wow! Customer Service.” You can call me at 801.787.8014 or email me at jonathan@PeopleSmarts.biz to set up this workshop for your company. Fun stuff. Great for retreats and training days.

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