I was walking my dog this morning, and a lady bolted out of her car with a podcast on full blast. I caught one line ‘The heaviest weight in the gym is the front door!’. That got me thinking why is behavioural change so hard? This could be personally, professionally or in society.
Being a research nerd here are some of my best science backed strategies.
James Clear has this wisdom in his best-selling book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones. ‘Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behaviour’. Survey after survey shows that people fully support recycling. Yet in shopping mall food courts, people loath walking a few metres to dispose of their rubbish responsibly. Instead of expensive complex solutions, the bins were moved, so consumers practically had to walk between them after their meal. A tweak in the environment made the behaviour change effortless.
For me personally, I have now set up a yoga mat permanently in my home office. Yes, you might have seen it on our zoom calls! Having the mat in plain sight is a minor change in my environment. But has increased tenfold (OK slight exaggeration there😇) the number of yoga stretches I do daily.
Instead of selecting the most punishing regime and going hell for leather, Dr Katy Milkman’s advice is smart. Make it fun! In her book How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be she describes the concept of ‘Temptation Bundling’.
This is linking habit building to something you enjoy. So, watching your favourite Netflix show only after exercising, for example. Adding in instant rewards overcomes two key challenges of behavioural change–boredom and often the lack of instant gratification.
Some of Dr Milkman’s research is counterintuitive, but insightful. She worked with two groups of Goggle employees, both starting a new gym habit. One group nominating to go at a consistent time each day, and the other group nominating to go at a flexible time each day. They rewarded both groups for this behaviour for a month. Enough time to build a habit.
When researchers removed the reward, they thought consistency would build habit. But were shocked to find it was the group that had the most flexibility that persisted with the habit. Build consistency, but if you break the rule, be flexible so a downward spiral doesn’t kick in. Rigidity is the enemy of behaviour change.
What if you are laser focused for a month or two and then drop off the band wagon, never to return? Imagine a perverse version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s quote in Terminator saying ‘I’ll be back – never’!
Researchers Marissa A. Sharif, Suzanne B. Shu have a nifty solution. They recommend emergency reserves. Giving yourself a couple of get out jail free cards. If you slip up, it’s part of the process you have set up. The emergency reserves help you forgive yourself and get back on track.
This also helps you counter what marketers have so niftily named ‘The what the hell effect’. You eat something unhealthy, and then write off the rest of the day or diet with a ‘what the hell’. Recognising the start of this spiral, being able to reset and using one of your emergency reserves can all help.
Most important. It’s not always about hustle and hard work, but also about heart. Be kind to yourself. Achievement and self-compassion can feel at odds. British comedian Ruby Wax writes. ‘When I hear of people being kind to themselves, I picture the types who light scented candles in their bathrooms and sink into a tub of Himalayan foetal yak milk’.
Yikes! Funny but yikes. However, there is an emerging field of self-compassion research. Being kind to yourself is the best thing you can do, for any behavioural change and for your long-term physical and mental health. It’s your secret superpower, and it’s totally free!
What are some strategies you use to build and sustain behaviour change? Please share.
I love hearing from you.
* A quick post dog walk google search revealed this quote is from Ed Latimore. Author, retired boxer, self-improvement enthusiast.
Peter Sellers! I love Peter Sellers. Just yesterday I was re watching a YouTube clip from one of the Pink Panther movies where he plays Inspector Clouseau. Finding a large dog sprawled across the hallway of a hotel, he asks the hotelkeeper, ‘Does your dog bite?’
The hotelkeeper replies, ‘No’. Peter Sellers reaches down to pat the dog and, wham, the dog attacks him! Peter Sellers turns to the man and says, ‘I thought you said your dog does not bite’. The man replies, ‘That is NOT my dog’.
So much of our success in life depends on asking the right people, the right question.
After 15 years (begs for a joke here, doesn’t it?) of sending out newsletters, I have been feeling 😥stuck with my writing. I decided to go back to the purpose of my newsletters. I have one purpose, and one purpose only. This newsletter serves you my subscribers. I wouldn’t suggest, I don’t also let you know about new books, programs and wins🙏🏽 But the core purpose has remained the same all through the mists of time.
