Archive for the ‘ Direction ’ Category

Overcoming the odds

My dad and I after the surgery

About 5 years ago my father was diagnosed with liver cancer. He was a heavy drinker in his younger days and his cirrhosis compounded his medical issues. Over these 5 years he has gone through chemotherapy, radiation, and a litany of drugs to stabilize his liver. 9 months ago he was finally cancer-free and was then able to be on the transplant list for a new liver. A few weeks ago we received a call that a new liver came in and he needed to be at the hospital as soon as he could. My dad said he felt strange about it and had mixed emotions about the process. “How can I live because someone else has died?” I can’t imagine the competing values he had to deal with. The surgery went better than expected and the transplant was successful.  When the doctor pulled the liver out he said he didn’t know how my dad was still alive. He barely had a few inches left of a functioning liver.

What’s different about dad now than before his surgery is his zeal for life. He has always been a very happy and positive person, but something has changed for him. He told me the other day on the phone that he has “a second chance at life.” It got me thinking. What if I lived like I had a second chance at life? How much happier and productive could I be if I lived like this? So go out and make the best of everything. You never know how much you can accomplish with the right mindset

“The Happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything.”

How to Manage your Competing Values

In the spring of 2010, I received a phone call from my commanding officer. “Jaramillo, you have been selected to a deployment in Afghanistan for 400 days. I don’t know what you will be doing or what unit you will be with, but I trust that you will have a successful mission and that you will make us all proud.”

Ok, whoa! Can I get a little more detail here?

I wanted to serve my country and go to war, but, I mValuesean, do I have to go now… like, right now? I had just gotten married 3 months earlier and was working on my graduate degree. I had no plans at the time to pack up and go. “Hey boss, look, I’m a little busy right now, can we move this war thing later on in my calendar.” Of course, it doesn’t work like that, but I still had these two strong competing values. In this instance, I wanted to go to serve my country, but my family and school were also very important to me. We all have competing values, and we must understand them and embrace their complexity. What I needed to do was figure out how I would internalize these feelings and contain my emotions through this experience.

What are your competing values? Take a minute to really ponder this question to understand your own thoughts and feelings. Really evaluating your competing values will help you to look at them objectively. Gather the facts in all scenarios to be open to exploring and doing a little soul searching. These competing values can come in all aspects of life, from relationships with friends and co-workers to grand theoretical and philosophical questions. It’s important to realize that they exist in our lives, so make sure you take some extra thought when you are confronted with one to be fully content with your decisions.

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

During Chaotic Times, FOCUS is King

I am sure many of the people reading have experienced streaks of pure chaos in the workplace. Often times people let their emotions get the best of them, and the result is usually very stressful and unproductive.

Stress in the workplace

Stress in the workplace

Leaders in organizations need to dig deep during these pressure packed periods to find a sense of calm and clarity from which to lead their direct reports. They still need to work with a sense of urgency in order to meet deadlines and complete timely requests, but sometimes in order to work fast the best practice is to slow down.

That is where the acronym FOCUS comes into play. When the leader finds the ability to take a moment to breath and FOCUS then they keep their mind clear and simplify every challenge. Some people are not naturally calm under pressure but this is a skill that can be learned if leaders are mindful enough to be aware of how their thoughts affect their actions.

Leading Others

Leading Others

FOCUS:

Find your center – When stress builds and tensions rise take a moment to breathe deeply and return to your internal comfort zone. You really need to be in tune with yourself to diagnose when your mind is about to be overloaded. Start practicing mindfulness now to know how you feel when you are at your most productive and collaborative state.

Own your emotions – Once you let your emotions control you then you have lost your ability to lead. Stay calm, cool, and collected and remember that when you are starting to feel overwhelmed take a moment to find your center.

Control your reactions – Reactions define your relationships with your coworkers. Every time you interact with another you create a memory on the others mental blue print of whom they believe you are. Be sure that all the impressions you are leaving are consistent with your character and personal values. Owning your emotions will definitely help you control your reactions.

Understand the situation – Leaders who take the time to listen to their direct reports during chaotic times succeed in identifying the correct next steps. Listening occurs with both your ears and your eyes. If you are entering a situation without having been previously involved then you do not know the dynamics. Taking a moment before reacting will help you understand the solution to the situation.

Serve others needs – The greatest leaders know that it is not possible for one person to make every decision and complete every action. Therefore you must provide your team members with the direction and support they need at every point in time. If you approach every day with the mentality that you lead to serve rather than be served then you and your organization will succeed.

