1. Stay out of the performance grey zone

    July 8, 2016 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Linkedin by Jim Gilchrist

    What you do matters much more than what you know or who you know.

    Actual performance, whether at the organizational, leadership, managerial, team or individual levels, is the real key to success. If you want to experience greater profitability, higher productivity, greater personal recognition, internal promotions, or even a progressive career change, the solution is simple – focus on achieving actual performance results. And surround yourself with people who do the same.

    Sounds obvious doesn’t it? But ask yourself … is everyone getting what they really want? Are economies booming, organizations growing, and unemployment shrinking? Are leaders, managers, teams, and individuals moving their organizations, other people, and themselves forward as well as they could? Have we all reached an overall ‘state of perfection’? Of course not.

    The simple truth is that when anything … ANYTHING … is less than perfect it means that there is room for better performance. Think about your work and life experience. Everything that irritates, frustrates and angers you is generally the result of somebody’s lack of performance. And since poor performance rarely occurs in isolation, we need to go beyond simply focusing only on an individual’s poor performance, and to also be aware of the possible contributing lack of performance of their direct (and indirect) managers, their teammates, the person who hired them, and whomever trained them. When the surrounding people do not hold the poor performer accountable, nor are they themselves held accountable for their contributing role, we cannot expect anyone’s performance to change for the better.

    Performance results will only increase when we first acknowledge that we can do better. We need to ask ourselves whether we are truly achieving the levels of performance that we are capable of – or whether we are just accepting and justifying the performance levels that we are experiencing. Too often less than expected performance results are rationalized, excuses are made, and substandard performance is permitted to continue. But by first acknowledging that we are capable of performing better, we can then proceed to understand the inter-relatedness of current performance results and to identify the root causes of any performance issues.

    If you are not experiencing the results that you want – you have a performance issue.

    At the outset, it is essential to fully define what we want to experience and then what performance results will make that happen. Then we need to honestly assess and evaluate our current performance capability. Doing this will enable us to identify what we need to change in order to achieve our desired performance outcomes. Here is where a lot of people fall short. When they fail to set realistic performance objectives, that will be achieved within realistic time frames, they set themselves and others up for failure.

    A big part of the CAES capability assessment process involves ensuring that a person, at any level in the organizational hierarchy, has the cognitive capability to handle the complexity of information, and solve problems, that are specific to their role in order to perform effectively. If they don’t have the cognitive capability required they will simply not perform. Similarly, it is essential that the people who are defining desired performance objectives have the appropriate cognitive capability that will enable them to determine what these objectives should realistically be, and the skills and capabilities that are required to achieve them. If they cannot effectively define desired performance, and what is required to bring it about, their performance objectives are unlikely to be met.

    Assuming that desired performance results have been properly defined for ourselves and for others, we then need to stop justifying and accepting performance that is less than these desired performance expectations. We will only see significant progress when the ‘evaluators’ of performance do not settle for anything less than the achievement of identified goals. There should be no acceptable ‘grey zone’ found between desired performance and actual performance – either the desired results were achieved or they weren’t.

    If you justify and accept sub-standard performance you will be passed by better performers.

    Top performing organizations, leaders, and individuals never believe that they have achieved perfection – they always want to learn, grow, develop and see even better results. While satisfied with their accomplishments, they ALWAYS think that they can perform better. This forward-thinking motivational foundation is the reason why they are top performers in the first place, and is why they are always a step ahead of their competitors who struggle to ‘keep up’. Unaccountable people, who justify substandard performance results, will subsequently fail to commit to ongoing performance capability development and performance enhancement initiatives. As a result, their short-term perspective makes them vulnerable to their longer-term thinking, growth-oriented competitors. In the end, those who justify their less-than-desired performance rarely get what they really want – they end up having to settle for what they get.

    While top performers experience more successful, challenging and satisfying careers, the benefit of committing to increased performance results will be experienced at multiple levels. For example:

    • Employees will be more productive, job-satisfied and easier to retain
    • Leaders and managers will become more effective and upwardly mobile
    • Organizations will experience greater profitability and growth
    • Unemployment levels will be reduced
    • Economies will diversify, adapt and grow faster
    • Societies will evolve positively

    The list can be long, but you get my point.

    So how do we get there from here?

