Archive for the ‘ Focus ’ Category

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:

Flow_Senia_Maymin

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

Flow_logo

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!

Image Credit: 1

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.

John Muir Had It Right

Spring has sprung! Has the urge to go outside and bask in the sunlight or stroll through the park become so strong that you can no longer ignore it? You know the feeling…you’re sitting at your desk or around the conference room table, and through the window you see clear blue skies and can think of nothing else except escaping the office and going outside to play—run, surf, cycle, whatever—as long as it involves breathing fresh air, you’ll be happy. Maybe the drive is deeper and what you crave is not just ditching the daily grind, but truly immersing yourself in the wonders of wilderness and spending some time in a pure and natural environment. Admit it, we’ve all been there, but what is it exactly about the call of the wild that is so irresistible? Why do some people feel so compelled to connect with nature?

JM_walk with nature

The answer lies in evidence that it’s not only good for your body; it’s also good for your brain. In a series of behavioral science studies, researchers demonstrated that spending time outside on good weather days, particularly in the springtime when it’s warm and sunny, can positively affect memory, mood, and openness to new ideas that leads to creative and flexible thinking styles. Another key finding is that people who spent more time indoors experienced the opposite effects of their outdoor counterparts. So if you’re struck with spring fever, then it would behoove you to get outside and scratch that itch!

Decades before environmental and cognitive psychologists began studying the mental health benefits of spending time in nature, John Muir (1838 – 1914) himself advocated the now substantiated claims of increased mental clarity and reduced fatigue through stimulation of the senses in the great outdoors. This legendary Scottish-American naturalist and conservationist is affectionately called the Father of National Parks and is the beloved founder of the Sierra Club, one of the foremost organizations dedicated to wilderness preservation. An eloquent writer and speaker, John Muir’s inspirational message is crisp and clear: In order to be whole with yourself, you must first be one with nature. If that statement rings true with you, then find out how much you emulate this iconic environmentalist and renowned nature-lover by taking the Sierra Club’s quiz: How Muir Are You?

JM_beauty and bread

An explorer at heart, I have long admired the work of John Muir and I often dream of traveling in his footsteps. When I entered my doctoral program four years ago, I quickly learned the lifestyle fate of all graduate students: goodbye sunshine and social life; hello Friday night dates at home with my laptop. Determined to succeed and hopeful that extrinsic motivation would help carry me through, I dug in my heels and set a goal that when I finally finish the program someday, I will reward myself with an epic backpacking adventure! Living in Southern California, I set my sights on thru-hiking the majestic John Muir Trail, a 211-mile long journey in the High Sierra back country which passes through Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks, and ends at the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States (elevation 14,497 feet). Although I have not yet earned the grand prize, the mountains have been calling me and every once in a while, I must go!

JM_break away

During my second year of graduate school I joined a group of 8 hikers who climbed Mt. Whitney, and I remember one of my companions asking what in the world I had in my pack that made it heavier than everyone else’s when we weighed in at the portal. I’m sure I’m not the only hiker in history to foolishly load her pack with journal articles and books to read at camp after a day of grueling high-elevation trekking, but I certainly would not recommend it. Not only was I too exhausted to concentrate on reading, but more importantly I found that my mind was more drawn to simply sitting and being than engaging in any sort of academic exercise. Although my body was weary at the summit, my mind had never felt so awake and open and free! I wanted nothing more than to just sit and be, to listen and smell and feel, to observe and appreciate the raw and captivating beauty and energy of the environment all around me. If you’ve spent any time in the wilderness, then like John Muir, you know exactly what I mean. And if you haven’t…what are you waiting for???

JM_going in2

About the Author:

Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology and her research is based on mindfulness. You can contact her at sarahmaxwell@kenblanchard.com.

 

Oversupervision vs. Undersupervision: Finding the Perfect Balance

Having direct reports can be hard. There’s so much work as it is and having to manage several employees on top of that can be overwhelming. And especially when there are urgent tasks to complete, it can be difficult to prioritize time with your direct report.

Some managers tend to pull back in situations like this, leaving the direct report to fend for him- or herself. Interestingly enough, other managers tighten the reins, keeping a closer eye on the direct reports and micromanaging, leading to more time lost. Contradictory, I know, but this does happen.

Oversupervision

Employee Oversupervision by Manager

So how do you give your direct reports what they need, while also preventing them from feeling like you’re breathing down their necks? The answer is the same as what can save a marriage on the brink of disaster or stop a heated discussion from erupting into a fight: communicate. I mean, honestly, who knows how much supervision they need better than the direct reports themselves?

