Top 10 Contradictions of the PA/EA role!

EA PA Web Banners17

To get what I and my manager need, I have to:

1. Keep the goals of my manager at the centre, whilst responding to numerous other requests

2. Build a close relationship with all the ‘important others’, and maintain a distance that allows me to manage interference

3. Lead, drive and cut through, being sure of myself, and yet hold myself in the background, seeking concensus, being tolerant, patient and diplomatic

4. Know exactly what needs to be done, and yet be able to wait, allow others space and time to catch up

5. Be assertive, confident and direct, and yet warm, inviting and humble

6. Be inspiring, dynamic, energetic and also reflective, co-operative and concilitary

7. Be highly effective and efficient, focused and planned, and yet be responsive, able to change direction in a moment and spontaneous

8. Know myself, my personality and leverage off my strengths, whilst flexing my style to get the best out of others and my manager

9. Plan my own time, but be flexible with my schedule

10. Focus on the here and now, and also look into the future and pre-empt

Then you wonder why some days you feel like you have 2 personalities!

Partnering really well with your manager can help ease some of these contradictions and make you work day less frenetic. For example:

* Have you and your manager discussed how you work together, your communication preferences, time wasters, roles and responsibilities, complementary abilities, priorities and truly explored the word ‘partnership’?

* Have you (and your manager) identified key stakeholders, built successful relationship platforms, and are able to trouble-shoot when early warning signs appears that could derail goals?

* Do you have the necessary problem-solving and decision making skills, and are able to create and manage information flow?

* Can you easily influence the most challenging personality in the office, handle conflict quickly and efficiently and maintain the relationship?

Penny facilitates Bright*Star’s training course on ‘Partnering with Your Manager’

Written by Penny Holden

NEW Speakers for Web 201320Master facilitator, high calibre industry recognised trainer, and people and culture capability consultant, Penny Holden brings 20 years real business and workplace experience, expertise and knowledge. With an extensive background in behavioural  sciences, psychology, education and organisational development and people capability, she applies this in simple and effective ways to her workshops and projects. Penny is particularly recognised for her ability to work with anyone at any level with respect and robust appropriate learning methods.

Seeing the Big Picture: Developing Business Acumen for Organisational Awareness

“We have three innate psychological needs—competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When those needs are satisfied, we’re motivated, productive, and happy.”


These are the words of Daniel H. Pink in his insightful book, ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’. Fascinating,don’t you think, that we can overlook something as obvious as the core needs for people to feel like they do their jobs well, that they have some degree of control, and that they have a sense of connection, or ‘relatedness’ to their work and their organisation. It’s hard to feel deeply connected to your work, or your workplace, when you potentially have a limited or incomplete understanding of the business roadmap. As EAs and PAs we often develop exceptional knowledge and insights into the functioning of our own roles, those that we support, and the key stakeholders with whom we interact, but there’s a bigger context. Sometimes it’s that bigger context where a deeper understanding and broader awareness could make a profound difference to the way we shape our perspectives, make decisions, add value, establish our profile and generally interact with other people in a professional capacity. So how do you build your ‘business acumen’ and cultivate a higher level of organisational awareness in your role as an EA or PA? In reality, it’s about becoming better informed, and staying current in terms of how your organisation operates, competes, sustains itself, grows, and contributes to its customers, industries and communities.

In practical terms, there many ways to achieve this, but here are five simple things that you can do to cultivate your business intelligence and stay connected and purposeful in your work:

#1 Dedicate time to having conversations with experts within your business Experts love to share their expertise, so create opportunities to learn what you can from them about their role, their teams and their goals. Once you have a basic understanding of their roles and how their part of the operation works, you’ll be better placed to continue these conversations on a regular basis, and constantly learning more about how each part of the organisation can help make other parts more successful.

#2 Tap into information about your industry For each and every industry there is a plethora of information that is easily accessible via industry organisations, publications, current affairs and professional networks. Make this material your reading “fodder” and us it as the basis for learning more about your own organisation and how it works within the industry.