So, who better to ask? Please comment, what would you really like to know about storytelling?
Today on my morning walk today I saw a strange sight. An elderly man, bending every couple of minutes. As I approached, I saw he had a pickup stick in his hand and was picking up litter.
I felt teary at this humble, almost invisible act of service.😢When the entire world seems to collapse around us, a senior citizen has found a way to be of service.
A leader recently described our current context as living through collective trauma. Even Former First Lady Michelle Obama says she’s suffering from a low-grade depression. In a recent episode on The Michelle Obama Podcast, she elaborated. ‘I’m waking up in the middle of the night because I’m worrying about something or there’s a heaviness.’
In this heaviness, how can we as leaders show up in meaningful ways for ourselves, our families, and workplaces?
Start with self-care – whatever that looks like for you. We cannot be of service as husks of our former selves. For me it is trying to ground daily in mediation, journaling and exercise. Spending time with my family and connecting with friends.
But I’m the first to admit that I’m uneven. Some days I can do all of this and other days not so much. I am learning to be more forgiving of myself, again an act of self-care. Michelle Obama shared ‘I try to make sure I get a workout in, although there have been periods throughout this quarantine, where I just have felt too low.’ So relatable.
Show up in service. In Maslow’s hierarchy, traditionally what drives us is self-actualisation. But recent thinking has placed service at the very top of this hierarchy.
I now grapple with being more nuanced with what service means. It is hard to let go of its action-focused trajectory. Even the simple act of staying home, wearing a mask, shift significantly when we see them both as acts of self-care and service.
Serving others (no matter how small or humble) allows us to show up, gives us purpose and a sense of hope. A client describes this, ‘Some days I get out of bed because my team is depending on me’.
I have also been seeking wisdom from the past to anchor me. I was re-reading Viktor Frankl’s, Man’s Search for Meaning. This sentence jumped out at me, ‘When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.’
So please take care of yourself, practice some self-care where possible and stay safe. If then you can show up and be of service, Bless.
As always please comment, I love hearing from you.
How do we persuade people to adopt our ideas, listen to what we have to say and be inspired into action?
In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra whom the gods punished. His punishment was to push a boulder up a great hill. As he neared the top, he would lose control of it and it would roll back down, and he would have to start again . . . and so on, for eternity.
This too-familiar scenario is every leader’s nightmare – having all your efforts come to naught. Not just once but repeatedly, endlessly.
In business as leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners, it’s time. Time to stop expecting different results from the same strategies.
- Are you ready to avoid Sisyphus’ fate? Putting in the hard yards and wondering why it’s not working?
- Are you ready for an original strategy that is fresh and relatable in business?
- Are you ready for the rich results?
Then please join me for my one and only Storytelling Masterclass this Friday June 26th. Within the first 20 minutes I will have you sharing stories and we will spend the session crafting and working on your stories.
But wait, there’s more! Every participant will receive a signed copy of Storytelling Mastery. After the session you will also have access to exclusive, instructor led, video based modules. These module cover content such as Business storytelling success secrets, Business storytelling: From mastery to artistry. Storytelling gold!
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect refers to the way a slight change in one state (a butterfly beats its wings) can produce a very large effect (a tsunami) in a later one. In communication, business storytelling is the butterfly effect. That is what a story can do for you.
Yamini presented an engaging and impactful virtual masterclass to hundreds of members of our Business Chicks community. Her setup and presentation was so professional but warm. She delivered her unique presentation with passion, commitment and beautiful storytelling. The feedback from the audience was overwhelmingly positive – she truly captured people’s hearts and minds. – Olivia Ruello, CEO Business Chicks
Yamini Naidu provides practical training on how to engage and motivate people… in ways that work. Some of the best training I have done. – Peter Talcko, General Manager Strategy, NAB
I can’t recommend Yamini’s masterclass highly enough. I attended one a few years back and loved it! I’m constantly working with leaders who need to communicate in a way that changes behaviours. What I learnt from Yamini Naidu CSP is still my foundation. – Stephanie Bradshaw, Freelance Creative Director Consultant to Not-For-Profit sector
One day Chuang Tzu and a friend were walking by a river. ‘Look at the fish swimming about,’ said Chuang Tzu, ‘They are really enjoying themselves.’ ‘You are not a fish,’ replied the friend, ‘So you can’t truly know that they are enjoying themselves.’ Chuang Tzu replied, ‘You are not me. So how do you know that I do not know that the fish are enjoying themselves?’
