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Grateful for Virtual Meetings

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I have intentionally looked for gratitude during this time of overwhelming illness, isolation, divisiveness and virtual connections. It is a practice that I work on daily. It may surprise you, but it wasn’t difficult for me to be grateful for virtual meetings.

I have been influencing others to use methods of holding conversations that encourage diverse perspectives, invite all voices and leverage the wisdom in the room since 2011. I have, on occasion, attempted to do this within an organization that didn’t always appreciate the methods or understand the purpose. Some were satisfied when a decision was made, despite hearing from a minority in the room. What they didn’t understand, or chose to ignore, was that the usefulness of the meeting was inversely proportional to the number of conversations that occur after the meeting and that those often were not in agreement with the outcome of the conversation in the meeting.

When people walk away from a meeting feeling unheard and believe they should be making the decision that has just been made by others, they don’t do everything they can to support the decision. When meetings are dominated by a few people it may not be anyone’s fault. Some people, usually men, do not need as much space between speakers before they feel comfortable speaking up (Deborah Tannen, 1990). As a result, those of us who do need space between speakers “can’t get a word in edgewise.” I have resorted to raising my hand—which, by the way, gets disapproving looks.

Virtual meetings make all this worse. The deafening silence is assumed to be agreement when in fact it is related to the awkwardness of technology. Everyone is worried about speaking over someone else and they are muted and they are using a different platform than the one they are used to and they can’t find the “raise hand.” This is why I am grateful! The virtual space is a great excuse for the application of a light structure that supports voices being heard.

Here are some methods that make virtual meetings more effective and more inclusive.

Check-in

Using a check-in increases participation in the meeting. When everyone is invited to be heard at the beginning of a meeting, they are more likely to contribute to the conversation. You can use a check-in to bring some humanity into the room, focus the conversation, brainstorm ideas, bring awareness to the purpose, build the team or just have fun. The most effective checkin is to ask a question that invites people to contribute in a sequential manner. For example: the host asks whoever will go first to succinctly answer the question, “What do you hope we accomplish in the next hour?” Once someone volunteers to go first, the host lets someone else on their participant list know that they will be next. Something like, “Mark, thank you for offering to go first, Nicole you will be next.” Then when Mark is finished, “Thank you Mark, Nicole you are next then Sarah will be after you.” You may need to set up guidelines if they haven’t operated in this way, explaining that “we will be taking turns speaking and not responding to each person’s contribution.” A little order is necessary. If you have more than about 10 people in the meeting you may want to put them into breakouts and have them share with one or two other people rather than taking the time for everyone to speak to the whole group. Another way to cut down on time is to limit their answer to three words. You may need to inform them that, “I don’t know how to say this in three words” is 10 words. The beauty of the virtual space is that it begs for this kind of light structure and people get the chance to see how well it works.

The virtual space is a great excuse for the application of a light structure that supports voices being heard.

Breakouts

I have seen great and disastrous use of breakouts. Guidelines for effective breakouts include:

Purpose. Give people a reason for being in conversation and an assignment for a report out. The skillful use of questions makes a huge difference in the productivity of the breakout. Participants in a breakout should be given an assignment to report back to the full group. As a workgroup, their task for the time in breakout may be to figure out next steps and they may be asked to report out what they need from the other work groups in order to move forward. When back in the full group, they don’t need to talk about all of their discussion, just the points that are salient for other groups. Suggest that they designate someone to do the reporting as soon as they have checked-in.

Timing. Recently, I was put in a breakout for 5 minutes with three strangers and given five questions to discuss. We barely completed introductions, and only three of the four people addressed one of the questions. It takes time to get a feel for how long to give people in breakouts. Allowing for introductions of strangers or updates on work may be necessary. If there is a question to discuss, consider how many people are in the breakout and how long it will take for all the voices to be heard at least twice. Generally, for three or four people in a breakout, you will need at least 15 minutes to have any kind of reasonable discussion. The host can pop into breakouts and get a sense of how they are doing if the time is flexible, but it definitely is easier to sense the room when live. When there is ample time, 20-30 minutes is preferred for discussion of one or two related questions.

