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Le blogue de Solutions & Co.

Le blogue de Solutions & Co.

Optimism – In time of crisis…

Why write about optimism when we are in the midst of a worldwide crisis and people are manifestly fearful and worried? Research in neuroscience and psychology clearly shows that, in this kind of high-pressure situation, everyone’s anxiety level increases, which activates the portion of the brain that processes threats—the amygdala—and steals resources from the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for effective problem solving.

The present is gloomy, and the future seems threatening. What to do and what to think? I invite you not to sink into pessimism … pessimism is a silent and odorless gas that poisons us. As Goethe said: «Pessimism is condemned to be a spectator».

This period is chaotic and it’s understandable to have a hard time being optimistic. Your attitude is a crucial factor in these trying times, and maintaining a positive outlook becomes important … results are optimized when the brain is positive.

Optimism … What it is, and what it is not!

Optimism is not just about being positive. Being positive all the time (especially in times like these!) is unrealistic. Optimism is not about falling into naiveté either… Far from magical thinking, optimism is not an illusion … The «illusionist» is content in formulating magic sentences and incantations.

The challenge of optimism is to inspire yourself and others around you to behave intentionally about the future. It’s being capable of facing the dark aspects of reality. It reconciles realism and critical thinking …. It’s a positive intelligence that some call «opti-realism».

Optimist is intelligent: it plans, takes into account the criteria of effectiveness, and uses our personal resources and intelligence.

Our human nature is to be optimistic. Otherwise, we would not grow, walk, fall in love or acquire any skills. Optimism is a momentum, a vital force that pushes us to go forward, to obtain, and to conquer. Optimism just needs to be activated, channeled, and then used.

Optimism versus Pessimism

Pessimism is useful when put at the service of realistic optimism. Pessimism obliges us to take into consideration the constraints, the difficulties, the obstacles, and all the possible failure factors, without ignoring or minimizing them. It pushes us to show initiative, creativity, imagination and allows us to mobilize all our resources. Listen to that suspicious inner voice, list its warnings, stay sharp, and think about how we could get there despite the pitfalls.

The difference between optimists and pessimists is that optimists make more decisions to protect themselves from announced risks than pessimists: they are convinced that their actions can influence their destiny and not that they are victims of fatality! Optimists believe that taking action will have more beneficial consequences than if they just «let it be».

Being proactive versus being reactive

Proactive behavior (developing a strategy, making a choice, taking action and assuming the responsability) is always more positive - in terms of self-image, confidence and vision for the future - than reactive behavior.

Being reactive is more instinctive, it’s led by our reptilian brain, which triggers our defense mechanisms. It is not rational. Although it is good to look for the opportunity hidden in each difficulty, it needs to be done proactively instead of reactively. It is important to take the time to digest the new situation and the emotions it triggers. Too many decisions are made hastily because they are motivated by the desire to survive or to jump to a more pleasant stage.

Being optimistic also means accepting that there are problems and situations that are definitely or temporarily impossible to solve.

Change your relationship with stress

Don’t get stressed-out about being stressed-out. It’s important to remember that stress has an upside. Remember the life experiences that most shaped who you are today and notice that these experiences most likely involved great stress. Stress is not just an obstacle to growth; it can be the fuel for it. Stress is an inevitable part of life, but your attitude toward it can dramatically change how it affects you.

Developing Optimism

Training your brain to be optimistic is not so different from training your muscles at the gym. Research on neuroplasticity—the ability of the brain to change even in adulthood—reveals that, as you develop new habits, you rewire the brain.

To be «Opti-realistic» is to:

  • Strive to oppose each fear or obstacle to its positive antidote, so as to rebalance thoughts and emotions.
  • Consider unpleasant episodes as momentary, specific to a given situation and linked to reasons external to us.
  • Develop the emotional endurance to withstand these trying times.
  • Take a distant look at the situation and analyze each experience.

A good reflex is to take the situation into account and then ask yourself:

  • What can I do now?
  • What did this situation teach me (about me, about others)?
  • What improvements can I make (training, information, ...)?
  • What perspectives does it open for me (Changing my modus operandi, waiting for the right moment, ...)?

This keeps us from seeing ourselves as victims … you may not have control over the situation, but you still have control over how you will act in it – self-control!

