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Stressed? Time to Evaluate Priorities!

February 22nd, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and…(as if that is not enough) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared stress a workplace hazard. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually!

We all know that a little stress is OK. It keeps our fight-or-flight juices working, and often helps us get the job done. How many times have you heard someone say, “I do my best work under stress.”

However, too much stress can contribute to a laundry list of health issues, including headaches, nausea, high blood pressure, chest pain, and insomnia. Not to mention how being over-stressed (and no doubt cranky!) can impair relationships, decrease productivity, and increase the risk of accidents. Having too much stress, or as we call it at Lumina Learning, being “overextended,” can even turn your positive qualities into negative ones. For example, someone who is detail-focused and analytical may exhibit “analysis paralysis” when overextended. Someone who is typically creative and social, may become impulsive and overly emotional under extreme stress. And the “people person” who brings harmony to every meeting may suddenly become stubborn and resistant. When Mr. Nice Guy turns into Attila the Hun, it’s time to get a handle on stress.

That being said, the next question is, “so how do I do it?” Start by allocating some time to sit down and review your day, your week, your life. Where and when do you notice your body crying “uncle” via a headache, mood swing, or other physical signal? Can you identify particular responsibilities, activities, people that are stress triggers for you? Is it the unexpected that gets to you, the volume of work, the work itself, or the fact that you never seem to get a break? Write your personal/professional stressors down and then select and prioritize three that you will work on to mitigate. Do you need to have a “difficult conversation” with someone to work through a stressful relationship? Do you need to request more resources to meet a looming deadline you are worried about? Ask for what you need.

And to ease your stress in general, give yourself a break, and do these 5 things:

1. Set boundaries. Establish a time after which you don’t take work phone calls or respond to work emails, texts, smoke signals, whatever. Manage expectations about your “work hours.”
2. Be willing to say “no.” When asked to do something with a clearly unreasonable deadline, or without appropriate resources, explain the impact it will have on your current work. Offer alternative dates or suggest alternative resources.
3. Stop and pause. Do a personal check-in. Adjust priorities, if necessary. Take a break.
4. Breathe. Deeply and often. Consider meditation. Take a walk in the park or along the beach.
5. Laugh. I can’t recommend this enough. Find something to laugh about every day. It’s good medicine.

Laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can’t change…Life’s too short to be anything but happy.” – Unknown

Till next time,


Behavioral assessments, Health, People, Stress

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Ditch the Labels and Discover the Real YOU

October 15th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

SplashforOct2015blogProbably most of us have wondered, at some point in our lives, “who am I?” Or, as Stephen Colbert put it in his recent, comical, quest for self-discovery, “who am me?” However you ask the question, finding the answer by increasing your self-awareness can have tremendous benefits - in your working relationships, personal relationships, career and, well, your life overall.

The trouble is, most of the tools that purport to help us with self-discovery are actually aimed at fitting us into one of their predefined boxes, types, or labels. An example of this is the tool that Colbert talked about on his show – Myers-Briggs (MBTI). As described in the segment, MBTI divides society into 16 personality types. Types are made up of different combinations of 4 out of 8 different preferences: Introversion OR Extraversion (I or E); Intuition OR Sensing (N or S); Thinking OR Feeling (T or F); and Perceiving OR Judging (P or J). In Colbert’s case, his type is: INFP.

There are more than 7 billion people in the world. Can we really fit them all into only 16 personality types?

I’ve been working with people, personalities, and behavioral assessments for more than 20 years. I’ve learned through my work that it’s both limited and limiting to put people in neat little boxes. Think about it. People are a whole lot more complex (and interesting!) than that. At Lumina Learning, we recognize that personalities are not EITHER/OR, they’re AND. You can be an Introvert AND an Extrovert. You can be tactical AND still see the big picture. You can focus on tasks AND care about the people. And you can be driven at times by discipline AND at times by inspiration. It all depends on the situation. You may pull on certain qualities in your job that lie dormant when you’re at home. Or you may have an underlying quality (a “hidden gem”) that isn’t being used right now and is just waiting to be discovered and leveraged. Based on the latest research in psychometrics – the Big 5 – and the best of Carl Jung, the Lumina Spark assessment provides a more comprehensive, more personalized, and more usable portrait of you in all your uniqueness. You are so much more than what can be contained in a label.

That’s what Bruce Kasanoff, Ghostwriter and LinkedIn Influencer found when he took the Lumina Spark assessment. Read his experience here.

Then, if you want to know more about Lumina Spark and how it can help you understand yourself, others, and your full potential, contact me at kcolligan@PeopleThink.biz.

Behavioral assessments, Learning, People, Personalities


Each Work Style Brings Value to the Team

October 12th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

TeamWheelWe all tend to gravitate toward people who are like us. This is true in our friendships, our relationships and, yes, our work teams. We hope that by focusing on those similarities there will be more harmony and, by extension, a better, more productive work environment. But think about what “harmony” is, in the true sense of the word. It’s NOT everyone singing the same note. It’s people singing different notes that creates harmony.

