Archive for the ‘ Parenting ’ Category

Overcoming the odds

My dad and I after the surgery

About 5 years ago my father was diagnosed with liver cancer. He was a heavy drinker in his younger days and his cirrhosis compounded his medical issues. Over these 5 years he has gone through chemotherapy, radiation, and a litany of drugs to stabilize his liver. 9 months ago he was finally cancer-free and was then able to be on the transplant list for a new liver. A few weeks ago we received a call that a new liver came in and he needed to be at the hospital as soon as he could. My dad said he felt strange about it and had mixed emotions about the process. “How can I live because someone else has died?” I can’t imagine the competing values he had to deal with. The surgery went better than expected and the transplant was successful.  When the doctor pulled the liver out he said he didn’t know how my dad was still alive. He barely had a few inches left of a functioning liver.

What’s different about dad now than before his surgery is his zeal for life. He has always been a very happy and positive person, but something has changed for him. He told me the other day on the phone that he has “a second chance at life.” It got me thinking. What if I lived like I had a second chance at life? How much happier and productive could I be if I lived like this? So go out and make the best of everything. You never know how much you can accomplish with the right mindset

“The Happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything.”

Leadership Failure

Not too long ago I was put in charge of a couple sections of soldiers who were working on some military intelligence products for an upcoming mission. Since the teams were working on separate products, I assigned myself to one team and had a Lieutenant take charge of another team. The LT had been in the army for a few years, so I had no qualms about giving the team to him. I spoke with him privately and told him that he had “full autonomy” over his team and gave him full discourse over what his team did and how they finished their products. The next morning I come into work at 7:30 fully expecting everyone to be there for unit physical training. They weren’t. When I asked the LT where his team was, he said that he told them that they could do physical training on their own and that they didn’t need to show up until 9:30am. “What? Why did you do that? We always show up at 7:30.”Leadership

So, of course, they decided to sleep in and didn’t do any physical training for the day.

And of course my team was upset that they didn’t get to sleep in and come to work at 9:30. The last thing I wanted to create was resentment across the two teams. I thought that maybe a “team building” exercise was in order, but I didn’t carry it out because I felt I would probably screw that up too.  I was upset about the whole situation, but mainly I was irritated at myself.

After looking back on the incident, here’s what I learned:

  • I never really gave him full autonomy

Here’s what I really said: You can have full autonomy unless you do something I don’t want you to do or something that I disagree with you on. What I told him he could do and what I wanted him to do were two separate things.

  • I shouldn’t have given him full autonomy

Giving full autonomy over everything is not really leadership at all. I thought I was doing the right thing by giving him autonomy, but what I should have done in that situation was to give him more direction as to what is expected and necessary. Autonomy has its place and limitations; using it correctly is when it’s the most impactful.

  • My communication was not aligned with my expectations

I was never clear on my expectations. What was standard and status quo for me was not necessarily the same for him. Talking through each other’s expectations would have been helpful for minimizing conflict and building trust.

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

The End of Innovation

“Innovation is dangerous!” says Yawn Fearman, Gatekeeper of Ideas at Acme Corporation—an international consulting firm that provides executives and managers the tools and skill sets needed to maintain power and balance within organizations. “Innovation is an unruly attitude that ignites revolutions and unwillingly forces change upon the slow and steady hand of the status quo.”Death of Innovation

Fearman asserts that there several simple mindsets to avoid disruptive an inconvenient ideas within an organization:

Isolate Innovation

When a child acts up or misbehaves at home, the best discipline is to give them a Time Out and send them to their room. You don’t have to kick them out of the organization, but isolation will make them think about the real vision and values of the company in more detail. It will encourage them to align their hopes and dreams with the hierarchy of the organization who own the vision and values.

But if you do want to innovate within your organization, keep it limited to one or two departments that are led by individuals who have a degree from a prestigious school and who are in close collaboration with you as a key leader.

Just Say No

Hey, if it worked for Nancy Reagan in the mid-80s (and look how far we’ve come since then), it can work for leaders when individual contributors come up with creative and new ways to serve clients. When ideas come up from the front line, just say, “no.” You probably don’t have the resources or money to implement the ideas anyway, so no real harm can come from this approach. It’s clean and effective and eventually, people will stop coming up with their own ideas so that you can do your job—implementing your own.

Show Them Who’s Boss

When the first two strategies don’t work, flex your Position Power. You have the degree, the experience, the complex title, and the pay grade—so use them!

If employees discover that they have other avenues of power, such as personal experience, knowledge, relationships outside the organization, or a specialized ability to perform specific tasks that the executives may or may not, this could become very disruptive to an organization. Don’t shy away from the fact that you are getting paid the big bucks to drive the organization into the future—not them. You have the title and the authority to make the first and final decision.

