Archive for the ‘ Leading Virtually ’ Category

What are Your Secrets to Being a Revolutionary Leader?

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How quickly things change in 10 years

Think about this: the first iPhone came out in 2007.

Technology changes so rapidly that it is incredibly difficult to keep up with the rate of change. But looking at leadership, have there been as many revolutionary changes in the last seven years as there have been in technology?

Mobile World Congress was this week in Barcelona. For those who don’t know, it’s a huge annual conference where some of the top smartphone manufacturers introduce their latest products. Though Apple was absent, Samsung announced their latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S5. Some advances from the previous version include improved battery life, updated camera, faster processor, a heart-rate monitor, and a new fingerprint scanner (a la iPhone 5s), but despite all of these, its reception has been generally lukewarm because the changes weren’t quite revolutionary.

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The response to the S5

Consumers of technology these days demand constant innovation from products. Why shouldn’t your direct reports, the consumers of your leadership, demand the same? Would you be able to keep up?

Let’s get the ball rolling on change. Are you currently doing something differently from other leaders to improve your leadership skills and/or meet the needs of your direct reports? Perhaps that thing you do is actually the game-changer that will revolutionize leadership as we know it. Share it in the comments.

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Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

Gamification and the Future of Work

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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

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.

Effective Leaders Choose to “Humanize” Communication

One of the workplaces largest challenges is communicating effectively to achieve desired results and outcomes. Due to the quick advancements in technology over the past few years, everyone is available at all times. It is fantastic that the people who need to make important decisions are available at a moment’s notice no matter where they are in the world, but do all forms of communication allow managers and leaders the ability to clearly understand the needs of their direct reports without communicating face to face? I do not always believe this is true. We need to remember that business is built on relationships and in order to create a meaningful relationship we need to “humanize” communication. I would like to highlight the four most common ways we have available today to communicate and describe some of the advantages and disadvantages with each.20130523-140123.jpg

  1. Communication via email is time stamped and an effective alternative to “snail mail”. It is a great way to send someone in your company a quick message, a long list of to-dos, or a detailed inquiry on any given task. Email correspondence is not always time sensitive and is a great way for multiple people to read, process, and refer back to tasks or initiatives sent to them by their manager before they respond with questions, concerns, or approval. The pitfalls of emailing revolve around missing the physical and vocal cues people unintentionally respond to face to face. Also, if there is ever an emergency situation a quick response may be difficult to come by. In speaking directly to your manager, you can convey certain concerns through the pitch of your voice and body motions which elicit emotions you are feeling. We read these signals unconsciously and they connect us to others. This is especially important when you have an urgent matter. Many times writing styles are confusing and may not be interpreted in the same manner in which it was intended. I would not suggest trying to email your leader or direct report when you need to make a quick decision.
  2. Communication via telephone is one of the earliest technological advancements and is extremely effective for a number of reasons. You can get straight to the point and make quick real time decisions. It is also possible to convey emotions through the pitch and tone of your voice which does help in connecting with the person on the other end of the phone line. However you lack the ability to gain a complete perspective of what the other person is experiencing in that given moment. Environment plays a key role in connecting people through experience and can affect the productivity of communication. Someone on the other end of the line could be fighting traffic while on the phone, distracted by their surroundings, which would take their mind off of the present moment. Important urgent decisions are influenced by environment and it is important to understand all variables influencing it. It is impossible for people on opposite lines of a telephone to know what the other is going through.
  3. Communication via video conference is a great alternative for people who are working together from multiple locations. Programs like Skype and Face time have brought families, friends, and colleagues from around the globe together in real time. Both parties can see each other face to face and somewhat experience their environments. You can see their facial cues and mannerisms through the video and gain a pretty accurate impression of what the other is experiencing during your conversation. While this is a great way to connect to people in your organization from around the globe it is still not the best. You miss the complete interactive feeling of being in the presence of another human being. It is often difficult to really gain full understanding of the other persons thought process because you only see the top half of their body and/or what the video screen captures behind them. Frustration may set in if the internet bandwidth is not strong enough. Complications can arise delaying the video feed and chopping the audio so I would not recommend holding high level business communications through this medium if at all possible.
  4. Communication in person is of course the original form of relating to others inter-personally and remains the most productive. You just cannot beat a face to face interaction. One of my coaches told me that he would evaluate the effectiveness of his interactions by imagining himself viewing the interaction as a third person in the room looking down from a corner. While this may sound strange, it is very useful to imagine how the two of you are relating and meshing with one another. After all people are not robots and a sense of connection is important to establish the feelings needed so that you can work together. You must look at a situation from another person’s perspective. If the logistics of an in person meeting are difficult to figure out I would revert back to a video conference meeting but if at all possible do it in person. You will gain a much richer experience with the other person and really connect, which increases the likelihood that you will achieve your desired results.

