Barbara Higgins

Barbara Higgins

Barbara served as the Chief Planning Officer for CFA Institute for 7 years, responsible for the development of two long-term strategic plans and directing the annual planning, goal-setting, and reporting for this global organization. Her rich career at CFA Institute included twenty years in management positions in educational products, international conferences, customer service, and operations management. She led her many teams in training for employee empowerment, customer service, change management and leadership development. read more

Making a space for thinking…

Written by Barbara Higgins Posted in Blog, All Posts

A manager who once told me that his goal for me was to find time for 20% open thinking time in my work day. At the time, I thought this was a silly concept considering I had so much to do and not enough time to do it. I was so busy with tasks that needed to get done. Coming from a strong work ethic background, it was actually hard for me to leave an open space in my schedule. I believed that being super busy was being the super employee. Clearly, this gift from my manager would take time and practice to understand and recognize the value.

A recent psychological study by UVA and Harvard found that people would rather be doing something – possibly even hurting themselves – than doing nothing or sitting alone with their thoughts. When faced with 6 to 15 minutes of time to think, many participants chose a mild electric shock rather than open time to think. “What is striking,” the investigators write, “is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock…” – Wow! I guess this time to think is a common challenge!

Today’s technology devices allow us to fill every minute to be sure to get the most “productivity” out of our day. Instant, endless messages are sent at every moment of every day. The impact of this constant barrage of activity leaves us unable to quiet down often leading to exhaustion and insomnia. It becomes so uncomfortable to just be still.

I decided that taking time to think was a critical part of my wellness. I started with small steps. On the suggestion of a friend, I tried to pause to take a deep breath before opening the car door…easy right? Definitely No. I was miles down the road before I remembered my resolve… even after many attempts. Clearly this would be a long journey to change for me.

After much time and effort, I am pleased to say that I really enjoy open time to think. I had to try lots of different approaches to find a few that work for me…and I had to turn off the cell phone. Considering the research referenced, it’s no surprise that the focus on wellness continues to grow.

Personally, I am amazed at how the time to think can energize creativity. Creativity doesn’t just take the form of some amazing idea. For me, creativity fills the space with options to do things differently. Many creative ideas have been tossed aside but some have made a real difference in finding a better way to accomplish a task, partner with a co-worker, or solve a problem.

So what have I learned about the value of taking time to think? I’m happier and more creative. I have more patience for great conversations and future possibilities. I don’t really know when I lost my skills for enjoying thinking time, but I’m even more appreciative now that I have it back. My wish for you is some wonderful and enjoyable time to think…with no electric shocks. 

Family Road Trip Wisdom:

Written by Barbara Higgins Posted in Blog, All Posts

5 Lessons for your Fall Leadership Planning

August is the summer tradition for road trip vacations in my family…a tribute to the final days of summer before back-to-school and changing to the more structured tempo of fall.  As we pile into the car with more duffle bags, suitcases, and boogie boards than clowns in a Volkswagen Bug, the circus begins.  As with most family adventures, you learn over time the different preparation styles that each person has to be ready to leave.  The “late packer,” the “early packer,” the “everything has to be done before we leave,” the “GPS” versus the “map reader,” each has a different checklist.

Leadership and planning with a group takes similar styles and can benefit from similar preparations to bring the group together in a happy travel plan.  Consider the following five approaches to start on a planning journey that can be fun.

  1. Pick a destination that everyone is excited about – This is the essence of strategy and planning.  If everyone is excited about where you are going, the rest of the details will be much easier to sort out.
  2. Plan your route – There is nothing worse than getting lost at the start!  Annual planning is just that simple.  There is no GPS for business so you have to manually take the time to write down the steps and check your progress.
  3. Set some ground rules – Setting expectations for the process and how the group will operate helps your different planning styles to work together.  Have enough flex in the timeline to accommodate the “late packer” with an extra reminder.
  4. If you get lost, learn something new – Getting lost can either have tempers flaring or provide an opportunity to have some fun.  Similarly, if your goals are going in a different direction or if there is a hurdle you didn’t anticipate, this challenge can be an opportunity.  Remember how many failures ultimately become big successes.  Taking the time to learn a new lesson is a great opportunity.
  5. Pack snacks – In the car, small snacks can be a lifesaver by satisfying an appetite that is off schedule.  In strategy and planning having some progress points can encourage small victories along the way.  In short, it keeps your momentum moving forward.

As you consider your transition to the fall, the timing is great for revisiting your strategic road trip. Take the time for a fall planning retreat.  Thinking about your goals as a team and refresh your plan.  This can make a big difference for your leadership travels.

Consider the experienced resources of MSBCoach to help facilitate your fall planning with the content, coaching, and dynamic tools to generate a great discussion. 

Mental Tattoo: Set a Date for Success

Written by Barbara Higgins Posted in Blog, All Posts

I love the mystery of how the brain solves puzzles. One day a problem can be so complex that you can’t see your way through…then suddenly after a good night’s sleep, a new idea appears and a whole new view presents a solution. What was insurmountable yesterday, falls neatly into place today. Personally, I love how this gives me hope that (and an excuse for) a good night’s sleep.

So, when I heard the idea of a mental tattoo, I loved it! The concept came from a website that I stumbled on called Paid to Exist, by Jonathan Mead. To give yourself a mental tattoo, you set a date for when you will accomplish something. Just write it down on your calendar. It’s a mark, a commitment on your calendar to complete something. By making this simple action, you tell your brain to start thinking about the steps to accomplish that commitment. By setting a mark, your brain actually continues to work in the background, to solve the challenge of how to get it done. How cool is that?

So many of my “to do” list items are really looking for a date to happen. They never get written down, never find a home in a busy schedule. I wonder if this might work for me. I plan to try two types of mental tattoos. First, one of those annoying things that I keep meaning to do and never get done. Ugh. But maybe that will move it off the list. Second, I want to put a big life-size challenge on my list. Something aspirational that I want to accomplish in a year. What comfort there might be in knowing that I could look at a calendar a year from now and have accomplished something I thought was insurmountable. Could it work? Well if I don’t give it a try, it’s probably not getting done. So, what have I got to lose?

When I was in college, our basketball coach had us lay on the floor and visualize the ball going in the basket. He cited a study that proved this type of visual exercise measurably improved shooting percentages. At the time, I just chuckled... and my dismal shooting percentage did not improve.

More and more, I think life is about believing you can… and you will. So, today I’m writing something on my calendar for a year from now…with a smile on my face. A mental tattoo-- give it a try.

Our Certifications.

Contact us.

  • Meet us.
    224 9th Street SW
    Charlottesville, VA 22903

    (+804) 502 4319
    (+434) 293 5758
  • Write us.
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Follow us.