Archive for the ‘ Leadership ’ Category

Are You Blind to Change?

The video below by Derren Brown demonstrates a phenomenon called “change blindness,” where a change that should be obvious goes unnoticed.

You can find a similar experiment here, which was done at Harvard. How resilient to change blindness are you? Let’s try an experiment of our own. Something is changing between the flashes in a very obvious way in the picture below. Can you spot it?

Change Blindness - Market

How about in this picture?

Change Blindness - Soldiers

Was it difficult for you to spot the change in each picture? Don’t worry, it takes a while for most people. The longer the flash or delay between the slightly different images, the harder it is to see the change.

This can be the same with people. For instance, you may not notice a change in the demeanor of your direct report until much later, after which might you ask, “has he/she always been like that?” And by then, it may be difficult to understand exactly when the change happened and why. Even small changes in the organization can go unnoticed, until someone checks in on how things are going.

To combat this blindness, ensure that you are checking in frequently enough with your direct report. But, of course, there’s the risk of looking like a micromanager. When you meet, explain that you are simply there to support his/her success and allow the conversation to flow from your direct report (“Is there anything you need from me?” or “Is there anything I can do to support your work?” are great ways to quickly check in). If he/she is a novice on the task, provide more direction. If not, provide encouragement and autonomy while focusing on the positives.

When it comes to keeping an eye on the organization as a whole, metrics can provide insight on what changes are occurring. But instead of pulling every available metric, focus on the top 3-5 metrics that relate back to your business strategy and goals for the organization.

Since big changes may be happening without your knowledge, dedicate time to discovering these changes and their causes. This can provide valuable insight into what is happening now and what you can do to promote the growth and betterment of your organization.

Images Credit: User jbitel on Imgur

1 Secret of High Performing Teams

We’ve started doing this accountability group around the office and it seems to be working. Recently, the boss man had this idea that if we put up our goals for everyone to see and kept each other in check for a 30-day challenge, the added accountability would help us stay committed tPic Calorieo reach our goal. Our goal was to start with 10 pushups at the beginning of the month and increase that number by 1 every day. As a result, we decided to continue this trend, and now we are participating in a daily calorie challenge where we log our meals and maintain a certain caloric intake. As you can see, so far so good and we have included 4 cheat days as good measure. I’ll probably eat a whole bucket of churros on my first cheat day.

Taking this concept past a simple pushup or calorie contest, in my own experience and what much of the research has to say is this:

  • In the weakest teams, there is no accountability
  • In mediocre teams, bosses are the source of accountability
  • In high performance teams, peers manage the vast majority of performance problems with one another

If you are on the first two teams, look for a trade or try to resolve the problem. None of these options are really that easy, but the latter option is probably the most feasible. Here’s what you need to know about accountability. Don’t be scared of it. If accountability is seen as negative and punitive in the office, do what you can to change that perspective for everyone. Put up a challenge for the various task goals that everyone has and create accountability for one another.

Here’s a distinction that you need to be aware of: there is a critical difference between “holding someone accountable” and “creating accountability” in your team. The first creates a culture of fear and brings potentially significant, negative connotations and impact. The second allows the team to be mutually invested in the success of oneself and others. Decide for yourself what environment you want to create in your office and see what outcomes you get as a result.

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

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.

SMART-goal-setting-examples

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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Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

Humor me this…

You remember the ol’ classic one liners people used to tell? “Did you hear that one about the teacher, the pastor, and a farmer who went ….”. Yea, I can’t remember the rest of the joke either but I still find them to be simple and amusing.  These jokes have almost a sacredness about them and have this allure similar to the Cartoon section in the New Yorker. The classic nature of these jokes and the quirky delivery gets me every time. I love it. To me, one of the greatest attributes in a leader is the ability to inject humor and light-heartedness into a stressful situation.  The delivery and the punch line are the two greatest elements to good humor and a smart leader recognizes that being the brunt of most jokes is a good thing. Self-deprecation and honest humility are common elements that build trust and admiration with those you are leading.

However, one thing to remember is that just because you have something funny or witty to say, you shouldn’t always pull the trigger. As Winston Churchill once said, “A joke is a very serious thing.” Often people insert half-truths, undercutting jabs, subtle attacks, and mocking humor that can be very offensive and off-putting. As in any great play or performance, know your audience and the setting and be sure that your humor makes people feel appreciated and not belittled.

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

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!

The Amazing Girl Who Was Not Allowed To Say “Can’t”

Please watch the following video:

2014-08-15 10_11_46-Jen Bricker 5 min.mov - Google Drive

Video Credit: BBDS Talent

Jennifer believed she could do anything as long as she put her mind to it. And the same is true for anyone else.

Are you facing a challenge that seems too difficult to overcome? Try thinking outside the box, or ask for a second opinion. But be persistent and remember that sometimes a few falls are necessary before you can fly.

So remove “can’t” from your vocabulary and motivate yourself to stick to it. You may surprise yourself with how much you can achieve!

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!

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