Archive for the ‘ Business ’ Category

Flow to Success!

Have you ever become so engrossed in a fun task that you lost track of time? Then you’ve experienced the concept of flow. Developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it describes the state of mind when you reach the perfect combination of task challenge and personal skill:

Flow_Senia_Maymin

Click the image below for a simple demonstration of flow (use the mouse to move and remember to return when you’re finished):

Flow_logo

The creator of this simple game used Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow to develop the game elements. Since you can decide when to move further, you are always in control of both the level of challenge and skill, meaning you can always keep yourself in a state of flow.

Now think about your direct reports and their tasks. Are they in a state of flow? If not, is it due to the task being too difficult, or the direct reports not having high enough skills? Or perhaps the challenge isn’t increasing proportionately with their skills? And think about your own tasks. Are you in a state of flow? Why or why not? What can you do to improve your workplace and encourage more flow?

It’s clear that employees can become more engaged and productive, while constantly developing and growing, by applying this simple model to the workplace. So the next time you’re at work, try adjusting the level of challenge to match the level of skill. You might be surprised to find how much fun you can have while in flow!

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The Customer Experience: Generation-Driven?

Are expectations from the younger generations driving changes to customer service and product support?

genyEarlier this week, I came across an article on Forbes.com titled What Kind Of Customer Experience Are Millennials (Gen-Y) Looking For?.  In the article, Micah Solomon, the article’s author, attempts to summarize the expectations of the Millennial generation when it comes to expectations around customer service and customer experience:

Millennials are looking for the same customer experience as are older customers–but even more so. (More efficient, more respectful of their time, easier, more reliable, more transparent, with more choices and more control for the customer.)”

Expectations around customer service, customer experience, and product support are definitely on the rise, though I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is specific to Gen-Y.  In general, people want options when it comes to products and services and how they interact with business.

For example, if you’ve ever needed to contact Amazon’s support, you know they offer different methods to contact them via phone, email, or live chat.  They also have a web interface for their customers to do things like initiate a return, track shipments of orders, manage browsing history, along with a list of other options.  As the customer, I can decide my preference for how I want to interact using the various options Amazon has provided.

serviceAlternatively, red tape can slow down or even destroy a customer’s experience.  If I buy a product from a retail outlet and decide I want to return it, why should I have to fill out a form and then provide my driver’s license, social security number, birth certificate, etc…, just to get refund?

I understand that businesses need to protect themselves from fraudulent returns, but if I have to jump through hoops just to make a return as a customer, I may start looking elsewhere for my next purchase from a business with a less-intrusive return policy.  That extra 15 minutes it costs me to do a return as a customer may also wind up costing the business-in-question a future revenue stream.

If you want to improve your customer experience, don’t look at just Gen-Y, but look at your entire customer base.  As cliché as it sounds, ask your customers for feedback!  Most won’t hesitate to tell you what they want or would like to see if the benefit for them is an improved experience, product, or service.  However, you have to be sure to follow through with implementing at least some of those requests (and make it known to your customer base that those implementations are due directly to customer feedback) to show that you’re receptive to their feedback and suggestions.

Leave your comments!

The Deadliest Sin of Leadership

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” — Albert Einstein

Excellence Road SignDivine Comedy tells the tale of one man’s journey through a three-phased adventure—Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise—in his quest for everlasting life. While stranded in the middle stage of his adventure, Dante has a chilling discovery about life in the everyday world. Stranded in Purgatory, an uncertain state where one’s soul awaits judgment between redemption and retribution, he is enlightened to the wandering ways of the world he has just experienced.

Here, he explains the ills of that world through seven distorted loves, better known as deadly “sins.” These include the excessive loves of Lust, Gluttony, and Greed, the deficient love of Sloth, and the malicious love of Wrath, Envy, and Pride. The abuse of the most pure forms of human interaction, Love, lead to a path of destruction and chaos in the state of Purgatory where Dante finds himself.

My work as a Leadership Consultant has led me through the mind-set of many organizations on a quest to find perpetual success and prosperity. While in this wandering state, I have discovered the most distorted perversion of leadership—the toleration of mediocrity.

