Archive for the ‘ Managing ’ Category

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:

Flow_Senia_Maymin

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

Flow_logo

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!

Image Credit: 1

A Managerial Felony

“Why don’t you and I go get some lunch to connect?” Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard that from your manager. Ok, put your hand down before they see what you are reading. Plus, that guy in IT might think you’re waving him down to get in for the weekly donut rotation.
I have never been a real fan of “reconnecting” over lunch or any other median, really. It’s superficial, a little pretentious, and a lot of wasted emotion.Be-Your-Own-Boss-If-you-cant-find-a-job-with-a-Felony
Here’s three good ways to stay connected with your direct reports:

  • Conduct weekly or biweekly one on one’s. Depending on how many direct reports you have, it is absolutely imperative that you meet with them one on one to discuss their needs. Make this a formal time; there are a number of informal meetings, chats by the lunch room, and discussions about projects. A formal one on one with a focused discussion on the needs of your direct report will open up communication. From a practical stand point, make it 30 minutes or an hour if you can swing it. Let your direct report create the agenda and don’t use this time to “dump” projects or work on them.
  • Ask them about their lives outside of work. This is really important if you have a new or newer employee. Chances are they may be nervous, hesitant, and a little insecure about their new environment and work. Nothing eases that pressure  more than a manager who is genuinely invested in the lives of those who work for them. No one wants to work for a robot…
  • Be invested in them professionally and personally. Not everything is a competition and not everyone is a competitor. Many times, we are our own worst enemies. Supervisors should be people who care about other people. On my boss’s wall, for example, is written, “Every person has intrinsic value.” Employees work best when they are respected, valued, and heard.

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 atgus.jaramillo@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.

The Balancing Act of a Leader

Being promoted into your first management role can be both an exciting and scary experience.  It shows that your employer trusts you to make decisions and lead others.  However, it can also be a major shift in responsibility.  People are going to look to you for direction, and it’s up to you to have the best possible answers for them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile most people are told that they will have new responsibilities, there’s one crucial piece that tends to be left out of that promotion-prepared conversation: get ready to start the workload balancing act.

What I mean by that is most people assume that their focus on work shifts to people they lead when coming into a management position.  While that’s true, that only paints half of the picture.  You had your own individual tasks and projects you completed before this promotion, but now that you’re promoted, you’re individual task work doesn’t simply stop (though the focus of that individual work may shift).  In fact, not only are you now responsible for your own workload, but you’re also responsible for the workload of those you lead.

It can be a major challenge when you have your direct reports coming to you needing direction, yet you’re in the middle of trying to complete a project with an impending deadline.  How can you balance the needs of the two?

  1. Start with the open door policy: Hopefully, you’ve heard of this term. If not, the basic idea is that your door is always “open”. If someone you lead has an issue they need to discuss, they can come by your office, email you, call you, etc… at just about any time of the working day. Having this policy can remove a major hurdle and allow the people you lead to get past problems faster than having to waiting until you’re available.
  2. Draw a boundary with your open door policy: While it’s great for your people to be able to discuss issues or get direction at anyJuggle Balls time, it may not always be feasible for you to maintain this policy at all hours of the day. If you have approaching deadlines or your own workload is starting to pile up, block out some time on your schedule. Set a ground rule with the people you lead that you can’t be disturbed during this time unless it’s absolutely critical. Be sure to follow up with step 3 below after establishing your boundary.
  3. Find your second-in-command: You’ve established your boundary, but now what? Your people need a backup plan for time-sensitive issues. After all, customers will only wait for so long before an issue gets out of hand. If you work in an organization with a large workforce, perhaps there’s another manager in the same department as you who can be your backup (also allowing you to reciprocate the favor).
    If you work in a smaller organization and there’s not an immediate manager who can cover for you, perhaps there’s someone you lead who is an expert in their role who can be groomed to take on this responsibility. Not only will it allow you to keep your boundary, but it allows you to tackle another management responsibility of developing your people.

Finding the right balance between being available and completing your own work will always be a juggling act, and you may find yourself needing to adjust and readjust your boundaries depending on the needs of your work and the needs of your people.

Leave your comments!

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.

Leadership is a Verb

lead·er·ship [lee-der-ship] noun

the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group: He managed to maintain his leadership of the party despite heavy opposition. Synonyms: administration, management, directorship, control, governorship, stewardship, hegemony.