Engaging in one brief positive exercise every day can help you develop optimism and have a lasting impact. Choose an activity that correlates with positive change:

  • Jot down three things you are grateful for.
  • Engage positively with people, even if virtually.
  • Help a neighbor, a colleague or a friend.
  • Meditate at your desk for two minutes.Exercise for 10 minutes.
  • Take two minutes to write in a journal about your latest most meaningful experience.
  • Choose one stress that you can control and come up with a small, concrete step you can take to reduce it.

In this way you can nudge your brain back to a positive mindset. The habits you cultivate, the way you interact with people, how you deal with stress—all these are good ways to start and can be implemented to increase your optimism and maintain a sense of well-being.

So here we are!

We are currently subject to an excessive dose of uncertainty. Psychological researchers have shown that intolerance to uncertainty is a fundamental dimension of what is called generalized anxiety, this sickly tendency to worry about what is uncertain, unpredictable and uncontrollable.

Before this event, we lived in an environment in which we exercised a certain control. This is no longer the case. This feeling of control is very important for our capacity for action and our emotional balance. Today the tolerable thresholds of uncertainty and loss of control may have been exceeded, hence our difficulties in remaining optimistic.

To get through the crisis, many efforts will be necessary; one of the most important is to build up our optimism. The falling tree always makes more noise than the growing forest: to become optimistic again, you have to become aware of your surroundings, not only of your problems, and listen to the forest growing!

  38 lectures
38 lectures

Visual supports | The analog tools’ advantages in the digital era

Before foreseeing a PowerPoint for your next presentation, and neglecting (even forgetting) white boards and flip charts, take the time to read this:

Visual supports

Visual supports help the audience remember key points, they clarify ideas, help you illustrate your words, and strengthen your arguments. They give a rhythm to your presentation and simplify some complexities.

People using visual supports are often seen as more prepared, more persuasive, and more interesting. They reach their goals more often than those not using them.

Studies have shown that a visual support makes a presentation more effective; a recent study from the University of Wisconsin shows that visual supports can improve comprehension and learning up to 200 %.

A visual support is a “support”. Unfortunately, I have too often seen visual supports being used to:

  • Impress the audience (with over detailed tables or graphs) ;
  • Avoid interacting with the audience (by reading slides word for word) ;
  • Fill a lack of planning from the trainer! (by using it as a crutch).

But that is another topic … let’s get back to our original one: analogs or digitals?

The advantages of the analog tools

Visual supports come in many different formats: hand-outs, white boards and flip charts, models, computer screenings and electronic medias, etc.

In our trainings, at Solutions & Co. we still use static writing surfaces such as textbooks, white boards, and flip charts!

What makes analog tools such amazing learning tools is the way they require both the use of the body and the brain in the learning process.

Researches on cognitive matching have shown that the physical process of writing, and doing diagrams helps people learn and remember the information. Using a writing surface like a whiteboard is both kinesthetic and visual, because writing and drawing engages the user both physically and mentally and fosters learning.

When we go through ideas visually, in a constant back and forth manner, in real time and in the same space, we offer a level of social connection different from the one offered by most digital solutions.

Proper use of writing surfaces can facilitate team work, improve commitment, and foster creativity and problem solving. Integrating analog tools in training rooms can allow participants to discuss, to communicate, and to share their ideas. And it helps us connect with each other by encouraging collaboration and sociability.

Conclusion? When we physically express our thoughts and ideas, and we progressively reveal the content, our brains are engaged in a way that release more potential for learning, ideas, solutions, and reflection.

Which ones are more relevant? Analog or digital tools?

Obviously, this not a “digital tools versus analog methods” competition. The ideal path of success is neither one nor the other, but knowing to pick the appropriate support in order to meet the audience’s needs and to reach its goal.

Studies reveal that 73% of teachers having used both connected and offline tools note a rise in students’ interest (Center for Digital Education), and 58% of students state learning better in an environment mixing both digital and analog tools (ECAR undergraduates survey).

The strength lies in the strategical use of your visual supports. Even if technology prevails in most professional environments and modern classrooms, analog tools remain an important and effective tool not to be overlooked.

No matter which visual aid you choose, do not let it overpower your presentation. Even UNESCO reminds us that digital is only to assist education not to replace it. Visual aids are used to enrich your presentation; they do not replace you.

  52 lectures
52 lectures

Front-Line Personnel – Have we abandoned our soldiers on the Front?