Mediocrity is a cunning and crafty creature, the slinks and slides it’s way through a community of people intended for a greater good. It is sometimes guised in charm and humor, winning over fans with its good-natured country attitude. “Mañana! Tomorrow!” is the mantra sung at the end of the day, while rushing down the path toward the comforts of home. Sometimes, it no longer strives, begs, or craves for excellence, but is content with results that are, “good enough.”

When leaders turn a blind eye to, or minimize such attitudes within organizations, it can be a destructive habit-forming virus that slowly erodes the higher vision and values of the community. Far too often, leaders excuse a lack of desire for excellent work because of long-standing relationships with the individuals who consistently host such average behaviors. Some leaders do not know how, or may not have the will to address such subtle behaviors that beg, barrow, and steal from others’ great work, just to cover for their own lack of effort, dedication, or deferred experience to crafting their personal skills at a higher level. Some leaders are, themselves, guilty of the sin of mediocrity.

Millions of individuals throughout the workforce, from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups to non-profits, have pockets of people who, “Quit and Stay” at work. Others are lost or mislead by leaders within the organization, stuck in the rut of performing daily activities without a clear purpose or understanding of how their role contributes to the organization. Even worse, leaders allow average performers to cultivate the poisonous fruit of bitterness and gossip about other high achievers within the organization.

Organizations are only as great as they challenge or permit their contributors to be. If leaders within organizations do not take high performance and effort sincerely, they run the risk of creating a corporate Purgatory by breading a contempt and dismissal of individuals who do value excellence, effort, and efficiency. The deadliest sin of leadership is the aiding and abetting of mediocrity, at work, home, or in life.

About the Author:

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 Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, at lynda.com.

A Managerial Felony

“Why don’t you and I go get some lunch to connect?” Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard that from your manager. Ok, put your hand down before they see what you are reading. Plus, that guy in IT might think you’re waving him down to get in for the weekly donut rotation.
I have never been a real fan of “reconnecting” over lunch or any other median, really. It’s superficial, a little pretentious, and a lot of wasted emotion.Be-Your-Own-Boss-If-you-cant-find-a-job-with-a-Felony
Here’s three good ways to stay connected with your direct reports:

  • Conduct weekly or biweekly one on one’s. Depending on how many direct reports you have, it is absolutely imperative that you meet with them one on one to discuss their needs. Make this a formal time; there are a number of informal meetings, chats by the lunch room, and discussions about projects. A formal one on one with a focused discussion on the needs of your direct report will open up communication. From a practical stand point, make it 30 minutes or an hour if you can swing it. Let your direct report create the agenda and don’t use this time to “dump” projects or work on them.
  • Ask them about their lives outside of work. This is really important if you have a new or newer employee. Chances are they may be nervous, hesitant, and a little insecure about their new environment and work. Nothing eases that pressure  more than a manager who is genuinely invested in the lives of those who work for them. No one wants to work for a robot…
  • Be invested in them professionally and personally. Not everything is a competition and not everyone is a competitor. Many times, we are our own worst enemies. Supervisors should be people who care about other people. On my boss’s wall, for example, is written, “Every person has intrinsic value.” Employees work best when they are respected, valued, and heard.

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 atgus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

Quit & Stayed, or Quit & Paid?

If you’re not familiar with the term “quit & stayed”, it is the act of mentally quitting, yet staying in the same physical environment. More specifically, it’s the act of becoming disengaged in the work you complete, whether that’s for a business or just in general.

"Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

Chances are that you work with one or more people who have quit & stayed.  They are people who show up just for the paycheck.  They aren’t passionate about their job.  They don’t have the motivation to go above and beyond.  In a perfect world, everyone would get paid handsomely to do what they love, but unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.  Almost every company and organization has employees who fit into this category.

