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Supplemental Handouts from Stress Doc
January 21, 2010 Webinar hosted by FEW Foundation for Education & Training. Contact Stressdoc@aol.com

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  • 1. Inspiring Leadership-Partnership through Creativity, Passion & Risk-Taking In today’s wired, 24/7 and uncertain world, the capacity to blend being realistic, resilient and risk- taking has never been more vital. We all need tools for engaging people and problems in a novel, surprising and effective way. A key to surviving and thriving is challenging the conventional and transforming interpersonal and organizational barriers into bridges of understanding and creative collaboration. Seemingly a daunting task…still, have no fear, Mark Gorkin, LICSW, the "Stress Doc" ™, an acclaimed speaker and OD/Team Building consultant, is here. The Doc will illustrate this dynamic concept through a complexity exercise, intervention scenarios, personal example, a risk-taking questionnaire and traits of creative risk-takers. So go out on a limb. Learn to “Confront your Intimate FOE.” Seek the higher power of Stress Doc humor: May the Force and Farce Be with You! Don’t miss your appointment with the Stress Doc. Objectives A. Developing a Paradoxical Perspective 1. There’s No “I” in Team and Word Association Exercise 2. Benefits of Cognitive Complexity B. Complexity in Action 1. Two Intervention Scenarios 2. Creative and Interactive Connection between Change and Conflict C. Passion Power and Risk-Taking 1. Four “P”s of Passion Power Model 2. Risk-Taking Quiz, Traits of Risk-Takers and Moving Out of Comfort Zone D. Leader as Risk-Taking and Self-Effacing Role Model 1. Sales Manager Story 2. Functions of Humor and Transforming Fear of Exposure into the Fun of Embarrassment E. Leadership-Partnership and Team Building 1. Structures and Strategies for Building Winning Teams 2. Serenity, Secret of Wisdom and Shrink Rap ™ Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker and "Motivational Humorist" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN speaking and workshop programs. In addition, the "Doc" is a team building and organizational development consultant for a variety of govt. agencies, corporations and non- profits and is AOL's "Online Psychohumorist"™. Mark is an Adjunct Professor, No. VA (NOVA) aCommunity College and currently he is leading "Stress, Team Building and Humor" programs for the 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Divisions, Ft. Hood, Texas. A former Stress and Conflict Consultant for the US Postal Service, the Stress Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com -- called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR). For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-875-2567.
  • 2. Transforming the Conventional into the Creative: Discovering and Designing the “Bright Crystals” of Contradiction These days everyone wants to be creative, to “think out of the box.” But how do you walk the talk? As a workshop leader who often tries to give organizations a “Jolt of CPR: Being Creative, Passionate and Risk-Taking,” let me share one concept that just might be an integral component of creative thinking and problem-solving. On stage, I like to introduce this concept through a thought-provoking and, possibly, unsettling exercise that was inspired by the research of Dr. Albert Rothenberg, as reported in his book The Emerging Goddess: Creativity in the Sciences and the Arts. (The title evokes the mythic imagery of Athena, Greek goddess of both war and creativity, being born full-sized from the head of her almighty father, Zeus.) This Yale Psychiatrist and Cognitive Psychologist found that subjects who responded with more opposites or antonyms in a word association test – e.g., "wet" to the word "dry" or "fast" to the word "slow" – had higher scores on certain creative personality measures than subjects generating mostly synonyms or "original” responses. (Rothenberg’s sample was fairly small and at most his results can be suggestive. My casual workshop trials indicate that usually less than ten percent of the audience free associate predominantly with antonyms. Of course, I remind participants that this is only one informal measure of creativity.) Considering the small or informal sample size, nonetheless, why might there be a correlation between contradictory association and personality differentiation? To expand your worldview and problem-solving vision, consider these Seven Cognitive Complexity Keys for Transforming the Conventional into the Creative: a. Challenge the Conventional. To think oppositionally reveals a willingness to confront the conventional and the accepted or even "the respected authority." While some view this as defiance, others see a delicious opportunity. As von Oech wryly noted in his classic on creativity, A Whack On the Side of the Head: "Sacred cows make great steaks." Or more potently and paradoxically, consider the pioneering 20th century artist, Pablo Picasso’s refrain: “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction!” (Guess sometimes to “think out of the box” is not sufficient; to start fresh and be fertile you may have to blow up the sucker, or at least be willing to challenge some traditional or foundational assumptions.) To seek a higher truth, one may have to look at the oppositional with a more complex, ironical, or even volatile mind’s eye and become more comfortable with seeming contradiction. (Hot ice anyone?) b. Recognize Yin-Yang Perspective. This Eastern symbol depicts a complex truth: that seeming opposites don’t necessarily result in division or separation, but potentially flow into each other forming a greater, interconnected whole. Also, the symbol illustrates how a small circle of contradiction embedded in its opposite (as represented by a small black dot in the largest part of the white flowing amoeba-like space or a small white dot in the largest part of the black flowing amoeba-like space) is seeding the emergence of its counterpoint, that is, the white space ultimately transforms into black space and the black into white. A Yin-Yang perspective was articulated by the pioneering actor and comedian, Charlie Chaplin, who, for example, believed the “light-hearted” emerged from darkness: “A paradoxical thing about making comedy is that it is precisely the tragic which arouses the funny. We have to laugh due to our helplessness in the face of natural forces and in order not to go crazy.” Or consider the poignant observation from the inspiring disability pioneer, Helen Keller: The world is so full of
  • 3. care and sorrow it is a gracious debt we owe one another to discover the bright crystals of delight hidden in somber circumstances and irksome tasks. Ms. Keller certainly perceives the yin-yang seeding principle. Finally, what about this seemingly contradictory example: have you ever had a fair fight with a close friend or partner? You both express angry feelings; each one says his or her piece without wanting to rub the other’s face in the mud. And lo and behold, once feeling genuinely heard (even without reaching total agreement) the anger begins to subside replaced by a sense of relief, sure, but also some intimacy, perhaps even a little more trust. c. Develop Forest and Trees, Tactics and Strategy. Oppositional thinking is not simply reactive: by definition it’s positioning one concept in juxtaposition or relation to another – such as by quality, e.g., “wet vs. dry,” quantity, e.g., “large” vs. “small” or by position, “above vs. below” or “hill vs. valley.” That is, oppositional perspective challenges you to see multiple points of view, including your antagonist’s mindset – which may facilitate understanding and empathy or even give you an advantage in terms of short-term tactics and long-term strategy. Creative problem solving requires definite feel for details (the trees), but you also want a sense of the big picture (the forest). Grappling with polarity encourages the rejection of simplistic “black or white” and “good or bad” thinking. A capacity to make discriminations, to see shades of gray (a byproduct perhaps of the tension between forest and tress and other dichotomies) and, especially, examining both sides of an issue is critical for being a guide “on the cutting edge.” (And remember, these days, “If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up way too much space.”) d. Blend the Analytic and the Empathic. Oppositional processing also means building a mind bridge within, that is, harnessing your masculine and feminine energy, using your head and heart, or according to one neuropsychological researcher, cultivating “bi-hemispheric peace of minds.” Of course, the different sides of the brain-personality are not always in perfect harmony. On a personal level and in the performance arena, I need time and space for my manic-like, “out there” stage persona. But I also must have room for being a sometimes melancholy or a frequently introspective and analytically insightful cave dweller. (Alas, sometimes one soars then crashes or at least burns or runs out of energy before the rejuvenation cycle kicks in.) But when I have both these energy – mind and mood – sources cooking and interacting, when my heated passion is tempered with cool purpose and hard-earned perspective…then I’m “Touched with Fire” (the title of psychologist and best-selling author, Kay Redfield Jamison’s book; its subtitle – “Manic- Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament”). e. Pay Homage to Janus, F.Scott and A. North. Many in the arts and sciences have recognized the importance of reconciling seeming opposition to achieve a sense of wholeness or enriched integration, what Albert Rothenberg called “Janusian Thinking.” This cognitive process was named for the dual and opposite profiled, Roman deity, Janus, whose image was often found on gates and doorways. And appropriately, Janus was the god of “beginnings and endings” and of “leavings and returns.” Consider my Janusian-like linguistic loop of beginnings and separations: “One must begin to separate…one must be separate to begin.” Moving from the mythic, to the more contemporary, thinkers of all stripes, including Nobel Prize- winning physicist, Alfred North Whitehead and acclaimed 20th century author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, have embraced the latter’s ideas about the significance of grappling with opposition: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the capacity to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. For example, one should see things as hopeless yet determined to make them otherwise.” Sounds like another leading edge mantra! f. Explore and Express Text and Context. As a “word artist” – both on the page and on stage – the importance of grappling with “text” and “context” is inescapable. “Text” is the “on its face” data or “utility” of a message while one notion of “context” is the envelope of personal, interpersonal, cultural, historical background or circumstance in which the message is embedded, thereby providing or coloring it’s full meaning and significance. The best communicators