#3 Explore general management concepts and topics You may not have the word manager in your title, but even if you don’t, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to be a good manager! The vast subject of management applies to anyone who drives or contributes to organisational goals, and there are some foundation management concepts (like ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ or ‘cause and effect’ for example) that can help everyone to be more personally effective. Whenever you enhance the way in which you deliver results in your role, your team, your organisation and your customers all benefit – it’s like the “butterfly effect”!

#4 Think of yourself and your role in terms of how you serve customers Even if you think you don’t have any direct connection to customers, you will be amazed to “map” how your efforts indirectly contribute to the success of your team, your department, the business, and ultimately the people that your business or organisation serves. In everything you do, you will be able to find a connection back to the customer and the overall prosperity of your business or the community it serves – you really just have to think about it.

#5 Become a ‘Maven’ A maven (a.k.a. mavin) is a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others. The word maven comes from Hebrew, meaning “one who understands”, based on an accumulation of knowledge. This concept isn’t about being the gatekeeper or holding knowledge because knowledge is power, but it’s more about being well-connected, wellinformed and being known for having a deep understanding of how things work and how things can be achieved. Being a maven is also about being one of the first to pick up on new trends or information (an ‘early adopter’), and being influential because you can help others to grasp new trends or insights. Developing your business acumen and organisational awareness is as important as learning about the latest tools and best practices in your role. Overlooking this vital dimension of your professional repertoire can be a self-limiting move. The solution? Stay conscious of, and focused on, your mastery, self-drive and connectedness, and you will become an even more valuable asset to your team, your business, your customers and potentially your profession.

Pamela is facilitating The Strategic EA: Business Acumen for Senior EA/PAs for Bright*Star Training


Written by Pamela Cronin

NEW Speakers for Web 201318Pamela Cronin has more than 15 years’ experience working with organisations across the public and private sectors.  Her training combines rich, contemporary theory and stimulating activity, providing practical tips and advice.  Pamela draws on her expertise in the areas of people management, business strategy, communication and team development to deliver challenging learning in a personable way. She is an accredited Team Management Index (TMI) Facilitator, and is the author of the Brooker’s New Zealand ‘Guide to Training and Development’.

The Art of Conversation for Leaders: Building Rapport

BS 2016 Website-EventBanners10 In the business world, the word ‘LOVE’ is rarely used, yet that’s exactly what most people really want – we ALL want to be loved – so how do you become a leader in expressing this key quality that we all want in a business context?

It boils down to one word…INTEREST.

In sales as well as customer service, sincere interest is the best ingredient in a successful relationship. Building rapport and strengthening relationships is all about expressing your interest and caring. When you take the lead in terms of getting to know someone, you consciously set the intention to discover their concerns as well as passions, and to help them to feel heard and acknowledged. You take leadership in building a bridge of friendship with them.

So, how do you express your interest specifically? How can you consciously begin to practice this ‘love’ for others in a business context? One way you can express your interest in others is by asking open-ended questions. This means your taking responsibility to deepen a conversation through continuing to encourage others to reveal more about their concerns, thoughts, and feelings. To get to know someone better, you need to express your interest – and that means probing deeper with successive questions which follow their train of thought.

So, here’s an example of how you could develop and deepen a conversation expressing your interest using open-ended questions.

You: So, how’s it going, Paul?

Paul: Oh, not bad…been a hectic day.

You: Really? What’s been happening?

Paul: Oh, I’ve got four new contracts – which is great, but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed with it all.

You: What about it feels overwhelming?

Paul: Well, I suppose it’s the pressure of feeling like I need to stay on top of everything without dropping the ball.

You: How do you handle the pressure?

Paul: Well, fortunately, I go walking in the mornings which seems to help.

You: Really, where do you go walking?

Paul: Cornwall Park – I love it there.