    Perhaps I can suggest a basic performance success formula:

    1. Identify the overall final experience (result)
    2. Set realistic yet challenging performance objectives (desired performance)
    3. Assess current technical and non-technical performance capabilities (actual performance)
    4. Take steps that reduce the gaps found between desired and the actual performance
    5. Evaluate the effectiveness of any gap reduction, performance enhancement initiatives
    6. LEARN from the evaluation
    7. When performance gaps remain, change your approach and develop additional relevant performance capabilities
    8. Continue to pursue the original performance objectives
    9. Repeat until the objectives are achieved

    I think that this is a pretty straightforward success formula. But I have purposely left out one key component. You will notice that I have left open section 6) within which I would, under certain circumstances, insert – Replace poor performers.

    Please don’t misunderstand, just because we miss performance targets does not necessarily mean that the people involved, or the processes, need to be immediately replaced. Suitably challenging performance objectives can be difficult to achieve, and we will often fall short of desired performance results. But when a continual improvement mentality becomes secondary to a ‘justify and accept’ mentality, desired performance objectives will NEVER be met. So, as soon as people, at whatever organization level or role (CEO’s right down to front-line staff), stop moving forward, start making excuses, justify substandard performance and become comfortable being in the ‘grey zone’ – REPLACE THEM! Their lack of commitment to continuous improvement will result in not only their never meeting their desired performance objectives, they will inhibit the ability of the people around them to do so as well.

    As you know it is difficult to meet challenging performance objectives with increasingly fewer available resources. So it is just as critical to work with performance-oriented people, either current top performers or people with high performance potential, as it is to continually develop your own personal performance capabilities. Consider surrounding yourself with individuals, managers and leaders who are committed to higher levels of performance, who have a continual improvement mentality, who commit to ongoing learning, and who are proactive toward change. Since these are the people who will help you to achieve performance success, I would suggest that you support, develop and retain them. And replace the others – because you cannot afford their keeping you in the ‘Performance Grey Zone’.

  2. Ten policies you’ll find in every toxic workplace

    June 26, 2016 by ahmed


    Originally posted on Forbes by Liz Ryan

    There are lots of clues that a company or institution you’re interviewing with is a bad place to work. You can tell by the way the recruiter communicates with you. You can tell from the feeling you get when you walk into the building for your job interview.

    You can tell in a second how friendly or unfriendly the people in the company are. You can watch them banter and joke with one another, or hand you off stiffly from one interviewer to the next. The cultural clues are everywhere — all you have to do is notice them!

    I don’t want you to accept a job offer with any organization until you’ve read its Employee Handbook cover to cover. If they won’t give you the Employee Handbook when they’re trying to get you into the company, that’s a good reason to run away, right there!

    If you were about to sign a contract, wouldn’t you expect to get a look at the contract before someone stuck a pen in your hand and asked you to sign it? Of course you would! Anyone would.

    If you take the job, one of the first things they’ll do at your new employee orientation meeting is to make you sign a piece of paper that says you’ve read the handbook and intend to comply with all its policies.

    That’s why you have to have a chance to read the handbook before you accept the offer. This would go without saying except that job-seekers are so used to being beaten down and treated like dirt that it doesn’t occur to most of them to ask for something as reasonable as an advance copy of their possible new employer’s handbook.

    You have to get it, because if these policies are in it, you don’t want the job!

    No Moonlighting Policy

    When you have a full-time job, you are responsible for giving the job a good day’s work every working day. After that, it’s your life. You should be able to spend it doing whatever you want to do, from fishing off a pier to making baked ziti or anything else that suits your fancy.

    No employer should be able to make you sign a policy that says you won’t work anywhere else after hours. How heavy-handed can you get? No-moonlighting policies are the epitome of fear-based bullying. They have no place in the Knowledge Economy we all operate in now.

    Stack Ranking

    Stack ranking or forced ranking is a medieval management system that became popular in the nineteen-eighties and in some out-of-touch employers is still going strong.

    In this system each manager has to “rank” his or her employees from best to worst, in case the employees are one-dimensional, stackable and rankable objects instead of vibrant, unique and amazing people. Run away from any employer who still uses a stack ranking system or otherwise pits employees against one another!

    Stitch-Level Dress Code

    Assuming that a company hires only adults, they can trust their employees to dress themselves. If your prospective new employer’s handbook includes a painfully-detailed dress code policy, it’s not a place that can grow your flame. Trust-based cultures don’t treat their employees like children, and children with poor judgment, at that!