  • 4. understand that, in yin-yang fashion, both text and context along with substance and style and a forest and trees perspective must be accounted for if real meaning is to be gleaned, or if “message sent is to be message received.” Can you relate to this vexing example of one- dimensional information flow: have you ever received directions for assembling a product with only verbal instructions and no supportive images? GRRR! Of course, accurately receiving a message is only half the battle. The cutting edge communicator is not simply passionate but also knows how to deliver a message, especially by telling a story. According to Daniel Pink, in his book, A Whole New Brain, most of our thinking and our knowledge are organized as stories. Storytelling is the ability to place facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact. A story blends high concept and high touch. Stories are high concept because they sharpen our understanding of one thing by showing it in the context of something else, a basic tool for understanding. Of course, when telling stories, especially in our ADHD culture, consider this Shakespearean maxim – Brevity is the soul of wit. And I would add, “Wisdom.” Finally, as James Lukaszewski, founder of The Lukaszewski Group Inc., a crisis communication firm, observed in a recent speech: “Telling stories is far more powerful than all of the studies, analyses, data, and information piled together on any given subject you can name. Data is debatable; stories permit everyone who hears, sees, or reads to make up their own minds from their own perspectives. Great leaders tell great stories. Stories help others learn to be leaders… Be a storyteller and you'll become known for being helpful, memorable, and a source of inspiration, insight, as well as self-evident truths." g. Generate and Tolerate Thesis-Antithesis Tension. When trying to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable you may experience what psychiatrist, Richard Rabkin, called a state of “thrustration,” which I defined thusly: “Thrustration occurs when you’re torn between thrusting ahead with direct action and frustration as you haven’t quite put together the pieces of the puzzle.” Some are not able to tolerate such tension. A truly classic New Yorker cartoon, playing off the opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities, forever lampooned the dangers of self-righteous rigidity in the face of seeming contradiction. A nattily attired, pompous looking publisher standing behind his power desk begins to chastise a humbly dressed, hat in hand Charles Dickens: "Really, Mr. Dickens…was it the best of times or was it the worst of times? It could scarcely have been both!" However, if you can stay with such cognitive tension and confusion, the angst just may fire the right hemisphere of your brain with the potential for sparking metaphorical images and analogies along with surprising and paradoxical visual puns. The reward may be worth the risk. Here’s a personal illustration of how the tension between thesis and antithesis yielded a creative and integrative “Aha!” Back in the early ‘90s, I wound up writing some rap-like lyrics for a black beauty contest theme song. (Don't ask. I had periodically tried my hand at poetry, including a bluesy number called “The Burnout Boogie.” Email stressdoc@aol.com for any and all.) One morning, shortly after my noble, beauty contest effort, I awoke chastising myself: I was a university professor, a psychotherapist (thesis)…What was I doing trying to write rap lyrics (antithesis)? A blazing flash scattered my sleepy haze. As the mist lifted, there…a mystical (if not hysterical) conceptual vision; a catalyst for my pioneering efforts in the realm of psychologically humorous rap music. I was no longer just playing in a field of dreams: “If you write and “Shrink Rap” ™ it…they will come” (creative synthesis). Clearly, my goal in life has a paradoxical bent: to be a wise man and a wise guy. Again, a pretty good recipe for a cutting edge thinker, leader and budding “psychohumorist” ™! Closing Summary A conceptual framework for turning on your creative brain has been outlined. Seven paradoxical, mind-expanding tools were illustrated: a. Challenge the Conventional,
  • 5. b. Recognize Yin-Yang Perspective, c. Develop Forest and Trees, Tactics and Strategy, d. Blend the Analytic and the Empathic e. Pay Homage to Janus, F. Scott and A. North, f. Explore and Express Text and Context, and g. Generate and Tolerate Thesis-Antithesis Tension. So learn to discover and design “bright crystals” of contradiction. You will transform conventional cognition and communication into imaginative, insightful and multifaceted understanding and adaptation – the hallmarks of creative connection. And as illustrated, this connection manifests in domains ranging from achievement to affiliation: 1) in the intrapersonal realm of mind- mood/mania-melancholia/heated passion-cool purpose interplay, “bihemispheric peace of minds” along with the synthesizing “Aha!” experience and 2) in the interpersonal realm of empathy, integration and emotional intelligence. Complex concepts to keep us evolving and to enable one and all to…Practice Safe Stress! Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker and "Motivational Humorist" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN speaking and workshop programs. In addition, the "Doc" is a team building and organizational development consultant for a variety of govt. agencies, corporations and non- profits. Mark is an Adjunct Professor, No. VA (NOVA) Community College and currently he is leading "Stress, Team Building and Humor" programs for the 13th Expeditionary Support Command and the 15th Sustainment Brigade, Ft. Hood, Texas and the 3rd Chemical Brigade, Fort Leonard Wood, MO. A former Stress and Conflict Consultant for the US Postal Service, the Stress Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award- winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" – www.stressdoc.com – called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR). For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-875-2567.
  • 6. Legal Assistant Today Risky Business Learn how to climb outside of your comfort zone. By Stacey Hunt, CLA, CAS, and Mark Gorkin, “The Stress Doc” ™ May/June 2006 Issue A paralegal stands alone on a street corner in downtown San Francisco, miles from home. A realization hits her: She agreed — for reasons now unfathomable — to present a seminar on trial assisting to a group of top-notch, big-city paralegals who probably know more about the subject than she does. For the first time, she will use a Microsoft PowerPoint slide show as she speaks, and she has no idea how to connect the computer to the projector. As she walks down the sidewalk trying to figure out which skyscraper she needs to go into, it occurs to her that she is utterly outside of her comfort zone. A psychotherapist struggling to build a stress management workshop business signs up to do a weekly feature on a cable television magazine show. Although he has never been in front of a television camera, the psychotherapist attempts to reassure himself with the knowledge that he is an experienced public speaker. D-day arrives and he finds himself in a sweltering room under blinding lights with no TelePrompTer. Feeling like he is facing a firing squad, he begins a live demonstration of stage fright morphing into oral paralysis. These two examples are true stories that happened to us, the authors of this article. Stacey’s seminar went off without a hitch and was well-received. Mark recovered from his initial fumble and finished his 12-week show with good reviews. Both learned they could take enormous personal risks, learn from them and come out ahead. The fear of failure holds many of us back and keeps us from exploring our true potential. This article provides key strategies for confronting and overcoming your fears, and developing your risk-taking potential. The Benefits of Risk-Taking For most people, having to speak formally in public is a nightmare. They would rather contemplate their own deaths than risk possible embarrassment or humiliation. This fear keeps us trapped in our own comfort zones, afraid to take chances that might lead to new opportunities. As Jonas Salk, the great scientific pioneer, observed, “Evolution is about getting up one more time than we fall down, being courageous one more time than we are fearful ... trusting one more time than being anxious.” Without taking on an occasional challenge, you will cease to evolve, both as a paralegal and as a person. Today, you can take baby steps to overcome your doubts and stroll with confidence outside of your comfort zone. The benefits are enormous and include increased self-confidence, satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, as well as a heightened awareness of your growing abilities. Each new success will give you a sense of euphoria and encourage you to continue pushing the envelope. The Risk-Taking Self-Assessment Quiz To evaluate how much of a risk taker you are, answer the following questions. Be honest with yourself! There are no right or wrong answers. This quiz provides the opportunity to explore your personal feelings and beliefs and gain some insight into areas of strength and vulnerability when in or out of a comfort zone.
