Archive for the ‘ Learning ’ 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

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.



Image Credit: 1 | 2

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?”

Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

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

Leadership: How to Adapt and Survive

Remember the T-1000 in Terminator 2? The bad guy who was made of liquid metal and could take on the appearance of any other person he met? What made him such a formidable enemy was that he could adapt to any situation. Don’t have a weapon? He’ll just turn his entire hand into a sword. Avoiding detection? Melt and become the floor. Crying baby? Morph into the mother and gently mimic her voice to soothe the baby.

Ok, maybe that last part didn’t actually happen, but who knows what could have transpired if the T-1000’s agenda didn’t involve constant destruction. Really, he could have accomplished almost anything. And that’s the point… he was flexible (both literally and figuratively). And great leaders are that as well (in the figurative sense, of course, unless we’re talking about yoga instructors).

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But most people do not seem built for this flexibility. By the time we’re ready to lead, we have shaped a certain identity that is already filled with characteristics, beliefs, and behaviors that are not easily changed, thus giving psychologists a reason to study personality. But you are more adaptable than you think.

Imagine you are in the crowd at a sporting event with your favorite team squaring off against its greatest rival. All your like-minded friends are there with you, cheering on your team and jeering the enemy. What are your behaviors? Now imagine you are with a potential client on an important business meeting at a coffee shop. Now you’re with your family at your favorite vacation destination. Now a romantic date with your significant other. Did your behaviors change? But you are still just yourself with your singular identity. How is it possible that you can exhibit, in some cases, such jarringly different personalities?

Different Faces

The answer is simple. Think of yourself as having varying quantities of various qualities. And, depending on the situation, you adjust the dials on some of those qualities to construct different personalities. But what’s empowering is that you are manually changing your behaviors. You are in control of who you display, because you can choose to see, for instance, the romantic date as actually the sporting event. This may not go over so well with your significant other, but then again, it may go over wonderfully. You really don’t know unless you try! And all it takes is a quick change in perspective.

So essentially, you have hundreds of different personalities living inside of you and you decide who comes out. Go out and try a personality you don’t normally use in a situation. Why? For the sake of becoming adaptable! Because learning and practicing adaptability can take you from a good leader to a great leader! And being more adaptable can benefit both you and those around you. Unless, of course, you’re the T-1000.

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Lead Thyself: Quick Tips for Those Managing Themselves

There’s a common misconception regarding the title of “leader”: You don’t have to be a manager or a supervisor in order to lead.  If you’re providing direction or support to fellow colleagues, you’re a leader.  More importantly, being a leader starts with being able to manage yourself effectively.

If you one day wish to move up the corporate ladder and lead others, you must start with yourself.  Even if you have no interest in entering a management position, it is still in your own best interest to lead yourself.  Those who tend to get the largest raises or are consistently recognized by peers and management are the top performers who have mastered the art of leading themselves.

leadNo matter what your career is, if you want to be successful, leading yourself effectively means you do the following:

Be proactive – A good leader can solve problems.  A great leader recognizes smaller problems and works to solve them before they become critical issues down the road.  They take action without needing to be told by their immediate supervisor when to do so.

Use the term “I need…” – No one has all the answers.  The best leaders are those that recognize they can’t do everything themselves.  They use the term “I need” with appropriate individuals, such as their own managers or content experts.  They also don’t let their ego get in the way of saying “I need help” when they are overwhelmed.

Know that there are alternative solutions – Sometimes, you have a problem that cannot be solved by what you have available within your company.  Not every organization has loads of cash to throw at problems that can only be solved by external tools.  Maybe the issue can be solved by open source software.  Or, perhaps it can be solved by a subject matter expert who you just happen to network with.  A great leader knows that cash is not the absolute means to an end.

You align with others on goals and tasks – What is the end destination? Do we know how to get there? Are we in agreement regarding the answers to both questions?  Getting alignment with your leader and those you work with is critical so that they know what’s expected of them and you know what they expect of you in return.   All it takes is a conversation to figure out the road map.

Tell us your thoughts: What characteristics do self-leaders exhibit that make them top performers?

Leave your comments!

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

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My Vegas Story: Seize the Day, and Night!

At close to 10PM, the pilot announced that he would be making the final descent to Vegas, the city I had been to only once before for a brief amount of time. I peered down through the plane window and saw the beautifully lit strip, magnificent and thriving. And that kicked off an unforgettable 3 days and 2 nights at the HR Tech Conference earlier this week.