Number of people. It is broadly accepted that three or four people is the maximum for equitable discussion to take place. This also relates to the structure you impose within breakouts. One option is to continue the precedent set by the check-in and invite people to take turns. Most importantly, make them aware they need to share the air!

Information harvest. Often the sponsors or leaders organizing a meeting have an interest in knowing what happens in the breakout conversations. You can invite breakout groups to add to a shared document. You may want to know who is in the breakout, what options they discussed, what concerns they had, who else they think needs to be involved in a decision and next steps, for example. This shared document is one way the hosts can observe the progress of the groups.

Agreements. Agreements should express the guidelines for any breakout conversations. Listening to understand assures that voices are not only heard, but understood. Speaking with intention implies that people are cognizant of the vocal space they are occupying and sharing the air. A confidentiality agreement may be appropriate in some settings. If there is an operative decision to be made, determine who is making the decision, the role of the people in the room (are they decision-makers or stakeholders?) and what process will be used to make the decision. Will it be a process that is autocratic, consultative, democratic or consent-based?

Facilitation. The hosts should announce the time to return to the main room before going into breakouts and can broadcast a message warning the groups to be prepared to return with their report out. I recommend having a technical producer manage technical issues, such as people coming in late, falling out of groups, having difficulty with their connection or calling in by phone and the issues that causes with getting into breakouts on some platforms. The role of the hosts is design of the process and managing the content, making sure the conversations are meaningful and fruitful.

Choice of breakouts. Sometimes it’s best to allow people to choose their breakout group from different discussion topics. They may even create those topics and invite others to join them. If the technology doesn’t allow individuals to choose breakouts, the technical producer will need to be able to place them into the breakouts they prefer. One of the skills of leadership is curating topics that need meaningful conversations. People invited to meetings want to walk away feeling like they were part of a conversation that made a difference, not given information they easily could have read.

I hope that by using these guidelines in your virtual spaces now, your teams will see the utility and ask for them if they get back to in-person meetings. May your decisions be informed by diverse perspectives—and all the wiser! Originally published in Minnesota Medicine magazine Jan/Feb 2022

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Is Crypto Safe? What You Need to Know

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Is Crypto Safe? What You Need to Know

What You Need to Know About Crypto Security

The cryptocurrency market is booming with more new coins and startups than ever, but they’re not all created equal. Cryptocurrency is a trailblazing technology that could overhaul the financial systems of the future. However, it’s wise to do your homework before actively trading or investing in cryptocurrencies with price volatility and privacy concerns.

What Is A Cryptocurrency?

Digital money that makes use of cryptography to safeguard transactions and regulate the generation of new units is called Cryptocurrency. It’s called a cryptocurrency because it relies on cryptography’s encrypted form of data. Cryptography also provides anonymity for users by obscuring their identity and, indeed, all aspects of their transactions.

Cryptocurrencies can be mined, traded or used to purchase goods and services. A person would have to rely on already established relationships with merchants or banks to make purchases in the past. 

How Safe Is Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is more than an idea to create a digital form of currency at its core. Cybercriminals have learned that they can target these digital currencies because they are not regulated and not backed by any government. In theory, it’s tough to track down the source or the location of cryptocurrency transactions.

Cryptocurrencies are a prime target opening for cybercriminals since it’s difficult to trace transactions and identify the individuals involved.

How to Safeguard Your Cryptocurrencies

Cybersecurity in Cryptocurrency is a common issue and one that you should be aware of if considering an investment. Though the concerns are real, these problems can be mitigated mainly through a few simple security steps before trading or investing in Cryptocurrency.

Here are some basics steps to help secure your account from Cryptocurrency transactions:

Password Protection

Enable two-step authentication and password protect your computer when searching for cryptocurrency exchanges. This will prevent anyone from accessing your machines if they are stolen or hacked.

Use a Virtual Private Network

A virtual private network (VPN) is a computer network where you can hide your proper IP address. If a hacker were to try and break into your account, they would see an IP address from the VPN, so it would be impossible to gain access.

