Archive for the ‘ Expectations ’ 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.”

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

Say What? – 4 Recommendations for Effective Communications

“Do yooouuuuu understand the wooorrrdddsss that are coming out of my mouth?”

If you want to be successful, you have to know how to communicate well.  There’s more to communication than just being able to speak or write clearly.  If you really want to “make a statement”, ask yourself the following questions:

How often are you communicating? – Do you provide regular updates, even when there’s nothing really to report?  For example, you might find yourself in a situation where a problem needs to be solved, but the solution isn’t immediately available.  Letting the stakeholder(s) know on a daily to bi-daily basis that there’s nothing new to report, but that you’re still working on it, shows them that you’re fully present in getting a resolution.  Providing regular updates is also one of the keys to providing great customer service!

callPhone, email, or carrier pigeon? – Face-to-face discussions aside, everyone has a preference when it comes to their choice of communication outlets.  Personally, I prefer emailing to phone calls because I can both communicate as well as document my conversations automatically.  Others prefer speaking over the phone because it’s more personal and it’s easier to explain something that might be complex.

Both phone and email have their places, but when starting a communication string or discussion with an individual, start by mirroring their preference.  If you’re sent an email, respond with an email.   If you’re left with a voicemail, call the individual.

If you do see the need to switch forms of communication, whether it is too much of a conversation for email, or perhaps a need to send something electronically, make the suggestion to switch from phone to email or vice versa before actually doing so.

emailIs it clear, or are you putting words in your own mouth? – This one tends to be more of a problem over email than phone calls, but is what you’re communicating clear, or is there room for interpretation?  It’s always a good idea to proof what you’re emailing before it’s sent.  Read what you’ve typed to see if it still makes sense.

For both phone calls and emails, you should also restate what you’re communicating in a different way by using statements such as “In other words…” or “Another way to put this is…”.  This can help set clear expectations and avoid confusion.

Is it to the point? – There comes a time when what you’re trying to communicate can be lost among words.  State what’s most important first, and be as concise as possible.

What suggestions do you have for clear communications?  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.

Leadership is as Leadership Does—Leadership Lessons Learned from the Recent US-Government Shutdown

 

Leadership is Not a Title

Leadership is Not a Title 

Leadership Dependency Weakens Independence 

The most fundamental leadership lesson learned from the shutdown is the ancient reminder that the more we, as individuals, become dependent on leadership, the more it weakens our own personal independence. The United States of America was founded on the core value of personal independence—leadership of self. When leaders of organizations and communities take a top-down approach to solving problems and finding solutions, they undermine the power of the individual to come up with creative and innovative solutions to the challenges at hand. Excellent leadership empowers individuals to equip themselves with the mindset and skill sets to resolve issues at a personal, local level, rather than depend on someone else to solve the problem for them.

Leadership Is Not a Title

People assume that elected officials are leaders by nature. This assumption is misleading and is often a source of frustration when politicians don’t live up to our expectations; behaving more like spoiled children rather than acting like mature servants of the people. As with other assumed leadership roles—executives, teachers, doctors, president of the local sports league—people aren’t necessarily in that role because of their leadership skills. Often they assume positions of authority by default or indifference of the people, not necessarily because they are qualified for the position. We shouldn’t assume people are effective leaders just because of their title. Good leaders should be viewed as such based on how they collaborate with and influence others through a positive and productive process.

Leaders Collaborate

Collaboration is no easy task. It’s an acquired and developed skill set of every good leader. The larger the stakes and the more people involved means the more complicated collaboration will be. That’s why great leaders—of both others and self—need to be effective collaborators. Collaboration is not just listening to others’ opinions then making a decision based on your own personal point of view. Collaboration could be the most exhaustive, painful, messy, and frustrating part of leadership, but it is critical to maintain the trust of the people you are leading, as well as serve the greater good of the people.

Blame Game

Blame Game

Leaders Don’t Point Fingers

One of the silliest aspects of an otherwise tragic situation in the government shutdown was the public calling out of others with opposing views. The blame game is nothing more than an immature act of desperation in an attempt to influence public perception of other people’s point of view. Instead of finger pointing, great leaders assess the disagreements, seek understanding, and assume the best in other’s opinions, even if there is an apparent selfish intent. Effective leaders roll up their sleeves and work behind closed doors, face-to-face, to get the issues on the table as a first step to discussing possible solutions. Leaders listen, they don’t stand behind a podium and blame others.

As the dust settles from the latest uprising of political division in the country, let us sober our minds and check our own hearts to consider how we, the people, may glean something worthy from this conflict. There is still great hope in the great American experience, and it still resides within the heart of effective personal and collaborative leadership.

When Silence is Not Golden: A Story of Unexpected Leadership

I admit it. I fear the unexpected. And I still remember the time when the unexpected hit me flat in the face.