  • 7. 1. Do you associate failure more with learning opportunity instead of with feelings of humiliation, guilt or being a “loser?” 2. Do you tend to see things as shades of gray rather than as black or white? 3. Can you usually work effectively on a problem despite feeling anxious? 4. In general, are you relatively comfortable with uncertainty or ambiguity? 5. When you are wrong, can you publicly acknowledge and error or mistake instead of attempting to cover it up? 6. Under time or performance pressure do you tend to become more productively focused than scattered or impulsive? 7. Are you a self-motivator rather than needing to be motivated by other people, structured goals/rewards, etc? 8. During times of meaningful change, do you feel positively excited and curious rather than feeling anxiously out of control? 9. In general, do you like to explore new paths or procedures instead of following well- practiced or trusted paths or procedures? 10. Are you able to often see or redefine a problem as an opportunity? 11. When it comes to problem-solving do you tend to balance logic with intuition? 12. Can you make decisions in a timely manner (or without excessive delay) even when being wrong or making a mistake is a possibility? If you answered, “yes” to a majority of the above questions, you tend to feel comfortable with uncertainty, performance anxiety, change, i.e., taking risk. If you answered “no,” to half or more of the questions, or have two or three big “NO”s, it’s likely time to start developing risk- taking characteristics and time for exploring a larger world. The Traits of Risk Takers To be a conscious and productive risk taker you must be willing to hear the boos, to let go of a “secure” image while recognizing gaps, unfilled needs and outdated rules underlying operating procedures. Here are five vital traits of risk takers. Acknowledge mistakes and accept social disapproval. Risk takers have a lot of practice admitting error. When you are dissatisfied or disillusioned with all the “be safe” messages and messengers, and you are tired of plodding along the “way it always has been” path, you might want to test limits and boundaries. Explore what is possible despite the potential for criticism or rejection, being a lonely voice and having to confront your fear of exposure. Have a strong enough ego. A sense of confidence and competence is essential if risk taking is to be purposeful and productive as opposed to impulsive or irrational. Possessing a strong ego doesn’t guarantee results. It does mean that a risk taker can sort out the pros and cons regarding his or her enterprise. And while preplanning is needed, realize that you can’t anticipate every mistake or deviation before embarking on a new venture. A strong ego means you are not seduced by perfection. You recognize that staying on a narrow, safe course only yields the
  • 8. illusion of achievement and control, and in the long run can lead to boredom or stagnation. Moving outside of your comfort zone can open up new challenges and opportunities. Once you are positively rewarded for risk, you just might be ready to take a new risk. Analyze and learn from trial and error. When error is seen as vital feedback, you can assess the adequacy or insufficiency of your skills and strategy along with your emotional and personnel resources. Of course, this isn’t usually one-trial learning, but by purposefully analyzing your choices and taking much-needed risks, you can shorten the time and heighten the payoff of a learning curve process. Ponder a range of possibilities rather than perfection. When you understand there isn’t one fixed or ideal outcome, then you are in the position to see with fresh eyes. You are not biased or constrained by custom or habit. You can build on past learning and also reflect a new, “out of the box” environment. In fact, open people see error and feedback as fuel for ongoing self- organization and useful reorganization. Build a support system. Being a productive risk taker takes considerable physical, mental and emotional energy. It’s essential to cultivate a select group of trustworthy and objective people — a colleague, a supervisor, mentor or a close friend — who can embark with you on that road less traveled or let you know when it’s time to take a pit stop to rest or reflect on errors and successes. We all need people who can tell us when to come up for air, especially during challenging undertakings. We need people who can provide tender loving criticism and tough loving care. Taking Baby Steps Outside of Your Comfort Zone Most of us don’t want to be stagnant or complacent. We recognize the need to continue growing and honing new skills to stay competitive at work and for personal growth. Sometimes we have personal goals that we just don’t have the courage to tackle. How do we give ourselves the boost we need to take baby steps to becoming more exploratory and risk-taking individuals? Redefine success. Too often people don’t explore because they presume they will not be successful or there is no tangible reward in sight. For example, paralegals have said they are not interested in making the effort to become a Certified Legal Assistant or Registered Paralegal because they don’t believe their firm will recognize or financially reward their achievement. Are these paralegals’ definitions of success monetary gain, or is success only success when it’s observed by others? In the law firm environment, it’s common to define success by material wealth. In his book “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success,” Deepak Chopra wrote: “There are many aspects to success; material wealth is only one component. Moreover, success is a journey, not a destination. Material abundance, in all its expressions, happens to be one of those things that makes the journey more enjoyable. But success also includes good health, energy and enthusiasm for life, fulfilling relationships, creative freedom, emotional and psychological stability, a sense of well-being and peace of mind.” By limiting your definition of success in terms of tangible rewards or recognition by others, you will miss out on many chances for that intangible feeling of self-fulfillment and a journey well made. The sense of self-satisfaction and the increase in confidence that comes with achieving a difficult goal, such as certification, can jump start your enthusiasm for your work. The people you might meet in a preparatory study group can open doors to new professional relationships that will make the journey more pleasant. Confront old voices. The beliefs, expectations and values internalized from past significant people, such as family members and teachers, can provide an anchor of stability and tradition in our day-to-day lives or during a troubled storm. However, if the anchor is so heavy or rigidly placed, your lifeboat might never leave the harbor. For example, Mark worked with a client, a paralegal named Carol, who had contracted degenerative muscle disease as a child. Carol’s mother had been quite protective and also subtly critical. Not surprisingly, Carol had some self- esteem issues. She never truly confronted her mother’s behavior partly because of the “sacrifices” she felt her mother had made for her. And for Carol, being critical was a sign of
  • 9. disloyalty. These issues later impacted her professionally. When Carol began therapy with Mark she was laboring in a fairly dysfunctional law firm. For a few years, a circle of colleagues and friends helped her cope. However, because of the progressively deteriorating working conditions, one by one her support group jumped ship. But Carol stayed because she had unwarranted doubts about her competence and skills. She also was overly grateful for her position. Despite the fact that a couple of senior partners piled on overtime assignments without commensurate pay, she remained loyal. Fortunately, a year of therapy and gradually learning to stand up and set limits with authority figures helped her break the chains of low self-esteem. Carol gained a more realistic sense of her strengths and need for support along with a greater willingness to shake up her career puzzle. She eventually found a paralegal/administrative position with a nonprofit organization that advocated for individuals with disabilities. You might never explore new waters or uncharted territories because those old voices are saying, “don’t risk failure or embarrassment,” “don’t do anything that will threaten your job or financial security” or “this is our family’s standard and nothing else is acceptable.” While those old beliefs might have gotten you this far, it’s time to trust your own judgment and instincts. Hang out. A powerful motivator for risk taking, good and bad, is hanging out with a peer group. In particular, keep company with folks a bit outside your normal comfort zone. If there are more advanced-level paralegals in your office, take breaks with them or invite them to lunch. Pick their brains about how they tackled difficult projects or talked the boss into letting them try something new. As you get to know them better, ask them if there were situations where some project went sideways and what the consequences were for them. Soon you will begin to see that your peers have overcome failures and setbacks. For example, perhaps they got fired, overcame their fears, learned from them and continued to grow as paralegals and employees Be an awkward beginner. People who have mastered a profession through the requisite blood, sweat and tears, as well as the investment of ego, time and money, often abhor the thought of starting over. They recall the anxieties of an earlier age and don’t ever want to feel so vulnerable or inadequate again. This sort of “bunker mentality” can keep us stuck in a dead-end job or working for a boss we don’t particularly like. The fear of the unknown always is worse than discomfort with the known. The fear of having to start over with a new firm, learn a new practice area or work with a new attorney often will cause paralegals to rationalize that they are not really that unhappy where they are. Of course it’s awkward at first starting in a new position, learning the laws of a new state or switching practice areas. It’s difficult to return to the feeling of being a novice, but you must not let that fear of awkwardness prevent you from beginning a new and better path for your career. Be focused on your needs and not on your fears. Find a coach. A key component to exploration and growing in new directions is working with a coach. You never see a sports figure who isn’t working with a coach, no matter how famous. The same concept can apply to your career. Find someone who is an experienced expert who walks the talk. Then trust must evolve. If the coaching relationship is to be maximally productive, the student will need to accept both supportive feedback and constructive criticism. Places to look for possible coaches are attorneys or other paralegals, both inside and outside your law firm. Perhaps a favorite teacher from your paralegal program can serve as a coach. Professional career coaches can be hired to help you set and reach goals. Friends don’t necessarily make good coaches, as they often have a difficult time delivering constructive criticism. You need someone who has enough distance to be able to view you with a critical eye and push you to achieve your goals. Be gentle with yourself. Errors of judgment or design don’t irrevocably mean you are incompetent. They more likely reveal inexperience or immaturity, perhaps even boldness. For example, suppose you have been asked to design a numbering system for a mega-documents case. After reviewing the potential types and sources of documents, you decide on an alpha- numeric system, with the first letter assigned pursuant to the name of the producing party. After you have implemented this system, you realize it’s inadequate. Different departments within a corporate defendant are producing different records and it has become critical to know exactly
