Wandering The Navajo Pollen Path

Annual events such as birthdays, holidays, or the New Year inspire us to re-orient ourselves as we ask some important questions: Where am I and how did I get here? What goals did I set what have I achieved or missed? Where am I headed and how will I get there? What have I learned and who has helped me? What I am grateful for and what would I like to change? Where did I struggle and where did I rise?

Three years ago, when I was emerging from great struggle and conflict into self-realization and growth, a dear friend introduced me to the Navajo Pollen Path, pictured below.

Navajo-Pollen-PathAccompanied by a ceremonial chant:

Oh beauty before me,
beauty behind me,
beauty to the right of me,
beauty to the left of me,
beauty above me,
beauty below me,
I am on the Pollen Path.
In the house of life I wander,
On the pollen path.

The Pollen Path symbolizes an individual’s journey through life and it is rich in myth and meaning. Originally created as a sand painting, it was used in ritualistic healing ceremonies during which community members gathered to support an individual on their spiritual exploit. Following their own footprints at the bottom of the image, the initiate passes by two guardians who usher the individual into the spiritual world. As the initiate continues up the cornstalk, which symbolizes sustenance, there are several points along way where pollen is sprinkled to germinate his growth. Within this sacred space, the individual experiences positive and negative forces and he encounters spiritual messengers, depicted as male versus female and representing the different energies of the sun and moon. These helpers arrive at a critical time when the individual’s path is dramatically struck by a bolt of lightning, electrifying his opportunity to either seek and accept help or be stalled on his journey. If he is brave enough to continue forward in the after-shock, the individual meets a dove at the top of the cornstalk, which symbolizes peace at the end of his path. He has reached spiritual enlightenment and is now free to follow his footsteps back to the beginning where he will be ushered once again into a new pollen path.

It is circuitous to remind us that our journey has many starting points, stalling points, opportunities for growth, and people in our surroundings who are there to help us in ways we often are not aware of until we emerge from the path stronger and ready to start again. The Pollen Path can be used as a reminder that struggle is a natural part of life and a necessary condition for progress. It can serve as a reminder to never take for granted the beautiful hearts and souls who have helped you along your journey, and it can provide a sense of purpose knowing that you might be instrumental to someone else’s growth.

Like many of you, I have reflected on my trials and triumphs from the past year and I welcome a fresh start at the dawn of the New Year. May you find what you seek in 2015! In the house of life you wander, on the Pollen Path. It’s a continuous journey—Make it a beautiful year!

Photo Credit: Pollen Path

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. Continue reading

Streaming: The Future of Virtual Learning?

There is a revolution happening in the world of video games. It is called Twitch. It’s a website where gamers can directly stream footage of their game daily and provide voice commentary. Most also share their webcams in the corner of the screen and respond to chat either directly in the chat window or via voice. They generate revenue through subscribers who pay monthly ($5 on average) for special benefits (like being entered into giveaways) and donations. And it’s gaining so much popularity that Amazon purchased it for almost a billion dollars and was considered the fourth largest source of internet traffic in the US in early 2014.

Pewdiepie Playing Goat Simulator

So why is this important? Well, within the realm of learning, MOOCs have gained much popularity for providing content on the go at little to no cost. But the content is not flexible and other than forums, there’s no fast way to interact with the content provider, especially if you need clarification or have a quick question. It lacks the feel of communicating directly with a live human being. And virtual training/learning is great, but could be expensive and the scheduling might be inconvenient or infrequent.

video-blogging-300x224

In a sense, MOOCs are like YouTube, where people upload content and others view it. So what is out there for learning that is like Twitch? Currently, virtual training/learning and live video blogging comes the closest. But imagine if there were entertaining individuals streaming, for instance, a fun learning videogame or sharing some interesting but educational videos for just a half hour every night and providing witty commentary. And also answering questions out loud on the video as you ask them in the chat window. And providing free giveaways for both subscribers and regular viewers.

How-To-Video-Your-Way-To-Success

There are technology platforms already in place to enable this type of streaming to occur. And there are many people who would benefit from this type of content. And for the streamers, there is revenue to be generated through subscribers. I believe that this will be the next big learning platform to take off once more people start taking advantage of this technology, particularly when more of the YouTube generation starts to enter the workforce.

What are your thoughts? Would this be something that would interest you?

Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

How to Lead a Millennial

I am a millennial. I almost feel obligated to apologize for that because, for some, it has almost become a dirty word. Disjointed, entitled, unsocial… the list goes on. These are just some of the adjectives that people might describe this large portion of the Hipster Girlwork force and the current and future leaders of America.

For now, let’s say we get past our differences and agree on one thing: What we (millennials) need out of our leaders is different than what you needed. We need:

  • We don’t do politics very well. We haven’t quite navigated the whole office politics thing at all. You may see that as naive, but chances are, we may never actually master office politics. Truth be told, we are just not that into it. Our office politics are more like “The Office” and less like a scene from “House of Cards.”
  • Yes, we were the age that grew up with MySpace and “the” Facebook. We crave information and can read through it very quickly. We have the ability to look at a large amount of information and sift through the minutia to get what we need out of it. We actually embrace vulnerability as long as we are kept in the know about things. We hate to be blindsided or caught off guard.
  • Once we’ve earned it, stay out of our way! (In a good way). We are not a big fan of being micro-managed and want opportunities to be creative and innovative. We’ve grown up with technological innovation happening constantly around us and so that has nurtured our own creativity. And we want to show that off in our work.

Unemployed MillennialTo all non-millenials, remember, we are the generation that saw our parents lose their jobs, pensions, and futures during the economic downturn. We watched the news as the unemployment line was packed with people looking to stay afloat. We heard many say, “I lost my job and that was the only thing I knew how to do.” So we are diversifying our biggest portfolio by investing in ourselves. We are getting as many skills as possible, and although we may be accused of “coming for your jobs”, we are really just in survival mode. And we probably always will be.

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

Managing Your Mind

Doorway to Consciousness

Before you can effectively manage your career, relationships, home, hobbies, and the pursuit of your dreams, you’ll first need to master the skill of managing your mind. Yes, it is a skill. Yes, it can be learned and strengthened through the practice of meditation. Essentially meditation is mental training. Mindfulness—my preferred form of mental training—is the practice of focusing on present-moment experience. As simple as it sounds, it certainly is not easy! Mindfulness is learned experientially and getting a firm grasp on it takes time, but not as much as you might think. In this popular TED talk, Andrew Puddicombe explains it best:

The mind is the seat of consciousness, the realm of all mental and emotional processing, somatic sensation and perception, and the intricate combination of moment-to-moment experiences we call life. That’s where it all plays out, in your mind. Knowing that, you can see why a calm and well-functioning mind is the foundation for health and happiness.

How can mindfulness help? Focus. Blanchard consultants and coaches will attest that in order to sustain learning after training, focus is key. Without focus the untrained mind is like a puppy, distracted by anything that moves. Training a puppy takes energy and discipline. The process can be frustrating and it won’t work without consistency and patience. Mental training is similar. In its natural state the mind is like a puppy, running in circles and sometimes colliding with walls because it can’t stop. Frantic mental activity perpetuates stress, anxiety, pain, and struggle. When we lack focus, we lack control over our experience. We cannot always change the events that occur but we can change how we experience them. Mindfulness is a way of redirecting attention and thus acting with greater intention and less struggle. It starts with noticing what you are experiencing in the present moment and simply observing without judging it—Sort of just sitting with it rather than reacting to it. Mindfulness is the space between stimulus and response.

mindfulness_poster_UK

A common misconception about mindfulness, as Puddicombe explains, is that “people assume that meditation is all about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind. But actually it’s…about stepping back, seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going.” Did you know that we spend nearly half of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing? Astounding! Cognitive neuroscientists have shown that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind, and an unhappy mind is an unproductive one. Instead we can choose, in any moment, to sit with reality by mindfully bringing our attention back to here and now.

TNH_Meditation

Looking for an introduction to the practice of mindfulness and how it can improve your wellbeing? Here are some resources to get you started:

Mind full, or mindful? The choice is yours.

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.

Motivation: What’s Yours?

I was asked a question today: “What motivates you?”

I immediately thought about context: Motivations for work-related tasks? For my own personal goals? And then I thought about life in general. What motivates me to get up every day?

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This is such a powerful question. The answer says so much about who you are as a person. Whether you are internally or externally motivated, and your reasoning for why you are motivated in that way can shed light on your values and morals. Even how you frame the answer conveys what you find most important in your life.