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.
– Anthony Robbins

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

Want to be productive? Stay home from work

Absenteeism (not showing up to work) is a well-documented and researched metric. However, the evil twin brother of absenteeism is presenteeism, and it’s now starting to get some more attention. Presenteeism is defined as showing up for work when one is ill, and it is literally a productivity killer. It is estimated that the costs associated with presenteeism due to poor employee health is at least 2 to 3 times greater than direct health care expenses. The total cost of presenteeism to US employers has been increasing, and estimates for current losses range from about $150 to $250 billion annually. Consequences to presenteeism can be loss of productivity, major health costs, inaccuracies on the job, and spreading of illness to name a few. We all have done it, but we should really think twice about coming into work when we are sick. However, it’s just not that simple, and there are many reasons why just can’t say no.

Presenteeism

There are many antecedents to presenteeism but here are some major reasons:

1) Our culture/manager fosters this behavior
I’m probably not the only one has been praised for being a team player and coming in when I was extremely ill. In a recent survey by the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO), researchers found that employees who indicated that their employer was not supportive in helping them become emotionally healthy were 320% more likely to have high presenteeism. A 2010 study by the Work Foundation found that more than 40% of employees were under pressure from managers and colleagues to come to work when ill.
2) Fear of losing your job
In research done in 2012, nearly a third of employers have reported a rise in the phenomenon of “presenteeism” in the past year. With the economy slowly turning the corner, employees are worried about losing their job or falling behind in the rat race. Dr Jill Miller, research adviser at CIPD, said, “Continuing economic uncertainty and fears over job security appears to be taking its toll on employees. We are seeing employees struggling into work to demonstrate their commitment, suggesting presenteeism can be a sign of anxiety.”
3) Pressure to perform
For some reason we equate our perception of the seriousness of the illness in direct proportion to justifying taking time off. “It’s probably just meningococcal so I should be fine; I doubt it’s contagious anyways.” Let’s leave the diagnoses to the professionals and see if we can’t rest for a little bit. In a recent conversation with an old friend he told me, “I have worked for my company for 20 years and I have never ever taken a sick day.” Well, why not? He said he had maintained the “old school” mentality of work, work, work. This never made sense to me; if you are sick, then why don’t you just stay home? Now I’m being a little hypocritical here because I have often got to work when I really was too sick to go. But the worst part about it was that he worked in a hospital!
4) Little or no sick days
Increasingly, employers have minimized the number of sick days and most of the time; we just can’t afford to miss work. Also, with the increasing amount of households turning into a dual income family, many parents are using their sick days to care for their children when they become ill instead of taking care of themselves.

There doesn’t seem to be any extreme changes on the horizon in the way employers handle presenteeism, however we owe it to ourselves to take care of our bodies and be present when we can afford to. Sometimes urgent can just wait until tomorrow.

For any further information or questions contact me at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

What’s wrong at work? You may need an Alberti

As a kid, I watched the movie Renaissance Man with Danny DeVito. Some of you may remember the film. Danny DeVito is this Advertising Executive with an Ivy League background who is fired from his job. He gets a temporary teaching position and is given six weeks to teach low-achieving soldiers the basics of comprehension and use of English language. He uses Shakespeare, the Renaissance, and other avenues to teach his students. Yet, only one of the historical figures covered in the film has mesmerized me ever since: His name is Leon Battista Alberti.alberti
When I was in Spain a few years ago I had the opportunity to see some of his work at the Prado in Madrid. That’s when I knew, Leon Battista Alberti was the quintessential Renaissance Man. He was the Renaissance Man even before we knew what it was. In fact, Alberti is largely credited with actually defining the term Renaissance man as “men can do all things if they will.” He grew up pre-Renaissance in Bologna because his family was ousted out of Florence by the republican government, run by the Albizzis. His mother died as a result of the Bubonic Plague and he and his brother were raised by his father. He studied architecture and painting, he was a self-taught composer and musician, and he was a heck of an athlete, particularly known in the area for his fine horsemanship. A legend of Alberti states that he could stand flat-footed, look into a man’s eyes and leap right over his head. This legend is exactly why I still remember Leon Battista Alberti today.

