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Le blogue de Solutions & Co.

Le blogue de Solutions & Co.

MENTAL IMAGERY: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PERFORMANCE

The next two articles are dedicated to mental imagery. This first article focuses on explaining this science-based technique, how it contributes to performance, and how it can help develop emotional intelligence for use in learning and integrating soft skills within our professional environment.

What is mental imagery?

Mental imagery is the act of representing sensory states mentally, which can include visual, auditory, olfactory, taste, and proprioceptive states, among others. It is a mental training technique that productive people use to prepare for action, repeating and training their thoughts, feelings and behaviours in order to optimize their performance and well-being.

It is used effectively in many areas, including by those working in sports psychology, psychotherapists, psychologists and remedial teachers. In psychiatry, mental imagery is used in cognitive-behavioural therapies, particularly for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social phobia. In the field of sport, mental imagery is a very effective method used by elite athletes as part of their mental preparation to accomplish very specific goals. In therapeutics, teaching, or personal development, mental imagery is used to induce physical, cognitive, or behavioural changes.

There are many reasons to use mental imagery:

  • To psychologically prepare for a future situation
  • To achieve a specific goal
  • To anticipate a possible future stress
  • To adapt or master difficult situations
  • To improve the healing process
  • To calm and control stress.
  • To change or improve a behaviour
  • To optimize or develop certain skills
  • Etc.

Supported by scientific evidence

When we physically learn to do something, the brain changes. Mental imagery is a cognitive process that stimulates the same brain areas involved in the unconscious planning and execution of movements and activates neuronal and behavioural responses similar to actual experience. Neural connections are strengthened, connections are added or removed, and new cells are formed.

Mental imagery is a scientifically proven technique that maximizes the brain’s potential through images. Through the use of brain imaging techniques, such as PET-Scans with radiotracers and functional MRIs (fMRI), it has been shown that the same regions of the brain are activated when we experience a real-life situation as during an exercise in mental imagery, and that the regions related to retinotopy (peripheral vision and/or central vision) are stimulated and reflect the same neuronal model found during the movement’s execution.

Imaging affects more than the muscles, producing cardiovascular and respiratory responses. By vividly imagining tomorrow's stressful meeting, your heart rate increases and your breathing becomes short and shallow, as in real life. This functional equivalence extends to the neural activity that occurs when you see, hear, and smell things in visual, auditory, and olfactory imagery. The same neural process activated when you perceive things with your senses is recreated when you vividly imagine them.

In short, the brain does not recognize the difference between what it really experiences and what it imagines. This is a gray area from which we can benefit!

Improving emotional intelligence

Although mental imagery is frequently used to improve physical performance, it can also help improve activities that include a cognitive and emotional component, such as emotion and stress management or speaking in public.

Our work environments present us with constant constraints, such as angry clients, unpleasant colleagues, demanding superiors, goals to be achieved, recurring problems, and performance requirements, so it is easy to feel overworked, overwhelmed and to have a "short fuse". Whatever our roles, we sometimes find ourselves in difficult situations that lead to an outpouring of emotions.

It is in our best interests to master our emotions. Athletes regulate their emotions before competitions to help them perform better, and soldiers regulate their emotions before going to battle to avoid emotional collapses.

Mental imagery is an excellent technique for regaining control and balancing and reinforcing our emotional stamina. Taking a step back from our emotions and watching them as a detached observer changes the way the brain processes feelings.

Brain imaging studies show that this practice reduces activity in a highly emotional area of the brain, while stimulating an area linked to controlling your physical response to stress - a mental recoil that says, "What’s really happening here? How can I respond?” In other words, you are aware of your emotions rather than expressing them.

Mental imagery conditions our brain, making it more likely to act according to mental representation, resulting in true learning and development of this imagined skill. If you have prepared for this situation, you can simply take the appropriate action you have previously developed and practiced.

 In this article I wanted to make this science-based technique credible and explain how it helps with performance, be it physical or emotional. Start exploring it, and in the next article we will be able to focus on the process and steps required to incorporate it into your professional toolbox as a regular practice. See you soon!

  15 lectures
15 lectures

“NEW COLLAR” WORKERS ARE TODAY’S PROFESSIONAL WORKFORCE VERSION 4.0

We all understand the difference between white-collar workers (those who have historically worked with their minds) and blue-collar workers (those who have historically worked with their hands). But what are “new-collar” workers?