You: What do you love about it?

Paul: I love that you can see sheep roaming all around – a bit of country in the middle of the city…I love the peace and quiet, and I love the trees. Etc…..

Enjoy getting to know your clients, colleagues, friends, and family members. If you consciously practice asking open-ended questions which follow others’ ‘train of thoughts’, you’ll develop the trust, goodwill, and warm feelings that help them and you ‘feel the love’. Plus, as an extra benefit, your business will get a boost as a result!

If you’d like to develop your ‘executive voice and presence’, I invite you to join me on the new Bright*Star course in 2016: ‘Building Your Executive Voice and Presence’, 19 August in Wellington

Sally Mabelle, M.Ed, B.A hons, has 20+ years’ experience as a ‘Voice of Leadership’ specialist. She combines her professional background in Communication, Education, and Psychology with her extensive stage experience in her courses. She has honed essential skills in voice projection, emotional connection and physical presence and is an award-winning inspirational speaker.

Sally Mabelle, ‘The Voice of Leadership’ Specialist.

Is your body telling tales on you?

We all know that ‘gut feeling’ when we meet someone for the first time – it tells us whether this is our kind of person or not…although we don’t always know why.

Our body language gives out messages that we may not be aware of – sometimes betraying us and the messages that we actually want to be send out. d

Imagine you are a hedgehog…what do you do when you feel threatened or under attack? Like a hedgehog, if we feel vulnerable for any reason we will do our best to make ourselves small and often cross our arms to protect our vital organs. e


Being aware of the signals our body is sending on our behalf allows us to choose whether we go with it or override it and make a conscious change.

What is your body language saying…table

With Body Language you can ‘fake it til you make it’…or rather…’fake it til you become it’.  Power, authority and confidence will help you get where you want to be…

Find out more about how to use your body language to get what you want by joining us at our next Communicating with Impact training course.

Blog Written by Bright*Star Facilitator Kerry Saberton

Ian Moir, Aztech Solutions, receiving his brand new ipad from Kerry Saberton, Business Development Manager at Bright*Star Training

Kerry has been a facilitator and organisational development consultant for over 18 years. During her career in customer service, sales and management, Kerry gained a wide range of experience to draw upon. She has built and developed teams to meet core objectives in both sales and customer service and believes the key to success is harmony and communication. She has also built and run her own companies.

Women in Leadership: The double-bind of assertiveness and influence

minute‘I don’t have a traditionally female way of speaking – I’m quite assertive. If I didn’t speak the way I do, I wouldn’t have been seen as a leader. But my way of speaking may have grated on people who were not used to hearing it from a woman. It was the right way for a leader to speak, but it wasn’t the right way for a woman to speak. It goes against type.’


These are the words of Kim Campbell, who served as Prime Minister of Canada in 1993.

It’s a message that’s not uncommon when female leaders talk about the challenges they face in being influential in powerful roles. The dilemma boils down to a few core points:

1. Whether we like it or not, even in the 21st Century, mainstream societies all over the globe perpetuate stereotypes about how women (and men) should behave

2. We are all primed to succumb to these associations about men and women, and sometimes they happen on a such a subconscious level that we hardly recognise our own biases

3. As leaders, women need to understand these biases (I didn’t say condone them) and develop a level of awareness and a range of skills that enable them to shine and be influential.

So how do we do that? In practical terms, there many ways to achieve this, but here are three simple concepts that you can explore to shape and cultivate your leadership influence as a woman…

#1 Understand the dynamics of male and female communication

That’s right, we all know that there are gaps in the way we relate between the genders at times. But what are the common ones, why do they exist, and what can you do to navigate them and minimise the potential for misunderstanding?

#2 Optimise your confidence

Yes, it’s true that we women win all the prizes when it comes to being our own worst critics. To be influential, you need to be confident – and to be confident, you need to back yourself. So we need to learn how to find the right balance between confidence and modesty, assertiveness and diplomacy.

