Archive for the ‘ Listening ’ Category

Say What? – 4 Recommendations for Effective Communications

“Do yooouuuuu understand the wooorrrdddsss that are coming out of my mouth?”

If you want to be successful, you have to know how to communicate well.  There’s more to communication than just being able to speak or write clearly.  If you really want to “make a statement”, ask yourself the following questions:

How often are you communicating? – Do you provide regular updates, even when there’s nothing really to report?  For example, you might find yourself in a situation where a problem needs to be solved, but the solution isn’t immediately available.  Letting the stakeholder(s) know on a daily to bi-daily basis that there’s nothing new to report, but that you’re still working on it, shows them that you’re fully present in getting a resolution.  Providing regular updates is also one of the keys to providing great customer service!

callPhone, email, or carrier pigeon? – Face-to-face discussions aside, everyone has a preference when it comes to their choice of communication outlets.  Personally, I prefer emailing to phone calls because I can both communicate as well as document my conversations automatically.  Others prefer speaking over the phone because it’s more personal and it’s easier to explain something that might be complex.

Both phone and email have their places, but when starting a communication string or discussion with an individual, start by mirroring their preference.  If you’re sent an email, respond with an email.   If you’re left with a voicemail, call the individual.

If you do see the need to switch forms of communication, whether it is too much of a conversation for email, or perhaps a need to send something electronically, make the suggestion to switch from phone to email or vice versa before actually doing so.

emailIs it clear, or are you putting words in your own mouth? – This one tends to be more of a problem over email than phone calls, but is what you’re communicating clear, or is there room for interpretation?  It’s always a good idea to proof what you’re emailing before it’s sent.  Read what you’ve typed to see if it still makes sense.

For both phone calls and emails, you should also restate what you’re communicating in a different way by using statements such as “In other words…” or “Another way to put this is…”.  This can help set clear expectations and avoid confusion.

Is it to the point? – There comes a time when what you’re trying to communicate can be lost among words.  State what’s most important first, and be as concise as possible.

What suggestions do you have for clear communications?  Leave your comments!

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.

Oversupervision

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

Peer Coaching- A truly secret tool for success

In a quick, non-scientific poll I conducted, a large majority of working professionals I spoke with had never heard of Peer Coaching. And if they had, they had never used it, or knew how it was implemented. Although I would like to say it’s the new, latest trend, peer coaching isn’t new at all. In fact, it was in the early 80’s that peer coaching was introduced as a tool for personal and professional development.

Collaboration

A collaborative approach

So what is it exactly? Peer coaching is a feedback-based collaborative learning process that aims at positive interdependence. Coaching in its many forms (executive, life, etc.) has been proven to be an effective tool to help people along life’s many challenges. Peer coaching is analogous in that aspect since it aims to achieve that same goal, but also helps build stronger relationships with your peers in the process. The peer coaching process is meant to be reciprocal. Both parties have a dual responsibility in being a coach and a coachee.

Practical application of this would be to set up a time/schedule (e.g., once a week for 1 hour) to discuss the issues, goals, or tasks that you may currently have. The following week, the coach/coachee role would switch and participants would then work on the other’s developmental needs. Remember that this is a non-judgmental, non-evasive approach at goal setting and professional development. Trust, accountability, and confidentiality are three main factors that will make your peer coaching relationship flourish. This may be the secret recipe to your future success.

Here’s why your organization (or yourself) should REALLY take a look at implementing peer coaching:

  • It’s effective. Real, true behavioral change has been proven in organizations that utilize peer coaching. There are no gimmicks with this approach; if implemented correctly and sustained, it is a great tool for development.
  • It’s free. Although executive coaching has its place, not many of us can afford coaches and most organizations won’t have the resources to supply everyone with a coach. Peer coaching is a free coaching experience that is results-based and is grounded in the interaction with people you know and trust.
  • It’s an easy process to implement. Set up a recurring time and place within your organization to meet and discuss your current goals. This might be a perfect place to discuss your performance management goals or individual development plan (IDP) that your manager has set for you. If your organization isn’t ready for you to use working hours to implement this, than a 1 hour lunch break will work perfectly. It will probably be the most effective lunch hour you will have that week!

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

During Chaotic Times, FOCUS is King

I am sure many of the people reading have experienced streaks of pure chaos in the workplace. Often times people let their emotions get the best of them, and the result is usually very stressful and unproductive.

Stress in the workplace

Stress in the workplace

Leaders in organizations need to dig deep during these pressure packed periods to find a sense of calm and clarity from which to lead their direct reports. They still need to work with a sense of urgency in order to meet deadlines and complete timely requests, but sometimes in order to work fast the best practice is to slow down.

