Archive for the ‘ Learning ’ Category

Boldness Be Your Friend

The past couple years for me have been nothing short of a bold adventure dotted with opportunities, seen and unseen, to face my fears. Head on. And I don’t regret a second of it. I previously earned the nickname “safety cat” (a light-hearted play on “scared-y-cat”), but I have learned to embrace a maxim put forth by the great playwright and poet:

Boldness

Fear is such a primal force. It does funny things to the brain. Fear works its way into the psyche and hijacks all reason and logic. It can be gripping and paralyzing, or rousing and electrifying. It can prevent you from thinking clearly and cause you to react without will or succumb to danger. When I was younger, I had a terrifying recurring dream when distressed that I was drowning in deep water. Dozens of times I have watched myself in this nightmare desperately struggling at the water’s surface but slowly sinking into a murky abyss. It was absolutely horrifying, every single time. Every once in a while, when I’m swimming around in fear surrounding some new challenge or perceived barrier, it sneaks in again and haunts my slumber. Naturally I’ve developed an irrational fear of being in deep water and therefore, I have never been comfortable in the ocean. Drowning is a powerful image of fear, so imagine my reaction when my brother approached me about getting scuba dive certified on vacation in the Virgin Islands! Knowing that he also harbored some anxiety around the idea of breathing from an air tank underwater, and not wanting to discourage him from challenging his own fears, I agreed to do it. I managed to say something like, “that would be fun for us to do together,” while in the background my brain was completely freaking out!

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Fear is powerful, but it is not absolute. Although the brain’s course of translating fear-inducing sensory information into a behavioral response is largely an unconscious process, neuroscience has shown that we can learn new ways of reacting to fear-inducing stimuli. So how did I do it? Well, it was basically a matter of diving right in! I chose to be bold.

My brother and I signed up for the PADI Open Water Diver certification course, affiliated with a reputable dive shop in St. Thomas, and completed our e-learning modules. Then there we were on day one, all geared up with BCDs, tanks and regulators, and ready to begin the confined water dive skills portion of our training, and my brain started freaking out again. “All you have to do is breathe through your mouth and everything will be fine,” I told myself. “That’s crazy, you can’t breathe underwater, don’t do it,” my brain fought back with me. With my heart pounding, I submerged and instantly hated it. “Go back to the surface and rip your mask off so you can breathe through your nose like normal,” my brain shouted at me. “Just try to take slower, deeper, more controlled inhales and exhales,” my yoga teacher self told my brain. My chest was tight and I felt like I couldn’t get enough air no matter how hard I tried. “I’m suffocating…This is horrible…I hate this,” my brain cried out in panic. I struggled through the entire morning, dreading the impending open-water dives that afternoon.

”Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” – Helen Keller

Facing your fear is often about taking calculated risks and learning how to handle them. I chose to override my instinct to give up on diving, but my internal argument continued during the boat ride out to our first dive spot. “50 feet down is a long way…What if your regulator doesn’t work and you suffocate? What if you can’t clear your mask and you breathe in some water and choke on it? This is really scary. You don’t have to do this,” my brain tried to convince me. “Look here, amygdala, you’re not winning this time,” I answered back. Standing on the edge of the platform at the boat’s stern and heeding my brother’s advice from earlier that day, I rehearsed what was going to happen. “Walk yourself through it,” he said, so I reminded myself that I was in control and I stepped out into the ocean. We carefully made our first descent to the ocean’s floor and began our first underwater exploration!

Sarah

Diving_SarahWhat a mystical experience it was to be floating freely through the abyss, not struggling and fearful, but literally and figuratively buoyant. I fell in love with diving that day! More importantly, I gained an enormous sense of confidence in my ability to overcome the greatest obstacle to pursuing my dreams: fear.

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

How many times have you allowed fear to speak louder than reason or passion and missed an opportunity to challenge yourself and take a chance on growth in your personal or professional life? No one is immune from fear and it serves its purpose in warning us of potential threat, but it need not hold you back. You can still explore, try new things, step into the unknown, and know that you are in control even if you’re anxious. You can likely recount your own vivid tale of standing at the edge of whatever it is you were afraid to do, then taking that giant leap forward and feeling the rush of pure joy and pride afterwards. Revel in those moments and soak in the strength of resilience that you build when you do choose to face your fears. The first step is choosing to do it. The next step is going out and doing it. Share your stories below.

Boldness be your friend!

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” -Dale Carnegie

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 reach her at sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

Flow to Success!

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

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

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

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

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

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The “L” Word—Is It On Your Mind?

In his closing remarks at yesterday’s company meeting, Ken Blanchard shared Covey’s four basic needs which underlie human fulfillment: to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.

 “The need to live is our physical need for such things as food, clothing, shelter, economical well-being, health. The need to love is our social need to relate to other people, to belong, to love and to be loved. The need to learn is our mental need to develop and to grow. And the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.”
Stephen R. Covey

The “L” word—the BIG one—is legacy, the story of you and your imprint upon the world. It’s been a repeated topic of conversation in my spheres lately, as it should be in yours. Visioning is central to the success of organizations, teams, leaders, and individual contributors because it creates a dialogue around the meaning and value behind the work that we do. Your legacy extends far beyond your career into your personal and professional relationships; your family or community involvement and recreational activities; and in your moment-to-moment everyday experiences. What kind of legacy are you building, and where do you even begin? Covey reminds us that life is short, so ask yourself:

  • What makes life worth living? What’s missing?
  • What do I need to learn? To unlearn?
  • How will I be remembered?
  • What do I dream of?

