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How to End Your Presentationon a Positive Note

How to End Your Presentationon a Positive Note

I realized the secret to success was finishing! And not just finishing, but finishing strong!

–– Eric Thomas


By John Millen

Which is more important, the opening of your presentation, or the close?
 
This is an oft-debated question because they’re both critically important. In communication, we talk about primacy and recency. Do people better remember what they hear first or what they hear last?
 
Generally speaking, due to extremely limited attention spans, I believe your opening is more important because if you don’t engage people right away, you might lose them forever.
 
There’s also that matter of making a positive first impression. If you get off to a bad start, you’ve dug a hole that can be difficult to climb out.
 
Having said that, how you end your presentation is also critically important. It’s a crucial part of how you organize your presentation. You definitely need to end on a strong note that is action oriented. 
 
Here are three tips to help you end on a positive note. These apply to speeches, meeting presentations, sales and all other communication that is meant to influence others:
 
1) Summarize 
We like to say that a speech, in its simplest form, has three parts: You should tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them. Reinforcement of your message is extremely important. (Remember those teeny tiny attention spans.) Summarizing this way will help you to streamline your presentation.
 
2) Issue your call to action 
Asking people to do something, almost anything that is relevant to your presentation, matters for retention of your ideas. That’s because our brains are activated by requests. 
 
If there is no request made, people walk away retaining very little information because they have no reason to do anything with it. If there’s no action associated, it doesn’t get flagged as important.

By issuing a request, you have alerted their brains to the fact that something must be done with the information you provided. Your call to action can take many forms from you requesting certain behavioral actions, like buying or signing up, to something simply attitudinal like being open-minded about a controversial topic or change you discussed. In any case, ask for something.

3) Questions and answers 
If you take questions at the end of your presentation, it is important to end on a positive note. To do that you should plan to do two different closes. At the end of your first close, provide your summary and your call to action, then say “thank you” to signal the audience for applause.
 
Then announce that you’ll take questions, perhaps for a certain amount of time, and begin your Q&A. As the questions wind down, try to end on a positive question that has a strong response from you. If you don’t have a positive question to end on, finish your response to the neutral or negative question in a positive way.
 
Then say something about time running out and offer your second close, which is a slightly reworded summary and call to action so people leave with your key messages and with an action step to take, helping to aid their recall of your message.

That’s called ending on a positive note.
 
You can tell me your stories, thoughts or ideas with me by visiting my contact page.

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John 
 

Five Ways to Streamline Your Presentations

By John Millen

I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.         
                                — Mark Twain

We know that everyone is distracted beyond belief. When I’m giving a speech and talking about distraction, I see a room full of knowing smiles and nodding heads. 
 
There is a good reason for that. It’s estimated that we are exposed to some five thousand marketing messages a day. Our phones constantly beg for attention. We have endless emails, texts, and social media notifications.
  
And the pace of business and life is faster than ever. The 24/7 news cycle. Working through worldwide time zones.

One. Word. Texts.
This has meant people communicate in increasingly short messages. 280 characters. Five-second sound bites. One. Word. Texts. Or just an emoji. ;-)
 
All of this means that we are awash in information.
 
Despite all this distraction, there are times we are held captive and must pay attention or seem to pay attention — and that’s at work. We go to meetings — little meetings, larger meetings, and even convention-size meetings. If you’ve sat through a seemingly endless presentation, you know how that feels.

Focus your messages 
All of this distraction means it’s more important than ever that we focus our messages to be as clear and concise as possible.
 
As subject-matter experts, our biggest job isn’t knowing what to say, it’s knowing what not to say. We have an obligation to cut the clutter and focus on what people really need to know.
 
But this is hard work. We can take the lazy way out and do a data dump. That’s easy just put up a huge deck of dense PowerPoint slides covered with words and numbers. Just stand there and talk, and keep talking until they get it.
 
That might have been okay in an earlier time. But today, less is more.

In fact, less has always been more. That’s why President Lincoln’s 282-word Gettysburg address still retains its power.
 
Engage and influence
People are more likely to be engaged, enlightened, and influenced if you give them less information but with more meaning.
 
You don’t have to be perfect. No one misses what they didn't know was coming. Unless you printed out a transcript, they don't know what you were going to say. When I’m working on a presentation with a leader, I often have to tell them to stop trying to squeeze ten pounds of sugar into a five-pound bag.
 
