Presentation Anxiety & the Monkey Mind

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This week, the Year 3’s in the Skagit Valley College Applied Bachelor in Management degree (BASAM) will be wrapping up the second quarter of the program. We have spent the quarter exploring exploring Marketing, Project Management and Accounting with all three courses leading to final team marketing plan presentations.

The presentations will demand that each team demonstrates its Marketing Magic, its Project Management Prowess and its Accounting Acumen (I could not resist the alliteration). I have every confidence that each team will come through with flying colors. And at the same time, I also know that the build up to any presentation can be a nerve-wracking experience because of Monkey Mind. So, to all the Year 3’s, I offer this piece from Project Monkey Mind that may help with conquering the inevitable public speaking fears through “three methods for lasting calm”. And while I’m at it check out this piece from the Harvard Business Review on the importance of practice.

All the best BASAM Class of 2022 – you’ve got this!

A Year Later – Zoom Fatigue

March 1 marks my personal one year anniversary of my entry into this crazy “new normal” world we are in. A year ago, I was in Seattle mask free, presenting the Skagit Valley College BASAM program at a national conference to a live audience. I don’t need to describe what today looks like, as I think we know it only too well.

A year of the “new normal” has us all grappling with new experiences, emotions and stressors. The word zoom has entered our lexicon as a verb and a noun. It has also entered our lives as a perhaps unknowing cause of fatigue. Check out this article from Stanford University that talks about what leads to Zoom fatigue and how we can bring Zoom hygiene (my word, not the article’s) into our lives …

Happy Zooming and be well.

Experiencing the Pandemic and Acknowledging our Uniqueness – the BASAM Way

Here’s an insightful blog from Medium, which discusses how each of us are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic in our own ways. I appreciated how the author acknowledges that many of us just don’t have the bandwidth, the interest, the capability, the resources, the whatever to learn a new skill, bake daily, train for a marathon etc.

I also appreciated that the author acknowledges that for so many, survival is the main accomplishment.

Whichever way they are experiencing the pandemic, I am filled with immense pride when I think of every BASAM program member. 23 of them are weeks away from graduating with their bachelor degree, 20 of them are weeks away from finishing the third year of the degree. Another 27 are months away from starting this journey! To all, the heartiest of bravos – you’ve got this!

Marketing Adventures

The year three participants in the Skagit Valley Bachelor in Management program have just completed a Marketing course, where they created a marketing plan for the program. 

Check out this four minute podcast made by one group that tells the story of the program through the experiences of a Year 4, Shailene Gronemyer. https://youtu.be/pYKCTZ90u_s

Thank you BASAM people for all you bring to the program.

The Art of Listening

One of the things I’ve always struggled with is listening. I think quickly, sometimes too quickly, and there have been more times than I care to admit that my mind goes on journeys while engaging in conversation. It’s not that I’m disinterested in the conversation – it’s just that I take what the person is saying and let my mind go off on the sparks, connections and links it wants to make. And then before you know it, I’m six miles away from the conversation and coming back to it takes more mental gymnastics to cover my mental detour and to rebuild my connection with my conversation partner.

I’ve worked hard at improving in this area, paying particular focus on listening with my eyes and ears and I’m always looking for tips and techniques to build this skill. So, I was intrigued by this essay in the New York Times by Kate Murphy, author of a book You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters. Murphy shares the findings of her conversations with expert listeners such as CIA agents and focus group moderators. The article is rife with suggestions on how to be a better listener and with some startling statements about the ramifications of not listening well. None made more impact than Ms Hudson’s closing line “…to listen poorly, selectively or not at all limits your understanding of the world and prevents you from becoming the best you can be.”

And so on this night on this night before the first day of BASAM classes in 2020, I make my new quarter pledge to focus 100% on every conversation I have. I further ask any of my conversation partners to call me on it if they see my mind starting to take out its passport for its journey to other places.

Countdown to Graduation

Today, the Skagit Valley College BAS in Applied Management Class of 2020 started the fifth quarter of their program. Their classes this quarter include Data (Evidence) Driven Decision Making, Leadership and Organizational Behavior and a project-based internship. I’m excited about the curriculum this quarter; all of these subjects are near and dear to my heart. More importantly, they represent some of the most critical, make or break areas of management.

However, no matter how excited I get about the learning journey we have ahead of us over the next three months, nothing beats the euphoria I felt when I wrote the first assignment of the quarter. Today, I had the great honor of creating an assignment inviting the Class of 2020 to submit their application for June graduation. As I wrote, tears came to my eyes as I thought about the toil, sacrifices and determination this milestone represents for the class. And then I chuckled to myself as I realized this was going to be one of those assignments with a 100% on time submission!

You’ve got this Class of 2020, the finish line is steps away!

Pen & Paper vs Mouse & Keyboard

I’ve been reading more and more about the advantages of using pen and paper for note taking over a laptop. Sure, electronic notes are a blessing, particularly if you have illegible writing as I do. But what I’ve been discovering from work such as this from Inc (no pun intended) is that pen and paper helps us to form better connections between what we already know and what we are learning.

I ditched electronic note taking five years ago. I was told by colleagues in a past life that there was a perception that because I was always behind a computer (taking notes), it seemed I was never mentally present. It took me a while but I find myself now agreeing with this observation. Electronic note taking gave me a huge amount of efficiency in terms of capturing thoughts, follow ups and “to do’s”. However, this efficiency came at the expense of truly hearing what was being said and listening with my eyes and ears (it’s hard to listen with your eyes if you’re looking at a computer screen).

It’s now rare to see me in a conversation or a meeting with a laptop. I have even ditched my Apple Watch that always seemed to misbehave at the most unfortunate moments — right in the middle of a teaching observation as some of my program members will remember!   With this change, I find I’m building better relationships and paying attention to details I otherwise might have missed. Losing a smidgen of efficiency seems to be a small price to pay to gain the power of personal connection. I’m now also a huge Bujo fan, but I’ll save that one for another post.

I’m curious to hear other experiences with the two note-taking media. Does one work better than the other for you? Why?

Speaking Up in Meetings

In our Human Resources for Managers class today we practiced tough workplace conversations that we can expect to have as managers. We role played being the manager and the employee and then debriefed on the conversations.

During the class debrief, I witnessed a top five personal program highlight. People who so far have held back from expressing their thoughts, opinions and experiences during class discussions shared their voice. One by one, they made perceptive, insightful contributions that prompted us all to consider new dimensions and approaches. Our conversation was enriched thanks to their contributions and on behalf of the entire class, I thank them (they and the other program members know who they are).

I then started thinking about all the reasons we can hold back from speaking, which took me to this Harvard Business Review piece on the balance between speaking up and holding. Wonder if any of the the article strike a chord? Would love to hear your thoughts and the pivot that caused a shift in your willingness to share.