Archive for the ‘ Coaching ’ Category

The Smile Test and the Positive Leader


Did you feel happier? Now try this experiment again with a group of friends in the same room. Look at one another as you smile. Does anything change?

From what I’ve experienced, being around a group enhances the effects of the smile test. Why? Because happiness is contagious. And by smiling, you encourage better moods in the people around you, which can even circle back around and improve your own mood further.

So share your smile and laughter with those around you as much as you can every day. You’ll be regarded as a more positive leader, someone who uplifts and inspires anyone and everyone. You may even find, as Brent did in his experiment, that your day becomes a lot brighter!

beautiful young girl smiling

Smiling Girl

Peer Coaching- A truly secret tool for success

In a quick, non-scientific poll I conducted, a large majority of working professionals I spoke with had never heard of Peer Coaching. And if they had, they had never used it, or knew how it was implemented. Although I would like to say it’s the new, latest trend, peer coaching isn’t new at all. In fact, it was in the early 80’s that peer coaching was introduced as a tool for personal and professional development.

Collaboration

A collaborative approach

So what is it exactly? Peer coaching is a feedback-based collaborative learning process that aims at positive interdependence. Coaching in its many forms (executive, life, etc.) has been proven to be an effective tool to help people along life’s many challenges. Peer coaching is analogous in that aspect since it aims to achieve that same goal, but also helps build stronger relationships with your peers in the process. The peer coaching process is meant to be reciprocal. Both parties have a dual responsibility in being a coach and a coachee.

Practical application of this would be to set up a time/schedule (e.g., once a week for 1 hour) to discuss the issues, goals, or tasks that you may currently have. The following week, the coach/coachee role would switch and participants would then work on the other’s developmental needs. Remember that this is a non-judgmental, non-evasive approach at goal setting and professional development. Trust, accountability, and confidentiality are three main factors that will make your peer coaching relationship flourish. This may be the secret recipe to your future success.

Here’s why your organization (or yourself) should REALLY take a look at implementing peer coaching:

  • It’s effective. Real, true behavioral change has been proven in organizations that utilize peer coaching. There are no gimmicks with this approach; if implemented correctly and sustained, it is a great tool for development.
  • It’s free. Although executive coaching has its place, not many of us can afford coaches and most organizations won’t have the resources to supply everyone with a coach. Peer coaching is a free coaching experience that is results-based and is grounded in the interaction with people you know and trust.
  • It’s an easy process to implement. Set up a recurring time and place within your organization to meet and discuss your current goals. This might be a perfect place to discuss your performance management goals or individual development plan (IDP) that your manager has set for you. If your organization isn’t ready for you to use working hours to implement this, than a 1 hour lunch break will work perfectly. It will probably be the most effective lunch hour you will have that week!

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

Leadership Failure

Not too long ago I was put in charge of a couple sections of soldiers who were working on some military intelligence products for an upcoming mission. Since the teams were working on separate products, I assigned myself to one team and had a Lieutenant take charge of another team. The LT had been in the army for a few years, so I had no qualms about giving the team to him. I spoke with him privately and told him that he had “full autonomy” over his team and gave him full discourse over what his team did and how they finished their products. The next morning I come into work at 7:30 fully expecting everyone to be there for unit physical training. They weren’t. When I asked the LT where his team was, he said that he told them that they could do physical training on their own and that they didn’t need to show up until 9:30am. “What? Why did you do that? We always show up at 7:30.”Leadership

So, of course, they decided to sleep in and didn’t do any physical training for the day.

And of course my team was upset that they didn’t get to sleep in and come to work at 9:30. The last thing I wanted to create was resentment across the two teams. I thought that maybe a “team building” exercise was in order, but I didn’t carry it out because I felt I would probably screw that up too.  I was upset about the whole situation, but mainly I was irritated at myself.

After looking back on the incident, here’s what I learned:

  • I never really gave him full autonomy

Here’s what I really said: You can have full autonomy unless you do something I don’t want you to do or something that I disagree with you on. What I told him he could do and what I wanted him to do were two separate things.

  • I shouldn’t have given him full autonomy

Giving full autonomy over everything is not really leadership at all. I thought I was doing the right thing by giving him autonomy, but what I should have done in that situation was to give him more direction as to what is expected and necessary. Autonomy has its place and limitations; using it correctly is when it’s the most impactful.

  • My communication was not aligned with my expectations

I was never clear on my expectations. What was standard and status quo for me was not necessarily the same for him. Talking through each other’s expectations would have been helpful for minimizing conflict and building trust.

For any further information or questions contact me at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

3 Essential Pieces to the Puzzle of a Successful Team

Every high performing team is made up of a mix of people that fulfill specific needs. They are all pieces of a puzzle that could not be completed if one piece was lost or exchanged for another shape. It is crucial that when building this team everyone knows their role and sticks to their responsibilities without stepping over boundary lines. Team members need to understand where those boundary lines are by becoming a jack of all trades but they still need to be an expert at one. Below are three essential components to a successful team.

  1. A Leader: The person who plays the leader, captain, or coach should be a great communicator and role model. They may not be the highest performing member of the team; however they have the best people skills to keep the team moving in the right direction. They need to have empathy for people when they are struggling but also an ability to push someone when they are feeling they have hit a wall. Teams do not succeed without someone leading them toward their end goal.
  2. Role Players: Although these team members are often over looked they are the most important in completing the simple tasks that lead to the overall success of the team. Role players are able to make a team’s project look appealing, function properly, or maintain a certain level of operation. It is important for the leader to establish that these people are role players on the team but also that they have individual roles assigned to them which contribute to the overall success of the team
  3. A Star Performer: Every best team has its role player or leader who also turns out to be its star. The star is the person who excels at everything at a level that is higher than the rest. It is the one person who has the skills that the others strive towards. This person develops the best ideas but also has the clearest plans to execute them. The star performer is not always the leader because they may not know how to communicate how they do what they do, but they embody what a high performer looks like.

There are very high functioning teams which do not have all three of these pieces yet produce great results. However, to be the best team possible you need to have members who take on each of these positions and then work together. The leader has the greatest influence on the cohesion of the team.

The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.
- Vince Lombardi

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies. To learn more about The Ken Blanchard Companies please visit www.kenblanchard.com

Want to be productive? Stay home from work

Absenteeism (not showing up to work) is a well-documented and researched metric. However, the evil twin brother of absenteeism is presenteeism, and it’s now starting to get some more attention. Presenteeism is defined as showing up for work when one is ill, and it is literally a productivity killer. It is estimated that the costs associated with presenteeism due to poor employee health is at least 2 to 3 times greater than direct health care expenses. The total cost of presenteeism to US employers has been increasing, and estimates for current losses range from about $150 to $250 billion annually. Consequences to presenteeism can be loss of productivity, major health costs, inaccuracies on the job, and spreading of illness to name a few. We all have done it, but we should really think twice about coming into work when we are sick. However, it’s just not that simple, and there are many reasons why just can’t say no.

Presenteeism

There are many antecedents to presenteeism but here are some major reasons:

1) Our culture/manager fosters this behavior
I’m probably not the only one has been praised for being a team player and coming in when I was extremely ill. In a recent survey by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), researchers found that employees who indicated that their employer was not supportive in helping them become emotionally healthy were 320% more likely to have high presenteeism. A 2010 study by the Work Foundation found that more than 40% of employees were under pressure from managers and colleagues to come to work when ill.
2) Fear of losing your job
In research done in 2012, nearly a third of employers have reported a rise in the phenomenon of “presenteeism” in the past year. With the economy slowly turning the corner, employees are worried about losing their job or falling behind in the rat race. Dr Jill Miller, research adviser at CIPD, said, “Continuing economic uncertainty and fears over job security appears to be taking its toll on employees. We are seeing employees struggling into work to demonstrate their commitment, suggesting presenteeism can be a sign of anxiety.”
3) Pressure to perform
For some reason we equate our perception of the seriousness of the illness in direct proportion to justifying taking time off. “It’s probably just meningococcal so I should be fine; I doubt it’s contagious anyways.” Let’s leave the diagnoses to the professionals and see if we can’t rest for a little bit. In a recent conversation with an old friend he told me, “I have worked for my company for 20 years and I have never ever taken a sick day.” Well, why not? He said he had maintained the “old school” mentality of work, work, work. This never made sense to me; if you are sick, then why don’t you just stay home? Now I’m being a little hypocritical here because I have often got to work when I really was too sick to go. But the worst part about it was that he worked in a hospital!
4) Little or no sick days
Increasingly, employers have minimized the number of sick days and most of the time; we just can’t afford to miss work. Also, with the increasing amount of households turning into a dual income family, many parents are using their sick days to care for their children when they become ill instead of taking care of themselves.

There doesn’t seem to be any extreme changes on the horizon in the way employers handle presenteeism, however we owe it to ourselves to take care of our bodies and be present when we can afford to. Sometimes urgent can just wait until tomorrow.

For any further information or questions contact me at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

The Look of Ethical Leadership

Call me idealistic, but I want more from Gen X and Gen Y when it comes to leadership. I want to see us go beyond the standard leadership stereotypes to something more global, accepting, and inclusive. To encourage non-typical leadership types to emerge and develop.

Can you imagine what it might look like if high-potentials weren’t chosen based on how well they fit the corporate image, but instead on how well they treat others? Have we gone overboard with making sure leaders present themselves a certain way as seen in the following video?

Sure, they all have the right corporate image, but is that what the leader of the future should be? What if these guys in the following video were the most ethical leaders you would ever met…

What about those people you work with right now who might not say the right corporate buzz-words, wear the right clothes, or graduate from the right schools?

What if instead, true leaders naturally emerge because everyone whom they come into contact with experiences a solid trustworthy person. When faced with the decision between right or wrong without hesitation he or she takes the ethical high-road. They might not have the right hair, but go out of their way to give credit to the entry-level employee with the bright idea that just made the company millions.

Maybe leadership looks more like the quiet co-worker who detests public speaking and back-to-back meetings, but whose character is unmistakable. Maybe it’s the guy who knows nothing about golf and can’t stand wearing polo shirts or it’s the girl who really doesn’t want to hide her tattoo because it’s part of who she is.

The Look of Ethical LeadershipWhat if tomorrow’s leaders are more about the inside than the outside? Less about the look and more about how they make you feel. Can you imagine? What if tomorrow’s leaders make good decisions, treat people well, and have brilliant ideas, but don’t look or sound the part.

I realize that in a global context, defining what it means to be an ethical leader will differ slightly, but the idealist in me once again asks whether we can move to a broader view of what an ethical leader should look like…

…to a leader who treats others with respect at every given opportunity, someone who is inclusive in encouraging dissenting opinions and viewpoints. Someone who really hears the thoughts and ideas of others, who doesn’t hold an employee’s title over his or her head as a mark of competence, and instead encourages all people regardless of background to lead at all times in everything they do.

All regardless image. Can you imagine…something different?

***

Cheryl DePonte is a Human Resources Learning and Performance Specialist at The Ken Blanchard Companies and has over 15 years experience in the fields of organizational effectiveness and human resources development.

What’s wrong at work? You may need an Alberti

As a kid, I watched the movie Renaissance Man with Danny DeVito. Some of you may remember the film. Danny DeVito is this Advertising Executive with an Ivy League background who is fired from his job. He gets a temporary teaching position and is given six weeks to teach low-achieving soldiers the basics of comprehension and use of English language. He uses Shakespeare, the Renaissance, and other avenues to teach his students. Yet, only one of the historical figures covered in the film has mesmerized me ever since: His name is Leon Battista Alberti.alberti
When I was in Spain a few years ago I had the opportunity to see some of his work at the Prado in Madrid. That’s when I knew, Leon Battista Alberti was the quintessential Renaissance Man. He was the Renaissance Man even before we knew what it was. In fact, Alberti is largely credited with actually defining the term Renaissance man as “men can do all things if they will.” He grew up pre-Renaissance in Bologna because his family was ousted out of Florence by the republican government, run by the Albizzis. His mother died as a result of the Bubonic Plague and he and his brother were raised by his father. He studied architecture and painting, he was a self-taught composer and musician, and he was a heck of an athlete, particularly known in the area for his fine horsemanship. A legend of Alberti states that he could stand flat-footed, look into a man’s eyes and leap right over his head. This legend is exactly why I still remember Leon Battista Alberti today.

“No crime is so great as daring to excel.” Winston Churchill

Often times in our work we become overrun with responding to emails, balancing projects, and stressing over the unknown that we hardly have time to develop certain skills that will set us apart from our peers. Or even leap us beyond our peers. Here are some questions to ask yourself for self-evaluation and reflection to help you find your “Alberti”:

What am I good at? Be honest here. Don’t overvalue your stock on this because others won’t see the same value and you might end up trying to sell a stock that’s overpriced.
What does this organization need/lack that I could champion? Your Alberti needs to be aligned with the organization. In order for it to be value added it must correspond with the vision of your organization.
Do I have the resources? If not, how can I get them? Look at your own career. What is the next step? A degree? A certification? If you can’t access any resources where can you go to get them? Getting stagnate on your skills is one way to have a mediocre career.
Does this matter to me? In a recent interview, former President Clinton was asked if he was selfless for committing so much time to his non-for-profit organizations. He said, “It’s because I’m selfish. I do it because it makes me feel good about myself.” If it doesn’t matter to you, your motivation to prioritize it and work on it won’t be sustained.

So, what’s your Alberti? Are you known in the office for doing something that adds value? If not, then find your Alberti and pursue it.

For any further information or questions contact me at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

The Edge of Leadership

Five Smooth Stones

Five Smooth Stones

Made from old wires and glass bulbs. With almost nothing, Edison made the impossible happen! –Oz, The Great and Powerful

Ever since a little shepherd boy knelt down to pull five smooth stones from a quiet brook to strike down a loud and defiant giant, the small but efficient approach to life has had tremendous value. In fact, now as we move from the Goliath factories of the assembly line Industrial Age, and into the rapid currents of change in the technology-driven Information Age, small is the new big.

Today’s organizations need employees, leaders, and strategies that are lean and agile to maintain a significant competitive advantage in today’s rapidly evolving workplace.

A small software firm in Denver, CO, Providigm LLC, has been employing the agile approach to their daily workflow with great results. Matthew Emge, the Quality Assurance Lead is a central figure in the wildly successful agile collaboration exercised daily at Providigm. The long and lanky tech guru, in his blue jeans and black t-shirt, looks like he just stepped off a college campus rather than serve as double-decade tech vet. “Agile manages stress,” Emge says, and it’s helping him and his colleagues excel through the small but efficient approach to their projects.

Agile Development

“I like agile because it’s a great way of adapting to constant change, minimizing rework, encouraging communication and giving value to every member of the team,” he reflects.

Agile Collaboration

Agile Collaboration

Each morning Emge and his colleagues participate in a scrum. In rugby football, a scrum refers to the manner of restarting the game after a minor infraction. The scrums at Providigm are short meetings with the Development Team to circle up around the project. During the scrum, the team gathers with the Product Owner (who represents the client’s interests) for an open meeting that lasts five to ten minutes. Each member of the team becomes a short storyteller, describing what they did the previous day, what they plan for the current day, and what potential obstacles or roadblocks are in the way of a productive day. After the meeting, the group collaborates on shared tasks, evaluates where they are at in the learning process, clarifies any uncertainty around shared goals, and resolves any outstanding conflicts.

Iterations

The day-to-day work at Providigm is part of a short work cycle called an iteration. Ideally, iterations last two to four weeks.

“We begin with a planning meeting to assign tasks,” Emge describes. “We complete the work, and when it’s finished, we hold a demo to show the product owner what we’ve done.”

In the demo meeting the agile team documents any requested changes, which are included in the planning meeting for the next iteration. Shortly after the planning meeting the development team meets for a retrospective meeting where each member of the team tells what worked or didn’t work. Under the guidance of a manager, the team collectively commits to making the small adjustments needed for improvement and efficacy in the next Iteration.

Collaborative Communication

But agile collaboration is not only about working in small iterations; it’s about collaborative communication every step of the way through the project. Rather than isolating teams in cubicles or offices, only to come together for long and often boring information dump meetings, where people pound their chest like proud Philistines, the agile team at Providigm works in the bullpen—a close quarters setting where anyone can be called upon at any moment.

“We talk to each other and collaborate throughout the day. But we keep documentation to a minimum because we know false assumptions can easily creep in if we overthink things. The manager and product owner are always close by if we need to speak face-to-face in order to make quick decisions for moving forward.”

 The Agile Difference

To appreciate the benefits of agile collaboration you have to understand how software used to be developed. In the past, there would be months of planning, long tiresome meetings, mountains of project documentation, more months of seemingly endless coding. Finally, at the end of the lengthy development cycle, the product would take more months to be tested and approved for release.

“Back in those days,” Emge recalls, “We worked with a great deal of assumptions. While we were scrupulous in addressing those assumptions, inevitably there were too many assumptions to address all at onc. And we would often be wrong. When the product was released, we’d have to revise months of work just to get back on course. It was like trying to turn the Titanic, and if we were too slow for the market, we’d have to scrap the project and start over with something new.”

The Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge

Cutting Edge

To understand the agile approach, imagine you are making a pocketknife for a client. With the old development methods, business analysts would talk to the consumer and draw up lengthy plans for a smart knife with a camera, wi-fi connection, gps, apps, and cheese grater for that special moment. After the documentation and meeting marathons, developers would dig in and code the knife to the analysts’ specifications. Upon release, consumers would try it out and say most of the features were useless and got in the way—but the cheese grater would be nice if they actually made dinner at home. What’s more, the blade was too dull to cut anything.

In agile development, the process would start by releasing a knife with one single blade. The agile team would see how consumers are using it and not using it, make adjustments, and then add another essential feature.

“Before continuing, we listen to our users and make changes to meet their needs. We proceed one step at a time with constant consumer review,” Emge summarizes.