#3 Get into the Driver’s seat

Understand that more opportunities present themselves to people who are open to them and seek them out. As women leaders we need to know how to set ourselves up to thrive, how to ensure our lives are richer for the experience, and how to make sure we take other women along with us.

Investing in our potential as leaders is the kind of investment that pays off – not just for us, but for all of the people around us. Too many women leave their leadership careers to chance, and never take the time to examine their abilities as a leader, how they influence others and what their potential could be. Don’t let that be you.

Written by Pamela Cronin

Pamela Cronin facilitates Bright*Star’s Leadership Development for Women.  

NEW Speakers for Web 201318Pamela Cronin has more than 15 years’ experience working with organisations across the public and private sectors.  Her training combines rich, contemporary theory and stimulating activity, providing practical tips and advice.  Pamela draws on her expertise in the areas of people management, business strategy, communication and team development to deliver challenging learning in a personable way. She is an accredited Team Management Index (TMI) Facilitator, and is the author of the Brooker’s New Zealand ‘Guide to Training and Development’.

Celebrating Admin Day: Inspiration Galore!

April 20th was Administrative Day and New Zealand witnessed the coming together of some of the country’s finest and brightest admin professionals. The Association of Administrative Professionals of New Zealand (AAPNZ) hosted simultaenous celebrations across the country to celebrate the amazing skills administrative staff bring to all businesses and organisations


As one of the longest supporting partners of AAPNZ, Bright*Star Training decided to add some more Shine to the AP day celebrations. At the AP day event in Auckland and Wellington, we decided to recognise an inspirational admin professional for their contribution to the field and reward them with a Bright*Star training voucher so they can take the next step in their Careers.

image1Congrats to Simone Bantjies and Rebecca Sykes on winning our Admin Day lucky draw. Shine on Ladies! A big shout out to our friends in Hamilton, we heard the event was stellar!

At the Auckland event, Lone Tapp from Bright*Star Training who is returning as judge for this  year’s AAPNZ Administrative Professional Award shared her tips with some AP professionals on what it took to be a standout administrative professional.

If you are considering entering or nominating someone you know for the 2016 event, do read on Lone’s previous blog for her tips.

We are proud here at Bright*Star Training to hold a long standing commitment to the EA, PA and administration community. Each year, we offer a comprehensive and vibrant calendar of specialised EA/PA training courses. Please browse the many courses here or contact us to discuss how we can create a bespoke training programme for your organisation.

Register for our free Shine EA/PA newsletter today!
White papers, interviews, articles, subscriber only offers, recipes and much more. Join us!

Join our vibrant and dynamic team Sales Team!

Slide13Are you a proven sales star looking for new challenges in a busy, positive and tight team environment?

We are Conferenz and we’re New Zealand’s biggest conference company. We live in the fast-paced events industry.  We’re privately owned which means no red tape and no international bull-turkey.

We have an exciting opportunity for a representative to join our telephone based Delegate Sales team.  Working 8:00am-5:00pm, Monday to Friday (or we are happy to look at part-time/school hours for the right candidate) this position will require you to sell attendance at our market leading conference and training events.  You will be managing an existing portfolio of diverse clients while also chasing new business.  This is a unique opportunity for an enthusiastic and highly motivated individual to help develop the conference sales side of the business by building on-going relationships.

We are looking for a positive and engaging professional, someone who gains pleasure out of exceeding targets and has the track record to prove it (experience in a Business to Business sales role would be a bonus).  A strong commitment to success and superb communication skills are essential for this role – you must love the telephone and be confident engaging with people at all levels of an organisation.  In return you will be joining a small and friendly sales team with a manager that is passionate about your growth and success.

We offer:

  • A switched-on and dynamic company
  • Base salary and uncapped commission
  • Continual support and development

If this sounds great, then apply today.  You will be joining a great company, a busy team and working with fantastic products.

Apply online including your CV and most important: a covering letter convincing us you’re the real deal!.