From 1973 until 2000, one of America’s largest, and eventually global, courier delivery services, headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, was called Federal Express. In January of 2000, Federal Express changed its name to FedEx Corporation and implemented one of the most successful re-branding campaigns in American history.

Lead!

Lead!

After the rebranding efforts took place, something even more significant than the shorter name and little arrow added between the “E” and the “X” began to evolve into a new idea. The word FedEx, became known, not just as a way to define a company, but as something you do as a critical part of your business. “I need you to FedEx me the product tomorrow.” “I’ll FedEx that to you right away.”

FedEx evolved from a being a noun into a verb!

The same thing is happening to the idea of leadership. For the past 50 years, the leadership development industry has exploded into a multi-billion dollar industry because companies around the world are realizing the competitive advantage to having a strong leadership strategy.

I recently found myself sitting in a coffee shop, having a conversation with one of the coauthors of Leadership Genius, and one of the top gurus on the topic of leadership, Dr. Drea Zigarmi.

“Leadership has been an over-used word, in which some people think of it as a person or a thing. It’s not thing. It’s action, or a series of actions you do with people.” Taking a long, slow sip of his coffee, he leaned toward me and proclaimed, “Leadership is a verb!”

When you think of the word leading, you have to consider that it means doing something. It means moving an idea, project, or a dream from one place to a higher place—through the shadows and the conflicts and into the light and consumption of meaning and purpose.

It takes action to effectively move a package from Memphis, Tennessee, to Grover’s Corner, New Hampshire, where a little boy or little girl eagerly open a package to discover something magical, something that will bring a smile to their face. Great organizations, whether it’s a global company serving millions of people or it’s the little pizza shop down on the corner, move their people from knowing what a good job looks like to doing a good job consistently, task by task, with passion and excellence.

Great organizations are dedicated to developing more than just leaders; they are dedicated to developing people who lead! Great leaders are defined by what they do, not by what they know.

About the Author:

 Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, at lynda.com.

What’s Your Management Astrological Sign?

I’ve been out of the dating scene for a while, but from what I see on the World Wide Web and the occasional post on various social media outlets, kids these days are using astrological signs to best match up with partners. In order to have a great experience at work, it’s important to find out what astrological signs exist for managers and which work for you. But there are some obvious signs that anyone in the workforce should be careful to avoid.

The Seagull:

Often the seagull is seen hovering around various office spaces looking to “connect.” He might be seen wearing baseball cap with a sports coat and a tie. He often checks fantasy football on his iPhone and rarely skips a chance to “do lunch” with the boss. He’s not really into how you feel and in fact would rather not know. As Ken Blanchard says, “You gotta watch out for Seagull Management. Seagull managers fly in, make a lot of noise, dump on everyone, and then fly out.” These seagulls think they are special because when they “show up” they cause a lot of havoc and they think they are just “getting things going.”

Seagulls don’t play well with direct reports but tend to get along well with same level managers and especially executives.

Direct Reports:

  • Be careful about getting wrapped up with what the seagull manager brings and be prepared to diffuse the situation.
  • What to watch out for:  He’s not really your friend, unless he needs something from you.

Managers:

  • Play in the weekly football pool, but never accept his trades on fantasy football.
  • What to watch out for: Don’t get wrapped up in his management style. It may look effective and envious, but it’s not an efficient way to manage long-term.

Executives:

  • They are gimmicks. He might “get the job done”, but he will lose some of your best talent.
  • What to watch out for: Pay attention to turnover in this department. It might be a red flag for a dysfunctional team.

The Peacock:Male-Peacock-displaying

Don’t be confused with the peacock. He’s a deceiver. He looks like he’s doing a bunch of work but he’s really lazy. His favorite management tool is the “delegation.” He’s too busy with everything he’s got going on so he gives away everything he’s supposed to do. He is tangential with his speech because he’s not really saying anything but words continually spew out of his mouth. No one understands him, but somehow we hear him. You may think its Armani but really the suit is a hand-me-down from his late, great Uncle Cornelius.

Peacocks don’t play well with direct reports but tend to get along well with same level managers. Executives aren’t fooled.

Direct Reports:

  • Prioritize the tasks given and don’t be afraid to get clarification.
  • What to watch out for: He will task you to death, so don’t get burned out.