That is where the acronym FOCUS comes into play. When the leader finds the ability to take a moment to breath and FOCUS then they keep their mind clear and simplify every challenge. Some people are not naturally calm under pressure but this is a skill that can be learned if leaders are mindful enough to be aware of how their thoughts affect their actions.

Leading Others

Leading Others

FOCUS:

Find your center – When stress builds and tensions rise take a moment to breathe deeply and return to your internal comfort zone. You really need to be in tune with yourself to diagnose when your mind is about to be overloaded. Start practicing mindfulness now to know how you feel when you are at your most productive and collaborative state.

Own your emotions – Once you let your emotions control you then you have lost your ability to lead. Stay calm, cool, and collected and remember that when you are starting to feel overwhelmed take a moment to find your center.

Control your reactions – Reactions define your relationships with your coworkers. Every time you interact with another you create a memory on the others mental blue print of whom they believe you are. Be sure that all the impressions you are leaving are consistent with your character and personal values. Owning your emotions will definitely help you control your reactions.

Understand the situation – Leaders who take the time to listen to their direct reports during chaotic times succeed in identifying the correct next steps. Listening occurs with both your ears and your eyes. If you are entering a situation without having been previously involved then you do not know the dynamics. Taking a moment before reacting will help you understand the solution to the situation.

Serve others needs – The greatest leaders know that it is not possible for one person to make every decision and complete every action. Therefore you must provide your team members with the direction and support they need at every point in time. If you approach every day with the mentality that you lead to serve rather than be served then you and your organization will succeed.

That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

Steve Jobs

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies

Flipping the Leadership Mentality

A learning revolution is taking place in the world today. The idea of the Flipped Classroom has widely swept the educational community. This idea places more emphasis on activity in the classroom instead of lecture and places more value on real-time collaboration among students to complete tasks. Traditionally classes would only provide information during class and expect the students to absorb it as a one size fits all offering then complete the course work on their own time alone. This one size fits all model has proved to be ineffective for every learner and does not promote mastery of the curriculum.

Flipped classroom

Traditional learning turned upside down.

Traditional management has taken the same approach with their direct reports. Today with the wide array of technology available, leaders need to flip their mentality from “telling and expecting” to “sharing and doing”. This requires more preparation from the leader and places more responsibility on them to work side by side with direct reports to get things done the way they intended them to be.

Leaders should hold regular one on ones with their direct reports to let them share what is on their mind. The direct report should lead the agenda and the manager should listen and determine the amount of support or direction needed. This meeting format greatly increases the amount of collaboration between the manager and direct report and helps to build the working relationship.

collaboration, effective planning

Collaboration is everything

Before scheduling a meeting, leaders should send a report or detailed description of your idea to their team or direct report an hour or two before they meet with them. Now when they meet the entire time is not spent describing what the meeting is about and the direct report is not caught off guard. The time is used to discuss concerns the team or direct report may have and brain storm ways to improve on the idea or results of the report. People will feel empowered and respected which encourages them to take ownership over the project.

Flipping the traditional authoritative leadership mentality to encourage more collaboration produces the results that organizations need. Managers will need to set their ego aside and be willing to relinquish the positional power that comes with their title. Remember that if you are in a leadership position you are there to serve the needs of your people as well as the needs of your customers.

A leader is someone who steps back from the entire system and tries to build a more collaborative, more innovative system that will work over the long term.

- Robert Reich

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies

Speakeasy Leadership

Seakeasy Leadership

Seakeasy Leadership

The spirit of the Roaring Twenties was marked by a cultural rebellion against classic traditions, inspiring social revolutions around the world. Everything seemed to be possible through the modern technology of automobiles, motion pictures, and radio, which all promoted ‘modernity’ to the world.

One of the most mysterious trends that came out of the Roaring Twenties was the establishment of Speakeasies—hidden sections of an establishment that were used to illegally sell alcoholic beverages and feature new artistic expressions of music, dance, and risqué behavior. To enter a speakeasy, one would need to say a password to the doorman, indicating that the person-seeking entrance was welcome by the owner or other members of the “business within the business.”

In many ways, today’s workplace resembles the spirit of the twenties, with a rapidly evolving workplace, cutting edge technology changing and shaping the culture norms of organizations around the world.

Unfortunately, one of the dangers of today’s workplace is Speakeasy Leadership—the hidden sections of an organization where only a few people in positions of power make decisions that affect the rest of the organization. The practice of exclusive leadership, rather than inclusive leadership practice is alive and well in today’s organizations. But the reality is that the old school leadership hierarchy is an ineffective novelty in a knowledge-based economy.

Outside Looking In

Outside Looking In

Today secret societies and “good ole’ boy networks” only work at your local grocery store or coffee shop as a special promotion tool. In a Knowledge base economy, where individuals are empowered through the Internet, smart phones, and social networking that empowers a variety of information and connections that naturally drive higher levels of collaboration and success.

