How to keep your cool in high-stress situations

by Robert E. Quinn, David P. Fessell, and Stephen W. Porges

A CEO called one of us (Robert) for help. The company she was leading was on the cusp of a huge opportunity related to a new technology. But she was stymied and stuck.

One of the representatives for an investor in the project was extremely assertive and self-interested. They had intimidated several of her company’s strong board members, who were now withdrawing the financial support they had already committed. The entire endeavor was at risk.

It took 20 minutes for the CEO to describe all the complexities. As she did, Robert felt a knot in his stomach. She expected him to add value and yet he was struggling to even comprehend the issues. He worried that he wouldn’t be able to help and a part of him just wanted to end the call and distance himself from this mess. Rather than doing that, he understood that his anxiety was a signal to slow down. He began to self-regulate.

Recent research in the field of neuroscience, specifically polyvagal theory, offers insights into this process of self-regulation and how you can move from a “fight or flight” response to a higher state of openness that invites collaboration, creativity, and thriving. Studies have shown that specific tactics, which we’ll explain more below, can help us navigate our natural tendency to be defensive when confronted.

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To see the future more clearly, find your blind spots

by Eric J. McNulty

After being bombarded with disruption in 2020, executives can better prepare for the next crisis by considering new perspectives.

It was the year we saw it all. And 2020 was also the year we didn’t see it all coming. Wildfires. Floods. So many storms in the Atlantic that meteorologists had to resort to the Greek alphabet to name them. Global protests over racial and economic inequality. And, of course, the pandemic.

What is surprising is that we were surprised. In a recent PwC study, 69 percent of responding organizations had experienced a crisis in the past five years and 95 percent expected to face one. We all watched Australia aflame in the months before the pandemic. California, too. It was only three years ago that multiple storms rattled the Gulf Coast in the United States in rapid succession. And climate watchers had been predicting that there will be more of these severe weather events in the future.

And the pandemic? Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, H1N1 influenza in 2009–10, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), first reported in 2012, and the Ebola outbreak in 2014–16 foreshadowed that a deadly, global, infectious disease outbreak was overdue. I warned about MERS, and public health risks in general, in this publication in 2013. It was not the most shared article of that year. Not by a long shot.

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6 quirky questions from real-life job interviews

By Judith Humphrey

Last month, I wrote an article about quirky interview questions—you know, the random queries that interviewers sometimes ask to see how well you think on your feet. The article generated a fair amount of buzz and many exchanges on social media. In a LinkedIn Asia survey, nearly 60% of respondents said they’d like to see an end to these off-the-wall questions. Some called them stress-inducing, and others felt they have little to do with the job.

Unfortunately, these quirky questions are here to stay. Interviewers who responded to the survey say they use them “to test out-of-the-box thinking” and “show how someone responds to a situation that hasn’t been planned.” They are used to assess a candidate’s mental agility—a quality in hot demand.  Below are questions that several interviewees I’ve corresponded with said they have been asked, and some suggested answers. Keep them in mind at your next job interview. 

1. IF YOU WERE AN ANIMAL, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU BE?

This common question is designed to reveal the job seeker’s personality and suitability for the role. Have some fun with it and choose an animal whose characteristics align with your prospective role.

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5 leadership tactics that build trust

by Amy Stanton

“It’s really not about being seen as the person in charge. It’s about learning how to communicate in a way that other people trust.”

You never master the art of leadership.

This is something that seems to be missing from the public conversation around how to be an effective leader. In the workplace, in the world at large, and even at home with family and friends. Leadership isn’t a destination, it is a process: a never-ending practice that takes years to develop, and at any moment can feel like a massive fail.

We all, at some point or another, forget how to be great leaders.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about leadership over the course of my career, it’s that the soft skills are what matter most. It’s really not about being seen as the person in charge, or dressing a certain way, or reminding the people around you that you’re the final decision-maker.

It’s about learning how to communicate in a way that other people trust.

Here are five small ways you can start doing that right now.

1. Change up your feedback style, so people know you mean what you say

If you say, “Good job” to every person you work with, for every single thing they do, those words are going to lose their meaning.

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How to work with every damn Myers-Briggs personality type

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We got experts to weigh-in on how classic personality traits translate to remote work.

The shift to remote work has given many of us a new perspective on how we do our jobs. Without the context of a shared workspace or the rhythm of a typical office day, our own personalities are having far more of a say in our performance.

It follows, then, that the best way to maximize our output in a WFH environment is to better know our personalities – and those of our dispersed colleagues.

An efficient (and intriguing) way to manage this personality wrangling is via the tried-and-tested Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Generally regarded as one of the most accurate personality tests out there, the MBTI is widely applied within the business world, with 89 of the Fortune 100 companies utilising it.

“The MBTI is deceptively simple, but it’s also an extremely useful way to see how team members are inherently different, and how you can work together more successfully,” says occupational psychologist John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at the Myers-Briggs Company. “It’s a means to boost productivity in people, increasing their engagement and making them generally happier in their work.”

In other words, the MBTI might just be the key to turning your remote team into a smooth autonomous unit.

The 16 personality types and their traits

Based on Carl Jung’s Theory of Psychological Types, the MBTI is a self-reported personality survey that has been around in various shapes and forms since the 1940s. Respondents answer a series of simple questions about their feelings and preferences, eventually aligning with one of 16 personality types.

Each of these types is identified by four letters, starting with an E or an I (for extrovert/introvert) followed by S or N (sensibility/intuition), T or F (thinking/feeling), and finally a J or a P (judgment/perception). Each type also has a descriptor, e.g., “the analyst,” to further characterize the personality type in action.

Once you know your team members’ types, the thinking goes, you can better assign them to projects which match their preferences, proficiency, and proclivities. You can also communicate more effectively if you have a better idea of how people process information.

To get started, take the official Myers-Briggs test here (or try a similar free questionnaire, recommended by psychologists here), then check out our expert guidance below on how to work with each personality type. Continue reading