I've been guilty of this myself. In trying to give workshop participants maximum value, I have sometimes sped up to cover every section rather than leave some techniques for another day.
 
We all need to be part of the solution and give people less information and more understanding.
 
Here are five ideas for you to streamline your presentations:

1) When planning your presentation, think in terms of ideas. Decide on your major message, the one thing you want people to remember, and think of three ideas or points that support that message. Then build on those three ideas with one-liners, a meaningful statistic, or a story.

2) Take your slide deck and reduce the number of slides by half. Then remove half of the words on each slide. Force yourself to be clear and concise about your ideas. We think we can multitask, but we can’t. If you have a lot of words on your slides, your audience will be reading them and not listening to you. We can’t truly do both.

3) Consider not using slides at all. People are there to hear from you. Your slides should only support your points. Having no slides will mean they are fully focused on you and your message.

4) Cut the time of your talk in half. Instead, use the extra time for questions, or just let people go. Nobody complains about a presentation that ends early. “That presentation was way too short,” said no one. Ever.

This applies whether you are a CEO doing a presentation or a frontline sales manager.

5) Boil your presentation down to key words that you can write on an index card. I call this a “confidence card.” You will know that the brief card is there if you need it, but you’ll be better off without it. Just speak from your heart.

Bonus tip: tell stories. As human beings, we are hardwired for storytelling. Instead of presenting a lot of data, try telling a story that makes your point. Stories are more engaging, persuasive, and memorable. Create your own story bank and your presentations will be much more memorable.
 
Following these and similar approaches will allow you to use less information with more impact. You get the idea. Think about paring back the amount of clutter you put out in the world.

Find the gems and give those as gifts to the people you reach. They'll appreciate it because today, truly, less is more.

I'd love to hear your feedback! To share your thoughts with me you can visit my contact page.

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John

7 Keys to Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

I have written eleven books, but each time I think, “uh oh, they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out.”  
 

–– Maya Angelou


By John Millen

Bestselling author Neil Gaiman recounts feeling like an imposter at an invitation-only gathering of renowned artists, scientists, writers and other luminaries:
 
I felt that at any moment they would realize that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

 
Gaiman’s sense that others feel the same way is right. Research has found that up to 70 percent of us at some point in our lives feel fraudulent — like we don’t belong in our current jobs and will soon be found out.
 
This issue of feeling like a fraud came up in my conversation with leaders in a training session in Washington, D.C. a couple of weeks ago.

Feeling Like a Fraud
I know I’ve felt this way. Starting off life in the housing projects in Philadelphia with a hard-working single mother, I would often question my subsequent good fortune in corporate life.
 
Before starting my consulting business 15 years ago, I served as Vice President of Communications at a Fortune 100 company. I was one of the youngest officers and worked at the highest level with the CEO, presidents and other senior leaders.
 
And there were moments, especially starting out, that I felt like a fraud – certain that at any moment the Imposter Police were going to show up at the door of my office in the skyscraper and escort me out.

Or maybe they’d just throw me out of my twenty-second-floor window. Over time, I came to appreciate my own expertise and employed some of the strategies I mention below to reconcile my view.
 
Successful Women Only?
Humans have probably experienced these feelings through the ages, but the modern concept seems to have begun with the research of Dr. Pauline Clance in the 1970s. 

She initially believed what she called the “imposter phenomenon” was experienced exclusively by successful women in a male-dominated culture. Through additional research, she came to realize that fraudulent feelings are rife throughout the population.

She developed an extensive questionnaire to determine whether one has the syndrome. This New York Magazine article created a nine-question quiz that will give you a quick take, if you really need confirmation.
 
Some research also links imposter syndrome with perfectionism. That’s the sense that “if I can’t do this job perfectly, I must not be qualified. I’m a fraud.”
 
The primary problem for leaders is that if you feel like a fraud, your executive presence – your communication – will suffer. Here are a few thoughts and tips I’ve used successfully myself and with clients on how to deal with imposter syndrome:
 

1. Remember, you’re not alone
As I noted, 70 percent of people at some point feel fraudulent. And this is true at every level of an organization. I work with CEOs and other very senior leaders who feel this way. In fact, the higher you rise in an organization, the more likely you are to feel less than qualified, especially in the beginning.
 
Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks and presidential candidate, said that he and other CEOs talk about feeling like imposters in their roles: “Very few people, whether you’ve been in that job before or not, get into the seat and believe today that they are now qualified to be the CEO. They’re not going to tell you that, but it’s true.”
 