That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

Steve Jobs

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies

Flipping the Leadership Mentality

A learning revolution is taking place in the world today. The idea of the Flipped Classroom has widely swept the educational community. This idea places more emphasis on activity in the classroom instead of lecture and places more value on real-time collaboration among students to complete tasks. Traditionally classes would only provide information during class and expect the students to absorb it as a one size fits all offering then complete the course work on their own time alone. This one size fits all model has proved to be ineffective for every learner and does not promote mastery of the curriculum.

Flipped classroom

Traditional learning turned upside down.

Traditional management has taken the same approach with their direct reports. Today with the wide array of technology available, leaders need to flip their mentality from “telling and expecting” to “sharing and doing”. This requires more preparation from the leader and places more responsibility on them to work side by side with direct reports to get things done the way they intended them to be.

Leaders should hold regular one on ones with their direct reports to let them share what is on their mind. The direct report should lead the agenda and the manager should listen and determine the amount of support or direction needed. This meeting format greatly increases the amount of collaboration between the manager and direct report and helps to build the working relationship.

collaboration, effective planning

Collaboration is everything

Before scheduling a meeting, leaders should send a report or detailed description of your idea to their team or direct report an hour or two before they meet with them. Now when they meet the entire time is not spent describing what the meeting is about and the direct report is not caught off guard. The time is used to discuss concerns the team or direct report may have and brain storm ways to improve on the idea or results of the report. People will feel empowered and respected which encourages them to take ownership over the project.

Flipping the traditional authoritative leadership mentality to encourage more collaboration produces the results that organizations need. Managers will need to set their ego aside and be willing to relinquish the positional power that comes with their title. Remember that if you are in a leadership position you are there to serve the needs of your people as well as the needs of your customers.

A leader is someone who steps back from the entire system and tries to build a more collaborative, more innovative system that will work over the long term.

- Robert Reich

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies

Speakeasy Leadership

Seakeasy Leadership

Seakeasy Leadership

The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was marked by a cultural rebellion against classic traditions, inspiring social revolutions around the world. Everything seemed to be possible through the modern technology of automobiles, motion pictures, and radio, which all promoted ‘modernity’ to the world.

One of the most mysterious trends that came out of the Roaring Twenties was the establishment of Speakeasies—hidden sections of an establishment that were used to illegally sell alcoholic beverages and feature new artistic expressions of music, dance, and risqué behavior. To enter a speakeasy, one would need to say a password to the doorman, indicating that the person-seeking entrance was welcome by the owner or other members of the “business within the business.”

In many ways, today’s workplace resembles the spirit of the twenties, with a rapidly evolving workplace, cutting edge technology changing and shaping the culture norms of organizations around the world.

Unfortunately, one of the dangers of today’s workplace is Speakeasy Leadership—the hidden sections of an organization where only a few people in positions of power make decisions that affect the rest of the organization. The practice of exclusive leadership, rather than inclusive leadership practice is alive and well in today’s organizations. But the reality is that the old school leadership hierarchy is an ineffective novelty in a knowledge-based economy.

Outside Looking In

Outside Looking In

Today secret societies and “good ole’ boy networks” only work at your local grocery store or coffee shop as a special promotion tool. In a Knowledge base economy, where individuals are empowered through the Internet, smart phones, and social networking that empowers a variety of information and connections that naturally drive higher levels of collaboration and success.

One new workforce member expressed it this way, “I am used to being so connected to my colleagues and playing off each other in the office, via social media, and creating ideas together with high levels of synergy everyday…” The open organization, without the Speakeasy executive office on the second floor, is a robust place where individuals create new best friends instantly and in days create a strong network with everyone on the team, as well as the friends made at their last organization.

Speakeasy Leadership promotes the opposite atmosphere at work where a few gatekeepers of ideas, formulate a plan from the top of the organizational pyramid, then pass it down to the people on the frontline to try and implement—void of passion and intimacy. 
 “I feel like there is a secret group of people running the organization,” says another frustrated employee. “It’s like were sitting in a meeting, and there are two or three people sitting at the table, speaking their own language, giving each other a wink and a nod to each other when I present our teams creative solutions to our organizational challenges.”

Collaborate for Success

Collaborate for Success

Speakeasy Leadership will kill today’s knowledge based company, because today’s leadership model and workplace formula for success is one based in wide-open communication, effective collaboration, social networking, and truly empowering individuals that are encouraged take ownership in the vision—not just contribute to it. Touch the untouchable by bringing energy and productivity to work, breaking down the interior walls of Speakeasy Leadership, creating a community where people work and play together, stimulating innovation, connection, and wild success.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and New Media Producer at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a non-linear learning program that promotes individual empowerment and collaboration.