As a team leader, it’s easy to fall into like = harmony thinking. Avoid conflict. Get to the performing stage quicker. Shorten the decision cycle. And yet, without giving air to those different notes – different ideas, strengths, approaches, views – you miss the opportunity to create something innovative and new. Same ol’, same ol’ produces the same ol’, same ol’. Every time.

Consider this scenario.

Mike is about to meet for the first time with a temporary project team he’ll be heading up for the next several months. The members were assigned to him, so he had no input into their selection. He’s disappointed that he wasn’t asked to pull together a team from “his” people, who think just like him. Life would be so much easier. He hasn’t met any of the team yet, but he’s spoken with four of their managers and has made some notes.

Robert. Quick-thinking. Direct. Not afraid of conflict or challenging the status quo. Confident and decisive. Track record of meeting deadlines and staying within budget. Competitive. Task-focused.

Yolanda. Lots of ideas. Good at creating a vision and inspiring others to follow. Outgoing and friendly. Likes variety and flexibility. Tends to change topics quickly during discussions. Relationship-focused.

Gary. Quiet and reserved. Great listener. Works to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to be heard. Good at coordinating efforts and maintaining strong relationships. Strong focus on values.

Barb. Analytical and detail-oriented. Excellent at ensuring all bases are covered. Processes information by asking questions. Lots of questions. Takes a systematic approach to decision-making.

Mike wonders how he will ever be able to meld these diverse styles together to complete the project. He worries that Robert will compete with his leadership, and that Barbara will get too caught up in the details to get anything done. And how will Yolanda and Gary work with the other two?

Mike decides that the only way forward is to embrace the differences instead of fearing them. And a magical thing happens. Yes, there are some conflicts at the start – as there are on all teams – but those conflicts, and the different approaches, perspectives, talents, ideas, and strengths harmonize into a final product that is far superior to anything Mike in his monotone world had ever seen. Because…

Yolanda created a vision.

Robert kept them on track.

Gary ensured they were heard.

Barb let nothing fall through the cracks.

Want to learn more about individual styles and the value each can add to your team? Contact PeopleThink: 415.440.7944 or kcolligan@peoplethink.biz.

Till next time,


Communication, Diversity, Teams, Uncategorized

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What is Your Leadership Mantra?

April 27th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

Lumina LeaderMBOne of the activities I often incorporate into the Leadership Workshops I facilitate is having each participant develop their own “Leadership Mantra.” The original meaning of the word “mantra” was a sacred (Hinduism and Buddhism) utterance, sound, or word that was repeated over and over to aid in concentration during meditation. More recently, though, it has come to mean a statement or slogan that is repeated frequently; a truism, or saying. Although the definition has strayed somewhat from its original meaning, a mantra can still be very effective in helping you achieve clarity and maintain focus. And clarity and focus are essential to your success as a leader.

Your Leadership Mantra is what you are willing to “own” as a leader. It is created by you and for you. It is an oath that you will live by as a leader. Your Leadership Mantra will help you gauge your actions with your colleagues, your direct reports and your superiors. It also gives you clarity around how you operate in the world. You will make decisions based on your Leadership Mantra. It will serve as a guide throughout the day as you ask yourself, “Does this action align with who I am and who I want to become as a leader?”

The leadership model I use – Lumina Leader – looks at four domains of leadership: Leading with Vision, Leading with Drive, Leading to Deliver, and Leading through People. As leaders, we should develop competency in each of these domains, yet we tend to operate most frequently in one or two of them.

A leader strong in the Leading with Vision domain tends to focus on strategy, innovation and inspiring the team. A leader strong in Leading with Drive provides the team with very clear direction and is focused on achieving excellence. The strength of a Leading to Deliver leader lies in planning, follow-through and accountability. And a leader strong in Leading through People focuses on coaching and developing the team, and creating win-win partnerships. Where do you see yourself?

Here’s an assignment. Take some time to think about where your strengths are as a leader, and what kind of leader you want to be. Then develop your Leadership Mantra. Your mantra should be simple, memorable, and applicable. It should be no more than three short phrases. Once you’ve developed your mantra, write it down, memorize it, and live by it.

And on those days when everything seems to be falling apart or going haywire – use your Leadership Mantra to bring you back to clarity and focus. And if you do that while meditating, so much the better!

Till next time,



Leadership, Learning, Personalities, Professional and team leadership


Adapting Your Extraversion to the Introverts on Your Team

April 15th, 2015

By: Karen Colligan

IntroExtra-2More than one-third of the world’s population are introverts, according to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. That means, if you are leading a team of three or more people, most likely at least one of them is an introvert. And if you’re an extravert, chances are you’ve had some challenges in the way you and that team member interact.

