Archive for the ‘ Influence ’ Category

A Tale of Two Leaders

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

Best of Times, Worst of Times

Best of Times, Worst of Times

The opening lines of Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, hints at the central tension throughout the classic novel—the growing struggle between a thriving and oppressed society. The tension between two worlds of existence builds throughout the story and leads to the dawn of the French Revolution.

A familiar narrative is playing out in today’s workplace and society—the growing tension between good leadership and bad leadership. Organizations around the world are either thriving or struggling under the effective, or ineffective, leadership at all levels of an organization.

While delivering a recent virtual presentation to individual contributors and managers from diverse locations that spanned from the United States to the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and Iran, I asked participants to consider two scenarios during their careers. “Consider a time when it was the best of times at work. Then consider a season where you’ve experienced the worst of times at work.”

During the Best of Times at work participants described an environment where they felt energized by going to work. They were alive and thriving. Individuals were empowered to bring their best ideas to the table of collaboration in an open and trustworthy environment. Conflicts were resolved with fairness and efficiency. They felt as if their personal goals and responsibilities where aligned with that of the organization.

During the Worst of Times, the list grew longer and darker. Participants described a workplace that was stressful and frightening. People were not open to collaborating or sharing new ideas out of fear for being reprimanded or dismissed, or even the threat of loosing their jobs. Conflicts went unresolved, and in some instances, escalated to threats and bullying by other employees, managers, and executives.

No matter what the circumstances were, or the country or culture they experienced in, the environment was unanimously driven by the presence, or lack there of, good leadership.

Effective leadership is the most critical asset in the health and happiness of an organization, family, community, nation, or organization. Though organizations may be thriving finically, or having an amazing mission, the most important factor in sustained and meaningful success is founded on the way the leaders act and behave, in public and through interpersonal relationships at every level of the organization they are leading.

How would you describe your work environment today? Is it the Best of Times for you at work? Is it the Worst of Times? Are you leading and being led in the most effective manner that leads to personal and organizational health and happiness? The best of times at work are created when people at every level of the organization are committed to learning, growing, and living effective leadership behaviors.

 

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 also passionate about developing leadership in youth through The Blanchard Institute, a youth leadership development program that teaches core leadership concepts to young people all around the world.

Have the negatives taken over time and focus?

If you think for a minute about your average workday, how would you divide that workday between focusing on positives versus focusing on negatives?  Do you tend to catch people doing something wrong more often than doing something right?  If you answered “yes”, you might be adding to the overall negativity, yourself.

Praise or Condemn

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This negative focus may be a byproduct of our own culture.  Pull up any of the major news websites at any given time and you’ll see that a high percentage of the headlines usually have negative undertones.

While we might be quick to blame the media, our own behavior feeds the fire when it comes to this trend.  For example, in a 2012 study, Outbrain, a marketing firm that specializes in internet traffic, found that negative headlines had an average click-through rate (meaning people were actually clicking on the headlines to go to the source content) 68% higher than positive headlines.   There are many different reasons as to why negative headlines receive more attention, but the end-result is still the same.

Even television may be lending a hand.  I admit that I enjoy my own fair share of reality television.  Look at how many reality programs exist on various channels (ex: what happened to the good ‘ole days of MTV just showing music videos?).  Most of those shows thrive on drama, such as verbal arguments or fights between the characters.  Drama and negativity clearly sell.

However, a study published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that those who watched reality television or even violent crime dramas that included verbal or relational aggression between characters tended to have more aggressive responses to threats related to ego.   Does this mean that if you watch reality television that you’re automatically going to get in a fist fight at work?  Probably not, but you have to question how is this might be affecting behavior in the workplace.

To add to this, two sayings come to mind that I’ve heard all throughout my careers at different places of employment.  There’s a good chance you’ve heard these, too:

  1. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
  2. “No news is good news.”
Yelling

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Number 1 is especially important, because solving problems makes up the bulk of most jobs.  Yet, this has trained us to spend our most of our time focusing on those problems, whether the problems are task-related or people-related.   If you have someone reporting to you who is under-performing, it’s likely that individual will take up more of your time and focus compared to your top performer.  Just because “No news is good news” when it comes to your top performer doesn’t mean that they should simply be ignored.

FineAwards.com published a press release in which it reviewed data from a series of Gallup polls on the topic of employee engagement.  They put together an excellent infographic that you can find here.  Some of the interesting data they found is as follows:

  • 35% of respondents consider lack of recognition the primary hindrance to their productivity
  • 16% of respondents left their previous job based on a lack of recognition
  • 17% of respondents stated that they have never been recognized at their place of employment
  • 69% of respondents stated they would work harder if they received increased recognition

In other words, if only the squeaky wheel is getting the grease, you might look down one day and find that some of your wheels have simply disappeared while your ride is sitting up on blocks.