Soldiers? Uuuh… On the front? What? As a soft skills trainer, I have encountered thousands of workers who come to learn the skills needed to face the daily workplace reality without losing their marbles. They are looking for tools to optimize their professional “know how to act” … Most of the time, they are professional in their “knowledge”, excelling in their “know how” …But they still need to learn the value of “knowing how to be” and “knowing how to interact”. To ensure their effectiveness, they must be hard-skilled, but also soft skilled.

What good is it to know your products inside out if you can’t present them with confidence?

What good is it to have a customer service if the person behind the counter doesn’t know how to manage their emotions, to show some empathy, to understand the customers and to manage a complaint?

What good is it to have the world best product if you can’t show any professionalism?

Believe me, those are not caricatural! These situations are seen every day.

Front-line workers are in touch with customers on a daily basis: they have an opportunity that other members of the organization don’t. They interact with the customer, promote and represent the organization.

And every time, I ask myself the same question: Why do people wait so long before teaching these “soldiers” how to use the essential survival tools before sending them to the Front?

No self-respecting general would pick people off the street and send them to the Front, left to their own devices, and think they still have a chance to win the battle! This is only a metaphor used to show you what often happens in our businesses: people are hired only because they can fulfill a task; but without ensuring that they are willing to embrace the mission and the corporate culture, with no concern for their ability to interact with customers or coworkers, nor for their ability to manage stressful situations, to solve conflicts, or simply to be aware of the benefits of active listening.

The way your front-line staff represents your business sets your customers satisfaction level. A positive approach to the front-line team allows you to develop and secure a long-term relationship with your customers.

In your opinion, what would be the most effective way to build a satisfactory relationship with your customers? An automated thank you note from your CRM in order to thank the customer for their business? Or a warm greeting at the reception desk? A personal attention from the clerk? Or a genuine smile from the deliverer? Obviously, a human and personal interaction has a much greater impact, doesn’t it?

Imagine what a difference it could make if we gave every front-line worker the possibility and ability to solve customers’ dissatisfactions, the opportunity to manage their priorities effectively, to gain the skills needed to adequately cooperate and communicate. Business performance would increase exponentially.

This article’s title might seem a tad bit pessimistic (even far-fetched for some), but soldiers Abandoned on the Front! Illustrates how all the front-line employees are left to their own devices, with no vision, no support, no training beyond their immediate duties, no encouragement, no coaching… Abandoned at a crucial time – the moment of truth, the moment where a trustworthy relationship can be developed, the moment where the customer’s loyalty  can be secured! There are more leadership and management trainings than ever before! Even if managers training is important, I think training the workforce is mandatory in order to cope with a constantly changing work environment.

For every manager’s vision, there are tens (even hundreds) of employees who must provide continuity. For it to be possible, it is first of all necessary to equip those workers so they can assimilate this vision and contribute daily to the organizational objectives’ achievement.

I strongly believe that these employees are and will remain the most important asset of any organization wishing to increase its productivity and competitiveness. I am convinced that their soft skills can never be replaced with software, and that they are worthy of our investments as well as our respect.

Every position is important. However, front-line employees are often seen as the bottom tier within the organization; they usually earn insufficient wages and are insufficiently equipped. Front-line employees are important, they deserve the title of the organization’s ambassador, in order to skillfully and professionally represent it before the customers. Because we entrust them to take care of our customers, of a complaint, or a need. The organization’ success thus rests on their shoulders…

As the new year begins, I want to encourage you to step back, think, and answer with sincerity the following: Have we abandoned them on the Front, or have we equipped them with the needed tools to win?
  125 lectures
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125 lectures

Tattoos in the Work Place: is it Still a Taboo Topic?

Tattoos, once associated with rebellion, crimes, delinquency, gang membership, and machismo, has now become a modern phenomenon of self affirmation and expression. Incidentally, according to an Ipsos Reid survey, close to one in four Canadians is tattooed.

However, despite some democratization and hierarchies flattening, tattoos can still carry some derogatory overtones and can induce discriminations and prejudices in some work environments.

The rights of all individuals intertwined with one another

According to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, each individual has a right to a freedom of expression, which now includes tattoos, and your employer can not ask you to hide them, unless the object of the tattoo itself is considered hateful or offensive. Although, in some cases the organization could prevail over your rights. The employer can impose restrictions or prohibitions regarding the dress code or someone’s look if it causes any damages to the organization’s image and reputation (tattoos, piercings, etc.), or if it causes any work’s health and safety issues (beards, jewellery, etc.) by means of directives or a work contract. Such right must be exercised cautiously in order to draw up a clear, reasonable, and fair policy stating any restrictions the organization would see enforced without being discriminatory.