2. Stop comparing yourself
The saying to live by is that "comparison is the thief of joy." This is no more true than in a digital/social world where people post only their best moments and give the impression that their lives are endlessly exciting. 

There will always be people who are better and worse than we are, but we tend to compare ourselves with those who seem to have it all together. There is no upside in this comparison unless you are using someone as a role model to motivate you.

3. Express your fears
As they say, FEAR is false evidence appearing real. So much of what we see and interpret passes through the negative filter created by our anxiety or perfectionism. We set such high standards and believe we are not achieving anything worthwhile. Talking to a trusted friend, mentor or professional counselor can give you the perspective you need to see the reality. Sometimes, just verbalizing your fear can provide release.
 
4. Suspend judgment
Consistent with this perspective is giving yourself a break. Try to turn off the negative voice in your head that is reminding you today of past insecurities or failures.
 
5. Reframe your story
One way to stop the negative voice in your mind is to reframe your story. As humans, we are hardwired for and the person we tell stories to the most is ourselves.
 
Take the time to write down the feelings you are experiencing as an “imposter.” Look for the root of the story. Did a parent, a coach or a high school kid say something that left you with an imprint? Was it a perceived “failure” that set a standard you’re applying today? If so, draw that out and rewrite the story. What happened in the past is not relevant to what you face today. The past does not have to be prolog to the present.
 
6. Shift your mindset
What I’ve found is helpful with clients is your mindset in two ways away from a focus on yourself: First, shift from you to the value you are bringing to others. Think in specific terms about what you do that has impact on people. Second, change from a performance mindset to a learning mindset. It’s better to gauge whether you are growing than whether you are measuring up, especially in a new position.
 
7. Fake it until you become it
In her viral TED Talk, which I recommend you watch, Dr. Amy Cuddy described her own feelings of being an imposter. She had planned to drop that section of her talk as “too personal” and later was surprised to find an outpouring of people who resonated with her story.

Cuddy’s research led her to conclude that adopting body language may physically transform us, through the release of confidence-boosting hormones. You don’t have to fake it till you make it. You can fake it until you become it.
 
As you continue to take on new challenges, it’s only natural to feel some sense of inadequacy. That’s how you know you’re growing because personal growth happens outside of our comfort zones. And that’s okay.
 
As Dr. Cuddy concludes in her excellent follow-up book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges.
 
Most of us will probably never completely shed our fears of being fraudulent. We’ll just work them out as they come, one by one. I can’t say that you will soon shed all your impostor anxieties forever. New situations may stoke old fears; future sensations of inadequacy might reawaken long-forgotten insecurities. But the more we are aware of our anxieties, the more we communicate about them, and the smarter we are about how they operate, the easier they’ll be to shrug off the next time they pop up. It’s a game of whack-a-mole we can win.
 
Well said.

I’d love to hear your stories. You can communicate directly with me through my contact page.


 

How Boeing Ruined its Reputation for Safety

It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.

–– Warren Buffet

 
By John Millen

During the past few weeks, the stellar reputations of two United States aviation-related organizations were badly tarnished by a series of puzzling, ill-advised decisions.

Their missteps provide leaders with important lessons on keeping faith with customers and other stakeholders, particularly when it’s inconvenient to do so.

Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have been the gold standard, respectively, for the design and production of world-class aircraft and the regulation of aviation.

Their websites proclaim their unwavering commitment to the safety of airline passengers.
 
Boeing’s Website:
 
Enduring Values
At Boeing, we are committed to a set of core values that not only define who we are, but also serve as guideposts to help us become the company we would like to be. And we aspire to live these values every day.
Safety 
We value human life and well-being above all else and take action accordingly.
 
FAA’s Website:
 
Safety: The Foundation of Everything We Do
At FAA, what drives us — through everything we do — is our mission to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world. We continually strive to improve the safety and efficiency of flight in this country.
 
These proclamations were put to the test when Boeing’s newest airliner, the 737 Max 8, crashed shortly after takeoff in Ethiopia killing the passengers and crew. While issuing statements of sympathy for families, Boeing insisted the plane was safe and should continue to fly.

This is curious because it was the second crash of this model. Six months earlier an Indonesian Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff under similar circumstances, killing the crew and passengers.

Boeing all but proclaimed the Indonesian crash pilot error. And seemingly as the Ethiopian crash was still smoldering, Boeing and the FAA rushed to assure us that the Max 8 was “safe and airworthy.”