Amazon recently listed this trend in the annual letter to shareholders from company CEO Jeff Bezos along with a plan to deal with employees who have quit & stayed.  The idea behind this plan is that once a year, employees will be offered a payout to quit.  Depending on how many years you’ve been with Amazon, you could make anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 for handing in your resignation.   The idea isn’t to create a high turnover rate, but instead, bring in new blood and energy where existing employees may have no interest in maintaining their career with Amazon.

Personally, I’d be curious to know what this does to their turnover rate.  Will they see an uptick in the number of employees who move on to other companies?  More importantly, are they paying adding unnecessary costs by paying employees to resign who might resign in either case even if they weren’t getting a bonus to do so?

Jeff Bezos says it best: “In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”  That is one statement I wholeheartedly agree with.

Be sure to take a look at The Ken Blanchard Companies Quit & Stayed Leadership Livecast.  You can even view 17 minutes of the Livecast for free.

Leave your comments!

Leadership is a Verb

lead·er·ship [lee-der-ship] noun

the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group: He managed to maintain his leadership of the party despite heavy opposition. Synonyms: administration, management, directorship, control, governorship, stewardship, hegemony.

From 1973 until 2000, one of America’s largest, and eventually global, courier delivery services, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, was called Federal Express. In January of 2000, Federal Express changed its name to FedEx Corporation and implemented one of the most successful re-branding campaigns in American history.

Lead!

Lead!

After the rebranding efforts took place, something even more significant than the shorter name and little arrow added between the “E” and the “X” began to evolve into a new idea. The word FedEx, became known, not just as a way to define a company, but as something you do as a critical part of your business. “I need you to FedEx me the product tomorrow.” “I’ll FedEx that to you right away.”

FedEx evolved from a being a noun into a verb!

The same thing is happening to the idea of leadership. For the past 50 years, the leadership development industry has exploded into a multi-billion dollar industry because companies around the world are realizing the competitive advantage to having a strong leadership strategy.

I recently found myself sitting in a coffee shop, having a conversation with one of the coauthors of Leadership Genius, and one of the top gurus on the topic of leadership, Dr. Drea Zigarmi.

“Leadership has been an over-used word, in which some people think of it as a person or a thing. It’s not thing. It’s action, or a series of actions you do with people.” Taking a long, slow sip of his coffee, he leaned toward me and proclaimed, “Leadership is a verb!”

When you think of the word leading, you have to consider that it means doing something. It means moving an idea, project, or a dream from one place to a higher place—through the shadows and the conflicts and into the light and consumption of meaning and purpose.

It takes action to effectively move a package from Memphis, Tennessee, to Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire, where a little boy or little girl eagerly open a package to discover something magical, something that will bring a smile to their face. Great organizations, whether it’s a global company serving millions of people or it’s the little pizza shop down on the corner, move their people from knowing what a good job looks like to doing a good job consistently, task by task, with passion and excellence.

Great organizations are dedicated to developing more than just leaders; they are dedicated to developing people who lead! Great leaders are defined by what they do, not by what they know.

About the Author:

 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 Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, at lynda.com.

What’s Your Management Astrological Sign?

I’ve been out of the dating scene for a while, but from what I see on the World Wide Web and the occasional post on various social media outlets, kids these days are using astrological signs to best match up with partners. In order to have a great experience at work, it’s important to find out what astrological signs exist for managers and which work for you. But there are some obvious signs that anyone in the workforce should be careful to avoid.

The Seagull:

Often the seagull is seen hovering around various office spaces looking to “connect.” He might be seen wearing baseball cap with a sports coat and a tie. He often checks fantasy football on his iPhone and rarely skips a chance to “do lunch” with the boss. He’s not really into how you feel and in fact would rather not know. As Ken Blanchard says, “You gotta watch out for Seagull Management. Seagull managers fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, and then fly out.” These seagulls think they are special because when they “show up” they cause a lot of havoc and they think they are just “getting things going.”

Seagulls don’t play well with direct reports but tend to get along well with same level managers and especially executives.

Direct Reports:

  • Be careful about getting wrapped up with what the seagull manager brings and be prepared to diffuse the situation.
  • What to watch out for:  He’s not really your friend, unless he needs something from you.