    We Own Your Ideas

    It is reasonable for an employer to make it clear to employees that ideas that you have and bring out on the job belong to the employer rather than to you personally. It is not reasonable for an employer’s policy to say that any idea you have while you are working for the company, even at home and off hours, also belongs to them, but that is what some company policies say.
    Check this part of the handbook carefully before you take the job!

    Attendance Weenietude

    In the U.S. it is important for non-exempt employees to track their hours because the law requires them to be paid overtime once they pass a certain number of hours in the day or the week. Salaried employees are not covered by those laws and it is ridiculous for employers to make a big deal out of arrival and departure times for people who are paid a salary. If your possible next employer has a strict attendance policy, they don’t deserve your talents!

    Bell-Curve Performance Reviews

    Bell-curve performance reviews are testaments to managerial fear, because they forbid a department head from giving more than just a few people “excellent” marks on a performance review. A good rule of thumb when it comes to performance reviews systems is that the more formal the performance appraisal process is, the lousier an employer you are dealing with.

    Performance reviews will disappear altogether in all but the most hidebound and out-of-it employers before long. Don’t go to work for people who are behind the curve!

    Infractions Policy

    Some old-school employers count and will ding you for tiny “infractions,” sometimes called “incidents,” and they’ll do it by creating an Infraction Record or Incident Report that will require you to go talk to someone about why you goofed up when you did, for instance by transferring a customer call to the wrong person or forgetting a step in a process. You are not in prison – you are at work. The more a company runs its workplace like a prison, the longer and more detailed its Employee Handbook will be!

    Stealing Miles

    If you travel for work, you should be able to keep your frequent flyer miles, period. Business travel is hard on the brain and the body. Even more importantly, any company that chooses such a skeevy way to save money is not a company where you’ll be happy working.

    Funeral Leave

    Some terrible employers require their employees to bring in a funeral notice when a family member dies. Maybe at some point in history an employee invented a family death and now all the rest of you have to pay for that mistake. This policy is an abomination and a loud statement about the organization’s concern for its employees in their lives outside of work.

    Managers Decide Who Transfers

    It is downright stupid for employers to limit their employees’ movements from one department to another, because their competitors for talent won’t put up any barriers to smart people who want to advance in their careers. If your possible next employer has a policy that requires managers to sign off on employee transfers, don’t take the job! You can’t afford to put your career in the hands of unintelligent people.

  3. I’ve worked for two billionaires. Here’s what I learned from them

    March 29, 2016 by ahmed


    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Paul Carrick Brunson

    I have spent decades “being educated” – in college, graduate school, numerous professional certifications, and now a PhD program. All of that schooling and training helped shape the person I am today, but at no point in my life has there been a more profound education than my time working for Enver Yucel and Oprah Winfrey.

    Enver and Oprah are two extraordinary people. And on top of that, they’re both billionaires. On the surface, they appear to be totally different people. They are in different industries, have different family structures, practice different religions, and speak different languages. However, once you get past their written biographies and dig deeper, you will notice they possess many of the same successful habits.

    I had the opportunity to work with both Oprah and Enver for 6 years collectively and those were, hands down, the best professional experiences of my life. I worked my ass off for them and in doing so absorbed everything I could.

    It’s my honor to share with you what I learned from them. Here is Part 1 of the 20 successful habits I learned working for two billionaires:

    1) Invest in Yourself
    This is a very simple concept, but something you would think someone who has “made it” would stop doing. Not at all for these two. I saw them both spend a significant amount of time dedicating their resources to self-development (whether it be a new language, exercise, social media classes, etc). The moment you stop investing in yourself is the moment you have written off future dividends in life.

    2) Be Curious…About Everything
    What the average person sees as mundane or overly complicated is not viewed the same way with a billionaire mindset. I once had a 30 minute conversation with Enver about the height of the curbs in Washington DC versus Istanbul, Turkey. Billionaires are incredibly curious; what the rest of the world thinks is a problem and complains about — that’s what these people go and work on.

    3) Surround Yourself With “Better” People
    I hope this is why they kept me around :-). Seriously, I never knew my bosses to keep anyone less-than-stellar in their inner circle. There were many times I thought to myself, “Damn, they have dream-teams built around them.” Jim Rohn had it right, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

    4) Never Eat Alone
    The last time I had dinner with Enver, as well as the last time I ate dinner with Oprah, there were easily 15 people at our tables, respectively. Coincidence? While most of us derive our key information from blogs or the newspaper, power players get their information from the source (other power players), directly. However, just because you can’t call up the Obamas and break bread with them doesn’t mean eating with others in your circle doesn’t carry value. In one of my favorite reads of the last few years called Never Eat Alone author Keith Ferrazzi breaks down how you can identify “information brokers” to dine with you. I’ve seen first hand how enormous the benefits are of this strategy.

