How our ape ancestors can help evolve your leadership

How our ape ancestors can help evolve your leadership | practice (split each time) | What color is your rock? Learn when "gray rocking" works
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June 3, 2024
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Leading the Way
How our ape ancestors can help evolve your leadership
Humans sit atop the evolutionary chain, but we still have much in common with our ape ancestors that leaders must remember -- namely, that we are social, emotional and competitive creatures, writes executive coach Ed Batista. For leaders, this means creating ethical group dynamics, providing empathetic emotional support and ensuring competition results in accomplishments that work to everyone's advantage, Batista writes.
Full Story: Ed Batista Executive Coaching (5/30) 
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Put it into practice: Humans enjoy being in social groups, but, Batista notes, be prepared for the emotions produced by interactions and the natural competition that will spring up between people and groups. "But group dynamics aren't necessarily nefarious, and thoughtful leaders can harness them in ethical ways."
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What color is your rock? Learn when "gray rocking" works
The "gray rock" concept -- speeding the end of a difficult conversation by acting as dull as a rock -- is so popular on social media that people have developed iterations, such as the "soft gray rock" and "yellow rock" strategies that aren't as harsh. Leaders who "gray rock" disengage emotionally to cool down a heated conversation or in reply to a long-winded email, says clinical psychologist and author Ramani Durvasula, but it can backfire and isn't always the right choice.
Full Story: The New York Times (5/31) 
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Put it into practice: Evaluate the situation and the person before gray rocking, behavioral psychologist and author Lara Fielding warns, as it can create even more tension in some people. Fielding recommends considering three things: Is it working? How long before it becomes a risk to me? Am I doing this too often rather than actually solving problems?
How workplace learning communities can power PD
Establishing learning communities that meet regularly is a simple, successful way to incorporate professional development in the workplace, an approach that makes organizations stronger, adaptive and more innovative, writes CL100 CEO Cathy Hoy. In these communities, colleagues share knowledge and ideas, and rising leaders also develop and enhance insights and skills through creating trusting relationships.
Full Story: People Management (5/31) 
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Put it into practice: When putting together a learning community, focus them around a cause, CL100 learning community lead Andy Lancaster advises. Other tips: Take responsibility for developing an engaging culture throughout the workplace, ensure a diverse membership, create a rhythm that encourages participation and provide any support each community needs.
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A weekly spotlight on doing more without working longer
Working at a natural pace and doing fewer things with a focus on quality work can boost productivity, according to Cal Newport, a Georgetown University professor and author of "Slow Productivity." By taking time to produce quality work, Newport says you'll build a reputation of getting work done, even if it's not immediate, which means your boss's stress "is gone as soon as they hit send," Newport notes.
Full Story: CNBC (5/28) 
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Daily Diversion
How do hummingbirds hover without touching flowers?
A hummingbird can hover over a flower and sip nectar without touching the flower because its brain creates a 3D map of its surroundings, according to a study in Current Biology. Clusters of neurons in specific regions of the forebrain are activated by an acute sense of touch in the bird's wings, face, bill and head and a sense of the air pressure on its wings and legs.
Full Story: University of California, Los Angeles (5/29) 
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About The Editor
Candace Chellew
Candace Chellew
I had never heard the term "gray rocking" before running across it in the New York Times. I've employed this technique numerous times, especially around political conversations, but I never knew it had a name.

It is pretty effective, especially with those who thrive on argument and drama. If you're not giving out what they're looking for, they tend to move on to greener, more argumentative pastures.

The caveat against using it too much rings true, as well. Not fully engaging with others in a meaningful way can disconnect us from our feelings and authenticity, so this method is best used sparingly. As a leader, especially, you don't want to gray rock so much that you lose touch with your team or the reason you became a leader in the first place.

The VAR method mentioned in the article may serve leaders better over the long run. Validating another's feelings, asserting your need to take a break and reinforcing your willingness to engage in a less emotionally charged exchange can be just the technique needed to quell office disputes.

If this newsletter helps you, please tell your colleagues, friends or anyone who can benefit. Forward them this email, or send this link.

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What method do you use most often to defuse emotionally charged conversations?
VoteGray rocking
VoteYellow rocking
VoteSoft gray rocking
VoteVAR -- Validate, Assert, Reinforce
VoteGood, old-fashioned diplomacy
VoteWalking away
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