Crash in the U.S.?
One has to wonder how Boeing and the FAA would have reacted if either of the crashes was on U.S. soil by an airline, such as Southwest. This was the thought I had as I sat on a Southwest Boeing 737 (not a Max 8), as I often do on Monday mornings. 

On this morning, I was unsettled by the fact that neither Boeing nor the FAA had called for the plane to be temporarily grounded. As the plane took off, I used my phone to sell all of my Boeing stock. I told friends and associates that if Boeing wasn’t proactive, it would be forced to ground the planes soon.

My concern was more than personal. For some twenty years, I had advised senior leaders of companies in crisis on their responses. Though I no longer work on crises, I still retain a visceral reaction to companies that fail to respond appropriately to safety concerns. 

Lost their way
For Boeing and the FAA, it is abundantly clear that they had lost their way. Consider the facts for two organizations that proclaim safety:

*     Some 170 737 Max 8’s were in service. Two had crashed. In other words, more than one percent of this new model had fatal crashes. Yet, Boeing and the FAA continued to echo their message that the Max 8 plane was safe.

*     After the first crash killed 189 people, Boeing said it was working on an update to the plane’s software. But the Max 8 plane was safe.

*     After the second crash killed 157 people, while the cause was unknown, Boeing reaffirmed that it was still working on the software update. But the Max 8 plane was safe.

*     As airlines and regulators around the world grounded the planes and banned them from their airspace, Boeing and the FAA continued to echo the Max 8 plane was safe.

*     The FAA argued there was “not enough evidence to justify grounding” the Max 8. In a bizarre turn on safety regulation, the FAA was arguing that a plane that had had two fatal crashes was presumed safe until proven unsafe?

*    Finally, as an exclamation point on poor crisis response, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao hurriedly scheduled herself on a Max 8 Southwest flight from Austin to Washington, D.C.

The highest-level safety regulator in the U.S. pulled a publicity stunt to “prove” that the Max 8 was safe. In essence, she was saying, “See, my flight didn’t crash. The Max 8 plane is safe!”

More sad evidence continues to come to light, such as Boeing pitching the plane as a simple upgrade to avoid pilot retraining; the FAA allowing Boeing to self-certify its work; little to no information or training being provided to pilots; no testing of how pilots would react to Max 8 specific emergencies; and, perhaps most flagrant, basic safety warning lights and alarm systems were sold as additional add-ons.

Even aviation hero Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger criticized Boeing and the FAA. He wrote that "there is too cozy a relationship between the industry and the regulators" for proper oversight to be ensured.    

Boeing’s response
Finally succumbing to public and passenger pressure, the FAA on March 13 announced a temporary grounding of all 737 Max 8 planes. Boeing issued this statement from Dennis Muilenburg, president, CEO, and Chairman of The Boeing Company, which rang hollow:

On behalf of the entire Boeing team, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives in these two tragic accidents. We are supporting this proactive step out of an abundance of caution. Safety is a core value at Boeing for as long as we have been building airplanes; and it always will be. 

There is no greater priority for our company and our industry. We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of the accidents in partnership with the investigators, deploy safety enhancements, and help ensure this does not happen again.

Too little, too late. Boeing and the FAA have lost trust and severely tarnished their reputations worldwide.

I work with clients in insurance and financial services, pharmaceuticals, technology, and other industries that make various promises of safety and security. In the end, trust is all they have.

The lesson for leaders is clear. If your organization’s core promise is to provide safety and security for people, that must be prioritized – even when it conflicts with other valuable interests. 

How about you? 
What core promise does your organization make to people who rely on you?
 
How strong is your commitment? Will it hold up under the pressure of other competing interests?
 
It’s worth considering since a reputation of trust can be destroyed in no time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please reach me directly on my contact page.

Leadership Lessons of Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher

Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that.
 

–– Herb Kelleher

 
When Herb Kelleher passed away in Texas last week at age eighty-seven, he left a legacy of a big personality, a creative business model, and an airline industry revolution.
 
The cofounder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines was a colorful personality whose unique approach resulted in Southwest growing to be the largest domestic airline in the United States, with annual revenue of nearly $25 billion.
 
As the Washington Post wrote this week:
 
Herb Kelleher, the charismatic and colorful cofounder of Southwest Airlines, was hardly a cookie-cutter chief executive. He showed up at company parties dressed as Elvis Presley, invited employees to a weekly cookout, handled baggage during the Thanksgiving rush, and brought doughnuts to a hangar at 4 a.m. to schmooze with his airline’s mechanics.
 