With your next virtual presentation, I want you to channel Chuang Tzu’s confidence. Not about fish, about your audience. Your audience is listening, engaged and enjoying themselves. Guaranteed! So here are 3 success secrets. They focus on having your audience at hello.
1. Show your face
We love the human face; we are hard-wired to respond to it. Portraiture is one art practice that remains popular over time. As a presenter you MUST show your face like you would in a face-to-face presentation.
Turn your camera ON. Yes, unless you are on Interpol’s most wanted list?
Invest in a reasonable webcam, lights and audio. YouTube is awash with ideas, depending on your budget. I have listed some recommendations later. Online the audience has to work harder cognitively, so make it easy for them with good video, lights and audio.
Record yourself on camera (without an audience). Use the feedback to set your camera framing for success. Avoid the ‘ugly maker angle’ when your audience is looking up your nose. An unforgiveable rookie mistake.
Invest in good quality lights. Lights can make you and your camera feed look fabulous. Channel you favourite TV anchor – always stunningly lit up.
Optimise your audio. Bad audio makes your audience’s brains shrivel. Audiences will happily turn off video and listen if your audio is good. But bad audio makes people bail.
2. Stand and deliver
A simple success secret is to stand and present. How often online do you see presenter after presenter sitting? This might be the norm, but don’t settle for it.
IRL presenting we almost always stood. As a presenter you are 110% (you read that right) more dynamic standing. Standing is a power pose in the virtual world. The camera should always show you waist up. This is conversational, the perfect ‘having coffee with you distance’ and puts your audience at ease. It is also important that your audience sees your hands. Hands are significant behavioural cues for your audience.
The first time the audience sees you, you must stand facing the camera, waist up, hands on display, with a smile and ready for action. This power pose guarantees capturing your audience’s attention. After that, depending on how you are using other media (which I will cover in later posts), I don’t mind seeing just a tiny head on screen! But please regularly all the way through, revert to showing us your full face.
3. Cool it, Compel, Connect
Participants can spend the first minute to two shuffling in online, getting a coffee, so consider waiting two minutes. Consider using a holding slide with music, a small show reel, something that says the session will start shortly. A virtual presenter recently made the mistake of starting with a killer opening only to have the majority of participants miss out. Cool it at the start, for a minute or two. Then have the camera open on you standing up.
The riptide of virtual presenting convention is to start by asking for a yay in chat. Or asking people to tell you where they are dialling in from. This start is easy and safe, but audiences are tired of it. One grumpy person responded at a virtual event ‘My third zoom session today and this same question third time today – so no!’
Remember how IRL you had mastered the firm (but not death grip) handshake and steady eye contact (but not creepy) at the same time. This wasn’t a ninja move but took some practice. Online too demands a two-pronged approach to your starts.
First, compel with your beginning (asking for a yay doesn’t cut it) and immediately go to chat to check-in and connect. Here are some choices for starting with fire:
- Ask a question that ties in and applies to the topic that follows
- Start by sharing a story (my favourite) or
- Use a stat or a big data point. For example, ‘In our lifetime one in three people will suffer from anxiety attacks’.
Start with fire to engage and inspire your audience. Connect with them immediately in chat, Ask for something specific in chat that your audience can respond to. Your audience will lean in for more.
This is the first in a series of posts. In the next few weeks, I will share how to craft compelling content, and how to enchant an online audience. I can also work with your leaders and teams, showing them how to shine with their virtual presentations.
What are your tips for virtual presentation success? What do you want me to cover? Please share. I love hearing from you.
*Story source: Zen stories to tell your neighbours.
Suggestions for a professional virtual set up:
Lights: Elgato Key Light air (you need two).
A single red car drives down one road. An endless desolate city landscape. A lone driver and his dog. There is a sense of darkness and foreboding… This is the opening sequence for I am Legend, a 2007 post apocalyptic film starring Will Smith.