Applications close 5:00pm, Friday, 26 February 2016.


Top 10 Tips for Dealing with Difficult People

4926088644_226da4a963_n                                             Picture Courtesy:

Keeping cool, calm and collected when dealing with difficult people is easier said than done. It is no wonder then that Bright*Star’s recent networking event on the topic of “I Can’t Work with that Idiot” booked out in a matter of hours.

We all have that one person that comes to mind every time the topic of “dealing with difficult people” is discussed. There’s just something about them that touches our wounds and brings out the worst in us — our pain, irritation, impatience, anger or even hostility.

In the workplace, difficult people range from those who don’t turn their work in as promised, don’t show up for meetings, push back on work that they’re responsible for, question everything you do, and try to belittle you – and more.

It’s easy to let a challenging person affect us and ruin our day. But when walking away or avoiding the person isn’t an option you need the skills to deal with them.

For the last 15 years, Bright*Star Training has delivered the popular two-day programme on Dealing with Difficult People and Different Personalities. A lot has changed in that time but not the fundamental principles of how to deal with those challenging behaviours nor the practical psychology skills on which the course is built.

Our facilitator, Keith McGregor, an experienced organisational psychologist, knows just how badly a working relationship can disintegrate due to conflicting personalities. Over the years he has worked with thousands of individuals to try to rectify the situation, giving them invaluable tips and techniques that has allowed them to handle the conflict in a much more positive and constructive manner.

Without breaking the confidentiality of the course participants, Keith has shared some of the common threads of these stories with the Bright*Star team. We felt that his insights were so useful that we combined them with other research into the topic to give you our Top 10 Tips on how to deal with difficult people who push your buttons.

Tip 1: Be calm.

The first rule in the face of an unreasonable person is to maintain your composure. The less reactive you are, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation. When you feel offended by someone’s words or deeds, come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting.

What makes a person difficult to deal with? The surprising answer is that it really depends on you and your emotional triggers. We all have different personalities and communication preferences and that is what determines who you find it easy to get on with – and who you don’t!

To enhance your personal power in conflict situations you need to examine the way you think and react to difficult people and different personalities. As much as we would like to, the reality is that we cannot directly change other people. We can only change ourselves.

“While we can blame others for the things they say or do, we cannot blame them for the way we feel.” Keith McGregor

Tip 2: Listen.

Let difficult people know you’ve heard them and understood their point: People often become difficult if they feel their message isn’t getting through. To capture our attention, they might resort to strong language, shouting, exaggerating or getting ‘in our face’. If we attend to them, really listen and show we’re listening with our body language and our responses, people are less likely to become difficult in the first place.

To figure out what they want try asking questions such as:

  • “Tell me more”
  • “What does that mean for you?”
  • “How do you feel about?”
  • “What is your perspective on…?”
  • “What would be the best way to build on that?”

Tip 3: Don’t make it personal.

When we avoid personalising other people’s behaviours, we can separate the person from the issue. Make it clear that you do not have a problem with that person and you are simply trying to solve the very same problem that the difficult person is so mad about. This will allow you to preserve your relationship with this person without being perceived as weak when it comes to dealing with the issue at hand.

“Resolve the difficult person’s behaviour, don’t try to fix their personality.”

Tip 4: Make it about them.

Difficult people often refuses to accept responsibility for their actions and are great at playing the blame game. Typically, they’re quick to point out there’s something not right with you or the way you do things. In these situations, you need to tactfully shift the focus on them. Don’t let them make you feel uncomfortable or inadequate – and don’t get defensive. Simply use Tip #3 above and keep the focus squarely on the issue at hand and how you can solve it together.

Tip 5: Use careful questioning to get to the real issue.

Very often criticisms are vague or poorly worded. Before responding it is important to gain a clear understanding of the specifics so we know whether it’s genuine (we have actually done something wrong) or if it is manipulative (someone is trying to wind us up).