These are big questions—Give yourself time to develop honest and deeply rooted answers.  It can be tempting to dismiss dreams as unattainable or impractical, but dreams stem from a place within each of us that British philosopher, Alan Watts, calls “the deep, down, basic, whatever there is.” In this inspirational video, Watts talks about the human need to feel significant and connected to something greater than ourselves:


There is nothing trivial about finding and giving voice to your purpose in life and however you frame the concept of legacy, the story is yours to write. In another moving video, The Real You, Watts talks about the idea of waking up and finding out who you are. An individual’s sense of self is a complex, idiosyncratic, and exquisite answer to the venerable question: Who AM I?

Before you can build a meaningful legacy, you first need to have a clear picture of who you are and what gives value and purpose to your life. Because your identity defines how you see yourself belonging in the world and relating to others, it is fundamental to creating your vision, living your dreams, and leading others to do the same. In Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the peak is self-actualization—the human need for self-fulfillment and striving to achieve one’s highest potential. This is a process of continual learning so you can always seek new ways of infusing energy and creativity into your everyday events.

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Self-development is profound work but it doesn’t need to be intense. A variation of Covey’s four basic needs overlays learning with laughter because we can’t be serious all the time. That’s also why one of the founding principles of The Ken Blanchard Companies is to have fun! On your journey of life, never forget the gift of child-like wonder—not in the sense of immaturity or naivety, but rather of being curious and light-hearted along the way. As you think about who you are and most importantly the unique story you are leading, remember that life is short. Keep the “L” word always in mind.

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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 reach her at sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.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.

Can You Get the Delicious Cake?

Several years ago, someone posed the following challenge on a popular internet image board:

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The goal was “get the delicious cake” and you had to draw your solution. No other rules were given.

One response showed the figure crawling through the spikes, while others used elements from pop culture to get the cake. For instance, Harry Potter magic spells, Star Wars lightsabers, and Super Mario warp pipes were all presented as solutions to this challenge. The following are a few of the more original and creative ways people attained the cake:

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Use the door!

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When you want to get rid of something in an image, the eraser tool is handy

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Thinking outside of the box

The lesson I took from this was that people can get very creative when presented with a problem and given the freedom to devise a solution.

As a leader, you may have goals you need to accomplish, but it is left up to you to determine how to accomplish those goals. With a little time and ingenuity, you can come up with many different and often surprising ways to achieve those goals, particularly when you have the help of others.

So how would you get to the delicious cake? Type your solution in the comments, or you can use your favorite image editor or an online one and post a visual of your solution.

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

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.

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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.



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How to Manage your Competing Values

In the spring of 2010, I received a phone call from my commanding officer. “Jaramillo, you have been selected to a deployment in Afghanistan for 400 days. I don’t know what you will be doing or what unit you will be with, but I trust that you will have a successful mission and that you will make us all proud.”

Ok, whoa! Can I get a little more detail here?

I wanted to serve my country and go to war, but, I mValuesean, do I have to go now… like, right now? I had just gotten married 3 months earlier and was working on my graduate degree. I had no plans at the time to pack up and go. “Hey boss, look, I’m a little busy right now, can we move this war thing later on in my calendar.” Of course, it doesn’t work like that, but I still had these two strong competing values. In this instance, I wanted to go to serve my country, but my family and school were also very important to me. We all have competing values, and we must understand them and embrace their complexity. What I needed to do was figure out how I would internalize these feelings and contain my emotions through this experience.

What are your competing values? Take a minute to really ponder this question to understand your own thoughts and feelings. Really evaluating your competing values will help you to look at them objectively. Gather the facts in all scenarios to be open to exploring and doing a little soul searching. These competing values can come in all aspects of life, from relationships with friends and co-workers to grand theoretical and philosophical questions. It’s important to realize that they exist in our lives, so make sure you take some extra thought when you are confronted with one to be fully content with your decisions.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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Start today

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

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What’s a MOOC?

Haven’t heard of a MOOC before? Well, you’re probably not alone. A MOOC stands for a Massive Open Online Course and its purpose is to give free online education to learners around the world. Although we have had access to free online education for years, the MOOC has forever transformed the quality of courses that are now accessible to anyone with a computer and the desire to learn. MOOC’s really took form in the fall of 2011 after Stanford offered three online courses for free and enrollment reached 260,000 students from over 175 countries. Since, many MOOC’s have popped up from starts-ups to major universities. They all have the same goal in mind and that is to give online education for little to no cost.

Have you ever wanted to take Data Analysis for Genomics at Harvard? Well probably not, but now you can as the class starts in early 2014. If Poetry in America: Whitman is a course that more interests you, sign up now as class begins on January 15th at the edx MOOC.

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Various MOOC offerings

Corporate America is now jumping at these ideas and are giving incentives for their employees to take these course and have incorporated them into their corporate training programs. In a recent survey by Future Workplace, 70% of HR and Learning professionals said they saw opportunities to integrate MOOCs into their own company’s learning program.

There are many, but here are my favorite.

https://www.coursera.org/

http://www.udacity.com/

https://www.edx.org/

If you enroll in a course, I wouldn’t run out and by a Harvard alumni sweater, but you can still get America’s highest quality education for free. Many questions are still surrounding the MOOC. Will the MOOC transform the way we look at education? Are schools and universities ready to accept these free online courses as transferable credit? What impact will MOOC’s have on the cost of education? Although many of these questions are yet to be fully realized, we know that they are growing and aren’t going away anytime soon.

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

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