  • 10. where they came from. With the system you have in place, you can’t identify exactly which department was the original source. This doesn’t mean you are an incompetent paralegal. It might mean you got into a case so large it was outside your experience, or it could mean you were not given enough information from the attorneys from the start. You were bold enough to accept the responsibility for a difficult assignment, but for whatever reason, your design didn’t meet the needs of the case. Learn from this situation, do your best to come up with a plan to remedy it and make a mental note not to make the same mistake again. Don’t write yourself off. Our so-called failures can be channeled as guiding streams of opportunity and experience that so often enrich, widen and deepen the risk-taking passage. If you make mistakes, learn from them and move on. Don’t dwell on them and allow them to stall your efforts to broaden your horizons. Although you might imagine people are laughing at you, many of your peers secretly admire those who can dust themselves off and get back in the saddle. Strive to Survive the Climb There is no guarantee when grappling with new heights or depths, but four fail-safe measures apply: Strive high and embrace failure. Failure isn’t a sign of unworthiness. Consider failure simply as a gap between a future ideal and your present reality. It’s a transitional space that fosters growth rather than absolute mastery. Develop a realistic time frame. Remember, establishing a beachhead doesn’t mean you have conquered the island. Recognize that many battles are fought and lost before a major undertaking is won. Be tenaciously honest. Continuously assess the impact of outcomes, changes within yourself and your environment. An objective coach can help you with this process. Establish a support system of caring friends and colleagues. Imagine a life without the limitations we have set for ourselves. You now are ready to get out there and see just what you can do. As the ancient Roman poet Horace said, “To begin is to be half done. Dare to know — start!” Stacey Hunt, CLA, CAS, is a freelance paralegal in the San Luis Obispo, Calif., area. She is the co-author of “Hot Docs and Smoking Guns: Managing Document Production and Document Organization” (Clark, Boardman, Callaghan, 1994) and “The Successful Paralegal Job Search Guide” (West, 2000). Hunt is an instructor for the paralegal studies program at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. She is the immediate past president of the California Alliance of Paralegal Associations and recipient of the NALA 2001 Affiliated Associations National Achievement Award. Mark Gorkin, “The Stress Doc,” a licensed clinical social worker, is a keynote speaker, “motivational humorist” and a team building and organizational development consultant. Gorkin is the author of “Practice Safe Stress” and “The Four Faces of Anger.” For more information, e-mail stressdoc@aol.com, call (301) 875-2567 or visit www.stressdoc.com. Updated 07/16/07 © Legal Assistant Today Magazine www.legalassistanttoday.comwww.jamespublishing.com (800) 394-2626 ------------------------
  • 11. Creative Risk-Taking: Part I The Art of Designing Disorder By Mark Gorkin, LICSW “The Stress Doc” ™ As a public speaker, it's not surprising that risk-taking is a subject dear to my heart and ego. It's well known that most Americans would rather contemplate their own death than face “stage fright” or possible public embarrassment or humiliation. Of course, some of us platform performers have had to deal with both demons: as a speaker, believe me, I've died many times. And while skeptical about reincarnation, I'm still alive and talking…But not just talking. Over the years, I've transformed my share of humbling learning curves into a modus operandi for risk-taking. Let me start with a trial by fire that illustrates the personal evolution of three keys of creative risk- taking. "On the edge" individuals: a) are not overly preoccupied with making mistakes or with social disapproval; they are able to tolerate the anxiety of separateness, b) have a strong enough ego to admit when they are wrong or in trouble, and c) analyze, emotionally experience and learn from trial and error. And with this foundation, "creative persons are precisely those that take the cards that make them anxious" (May). Cox Cable Chaos Back in the early '80s, cable television was starting up in New Orleans. Around this time, I had burnt out and dropped out of a doctoral program and was struggling to build my own psychotherapy and stress workshop business. Throwing caution to the wind, and needing to do some serious self-promotion, I managed to wrangle a health feature on a Cable TV Magazine show…despite my tele-virgin status. Having a weekend to prepare for the inaugural shoot, oscillating between shock and elation, I kept reassuring myself: "Mark, you do public speaking, you've been in front of a camera…How difficult can it be?" I've come to realize this profound truth: The only thing more dangerous than taking a big risk, or not taking any risk, is taking a risk while minimizing the precarious reality of the situation! No teleprompter, blinding lights, a sweltering room (the noisy AC had to be turned off in this primitive studio). D-Day had arrived. Staring at that one-eyed, fore-fingered monster (aka the cameraman)…Suddenly, I was facing a firing squad. My last halting, anxiety-filled utterance: "Hello. I'm Mark Gorkin, a stress expert." Then began an involuntary live demonstration: stage fright morphing into oral paralysis. I eventually became audible in bursts, though collapsing in exhaustion after a minute or two of delivery. (Fortunately, through the magic of television editing, most of my panic and battle fatigue was erased.) Of course, the camera crew didn't make things any easier. As we played back the tape, one of them said: "Don't worry. We'll use this for our blooper special." "Thanks a lot fellas." The next day I was still reeling from reality: the mortal wound to my illusion of invincibility thrust into awareness my combat deficiency. And while there was no rest for the battle weary, the executive producer threw me a lifeline: "I don't expect perfection; I do expect improvement each week." Being caught in the crossfire of crisis and confrontation triggered a novel adaptive response. For the second shooting, I memorized eight minutes of uninterrupted script -- a dramatic breakthrough of one of my mind barriers. The performance tension, along with the internal pressure of punctured pride, generated a heretofore-untapped level of persistence and concentration for writing and memorization. I also discovered another benefit of this heightened
  • 12. motivational state. My right hemisphere, responding to this "cry of the wild," produced vivid images and rhythm and rhyme verbal connections that evoked both a more colorful style of expression and that supported mental association and recall. The production crew couldn't believe the difference in my performance. They figured, "If he's crazy enough to do that, we might as well stick with him." In a way they were right. I really was out of my (normal) mind! By the third week I was getting smart. I invited a guest and used a short opening monologue. I won't claim the remainder of my twelve-week stint was a breeze (though I did get a good review in the newspaper). Actually, the third feature was part of a Thanksgiving Special taped in the sunny outdoors -- in gale wind conditions. Naturally, a palm tree prop fell on my guest and me in the middle of our interview. Hey..."Life's a beach." Moral of the Tale. In twenty-five words or less: "Cox Cable Chaos" taught me more about letting go of predictability and perfection and accepting adult vulnerability than all my years of analysis! Part II will provide key steps and strategies for “Confronting Your Intimate FOE: Fear of Exposure” and for developing your “Creative Risk-Taking” potential. Until then, of course… Practice Safe Stress! References May, Rollo, "On the Imagination," The Symposium on Imagination, New Orleans, January 14, 1984 ------------------- The Practice of Creative Risk-Taking: Part II Confronting Your Intimate FOE A tale of high performance anxiety and personal “stage fright” was the subject of “The Art of Creative Risk-Taking: Part I.” Was the Stress Doc breaking into New Orleans Cable TV or was he breaking down while taping a health feature? The illusion that previous speaking and university teaching experience (but tele-virgin status) had prepared him for the glaring lights and self-conscious focus was quickly exposed. Right from the traumatic beginning, a two season run in front of the camera consistently generated a highly intense, double-edged learning trial – as much labyrinth as laboratory. Fraught with danger and opportunity, this Gladiator-like arena compelled “Confronting the Intimate FOE: Fear of Exposure.” Despite periodic feelings of inadequacy and humiliation (for example, when a member of the technical crew announced his initial taping would become a part of the blooper archives) this high-risk scenario yielded some positive revelations. High tension when productively channeled: a) improved concentration and capacity for memorization and recall, b) produced vivid imagery, rhythm and rhyme connections and imaginative mental associations, and c) generated greater comfort with uncertainty and, gradually, greater confidence in the effective adaptation to a pressure packed performance environment. Perhaps the foundation of this dynamic process was a learning concept that challenged unproductive innocence, if not a state of denial: The only thing more dangerous than not taking any risk, or taking a big risk, is taking a risk while minimizing the precarious reality of the situation! With this stepping stone wisdom, here are key steps and strategies for bravely facing your “Intimate FOE” and boldly developing your potential for “Creative Risk-Taking”:
  • 13. 1. Aware-ily Jump in Over Your Head. Only by jumping into the fray can you quickly discover how adequate your resources are with respect to the novel challenge ahead. This approach precludes a strategy that eliminates all risk in advance. (Okay, some prep may be necessary. As we say in N’Awlins, check to see if there are any alligators in the bayou.) You may need to encounter realistic anxiety, exaggerated loss of control and even some feelings of humiliation to confront your "Intimate FOE." But often the reward for the risk is a unique readiness to build knowledge, emotional hardiness and skills for survival, along with evolving imaginative gifts. 2. Strive to Survive the High Dive. There's no guarantee when grappling with new heights or depths, but four fail-safe measures come to mind: a) strive high and embrace failure -- failure is not a sign of unworthiness; consider failure the gap between a future ideal and your present reality; it’s a transitional space that fosters growth rather than absolute mastery. Of course, for failure to motivate progress, also vital is distinguishing those fine lines among high expectation, vision and hallucination; b) develop a realistic time frame – remember, establishing a beachhead doesn’t mean you’ve conquered the island; recognize that many battles are fought and lost before a major undertaking is won; c) be tenaciously honest - continuously assess the impact of outcomes, changes within yourself and your environment, and the rules underlying your operation, d) establish a support system - have people in your life who provide both kinds of TLC: Tender Loving Criticism and Tough Loving Care. 3. Thrive On Thrustration. Learn to be stuck between thrusting ahead with direct action and frustration while struggling with your problematic puzzle or risk-taking adventure (Rabkin). Then let go: an incubation vacation, in the aftermath of agitated exploration, helps hatch a new perspective. Creativity often requires a period of relaxed attention or mindless perception along with being more problem-minded than solution-focused. As performance psychologist, George Leonard, has observed: It’s not the path to absolute mastery, but the lifetime learning path of mastery. (Leonard also strongly advocated training with an expert for a period of time.) Frustration tolerance and some guidance along with persistence and patience are the keys to escaping self-imposed boxes. Increasing bio-psycho-social pressure and a “no exit” challenge can shake the habituated, settled mind. Thrustration may transform a dormant subconscious into an active psychic volcano -- memories, novel associations and symbolic images overflow into consciousness. You're better able to generate fertile problem-solving alternatives. Problems are not just sources of tension and frustration, but are opportunities for integrating the past and the present, the conscious and the unconscious, the obscure and the obvious. Here lies creative perspective. 4. Design for Error and Opportunity. Innovative and risk-taking individuals and organizations are more attuned to a range of possibilities than to fixed or ideal goals. These systems prefer the risk of initiation and experimentation to preoccupation over deviation or imperfection. Having the courage to flounder through a sea of novelty and confusion often yields new connections, long-range mastery and an uncommon big picture. A narrow, safe course creates the illusion of achievement and short-lived control. Of course, limited predesign means opportunity for errors. In open people and systems, startup misplays are vital signs for self-correcting and self- challenging feedback. Remember, errors of judgment or design does not irrevocably consign one to incompetence; they more likely reveal inexperience or immaturity, perhaps even boldness. Our so-called "failures" can be channeled as guiding streams (sometimes raging rivers) of opportunity and experience that so often enrich - widen and deepen - the risk-taking passage…If we can just immerse ourselves in these unpredictable yet, ultimately, regenerative waters.
  • 14. References Rabkin, Richard, "Critique of the Clinical Use of the Double Bind Hypothesis," in Sluzki, Carlos E. and Ransom, Donald C. (eds.), Double Bind: The Foundation of the Communicational Approach to the Family, Grune & Stratton: New York, 1976 Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker and "Motivational Humorist" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN speaking and workshop programs. In addition, the "Doc" is a team building and organizational development consultant for a variety of govt. agencies, corporations and non- profits and is AOL's "Online Psychohumorist"™. Mark is an Adjunct Professor, No. VA (NOVA) Community College and currently he is leading "Stress, Team Building and Humor" programs for the 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Divisions, Ft. Hood, Texas. A former Stress and Conflict Consultant for the US Postal Service, the Stress Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com -- called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR). For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-875-2567. ----------------------------- The Stress Doc's "Six Strategic 'F's for Mastering Loss and Change": 1) Familiar. Grapple with the anxiety, rage, hopelessness or sadness in letting go of the familiar role or predictable past. The big question: Who am I? Remember, sometimes your former niche of success now has you mostly stuck in the ditch of excess. There's a critical crossroad ahead, 2) Future. Clearly the horizon appears cloudy and threatening, lacking direction and clarity. Just because your past or traditional roles and responsibilities may be receding doesn't mean you can't transfer your experience and skills into new challenging arenas, 3) Face. Some loss of self-esteem and self-worth is all too common, especially when our life puzzle has been broken up other than by one's own hand. Shame, humiliation, guilt, diminished confidence are frequent early traveling partners on a profound transitional journey, 4) Focus. If you can honestly grapple and grieve the first three "F"s, then you are engaged in a productive brooding, if not magical incubation, process. At minimum, you will affirm, "I may not like the cards that have been dealt, but how do I make the best of my reality right now." And you'll likely start hatching a new perspective with, if not crystal clear targets, then an intuitive, crystal ball enlightenment. Suddenly this Stress Doc mantra starts resonating: "I don't know where I'm going...I just think I know how to get there!," 5) Feedback. Now you can share new insights or plans with others. Getting input will help sort out the wheat from the chaff. Or, some TLC (what I call, "tender loving criticism" and "tough loving care") may challenge you to expand or simplify the complexity of the problem engaged. In times of rapid or daunting change, trustworthy feedback helps us remember who we are; that our basic, core self remains intact despite being shaken by unsettling forces. 6) Faith. Having the courage to grapple with these "F"s now yields a strength to understand what in your present life rests in your control and what lies beyond. Going through this process means strengthening the emotional muscles necessary for dealing with uncertain and unpredictable twists and turns on life’s journey. Some will call on a transcendent source of faith: a higher power, whether a religious or spiritual force or the group synergy of a team, family or some communal entity. (For example, 12-step groups provide both sources -- turning over one's helplessness to God and, one day at a time, being supported in new beliefs and behaviors by the higher power of collective consciousness and group sharing.)
  • 15. ------------------------------------------------- The Four “P” Matrix for “Passion Power” Generating Personal Energy, Dynamic Leadership, Team Creativity and Mission Success By Mark Gorkin, the Stress Doc ™; stressdoc@aol.com Spurred by a request for a speaking program on “How to Give Dynamic and Engaging Presentations,” here is a model based on the key qualities that I try to bring to each performance. However, reflecting on the enthusiastic audience response to the energizing and interactive programs, I’ve come to see that this model has implications not just for speakers, but for individuals in a variety of leadership, motivational and educational roles. Specifically, the model, a 2 x 2 matrix, consists of dimensions based on a capacity for grappling with and combining seeming opposition: being thoughtful and emotive (psychological mode) and being serious and humorous (motivational mood). As will be elaborated shortly, the matrix yields four states of attitude and action: being “Purposeful, Provocative, Passionate and Playful.” And the challenge is not just demonstrating a capacity for exercising these psycho-communicational traits separately or sequentially. No, the real test is being able to purposefully play and imaginatively blend these “emotionally intelligent” and performance-motivational attitudes, aptitudes and actions simultaneously, as occurs with a psychologically integrated and dynamic leader or with a goal focused yet opportunity sensitive and flexible high-powered team. I believe that an uncommon motivating energy and an uncommon high performing synergy is released and maximized when an educator or motivator (individually) and an audience or group members (collectively) combine and express these dynamic, seemingly paradoxical “Four ‘P’” qualities. Structural Dimensions of the Model Here is the 2 x 2 skeletal and oppositional structure and dimensions of “The Four ‘P’ Passion Power Matrix”: The model has two basic dimensions: “Psychological Mode” and “Motivational Method.” Let me flesh out these categories: A. Psychological Mode Psychological Mode reflects the psychological and/or information processing set of the speaker, the degree to which head and/or heart is employed. The two psychological states are: 1. Cognitive – thinking or analytic mode 2. Affective – feeling or emotional mode B. Motivational Mood Motivational Mood refers to the overall disposition or frame of mind (moodus operandi, as it were) impacting a person’s attention and intention (e.g., focused or flexible, heavy or light, and a sense of freedom or determinism), coloring his or her outlook (e.g., optimism or pessimism) and moving the individual to act (or to be inert). The two motivational states are: 1. Gravitas – a capacity for conveying a sense of seriousness, importance, depth and heartfelt, if not soulful, meaning 2. Comedia – a capacity for dealing with the light or amusing or with the serious and profound in a light, farcical and familiar or ironical and satirical manner
  • 16. With this “Psychological Mode—Motivational Mood” structural-dimensional design, “The Four ‘P’ Passion Power Matrix”: Cognitive – Gravitas Interaction Box 1 = Purposeful Cognitive – Comedia Interaction Box 2 = Provocative Affective – Gravitas Interaction Box 3 = Passionate Affective – Comedia Interaction Box 4 = Playful The Four “P”s of “Passion Power” Model Motivational Mood Psychological Mode Gravitas Comedia Cognitive Box 1: Purposeful Box 2: Provocative Affective Box 3: Passionate Box 4: Playful Four “P” Principles of “Passion Power” The terms inside the boxes are familiar, yet some of their meanings or associations may prove “out of the box,” that is, surprising and, hopefully, both enlightening and invigorating. It is my belief that grappling with these mind-mood action states and gleaning their psycho-social intention and significance along with their potential for motivating positive conflict and change means expanding your “personal energy, professional creativity and organizational synergy.” Box 1. Cognitive – Gravitas = “Purposeful” 1. Being Purposeful. For me, a quote from the popular 60s fictional work, The Phantom Tollbooth, captures the essence of being “Purposeful”: “Fantasy and imagination suggest how the world might be. Knowledge and experience limit the possibilities. Melding the two yields understanding.” Let’s call this the right-brained (psychological) and left-brained (logical) perspective on purposefulness. And consider another “purposeful” paradoxical pairing: the capacity for “flexible intentionality,” that is, being both goal-focused and flexible regarding long- term objectives and short-term opportunities, along with an ability to accommodate when necessary mid-course correction. Two seemingly contradictory quotations capture the importance of fantasy, focus and flexibility. The first is from a law firm executive; the second is a Stress Doc maxim: a) “Strive high and embrace failure.” For the head of a law firm, no matter the project, his goal was a 100% success rate, yet he understood this was frequently elusive. His mantra exalted concerted effort and bold persistence along with learning from mistakes over the illusion of perfection; hard-earned wisdom was prized over “one right way” shortcuts and seductive yet short-lived control.
  • 17. b) “I don’t know where I’m going…I just think I know how to get there.” This aphorism suggests that for achieving an important goal or reaching a key destination, there is value in meandering purposefully. That is, new insight, opportunity or discovery may require “letting go” of the familiar or getting off the beaten path and taking time for exploration. Of course, this mindset requires a tolerance for some uncertainty and a good deal of patience, as well as (men…pay attention here) knowing when to ask for directions. And finally, the revered medical pioneer, Jonas Salk, believed that higher purpose involved integrating the logical along with the psychological and the interpersonal: “Evolution involves getting up one more time than you fall down, being courageous one more time than you are fearful, and being trusting just one more time than you are anxious.” Surely, these quotes do not simply illustrate “evolutionary purpose”; they also illuminate wise pathways that distinguish the mere possession of knowledge from having genuine, hard-earned “understanding.” And the individual who carries and shares genuine “understanding,” to play on an eloquent Bayer Aspirin advertising slogan, “helps experience make sense” in the realm of both head and heart. The purposeful articulation of a leader’s or a speaker’s personal vulnerabilities, errors and trial-by fire learning’s often are the richest source for mutual understanding, intimate connection and the ongoing development of trust. Box 2. Cognitive – Comedia = “Provocative” 1. Being Provocative. What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you read the word “provocative?” Is it someone who is sensually enticing or, perhaps, someone who is intentionally irritating? Reasonable responses, but let’s look at the half full side of this semantic equation. Did you know that “provocative” is derived from the French word provocare – “to call forth”? Certainly a competent leader or educator wants to stimulate and draw out, confront and excite a variety of thoughts and emotions, motives and actions. He or she wants to “arouse curiosity” if not generate “discussion or controversy” amongst the audience members. Such a leader believes in harnessing the “Five Provocative or Arousing ‘A’s”: a) Attention – quickly getting people to “stop, look and listen” b) Anticipation – having your audience both engaged in the present and starting to wonder, “What’s next?” or “Where is this (edgy) leader headed?”; having your audience on the edge of their seats c) Animation – stirring people’s juices and hopes, challenging conventional beliefs, while communicating with their genuine or deeper self (the anima as opposed to the persona); firing the imagination and motivating a sense of adventure as well as a desire to pursue a common (team- or community-oriented) and uncommon (demanding, novel or original) mission d) Activation – both individually and in groups, providing participants with the training along with maps and tools for generating long range plans and for insuring that tactical action steps are taken to identify common goals, solve problems, reach objectives and to pursue dreams, and e) Actualization – enable individuals to consistently bring their essence, peak energy and genuine spirit – their “elan vitale” – to both high task and high touch endeavors The provocative presenter challenges people to expand their perceptions, to make surprising connections, and to “think outside the box.” A positive provocateur is not afraid to generate tension and use controversy as a motivational tool, especially to excite thought and movement “beyond one’s comfort zone.” For example, the provocative tool of choice for the esteemed 20th century pragmatic philosopher, John Dewey, was “conflict.” The founder of American public education declared: Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It shocks us out of sheep-like passivity. It instigates to invention and sets us at noting and contriving. Conflict is the sine qua non of reflection and ingenuity.