If someone says you’ve angered or offended them, Keith’s advice would be to:

  • Ask – ‘What specifically did I say or do that has upset you?’
  • Listen carefully and let them ‘get it all out.’
  • Tell them you appreciate their telling you.
  • Ask – ‘What can I do to make it right, right now?’

Tip 6: Pick your battles.
Problematic people are often confrontational. Do not give them a reason to have one. You have the power to decide if a situation is serious enough to confront. Think twice, and fight the battles that are truly worth fighting.

If you have already tried everything above and the person is still not being receptive, the best way might be to just ignore them. After all, you have already done all that you can within your means. Get on your daily tasks and interface with the person only where needed to avoid any unnecessary confrontations.

Tip 7: Avoid escalating the problem.

Don’t let your ego get in the way of dealing effectively with difficult people. Work towards a satisfactory outcome, not to get ‘one up’ on the difficult person – as tempting as that might be!

If you lose the plot and react aggressively or angrily it will only lead to a fight and this can really hurt your reputation. People will only think that two problematic individuals are having a go at each other. Instead you need to focus on a good outcome and be calm and considered in how you respond. Rather than engaging with the intention of making the other person wrong, you can consciously choose not to be an adversary.

Tip 8: Use humour.

Laughter is an especially powerful tool for managing conflict and reducing tension when emotions are running high.

Being humorous even in difficult situations around difficult people gives you a reputation of being composed. While it can be hard to get right, it can work wonders in disarming unreasonable and difficult behaviour when used correctly.

“A well-timed joke can ease a tense situation and help you resolve disagreements.”

 Tip 9: Don’t avoid conflict.

If problems are left to simmer rather than addressing them in a calm and respectful manner, they can easily escalate into nasty remarks and heated arguments which may cause irreparable damage to an otherwise salvageable relationship. This is why you want to make sure you act and speak up.

  • You don’t want difficult or aggressive people to perceive you as weak. As long as you remain passive and compliant, you make yourself a target.
  • Make sure you speak up if your opinion differs from theirs. Otherwise your silence could be interpreted as implicit agreement by everyone present.

Tip 10: Don’t put yourself down.

Don’t let the difficult person get to you or give them the power to make you feel bad, upset or angry. It really isn’t worth losing sleep over chronically difficult people. Some people are just plain difficult and there’s nothing you can do about it.

When coping with difficult people, use the “reasonable person” test.

  • Ask yourself “is this the behavior of a mature adult?”.
  • If not, what emotional age is the person indicating?
  • Then shape your response to how you would normally handle a person of that age.

You may also like to get someone else’s perspective. Most likely, your colleagues, managers and friends will have experienced similar situations. They will be able to see things from a different angle and offer a different take on the situation. Seek them out, share your story and listen to what they have to say.

If you wish to gain real practical skills in applying the 10 tips, we encourage you to attend “Dealing with Difficult People and Different Personalities” which runs in key centres across New Zealand throughout the year. Watch the interview with Keith McGregor to find out how participants benefit from the course.

Written by Lone Tapp

loneLone leads Bright*Star training’s ever growing portfolio of professional development programmes that includes over 165 public courses and customised in-house training courses each year. Before joining the team at Conferenz in 2003, Lone worked at the Trade Commission of Denmark in Auckland. Originally from Denmark, Lone has spent the past decade designing and delivering Conferenz & Bright*Star’s professional development training initiatives across New Zealand.

From stressed to relaxed: The power of Mindfulness

Our facilitator Chantal Hofstee, shares some great insights on how to utilise mindfulness to ease the stress of the season. Learn more about Chantal Hofstee’s Mindfulness in Business course:


Your brain is your most complex body part and science still does not fully understand how it works. Your perceptions, thoughts and emotions are equally complex. They are constantly changing and interacting and consist of many different layers. Some are part of your conscious mind while others are part of your subconscious mind.