Communicating to Determine the Amount of Supervision

Communicating to Determine the Optimal Amount of Supervision

So have a conversation (that’s dialogue, not monologue) with your direct reports to see what they are up to and ask if there is anything you can do to help. A quick check-in can provide valuable insight into the challenges and successes in your employees’ lives, and even if you’re not able to help them on the spot, be sure to provide a follow-up meeting to sort out any issues and give your support.

Here are the steps to take to strike the perfect balance between oversupervision and undersupervision:

  1. Talk with your direct report. He/she knows best how much supervision you should provide. Ask about any areas of a task where he or she would like more supervision and if there are any areas where he/she would be comfortable with less supervision.
  2. Show that you care. Remember that your goal is to learn how to better tailor your supervision to your direct report needs. And by meeting these needs, he/she will be more satisfied, committed, and better prepared to work well. Describe to your direct report how much you want these things for him/her.
  3. Follow through. Don’t you hate when you trust someone to do certain actions (especially for something that impacts you), and he/she lets you down? Your direct report is trusting you to follow through with what you agreed. Be sure to prioritize this, as trust is easy to lose and difficult to gain.



Image Credit: 1 | 2

Lifehack – Achieve Your Goals by Making Them Easy

Happy 2014! With a new year comes new resolutions. Are yours the same resolutions you’ve made last year? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Despite what psychologists tell you, behaviors are difficult to change, especially when you’ve become used to doing them. There’s a reason why self-help books sell every year and apps are released to motivate individuals to change.

calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions-572x433

Change is difficult

So why will this year be different? Because I will share a secret that will help you to actually achieve your resolutions: Make your resolutions easy.

Now this does not mean that you reduce your weight loss goal to -5lbs or that you discard your quest to read 50 books this year and instead read 2 lines of a blog post. What I mean is, do all of the prework first so that the goal becomes easy to attain. This is especially useful for when you have difficulty starting.

Its-easy

It’s easy if you try

For instance, I had an issue with running. I would sit there figuring out what to wear and then spend another 10 minutes scrolling through my playlists and choosing the songs for my run. Then I would look through my fridge for a pre-run snack and spot the delicious leftover burger from the restaurant the night before. The next logical thing to do was to gobble down that burger on the couch!

Instead, I prepare all of this in advance. I prepare my clothing, my playlist, and my snack before I go to bed. The next morning, all of my running gear is ready to go. The preparation comes easy since I know that I won’t have to run right after I’m done.

The author of the post below, Gus Jaramillo, actually changes into his workout clothes when he is off of work. That way, he is ready for the gym before he even gets into his car. The only logical destination becomes the gym.

2011-year-resolution-400x400

Start today

So think about your goals and ask yourself, “What can I do to make them just a little more easy to start?”

Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

Gamification and the Future of Work

of-course-people-are-controlled-by-videogames

Videogames Control

I love videogames. I mean, there’s an addictive quality to them, whether it is character progression, unlocking new content and achievements, or continuing the narrative. And it’s currently a huge trend. The recently released game Grand Theft Auto V broke several Guinness World Records, including “fastest entertainment property to gross $1 billion.” To put that in scope, “entertainment property” even includes feature-length films and music.

So what is gamification? It is taking the concepts of game design and applying them to other things. For instance, I wear a device on my wrist called the Fitbit Flex. It is essentially just a pedometer in a wristband, but the web/mobile app is where the magic happens. It displays my goals for steps and calories and my progress for each in a clean and engaging interface. The wristband even shows a series of lights to indicate how close to my goal I am. Gamifying health and fitness… who would have thought?

Word Cloud "Gamification"

Word Cloud “Gamification”

It’s even popped up in the workplace. I recently spearheaded the construction of a new intranet site for my department using WordPress, and by taking advantage of its customizability and vast number of plugins, we developed an onboarding system that uses a mix of content to take new hires on a 12-month journey, with badges rewarded at each step. I believe that learning should be fun, exciting, and engaging, and gamifying the process is one way of achieving that.

But there is something I haven’t seen discussed within the realm of gamification. There are games, such as World of Warcraft, where players willingly perform mundane tasks. They click on the same things over and over again until a cool item appears or an objective is completed. And they love to do it. They are absolutely engrossed in these activities and will happily lose sleep to continue to perform these seemingly boring tasks. Now imagine taking those clicks and placing real work beneath them so that instead of those clicks only translating into currency and experience points that are limited to the game, the clicks also produce work for the organization. Work that the employees absolutely love doing.

I want this to be the future of gamification, where work is gamified to such an extent that it stops being work and becomes an actual game. Perhaps then, there would be no need for employee engagement initiatives or training to boost productivity, because employees would be naturally driven to continue playing, and become skilled at, the game.

