Archive for the ‘ Expectations ’ Category

Motivation: What’s Yours?

I was asked a question today: “What motivates you?”

I immediately thought about context: Motivations for work-related tasks? For my own personal goals? And then I thought about life in general. What motivates me to get up every day?

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This is such a powerful question. The answer says so much about who you are as a person. Whether you are internally or externally motivated, and your reasoning for why you are motivated in that way can shed light on your values and morals. Even how you frame the answer conveys what you find most important in your life.

And yet, despite the wealth of information this simple question could provide, many leaders don’t ask this of themselves and of their direct reports. Leaders can uncover why they’ve become leaders and what strengths and weaknesses they possess. They can also discover how engaged their workforce is and how to better inspire their employees.

So go ask yourself and those around you, “What motivates you?”

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You Are Always Hypothesizing

One simple statement really stood out to me from a conversation this week: “remember that you are always hypothesizing.” During an executive coaching class, my colleagues and I were role-playing coaching scenarios around dealing with perceived resistance from a client. Note the key word, “perceived.” The group discussion and activity were meant to illustrate the fact that in coaching relationships, what we perceive as resistance might actually be indicative of something else. If we can acknowledge that our perceptions are just our interpretations of what we are experiencing as we interact with another person, then we open ourselves to the possibility that our interpretations might not be accurate. It’s easy to misinterpret because we are, in fact, always hypothesizing.

According to Merriam-Webster, a hypothesis may be defined as:

  • “An idea or theory that is not proven but that leads to further study or discussion”
  • “An assumption or concession made for the sake of argument”
  • “A tentative assumption made in order to draw out and test the logical or empirical consequences”

Notice that a commonality across these definitions is the element of making an assertion for the purpose of verifying or validating it. A hypothesis is ground for further action; it is an antecedent and not an end result. Miscommunication is often attributable to misinterpretation, but we can avoid this fundamental error by noticing our assumptions and investigating them with a sense of openness and curiosity. The challenge in any interaction—whether your role is a coach, manager, advisor, teacher, peer, or friend—is to become truly curious about the other person’s experience so that testing our assumptions is an act of gaining clarity about that individual’s experience from their perspective rather than from our own.

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Contrary to common belief, hypothesis testing is not a function of proving our theory, but rather it is a function of trying to uncover whatever truth exists. Yes, in scientific pursuits, we hope to furnish evidence in support of our hypothesis, but this is not the case in pursuits of human relations. True communication and connection with others requires humility and acceptance of the fact that our assertions and conclusions may be incorrect. If we are always hypothesizing then we must also be ever curious and open to alternatives, asking, “What else might explain this? What might I not be aware of?”

Thich Nhat Hanh (pronounced Tick-Naught-Han), is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, author, teacher, Zen Master, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his activism and advocacy of nonviolent solutions to conflict. You do not need to endorse Buddhist philosophy in order to appreciate Thich Nhat Hanh’s approachable writing style and germane messaging. In one of his seminal books, Being Peace, Thich Nhat Hanh uses the quote above to explain what is needed in order to achieve true understanding in communication. If we only seek to validate our own preconceived notions without acknowledging that our way of thinking might be flawed, then we will not be able to truly understand whatever we are facing.

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Each interaction, each conversation, each moment of life is associated with some image in our minds. We create a story about that image, and Ansel Adams reminds us that we are not the only ones looking at our pictures. Others are involved in those interactions, conversations, and moments.  Two photographers can stand aside one another taking in the same landscape, but the images they see and capture through their lenses will be different depending on what and where they choose to focus. Two viewers may look upon the same photograph and see or describe it in very different ways depending upon their interpretation and the meaning they assign to what they see. It’s all about how you make sense of what you observe.

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In the art of communication, the skilled performer is ever conscious that the image seen may not reflect the one captured, and the story created by the viewer may not match the one being projected by the sender. If you truly seek to understand another person’s point of view, you must be willing to see the world through their lens. Like photography and all fine arts, perspective-taking is a skill which is developed over time through diligent practice, keen observation, acute trial and error, and endless wonder about the natural world. You are always creating images and painting pictures from your own pallet of interpretation. How might someone else see it differently? What would it be like to view the world through another lens? What is the potential benefit and beauty of considering another point of view? What else might be present? What else could sharpen your image? What are you not seeing? In what other ways could this situation being conceptualized or understood?

Remember that you are always hypothesizing, so ask yourself, “what am I not yet aware of?”

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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.

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Leading Through Goal-Setting and Daily Mini Performance Reviews

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I was shocked to find that some leaders don’t take goal-setting and performance reviews seriously. Instead, it’s considered a formality or something done because it is “required”. Once a year, managers and employees meet to discuss goals that were forgotten a week after they were set and never revisited throughout the year. Two signatures later, they return to what they were doing.

Proper goal-setting is so important because it sets realistic expectations for performance and prevents employees from ever being confused about what they need to accomplish next. Every day, employees should refer back to the goals and use them to plan out the day. And managers should have regular conversations with employees on what goals are working, what goals are not working, and what goals need to change.

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Essentially, this is a performance review spread throughout the year. Then, when it comes time for the actual performance review, there are no surprises. This places focus not on the “final exam”, but on the daily tasks that employees do to make progress toward each of the goals.

So meet with your direct reports regularly and have conversations focused around goals with the perspective that you are there to do whatever you can to help them meet those goals. You are the coach; they are the athletes. And by setting those goals and making daily progress, nothing can stand in the way.

“Success isn’t owned — it’s leased. And rent is due every day.” – @JJWatt

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Flow to Success!

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

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

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

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

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

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The Deadliest Sin of Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author:

Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, at lynda.com.

Imagination as a Tool for Leadership

With this knowledge of the power of thought, you can become a better leader and, as well, motivate your employees to become better workers. Imagine successfully navigating through a difficult conversation. Imagine making your employees feel cared for. Imagine implementing positive change. The more you imagine, the more successful you can be when it comes time to act.

The same holds true for your employees. Let them know that visualizing success can have a huge impact on actual success. Share this video with them. Encourage them to use imagination as a tool for practicing on a new task when hands-on time is limited.

About the author: Hart is an HR Data Analyst at The Ken Blanchard Companies, finishing his Ph.D. in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at hart.lee@kenblanchard.com.

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.”

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