How to Be a Better Leader with Elastic Thinking

Where do good ideas come from?

And why do some leaders seem to have them in abundance, while others struggle to generate one?

The answer is elastic thinking, which Leonard Mlodinow’s Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Constantly Changing World argues.

Elastic thinking is defined as a bottom-up cognitive style that frees the mind to generate and integrate novel ideas.

While logical analytical thinking is useful for solving problems we have encountered before, elastic thinking allows us to successfully understand and respond to change.

By developing our elastic thinking skills, we also learn to reframe our own questions and experiment, accept failure, ambiguity, and contradiction, let go of conventional ideas and preexisting assumptions, and leverage imagination to generate and integrate more ideas.

But, do we need to think elastically to be good leaders?

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How to Harness the Power of Deep Practice to Master Any Discipline

Deep practice reminds us that mastery comes from sustained practice and close attention. Being better means seeing errors no one else can, and feeling enough devotion to the craft to iron them out anyway. Learning and development are a continuous process, not a closed goal.

For me, that’s why I need to practice guitar twice every day. Yes, I am heightening my abilities in that particular discipline.

I am also learning how to learn, cultivating patience, and reminding myself that no matter how good I may be in another area of my life, I can always be better.


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Want Top-Performing Employees? Make Them Feel Understood

“I think that every human being requires a certain type of soil, temperature, and altitude, very narrowly defined for some, almost universal for others – in order to feel free and happy.” –Isak Dineson
 
Isak Dineson was right. On the broadest level, people often need the same forms of social acceptance and belonging; but as individuals, we need a specific set of circumstances to thrive.
 
In other words, the Golden Rule doesn’t work.
 
Don’t treat me as you want to be treated. Treat me as I want to be treated.
 
The same applies to your employees.
 
Don’t just make them feel understood, understand them. Only then will you be able to fully unlock their potential, engender their loyalty, and create a bond that accelerates the performance of the greater team.

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The Secret to Leading Successful Teams: Small, Daily Actions

Starting small is about the questions we should ask ourselves every day, but never do. It’s expected that we shoot for the stars, but not that we think of the millions of little steps that must be taken to reach them. By focusing on the slight improvement, the incremental change, we can perfect our practice while still moving forward day by day.

Small actions are easier to take than big ones. I may not be able to run an ultramarathon now, but I can do my five miles today and add on more distance tomorrow.

As a naturally impatient person and a new entrepreneur, I rarely look at time as my friend. Yet, behavioral psychologists, scientists studying performance, and the most accomplished athletes, musicians, and business leaders all understand that the combination of repetition, time, and practice ultimately produces the greatest results.

I’ve seen this in practice running my company Ethos, which focuses on driving tech company performance by supporting the teams powering them. Small, daily actions become employee habits, and if they’re the goods ones, cultures thrive. I haven’t seen this success with major restructurings or team shakeups.

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Announcing Ethos — Talent Strategy for Tech Companies

My co-founder Kaleb and I started Ethos with one goal in mind: help the tech companies we spent our careers supporting grow and thrive by investing meaningfully in their employees. Today, we are proud to announce the website is live, the company is launched, and we are officially open for business.

At Ethos, we drive company performance by shaping talent and developing culture, always with growth in mind. While we plan to launch many offerings to achieve this mission, we’re starting out with resources that help tech companies hire the right talent, retain that talent longer, and bring in diversity practices that spur greater innovation.

We want to be part of your growth story, so without further ado, here’s what you need to know about us.

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The Ultimate Guide to Structuring a 90-Day Onboarding Plan

It’s an employee’s market, especially in tech.

Unemployment nationally is at 4.1% and even lower in areas like professional and business services, financial activities, healthcare, and of course, technology.

The effect is that retention numbers in tech are at critically low levels, including an average tenure of one to two years at some of the most respected tech companies.

In other words, onboarding has never been more important.

A study from BambooHR found that approximately 17% of employees who are hired leave in their first three months at a new job, while nearly 30% leave in their first six months.