At any given moment, if you peel away all the different layers of thought and emotion, all the way down to the bottom of our subconscious mind there are only two options: you either feel safe or unsafe. All of your thoughts, feelings and actions in that moment, will come from either the safe or unsafe brain state.

The red brain: a state of stress

There are various levels of safe or unsafe – you can see this as a spectrum with extremely safe at one end of the spectrum and extremely unsafe at the other end. Where you are on the spectrum depends on the situation, your personality, core beliefs and current thoughts. The unsafe brain, also called the red brain, can be triggered when there is no actual physical threat. Your brain reacts to how safe or unsafe you perceive a situation to be. Your thoughts are the most important factor in determining how your brain assesses a situation. For example: if you fear public speaking and would say to yourself ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘this will be a disaster’ your brain perceives the situation as unsafe and the stress response is activated.

The red brain state triggers the stress response also known as the ‘fight or flight response’. When this happens your brain and body are in the best possible state to deal with a threat – hence ensuring the best chance of survival. In this state the hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released, creating the following effects:

Physical effects

  • Tunnel vision
  • Stopped or slowed digestion
  • Increased blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Increased heart rate
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Tensed muscles

Psychological effects

  • Judgmental thinking (black and white)
  • Suppressing emotions
  • Narrow/ fixed point view
  • Unkind manner
  • Stressed
  • Disconnection from others

Having the option of the fight or flight modus available is essential for you to be able to cope with extreme situations. However, spending too much time in this state of stress does damage to both your brain and your body.  You risk negative physical consequences such as high blood pressure and heart failure and of psychological problems like burn out, anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you want to live a healthy and balanced live the stress state does not have to be eliminated but should be reserved for emergencies only.

The green brain: a state of calm

The safe brain state is also referred to as the green brain state; or as I like to call it ‘calm and present’. In this brain state the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin are reduced and the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin is released stimulating the following responses:

Physical effects:

  • Wide vision and flexible attention
  • Optimal digestion
  • Reduced blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Active immune system
  • Relaxed muscles

Psychological effects:

  • Non judgmental thinking
  • Processing emotions
  • Seeing the bigger picture
  • Kind
  • Calm
  • Connecting with others

The green brain is the state in which relaxation and processing of events and emotions happen. When the brain feels safe, the guards come down and all the resources in your brain become available to you. Creativity and flexibility are unlocked and you can see the bigger picture. It is in this brain state that you can make good decisions and be truly effective and productive. On top of that, the release of oxytocin immediately increases compassion, empathy and the desire to connect with others. This hormone is the fuel for our relationships and essential for wellbeing.

shutterstock_148116878The power of worries

Worries and judgments are perceived threats because they communicate to your brain that something is not right. Underneath all the rational thinking the brain understands this as ‘something is not safe’ and the stress state is activated.

For example; if you worry about your finances you may have the thought ‘I don’t have enough money’. Your brain sees this thought as a signal for a potential threat and the red brain state is activated. Your thoughts keep coming back to the perceived lack of money (fixed point view) and you loose sight of the bigger picture of your financial situation. You cannot come up with creative solutions or prioritize. On a physical level you might loose your appetite (slowed down digestion), your breathing becomes shallow and your heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar go up. Your brain and body are getting ready for fight or flight even though there is no physical threat to run from. Your worries about money have then activated the stress state, making you much less able to effectively deal with any issues you might have!

The power of Mindfulness

Mindfulness practice activates the green brain through kind and non judgmental thoughts which signal to the brain that the situation is safe. By focusing on the here and now you are taking the focus away from worries about the past or the future that could trigger the stress state. By having a mindful attitude towards what is in the here and now, you are further reducing the stress state and activating your optimal brainstate.

With mindful attention and attitude in place you are activating the safe brain more and more. This will not only make you healthier but also happier and more successful.