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

The End of Innovation

“Innovation is dangerous!” says Yawn Fearman, Gatekeeper of Ideas at Acme Corporation—an international consulting firm that provides executives and managers the tools and skill sets needed to maintain power and balance within organizations. “Innovation is an unruly attitude that ignites revolutions and unwillingly forces change upon the slow and steady hand of the status quo.”Death of Innovation

Fearman asserts that there several simple mindsets to avoid disruptive an inconvenient ideas within an organization:

Isolate Innovation

When a child acts up or misbehaves at home, the best discipline is to give them a Time Out and send them to their room. You don’t have to kick them out of the organization, but isolation will make them think about the real vision and values of the company in more detail. It will encourage them to align their hopes and dreams with the hierarchy of the organization who own the vision and values.

But if you do want to innovate within your organization, keep it limited to one or two departments that are led by individuals who have a degree from a prestigious school and who are in close collaboration with you as a key leader.

Just Say No

Hey, if it worked for Nancy Reagan in the mid-80s (and look how far we’ve come since then), it can work for leaders when individual contributors come up with creative and new ways to serve clients. When ideas come up from the front line, just say, “no.” You probably don’t have the resources or money to implement the ideas anyway, so no real harm can come from this approach. It’s clean and effective and eventually, people will stop coming up with their own ideas so that you can do your job—implementing your own.

Show Them Who’s Boss

When the first two strategies don’t work, flex your Position Power. You have the degree, the experience, the complex title, and the pay grade—so use them!

If employees discover that they have other avenues of power, such as personal experience, knowledge, relationships outside the organization, or a specialized ability to perform specific tasks that the executives may or may not, this could become very disruptive to an organization. Don’t shy away from the fact that you are getting paid the big bucks to drive the organization into the future—not them. You have the title and the authority to make the first and final decision.

Enjoy the Silence

Don’t allow the loud distractions of individual or collaborative innovation to drown out the brilliance of your leadership ability. You’ve earned the corner office, and you were born to lead. The future of the world depends on you—don’t leave it to chance by putting its fate hang on someone else’s wild ideas.

** The views and opinions expressed in this fictitious article do not necessarily reflect sound advice or the views and opinions of
 the author, or The Ken Blanchard Companies.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies and Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, an asynchronous learning experience for Individual Contributors within Organizations.

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.

Know Yourself

 “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” —William Shakespeare

When recently opening a package of Green Tea, the quote, “It’s not a privilege to know others. Know yourself. That’s a privilege,” was attached to the string. Perhaps the tea manufacture was having a caffeinated paraphrasing of a Lao Tzu philosophy to push the notion that you’ll some how be more enlightened when you drink this potion.

Self Reflection?

Self Reflection?

As random as it may have seemed at the moment, I gave fate it’s due because I’ve recently been discovering behaviors about myself and how I work under pressure that have been most curious. In full confession, I wasn’t immediately enthusiastic or inspired to act on the words of encouragement from the Teabag—knowing oneself can be a very frightening proposition, and may cause even more stress than we are ready for.

On one hand, the business of getting to Know Yourself  may at first seem as if it could turn into a narcissistic escapade into an investigation of your own perceived flaws or perfections. Today, where we can turn every smart phone application into our own personal news network, status updating everyone on our trip to the gym, the food & drink we are consuming at any given moment, or snapping off a half dozen “Selfies” at arms length or in the mirror. The business of Knowing Oneself has the potential to quickly turn into how we want others to see us—not who we truly are.

And as daunting as the Tea Leaf’s proposition was to me, the notion of Self Knowledge is as ancient as cave paintings. The great philosopher Aristotle proposed that everybody has a rational and irrational side of their Self, used for identifying our own needs then making decisions according to those needs.

One of the greatest failures in the today’s workplace, and even more destructive in a  knowledge based economy, is the inability for individuals to effectively determine our own needs, leading us to make less quality decisions while executing our daily tasks. The core reason we don’t know what our daily needs are is that we fail to read the tea leaves—we rarely stop to take account of what our strengths and weaknesses are, what perceptions we have about our own needs and abilities, and when we need to reach out to others for the proper direction or support of the goals or tasks we’re working on.

Taking a moment to look at yourself and your own needs is not some vain exploration into how you can serve yourself better, but rather a reflection on how you could more effectively serve others when you Know Yourself better.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies and Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action.

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