“No crime is so great as daring to excel.” Winston Churchill

Often times in our work we become overrun with responding to emails, balancing projects, and stressing over the unknown that we hardly have time to develop certain skills that will set us apart from our peers. Or even leap us beyond our peers. Here are some questions to ask yourself for self-evaluation and reflection to help you find your “Alberti”:

What am I good at? Be honest here. Don’t overvalue your stock on this because others won’t see the same value and you might end up trying to sell a stock that’s overpriced.
What does this organization need/lack that I could champion? Your Alberti needs to be aligned with the organization. In order for it to be value added it must correspond with the vision of your organization.
Do I have the resources? If not, how can I get them? Look at your own career. What is the next step? A degree? A certification? If you can’t access any resources where can you go to get them? Getting stagnate on your skills is one way to have a mediocre career.
Does this matter to me? In a recent interview, former President Clinton was asked if he was selfless for committing so much time to his non-for-profit organizations. He said, “It’s because I’m selfish. I do it because it makes me feel good about myself.” If it doesn’t matter to you, your motivation to prioritize it and work on it won’t be sustained.

So, what’s your Alberti? Are you known in the office for doing something that adds value? If not, then find your Alberti and pursue it.

For any further information or questions contact me at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

Narcissism and How We Perfected It

I’m taking a rather ambitious stab at clearing the name of an entire generation with a single blog post. I have not been chosen by my generation to represent us, but by definition I’m entitled so I deserve a shot. Many have called Gen Yers as Generation “Me”, but I see it more as “Generation Y Not Me?” We’ve been called rude, entitled, lazy, narcissistic, and smart – ok, I snuck the last one in there, but you get the point.

Ok, so we like to watch a little TV and play video games, so what’s the big deal? We live life on the edge (of reality) and love to surf (the web) and socialize (on Facebook) all day. We are the doers. We seek not war, but peace. We love reality television and hang on every word they say (even the illiterate ones). We are not better than any of you, but we are special. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are just extensions of our inner self. We love rap music, iPhones, and Dancing with the Stars (my wife made me put that in here). We are not all about ourselves; everyone is just all about us.

This is our motto.

normandy soldiers landingTom Brokaw accurately named the World War II generation as the Greatest Generation. After reading the book, watching the Band of Brothers series, and hearing the stories from WWII vets themselves, I can’t deny this. These men and women were some of the purist of Americans—hard-working, dedicated, and loyal to their values. I remember visiting Normandy about 10 years ago and seeing the crosses of the buried soldiers neatly displayed—such a beautiful display of sadness and pain. In my own experience as a captain in the Army and a combat veteran serving in Afghanistan, I hardly saw any sense of entitlement among the troops. There were men and women who were generally unhappy to be there (I admit even sometimes I wondered why we were there),  and hated everything about the war, but they still wanted to fight. There was a sense of pride about them and they fought long and hard. While in Afghanistan, I had a West Point Captain tell me about his 18-month deployment. He said the length of the deployment really hit him hard at the first Thanksgiving dinner. They were just about to start eating when one of his soldiers said, “Hey sir, don’t worry about saying grace. I’ll do it this year and you can say grace next year.”

20090513TalibanUnderwearI don’t claim we are the Greatest Generation but I do think Gen Y has contributed significantly more than just TV and video games. We are a young generation, but like many others we adapt, overcome, and move on. I never liked the label, “entitlement generation” because frankly I don’t think we deserve it. I hope this generation can rid ourselves of this brand and demonstrate the core American qualities that have been delivered to us from previous generations.

For any further information or questions contact me at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

Lead Your Team To Effectively Use Technology To Learn

Ensuring employees have ample opportunity to learn and develop is crucial to organizational success. Yet, leaders can be bombarded with messages to increase the use of technology if they want the most effective means for their teams to learn.

As a leader, how do you judge which learning modality will lead to the most effective, quality learning experience? How do you appeal to learners on your teams at differing levels of technological savviness without discouraging their development? Or, worse, avoid humiliating anyone who is not as technologically savvy while simultaneously avoid disengaging your digital learners? Preventing yet more training materials being set up on a shelf never to be used again is key!