“In this life you’ll find some trouble, if you worry you make it double. Don’t worry, be happy” Bobby McFerrin

Written by Chantal Hofstee, Clinical Psychologist

Chantal is a Clinical Psychologist who specialises in practical Mindfulness training. She is registered with the New Zealand Psychologists Board and has worked in the private and corporate field in both the Netherlands and New Zealand as well as for the New Zealand government.

Survival or Self-Worth, What Would You Pick?

“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight, for a very long time, of the shore”.

André Gide‘s 1925 novel The Counterfeiters Freebird_June 2014_Istanbul_PR

“You cannot sit like a jewel waiting to be discovered, you should have told me what you wanted,” these were the words of my former boss and Editor in Chief of India’s leading broadcast news network, as I announced my decision to quit my job. Following a rigorous couple of years in a highly competitive and volatile workspace, I had made peace with the fact that I wasn’t assertive enough to climb the news chain at that early stage in my career.  “List down what you want on a piece of paper and we can talk about it”, he said temptingly.

Life would have indeed been very different had I caved in and continued oiling the television news machine. It would have earned me recognition, good amounts of money, a plush life, pretty much anything one could dream of. Alas, I would still be holed up negotiating for survival each day rather than feel good about what I was doing. Now, nearly a decade since transitioning from journalism to international development, I have amassed enough life experience to realize that grabbing career opportunities is one thing but building self-worth is another.

Working as a journalist was a tremendous learning experience for me in my formative years but it was also a time where I needed to find some acknowledgement from within, something I would have never found had I negotiated my way up the leadership chain. It does takes a great deal of assertiveness to say ‘No’ in order to stand up for what really matters to you.

Which begs the question, how many times have you felt the urge to say ‘No’, be it to your supervisors, colleagues, family or even yourself and just couldn’t get yourself to do it? “At the heart of the difficulty in saying No is the tension between exercising your power and tending to your relationship,” writes William Ury, in his book, ‘The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No & Still Get to Yes’. He elucidates that this tension makes us slip into what he calls the Three-A trap:

  • Accommodation (we say yes when we really want to say No)
  • Attacking (we respond with aggression and frustration)
  • Avoiding (we simple take the escape mode and do nothing at all).

Ury seems to suggest that the way to free yourself from the aforementioned situational traps is to learn to say ‘No’ amicably, something worth reflecting. We are constantly battling for approval and fear that saying ‘No’ would hurt our image. At the end of the day everyone has their own moral compass and it does take guts to stick to it in order to sustain your self-worth.

5 ways to be an Authentic Influencer- The power of ‘No’

  • Stick with Your Gut: Only you know what’s in your best interests. If it doesn’t feel right, be assertive and free yourself from an unhappy situation.
  • Take Ownership: Snap out of the blame game. Take ownership of the decisions you make and accept that making mistakes are part of the learning curve. Failure can provide inspiration.
  • Engage in Healthy Competition: Be mindful that opportunities that come your way don’t come at the cost of intentionally supressing someone else’s. The path to becoming a great influencer is to ensure you act in the best interests of everyone concerned.
  • Set an Example: Remember that you are not alone, there is always someone looking for inspiration out there. Think about the ripple affect you can create as an influencer.
  • Build Credibility: Ultimately your values will determine what is right for you. What legacy will you leave behind?  Don’t let your ambition hurt your integrity.

Saying yes in a survival mode will take you up the ladder for sure. Eventually though, sustaining self-worth is what will keep you on a strong footing up there.


Blog by Pavitra Ramaswamy

Programme Manager, Conferenz & Bright*Star Training, New Zealand

A former journalist, Pavitra established herself as an international leadership and development consultant through her work with the Maxwell School of Syracuse University, USA. From India to America and now to New Zealand, she continues to work closely with leaders and organizations to build educated communities, something she is deeply committed to. She is currently the programme manager at Bright*Star training and engaged in executing professional development programs across New Zealand and beyond.

Interested in building Assertiveness?

Let Bright*Star help you expand your influence: