Archive for the ‘ Challenges ’ Category

Act Before You Think – The “OODA Loop” in Leadership

I have always been taught to “think before you act” – I should  consider what exactly I want to do; why; and what the impact is. This way, you have clarity on what you’re doing, and you can avoid making the wrong decision or upsetting people (especially important in leadership).

However, we’re working in business around the globe, using real-time communication, and keeping up with continuous improvements technology; and we need to keep pace with a constantly changing environment – and this means changing our decision making process to match this faster pace.

The “OODA Loop” is not new – it was developed by US Air Force Colonel John Boyd in the 1950’s, and refers to the recurring decision cycle of: observe-orient-decide-act. The quicker this cycle can be processed, the more an organization or individual can gain the upper hand, by being one step ahead of their “opponent’s” decision making.

The model demonstrates a four-point decision loop that supports fast, effective and proactive decision-making:

Observe Gather as much relevant information as possible. (In business, data becomes an important part of this process).
Orient Analyze the information, and use it to change the situation. The better and quicker the leader of an organization is able to gain clarity, the better the decision that can be made
Decide Determine a course of action. Having good data analysis and orientation allows organizations to make better and more repeatable decisions.
Act Follow through on your decision. Act with energy, discipline and drive. This is the heart of the execution process

You cycle through the loop by observing the results of your actions, reviewing and revising your initial decision, and moving to your next action. It needs to be a smooth, continual process, and the faster you can move through each stage the better. In fact, if you were to sit down and map out each step, it would slow down instead of speed up.

OODA Loop

The initial concept was based on military combat operations. Consider a fighter pilot trying to shoot down an enemy aircraft. Before the enemy is even in vision, the pilot considers information of the enemy pilot (level of training, cultural traditions, etc). When the enemy aircraft comes into the radar, our pilot gets more information on speed and size of the enemy plane. A decision is made based on the available information. Our pilot can then loop back to observation: is the attacker reacting to the action of our pilot? Then to orient: is the enemy reacting characteristically? Is his plane exhibiting better-than-expected performance? Based on these, he can cycle back through the loop to making a decision on his next course of action, and carry it out.

Fighter Pilot (TopGun)

If you’re looking to work on your leadership, and become a better leader, your first step might be to create an action plan. “In order to be a better leader, I want to do this, this, and this”. Whilst this action plan might focus your efforts, and provide a roadmap; it is just that: a plan.

When it comes to leadership, the way to produce the change of mindset – to improve the skills you require to become a better leader – is to act differently, rather than just think about it.

In fact, acting differently is more likely to make you think differently.

Someone once told me that, if I act like someone that I would like to meet, in time, I’d become a person that other people want to meet (and this is now written on a piece of A4 paper, stuck on the ceiling above my bed, and I read it every morning when I wake up). This is Boyd’s OODA Loop theory applied to being a ‘nicer’ person; but the same can apply to leadership. Act like the leader that you would like to have leading you, and in time, you’ll become the kind of leader that others want leading them.

You can try something new and, after action, observe the results – how it feels to us, how others around us react – and only later reflect on what our experience taught us.

In other words, we “act like a leader” and then “think like a leader”.

Infectious Thought Germs Will Anger You

Looking past the viral-oriented nature of this video, the main concept presented is critical for leadership. Thoughts, when attached to emotions other than sadness, generally have higher “infection” rates.

Thus, it is important to generate more emotion (hopefully positive and not anger-inducing) around messages that you want your direct reports to remember or share. It seems idea is lost at times in the data-driven world of today, where it’s more important to get across the numbers and metrics than it is to tell a story.

So communicate with feeling and generate positive emotions in your direct reports. Make the topic relevant to them. They will be more receptive to your messages and will remember them better. Let’s infect the world with the good germs to promote healthy thoughts.

Just don’t anger them… or you may end up on the wrong side of a thought germ!

To collaborate, or not to collaborate: that is the question…

Collaboration 2

If you are a millennial or manage millenials you probably perceive collaboration as a key to success.

Managers who believe in top-down leadership are likely to see the negative impact their style has on younger employees. These younger team members have a desire to learn and to know ‘why’ a task should be completed in a certain way. What can ensue is a lack of motivation when their answer is not met with a sufficient explanation.

Collaboration encourages team problem solving, creativity and the support of individuals when they have ‘bought-in’ and been part of the solution. I specifically refer to millenials as they have contributed to this big shift in the way we work and think. However, I am going to be controversial and say,

Is collaboration always positive?

I think we need to take stock of our actions and ask ourselves:

Are we always the most effective leaders if we default to a collaboration mentality?

What happens when we need to make quick decisions for the good of the team and are paralyzed by our fear of not including others?

The Collaboration Pitfall

I first questioned this seemingly ‘best practice’ mentality when I read Jake Breeden’s book ‘Tipping Sacred Cows: Kick the Bad Work Habits That Masquerade as Virtues’.

Jake states that ‘working with others is sometimes a blast, sometimes a must and sometimes a waste’. We can ‘auto-collaborate’; gaining comfort from working in a team and avoiding conflict by reverting to consensus.

If you need to make a quick decision in a manager’s meeting, would you reconvene in order to discuss the matter with the team first? You potentially risk losing your credibility and a decision being made on your behalf in order to move the agenda along.

Being a representative is all about understanding the vision of your team and being able to speak on behalf of the individuals within it – not being able to do so can stifle progress and does not reflect well on your leadership.

I believe this links to time management and could potentially be a cause of overwork and increased stress. I would love to know your thoughts on the matter – so please do share your comments at the bottom of this post.

Get Smarter About Your Time

Bad Team Meeting

We are over-committing to the team, always looking to gain consensus and as a result having longer meetings when we could have made an informed decision ourselves.

Using this example of meeting length, ask yourself the following questions before your next team huddle:

  • Why are we holding a meeting? Will actions be noted and decisions made.
  • Who will be held accountable for the actions? There needs to be follow-up; will individuals be held accountable and how will you do this.
  • Is this the most effective use of everyone’s time? Is everyone going to be actively participating in the meeting; it’s good practice to consider if everyone needs to be there. Does the meeting need to be as long – could all agenda points be covered in 10 minutes (I have never had anyone book a 10 minute meeting, but there have been meetings where I am sure all agenda points could have been covered in that time)?

If you can’t think of adequate answers to these questions you should cancel the meeting. Collaboration has potentially driven you into ineffectiveness.

Changing Our Collaboration Mindset

 This does not mean that collaboration isn’t crucial for the success of individuals, teams and the organisation. It does mean we need to think smarter about when to collaborate.

We need to strike a better balance.  Let’s collaborate smarter to gain back our time, make meetings more productive and refocus on getting results.

 

About the author: Lisa Ellis is the EMEA Client Services Manager at the Ken Blanchard Companies, she manages a team of Project Managers, Learning Services (online learning) and Staffing (resource scheduling).

 

Exercise: It May Help Your Memory

We’ve barely started the new year and already resolutions are being thrown to the wayside. From eating healthier to saving more money, there’s one resolution is quite popular: exercising more.

I’m currently struggling against the hump that we all face after heading to the gym a few times. My motivation is at an all-time low. If you’re like me, you may be more willing to exercise after hearing that exercise can potentially improve your memory:

Credit: BrainCraft

What have you forgotten lately, both at home and at work? Perhaps an anniversary or something more physical like your keys? Or at something you had to do that wasn’t on your calendar?

Well, exercise may be the answer. So motivate yourself to push through the hump, because once you get into the groove, you’ll be improving not just your body but your mind as well.

exercise_motivation

Image Credit: 1

Millennials are Here to Stay

In 2015, Millennials will be the largest generation in the workforce according to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Millennials already make up 28% of management and 2/3 see themselves in management within the next 10 years. Millennials are turning the page to a new chapter for the workforce and will take over as the majority leaders and will have the ability to make large decisions and have great impact.

So what do we know about Millennials? Let’s break this down into what non-Millennial hiring managers believe about Millennials vs. what Millennials actually believe about themselves.1471951_586401470518_4259087240555250497_n

In a recent survey…

Technology

What non-Millennial managers believe:

  • 82% believe that Millennials are more technically adept than prior generations

What Millennials believe:

  • 74% believe they can learn new things more quickly

Loyalty

What non-Millennial managers believe:

  • The majority (53%) report difficulty finding and retaining Millennial talent

What Millennials believe:

  • 79% say that would consider quitting their job and work for themselves in the future
  • A majority (52%) say corporate loyalty is outdated and a majority (58%) expect to stay in their job fewer than 3 years

The majority (80%) of hiring managers surveyed believe that Millennials are narcissistic, 65% believe Millennials are money-driven, and only 27% believe Millennials are team players. However, those same managers also feel that Millennials are more open to change (72%), creative (66%), and adaptable (60%).

The question isn’t whether there is a discrepancy on perspectives, but more so how we handle these differences and positively influence or channel the Millennials’ energy.

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

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

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

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