Backup Your Wallet

Backup information that includes public address and private keys. This will help you retrieve any lost currency or prevent others from transferring Cryptocurrency from your wallet.

Use Multiple Wallets

Using more than one Cryptocurrency wallet helps protect your investment from theft even if your account is compromised. If you have a cryptocurrency wallet on multiple devices and platforms, it’s easy to keep a backup of your information in case of an account breach.

What Are the Risks Associated with Cryptocurrency?

With all the blockchain talk about decentralization and anonymity, getting swept up in the hype is easy. Cryptocurrency has become a rapidly growing portion of the investing market, and many retail investors are looking to trade or invest in cryptocurrencies.

While the technology behind cryptocurrencies is impressive, risks are rushing, making trading and investing in Cryptocurrency risky for inexperienced traders. 

Phishing Scams

Phishing scams come in many forms, including emails and text messages. These scams can occur on an individual or a more general level, as most commonly happens. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) publishes information on detecting phishing scams. Still, it’s hard to tell the difference between a legitimate cryptocurrency exchange and an imposter because most large cryptocurrency exchanges do not have contact information listed for regulatory reasons.

Volatility

Cryptocurrency is a very volatile market that can swing wildly in either direction in almost no time at all. All cryptocurrencies are responsive to news, which can cause price changes within minutes or hours. There are also several different types of currencies, so you may have a hard time getting used to the volatility of each type. If you see only one digital currency (e.g., Bitcoin), it’s easy to assume stability when it’s still highly volatile.

Online Payments

While using crypto for online payments is a convenient method to pay for products and services, there are significant hazards involved with such transactions. When you pay for anything using bitcoin, you have no way of knowing the seller’s identity or having your payment details validated by a third party. You’re on your own if there’s an issue with the transaction.

With online purchases, you don’t have access to a complaint process, and there is no recourse if something goes wrong. This all results in anonymous transactions that pose risks online. As long as Cryptocurrency continues its rapid growth, this will be an iCryptocurrencyilers and sellers will need to solve.

Conclusion

Cryptocurrency is a highly sought-after currency for investors due to its untraceable nature and ability to exchange value without interference from a third party, such as a bank. However, this feature also makes it an appealing target for cybercriminals.

If you’re considering investing or trading in Cryptocurrency, educate yourself on the processes used to make transactions and invest your money safely and securely with reliable services that vet every transaction before letting it go through. Before diving in headfirst, make sure you research the different types of Cryptocurrency available and what risks are associated with each one. For more information on Cryptocurrency and its different types, visit our blog now!

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Food Is Medicine And What We Eat Is Important

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Your mental state is a critical component of your physical health. And when you’re under a lot of stress, you might not be eating the healthy food that provides nutrients for fighting anxiety and depression. So when we examine what we’ve been eating, most of us discover that the decisions we’ve been making in the name of simplicity, convenience, or saving time have been damaging to our total health – body, mind, and spirit.

A person’s diet is a direct reflection of their health. When a person does not eat the right foods, their body breaks down. This can lead to an overall decrease in quality of life and many other diseases linked to improper nutrition. In North America, our current diet mainly consists of an excess of grain, sugar, fried and fatty foods. As a result, disorders including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s, and certain malignancies are becoming increasingly widespread.

The science of food has always been discussed; however, with recent technological innovations in food processing and agriculture, people have enjoyed more convenient foods that are less expensive than ever before. Unfortunately, with every convenience comes a trade-off. Smart foods are often packed with sugar, salt, and calories, leading to poor health in some individuals. 

To understand what a person is putting into their body, it’s essential to realize that the small molecules in food are responsible for allowing our bodies to function. These small molecules are called nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and enzymes. A nutrient is not a value unless absorbed by the body through a specific pathway. For example, if you absorb calcium without vitamin D, your body will not use that calcium. 

Eating a balanced diet keeps you healthy, but it helps reduce your stress. For example, eat foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants because they help augment your immune response and prevent toxins from damaging your cells. Vitamins A, C, and E serve as antioxidants that fight off free radicals in the body. Free radicals are toxic products of metabolism that cause damage to your cells. Experts claim that they are responsible for the aging process. Good sources of these vitamins are deeply-colored vegetables- green leafy, yellow, and orange vegetables, such as squash, broccoli, kale, spinach, and carrots.