The term “new-collar” is used to identify workers in new jobs in the digital industry, technology workers such as cybersecurity analysts, application developers, cloud

specialists, etc.

These are jobs that require a combination of specific skills - acquired through vocational or technical training - with a knowledge base from higher education, but not requiring a university degree. It’s a new generation of professional careers that lies between white-collar and blue-collar ones.

IBM’s CEO Ginni Rometty coined the term in 2016, following the organization's efforts to increase the number of skilled people in technology jobs. A skilled workforce, for whom the education system no longer responded, was in high demand.

The manufacturing industry will quickly embrace this type of workforce too, since computers are essential to operating factories. Manufacturing jobs now require skills in the fields of automation, robotics, CAD, 3D printing and Big Data, etc. and are in need of machine managers, programmers, technicians and operators with the necessary digital skills.

These new needs will lead major industrial players to upgrade their "technical component"; the set of theoretical, technical or tactical professional knowledge related to an operational vision. The knowledge required to exercise this new profession requires reconciliation between "knowledge", generally acquired at a school desk, and "know-how", generally acquired on a machine, thus combining technical skills and academic knowledge.

Therefore, the term "new-collar" is gaining momentum and prestige in the industry, as well as better wages! It also finally enables promotion of technical and manufacturing jobs, thus enhancing the image of yesteryear’s blue-collar workers. Today being a "new collar” worker is admirable, enviable and profitable.  

Going beyond technical skills

According to TechForce Foundation, the demand for information technology and communications graduates in the United States was twice the supply in 2018. Due to an initial shortage of skilled labour, firms were primarily interested in technical skills in order to meet their needs. But as the supply of specialized school programs increases and the demand for these "new-collar" workers stabilizes, employers will seek more than technical talent and woo those who also have good interpersonal skills.

Obviously technical knowledge and know-how are paramount, as they must be acquired. But, as for any specialist, demonstrating "Know how to be" and "Know how to interact" is also expected, as it is for any other role in the organization.

Relational skills are the "human component"; the person’s set of professional qualities. These include "Know how to be", which is the set of interpersonal skills related to attitudes, such as self-assurance, autonomy, versatility, resilience, authenticity, self-control, etc., which enables a person to be in touch with themselves, and "Know how to interact", which is the set of behavioural attitudes like respect, courtesy, politeness, punctuality, diplomacy, empathy, etc., which enables them to be touch with others such as their colleagues, customers, suppliers, etc.

During the hiring process, after validating a candidate’s knowledge and experience, HR professionals try to select those who, beyond operational skills, also understand how to work well with others, who demonstrate the ability to adapt and to problem-solve, who are fluent in written and verbal communication, and who demonstrate emotional intelligence and effective professional relationship management. This means that the candidates should have also acquired relational skills (soft skills).

In any professional situation, relational incompetence is a source of tension, misunderstanding, dissatisfaction and inefficiency. In general, a person is hired primarily for their operational skills, but usually fired for lack of relational skills.

Knowing how to operate machines and having a special affinity for computers, diagnosis and technology is not enough. In today's workplaces, we no longer work in silos or solo. It is sometimes difficult to find this blend of operational skills and relational skills and "new collar" workers with relational skills definitely have an advantage over other candidates.

  63 lectures
63 lectures

Burn-Out, Bore-Out and Brown-Out – Demystifying Modern Work Afflictions

The last decades have seen workers overwhelmed by all kinds of mental health issues, disconcerting afflictions that slowly consumed them engulfing them in a state of suffering and distress resulting in exhaustion.Burn-out, Bore-out or Brown-out are forms of professional exhaustion, each deriving from different factors. However, the symptoms are often similar and presenting themselves deviously in many ways— absenteeism, presenteeism, depression, a loss of self-esteem, anxiety, fatigue, trouble sleeping, irritability, aggression, lack of concentration, memory loss, emotional exhaustion, emotional detachment, loss of self-efficacy, demotivation, sadness, etc… These are all symptoms of a malaise that can have serious consequences in all areas of your life, not just the professional sphere.These conditions are becoming increasingly prevalent at an alarming rate. According to the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, it is the number one reason for extended leaves of absence from work and it continues to be on the rise. Work is becoming something that must be endured rather than a form of fulfillment.