Enjoy the Silence

Don’t allow the loud distractions of individual or collaborative innovation to drown out the brilliance of your leadership ability. You’ve earned the corner office, and you were born to lead. The future of the world depends on you—don’t leave it to chance by putting its fate hang on someone else’s wild ideas.

** The views and opinions expressed in this fictitious article do not necessarily reflect sound advice or the views and opinions of
 the author, or The Ken Blanchard Companies.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies and Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, an asynchronous learning experience for Individual Contributors within Organizations.

Want to be productive? Stay home from work

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

Presenteeism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Narcissism and How We Perfected It

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

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

This is our motto.

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

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

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

George Washington’s Leadership Legacy

Let’s indulge, for a moment, on a seasonal exposition that preys on a national day of remembrance—not as a desperate attempt to capitalize on optimal web search methods spiked by the holiday; but rather as mildly hopeful attempt to cull out wisdom from the past, in hopes of gleaning some bit of meaning and truth for our present circumstances.

Washington Revolution

Washington Revolution

Yes, George Washington is the father of our county. Yes, he is the guy on the One Dollar Bill and a few of those silver tokens we used to slide into the arcade machine at 7-11 as a kid. Yes, he is one of the four presidents enshrined on Mt. Rushmore, as a tribute to several of America’s most recognized and cherished leaders.

Washington’s wisdom is not found in the mythological figure he has become in today’s modern media culture—although I doubt he would have as many FaceBook friends as his other famous February cult hero, St. Valentine. Washington’s legacy is as solid and secure today as it was the day he published his Farewell Address in the American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796—One of the great pieces of American Political Literature that every American Citizen should read on a day we should honor the legacy of leadership he has left us with.

It is in this address that the core of Washington’s leadership legacy rings most loudly and clearly. In his closing thoughts, to the American people, a people he had served so nobly throughout the many fragile moments of a nation in its infancy, he turns to them with a most astonishing request.

Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.

American’s Zeus. The conquering hero of the American Revolution! The man who could never tell a lie! The highest authority of a new nation, at the absolute pinnacle of his popularity and power, turning to his people and confusing his shortcomings, before asking for their forgiveness. An astonishing moment in world history, and perhaps the most important lesson for leaders today—having power, but laying the sword of his authority at the feet of his people through service.

Let us not overlook a great leadership lesson amidst a sea of leadership lessons by one of the great leaders the world has known. George Washington shows a humility and grace that set the standard, not only for future presidents, but any great leader—yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

The 3 Most Critical Times of a Productive Work Day

Managing your everyday job responsibilities in an effective, systematic manner is increasingly more challenging in today’s world. It does not matter whether you are a stay at home parent, an around the clock workaholic, or an “average Joe” working for the weekend. Organizing your daily activities demands a lot of thought before jumping right into your tasks. At the end of the day you want to look back and say to yourself, “I made a positive difference today.”

It’s important to remember that you have a choice to control who, what, and how you let the world affect you. It is vital that you develop a daily routine so you can find the time you need to shut out the world for a few minutes and focus on yourself.

Use these three times during your work day to create a productive routine:

The first 30 minutes at the office:

  • Be social with work colleagues. Ask people how they are doing and be prepared to dive deeper into their answers.
  • Write out your top-of-mind tasks and prioritize them for the day. Be sure to revisit and check them off the list as they are completed.
  • Most Importantly, DO NOT CHECK YOUR EMAIL OR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS. Don’t seek out additional tasks first thing in the morning – more often than not, they will only overwhelm you more than you already may be.

The Lunch Hour:

  • Read for recreation to put your mind at ease. Distract yourself with non-work related material so that when you go back to work you have a clean, fresh perspective.
  • Go for a walk outside. Connect with nature to clear your mind and re-connect with the world outside of the office.
  • Work on a home project. If you have a list of to-do’s, use a portion of this time to schedule service appointments or plan out your home project.

The first 10 minutes of your drive home:

  • Praise yourself on your accomplishments. Take a few moments to think about what you achieved during the day. This act emphasizes the importance of mindfulness.
  • Formulate a mental outline of tomorrow’s task list. Once you have a picture in your mind you can come in the next day and write it out.
  • Prepare to be fully present for your spouse and children. Separate your work and home life by embracing the time you spend with your family. Give them your full attention.

Finding the time for yourself requires dedication and directed focus. Once you hone your prioritizing skills you will find a sense of relief and satisfaction. Your productivity will increase while your stress levels will decrease because you are organized, optimizing your ability to lead yourself.