    5) Take Responsibility For Your Losses
    I was working for Oprah during the time she was taking heat from the media about poor network ratings. I was also working for Enver during the closing of one of his prized divisions. What I witnessed them both do in response was powerful. Opposed to covering the losses up with fancy PR tactics, both stepped to the stage and said in essence “I own it and I’m going to fix it” and dropped the mic. Guess what? They sure did fix things (It’s widely noted Oprah’s network is realizing ratings gold and Enver’s assets have probably doubled since the division closing).

    6) Understand The Power Of “Leverage”
    This is something that was quite a shock to me. From afar, a billionaire appears to be someone who is a master at everything. But, in truth, they’re specialists in one or a few areas and average or subpar at everything else. So, how do they get so much done? Leverage! They do what they do best and get others to do the rest . Here’s a great article on leverage. Keep in mind I see this done with wealthy people and their money all of the time – they use OPM (other people’s money) for most or all of their projects.

    7) Take No Days Off (Completely)
    I recall going on vacation with Enver several times, yachting up and down the southwestern coast of Turkey (also known as the blue voyage). Sounds ballerific, right? No doubt we had a great time, but mixed in with all that swimming and backgammon was discussion of business, discussion of strategy, planning and plotting. The best way I can describe this habit is thinking about your business or your idea like your literal baby. No matter your distance, you don’t stop thinking of him/her (and after just having a second son, I can attest to this).

    8) Focus On Experiences vs. Material Possessions
    When you have money, your toys are big. However, the vast majority of money I saw spent on their “leisure” was on actual experiences versus the typical car, jewelry, and clothes we’re familiar with seeing in music videos and gossip blogs. I recall one time at dinner with Oprah, I spotted a table of about 20 girls off to the side. I later found out Ms. Winfrey was treating some of her graduating girls from her school in South Africa to dinner in NYC. Experiences create memories, and memories are priceless.

    9) Take Enormous Risks
    This is another one of those successful habits every entrepreneur can attest to. A matter of fact, Entreprenuer.com created a great infographic outlining commonalities of the world’s billionaires and one of the most prominent was this characteristic: billionaires are not adverse to risk. What intrigues me even more about Enver and Oprah was that even at their high financial status and success level, they still possessed a willingness to risk their most precious asset (their name and legacy) on new and bolder projects. If you’re not taking risks, you’re not making moves!

    10) Don’t Go At It Alone
    Nothing great in life is achieved alone. Especially in business, success isn’t a solo act. This character trait is akin to “surrounding yourself with better people.” It takes teamwork to make the dream work.

    What I witnessed from working for Enver and Oprah were characteristics and successful habits that not only apply to business “wins,” but also translate to general life success. I sincerely hope the tips I’ve shared here will inspire you to create (or maintain) great habits for your success.

  4. Are you too goal focused?

    March 6, 2016 by ahmed


    Originally posted on JohnShackleton blog by John Shackleton

    I’ve been a goal setter for more than 30 years. Like many of you I’ve always had a major goal that drives me, something I’m passionate about and dedicated to achieving. At times I’ve focused on the financial side of my life, other times it’s been the physical side. Sometimes it’s been my swimming, sometimes my business, sometimes my health and sometimes my relationships.

    Recently however I’ve changed things a little!!!

    Now, don’t worry, I’m not suggesting there’s something wrong with having goals. I think it’s really important that we know where we’re going in life, because if we don’t, we probably won’t like where we end up!

    However I do believe that some of us occasionally approach goal setting in a way that has the potential to harm us.

    If you’re a dedicated goal setter then you may have experienced a time when you’ve become obsessive. So inspired by, and focused on, your goal that it becomes all consuming and takes over your life. Some of the athletes I’ve worked with have become so obsessive about winning that they neglect the people or the things that also matter to them. Some of them focus so hard on their goal that they become completely out of balance and are extremely difficult to live with.