Burnout: The work-exhaustion syndrome

The phenomenon of occupational pathologies began in industrialized countries with the "burn-out", which is a manifestation of a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion resulting from overly demanding work situations.Stress can be triggered by a new or unforeseen circumstance, feeling a lack of control or a threatening or destabilizing situation. Stress is a physical reaction that puts the body on alert when in danger. The modern work experience is constantly changing and demands are incessant. This generates an elevated level of stress that can become chronic. While you are in a continued state of urgency, your defence mechanisms are functioning without respite and your body ends up exhausted. This fatigue will have an impact on your morale and emotional exhaustion will add to physical exhaustion. To burn out, actually means “to burn internally, to consume oneself”.This phenomenon falls into the category of adjustment disorders, regardless of the sources of stress at work. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared in May 2019 that burn-out is now an “occupational phenomenon” describing it as “a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. It is characterised by three elements: “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion”, “feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job” and “reduced professional efficacy”. Tasks, situations, or people through excessive responsibility, a lack of autonomy, loss of memory or poor communication can create a sense of helplessness or fatigue. It creates an imbalance between the mounting pressure and the depleting resources (interior and exterior, perceived or real) that are needed to confront it. It is the manifestation of your vulnerability and difficulty to adapt to situations. Even in identical working conditions, we all react differently depending on the resources and tools available to us. 

Bore-out: The work-boredom syndrome

Bore-out, also known as occupational exhaustion syndrome caused by boredom at work, seems to be the opposite of burn-out, yet it also leads to psychological suffering. It affects people experiencing dissatisfaction with their professional path who do not have enough tasks to perform or challenges to overcome.It is a psychological condition that is found among employees with a certain level of education and skill-set but who perform a job devaluing their knowledge and experience. The minutes and the hours seem like an eternity in these situations. You ask for more work to avoid twiddling your thumbs, you start to work slower or stretch out tasks to avoid being paid for doing nothing. You invent work, which reinforces the feeling that your presence at work is not essential. It’s a situation that does not provide any intellectual stimulation, it is very demoralising and paradoxically, very stressful. It is “bore-out”.Several causes can explain this phenomenon, sometimes it is due to a restructuring of jobs, an inadequate delegation of tasks, or entry-level jobs consisting of easy or elementary duties. It results in an insufficient number of tasks to fill the work week and work days without challenge or interest to the employee. Every day becomes unbearable and it can lead to a sense of self-devaluation which could carry heavy psychological consequences.For some, work doesn’t necessarily need to be a source of fulfillment and they can accept this type of professional situation without it being too harmful. However, for others, doing a job where there is nothing to do can be tortuous. Their work becomes a golden cage. Sometimes working conditions are really good or financial security is so attractive that they wouldn’t dare leave for other challenges.

Brownout: The withdrawal-from-work syndrome

Although it is lesser known than “burn-out” or “bore-out”, “brown-out” is no less a danger to workers. It is the manifestation of professional exhaustion caused by a lack of motivation where you do not understand the point or use of your work.“Brown-out” literally means “a decrease in current” – the discomfort felt as a result of the loss of meaning in the objectives of one’s work. It is a condition that describes a decrease in a worker’s commitment resulting from a loss of meaning at work, a lack of understanding of the “why” in their mission and a lack of perspective regarding their duties.Without a purpose and a common thread, work becomes useless, futile and discouraging, driving a sort of disillusionment or disenchantment. People suffering from “brown-out” mentally resign from their job and work without really worrying about the quality they produce. These people are looking for work with meaning. In a context where everyday tasks lose meaning, one is alert and capable but completely unmotivated and disengaged.Therefore, a loss of motivation is the number one symptom of “brown-out”. You drag your feet, you divest yourself, meetings are mundane, there is a loss of attention, you have no interest in what you are doing, you lose your sense of humour, you cave into yourself. Even your family and social life can be affected by professional disinterest.The French sociologist and philosopher Edgar Morin explains this feeling well by saying, “meaning at work is often never as essential as when it is missing”.

How do we fix it?