That’s how agile works—sharp as a well-made Swiss blade–with small but efficient steps that lead to an amazingly effective and refreshing approach to producing goods and services. Who knows, perhaps it’s even simple enough for a little shepherd boy facing a giant.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and CoAuthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a virtual leadership program for individual contributors in the workplace.

Register Now for the Blanchard Leadership Livecast “Doing ‘Still’ More With Less” to see Jason’s video on The Lean Approach to innovation. This is a free online event with guest commentary from Ken and Scott Blanchard!

Narcissism and How We Perfected It

I’m taking a rather ambitious stab at clearing the name of an entire generation with a single blog post. I have not been chosen by my generation to represent us, but by definition I’m entitled so I deserve a shot. Many have called Gen Yers as Generation “Me”, but I see it more as “Generation Y Not Me?” We’ve been called rude, entitled, lazy, narcissistic, and smart – ok, I snuck the last one in there, but you get the point.

Ok, so we like to watch a little TV and play video games, so what’s the big deal? We live life on the edge (of reality) and love to surf (the web) and socialize (on Facebook) all day. We are the doers. We seek not war, but peace. We love reality television and hang on every word they say (even the illiterate ones). We are not better than any of you, but we are special. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are just extensions of our inner self. We love rap music, iPhones, and Dancing with the Stars (my wife made me put that in here). We are not all about ourselves; everyone is just all about us.

This is our motto.

normandy soldiers landingTom Brokaw accurately named the World War II generation as the Greatest Generation. After reading the book, watching the Band of Brothers series, and hearing the stories from WWII vets themselves, I can’t deny this. These men and women were some of the purist of Americans—hard-working, dedicated, and loyal to their values. I remember visiting Normandy about 10 years ago and seeing the crosses of the buried soldiers neatly displayed—such a beautiful display of sadness and pain. In my own experience as a captain in the Army and a combat veteran serving in Afghanistan, I hardly saw any sense of entitlement among the troops. There were men and women who were generally unhappy to be there (I admit even sometimes I wondered why we were there),  and hated everything about the war, but they still wanted to fight. There was a sense of pride about them and they fought long and hard. While in Afghanistan, I had a West Point Captain tell me about his 18-month deployment. He said the length of the deployment really hit him hard at the first Thanksgiving dinner. They were just about to start eating when one of his soldiers said, “Hey sir, don’t worry about saying grace. I’ll do it this year and you can say grace next year.”

20090513TalibanUnderwearI don’t claim we are the Greatest Generation but I do think Gen Y has contributed significantly more than just TV and video games. We are a young generation, but like many others we adapt, overcome, and move on. I never liked the label, “entitlement generation” because frankly I don’t think we deserve it. I hope this generation can rid ourselves of this brand and demonstrate the core American qualities that have been delivered to us from previous generations.

For any further information or questions contact me at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

George Washington’s Leadership Legacy

Let’s indulge, for a moment, on a seasonal exposition that preys on a national day of remembrance—not as a desperate attempt to capitalize on optimal web search methods spiked by the holiday; but rather as mildly hopeful attempt to cull out wisdom from the past, in hopes of gleaning some bit of meaning and truth for our present circumstances.

Washington Revolution

Washington Revolution

Yes, George Washington is the father of our county. Yes, he is the guy on the One Dollar Bill and a few of those silver tokens we used to slide into the arcade machine at 7-11 as a kid. Yes, he is one of the four presidents enshrined on Mt. Rushmore, as a tribute to several of America’s most recognized and cherished leaders.

Washington’s wisdom is not found in the mythological figure he has become in today’s modern media culture—although I doubt he would have as many FaceBook friends as his other famous February cult hero, St. Valentine. Washington’s legacy is as solid and secure today as it was the day he published his Farewell Address in the American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796—One of the great pieces of American Political Literature that every American Citizen should read on a day we should honor the legacy of leadership he has left us with.

It is in this address that the core of Washington’s leadership legacy rings most loudly and clearly. In his closing thoughts, to the American people, a people he had served so nobly throughout the many fragile moments of a nation in its infancy, he turns to them with a most astonishing request.

Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.

American’s Zeus. The conquering hero of the American Revolution! The man who could never tell a lie! The highest authority of a new nation, at the absolute pinnacle of his popularity and power, turning to his people and confusing his shortcomings, before asking for their forgiveness. An astonishing moment in world history, and perhaps the most important lesson for leaders today—having power, but laying the sword of his authority at the feet of his people through service.

Let us not overlook a great leadership lesson amidst a sea of leadership lessons by one of the great leaders the world has known. George Washington shows a humility and grace that set the standard, not only for future presidents, but any great leader—yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

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