Las Vegas Welcome Sign

Welcome to Las Vegas

Go see the Cirque shows. Walk around inside the Bellagio. Most importantly, don’t stay in your hotel room! These recommendations from my coworkers bounced around inside my head as I went to my first session of the conference. Being new to HR and to workforce analytics, the information presented and conversations I had with people really highlighted just how much I didn’t know. And sure, this was quite unnerving because everyone around me seemed like they had it all figured out. But in another corner of my brain, I was absolutely thrilled. Here was an opportunity to absorb as much information as I could about a topic I hadn’t really been exposed to before, but was so critical to my work. So I made up my mind to learn as much as I could about the bright minds that made up the HR world.

And then there were the networking events. Wow. Reserving an entire lounge overlooking the strip for a night is definitely not cheap. Especially when there is an open bar. But somehow there were not just one, but two separate networking events that took place both nights I was there. Of course, I took advantage of these events and chatted with very interesting people while getting some good recommendations and advice.

But there was one thing I didn’t get to do. I didn’t step foot on the dance floor. And I generally love to dance. Perhaps it was the thought that I had previously that everyone around me had it figured out. Perhaps it was the lack of liquid courage in my body. Perhaps it was the reservation that I had built up after two girls had “propositioned” me on the strip and I had quickly, but politely, mentioned my girlfriend before taking my leave against their persistence. Whatever it was, as I approached the dance floor, something made me stop.

And when I left, I was filled with regret. The next day was only a half day for the conference and I was to fly out immediately afterwards, so this was my last chance to experience Vegas. I simply couldn’t bring myself to go back to my hotel room. Sure, it was past one in the morning and I was ready for bed, but come on, I was in Vegas! And then I remembered the recommendations. It was too late for a Cirque show, but the Bellagio! And with that, I started walking.

Las Vegas Strip

A view of the strip in Las Vegas

It took me almost 40 minutes to get there from the Mandalay Bay because I took my time and enjoyed the buildings. I mean, where else can you see large replicas of the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the New York City skyline in the same area? And when I got to the Bellagio, I was amazed at the hand-crafted colored glass pieces that hung from the ceiling. I even got to see the talking tree! Well, it didn’t talk while I stood in front of it, but it did move its eyes and blinked as it smiled. It was surreal.

By the time I got back, it was almost 3 in the morning. I was tired but happy. As I laid down in my bed, my mind drifted back home to San Diego. And I thought, what if I put myself in the shoes of a tourist every day? If I went everywhere with the same sense of wonder and curiosity? If I lived everyday like it was my last chance to experience where I was and what I was doing?

Mark Mayfield, one of the speakers at the conference, declared that everyone knows about perspectives A and B. But to take a unconventional and undiscovered third perspective can exercise one’s creativity and bring more humor and entertainment into one’s life. I wholeheartedly agree.

So have fun, take chances, and don’t ever let regret materialize. And if something ever stops you from walking onto the dance floor, I have just the thing. It’s a statement that I read in a magazine on the return flight: “The No. 1 antidote to fear is experience!”

 

 

How Young Leaders Can Get Ahead

Thirty days after I turned 12, my mother sat me down in the living room to have a very adult conversation with me. She said, “Hijo, next week I will drive you over to the farm and you will begin working in the fields. You will have to get up early before the sun comes up and I will pick you up in the afternoon after the harvest time is over.”

I didn’t really know what that all entailed, but after having to get up on the first day at 4:00AM, I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting myself into. Picking strawberries in the summer in Oregon sounds pretty romantic, but cold mornings, long days, and PB&J for lunch every day is a less than thrilling experience. Plus, I was horrible at picking strawberries; I was the worst strawberry picker they had hired that summer and probably the worst one in the history of that farm. After a few weeks, one of the farm managers said, “Hey Gus, we like you, but we don’t like the way you work.” Yikes!

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Working hard- A skill worth having

Aside from the fact that I almost lost my job at 12 years old, I made $180.00 dollars that summer and to this day, I still don’t think I’ve spent it. I always make sure my bank account doesn’t go below $180.00. But really, I earned a lot more than the money I made that summer. I earned a sense of the importance of hard work. And that is what I truly feel is not being communicated to the older generations. I say communicated because I feel that while Gen X and Y are truly hard workers, the message they communicate is perceived much differently. The younger leaders of today are quite frankly a lot more demanding. They want more time off to spend with their family, want a work-life balance that allows them to work from home from time to time, and want autonomy in their roles.  These are the same people who saw their mothers and fathers work for a company their whole lives only to be laid off and left on unemployment. So, I don’t blame them (myself).

Established leaders in the organization want to hear this: “I will work for it.” That’s what they were told as young leaders and it embodies the values they hold on to dearly. So give it the good ol’ college try. You will be surprised at what opportunities may be given to you if the boss knows you’re going to give it all you got.

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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