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My Ethos: A Growth Story

After three and a half years at Hyde Park Angels as Director of Platform, I’m realizing my dream: to become one of the entrepreneurs I’ve worked so hard to support. I’m launching Ethos, a talent strategy firm for tech companies.

Before I share more about Ethos, or my deep-seated gratitude for all the opportunity and challenge HPA has afforded me, or my sincere thanks to the community that led me here, I want to pay homage to my industry.

In venture capital, we focus on growth stories. Today, I’m going to tell you mine.

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How My Research Journal Changed My Writing and My Life

Before I break down the what and how of the research journal, I want to make a case for the why.

On the everyday level, this journal means that I never run out of ideas. Each one of my research journals holds 249 pages of well-organized thoughts, and the process I use forces me to reflect on lessons from every important experience each day. The articles I publish come straight from the pages of my journal.

And over longer time scales, my research journal evolves me. It opens the possibility for deeper learning no matter the circumstances.

Reflections about what I want in work become a four-page evaluation of my intrinsic purpose, informed by personal notes, reading highlights, and patterns that emerge from many entries in the journal.

Once it’s written down, I can intelligently talk about it, learn from it, and grow.

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How Kindness Should Really Factor into Leadership

Kindness gets a bad rap.

Culturally, we consider powerful language, strong positions, and direct feedback to be necessary for leadership.

We also tend to assume these characteristics run counter to kindness. But that’s because we confuse kindness with agreeableness.

We think we’re being kind when we spare feelings and avoid conflict, even though we’re in fact being agreeable, which is counterproductive. Or, we reject kindness entirely and run the risk of being so inconsiderate we provoke others to become defensive, shut down, or unnecessarily fight back.

Both scenarios stall growth, hamper progress, and cause serious people problems.

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Achieve Purpose and Balance in Life by Embracing Daily Imbalance

I overcommit constantly. Doing too many things is in my nature.

My morning routine comprises no less than six major activities, my work days are usually twelve to thirteen hours long, and my close circle of female friends is officially up to sixteen.

Consequently, every so often I will be hit with what my husband refers to as “emotional bad weather.” I will go from having seemingly endless mental energy and physical stamina to finding myself unable to even imagine standing up.

But I know my tendency to overcommit stems from an insatiable interest in so many different areas of life, work, learning, and relationships. Paradoxically, that interest is what gives me energy and makes my life meaningful.

Understanding this tension between my limited resources and everything I want has led me to develop a daily practice that lets me have almost anything without becoming overcommitted. And the inspiration for this practice came from a humorist’s memoir.

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Alida Miranda-WolffComment
Every Single Strategy I Use to Fight Decision Fatigue

Your brain is tired. So is mine.

That’s because our brains are like muscles, and we are overworking them with too many decisions. This phenomenon is called decision fatigue.

According to a study featured in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we make 70 important decisions a day. With each additional choice presented and every new decision we have to make, we exhaust our brains, leading to worse overall decision-making.

In fact, limiting our options often results in better decisions.

Yet culturally, we deeply value personal choice. To limit or eliminate can feel counterintuitive. After all, isn’t abundance the ideal?

Abundance is only ideal when you have strategies and tools that shape the abundance to suit your needs.

Decision fatigue leads to bad choices or no choices, but it can be avoided and combatted. I use three strategies to do both: theming, rule-making, and scheduling.

 

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Alida Miranda-WolffComment
This Is How to Reduce Employee Turnover and Hire Top-Performers

The secret to lower turnover, healthier cultures, and more innovative workplaces is a streamlined, systemized hiring processes that privileges top-performing candidates with matching values and motivations.

The problem is that developing a hiring process is often neglected because companies are so pressed for time and resources that they feel a need to get bodies in seats as quickly as possible.

With this short-term view, they throw strategic planning out the window, and start interviewing candidates according to inconsistent processes and with a firm reliance on gut reactions.

Here’s the thing: that approach is a recipe for high turnover. The right people don’t get hired, which creates big problems down the road.

With a systematic, evidence-based approach, however, companies can hire better and faster by focusing on the first-minute, upfront work, and then letting the streamlined process do the work.

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Alida Miranda-WolffComment