Utilize the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon

Only 10 openings available for the Sept. 21-22 Lead Well workshop

baader2Several months ago Mary and I were contemplating buying a new car. We narrowed our search to a Honda CRV. Suddenly, Honda CRVs were everywhere. I saw them on the road and noticed them in advertisements in magazines and online. I soon met several people who owned one. Within 48 hours that particular car became ubiquitous. Why had I not noticed them before?

We’ve all experienced this phenomenon—a concept or item is put on the forefront of our minds and suddenly it seems to show up everywhere. Of course, it was there all along; we’re just now seeing it.

There are several terms that describe this phenomenon; one is colloquial, coined by a journalist, and the other is a more academic phrase coined by a psychology professor.

The term Baader-Meinhof phenomenon was first used in 1994 by a commenter on the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ online discussion board, who came up with it after hearing, for the first time, the name of the ultra-left-wing German terrorist group twice in 24 hours.

In 2006 Stanford professor Arnold Zwicky coined the phrase “frequency illusion” to describe this syndrome. It’s caused, he wrote, by two psychological processes. The first, selective attention, kicks in when you’re struck by a new word, thing, or idea; after that, you subconsciously keep an eye out for it, and as a result find it surprisingly often. The second process, confirmation bias, reassures you that each sighting is further proof of your impression that the thing has gained overnight omnipresence.

We can use this phenomenon to our advantage. Since we tend to notice that which we look for, let’s choose what we look for.

For instance:

  • We are surrounded by innumerable reasons to be grateful—life, freedom, friends—but we’ll remain unaware, and perhaps ungrateful, unless we look for them.
  • We are encompassed by beauty—nature, children, music, books—but often don’t recognize it.
  • God is at work in our lives but we may not recognize His activity because we’re looking elsewhere.

This concept has huge implications for goal setting. I’ve often wondered why, when we set a goal and go public with it, our chances of accomplishing the goal dramatically increase. The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon would suggest that once goals are placed on the forefront of our minds we’re more aware of them and we’ll devote more time and effort to achieving them.

For instance, one of my goals for 2016 is to make 50 new friends. Having set and announced the goal, making friends has become an important part of my conscious thinking. I’m constantly looking for friends and, guess what, I’m finding them everywhere.

What do you look for?
Here’s an engaging YouTube video on this topic.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Only 10 openings remain for the Lead Well 2-day workshop – September 21-22, 2016 in the DFW metroplex. Two intense days of life- and career-enhancing training. More information click here.

Don’t give people what you like; give what they value

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gift givine

Self-centeredness is a powerful force. If left unchecked, it will sully every aspect of our lives. For instance, even when we want to give something to someone else, our preoccupation with self can pollute our act—we’ll give what we value and would enjoy receiving instead of what he or she would like.

  • For my honeymoon I planned a trip to Acapulco; I had been there before and loved it, so I assumed Mary would, also. She didn’t.
  • I recently gave a friend a copy of a novel that I enjoyed reading. My friend doesn’t like fiction.
  • I took a friend out to dinner for his birthday to my favorite Mexican food restaurant. His favorite food is Italian.
  • I spoke words of instruction to my hurting friend. What he really needed was comfort.

So the next time you want to give, find out what the intended receiver wants. If you’re not sure what he prefers, ask him. He will tell you.

To get the full impact of this essay, please respond to two topics.

  • Think of a time when someone gave you a gift that he or she valued but you did not.
  • Think of a time when you gave someone a gift that you valued but the recipient probably did not.

The antidote for self-centeredness is to focus on others. Think about others and put them first – especially when giving gifts.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Recently, I signed up to receive a daily summary – from the New York Times – of the most important news items of each day. It’s free and it’s good. To sign up, click here and choose Evening Briefings. 

Don’t make excuses for character flaws and bad behavior, thinking “that’s just who I am.”

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excuses3.001I once had an employee who had the audacity to declare, “I know I have a short fuse and a bad temper, but that’s just who I am. People who work with me just need to deal with it.” I informed him that his inordinate temper would not be tolerated because it is an area that he has control over and needs to change.

I have a friend who is always late. She’ll probably be late to her own funeral. When I questioned her about her tardiness, she replied, “Yeah, I’ve always struggled with being on time. My mother was that way; I must have gotten it from her.” Her attitude is unacceptable. It’s rude to be tardy and everyone can learn to be punctual.

Don’t ever make excuses for character flaws and bad behavior because they are not part of your inalterable essence—you can, and should, change.

The serenity prayer says it quite eloquently:

Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

  • You can’t change your height but you can change your weight.
  • You can’t change your basic personality (and you don’t need to) but you can choose to be punctual, positive, kind, discreet, fair, etc.
  • You can’t change who your parents are but you can choose your friends.
  • You can’t change the weather but you do have sovereign control over your attitude.

Take responsibility for your attitude and behavior. Don’t minimize, ignore, or make excuses for personal deficiencies. If you talk too much, talk less. If you talk too loudly, speak more softly. If you are pessimistic, choose to be optimistic.

Marshall Goldsmith, an executive coach, said, “Over time, it is easy for each of us to cross the line and begin to make a virtue of our flaws—simply because the flaws constitute what we think of as ‘me.’ This misguided loyalty to our true natures—this excessive need to be me—is one of the toughest obstacles to making positive long-term change in our behavior.”

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Lead Well 2-day workshop – September 21-22, 2016 in the DFW metroplex. Two intense days of life- and career-enhancing training. More information at learntoleadwell.com

Lead Well workshop – Sept. 21-22 – Irving, TX

Learn to be an effective leader

The health and growth of all organizations rises and falls on leadership.

Leadership is the primary factor influencing the health and growth of every organization. Organizations can increase their leadership quotient by:

  • Increasing the effectiveness of existing leaders.
  • Increasing the quantity of leaders by identifying, training and empowering new leaders.

Fifteen year ago I developed a leadership development curriculum that has been taught to thousands of leaders in diverse industries including technology, medical, non-profit, and financial services.

Lead Well offers leadership training and resources to organizations and individuals in all industries. Our propriety curriculum focuses on 12 indispensable leadership skills – six hard skills (what a leader does) and six soft skills (who a leader is). The training provides a thorough and systematic approach to leadership development.

The fall workshop will be held September 21-22 in Irving, TX. We’ll meet both days from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Click here for a summary of the curriculum.

Go to learntoleadwell.com to take a free, leadership skills assessment tool and to learn more about the workshop.

For more information and registration contact don@donmcminn.com



Do things sooner rather than later

procrastination1If something must be done sooner or later, sooner is better.
Procrastination is a vice; promptness is a virtue.

I prefer people who have a bias toward action. Give them a job and it will be done. They stay busy. At work, if they finish their assigned work and have time left over, they look for something else to do.

I also admire people who get work done sooner rather than later. It’s not just that they work fast (this, too, is a virtue); they start early and finish ahead of schedule.

There are advantages of doing work sooner rather than later:

  • Unpleasant tasks will not inordinately affect us. We often postpone the unavoidable when we perceive it to be unpleasant. But when we aggressively pursue all tasks, the unpleasant ones won’t haunt us.
  • Quality will improve. Quality often suffers when we do something at the last minute. Quality improves when we give ourselves sufficient time to complete a task.
  • We can recover from mistakes and setbacks more quickly. The noted philosopher Mike Tyson once mused, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” It’s true: projects seldom follow an ideal, predictable path. By starting early, necessary changes are more easily negotiated.
  • Some tasks will take longer to complete than we think. Starting early will provide needed margin to finish on time.
  • Completing responsibilities early will provide us with peace of mind; we can cease pining and relax.

Consider these scenarios:

  • You know your IRS tax return is due on or before April 15; why not complete it in February?
  • Why not write that thank-you note soon after you receive the gift, instead of waiting several weeks?
  • This week, you need to have a tough conversation with one of your team members. Do it on Monday instead of later in the week.
  • Plan your vacation a year in advance.

In my organization, we plan at least 12 months in advance. We visualize what life could look like 365 days from now and make a commitment toward it. We’re also flexible, realizing that plans may change, but it sure helps to prepare ahead of time.

Sometimes, there may be an advantage in delaying action. The extra time may allow you to get more and better information. Circumstances may change which will affect your task. But as a rule, be aggressive in getting work done.

Do things sooner rather than later.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Lead Well 2-day workshop – September 21-22, 2016 in the DFW metroplex. Two intense days of life- and career-enhancing training. More information at learntoleadwell.com

Develop your vocabulary

Lead Well workshop - Sept. 21-22

vocabulary5.001Men imagine that their minds have the command of language, but it often happens that language bears rule over their minds. Francis Bacon

  • According to the Global Language Monitor, as of January 2014, there are about 1,025,109 words in the English language.
  • According to the Collins Corpus, an analytical database of English, around 90% of English speech and writing is made up of approximately 3,500 words. [Shakespeare used 30,000 words in his plays, which is more than the Wall Street Journal used in a 10-year period.]
  • Most people’s routine vocabulary is only a few hundred words.

So we have over a million words to choose from, but the average person only uses a few hundred. We need to correct that deficit. Here’s why.

A good vocabulary helps you communicate.

A person who has a limited vocabulary will have difficulty influencing others with his or her ideas. It’s difficult to sell people on your worldview if you can’t compellingly articulate it.

A good vocabulary helps you think better.

Our vocabulary not only helps us express our thoughts, it creates our thoughts.

When you think, you only have at your disposal, the words you know. If you’re unfamiliar with a particular term, you’re probably unaware of the concepts and meaning it represents.

For instance, do you know the definition of these two words—correlation, causation—and how they relate to each other? If you don’t, you probably don’t understand the concepts they represent. [I talk about these two words in the post – Don’t be superstitious]

Language both expresses our thoughts and creates our thoughts.

Have a plan for expanding your vocabulary

At a minimum, whenever you read a word and you’re unsure of its meaning, look it up. Recently, I read these three words, didn’t understand their meaning, and immediately looked them up: misanthrope, tonic, and simpatico.

  • Try to visualize or personify the word: I have a neighbor who is a misanthrope.
  • Try to use the word in conversation: I said to a friend, “Our relationship is a real tonic to me.”
  • Identify synonyms for the word: simpatico—compatible

These Web sites will send you a word a day along with a definition and proper usage.

  • wordsmith.org – opt for the daily newsletter and you’ll get a word a day delivered to your inbox
  • wordnik.com – provides example sentences and audio pronunciation
  • wordthink.com – avoids difficult words and focuses on words you might use in daily conversations
  • merriam-webster.com – offers more challenging words

Be a lover of words.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Lead Well 2-day workshop – September 21-22, 2016 in the DFW metroplex. Two intense days of life- and career-enhancing training. More information at learntoleadwell.com

Develop a “yes” approach to life

Information about Lead Well workshop, September 21-22

pessimist_1078789Each of us carries a word in our heart. For some of us the word is “yes.” Yes, we believe we can succeed. Yes, we can learn. Yes, we can make a difference. Others carry a “no,” with all the negative baggage that accompanies it. As leaders, we must realize which word we carry and how it enhances or inhibits our ability to lead. Martin Seligman

Do you know individuals whose default response in life always seems to be “no”? Regardless of the situation, their first impulse is negative. These people are difficult to be with; they exhaust me; I avoid them.

A typical conversation with these doomsayers may sound like this:

  • Can we have some friends over for dinner this weekend?  – No
  • Can we talk about taking a vacation this summer?  – No
  • Can you have the report done by Thursday?  – No
  • Can you help with the kids tomorrow?  – No

Compare and contrast these pessimistic, energy-sucking people with those who have a proclivity toward “yes.” Even when they need to decline, they have a positive way of saying “no.”

  • Can we have some friends over for dinner this weekend? That is a great idea. I’ve had an exhausting week; perhaps we could do it another time.
  • Can we talk about taking a vacation this summer? Sure, when would you like to talk?
  • Can you have the report done by Thursday? I’m having an unusually busy week. Will Friday be okay?
  • Can you help with the kids tomorrow? I know you must be exhausted having been with them all day today. I’d love to watch them in the morning; I’ve got an appointment in the afternoon that I can’t miss. Would it be helpful for me to watch them for the first part of the day?

Relative to this topic, there are two critical questions for you to answer:

  1. Which word do you carry in your heart: yes or no? You may not know the answer to this question. To get an accurate answer, ask several people who know you well and who will speak truth to you.
  2. How can we deal with “carriers of no”? If they are people that you can choose whether or not to be around, avoid them. If not, try to work around them; don’t let their negativity influence you. Like water running off a duck’s back, don’t let their statements find purchase in your life. Increasingly minimize the amount of control they have on your life. (Or, anonymously send them this post along with the message, “You REALLY need to read this.” But, they’re likely to say…)

Fortunately, your inclination toward either “no” or “yes” is a choice. It’s not imbedded in your DNA. It’s not a fixed trait. You can choose. If you’re deeply entrenched in the negative persuasion, choose to change. Behavioral modification is difficult but doable. It will take time. You’ll need the help of others. Start by saying “yes” to the challenge to change.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Lead Well 2-day workshop – September 21-22, 2016 in the DFW metroplex. Two intense days of life- and career-enhancing training. More information at learntoleadwell.com

Copy others

copy3.001Most everything I’ve done I’ve copied from someone else. Sam Walton

All good ideas are borrowed; all great ideas are stolen. (I’m being a bit facetious with that statement, but not by much.)

There are few original ideas. Even things that seem unique and proprietary are most likely simply the combination of, or reorganizing of, existing elements, or the next iteration. Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things.”

Of course, copyrights and patents must be respected and proper attributions given, but 99% of the world’s knowledge is public domain. (That percentage is a wild guess on my part.)

There’s no need to reinvent the pancake.

  • Before you start a new business, visit successful companies similar to what you intend to do and learn from them.
  • If you’ve been in business for years but need to hit the refresh button, observe what others are doing and borrow that which is beneficial.
  • Intentionally study organizations that are dissimilar to yours (perhaps in an entirely different industry) and look for ideas that will transfer.
  • Continuously ask for people’s opinions and input.

Most entrepreneurs are not inventors; they are good spotters. They notice what’s working elsewhere and adapt it to their environments.

Most good ideas are spotted “along the way”—that’s why we must intentionally and continuously “roam the earth” with our eyes and minds open, searching for things we can borrow. Read, travel, visit unfamiliar environments, talk to fully alive people; get out of your dog runs and strike out on a new path, all the while, looking for transferable ideas.

Original ideas are overrated and scarce. Existing ideas are numerous, available, and already vetted.

Question: What are your thoughts about this essay? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Lead Well 2-day workshop – September 21-22, 2016 in the DFW metroplex. Two intense days of life- and career-enhancing training. More information at learntoleadwell.com