He once arm-wrestled an executive from another company to settle a legal dispute and never hid his fondness for cigarettes and bourbon. Yet he was considered a visionary business leader whose record of sustained success at Southwest led Fortune magazine to ask on its cover, “Is Herb Kelleher America’s Best CEO?”

This is why Kelleher’s legacy offers many great lessons in leadership such as:
 
Follow a successful model
There is a mythical story that Kelleher and his business partners devised Southwest on a cocktail napkin. He corrected the record, noting that they modeled Southwest after Pacific Southwest Airlines, a successful short-haul carrier I grew up with on the West Coast.
 
They wanted the same opportunity for customers in Texas as a short-haul airline with cheap flights connecting Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
 
Keep it simple 
Since its inception, Southwest had a single goal: to offer low fares and on-time service to customers. With that in mind, it devised a strategy of boarding passengers in simple groups; cleaning and turning aircraft quickly; having a single aircraft type (the Boeing 737) that could be flown by all crews; flying point-to-point instead of through hubs; and focusing initially on smaller, underserved airports.
 
Don’t give up
Kelleher was an attorney by trade and never intended to run a business. But when the airline made its initial filings to fly from its home in Texas, Southwest faced an onslaught of lawsuits from competitors who wanted to keep it grounded.
 
This week I listened to a recording of a radio interview in which Kelleher described how he worked for free for four years fighting for Southwest in court, while maintaining his private law practice. Kelleher said he believed he was fighting not only for Southwest and its potential customers, but for the free enterprise system.
 
Be a servant leader
When Kelleher was twelve, his father passed away and his brother was killed in World War II. As a result, he and his mother "became very close. We'd sit up until 4 a.m. talking about business, politics, everything.
 
“She talked a lot about how you should treat people with respect. She said that positions and titles signify absolutely nothing. They’re just adornments,” Kelleher said.
 
Build a strong culture 
Kelleher believed that a leader’s most important role is to build a strong culture by hiring the right people. At Southwest he created a “culture of commitment” devoted to the happiness of employees. He said that happy associates would lead to happy customers, a differentiator in the airline industry.
 
Create a positive customer experience
“What’s important is that a customer should get off the airplane feeling, ‘I didn’t just get from A to B. I had one of the most pleasant experiences I ever had, and I’ll be back for that reason,’” he said. With this in mind, Kelleher put a premium on personality. “What we are looking for first and foremost is a sense of humor,” he said.
 
“If you don’t have a good attitude, we don’t want you, no matter how skilled you are,” Kelleher said. “We can change skill levels through training. We can’t change attitude.”
 
For full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of Southwest Airlines, on which I’ve flown hundreds of thousands of miles. It’s my go-to domestic airline, unless I’m flying on a corporate jet or being booked by a client’s agency.
 
While the fair prices and on-time service are great, it’s Southwest’s culture that keeps me happy. Employees seem genuinely engaged, which is unique in any company, and they get creative to make it an enjoyable experience.
 
Where else would you have the captain of the plane sing and play the harmonica? (That was before we took off, of course.) I’ve had hundreds of small, positive gestures on Southwest.
 
This is the legacy of Southwest Airlines’ cofounder and CEO: business success with satisfied employees, customers, and shareholders.
 
Rest in peace, Herb Kelleher.
 

John


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Photo Credit: Southwest Airlines

How to Get Better Sleep and Be a Better Leader

Sleep is the best meditation.

–– The Dalai Lama

With the holidays and New Year approaching, it's a good time to ask, are you getting enough sleep?
 
If you’re like most people, particularly our high-achieving readers, the answer is likely to be “no.” And that’s not good -- for you, your team, your family or the economy.
 
You see there’s been this cultural myth, lived out by success-oriented people, that working harder and sleeping less are signs of our mental and physical toughness.
 
This myth is contradicted by the stark scientific evidence of the harmful effects of lack of sleep.

Harmful effects
As the Harvard Medical School Bulletin notes, in the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. 
 
In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality.
 
I’m not pointing fingers here since I’m as guilty as the next over-achiever. I’m working hard to improve my own sleep deficits.
 
