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Living in a Chaotic World: How to Keep Anxiety at Bay

Ella Fitzgerald sang that “into each life some rain must fall,” but it has felt like torrents of grief have fallen upon us in recent months. We all experience hardships and stress, and we are all very well-acquainted with that pit that forms in our stomach when nervousness takes hold. Many of us are feeling that pit as we process world and national news.

Demands from our personal and professional lives compete for our attention, and all too often the pressures of the day require more than we have to give.

Recent violence and tragedies such as police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, the Nice truck killings and the attempted coup in Turkeyseem to keep mounting. How do we deal with the resulting fear and anxiety? As a psychologist who has spent a great deal of my professional career studying the effects of trauma and grief, I have some knowledge of how to help people deal with the resulting anxiety.

Anxiety can turn debilitating

When the general public discusses the term “anxiety,” the usual meaning is one of unpleasantness related to having some arduous task that will require our resources at the expense of doing something that would...

Why You Should Squash the Urge to Quash Those Who Disagree

In recent months I've had to de-friend a number of people on Facebook. I enjoy hearing diverse views but it has degenerated to this:

"Well I know where you get your news."

"The fact that you could even say that means you aren't worth debating."

"You need help."

"That comment is beneath you."

"You're an ignorant idiot schmuck."

How has civil discourse sunk to such low levels? A great article by Sean Blanda, "The 'Other Side' Is Not Dumb," explains it in terms of psychology, the "false-consensus bias." Essentially we are confounded when other people show signs that they don't think the same way we do. 

On social media, being confronted by different viewpoints leads us to assume the worst. If you don't agree with me - well then you must be crazy!

"We and our friends are the sane ones and . . . there’s a crazy Other Side that must be laughed at — an Other Side that just doesn’t get it, and is clearly not as intelligent as us."

The problem with allowing the "false consensus bias" to proliferate, says Blanda, is that we lose out on the opportunity to actually learn something from those...

How to Hire for Problem-Solving

This post is part four in a continuing series on how to hire extraordinary people using the performance-based hiring and interviewing process I advocate. Following is the version of the program and a quick summary of the process. 

Here's a quick summary of performance-based Interviewing: 

  1. Prepare a performance-based job description. Eliminate the use of skills-laden job descriptions by defining the work as a series of time-phased performance objectives.
  2. Conduct a detailed work history. Spend at least 30 minutes reviewing the candidate’s work history looking for progression, impact and recognition. Find out why the person changed jobs and if the purpose for changing was achieved.
  3. Ask the most significant job accomplishment question. For each performance objective ask the candidate to describe a related accomplishment to determine if the candidate is both competent and motivated to do the actual work required.
  4. Ask the most significant team accomplishment question. This is the most important of all of the interview questions since it confirms all of the individual accomplishments.
  5. Determine culture fit. A great hire is someone who is competent to do the actual work and motivated to do the actual work and fits the culture.
  6. Ask the problem-solving question...

Have Candid Conversations Before Bad Things Happen

A 2015 survey of federal employees found that 39 percent fear reprisals if they report violations of rules or laws. This has serious implications for their willingness to identify and report serious programmatic risks in their day-to-day jobs, and the tendency is to avoid or ignore risks.

New guidance from the Office of Management and Budget attempts to address this challenge and create an environment where candid conversations can take place. The goal of the guidance is to help managers and employees understand the spectrum of risks, develop strategies and tools to mitigate them and communicate risks to the appropriate people.

New Guidance for an Old Issue

Managing risk is not new. But the new guidance is a fresh approach. Traditional guidance on risk—OMB’s Circular A-123—focused on internal controls, largely in the financial arena. The new guidance, which significantly revises A-123, is the culmination of two years of extensive development and consultation across the government by OMB’s David Mader, the Controller for the federal government.

Interestingly, the development of this approach—called enterprise risk management, or ERM—has largely been a bottom-up movement by several pioneering agencies. Staff from the Education, Commerce and Treasury departments gathered...

How to Hire for Team Skills

So far in this “How to Hire for . . .” series, we’ve covered how to hire for motivation and how to hire for a cultural fit. The question below on assessing team skills is the most important interview question of all time. You'll agree once you try it.

First, some background is in order as you validate these techniques for yourself. Harvard Professor Todd Rose, the author of the new bestseller, The End of Average (HarperOne, 2016), contacted me last year heaping praise on the performance-based hiring process underlying this interviewing methodology. He contended it mapped directly to the new science of maximizing individual performance. (Todd is also now the senior education director for the Muppets so when your kids start asking you these questions you’ll know where they came from.) I told him I developed the methodology over 20 years of trial-and-error interviewing thousands of candidates and tracking their performance over a few years.

The big, seemingly obvious finding was that job descriptions listing skills, experience, competencies and behavioral traits were not great predictors of future success. While measuring these things could reduce interviewing errors due to bias, there were too many other factors that could cause a...

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