Often in narratives about the future, dark stories of conflict and dystopia litter the landscape. Science becomes a weapon. Machines destroy humans. (Spoiler alert In I Am Legend, it’s zombies! ). Or humans become machines. Bleak.
Lucy McRae is a science- fiction artist and speculative designer, presents a contradictory, life affirming view. Her practice is about the future of humans. How humans build resilience. How humans respond to extreme conditions. 2020 (despite our desperate efforts to turn back time or cancel it) has been the perfect petri dish to test this.
McRae’s research imagines a fleshy and feminine future. Her practice is informed by emerging scientific research. She considers scenarios around interstellar travel and off-planet living. McRae asks whether our empathy, sensory and emotional worlds hold the greatest potential for the future of humanity?
Empathy, sensory and emotional. All words that describe stories and the art of storytelling.
What do you think – are these the keys to our future?
Please comment, I love hearing from you.
How is 2020 going for you? Hope you are sailing into the newish year and the new decade. The year of the rat, according to the Chinese Calendar.
Chinese culture associates the rat with flexibility, opportunity and creativity. Flexibility and opportunity help us welcome life’s wobbles. Creativity is the fuel that brings new ways of thinking and doing, whether you are problem solving, pitching to clients or even just persuading your kids.
In honour of the year of the rat, I have been experimenting to see if I can create a daily habit around creativity. Rereading James Clear explosive bestseller Atomic habits, over summer inspired me. (Pure author envy for that surname).
Momentum is his central tenet – doing something small every day towards your pursuit. And I thought, why not apply that to creativity? Here is what I discovered with my daily experiment.
Structure vs flow
We often feel that the shackles of structure might choke our creativity. Yet even radical artists use structure–Pollock painted on canvas. When I’m writing a new book, I write 1500 words first thing in the morning every day (Monday to Friday) no matter where in the world I am or what time zone–no concessions for jet lag. It’s hard, I sometimes fight this tooth and nail, but structure helps me produce work and channel creativity. Think of structure as the container you provide to capture your creativity, but never limit or contain it.
Post it note size
Beginning anything can sometimes (depending on your personality) be the hardest part. And imagine having to begin every day, with a creative pursuit. I realised thinking small bite size helped me. Chaz Hutton, a young Australian living in London doing a standard 9–5 job, started doodling bite-sized observations about everyday life on Post-it notes. He now has a cult following and does this full time for a living. But consider how he started. Momentum in creativity and other pursuits is doing something every day but keeping it small. So, it gets done.
Sampling and Source material
When hip hop emerged out of the dance clubs in the 1980s, it presented a cut up sample heavy aesthetic. Sampling is the reuse of a portion (or sample) of a sound recording in another recording. Sampling allowed hip-hop artists to bring old music to new listeners, while still paying homage to the artists that came before. Cut-up a literary technique. The artist cuts up written text and rearranges it to create a new text.
Popularised by the American writer William S Burroughs who said ‘Life is a cutup. As soon as you walk down the street, your consciousness is being cut up random factors. The cut up is closer to the facts than the perception of linear narrative’.
Sampling widely, practicing cut up and using my senses have been strong allies in my quest. So, what are you reading? What are you listening to? What are you watching? What are you feeling, touching, tasting, experiencing? These fuel the cauldron of your creativity.
Doing Vs waiting
This is unsexy as it gets with something like creativity. Show up every day and do the work. It’s when doing the work, and when you are taking breaks from doing the work that the muse will strike. I get my best writing ideas when I’m writing (shudder).
It’s like your work preps your brain to receive other creative insights in the shower, when driving etc. Stephen King nails it when he says ‘Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you will be every day from nine ‘til noon. or seven ‘til three. If he knows, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up’.
Showing is the new caring
Last Christmas the Instagram world was abuzz. Someone had dared to mess with a classic Australian dessert and iconic even – the pavlova. Shalinin Nestor combined an old favourite–the traditional pav with a new food trend the grazing platter. She created a pavlova grazing board. Her post went viral. It was polarizing, not everyone loved it. But for the world to discover it all Shalini had to have the courage to show and share her creation.