While we all have both introversion and extraversion qualities, which reveal themselves based on the situation, we tend to lean more toward one than the other. Although many people still seem to define extraversion as “outgoing” and introversion as “shy”, the real difference between them has to do with the source of energy. Extraverts derive their energy from others (extra), introverts derive their energy from within (intro). Extraverts love large social gatherings and fast-paced conversations, and often get bored with too much time alone. Introverts prefer smaller gatherings, and are quite content to spend time in more solitary activities such as reading, writing and thinking.

Both extraverts and introverts bring value to the team. The introverts, though, are less likely to tell you about it. So I’ll do it for them, and then give you, the extravert leader, some tips on how to lead them effectively.

Five great qualities of introverts:

      1. They are good listeners.

      2. They are planners.

      3. They form deep, meaningful relationships.

      4. They work independently.

      5. They keep their emotions in check.

To lead introverts effectively, you’ll need to adapt some of your extravert qualities to meet them where they feel most comfortable. Here are some key areas to pay attention to.

Communication: Introverts think to speak. Don’t put them in a position where they have to give an immediate answer or report out on the spot. Pace your questions. Give them time to process information. Allow them to pause and reflect before they respond. Respect their silence and don’t interrupt their thinking.

Recognition: Introverts generally prefer to be recognized for their efforts in a personal rather than a public way. At least give them the option. Come to think of it, this is a simple question you should ask all your employees, both introverts and extraverts – “How do you like to be recognized for your accomplishments?”

Meetings: Send out the agenda before the meeting so they have time to think about the topics and what they want to bring to the discussion. During the meeting, manage the extraverts so that the introverts have the opportunity to speak. Don’t ask for their feedback immediately after the meeting; give them some time to process it. You will get valuable feedback.

Workspace: Introverts prefer a quiet, private workspace that allows them to “recharge” by spending some time alone. If this isn’t feasible because of cubes or an open office environment, allow them to work at home occasionally or to retreat to a conference room.

Work style: Introverts have tremendous powers of concentration. Refrain from interrupting this with multiple check-ins throughout the day. Consolidate your non-urgent questions into one conversation. Best: by email.

The best performing teams are made up of individuals of differing skills, experiences and personalities. Keeping this in mind as you work through the four domains of leadership: Leading through People; Leading with Vision; Leading with Drive; and Leading to Deliver, will increase your effectiveness exponentially.

Want to learn more about the leadership domains and understanding your style and others? Contact me.

Till next time,


Communication, Diversity, Leadership, People


Stress at Work – 5 Tips for Managing It

March 13th, 2014

By: Karen Colligan

A recent survey by Towers Watson showed that stress is the number one workforce risk factor.  Not at all surprising when you think about the do-more, do-it-faster, do-it-with-less environments most of us are working in.  The irony is that while some stress can be motivating (how many times have you heard someone say, “I do my best work under stress”?) too much stress actually interferes with productivity, can impair relationships and may cause chronic health issues. Or even safety issues. We’ve all seen people walking along – even crossing streets – with their eyes focused on their cellphone.

So how do you recognize when you’re under too much stress? It starts by being self-aware.  When you start to feel overwhelmed, pay attention to how you respond to your work and the people around you. Under stress, our positive qualities often get overextended causing negative impact. For example, someone who is detail-focused and analytical may exhibit “analysis paralysis” under stress.  Someone who is typically creative and social may become impulsive and overly emotional under extreme stress. And the “people person” who brings harmony to every meeting may suddenly become stubborn and resistant.  When Mr. Peabody becomes Attila the Hun it’s time to get a handle on stress.

"Oh, right," you say. "There’s work to be done and we’re down two people….I don’t want to lose my job…I just need to get through this month and then I’ll (fill in the blank): get back to my family, get back to my workouts, get back to my life."

OK, people. Listen up. Part, not all, but PART of the reason we’re in this environment is that we allowed it to happen. Just like Lucy and Ethel in that famous bit in the chocolate factory, the more we demonstrated a willingness to work more, work faster, sacrifice life balance for the sake of a pay raise or out of fear for our job, the faster the conveyor belt went. The 40-hour work week turned into 50, then 60. Vacations? Who has time? Off hours? What are those? Welcome to our 24 x 7 world of work.

So what to do? I say, let’s take back our lives. Let’s stop the insanity and lean out for a change. Here’s how.

  1. Set boundaries.  Establish a time after which you don’t take work phone calls or respond to work emails, texts, smoke signals, whatever. Manage expectations about your “work hours.”

  2. Be willing to say “no.” When asked to do something with a clearly unreasonable deadline or without appropriate resources, explain the impact it will have on your current work. Offer alternative dates, suggest alternative resources.

  3. Stop and pause. Do a personal check-in. Adjust priorities, if needed. Take a break.

  4. Breathe. Deeply and often.

  5. Laugh. Find something to laugh about every day. It’s good medicine.

  6. "If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it."
    -George Burns (who lived to be 100)

    Career, Life, Uncategorized, Work-life balance

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