It takes effort, but intentionally finding people doing things right can have a positive outcome on your work environment, such as lower turnover and higher productivity.  If you can train yourself to also be on the lookout for the positives, you can turn it into a habit.

Leave your comments!

Is “meaningful work” actually meaningful?

Employee engagement is a hot topic these days.   According to a Gallup poll estimate, disengaged employees cost the US between $450 – $550 billion each year in terms of lost productivity.  Could you be contributing to that figured by not finding out what’s truly meaningful to your employees?

EmployeeWorkPassion4According to The Ken Blanchard Companies own research on the topic of Employee Work Passion, there are five job factors that can have a direct impact on retention: Autonomy, Workload Balance, Task Variety, Feedback, and Meaningful Work.

Over 800 individuals responded to a survey asking them to rank these factors by order of importance.   While all five factors are important, Meaningful Work was most commonly ranked as being the #1 priority.  In other words, respondents feel that employees need to know that the work they do has a direct positive impact on their organization, whether that impact is internal or external.

It makes sense, right?  If I’m an employee who feels my job duties are really just “busy work” that aren’t contributing to my organization’s success, will I really be engaged in my work?  If I don’t see my own work being important, how motivated will I be to go the extra mile?

offonThink about those fabulous people who work in IT.  Lots of companies, regardless of what business they are actually in, rely on the systems and technology maintained by these individuals.  While IT support may differ entirely from the type of work being done to maintain/grow a customer base, that doesn’t mean the work is any less important.  If you have a frontline IT help desk representative who doesn’t see that their own contributions have a direct impact (i.e. employees from other departments could not complete their own work without the assistance of IT support), their quality of work may suffer.

A common trap leaders fall into is to assume that just because their organization is in the business of making positive impacts on customers and people, that their employees see it that way, as well.  Leaders need to be proactive to ensure that their people also see the benefits of the work they complete.

ASK your employees how they feel about their work.  Be sure to check this barometer on a regular basis.  It’s easy for people to forget their importance in the grand scheme of the organization’s success.  If your company has ever been through a series of changes, you can probably relate.

SHOW them the results.  Ensure they know that they make a positive difference based on positive outcomes.

PRAISE them when praisings are due.  If they did a good job, be sure to tell them!  If you hear from another employee or customer that that they did a good job, pass that along to the employee!

How do you personally make sure your employees understand their contributions are meaningful?  Leave your comments!

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.

The Smile Test and the Positive Leader


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

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

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

beautiful young girl smiling

Smiling Girl

Leadership is a Verb

lead·er·ship [lee-der-ship] noun

the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group: He managed to maintain his leadership of the party despite heavy opposition. Synonyms: administration, management, directorship, control, governorship, stewardship, hegemony.

From 1973 until 2000, one of America’s largest, and eventually global, courier delivery services, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, was called Federal Express. In January of 2000, Federal Express changed its name to FedEx Corporation and implemented one of the most successful re-branding campaigns in American history.

Lead!

Lead!

After the rebranding efforts took place, something even more significant than the shorter name and little arrow added between the “E” and the “X” began to evolve into a new idea. The word FedEx, became known, not just as a way to define a company, but as something you do as a critical part of your business. “I need you to FedEx me the product tomorrow.” “I’ll FedEx that to you right away.”

FedEx evolved from a being a noun into a verb!

The same thing is happening to the idea of leadership. For the past 50 years, the leadership development industry has exploded into a multi-billion dollar industry because companies around the world are realizing the competitive advantage to having a strong leadership strategy.

I recently found myself sitting in a coffee shop, having a conversation with one of the coauthors of Leadership Genius, and one of the top gurus on the topic of leadership, Dr. Drea Zigarmi.

“Leadership has been an over-used word, in which some people think of it as a person or a thing. It’s not thing. It’s action, or a series of actions you do with people.” Taking a long, slow sip of his coffee, he leaned toward me and proclaimed, “Leadership is a verb!”

When you think of the word leading, you have to consider that it means doing something. It means moving an idea, project, or a dream from one place to a higher place—through the shadows and the conflicts and into the light and consumption of meaning and purpose.

It takes action to effectively move a package from Memphis, Tennessee, to Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire, where a little boy or little girl eagerly open a package to discover something magical, something that will bring a smile to their face. Great organizations, whether it’s a global company serving millions of people or it’s the little pizza shop down on the corner, move their people from knowing what a good job looks like to doing a good job consistently, task by task, with passion and excellence.

Great organizations are dedicated to developing more than just leaders; they are dedicated to developing people who lead! Great leaders are defined by what they do, not by what they know.

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.

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