Just like Shalini, at some point you have to show / share your work. Even a rough first version and prepare to iterate. Here is one of my sketches just from my notebook. This is at my local coffee shop a customer waiting for coffee (a quick doddle, work in progress, be kind please!). Austin Kleon in Show your work makes a compelling case for why generosity trumps genius. The book states It’s not self-promotion, it’s self-discovery—let others into your process, then let them steal from you.
How are you planning to unleash your inner rat this year?
Please comment. I love hearing from you.
Sometimes leadership comes blazing with trumpets, sometimes quietly and sometimes not at all. Unless a leader steps up into the void.
Recently India and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) were ready to make history. A successful soft landing would have made India only the fourth country after the United States, Russia and China, to achieve success. India would also become the first country to complete a south pole region soft lading on its first attempt.
The entire nation was watching this historic moment live and waiting with bated breath. But during the last moments the agency lost contact with the lander. The last minute loss gutted the ISRO team. Jubilation and celebrations turned to dust. The ISRO chief K Sivan was inconsolably upset. Visible public failure after years of hard work.
The Prime Minister Mr Modi did the most powerful thing any leader could do. He reframed the situation for the ISRO Chief, his team and the entire nation.
Modi said ‘To our scientists I want to say- India is with you! You are exceptional professionals…We salute you’. They needed to hear this in their darkest hour when feeling both personally and professionally crushed.
He added, ‘The best is yet to come in our space programme’. Declaring there would be ‘a new dawn and brighter tomorrow, very soon’. Giving everyone hope and optimism for the future.
Modi finished by hugging a visibly distraught Sivan, in a video that has now gone viral and taken the world by a storm.
Prime Minister Modi set the tone for what was to follow. The entire country lauded and celebrated the scientists and their efforts. The focus shifted from a near miss to a near win and hope and optimism for next time.
This is leadership in a void–where a leader steps up. A leader reframing authentically in a time of despair. Turning a desert into an oasis.
Please comment, I love hearing from you.
PS Just a note, I don’t vote in India and don’t have any political affiliations or agenda.
I recently did a silent retreat with a small group. No speaking, no external stimulation, no reading or technology.
On the first day I thought this is not too bad and glanced at the clock and saw that only 30 minutes had passed! It was a revelation. Time had completely stopped and yet an ocean of time had opened up. It was confronting. I couldn’t fill the chasm with the usual distractions or work and play.
In our modern harried pace we coexist daily with time’s evil twin ‘never enough time’. But the good twin ‘too much time on my hands’ I haven’t seen since childhood.
In the swirling silence so many emotions welled up for me–a smile at a happy memory, the sting of regret, the sharp stab of anger. All in my mind, as with no external stimuli – the mind can really play games.
As time passed, silence’s texture changed. From an amorphous heavy mass, to something lighter, restful even. Speaking devours enormous amounts of our cognitive load. Not speaking, freed me up to turn inwards, to process and reflect. At the end I felt cocooned in calmness and peace.
I am now trying to adopt a daily practice of deliberate silence. First thing in the morning, about 30 minutes. A reflective space to anchor my day.
Now for a scary thought – imagine if we punctuated our days at work with silence? The difference that could make to our work, rest and productivity.
All our communication tools, techniques, and tips focus on how to say more, say it differently and that old chestnut, say it again. We never think how we might say less, or create a space for deliberate silence that allows reflection.
Even a smaller practice of pausing (which is a mini silence) can create huge disproportional impact, for example in a presentation and definitely with a story. The next time there is a silence, don’t rush to fill it. Instead savour it.
Please comment, love hearing from you.
Pens down – aargh, hope that doesn’t bring back bad memories. The examiner calling out at the end of every written exam.
As we wind down for the Easter long weekend what is your non-exam equivalent of pens down? Peak performance at work can only happen on a foundation of rest and reset.
For me it’s a digital detox and a few days of shinrin-yoku.
This year I have been practising digital minimalism. It started with a February Facebook fast and now has spread more broadly across my day. So aiming at a digital detox or a close approximation. I’m already weak at the knees at the thought.
Also, a few days of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing). Fully clothed! Which is the being immersed in nature, gently walking in a forest in Victoria.
What will you be doing to rest and recharge? Please share. I really appreciate your comments.