  • 18. Box 3. Affective – Gravitas = Passionate (a) Being Passionate. Passion! What does it evoke? Intensity, heat, steaminess…the “s”- word: “soap opera?” No, of course it’s sex? Actually, we in Washington, DC know the “s”-word for passion…It is “Senator.” (Or it was until Bill Clinton ruined my joke.) Interestingly, if you have a good dictionary the “s”-word for “passion” is neither sex nor senator…it’s “suffering,” as in the Passion Play. This relates to the sufferings of Jesus or, more generically, to the sufferings of a martyr. (Imagine all this time I never knew my Jewish mother was such a passionate woman! Actually, the best audience free association to the word “passion” has been “Rosa Parks.” Which inspires speculation around the connection among “suffering,” “passion” and being a powerful leader or motivator? For me it’s an individual who recognizes injustice, feels her own and others’ pain and is capable of learning from the past. (For example, renowned English author, John Fowles, called emotional memories his electric current; to maximize his creative juices he needed to be plugged in to this “power source.”) And finally, such a leader, often with the support of others, is determined to right the wrong. And people are touched and moved by such pain, fire and courage. As Francois La Rouchefoucald, the 17th century French classical writer, observed (quoted in Kay Redfield Jamison’s Exuberance: The Passion For Life, Random House, 2004), “Passions are the only orators which always persuade. They are like an act of nature, the rules of which are infallible; and the simplest man who has some passion persuades better than the most eloquent who has none.” Jamison, meanwhile, underscores a dynamic commander’s ability to unite a divided or dispirited group, organization or nation: “In times of adversity, inspired leadership offers energy and hope where little or none exist, gives a belief in the future to those who have lost it, and provides a unifying spirit to a splintered populace.” Box 4. Affective – Comedia = Playful a. Being Playful. I never realized how many common expressions begin with or involve the word “play.” Nor could I imagine how the variety of expressions with their different connotations speaks to the skills and strategies of the versatile leader and performer. Consider these examples: “play upon” (words or another’s emotions), “play a role” or “role-play,” and “play it by ear” (that is, having a capacity for improvisation or, for example, by truly listening to your team’s and audience’s needs and interests as your project or program unfolds). While a dynamic leader or educator wants to give “full play” to his or her mind and emotions, a savvy leader, often knowingly and for strategic advantage, will “play the fool.” I especially like this usage – “play a trick on.” Based on my experience, being “mischievous” or a tad “devilish” – two of Roget’s synonyms for “playful” – can be very engaging qualities. Many people embrace or long to act out their impish, slightly naughty or roguish inner child (e.g., think adult Halloween costumes). Or admire or envy, if only secretly, those who do. More than just being a light-hearted pursuit, play has been one of the greatest enterprises for exploring, socializing, bonding and unifying throughout the evolutionary history of the animal kingdom. Play has many functions: a) gives individuals an opportunity to learn group norms and boundaries, b) allows for innovatively expanding and challenging roles, rules and procedures, c) encourages skill development and the exercise of the imagination, d) may be a learning laboratory for maturation and creativity in the realms of work, friendship and love, and e) frequently builds a sense of individual and group identity and short- and long-term camaraderie as well as fostering trust and teamwork. And play infused with laughter is an especially effective stress reliever and social harmonizer. Of course, play can also turn into an aggressive “winner takes all” or “win at any cost” pursuit or obsession (think steroid use in a variety of athletic arenas). Now the “playground” starts morphing into a “battleground.” A “Passion Power” leader has a sense of play that doesn’t lose sight of her and other’s humanity. She has a compassionate understanding of perplexing and incongruous human nature and of our being all too imperfect and inconsistent creatures. And a sense of absurdity that comes out to play and laugh even in the face of stress or danger can help people accept flaws and foibles
  • 19. while affirming both their vulnerable and vital natures. Playful surprise may even gently cajole others to bridge differences, to move beyond a comfort zone and to explore common emotional- cultural connections. Closing The “Four ‘P’s of Passion Power” have been outlined as a 2x2 matrix. When a presenter or leader blends and expresses the “cognitive and affective” as well as the “gravitas and comedia” then, to invert “the bard,” an interactive stage or arena comes into play. Leader and troops, manager and employees or educator and students are set to engage in creative communication and mutually generate a transitional space. This space-time interface is alive with possibility. Both parties can authentically engage and energetically define and design specific relationships as well as an overall “high task and high touch” world of learning, imagination, give and take sharing and creative activity. The result often captures the essence of synergy: the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote and kickoff speaker and "Motivational Humorist" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN speaking and workshop programs. In addition, the "Doc" is a team building and organizational development consultant for a variety of govt. agencies, corporations and non- profits and is AOL's "Online Psychohumorist"™. Mark is an Adjunct Professor, No. VA (NOVA) Community College and currently he is leading "Stress, Team Building and Humor" programs for the 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Divisions, Ft. Hood, Texas. A former Stress and Conflict Consultant for the US Postal Service, the Stress Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com -- called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR). For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-875-2567. ------------------------ Confronting Your Intimate FOE: Transforming Fear of Exposure into the Fun of Embarrassment As a speaker and workshop leader, I’m always designing and experimenting with small group exercises that, hopefully, generate positive energy, emotional give and take and some knowing, if not hearty, laughter. Such group interaction becomes a dynamic springboard for fulfilling my mission as a “Motivational Psychohumorist” ™, that is, helping participants achieve a deeper appreciation for and an ability to engage their own and others’: a) workplace demands and overall life challenges, b) psychological strengths and vulnerabilities, and c) communicational processes and patterns. In addition, a personal goal: having this mutual sharing, problem- solving and understanding occur within a learning context of considerable merriment and mirth. Why the importance of humor and laughter for meeting program objectives? For now, let’s just say good-natured fun and laughter seem to break down social and cultural barriers thereby fostering empathy and compassion. People more readily acknowledge common imperfections while gently laughing at their differences. And time and again my experience as a therapist, educator and organizational motivator reveals that people are often more open to a serious message when it’s gift-wrapped with humor! The FOE Exercise To illustrate both social bonding and barrier busting, here’s a recently designed exercise that has been field tested about a half dozen times in both national conference and organizational retreat settings with a variety of state and federal government professionals, including members of the International Personnel Management Association (IPMA), Federal Asian Pacific American
  • 20. Council (FAPAC), Federally Employed Women (FEW), Blacks In Government (BIG) and a division of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The exercise has become a staple of my High Performance, Team Synergy and Jolt of CPR – “Creativity, Passion and Risk-Taking” – Programs. I introduce the exercise after the audience has already participated in a couple of group problem-solving or role play-like interactions. So people are pretty warmed up. (Hmm…I wonder if the exercise might work as a provocative program opener.) The exercise is disarmingly simple to execute yet invariably startling in its effect. And it starts with a four-word directive: “Share an embarrassing moment.” Initially, the groups of four or five are surprised; at times, an uncomfortable silence accompanied by a variety of pained or puzzled looks weaves its way about the room. Clearly, the tension reflects the generalized feeling of potential intimacy and personal vulnerability. Yet, invariably, someone in each group breaks the ice. And soon thereafter, the previous frowns are being replaced by rapt attention and nodding smiles…and then frequently by bursts of full-throated laughter. And with each story, the cycle of thawing, sharing and laughter moves at a faster and more spontaneous pace. Within minutes, the heightened group energy is palpable. And shortly thereafter the room is crackling with communal buzz! After about ten minutes, story time is over. Now begins the group feedback which focuses on some key questions: 1) why did we do the exercise? And 2) what happened or what does it mean that so much energy and laughter was released? (Actually, before the questions and depending on time constraints, participants may have the opportunity to share one or two memorable moments. Moments have ranged from tripping, falling on one’s derriere and sliding down the wedding aisle to unknowingly driving off with someone else’s car for a late night pizza run and being apprehended by campus police upon your return. And how your keys opened the car and started the engine still remains a mystery.) Exercising and Exorcizing Embarrassment Let’s examine several key dynamics underlying “The Purpose, Playfulness and Power of the ‘Embarrassing Moment’ Exercise”: 1. Highlights the Role of Cultural Diversity and Mutual Humanity. Clearly, cultural diversity is increasingly coloring – sometimes complicating, mostly enriching -- all aspects of American life. And while its positive contributions to society are deservedly celebrated, we may be overlooking an equally important reality: “People are more human than otherwise.” While a particular embarrassing activity or action may reflect an aspect of multiculturalism, having embarrassing moments is a universal phenomenon, something with which all can identify. Revealing your imperfect self by lowering a “having it all together” mask frequently calls out an “I can relate” connection. This can be especially valuable when an authority figure wants to be seen as a leader who is not afraid to loosen status distinctions or who chooses to be one of the team. Such openness emboldens others to let down their guard or it just may motivate an “I can top that” or “If you think that was bad” story. And finally, converting past embarrassment into a playfully poignant present with fellow “sufferers” facilitates a “we are all in this together” consciousness and commonality. Remember, research shows that misery doesn’t just like company…it really prefers miserable company! 2. Recognizes Misery, Mastery and Mirth Connection. An important realization of this public storytelling is that a once painful experience, whether brought on by clumsiness, carelessness or cluelessness, no longer has you in its emotional grip. Memory is less a source of shame or regret and more an opportunity to embellish if not exaggerate past behaviors and events. You are not simply a victim of experience; you have a chance to relive the past as well as redesign and redefine it. Once closeted memories are exposed to common light and lightness, they can more readily risk coming out of the semantic shadows. Now memories are more open to interpretation and translation, and they may seem less painful or demeaning; it becomes easier to perceive