Better sleep, better workplace
Other research confirms the negative effects of sleep loss on leaders and their teams in the workplace. A McKinsey study found a direct link between effective leadership and getting enough sleep:
 
In a study of 81 organizations and 189,000 people around the world, we found that four types of leadership behavior are most commonly associated with high-quality executive teams: operating with a strong orientation to results, solving problems effectively, seeking out different perspectives, and supporting others.
 
What’s striking in all four cases is the proven link between sleep and effective leadership, McKinsey reported. This applies to CEOs and leaders at every level.

‘Abusive’ Leader Behavior 
Even more striking, a recent Harvard Business Review article summarized the harmful effects on employees by leaders who don’t get proper sleep:
 
…Recent research indicates that individual behavior can vary dramatically from day to day and week to week—and much of this variance can be explained by the quality of a manager’s sleep. Indeed, studies have found that when leaders show up for work unrested, they are more likely to lose patience with employees, act in abusive ways, and be seen as less charismatic. There is also a greater likelihood that their subordinates will themselves suffer from sleep deprivation—and even behave unethically(My emphasis added)
 
This is why there is a growing recognition amongst leaders that they must get more sleep themselves and promote policies in their organizations to encourage their employees to get more sleep.  
 
Progressive policies adopted by organizations include companies with sleep pods for napping; limiting emails from leaders overnight and on weekends, and on-site education on sleep and stress management.
 
Successful leaders and athletes agree
This change of attitude is being seen publicly as successful leaders and icons in every field out themselves as people who prioritize getting enough sleep and attribute the practice as important to their success. These include Jeff Bezos, LeBron James and Tom Brady, among many others.

Two recent books help to bust the macho sleep deprivation myth: The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time* by Arianna Huffington goes deep with science and stories of the worldwide crisis of sleep deprivation. The description notes Arianna shows how our cultural dismissal of sleep as time wasted compromises our health and our decision-making and undermines our work lives, our personal lives –– and even our sex lives.
 
Tim Ferriss published Tools of Titans: The tactics, routines and habits of billionaires, icons and world-class performers*. This book is rife with odes to sleep from very successful household names.
 
So, it’s clear that we need more sleep. How do we make this happen?
 
Here are a few tips from research and my own experience:

Make a commitment. It all starts with self-awareness and the public commitment with those around you that you value sleep and are working to get enough rest. Remember that as a leader you are a role model in every aspect of your behavior. Your people note what you do, not what you say.

Decompress. Give yourself enough time to stop thinking about all of the unresolved issues and challenges you face. Write down the items on a list to get them off of your mind. An hour before bedtime, start to take your mind in a different direction and begin to settle your system.

Kill the blue light. We live in a 24/7 digital world that involves bringing blue-lit devices before our eyes. This light has been demonstrated to stimulate the brain and contribute to insomnia. 
 
When you begin your hour-long wind down, kill the blue light and consider removing digital devices from your sleep area. TV is not any better. How many of us have fallen asleep in front of the set only to wake up and not be able to go back to sleep in our beds? Kill the blue light.

Stick to a schedule. Most sleep experts advocate going to bed and waking at the same time, which teaches our bodies and minds a rhythm.

Track your sleep. As we say in business, what gets measured can be improved. Fitbits, iWatchs, and most smartphones will let you track the amount and quality of your sleep. I previously used Fitbit* and currently use the iWatch* and the AutoSleep app, which provides metrics, including how much I was in deep sleep. (See products at the end of this article.)
 
Create a ritual. As you wind down, experts say it’s best to have a bedtime ritual by doing things such as taking a bath or a shower, sipping herbal tea, dimming the lights and reading a paper book. For better sleep, I take 10 mg of melatonin* and drink orange-flavored Calm, * which contains magnesium. (Of course, check with your physician before you consider this.)

Watch what you eat and drink. Alcohol and caffeine can contribute to insomnia, or waking in the middle of the night. It’s also recommended you not go to bed hungry or stuffed, both of which might disrupt solid sleep.

Exercise. Finding the time to prioritize exercise, experts say, can contribute enormously to stress management and solid sleep. 

These are a few tips that I’ve practiced myself and find valuable. There are plenty of resources available to you when you make the commitment to prioritize sleep.
 
It’s clear that improving our sleep has tremendous benefits and little downside. If you won’t do it for yourself, consider sleeping more for those who depend on you at work and at home. 
 
As you make your way through the holiday frenzy, consider giving yourself the gift that keeps on giving: a good night’s sleep. ZZZZZ ;-)
 

John


 P.S. –– To talk with me directly, please use my contact page.


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