Managers:

  • Don’t be a Peacock. For the sake of those who work for you, please don’t be a Peacock.
  • What to watch out for: 3 Piece Suits aren’t that great.

Executives:

  • Please send to remedial leadership training.
  • What to watch out for: Take a second look before you decide to promote.

The Chameleon

This guy. He’s quite the charmer and is generally liked in the office. He brings donuts on Fridays and loves puppies. These are all good things, but those that know him best are not sold on him. He has a tendency to say one thing and do another, over-commits to projects, and rarely delivers on what he promises. He tries to please too many people and has mastered the art of the fake smile.

Chameleons generally get along well with everyone, except those closest to him.

Direct Reports:

  • Have a conversation with him about how you feel; it might actually go better than you think.
  • What to watch out for: Stay away from the donuts.

Managers:

  • If you have this tendency, then don’t be afraid to say no every once in a while.
  • What to watch out for: If you know other managers like this, be careful in conversing with them. They may gossip and take up too much of your time with unnecessary conversation.

Executives:

  • May not be the best to run day-to-day operations.
  • What to watch out for: You may see signs of disorganization and lack of process in their department.

If you happen to run into one of these types of managers, just be sure to steer clear as much as you can!

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

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

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

Stepping Up to Leadership

The late autumn chill had an extra bite as I walked down the street and into the safe harbor of the Kettle Coffee & Tea café. Once inside, the heat from the fireplace and the enthusiasm of the conversations would soon warm me, both physically and intellectually.

I have often overheard some of the most amazing and engaging conversations while enjoying a piping hot vanilla tea made by the servants hearts of the best baristas in town. From the latest political controversies to the five points of Calvinism, I have often gleaned more insight into fascinating topics than I would have in an entire semester at the university or a two-day workshop in a cold dark ballroom.

This particular morning was exceptionally insightful as I listened to one of the most intriguing conversations on leadership—particularly as it related to individuals who have recently inherited the responsibility of influencing others toward a common purpose—individuals who are Stepping Up to Leadership for the first time.

There in the middle of the café, with the classic brick wall of the coffee shop as his backdrop, was internationally renown, and best selling business author, Scott Blanchard—The Son of the One Minute Manager, legendary business author, Ken Blanchard. There at the table, highlighted by two large mugs of piping Joe, David Witt, Lead Columnist at LeaderChat.org, was engaged with Blanchard in meaningful conversation about the challenges new leaders face when working with others in the ever evolving new workforce.

During the course of the conversation, Scott Blanchard highlighted three insights for anyone stepping up into a new leadership role. Insights that even the most seasoned leaders could leverage to bring out the best in their people and their organization.

Leading Others

The conversation began with one of the most timeless questions on the topic of leadership—are leaders made or born? While Blanchard admitted, some people have natural leadership instincts, everyone can learn time tested, researched based leadership skills that can help them collaborate and communicate more effectively with others. He also went on to discuss the need for unshakable ethics, and how to leverage the best in yourself as a leader—not focus on your weaknesses.

stepping-up-to-leadership

Building Relationships

Scott Blanchard passionately emphasized the critical need for leaders to build relationships. “Great leaders,” Blanchard said, “Build trust with the people they are leading.” He also went on to encourage new leaders to deal with conflict effectively, not ignore it or dismiss it as an employee problem. Being others focused, communicating well, and praising people are also key leadership traits that build solid relationships with people and increase the effectiveness of your ability to lead others.

Getting Results

As Dave Witt downed his last drop of coffee, he challenged Scott on weather good leaders should focus on results or people as a top priority in the leadership process. Blanchard had some interesting responses to the question, sighting that the need to motivate people and invest in their wellbeing is the secret key to getting more productive results from the people you are leading. Blanchard tackled the difficult part of leadership, having challenging conversations with people, and the difference between reprimanding someone verses redirecting them toward the vision and values of the team and organization.

While the sting of the approaching winter subsided in the harbor of one of the most engaging conversations I’ve listen to in a café, so to does the winter of discontent of employees and contributors who are lead by people who know who they are and what they are attempting to accomplish in their role of responsibility as a leader. While the most important advise for individuals Stepping Up to Leadership is reserved for lynda.com subscribers, the lessons learned from listening into the conversation on leadership will lasting and impactful.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a leadership consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, a lynda.com and Ken Blanchard Companies production.

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