  • 21. yourself in a more confident or competent light. And with a little ego boost, mortification may eventually morph into merriment. A student of the psychology of humor, the psychiatrist, Ernst Kris, captured a potentially powerful link between the poignant and the playful: “What was once feared and is now mastered is laughed at.” That is, the enhanced self-esteem from a sense of mastery in the present allows us to acknowledge if not embrace past anxieties, indignities and albatrosses. In addition, my inverse observation has relevance: “What was once feared and is now laughed at is no longer a master.” When you can laugh at an intimidating figure (even if but quietly and privately) you often can cut that person down to manageable size. For example, to deflate an arrogant antagonist, consider the words of the 20th century French novelist, Andre Gide, from The Immoralist: “One must allow others to be right…It consoles them for not being anything else.” Finally, even if mastery is derived mostly through transformative memory or simply by being in the company of fellow clods and clucks (hence reducing a singularly pathetic or pitiable status) it’s easier to laugh at flaws and foibles and not feel so browbeaten by them. So remember, share your story with people who have walked in your shoes…especially if they can feel your bunions! 3. Differentiates Embarrassment from Humiliation. In one of my CPR sessions, a participant, perhaps showing a touch of irony, speculated that the purpose of the “Embarrassing Moment” Exercise was “to have people experience humiliation.” Ironically, this answer was closer to the truth than I suspect he realized. My intention is not to demean but, in actuality, to help people grapple with new meaning: to realize that there is a fundamental difference between natural embarrassment and neurotic humiliation. Do you recall dynamic #1 – “Cultural Diversity and Mutual Humanity”? In contrast to humiliation which is often colored by one’s unique self-berating inner voices and sometimes too by rigidly righteous or over controlling family or cultural values and norms, embarrassment is a universal part of human drama and absurdity. To better illustrate the difference, let’s turn to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary: a) Embarrassment comes from the French, embarras, connoting “obstacle, trouble, and to hinder.” Embarrass means “to place in doubt, perplexity or difficulties.” Worth noting, there is not an obvious critical value judgment. Webster’s continues: Embarrass “likely implicates an agency or influence checking and hampering free choice or action, often with accompanying chagrin, confusion and loss of face.” While there may be some diminished pride, with embarrassment problems can be attributed to outside forces or hampering factors as much as to personal inadequacy or insignificance. b) Humiliate is derived from the Latin humilis, that is, “to be low or humble” and according to Webster’s means “to reduce to a lower position in one’s eyes or the eyes of others: injure the self respect of.” And “humiliating” involves “lowering one’s position or dignity.” And for “humiliation,” Roget’s International Thesaurus provides a powerful “double d” combo punch – “demotion and disgrace.” Alas, as too many can attest all forms of physical abuse and emotional abandonment still rear their ugly and potentially humiliating heads. However, this sobering reality does not negate another psychological vérité: too often an embarrassing moment turns into a humiliating experience because of critical, dysfunctional and/or outmoded voices and values still weighing heavily on a mind. For example, not being able to better apportion personality and situational factors for one’s missteps leads to “attributional bias,” that is, assigning personal blame while not being able to place actions and events in a larger historical, environmental and, even, multicultural context. By way of example, if a colleague arrives late to work a couple of times in a week, the typical observer begins to suspect personal laziness or disorganization. In contrast, arriving similarly late your explanation is likely situational and mitigates personal responsibility – an accident on the highway, your child feeling ill on the way to daycare, etc. However, a state of depression (or, I suspect, long-standing feelings of shame) may predispose an observer to a more “black or white” and overly critical evaluation of his or her own motives and actions. And a
  • 22. common instigator of such bias is the unrealistic expectation surrounding the degree to which one is objectively “in control.” To repeat, such irrational, personalized processing can fuel both harsh self-judgments and negative evaluations of others. Conversely, a capacity for normal and natural embarrassment just may enable you to reframe more benignly a once, or future, painful encounter and transmute any vestiges of humiliation into a capacity for “humility”: “the quality or state of being humble in spirit: freedom from [false] pride or arrogance” (Webster’s). And if not able to completely perceive a past humiliation as merely an embarrassing episode, perhaps with this semantic distinction you can view former demeaning or degrading experiences through a less biased, more understanding and forgiving, lens. 4. Illustrates a Method for Engaging Change and Managing Criticism. The final “purpose and power” exercise dynamic comes from the interactive process itself. Worth noting is how quickly the groups overcome their initial reticence; members are willing to share more intimate and seemingly vulnerable self-portraits. Perhaps one person takes the lead, but soon all are ready if not clamoring to follow. People fairly quickly seem less self-conscious; in short order, meaningful sharing and a degree of transparency becomes the norm. Clearly, the group process undergoes rapid and significant transformation. Might this phenomenon have some implications for helping people in general grapple with significant and scary change? How often are we reluctant to engage in new practices or procedures or to break out of a comfort zone for fear of being judged by self and significant others? Once again, a process that enables you to defang humiliation, to laugh with embarrassment while sharing common imperfection and humanity just might be a formula for being a more brave beginner or a resilient risk-taker. Most important, whether a novice or an “old dog,” you’re generating a learning curve by challenging the “Intimate FOE: Fear of Exposure.” Finally, wearing a capacity for embarrassment with purposeful and playful pride is not just a life jacket for keeping your head above water while negotiating a stormy sea change; it’s also a protective vest for blunting hostile slings and arrows. Remember, an ability to laugh at your own flaws and foibles means beating those biased, judgmental, “know it all” critics to the punch line: “Believe me; I can poke fun of myself a lot better than you ever can!” And these antagonists have lost their favorite target – an oversensitive ego. In conclusion, an analysis of the “Share an embarrassing moment” Exercise reveals four powerful outcomes: 1) Highlights the Role of Cultural Diversity and Mutual Humanity, 2) Recognizes Misery, Mastery and Mirth Connection, 3) Differentiates Embarrassment from Humiliation and 4) Illustrates a Method for Engaging Change and Managing Criticism. For both the individual and the group, concepts and tools have been outlined for enhancing mutual understanding and camaraderie and for making an unexpected friend out of a long-standing FOE – by turning a “Fear of Exposure” into the “Fun of Embarrassment.” Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote speaker and "Motivational Humorist" known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for both major corporations and government agencies. Currently the Doc is leading Stress, Team Building and Humor programs for the 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Divisions, Ft. Hood, Texas. Mark is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award-winning, USA Today Online "HotSite" -- www.stressdoc.com -- called a "workplace resource" by National Public Radio (NPR). For more info on the Doc's "Practice Safe Stress" programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email stressdoc@aol.com or call 301-946- 0865. -------------------------------------------
  • 23. Does Your Organization Practice Safe Stress? Seven Intervention Strategies By Mark Gorkin “The Stress Doc” ™ Budget cuts, reduction in resources and reimbursements, “24/7” anytime, anywher work environment, relentless competition for clients, loss of key personnel...managed scare tactics. Today, an increasing number of professionals must "do more with less." Can anyone say "frightsizing" and "lean-and-MEAN"? Take heart. Have no fear (well, maybe a little)...the Stress Doc is here with his Seven Highly Effective Organizational/Professional Strategies for Practicing Safe Stress. 1. Engage in Group Grieving. I'm going to assume almost everyone these days is occasionally flirting with burnout; too many, I fear, still engage in casual stress. While I'll close the article with individual stress management strategies, let's start with a systems intervention for helping the community of employees grapple with the above-mentioned stressors and losses. And it's not just loss of funds, friends, philosophies and familiar procedures. Cynicism and despondency can build when we feel the organization, the profession, the larger industry and society devalue our services and a once cherished mission. Workshops that allow departments, if not the entire organization, to gather and grieve, that enable folks to see the tragedy and comedy in an absurd world, that encourage the working through of sadness and vulnerability, while focusing justified anger and helping staff regain a sense of purpose, play and control...rebuild the commitment fires and creative juices. 2. Insure Your Pros with "The Triple A." The basic formula for runaway job stress is simple: a work situation having high demand and/or high professional responsibility paired with little authority or low control over work process and outcome. It's not just a heavy workload that's the culprit. People can thrive on reasonably high volume if they have some impact on timing, scheduling and flow. But, for example, when corporate headquarters or the main offices are making global, top down decisions that are fairly out of touch with local needs and operational realities the consequences are often demoralizing. In these volatile times, here are two philosophical and policy pillars for supporting employee integrity: a) Encourage and Integrate The Triple 'A' of Professional/Organizational Responsibility: Authority, Autonomy and Accountability. Remember, management must let professionals exercise reasonable independence and individuality in thought and practice. Professionals must understand that accountability to clients and professional management, i.e., effective and ethical management, supports autonomy and credibility. Also, the accountability process legitimizes the need for and strengthens the quality of service delivery. b) Question the notion of customer as king. During my years as a stress consultant to the US Postal Service, customer service was top priority. However, the USPS realized that resentment and depletion build when an operation is customer-driven and employee negligent. To challenge an organizational ambience where "client is king" and staff are withered and weary peasants, consider my Basic Law of Safe Stress: "Do know your limits and don't limit your 'no's!" Clearly, I'm not saying slam the door shut on your manager or client population. I do mean practicing "N & N" -- the ability to say "no" and to "negotiate," for example, the number of clients or projects for which you have responsibility.