With the growing prevalence and the important impact of mental health problems in the workplace, we cannot merely continue to suffer. To fight against this nuisance, you must take a step back and identify the causes of these conditions. You must go back to the source and make sure you do not solely react to the symptoms. Difficult times at work are opportunities to analyse your professional goals. Every individual has a responsibility to be conscious of their discomfort and to question themselves honestly, without shame, and without denial:
  • What defines my problems at work?
  • What bothers me and creates a feeling of discomfort?
  • To what (or to whom) do I attribute this discomfort?
  • Is this discomfort related to the nature of the task? To the workload? To the business sector? To the mission?
  • What does this situation reveal about my needs, my interests, my values and my professional ideals?
However, workplace stress is not solely the responsibility of the individual. Organizations cannot remain mere observers and point their finger in judgement. It is necessary that organizations empathize, engage in dialogue and create better wellness conditions. Once the correct diagnosis is made, one must question the criteria allowing to improve the situation:
  • Different divisions of tasks?
  • Proper tooling?
  • Professional development and training?
  • A new role or function?
  • Support?
  • Skills assessment?
  • Recognition?
  • More autonomy?
  • New challenges?
  • A career change?
  • Share the vision with conviction? The mission? The values? The culture?
Organizations have everything to gain by finding solutions. It is desirable that these solutions can be found within the organization, otherwise, the risk is that some workers will find another job elsewhere, change their profession, start their own business or worse, suffer through their current job.
  216 lectures
216 lectures

Communication Isn’t What We Say – It’s What the Other Person Understands

Communication is a complex process. Speaking well or forming good arguments is not sufficient to be a good communicator. In order to explain the complexity of communication, I often use the example of the "phone game" (formerly the Arabic phone game). The idea of the game is simple: participants take turns whispering a sentence from one to the next. The objective of the game is to get the message across without distorting it along the way, but part of the fun is that it usually ends up becoming distorted. Errors accumulate as each person transmits the message along, so that the sentence spoken aloud by the last player differs significantly from that of the first player, usually with a fun or humorous effect. This game is exceptionally effective to demonstrate how communication in action can deteriorate.

Communication is by its nature a source of unintended ambiguities and distortions. Although this is amusing when you play this game, it is less amusing when this distortion occurs during more serious exchanges, or even during professional communications. How many times have we been certain of what we have said, yet so surprised when we realize how the receiver has understood or interpreted our words? Your own experiences have probably taught you that even though you have transmitted a message, it is not always correctly interpreted.

Communicating is not just an exchange of information; it is conveying a message to another person (or group) in order to be understood. Communicare in Latin means to share, to exchange, to consult one another, to confer, to participate in...it means to get into contact with another person.

This cannot be done alone, as an interaction is necessary. Any interaction implies that our own frame of reference is related to that of the receiver, since their own frame of reference contributes to the communicated message’s meaning. As stated by Timm (1980), in order to create ideal conditions for communication, it is important to remember that "We must expect to be misunderstood by at least some of our receivers and we must expect to misunderstand others; we can try to reduce misunderstanding, but we can never eliminate it altogether. When we anticipate that we will not be properly understood, we are more attentive to clarifying and listening. When we recognize the impossibility of eliminating all misunderstanding and anticipating all the reactions, we recognize the reality ".

Interferences hinder the communication process and is a source of distortions, misunderstandings and misinterpretations, which are barriers to effective communication. Several kinds of interference can occur at the various stages of the communication process. For example:

  • Differences in the frame of reference (language, age, culture, education, experience, social environment, habits, etc.)
  • When the message is too long or too dense, the information is difficult to retain
  • Physical interference (noisy environments, distractions, interruptions, etc.)
  • The receiver’s internal state (emotions, attitudes, values, etc.) or the presence of observers who can interfere. They produce "snags" or intellectual paralysis linked to stress
  • Mental distractions such as preoccupations with other topics or preparing an answer instead of listening

But recognizing that communication has its limits does not preclude trying to achieve the best communication possible. Efforts should be made to reduce interference that hinders the transmission of the message. An effective communicator anticipates possible failures in the communication method and the many ways in which the message can be understood.

Communication is based on a series of actions and reactions. Both the receiver and the transmitter are affected by the message’s effects. There may be a significant difference between the message sent and the message received. It is important when communicating to remember that we are not alone in the interaction and that the receiver is an essential component of communication - what we have communicated is not what we have said, but what the other has understood!

  171 lectures
171 lectures

Demonstrating Courtesy and Respect in the Workplace

Do good manners at work really matter? Should you really be expected to be polite all the time, or can you bend the rules in the name of efficiency and productiveness? The answers are yes, yes, and no!

Most people don’t intend to be rude or discourteous. In an attempt to be efficient and productive we sometimes forget to consider the impact of our behaviours on our colleagues. Courtesy and respect towards others should be standard behavior in every workplace, regardless of role, rank, stress or circumstances.