I was working for the Geek Squad at Best Buy at the time, and my supervisor asked if I’d like to be an instructor for the local Geek Squad Summer Academy event. This is a two-day program held annually in different locations of the world where agents from across the country gather and teach children in the area about various aspects of technology, from building computers to producing music.  I said, “sure,” and was sent off a week later to Oceanside, CA.

After orientation, I was assigned to teach the image manipulation class with another agent who looked like he went to the gym far too often. We went over the course and divided the lessons between the two of us before heading home to prepare for the next day of actual instruction.

On the first day of class, we stood in front of about 25 children, ranging from four- to thirteen-year-olds, and three other agents in the room who were acting as helpers. We all went around the room introducing ourselves and my co-instructor confidently started to talk about the first lesson. And that’s when things went terribly wrong.

As he pulled up the program on the computer for the first activity, he started fumbling his words and his voice lowered to a mutter as he moved from the instructor’s computer to the instructor materials. Then, he went silent. He looked like he had no idea what he was doing. I could see the children starting to fidget in their seats. They began to whisper, which grew to talking, and then yelling. The three helpers were desperately and unsuccessfully trying to calm them down.stage fright

Instantly, I was on my feet. An intense dread came over me as I realized I had no idea what I was going to say or do. I remained motionless with everyone’s eyes on me, including my co-instructor, for what felt uncomfortably longer than the 10 milliseconds that I stood there. And then, my brain suddenly started making connections and words flowed from my mouth. I had vaguely recalled that my co-instructor’s portion involved taking pictures, so I told everyone to grab their cameras. And with that, I ended up presenting the entire two days, making up lessons for portions that weren’t mine. The kids went home happy and skilled at image manipulation, and I went home relieved it was over and pleasantly surprised at myself.

That incident taught me a few things:

  1. Don’t doubt yourself. Doubt can be quite the speech-killer, so believe that you can overcome and succeed. The brain can make surprising connections under high pressure situations. Or, in my fellow instructor’s case, make no connections… and then, you just might put yourself and/or someone else in an awkward situation.
  2. Take everything as a learning experience. This mindset can help you get more from your best moments, as well as really understanding your worst ones.
  3. Just go with it. Never think that something is ruined if it doesn’t pan out the way you thought. Be creative. Sometimes, things can turn out better than how you’ve planned.

You never know when a moment of unexpected leadership will strike next, but these tips can help you turn things around and make the outcomes a bit more… expected.

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.

Separating the electronic umbilical cord

Vacation, vacation, vacation…. I’m going on vacation.  There’s nothing quite like sitting on a warm beach sipping a margarita…or so I’ve heard.  Instead, I’ll be in my backyard digging up the ground to make way for a new patio in what will probably be 90+ degree heat.

Couple at BeachIt sounded like a good idea a few months ago.  I’d take some time off in July to do some work around the house and in the yard.  Well, it seems that was a boneheaded move on my part to pick one of the hottest times of the year to give my backyard a facelift (I hear Death Valley reached 129 degrees earlier this week).  However, even though I’ll be doing physical labor, I plan on returning from vacation fully recharged and ready to work.  How do I plan on doing that?  It’s simple…

I’m not checking my email.

I’ve made a commitment to stay away from my inbox, no matter how addicting it is every time I see that blinking indicator light on my smartphone that a new email has arrived.

With that addiction comes the side effect of stress.  It’s stress from seeing something that’s being asked of me.  It’s not so much the work that accompanies those email communications that causes it, but rather juggling priorities with fast-approaching deadlines.  It’s the stress of wondering if I can really meet all those commitments within the time frames specified.

It’s why I’m leaving my inbox with accompanying stress at the office.  My fellow colleagues are more than capable to cover my workload while I’m gone.

It sounds so easy to do, but like I said, it’s an addiction.  Over half of workers who take vacation wind up checking their email.  I read one study that pinned a figure as high as 79% who check their inbox during vacation.  As that study pointed out, some do this so that their inbox doesn’t turn into a mountain of requests when they return from vacation.  Even I have been guilty of this for that very reason during previous vacations because I hate playing catch-up.

phoneSome of you might think this is impossible.  Perhaps you have a unique role or skill set within your organization.  Maybe you’re the go-to for specific projects and/or tasks.  The trick to being able to “cut the cord” is to do the necessary prep work before you leave for vacation.   Work with colleagues who can be your back-ups while you’re gone.  Brief them ahead of time on what to expect and train them on any important processes.  Enable your organization to survive without you for a few weeks.

After all, that’s the point of vacation – to be disconnected from your work.  If you can never get away from it, sooner or later, you will find yourself burnt out.  Everyone needs a mental refresher every now and again.

What about you?  Do you make it a point to leave your inbox at the office on vacation, or do you have no choice but to check email?

Leave your comments!

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.

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