  • 24. Closed door time is also vital for paper work, individual reflection and collegial bantering and nurturing. And speaking of nurturing, some private time and space allows for my favorite - brief, restorative power napping; highly preferable to caffeine overloading. And if with Type A arrogance, you dismiss that Stress Doc aphorism, “A time for waste is not a waste of time”…then know what lurks ahead: MSDS – the Multiple & Simultaneous Demand Situation. MSDS develops when you are responsible for: 1) an excessive number of people and projects, 2) when you must keep up with an ever expanding base of data, policies and procedures and 3) when you feel like a slave to deadlines and tied up by thieves of time. If you are not careful this M & S Demand situation can morph into an S & M nightmare – you become a “Slave” to too many “Masters!” And you can become entrapped whether on top or on the bottom, whether dominate or subordinate in a dysfunctional hierarchy. 3. Make Task and Process Meet. "Not another meeting." "Who has time for meetings?!" These can become familiar, plaintive cries in a downsized, pressure-packed setting. Drastically reducing organizational, departmental or team meetings is only a formula for isolation and confusion; making community time meaningful is the key. Many organizations under a time and resource crunch become increasingly task-driven. After the proverbial status report, meetings are run somewhat like the opening to "Mission Impossible": hierarchical assignments are detailed and delegated, though folks usually aren't asked if they choose to accept. Kidding aside, often lacking is some balance between a task focus and a relationship-group process one. At some point, the meeting needs to connect with how well people are working together, how coordinated the communication, how is stress and conflict being managed, within the team and among various departments...Is the atmosphere one of "esprit de corps" or esprit de corpse? Three suggestions: a) Establish a Wavelength Segment. In an hour or ninety-minute meeting, set aside fifteen or twenty minutes for processing, usually at the end of the session. Individuals and the team as a whole can check in and tune in with each other. b) Rotate Leadership. A common mistake is always having a supervisor or manager run the show. Rotating the facilitator can enhance group involvement and commitment, reduce hierarchical decision-making and strengthen team concept and team morale. Also, this procedural shift gives supervisors an opportunity to be a real member of the group, providing an observational vantage point for better grasping group dynamics. The biggest challenge, as always, involves control and competition issues: whether the supervisor and the staff can be comfortable with his or her (i.e., the supervisor) wearing two hats – being both formal authority in a primary role and peer in the team meeting? c) Try a Morning Quickie. Sometimes an alternative to a formal meeting can be a ten minute huddle at the beginning of the day. How about warming up the team by sharing a joke or funny story, with a prize for the best joke of the month. A quick gathering makes it easy for giving the troops a heads up and for affirming that all are on the same day game page. 4. Envision Mission and Goals. With the above policies, structures and procedures in place, hopefully, your organization is no longer a candidate for becoming the land-based version of the Titanic. Agency and staff will not be sinking and disappearing. Perhaps proactive leadership and creative consensus can replace management by crisis. This is especially critical after a major restructuring or downsizing. Set aside some team building/staff training time. If you haven't already done so, consider bringing in a "Team Visioning and Goal Setting" consultant. For a mission statement to be viable and for action plans that realize goals and objectives there needs to both short term and long range planning and buy in from staff. Of course, the danger of a big picture retreat is that people and perspective can get swept away by ideals and rhetoric. Remember, there's often a fine line between vision and hallucination. To preserve that boundary, integrate past, present and future with my "Four 'F' Model of Loss and Change": 1) examine honestly and openly the strengths and vulnerabilities of the familiar past, 2) collectively grieve any loss of face or organizational identity and pride, 3) recommit to a
  • 25. collaborative method of conflict resolution to nurture a diverse, participatory team focus, and 4) explore new problem-solving options and opportunities for a pregnant and expansive future. (Hey, what kind of imagery do you expect in an article on "Safe Stress?") 5. Manage Stress Carriers. Now for a delicate matter. Some folks, even after partaking in these potentially rejuvenating steps, will not be able to rebuild the fire; there's no renewing a genuine sense of individual and/or organizational purpose and commitment. At least not on their own. A percentage may respond to individual supervision and coaching. Others may benefit from Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counseling or, hopefully, will seek out private psychotherapy. However, there may be a few individuals just not able to function in the still demanding day-to-day environment. I can't emphasize this enough: when management does not set appropriate limits and boundaries on such professional "stress carriers," team morale and productivity are contaminated and compromised. Sometimes employees have to intervene with a supervisor or management before decision- makers realize they are ignoring or covering up for an impaired colleague (who also may be a personal friend or, even, a high producer). Clearly, fair, effective ("do the right thing') and efficient ("do the thing right") grievance procedures must be in place. Engaging this troubled individual is essential for his or her sake as well as for others. Remember, stress carriers (including managers in denial) may not get ulcers but they certainly can give them! 6. Fireproof Life with IRAs and PUNCH. Despite, or because of, the future shock pace of change, some professionals will have "been there, done that" one too many times. (Organizational crisis often surfaces chronic individual frustrations.) Maybe it's the 300th couple counseling session or "not another sexual abuser." These folks may be experiencing what I call 'The Bjorn Bored Syndrome (BBS)," named for the late '70s-early '80s tennis great, Bjorn Borg. Borg, after a five year reign, dramatically burned out on the circuit. BBS has a simply elegant formula: when mastery times monotony provides an index of MISERY! The answer: Fireproof your life with variety. And for management and staff I offer two stimulating acronyms: a) Organizational IRAs. Provide "Incentives, Rewards and Advancement Opportunities" for employees. Merit bonuses, new training and conference attendance keep the mind, heart and soul supple and dynamic. I experienced LMR - Lateral Movement Revival - from doing EAP Orientation training and short-term counseling when the New Orleans Family Services Society started an EAP venture with a federal government agency. The move also laid the groundwork for a future training/consulting career path. b) Entrepreneurial PUNCH. More than ever, organizations must develop new clients and resources. Professionals need to springboard from the office into the larger real and virtual community to market products and services. The entrepreneurial spirit is calling. I've detailed how to embrace it. (See "Adding Entrepreneurial PUNCH to Your Career Path: Surviving the Managed Care Scare," Treatment Today, Fall 1996 or email for my essay, “On Becoming an Internet Entrepreneur.”) Here's a quick outline of skills and strategies for entrepreneurial evolution and rejuvenation, whether a professional chooses to stay with the organization or to move on: P. Public Presentation. Public speaking and workshop leading are both powerful marketing vehicles and challenging, exhilarating and growth producing opportunities. So too meeting a wide variety of consumers and colleagues. U. User-Friendly. Avoiding psychobabble and communicating ideas and concepts with an expanded audience - face-to-face or through writing and the electronic media - in a lively and tangible, meaningful and memorable style is critical. For example, are you ready to help folks "Practice Safe Stress" or confront "The Intimate FOE: Fear of Exposure?" N. Networking. Make connections with a variety of consumer/client groups and professional associations, not just those in your immediate professional circle. It was hobnobbing with graphic artists that eventually challenged this computer virgin to integrate hi tech with hi touch. Recently, in addition to social workers, two dentists and a marketer attended my public speaking/program marketing seminar. Two years ago, hobnobbing with self-employed business folks opened the door to the wonders of space travel.
  • 26. C. Cyberspace and (Mass) Communications. Hopefully, you have already launched into cyberspace travel and are pioneering new prospects around the World Wide Web. If not, there are fertile opportunities for generating unprecedented visibility – sharing ideas on web sites and in chat rooms, getting customer feedback, building relationships and marketing alliances and transacting business. Go web young cyber-ite! H. Humor. You don't have to be a standup comic, just appreciate the absurdity in the world and laugh at and share your own imperfect humanness. Remember, people are more willing, even eager, to open and receive a serious message when it's gift-wrapped with humor. Every mental health organization needs at least one in-house "psychohumorist" (tm). 7. Develop Psychological Hardiness. While this article has especially focused on team strategies, a vital group and community requires healthy and hardy individuals. Here are some final stress management strategies based on a study with AT&T executives. During the break up of Ma Bell in the '80s, researchers discovered four factors that distinguished execs susceptible to physical and emotional illness from those who demonstrated "psychological hardiness." To survive and thrive in a turbulent transition, build in these "Four 'C's of Masterful Coping": a. Commitment. While invested in the company's reorganization, the hardy execs didn't just have a work life. They had a life...and were nurtured by family, friends, religious practice, recreation and hobbies. b. Control. Hardy execs had a realistic and less rigid sense of control; they avoided self- defeating turf battles. A swollen ego did not hinder their stepping back and reassessing the changing landscape. c. Change. Quickly dealing with feelings of loss, while not harboring false hopes and illusions about the future enabled these individuals to explore new options. Hardy players viewed change as a stepping stone not a stumbling block. d. Conditioning. Finally, the hardiest execs engaged in regular physical exercise. Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise - walking, jogging, swimming, bike riding, etc. - releases the body's natural pain killers and mood enhancers. Equally important, in times of stressful transition, exercise grounds us when everything else seems up in the air; there's a beginning and end point, providing a tangible sense of accomplishment and control. In closing, in these tumultuous times organizations must help rebuild individual energy. Management and professionals must together cultivate conflict managing and harmonizing team structures along with healthy boundaries both within and with the outer environment. Organizations also need to encourage career and skill evolution and responsibility for professional productivity and personal integrity. It takes a systems approach and individual hard work to forge that elusive balance: giving to your organization, colleagues and clients as well as getting from others and giving to yourself. But when you create that balance, you definitely have begun to...Practice Safe Stress! Mark Gorkin, LICSW, “The Stress Doc” ™, a psychotherapist, an international/Celebrity Cruise Lines speaker, and training/OD consultant for a myriad of corporations and government agencies. Recently interviewed by the BBC, the Doc is a syndicated writer and the author of Practice Safe Stress: Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout & Depression. In 2003, Mark received the inaugural National Association of Social Workers-Metro-DC Chapter’s Social Work Entrepreneur Award. See his award winning, USA Today Online “HotSite” -- www.stressdoc.com (recently cited as a workplace resource by National Public Radio (NPR). Email stressdoc@aol.com for his monthly newsletter showcased on List-a-Day.com.