Are You Blind to Change?

The video below by Derren Brown demonstrates a phenomenon called “change blindness,” where a change that should be obvious goes unnoticed.

You can find a similar experiment here, which was done at Harvard. How resilient to change blindness are you? Let’s try an experiment of our own. Something is changing between the flashes in a very obvious way in the picture below. Can you spot it?

Change Blindness - Market

How about in this picture?

Change Blindness - Soldiers

Was it difficult for you to spot the change in each picture? Don’t worry, it takes a while for most people. The longer the flash or delay between the slightly different images, the harder it is to see the change.

This can be the same with people. For instance, you may not notice a change in the demeanor of your direct report until much later, after which might you ask, “has he/she always been like that?” And by then, it may be difficult to understand exactly when the change happened and why. Even small changes in the organization can go unnoticed, until someone checks in on how things are going.

To combat this blindness, ensure that you are checking in frequently enough with your direct report. But, of course, there’s the risk of looking like a micromanager. When you meet, explain that you are simply there to support his/her success and allow the conversation to flow from your direct report (“Is there anything you need from me?” or “Is there anything I can do to support your work?” are great ways to quickly check in). If he/she is a novice on the task, provide more direction. If not, provide encouragement and autonomy while focusing on the positives.

When it comes to keeping an eye on the organization as a whole, metrics can provide insight on what changes are occurring. But instead of pulling every available metric, focus on the top 3-5 metrics that relate back to your business strategy and goals for the organization.

Since big changes may be happening without your knowledge, dedicate time to discovering these changes and their causes. This can provide valuable insight into what is happening now and what you can do to promote the growth and betterment of your organization.

Images Credit: User jbitel on Imgur

1 Secret of High Performing Teams

We’ve started doing this accountability group around the office and it seems to be working. Recently, the boss man had this idea that if we put up our goals for everyone to see and kept each other in check for a 30-day challenge, the added accountability would help us stay committed tPic Calorieo reach our goal. Our goal was to start with 10 pushups at the beginning of the month and increase that number by 1 every day. As a result, we decided to continue this trend, and now we are participating in a daily calorie challenge where we log our meals and maintain a certain caloric intake. As you can see, so far so good and we have included 4 cheat days as good measure. I’ll probably eat a whole bucket of churros on my first cheat day.

Taking this concept past a simple pushup or calorie contest, in my own experience and what much of the research has to say is this:

  • In the weakest teams, there is no accountability
  • In mediocre teams, bosses are the source of accountability
  • In high performance teams, peers manage the vast majority of performance problems with one another

If you are on the first two teams, look for a trade or try to resolve the problem. None of these options are really that easy, but the latter option is probably the most feasible. Here’s what you need to know about accountability. Don’t be scared of it. If accountability is seen as negative and punitive in the office, do what you can to change that perspective for everyone. Put up a challenge for the various task goals that everyone has and create accountability for one another.

Here’s a distinction that you need to be aware of: there is a critical difference between “holding someone accountable” and “creating accountability” in your team. The first creates a culture of fear and brings potentially significant, negative connotations and impact. The second allows the team to be mutually invested in the success of oneself and others. Decide for yourself what environment you want to create in your office and see what outcomes you get as a result.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

You Are Always Hypothesizing

One simple statement really stood out to me from a conversation this week: “remember that you are always hypothesizing.” During an executive coaching class, my colleagues and I were role-playing coaching scenarios around dealing with perceived resistance from a client. Note the key word, “perceived.” The group discussion and activity were meant to illustrate the fact that in coaching relationships, what we perceive as resistance might actually be indicative of something else. If we can acknowledge that our perceptions are just our interpretations of what we are experiencing as we interact with another person, then we open ourselves to the possibility that our interpretations might not be accurate. It’s easy to misinterpret because we are, in fact, always hypothesizing.

According to Merriam-Webster, a hypothesis may be defined as:

  • “An idea or theory that is not proven but that leads to further study or discussion”
  • “An assumption or concession made for the sake of argument”
  • “A tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test the logical or empirical consequences”

Notice that a commonality across these definitions is the element of making an assertion for the purpose of verifying or validating it. A hypothesis is ground for further action; it is an antecedent and not an end result. Miscommunication is often attributable to misinterpretation, but we can avoid this fundamental error by noticing our assumptions and investigating them with a sense of openness and curiosity. The challenge in any interaction—whether your role is a coach, manager, advisor, teacher, peer, or friend—is to become truly curious about the other person’s experience so that testing our assumptions is an act of gaining clarity about that individual’s experience from their perspective rather than from our own.