Managers:

  • Play in the weekly football pool, but never accept his trades on fantasy football.
  • What to watch out for: Don’t get wrapped up in his management style. It may look effective and envious, but it’s not an efficient way to manage long-term.

Executives:

  • They are gimmicks. He might “get the job done”, but he will lose some of your best talent.
  • What to watch out for: Pay attention to turnover in this department. It might be a red flag for a dysfunctional team.

The Peacock:Male-Peacock-displaying

Don’t be confused with the peacock. He’s a deceiver. He looks like he’s doing a bunch of work but he’s really lazy. His favorite management tool is the “delegation.” He’s too busy with everything he’s got going on so he gives away everything he’s supposed to do. He is tangential with his speech because he’s not really saying anything but words continually spew out of his mouth. No one understands him, but somehow we hear him. You may think its Armani but really the suit is a hand-me-down from his late, great Uncle Cornelius.

Peacocks don’t play well with direct reports but tend to get along well with same level managers. Executives aren’t fooled.

Direct Reports:

  • Prioritize the tasks given and don’t be afraid to get clarification.
  • What to watch out for: He will task you to death, so don’t get burned out.

Managers:

  • Don’t be a Peacock. For the sake of those who work for you, please don’t be a Peacock.
  • What to watch out for: 3 Piece Suits aren’t that great.

Executives:

  • Please send to remedial leadership training.
  • What to watch out for: Take a second look before you decide to promote.

The Chameleon

This guy. He’s quite the charmer and is generally liked in the office. He brings donuts on Fridays and loves puppies. These are all good things, but those that know him best are not sold on him. He has a tendency to say one thing and do another, over-commits to projects, and rarely delivers on what he promises. He tries to please too many people and has mastered the art of the fake smile.

Chameleons generally get along well with everyone, except those closest to him.

Direct Reports:

  • Have a conversation with him about how you feel; it might actually go better than you think.
  • What to watch out for: Stay away from the donuts.

Managers:

  • If you have this tendency, then don’t be afraid to say no every once in a while.
  • What to watch out for: If you know other managers like this, be careful in conversing with them. They may gossip and take up too much of your time with unnecessary conversation.

Executives:

  • May not be the best to run day-to-day operations.
  • What to watch out for: You may see signs of disorganization and lack of process in their department.

If you happen to run into one of these types of managers, just be sure to steer clear as much as you can!

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 “Business Decision” May Not Always be the Right Decision

When I hear someone say “it’s a business decision”, money is usually the first thing that comes to mind.  The choice that was made was based on overall cost to the company or individual.  While it’s wise to consider cost, spending and/or investments, it’s not the end-all, be-all of choices within business.

Money There are other factors you need to consider, such as how the choice-in-question will affect your employees or customers.  Depending on the outcome of those choices, they may even change public perception of you or your business.  It could be that saving on immediate cost can hurt your income in the long run.

Take, for example, a news report out of Melbourne, Florida, regarding a man whose vehicle was wrecked by an employee of an auto repair shop.  This wasn’t an accident that happened during a test drive of the vehicle.  Instead, this happened during a joyride by one of the auto shop’s employees who crashed the vehicle not once, but twice on the very same morning.  In the eyes of the law, the employee didn’t do anything illegal.  After all, repair shops tend to take vehicles for test rides all the time to make sure they did the repairs correctly.

While there is nothing criminal that took place in the eyes of the law, you would think the auto shop would take responsibility for the actions of the employee, right?  According to the news report, the auto shop refuses to state it did anything wrong or reimburse the owner for the loss of their vehicle.

Obviously, paying for the loss of the owner’s vehicle is a direct cost to the auto shop.  They could choose to pay for it directly, or Downward Trendhave their insurance cover the loss, in which case, they will likely face increased insurance premiums.   No one wants to deal with costs that weren’t planned for, but in this case, what is going to be the long-term cost to the auto shop by not paying the immediate expense now?

I know that if I needed to take my vehicle in for repairs, I wouldn’t want to take it to this particular auto shop simply due to this story.  While it’s highly unlikely they will have another situation like this come up, why would I risk it when the vehicle owner in this story allegedly has to go through this hassle?  The choice being made by the auto shop now is sending a message to potential customers that they may not put their customers first when making decisions.

Immediate cost cannot always be the deciding factor.  If it is, it could cost you in the long run.

Leave your comments!

Intentional Leadership—3 Timeless Narratives for 2014

Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” —Aristotle

January is littered by a multitude of good intentions! That new number at the end of the Roman calendar, blindly promising to bring us prosperity and success, does often become a distant memory by the time the groundhog raises his weary head from a winter slumber. But the start of something new—a year, a friendship, a work project—can be a great opportunity to lead yourself and others to great success through three simple narratives.

High Intensions

High Intensions

High Intentions 

The giddy hope and high expectations of a new year often outpace our ability to align old habits with those new intensions. However, high intention is the heart beat of any personal or social revolution. It is woven into the tapestry of humanity, to naturally hope for higher levels of happiness and purpose in our lives. High intensions do not mean that a person who has them need be dissatisfied with the life they are living, but rather are open to challenges and disappointment as they seek meaning and purpose at work, at home, or at play.

Sincere Effort

However, the highest intentions are but a thought in the wind without sincere effort to make those intentions a reality. An athlete or an artist does not become excellent without sincere effort. Effort is easy, sincere effort is meeting of the cruelest of tasks with the same zeal for the things we love to do. Sincere effort requires us to do more than put one foot in front of the other; it requires us to take each step, each daily task, as an opportunity to align it with our highest intensions.

Success

Success

Intelligent Execution

Our highest intentions and sincerest efforts must be driven by more than just arbitrary motion or aimless daily activity. It’s one thing to have a workout scheduled on your calendar, but it’s another task to lace up the shoes and complete that workout. If you have made resolutions, or have a set of goals for yourself this year, they will ultimately be measured by the intelligence of their execution, not the height of your intensions or the sincerity of your efforts. Forming an intelligent execution strategy promotes real goal achievement. With intelligent execution, you are moving from intensions and knowing, in to action through doing.

***

Excellence at work or in life is more than a thought or an idea, it is a purpose driven effort. Make your choices wiser and more productive this year through high intentions, sincere effort, and intelligent execution of those efforts. Live the life you intend to live!

 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 Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, a lynda.com and Ken Blanchard Companies production.

What’s a MOOC?

Haven’t heard of a MOOC before? Well, you’re probably not alone. A MOOC stands for a Massive Open Online Course and its purpose is to give free online education to learners around the world. Although we have had access to free online education for years, the MOOC has forever transformed the quality of courses that are now accessible to anyone with a computer and the desire to learn. MOOC’s really took form in the fall of 2011 after Stanford offered three online courses for free and enrollment reached 260,000 students from over 175 countries. Since, many MOOC’s have popped up from starts-ups to major universities. They all have the same goal in mind and that is to give online education for little to no cost.

Have you ever wanted to take Data Analysis for Genomics at Harvard? Well probably not, but now you can as the class starts in early 2014. If Poetry in America: Whitman is a course that more interests you, sign up now as class begins on January 15th at the edx MOOC.

Mooc

Various MOOC offerings

Corporate America is now jumping at these ideas and are giving incentives for their employees to take these course and have incorporated them into their corporate training programs. In a recent survey by Future Workplace, 70% of HR and Learning professionals said they saw opportunities to integrate MOOCs into their own company’s learning program.

There are many, but here are my favorite.

https://www.coursera.org/

http://www.udacity.com/

https://www.edx.org/

If you enroll in a course, I wouldn’t run out and by a Harvard alumni sweater, but you can still get America’s highest quality education for free. Many questions are still surrounding the MOOC. Will the MOOC transform the way we look at education? Are schools and universities ready to accept these free online courses as transferable credit? What impact will MOOC’s have on the cost of education? Although many of these questions are yet to be fully realized, we know that they are growing and aren’t going away anytime soon.

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

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