“This is the key to time management – to see the value of every moment.”

– Menachem Mendel Schneerson

 

If you are feeling overwhelmed and inundated with more and more tasks at work, you are not alone! Visit www.leadershiplivecast.com and register for The Ken Blanchard Companies next livecast, Doing ‘Still’ More With Less, where some of the most respected leadership experts will share their thoughts on the topic!

Celebrate the “bright” moments of 2012 and build more in 2013

Here we are, a few days before the end of the year 2012. Now that we have survived the end of the Mayan calendar, it seems another year is rapidly approaching like a locomotive without breaks.

Locomotives Page_html_1195ddf0

But before you leave 2012 in the dust, take some time to reflect on and celebrate the successes you had this year — personal and professional. Did you meet expectations you set from your previous New Year’s resolutions?

It is often easy to point out what did not go well, because people instinctively strive to right their wrongs. However, focusing on the “brighter” moments’ of the year heightens your awareness of what is possible in the times to come.

Here is a three step process to bring “positive things” to light in the New Year:

Meditate to Practice Mindfulness: Evidence indicates that mindfulness meditation leads to well-being through increases in awareness (Shapiro, Oman, Thoresen, Plante, and Flinders, 2008). Set aside five, ten, or twenty minutes a day to settle your thoughts and become actively aware of your self-talk. The more you practice this art, the more you will notice that you lose track of time during this art and can more easily focus your attention on the present moment. Once you are aware of how you think, you can begin to direct your focus in a positive direction.


1525R-164535Write in a Gratitude Journal: In an experimental comparison

, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). Challenge yourself at the end of each day to focus on and write about three reasons you were thankful that day for people or things in your personal or professional life. Having to come up with three reasons to be thankful

each day requires you to be aware of, and even seek out, positive experiences.

 

Praise the People: Now that you are documenting your gratitude, take the next step and praise your people. When an employee believes his or her superiors are grateful for his or her work, the employee will benefit by having an improved sense of worth to the organization (Kerns, 2006). As a leader expressing your gratitude to the people you lead will be both beneficial for you and them. You will be amazed to see the positive outcomes produced by this simple action.

Remember, leaders are there to serve the needs of the people they lead. What better way to serve than to lead with positive praises?

Take the last few days of 2012 to develop a “praise plan” for 2013 that includes mindful meditation, keeping a gratitude journal, and praising people around you. It will increase the level of positive well-being in all aspects of your life and the lives of those you touch.

“It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts.”

-Robert H. Schuller

2 Roadblocks to Kick Start Change

Over the last few weeks I have run into so many people struggling to either initiate a change or maintain one. People’s struggles with change range from implementing a new system at work to adopting a new regimen of diet and daily exercise in their personal lives. Those responsible for initiating change will see changes fall to the wayside without addressing two important levels of concern. What are the roadblocks preventing people from initiating and maintaining change?

Information Concerns

The first obstacle for change is a matter of explaining all informational concerns centered on the change. The old popular saying, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” often resonates with most people since they do not see what benefits the change will bring. People are creatures of habit and in order to break those habits a clear persuasive purpose for the change needs to be explained. Early adopters can be developed when people see a clear picture of what the change looks like, how it is implemented, and what impact it will have on the company or the longevity of their life. The leaders initiating a change can gain trust and respect through full disclosure of all informational reasons for the change and what outcomes they hope to see from it.

Personal Concerns

The second obstacle holding up a change (and most common) is a matter of personal concerns. People want to know how they will be involved in the change and what demands will be placed on their everyday work schedule. Two common questions that pop up are “Will I have enough time?” and “Am I capable of executing the change?”. Without these questions immediately being addressed the change will fail. People will push their tasks involved in the change to the bottom of their priority lists and procrastinate with the fear of failure.

“Tipping Point” to Change Adaptation

In an organization, a change leader must find the people who are most susceptible to become early adopters of the change. Once these people are identified, and their informational and personal concerns are addressed, they can be dispersed throughout the organization to advocate for the change. This method is especially critical for company-wide change in larger corporations. One person is not as strong as a team of people, who share a common vision and purpose.

As for individuals, changing eating habits or daily exercise routines are great personal challenges that are often difficult to tackle alone. Human beings are naturally social beings. People thrive to connect and find comfort being included with others who share common interests. Changing ones way of living is incredibly difficult when approaching it alone. People should find a support group through their family and friends to help progress through their life change, when it seems too difficult. Collaborating with others and seeking their feedback, helps to reemphasize the purpose for the change and could surface new ideas on how to implement it.

“Most of us are about as eager to be changed as we were to be born, and go through our changes in a similar state of shock.”

- James Baldwin

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