    Some of the business and sales people I’ve worked with have also taken a similar route, becoming so fixated on achieving their own goal that they lose sight of everything else around them. Goal obsessive business people often forget the needs of their clients because they are striving to achieve something within their own business. Goal obsessive sales people can become so inward facing and so ego driven that they aren’t nice to be around and can end up repelling prospects rather than attracting them.

    What happens when we become goal obsessed is that we live our lives in the future rather than in the present. We think thoughts like:

    ‘Life will be great when …….?I’ll be happy when …….?Things will be perfect when …….’

    Goal obsession is all about the destination rather than the journey. We become rooted in the future and forget to enjoy the present. If you think about it, all goals are about creating happiness for ourselves. We believe that when we’ve earned the money, bought the car, won the race, regained our fitness or found that special partner then we’ll be happy

    Unfortunately happiness doesn’t happen in the future, Happiness is a NOW thing. When you’ve finally earned the money and bought the new car, you may be happy but only FOR A SHORT WHILE. Within a few weeks that happiness will fade and the new car will be just like the old one. Full of used coffee cups, needing a service and expensive to fill with fuel. Even though it’s a great thing to achieve, in the long run buying a new car won’t make you happy!

    I’ll always remember the summer of my 21st year. It was after University and before my first job and I spent the entire 3 months as a garbage collector emptying household rubbish bins to earn enough money to buy my first car. By the end of the summer I’d achieved my goal but I remember very little about buying, owning or driving that car. What I do remember though is the fantastic time I had doing all the hard work and making big sacrifices so that I could achieve my dream. I vividly remember the massive sense of achievement I got every Friday paying my wages into my bank account and watching the total grow. It’s the journey that makes us happy not the destination because happiness only happens in the NOW.

    At that time I was task or action obsessive rather than goal obsessive. I had a goal but I was completely focused on doing the day-to-day work necessary for the achievement of the goal and constantly thinking about my financial progress. Psychologically there’s a huge difference between the two approaches but let’s think of it this way: Goal obsession is focused in the FUTURE whereas action obsession is focused in the NOW.

    I know from past experience that when I’m goal focused I live my life in the future and become difficult to deal with. Focusing on the future makes me turn inward and I stop considering others and how I can help them. However, when I become action or task focused, I am always trying to do the best job I can for others and so I’m more considerate of their needs.

    What about you? Are there times when you’ve become goal obsessed, focused on the future and not IN THE NOW? Do you find yourself looking inward all the time, ignoring the needs of others, focused on yourself and your own achievements? When you experience this situation what do you do about it?

    As Deepak Chopra says, we need to have goals but once we’ve set them we need to lose our attachment to them and turn our attention onto the activities that will create them. The key for me is once I’ve set the goal I immediately create the action plan for its achievement. I ask myself the question ‘what consistent activity do I need to do every day in order to achieve my goal?’ I then focus all my attention on the activity, only occasionally looking up to see if I’m making the progress towards the goal.

    Try it – it could bring you more happiness and it might make you easier to live with too!

  5. How to Thrive on Stress

    January 26, 2016 by ahmed


    Originally posted on LinkedIn by Jo Marchant

    We all know that being stressed at work is bad for us. Quite apart from making us aggravated and miserable, stress chips away at our physical health, increasing the risk of chronic conditions from eczema to stroke. But scientists are discovering that stress isn’t always damaging: in the right circumstances it gives us a boost that improves both our mental performance and our physical health. What’s more, by changing how we think about stressful events – an exam or work presentation, say – we can shift our physiology from a harmful state to a helpful one.

    Feeling afraid or stressed has a dramatic impact on the body. If you face a threat, whether it’s a hungry lion or angry boss, your heart beats faster. You breathe more heavily, and your pupils dilate. Blood is diverted away from non-urgent areas such as the gut and sexual organs and towards the limbs and brain. Digestion slows, and fat and glucose are released into the bloodstream to fuel your next move.

    This fight-or-flight response is controlled by stress hormones released into the blood stream, including adrenaline and cortisol, as well as the sympathetic nervous system, which connects the brain to the body’s major organ systems. It has evolved to help us survive in emergencies, and in most animals it switches off as soon as the threat has passed. But humans have the ability to worry all the time, even about things that have already happened or may never happen at all.

    Such chronic anxiety leaves us on constant alert, and over time this can damage the body, increasing the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, for example. Stress also triggers an immune response called inflammation, which acts as the body’s first line of defense against infection and injury. That’s great in an emergency but if switched on all the time it can eat away at healthy tissues, exacerbating conditions from diabetes to dementia. Inflammation is even thought to accelerate cellular aging by wearing down the ends of our chromosomes.