GEIKuMAosmicN5EZXkEBKDl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBXEejxNn4ZJNZ2ss5Ku7CxtSteps you can take to lead your team to effectively use technology to learn include:

1. Understanding how your team learns - Become intimately familiar with how your team learns. Do you offer a learning product on a flash drive only to find you run out before you can order more or are you scheduling face-to-face classes on their behalf with little resistance? Are your most productive employees viewing recording links from live stream workshops because they want to learn in their own time in the comfort of their office? How your employees learn will help you intuit in what form content should be delivered to increase learning. Don’t discount your own observations regarding what your employees seem to gravitate toward.

2. Determine their favored modalities – Fit how the content is offered to the learner by offering it in various forms such as audio, video, face-to-face, and asynchronous. Have a workshop that you know learners on your team will love but know it’s in a format they won’t be interested in learning from? Encourage your employees to determine if they would be interested in learning the same content in a different modality. If the content is off the shelf, inquire as to whether it is offered as mp3, asynchronous, and face-to-face format. Purchase and offer multiple forms and see which format your team seems to prefer. Learn from your purchases and take note of what your employees want more of and most often request.

3. Then…limit options – mp3 audio books, asynchronous learning groups, virtual book clubs , CDs, DVDs, hard-copy libraries, face-to-face workshops…the list goes on as to how employees learn and you could potentially intimidate and confuse learners by creating modality overload. Most important after determining how your team learns is to introduce new technology and options slowly by choosing their favored modality. Then, let them get comfortable with change by limiting the options offered to those two or three favorite modalities the team gravitates toward. Don’t get caught up with the new, shinny technology if you know your employees will most likely not be interested in learning in that particular format. Perhaps you have determined your team enjoys reading hard-copy books, listening to CDs, and asynchronous learning. Invest in these three modalities by allowing your employees to show you this is how they most feel comfortable learning. If the content is then offered as a webinar with live chat, don’t spring it on the team. Wait to allow them to lead you in their own learning.

Understanding how your employees learn will help increase the benefits derived from learning in modalities that best fit the learner and resultantly most benefit the organization.

***

Cheryl DePonte is a Human Resources Learning and Performance Specialist at The Ken Blanchard Companies and has over 15 years experience in the fields of organizational effectiveness and human resources development.

A Leader’s Challenge On Virtual Employment

The internet is a wonderful thing.  It’s one of the greatest communication tools to ever be created.  Information on most subjects imaginable is readily available to anyone connected to the web.  The added bonus is that it’s also given rise to the “virtual employee”.   With more and more businesses embracing the idea of employees working from home, leaders are now facing some problems that didn’t exist when all employees came into the office to work. 

For virtual employees, there are many benefits to working from home:

-There’s no need to commute.

-You have your own quiet workplace.

-You get to work in your pajamas (unless you need to use a webcam).

However, there can also be a disconnect between these virtual employees and those who lead them.  The interactions that might normally take place if they were in the office might no longer happen as consistently as they should (or even may not take place at all).  I’m talking about connectedness with their leader, discussions around their own work and their career development, and even their own connectedness with the other team members.  All of these things can have an impact on employee performance, morale, and even retention.  It can also create tension within the team, itself.

“Out of sight, out of mind” sounds like a fitting statement for this predicament.

To address some of these challenges, use the following tips:

1)      Stop the multitasking! - We’ve all been guilty of this at one point or another.  It’s hard enough to gauge someone’s reaction to what you’re saying through a phone line or an email.  If you don’t focus on what you or the other individual is saying, things can become misinterpreted and create complications.

2)      Create a virtual seating chart for team meetings – It can become difficult to involve everyone in a team discussion when not everyone is in the same location and has to share a conference line to speak.  Create a seating chart of all of your team members and check off each individual to ensure each one has had a chance to share their opinions

3)      Learn each team member’s communication preferences – Do you prefer phone calls or emails?  Do you like spontaneous meetings or should someone book a meeting with you?  What’s your preferred learning style when it comes to learning something new?  Everyone has their own preferences, including your team members.  Learning their preferences will create better interaction between you and them.

4)      Be mindful of time zone differences – I get to interact with a variety of leaders from various industries in my current role, and a lot of them have direct reports in different states and even countries.  It’s an increasing trend, so as leaders, we need to be mindful of people’s schedules based on their time zones.  If you need to schedule a meeting, try to accommodate all time zones involved, if possible.

I should add that these tips can also apply to onsite leaders and team members (minus the time zone differences).  If you fall into that category and you’ve ever sent an email, sent an instant message, or made a phone call to someone in the same building as you, you were also working “virtually” with those employees.  Those same potential pitfalls that exist with employees in another time zone also exist with those in the same office.

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