The following actions help ensure a respectful, civil, considerate, professional workplace. These might all be evident behaviours for you, but for those that have forgotten …here is a work etiquette 101 crash course:

  • Be cordial – Greet people when you arrive, when you leave, when you pass in the hall or when you encounter them in the elevator. A simple "Good morning", "Hello", "Goodbye" or "Goodnight” will do. Look them in the eye. Make an effort to exchange polite conversation and shake hands when you're introduced to someone. You don’t have to get into a long conversation, but simply acknowledge that a person exists.
  • Be polite – Hold doors (even the elevator) for people. If you're asking for something, or asking someone to do something, say "please." If someone does something for you, or gives you something, say "thank you." Say "Excuse me." if you want someone to get out of your way, if you bump into someone, if you walk between two people having a conversation, or if you need to interrupt a conversation.
  • Be tactful – Avoid being blunt. Say "I'm sorry" if you intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone. Sometimes we are rude or grumpy when we are tired, rushed or having a bad day, and then when we realize we have made a mistake, we are too embarrassed to apologize and we just continue on as though nothing has happened. Don't do that. Take a moment to own up and make verbal amends. Don’t mock or belittle colleagues, not tell offensive jokes that sting.
  • Be considerate – Respect personal space and belongings, don't help yourself to things that aren't yours. Don't barge into someone’s workspace without knocking or announcing yourself, and don't interrupt when other people are having a private conversation. Clean up after yourself. Wipe crumbs from the counter and splatters from the microwave. Replace the ink cartridge, clear the paper jam or fill the paper tray if you are the last one using the printer. Make a fresh pot of coffee if you poured the last cup. Leave the conference room clean when you leave.
  • Be thoughtful – Acknowledge remembrances and celebrations (Birthdays, anniversaries) and be attentive to a colleague’s state of mind and health (Sickness, condolences, personal challenges).
  • Be inclusive – Avoid forming cliques that might exclude people, giving colleagues the silent treatment or speaking to people in a condescending way. Those are forms of bullying. Encourage healthy relationships in the office.
  • Be attentive – Don't check your phone in meetings or when someone is talking to you, not even a peek from time to time. Look at the person who is talking to you, stop texting or typing on the keyboard and turn away from your computer screen. Pay full attention to the person in front of you.
  • Be punctual – Demonstrate professional courtesy by showing up on time and respecting deadlines. Being late sends the message that you don’t have respect for other people's time or schedules.
  • Be neat – Your work, workspace and your appearance should always be orderly. Being untidy, cluttered and unkept sends a message that you don't really care how you look or whether it brings down the professional image of the office.
  • Be discreet – Keep your voice down and your personal phone calls private and wear headphones if you're playing music at work. If you have an open-space set-up don’t have calls on speaker phone. Be a good neighbor!
  • Be gracious – Listen more than you speak. Pay attention when co-workers are talking to you. Don't interrupt people when they're speaking. Let them finish. If you must interrupt, say "excuse me," or if you catch yourself after the fact, say "Sorry for interrupting you." Don’t make personal remarks about someone’s appearance or clothing. Keep judgmental or nasty comments to yourself and avoid gossiping and talking behind someone's back. Sharing credit, humbling asking questions, acknowledging others and smiling all have positive impacts and demonstrate civility.
  • Be decent – Leave the personal grooming for home. Don’t floss, clean your ears, give yourself a manicure, put on make-up or clip your nails at the office. Personal grooming should be done at home or at least in the bathroom.

Demonstrating workplace courtesies, it’s not about simply being nice, it’s about the effect you have on your colleagues and your workplace. Incivility makes people less motivated and decreases work performance whether you are the one experiencing the incivility or witnessing it. Being unaware or uncaring of your behaviour will eventually create an unproductive, toxic and hostile environment. There's no excuse for discourtesy in the workplace. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “there is always enough time to be courteous.” Take the time. Be mindful of it. The results — a productive, pleasant, creative, helpful, happy and healthy workplace for everyone.

  187 lectures
Mots-clés :
187 lectures

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« Vraiment une formation extraordinaire, et habituellement, je suis très critique! Tout le personnel devrait suivre cette formation, il y aurait un gain d’efficacité! »

Ville de Québec

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Xavier Aymé, Chef des opérations | Mercator Canada Inc.

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