I Don't Have Birthdays, I Level Up

I Don’t Have Birthdays, I Level Up

When I was younger, I dreamed of playing games for a living. Perhaps when gamification reaches its full potential, this dream will come true.

From now on, if someone says I’m gaming too much, I’ll just say, “it’s informal training for future work!”

 

Sources: Guinness World Records | Gamification.org

Images: 1 | 2 | 3

Want to Save Time? Use Keyboard Shortcuts

Do you use the computer? Of course you do, how else would you be reading this? Now, think about how much time you spend on the computer, both at work and at home. What if I told you that a simple tip could cut that time in half while boosting your fun?

Imagine the causal user, sitting in front of the computer with the mouse in one hand and a coffee in the other. Then imagine the same individual, but instead of the hand gripping the coffee, it is resting on the keyboard. Now this person is poised and ready to become a power user. And that’s the key. The key is the keyboard!

fast typing

Fast Keyboarding

Power users take full advantage of keyboard shortcuts. This makes them more efficient at getting through their tasks on the computer. They can use the time saved to dedicate to their direct reports or for catching up with clients. They also benefit from not being bogged down with computer processes and losing focus from the task. The computer then becomes faster, easier, and more enjoyable to use. Less in the way and more right away!

Let’s do an experiment. Using your web browser, go to the following website in a new tab using only your mouse and copying/pasting the web address (not using bookmarks or favorite links):

www.kenblanchard.com

Done? Ok. Now, let’s go to the same website, but using the keyboard. Here are the instructions (read them first before performing them):

  1. Highlight the web address above with your mouse
  2. Hold down the CTRL (PC) or Command (Mac) button on your keyboard
  3. Hit the following letters: c, t, v
  4. Let go of the CTRL (PC) or Command (Mac) button
  5. Hit the ENTER button on your keyboard

Which was faster? Hopefully the keyboard shortcuts were (hence the term shortcuts)! There are a tremendous amount of things we do on the computer on a daily basis that can be done with keyboard shortcuts, and shaving off a few seconds here or a minute there can really add up to huge time savings!

To start, I would recommend memorizing ALT+TAB, which allows you to switch to your last open application window. Here is a video of this shortcut in action. Now, you can keep your focus on the center of the screen and not have to hunt down the application icon at the bottom!

I find it most effective to learn one shortcut a week and to use it as much as possible during that week. And hand positioning is important as well. Here are some common ways I’ve seen right-handed people hit shortcuts with their left hand:

PC Shortcut MAC Shortcut

Of course, you don’t have to start with ALT+TAB! Look up shortcuts for any actions or functions that you do often that you’d like to perform quickly, like sending the email you’re writing in Outlook (ALT+S) or bolding a word (CTRL+B). Once they become ingrained, you may find yourself zipping along, having more spare time, and loving computing so much more.

If you have any trouble finding a particular shortcut or need any additional help, post in the comments below. Happy shortcutting!

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

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.

3 Simplistic Ways to Lead with Resilience

What determines a leader’s capacity to grow through adversity? What propels some leaders through the flames of the fire and up to the top of the organization? It is a varying quality that is built over time through experience and personal belief. Resilience is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. Now why do leaders need to exemplify resiliency among their direct reports?

There has been a movement to embrace employees who are so motivated to succeed that they push the boundaries of their capabilities and fail at their tasks. Insightful leaders know that failure is a stepping stone on the path to great achievement. Being resilient through uncertainty increases the rate at which leaders guide their focus toward the next plateau.

So how do you learn to bounce back faster from the bumps in the road encountered throughout your career? Discovering your preferred coping mechanism helps but that can take some time and planning so the first step is to look at each instance as simply as possible.

Be aware of your reaction: How do you respond when something does not go as you had imagined? Do you respond with anger or sadness? Pay attention to your emotions and keep them in check. Approach a setback with an open mind and be willing to learn a new way of achieving a task.

Listen with the intent of being influenced: Listening does not only relate to hearing words. You need to listen to and observe the environment around you. Put your blinders down to see and hear what is happening in your office, your organization, and the rest of the world. You do not have to change your decision based on what you hear but at least you will have given yourself the chance to consider another point of view.

See the silver lining: Do you believe there is a lesson to be learned in every situation? If you are seeking to find the worst outcomes in a failed attempt then you will find them. Likewise, if you look for all that is beneficial to your overall cause then you will indeed find that too.

The leaders I met, whatever walk of life they were from, whatever institutions they were presiding over, always referred back to the same failure – something that happened to them that was personally difficult, even traumatic, something that made them feel that desperate sense of hitting bottom–as something they thought was almost a necessity. It’s as if at that moment the iron entered their soul; that moment created the resilience that leaders need.

-Warren Bennis

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

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