TNH_Understanding

Contrary to common belief, hypothesis testing is not a function of proving our theory, but rather it is a function of trying to uncover whatever truth exists. Yes, in scientific pursuits, we hope to furnish evidence in support of our hypothesis, but this is not the case in pursuits of human relations. True communication and connection with others requires humility and acceptance of the fact that our assertions and conclusions may be incorrect. If we are always hypothesizing then we must also be ever curious and open to alternatives, asking, “What else might explain this? What might I not be aware of?”

Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tick-Naught-Han), is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, author, teacher, Zen Master, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his activism and advocacy of nonviolent solutions to conflict. You do not need to endorse Buddhist philosophy in order to appreciate Thich Nhat Hanh’s approachable writing style and germane messaging. In one of his seminal books, Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh uses the quote above to explain what is needed in order to achieve true understanding in communication. If we only seek to validate our own preconceived notions without acknowledging that our way of thinking might be flawed, then we will not be able to truly understand whatever we are facing.

ansel_adams_quote

Each interaction, each conversation, each moment of life is associated with some image in our minds. We create a story about that image, and Ansel Adams reminds us that we are not the only ones looking at our pictures. Others are involved in those interactions, conversations, and moments.  Two photographers can stand aside one another taking in the same landscape, but the images they see and capture through their lenses will be different depending on what and where they choose to focus. Two viewers may look upon the same photograph and see or describe it in very different ways depending upon their interpretation and the meaning they assign to what they see. It’s all about how you make sense of what you observe.

ansel adams_fuzzy concept_quote

In the art of communication, the skilled performer is ever conscious that the image seen may not reflect the one captured, and the story created by the viewer may not match the one being projected by the sender. If you truly seek to understand another person’s point of view, you must be willing to see the world through their lens. Like photography and all fine arts, perspective-taking is a skill which is developed over time through diligent practice, keen observation, acute trial and error, and endless wonder about the natural world. You are always creating images and painting pictures from your own pallet of interpretation. How might someone else see it differently? What would it be like to view the world through another lens? What is the potential benefit and beauty of considering another point of view? What else might be present? What else could sharpen your image? What are you not seeing? In what other ways could this situation being conceptualized or understood?

Remember that you are always hypothesizing, so ask yourself, “what am I not yet aware of?”

ansel_adams_awareness_quote

About the Author: Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology, and her research is based on mindfulness. Contact: sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

Image Credit: 1, 2, 3, 4

Leading Through Goal-Setting and Daily Mini Performance Reviews

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I was shocked to find that some leaders don’t take goal-setting and performance reviews seriously. Instead, it’s considered a formality or something done because it is “required”. Once a year, managers and employees meet to discuss goals that were forgotten a week after they were set and never revisited throughout the year. Two signatures later, they return to what they were doing.

Proper goal-setting is so important because it sets realistic expectations for performance and prevents employees from ever being confused about what they need to accomplish next. Every day, employees should refer back to the goals and use them to plan out the day. And managers should have regular conversations with employees on what goals are working, what goals are not working, and what goals need to change.

SMART-goal-setting-examples

Essentially, this is a performance review spread throughout the year. Then, when it comes time for the actual performance review, there are no surprises. This places focus not on the “final exam”, but on the daily tasks that employees do to make progress toward each of the goals.

So meet with your direct reports regularly and have conversations focused around goals with the perspective that you are there to do whatever you can to help them meet those goals. You are the coach; they are the athletes. And by setting those goals and making daily progress, nothing can stand in the way.

“Success isn’t owned — it’s leased. And rent is due every day.” – @JJWatt

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Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

Humor me this…

You remember the ol’ classic one liners people used to tell? “Did you hear that one about the teacher, the pastor, and a farmer who went ….”. Yea, I can’t remember the rest of the joke either but I still find them to be simple and amusing.  These jokes have almost a sacredness about them and have this allure similar to the Cartoon section in the New Yorker. The classic nature of these jokes and the quirky delivery gets me every time. I love it. To me, one of the greatest attributes in a leader is the ability to inject humor and light-heartedness into a stressful situation.  The delivery and the punch line are the two greatest elements to good humor and a smart leader recognizes that being the brunt of most jokes is a good thing. Self-deprecation and honest humility are common elements that build trust and admiration with those you are leading.