One new workforce member expressed it this way, “I am used to being so connected to my colleagues and playing off each other in the office, via social media, and creating ideas together with high levels of synergy everyday…” The open organization, without the Speakeasy executive office on the second floor, is a robust place where individuals create new best friends instantly and in days create a strong network with everyone on the team, as well as the friends made at their last organization.

Speakeasy Leadership promotes the opposite atmosphere at work where a few gatekeepers of ideas, formulate a plan from the top of the organizational pyramid, then pass it down to the people on the frontline to try and implement—void of passion and intimacy. 
 “I feel like there is a secret group of people running the organization,” says another frustrated employee. “It’s like were sitting in a meeting, and there are two or three people sitting at the table, speaking their own language, giving each other a wink and a nod to each other when I present our teams creative solutions to our organizational challenges.”

Collaborate for Success

Collaborate for Success

Speakeasy Leadership will kill today’s knowledge based company, because today’s leadership model and workplace formula for success is one based in wide-open communication, effective collaboration, social networking, and truly empowering individuals that are encouraged take ownership in the vision—not just contribute to it. Touch the untouchable by bringing energy and productivity to work, breaking down the interior walls of Speakeasy Leadership, creating a community where people work and play together, stimulating innovation, connection, and wild success.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and New Media Producer at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a non-linear learning program that promotes individual empowerment and collaboration.

3 Simplistic Ways to Lead with Resilience

What determines a leader’s capacity to grow through adversity? What propels some leaders through the flames of the fire and up to the top of the organization? It is a varying quality that is built over time through experience and personal belief. Resilience is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. Now why do leaders need to exemplify resiliency among their direct reports?

There has been a movement to embrace employees who are so motivated to succeed that they push the boundaries of their capabilities and fail at their tasks. Insightful leaders know that failure is a stepping stone on the path to great achievement. Being resilient through uncertainty increases the rate at which leaders guide their focus toward the next plateau.

So how do you learn to bounce back faster from the bumps in the road encountered throughout your career? Discovering your preferred coping mechanism helps but that can take some time and planning so the first step is to look at each instance as simply as possible.

Be aware of your reaction: How do you respond when something does not go as you had imagined? Do you respond with anger or sadness? Pay attention to your emotions and keep them in check. Approach a setback with an open mind and be willing to learn a new way of achieving a task.

Listen with the intent of being influenced: Listening does not only relate to hearing words. You need to listen to and observe the environment around you. Put your blinders down to see and hear what is happening in your office, your organization, and the rest of the world. You do not have to change your decision based on what you hear but at least you will have given yourself the chance to consider another point of view.

See the silver lining: Do you believe there is a lesson to be learned in every situation? If you are seeking to find the worst outcomes in a failed attempt then you will find them. Likewise, if you look for all that is beneficial to your overall cause then you will indeed find that too.

The leaders I met, whatever walk of life they were from, whatever institutions they were presiding over, always referred back to the same failure – something that happened to them that was personally difficult, even traumatic, something that made them feel that desperate sense of hitting bottom–as something they thought was almost a necessity. It’s as if at that moment the iron entered their soul; that moment created the resilience that leaders need.

-Warren Bennis

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

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

3 Essential Pieces to the Puzzle of a Successful Team

Every high performing team is made up of a mix of people that fulfill specific needs. They are all pieces of a puzzle that could not be completed if one piece was lost or exchanged for another shape. It is crucial that when building this team everyone knows their role and sticks to their responsibilities without stepping over boundary lines. Team members need to understand where those boundary lines are by becoming a jack of all trades but they still need to be an expert at one. Below are three essential components to a successful team.

  1. A Leader: The person who plays the leader, captain, or coach should be a great communicator and role model. They may not be the highest performing member of the team; however they have the best people skills to keep the team moving in the right direction. They need to have empathy for people when they are struggling but also an ability to push someone when they are feeling they have hit a wall. Teams do not succeed without someone leading them toward their end goal.
  2. Role Players: Although these team members are often over looked they are the most important in completing the simple tasks that lead to the overall success of the team. Role players are able to make a team’s project look appealing, function properly, or maintain a certain level of operation. It is important for the leader to establish that these people are role players on the team but also that they have individual roles assigned to them which contribute to the overall success of the team
  3. A Star Performer: Every best team has its role player or leader who also turns out to be its star. The star is the person who excels at everything at a level that is higher than the rest. It is the one person who has the skills that the others strive towards. This person develops the best ideas but also has the clearest plans to execute them. The star performer is not always the leader because they may not know how to communicate how they do what they do, but they embody what a high performer looks like.

There are very high functioning teams which do not have all three of these pieces yet produce great results. However, to be the best team possible you need to have members who take on each of these positions and then work together. The leader has the greatest influence on the cohesion of the team.

The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.
- Vince Lombardi

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

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.

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