It is recommended to have yourself acquainted with any rule, policy, contract, or ethic guides mentioning this topic in your organization. Going against those rules becomes a breach of an employment condition.

 

First impressions

But beyond the law, there is the human factor… from a new encounter’s very first moments, the brain is processing a large quantity of signals, from what the person is saying (verbal communication) to the posture, the appearance, the gestures, the gait (non verbal communication) and to the volume, the pronunciation, the speed, and the tone (para verbal communication), and makes a general interpretation – a first impression.

A study group from Princeton University states that only one hundred milliseconds are required to form a firm and final judgment about someone. And only one tenth of a second to decide if a person is attractive, reliable, amicable, and even … qualified. A tattoo, just like a hairstyle, a makeup, or an outfit, is a non verbal clue contributing to the first impression.

 "We judge books by their covers, and we can't help but do it," says Nicholas Rule, researcher of the University of Toronto” This human behavior can be traced back to the beginning of times. To ensure its survival, the prehistoric man had to quickly decide if what was in front of him was a friend or an enemy; if he had to fight or flight. This reflex is buried in our reptilian brain and is ubiquitous in our instinctive reaction. It is an oblivious process, often conditioned by our memory or our upbringing. This first impression is natural, inevitable, and indelible!

Overlooking this process and not adapting to it only diminishes your credibility and your influence to their eyes. And if the impressions you give off is not in tune / harmony with the one they were expecting… even if you wear your tattoos with pride, interacting with employers will become more difficult, bumpier, full of distortions and misinterpretations which may cause misunderstandings … And unfortunately, you will be suffering the consequences.

To each culture its codes

Tattoos are not necessarily compatible with all professions and fields of work, and depending on the career or occupation you wish to have, tattoos will be more or less tolerated, accepted, appreciated perhaps even admired.

Some field of expertise are more open minded and value the creativity and the self expression, while some are more formal, and want to give off a more rigorous image of impartiality, confidence by means of a fitting and polished appearance. In those cases, a tattoo must be more … discreet – in order to respect the neutrality and formality required by the organization.

In terms of tattoos, corporate image must be a key element to consider. One should show some caution, all depending on the kind of employment and the context. It is essential to understand the organization’s culture (its implied rules), its philosophy (its values), the nature of the job… And above of all whom will you be in contact with!

It’s a matter of interpretation

Your appearance is an indicator of your judgement and inspires (or not) confidence in your abilities and your role. Those interpretations are neither correct nor incorrect, there is no for or against, bad or good, legal or illegal, fair or unfair, but only a congruity or incongruity with the message that you want to deliver to whom you are offering products or services to.

Our clients come from various environments and their perceptions, reasoning, values and style vary depending their interpretations. Tattoos, being a medium of really personal messages, can still, for some, have a negative ring and be interpreted as an indicator of a lack of professionalism and conscientiousness, or as non-conformism, hence projecting a differing image from the one you want to convey.

It is entirely legal and fine to have tattoos. You are free to express yourself however you want. But you cannot expect it to be accepted the same way by everyone.

  177 lectures
177 lectures

MENTAL IMAGERY: TO DEVELOP AND INTEGRATE SOFT SKILLS

Here is the second of two articles about mental imagery. In the previous article we explained the technique and how it helps the performance and development of emotional intelligence. This article will focus on the step-by-step process for using it to learn and integrate "soft skills" such as controlling emotions, stress management, public speaking, versatility, influence, creativity, managing conflicts, etc.

We have defined mental imagery as a mental training technique that successful people use to prepare for action, repeating and training their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in order to optimize performance and well-being. Although frequently used to improve physical performance, mental imagery can also enhance activities with a cognitive and emotional component.

Mental imagery is an excellent technique for regaining control, finding balance and strengthening our emotional stamina. Taking a step back from your emotions and seeing them as an observer changes the way the brain processes feelings.

Mental imagery, step-by-step

Step 1: Get ready physically, emotionally and mentally

Mental imagery is much more productive when you are in a state of great mental availability. Be sure to set aside your current concerns and eliminate distractions in order to help create images and maximize brain potential (alpha waves enable 15x more learning...whereas in general, we're in beta mode).