However, one thing to remember is that just because you have something funny or witty to say, you shouldn’t always pull the trigger. As Winston Churchill once said, “A joke is a very serious thing.” Often people insert half-truths, undercutting jabs, subtle attacks, and mocking humor that can be very offensive and off-putting. As in any great play or performance, know your audience and the setting and be sure that your humor makes people feel appreciated and not belittled.

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

Have the negatives taken over time and focus?

If you think for a minute about your average workday, how would you divide that workday between focusing on positives versus focusing on negatives?  Do you tend to catch people doing something wrong more often than doing something right?  If you answered “yes”, you might be adding to the overall negativity, yourself.

Praise or Condemn

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This negative focus may be a byproduct of our own culture.  Pull up any of the major news websites at any given time and you’ll see that a high percentage of the headlines usually have negative undertones.

While we might be quick to blame the media, our own behavior feeds the fire when it comes to this trend.  For example, in a 2012 study, Outbrain, a marketing firm that specializes in internet traffic, found that negative headlines had an average click-through rate (meaning people were actually clicking on the headlines to go to the source content) 68% higher than positive headlines.   There are many different reasons as to why negative headlines receive more attention, but the end-result is still the same.

Even television may be lending a hand.  I admit that I enjoy my own fair share of reality television.  Look at how many reality programs exist on various channels (ex: what happened to the good ‘ole days of MTV just showing music videos?).  Most of those shows thrive on drama, such as verbal arguments or fights between the characters.  Drama and negativity clearly sell.

However, a study published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that those who watched reality television or even violent crime dramas that included verbal or relational aggression between characters tended to have more aggressive responses to threats related to ego.   Does this mean that if you watch reality television that you’re automatically going to get in a fist fight at work?  Probably not, but you have to question how is this might be affecting behavior in the workplace.

To add to this, two sayings come to mind that I’ve heard all throughout my careers at different places of employment.  There’s a good chance you’ve heard these, too:

  1. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
  2. “No news is good news.”
Yelling

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Number 1 is especially important, because solving problems makes up the bulk of most jobs.  Yet, this has trained us to spend our most of our time focusing on those problems, whether the problems are task-related or people-related.   If you have someone reporting to you who is under-performing, it’s likely that individual will take up more of your time and focus compared to your top performer.  Just because “No news is good news” when it comes to your top performer doesn’t mean that they should simply be ignored.

FineAwards.com published a press release in which it reviewed data from a series of Gallup polls on the topic of employee engagement.  They put together an excellent infographic that you can find here.  Some of the interesting data they found is as follows:

  • 35% of respondents consider lack of recognition the primary hindrance to their productivity
  • 16% of respondents left their previous job based on a lack of recognition
  • 17% of respondents stated that they have never been recognized at their place of employment
  • 69% of respondents stated they would work harder if they received increased recognition

In other words, if only the squeaky wheel is getting the grease, you might look down one day and find that some of your wheels have simply disappeared while your ride is sitting up on blocks.

It takes effort, but intentionally finding people doing things right can have a positive outcome on your work environment, such as lower turnover and higher productivity.  If you can train yourself to also be on the lookout for the positives, you can turn it into a habit.

Leave your comments!

Pent Beneath Fancy Knot

To the one pent beneath fancy knot,

pent behind fancy knot

pent behind fancy knot

It is curious to look at your affair
Catching you gaze toward heaven
Each afternoon seeking fresh air
Petitioning social network for leaven
Numb cheek now fermenting                                                        

Who could rejoice with thee now?

Fatigued, slipping into some ancient chat
You lie back in whispering waves of mocha
Toes banked in lukewarm grains of sand
Swimming in ocean’s of caramel bliss
Careless of the call you just missed

 

Pent beneath fancy knot

Ulysses’ alarm, pale reason to depart
Returning home at sundown—eyes half shut
Visions of Marla—the happy stray mutt
Once proud royal, mourn the day left behind
Slumber to the door—the angel’s tear has descended
You slide softly and silently into your favorite spot.

 

Still pent beneath fancy knot

 

by J. Diamond Arnold

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and Learning Media Producer at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, at lynda.com.

 

 

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