    The good news is that stressful events don’t harm us directly. What does the damage is our psychological response to those events, and this we have some control over. In my book, Cure: a journey into the science of mind over body, I investigated the scientific evidence behind a range of stress-busting techniques. For example, mindfulness meditation aims to help us distance ourselves from our worries. We’re encouraged to recognize that negative thoughts are fleeting and don’t represent reality. Trials show that mindfulness training reduces stress and anxiety, protects against depression, and improves quality of life. There’s some evidence that this in turn has physical health benefits, such as easing pain and auto-immune disease, and reducing our susceptibility to infections from the common cold to HIV.

    I was surprised to discover, however, that not all fight-or-flight is the same, and sometimes it can actually be good for us. Psychologist Wendy Mendes of the University of California, San Francisco, uses the example of a skier who unexpectedly comes across a steep icy trail; it’s her only way down the mountain. Her heart rate will rise, but depending on how experienced she is, she might feel either fear or exhilaration. And those have different physiological effects.

    Psychologists call these contrasting states “challenge” and “threat”. “Challenge” is the mindset of a hunter closing in for kill, or a fighter who knows she’s going to win. To put that in a work setting, imagine giving a talk or going into a job interview where you’re confident of success and keen to show off your talents. Your sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive, causing your peripheral blood vessels to dilate. This allows your heart to work more efficiently, pumping oxygenated blood to the limbs and brain. People experiencing this type of response perform better than normal, not just physically but mentally too.

    Fear, on the other hand, causes the body to go into damage control mode as it prepares for defeat. You’re being hunted and there’s no escape, or fighting a stronger adversary. At work, going into that presentation or job interview, you feel underprepared. Instead of focusing on the potential rewards, you’re terrified of embarrassing yourself or losing out.

    In this state, psychologists have found that the sympathetic nervous system activates to a lesser extent. Instead of dilating, your peripheral blood vessels constrict and your heart beats less efficiently, meaning less blood is pumped around the body. From an evolutionary perspective this makes sense: it minimizes blood flow if you’re caught or injured. But it also impairs performance and strains the cardiovascular system, because the heart is forced to work harder to push blood around the body. A threat response also triggers inflammation, as the immune system prepares for injury and infection.

    When it comes to longer-term health, challenge responses are generally positive, while threat responses are damaging. Mendes has found that people who experience a challenge response bounce back to normal fairly quickly. Mild to moderate bursts of such “positive’ stress, with time to relax in between, are thought to provide a useful workout for the cardiovascular and immune system.

    But people in a threat state take longer to recover, physically and mentally. They worry more about how they performed, and remain more vigilant for future threat. Their blood pressure stays high. Over time, the extra strain on the heart can lead to hypertension, while high levels of stress hormones contribute to chronic inflammation.

    Crucially, it turns out that thinking differently about stressful events – focusing on what we have to gain rather than what we might lose, for example – can help us to shift from a threat state to a challenge state. In fact, Mendes has found that a change as simple as how we interpret our physical response to stress can have dramatic results.

    In one study, she subjected volunteers to a stressful public speaking task. She told one group that if they experienced physical symptoms of anxiety during the test, such as a racing heart, this was a good sign. It meant that oxygenated blood was being delivered to their brain and muscles, she explained, and this would help them to perform better. Just knowing this shifted these volunteers towards a challenge response – with greater vasodilatation and cardiac output, compared to those who were advised instead to ignore the source of their stress, or who received no instructions at all.

    In another study, Mendes found that reframing the body’s responses in this way didn’t just shift volunteers’ physiology, it improved their performance too. She asked students preparing for the Graduate Record Exam (a high-stakes test required for admission into graduate school) to sit a fake test in the lab. Compared to a control group, those advised to interpret their stress as positive had physiological benefits as in the other study. But they also scored higher – not just in the fake test but in the real GRE, which they sat weeks later.

    Changing your outlook isn’t a magical solution to all work stress. If you’re overworked, badly treated, or doing a job you don’t enjoy, consider what you might do to change that. Meanwhile employers have a responsibility to treat their workers well. But all jobs worth doing will challenge and stretch you, and you have more control than you think about how you respond. With even a small shift in attitude, you can start to perform better under pressure. And that may improve your long-term health too.