Step 2: Conduct a Post-Mortem   

A post-mortem is a retrospective review of the event or situation you want to change or improve. It is an opportunity to analyze your past performance and evaluate your decisions and actions. Examine the situation and review what happened. Ask yourself:

  • What did I find particularly difficult or disturbing?
  • What was the source causing my tension or reaction?
  • What happened inside of me?
  • How did I react?
  • Would I have wanted to act differently?

The key to this technique is the ability to question your emotional reactions rather than simply submitting to them.

Step 3: Mentally imagine the performance

in this step, visualization is used to develop and develop more effective strategies. Ask yourself how you could change your reaction, your thinking and to reframe situations – to see them differently:

  • How would I like to react?
  • What would I like to say?
  • What could I do to remain calm the next time this happens?
  • How would I like to handle the situation?
  • What would I do differently the next time?

It is the step in which to imagine situations as we would like them to happen - how we would like to achieve our goals. We review all the parts of the encounter in a systematic way, the steps that must take place as well as ourselves overcoming the challenges. These mental representations of visualization should be closer to reality.

Perspective is our point of view during imaging and can be considered in two ways:

  • A first-person perspective (internal visual imagery): see what we would see if we really experienced the action.
  • A third person perspective (external visual imagery): see the action from the outside as an observer. From this perspective we observe our action from several angles to improve how we handle the relevant details.

There is no consensus on which perspective is best. The first-person perspective may be better for repeating attitudes and emotions or for repeating a strategy. A third-person perspective may be use to revise the form when performing a technical skill. Athletes report using both alternately.

Step 4: Use all your senses

Visualization is certainly an important part of the method, but the visual image alone is limiting. A kinaesthetic, an emotion or a feeling, is also necessary. We must imagine the most accurate and precise mental representation possible in all dimensions. Here, it's about experiencing the feelings related to your visualization: emotions, smells, sounds, etc.

Kinaesthetic images involve re-creating the physical sensations you might feel. It may also include awareness of your body movements or facial expressions or your positioning in space. Emotions are also an important element of an image's feeling, and for an image to be realistic, you must recreate the emotions felt during the activity. Repeating and developing the emotional reactions you want to feel during an activity is an excellent reason for using imagery.

Step 5: Recreate in great detail

Intensity, accuracy and positivity. The technique’s effectiveness also depends on the quality of the images produced. Mental images must be vivid, that is, clear and detailed. The clearer and more detailed an image, the more effective it is.

On the other hand, mental images must be accurate, that is, they must reflect reality as accurately as possible. It is important to imagine as many details such as: the physiognomy of people, the size and weight of objects, their placement, location, the distance between them, the surrounding space, etc.

Another thing to avoid when using images is negative language such as "Don’t do that!" or "Don’t say that!” Our brains do not deal with negative language without introducing what we do not want to see or do. Concentrate, and use words that only reflect what you want to do.

Step 6: Control and repeat

The images must then be controlled. This means being able to build sustained images for as long as needed and knowing how to manipulate, transform, evolve and adjust them in response to learning in order to progress. This involves not only physical skills, but also psychological states such as confidence and motivation. You want to control your image so that it meets your expectations.

A positive effect cannot, however, be achieved and maintained without regular and diligent practice. Experts recommend practicing imaging for at least 20 minutes, at least three times a week.

Sometimes, we can become frustrated by the lack of control of the images or their intensity. In this case, it is important to remember that imaging is a skill that can be developed with sustained practice, just

like any other skill. Knowing the results we might achieve, we must decide if we are ready to invest in order to overcome the frustration that may occur along the way.

In this article, I wanted to show that mental imagery is not an approach exclusively for high performance athletes, nor is it an esoteric approach. On the contrary, it is a scientific mental preparation that helps perform and master our professional skills. Whatever your purpose, this technique helps you to relax and find solutions, but most importantly, it can improve your effectiveness and well-being in the workplace. Best of luck!

  261 lectures
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261 lectures

Les participants le disent…


« 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

Témoignages des participants

…et nos clients aussi!

« C’est avec un grand professionnalisme que l’entreprise a offert une formation attrayante et de qualité à nos employés. Nous sommes particulièrement satisfaits des résultats obtenus grâce à cette intervention et il nous fera plaisir de retravailler avec Solutions & Co. dans l’avenir. »

Xavier Aymé, Chef des opérations | Mercator Canada Inc.

Témoignages des clients

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