And yet, despite the wealth of information this simple question could provide, many leaders don’t ask this of themselves and of their direct reports. Leaders can uncover why they’ve become leaders and what strengths and weaknesses they possess. They can also discover how engaged their workforce is and how to better inspire their employees.

So go ask yourself and those around you, “What motivates you?”

motivation

Image Credit: 1 | 2

Are you a Travel Agent or Tour Guide Manager?

If you are like me, all you want to do is “see everything” once you get to a new country or city. I just want to go out and explore every inch of the city and get a feel for the people, the food, and the culture. On my last trip Travel agentto Venice I ended up getting lost and seeing the same tall buildings for 2 straight hours as I kept going in circles through the buildings that divide the canals. At times in my career I’ve been doing the same thing wandering aimlessly throughout my day to day tasks.  Often Ken Blanchard tells us that “Leadership is a partnership” and that we must work together to accomplish tasks. If you have ever had a bad manager or a bad travel agent, you know how important this collaboration is.

Take a look at these descriptions to see what kind of manager fits your description:

Travel Agent: He has never done the job before that he is asking you to do, and probably will never end up doing it himself. He has tons of tips of ways to accomplish the task but has never even stepped onto the job site. He doesn’t speak the business language at all, but tries to act like he does, while continuously mispronouncing business terminology. He also keeps repeating the word “synergy” because he thinks it sounds great but has no idea what it means. He also thinks SCRUM is a type of Norwegian cheese spread.

Tour Guide: Knows the job really well and has extensive experience in the field. He speaks the business language fluently and often teaches these classes at night to new comers. He knows the job site in and out and can tell you the best places to meet new peopactivite-loisirs-gap-saut-parachute-biplace-au-dessus-alpes-10le and who to learn from. He’s often seen walking around the office and getting acquainted with the culture and knows the real players in the organization. He guides his direct reports every day and helps them navigate the business while providing them with the best information possible. He doesn’t accept tips at the end of the day because he genuinely loves to do his work.

If you are a Travel Agent manager, don’t feel bad. Get out there, explore the sites, and get familiar with the “culture”. Sip the wine, mingle, and help your direct reports through their workplace experience. Really do your best to partner with them and guide them through their role and tasks.

The workplace needs more leaders who can partner with their direct reports for success. No travel agents needed.

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

A Tale of Two Leaders

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

Best of Times, Worst of Times

Best of Times, Worst of Times

The opening lines of Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, hints at the central tension throughout the classic novel—the growing struggle between a thriving and oppressed society. The tension between two worlds of existence builds throughout the story and leads to the dawn of the French Revolution.

A familiar narrative is playing out in today’s workplace and society—the growing tension between good leadership and bad leadership. Organizations around the world are either thriving or struggling under the effective, or ineffective, leadership at all levels of an organization.

While delivering a recent virtual presentation to individual contributors and managers from diverse locations that spanned from the United States to the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and Iran, I asked participants to consider two scenarios during their careers. “Consider a time when it was the best of times at work. Then consider a season where you’ve experienced the worst of times at work.”

During the Best of Times at work participants described an environment where they felt energized by going to work. They were alive and thriving. Individuals were empowered to bring their best ideas to the table of collaboration in an open and trustworthy environment. Conflicts were resolved with fairness and efficiency. They felt as if their personal goals and responsibilities where aligned with that of the organization.

During the Worst of Times, the list grew longer and darker. Participants described a workplace that was stressful and frightening. People were not open to collaborating or sharing new ideas out of fear for being reprimanded or dismissed, or even the threat of loosing their jobs. Conflicts went unresolved, and in some instances, escalated to threats and bullying by other employees, managers, and executives.

No matter what the circumstances were, or the country or culture they experienced in, the environment was unanimously driven by the presence, or lack there of, good leadership.

Effective leadership is the most critical asset in the health and happiness of an organization, family, community, nation, or organization. Though organizations may be thriving finically, or having an amazing mission, the most important factor in sustained and meaningful success is founded on the way the leaders act and behave, in public and through interpersonal relationships at every level of the organization they are leading.

How would you describe your work environment today? Is it the Best of Times for you at work? Is it the Worst of Times? Are you leading and being led in the most effective manner that leads to personal and organizational health and happiness? The best of times at work are created when people at every level of the organization are committed to learning, growing, and living effective leadership behaviors.

 

Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant 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 also passionate about developing leadership in youth through The Blanchard Institute, a youth leadership development program that teaches core leadership concepts to young people all around the world.

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