Iron is one of the most abundant minerals in the body, and it mainly functions to deliver oxygen to your cells. Hence, an iron deficiency, medically termed Iron-deficiency anemia, is associated with weakness, easy fatigability, and pale skin. Tea, coffee, red wine, grapes, and berries are rich in antioxidants that function the same as your vitamins A, C, and E. 
You need a diet that’s healthy and balanced – and one that can fit comfortably into your busy lifestyle.

Here are some of the recommended dietary guidelines.

Eat a diet high in fresh vegetables, vitamins, and minerals. 

Exercise every other day to release endorphins, feel good, get the blood flowing, and reduce stress levels. 

Eat salt only when you need it, but not too much as your body does not need it. Many people with anxiety are hypothyroid or have low magnesium. When your body needs more sodium, it can indicate that you are not producing enough cortisol or are dehydrated. If you experience chronic anxiety, I recommend working with a physician to run tests on cortisol levels and then take salt supplements as needed. Use spices like turmeric, ginger, curry, and aromatic herbs like parsley, rosemary, sage, and basil.
Eat low-fat meals because they will cause a minor spike in blood sugar levels: think lean meats, eggs, vegetables, and nuts; avoid dairy if it makes you feel anxious. 

Drink lots of water — keep hydrated all day — ideally at least half a gallon if possible — your brain needs water to function optimally! 

Avoid foods that you know will make you feel bad, such as dairy, even with low-fat content. You can cut out dairy and not worry about it! 

Avoid sugar, caffeine, processed foods, alcohol, and any other substance that makes you feel bad or increases anxiety levels. Also, avoid coffee — drinking more than one cup a day can cause anxiety in some people. Coffee is also dehydrating and inhibits the absorption of minerals from food/water/supplements — try caffeinated water as a substitute for coffee if you like the caffeine kick. 

Find a natural health professional that you can talk to or work with to quickly get the results you want. 

Healthy foods and nutrition can help you stay fit, but they can also assist you in treating disease. When you nurture your body physically with these nutrient-dense foods, your mental capacities improve, as does your spiritual welfare. Moreover, because your spiritual health is at its best, it will radiate to the exterior world, causing others to notice you’re happier and more relaxed, and your stress levels have decreased dramatically.

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The Points of Light Civic Circle Offers Real Ways You Can Change the World 

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Sixty-six percent of Americans don’t believe they can make a big impact in the world. 

That figure is according to Points of Light’s research on civic engagement. But what if I told you there are actually many ways to drive change? 

Today’s political climate can feel divided or even stagnant, but the truth is, you really can make things better, starting with your own community, one act of kindness at a time. And those aren’t just words. I’m here to share real, practical ways for you to make a difference. 

The Points of Light Civic Circle helps people connect to opportunities and understand that doing good comes in many forms. It is a framework that represents your power to lead, lend support and take action for causes you care about and live your best civic life. 

The Civic Circle provides actionable examples of all the ways you can change your community to reflect the world you want to see around you. In fact, you’re probably doing some of these things already. Are you helping a neighbor by picking up groceries or chaperoning on your child’s class field trip? You’re volunteering. Did you vote in the last election or help others get to the polls so they could vote? Those acts of civic duty illustrate the “vote” element. When you buy a product, do you choose to support companies that reflect your values or advance a social cause? That’s called “purchase power.” There are nine elements of the Civic Circle, and countless ways to bring each one to life. 

This blog is the first in a five-part series that will help you find real and manageable ways to activate the Civic Circle through apps, documentaries, podcasts and books. 

We also offer other resources to help you connect with all the ways you can become empowered to be the change you want to see in the world. Check out our videos that provide an in-depth look at each element of the Civic Circle. And don’t miss Civic Life Today, our digital magazine series. Each issue takes a deep dive and provides materials, ideas and inspiration so that you can become civically engaged.  Get started today, and launch your own civic engagement journey with these tools. 

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