Archive for the ‘ Passion ’ Category

The “L” Word—Is It On Your Mind?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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About the Author:

Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology and her research is based on mindfulness. You can reach her at sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

John Muir Had It Right

Spring has sprung! Has the urge to go outside and bask in the sunlight or stroll through the park become so strong that you can no longer ignore it? You know the feeling…you’re sitting at your desk or around the conference room table, and through the window you see clear blue skies and can think of nothing else except escaping the office and going outside to play—run, surf, cycle, whatever—as long as it involves breathing fresh air, you’ll be happy. Maybe the drive is deeper and what you crave is not just ditching the daily grind, but truly immersing yourself in the wonders of wilderness and spending some time in a pure and natural environment. Admit it, we’ve all been there, but what is it exactly about the call of the wild that is so irresistible? Why do some people feel so compelled to connect with nature?

JM_walk with nature

The answer lies in evidence that it’s not only good for your body; it’s also good for your brain. In a series of behavioral science studies, researchers demonstrated that spending time outside on good weather days, particularly in the springtime when it’s warm and sunny, can positively affect memory, mood, and openness to new ideas that leads to creative and flexible thinking styles. Another key finding is that people who spent more time indoors experienced the opposite effects of their outdoor counterparts. So if you’re struck with spring fever, then it would behoove you to get outside and scratch that itch!

Decades before environmental and cognitive psychologists began studying the mental health benefits of spending time in nature, John Muir (1838 – 1914) himself advocated the now substantiated claims of increased mental clarity and reduced fatigue through stimulation of the senses in the great outdoors. This legendary Scottish-American naturalist and conservationist is affectionately called the Father of National Parks and is the beloved founder of the Sierra Club, one of the foremost organizations dedicated to wilderness preservation. An eloquent writer and speaker, John Muir’s inspirational message is crisp and clear: In order to be whole with yourself, you must first be one with nature. If that statement rings true with you, then find out how much you emulate this iconic environmentalist and renowned nature-lover by taking the Sierra Club’s quiz: How Muir Are You?

JM_beauty and bread

An explorer at heart, I have long admired the work of John Muir and I often dream of traveling in his footsteps. When I entered my doctoral program four years ago, I quickly learned the lifestyle fate of all graduate students: goodbye sunshine and social life; hello Friday night dates at home with my laptop. Determined to succeed and hopeful that extrinsic motivation would help carry me through, I dug in my heels and set a goal that when I finally finish the program someday, I will reward myself with an epic backpacking adventure! Living in Southern California, I set my sights on thru-hiking the majestic John Muir Trail, a 211-mile long journey in the High Sierra back country which passes through Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and Yosemite National Parks, and ends at the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States (elevation 14,497 feet). Although I have not yet earned the grand prize, the mountains have been calling me and every once in a while, I must go!

JM_break away

During my second year of graduate school I joined a group of 8 hikers who climbed Mt. Whitney, and I remember one of my companions asking what in the world I had in my pack that made it heavier than everyone else’s when we weighed in at the portal. I’m sure I’m not the only hiker in history to foolishly load her pack with journal articles and books to read at camp after a day of grueling high-elevation trekking, but I certainly would not recommend it. Not only was I too exhausted to concentrate on reading, but more importantly I found that my mind was more drawn to simply sitting and being than engaging in any sort of academic exercise. Although my body was weary at the summit, my mind had never felt so awake and open and free! I wanted nothing more than to just sit and be, to listen and smell and feel, to observe and appreciate the raw and captivating beauty and energy of the environment all around me. If you’ve spent any time in the wilderness, then like John Muir, you know exactly what I mean. And if you haven’t…what are you waiting for???

JM_going in2

About the Author:

Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is also pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology and her research is based on mindfulness. You can contact her at sarahmaxwell@kenblanchard.com.

 

Quit & Stayed, or Quit & Paid?

If you’re not familiar with the term “quit & stayed”, it is the act of mentally quitting, yet staying in the same physical environment. More specifically, it’s the act of becoming disengaged in the work you complete, whether that’s for a business or just in general.

"Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net".

“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

Chances are that you work with one or more people who have quit & stayed.  They are people who show up just for the paycheck.  They aren’t passionate about their job.  They don’t have the motivation to go above and beyond.  In a perfect world, everyone would get paid handsomely to do what they love, but unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.  Almost every company and organization has employees who fit into this category.

Amazon recently listed this trend in the annual letter to shareholders from company CEO Jeff Bezos along with a plan to deal with employees who have quit & stayed.  The idea behind this plan is that once a year, employees will be offered a payout to quit.  Depending on how many years you’ve been with Amazon, you could make anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 for handing in your resignation.   The idea isn’t to create a high turnover rate, but instead, bring in new blood and energy where existing employees may have no interest in maintaining their career with Amazon.

Personally, I’d be curious to know what this does to their turnover rate.  Will they see an uptick in the number of employees who move on to other companies?  More importantly, are they paying adding unnecessary costs by paying employees to resign who might resign in either case even if they weren’t getting a bonus to do so?

Jeff Bezos says it best: “In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”  That is one statement I wholeheartedly agree with.

Be sure to take a look at The Ken Blanchard Companies Quit & Stayed Leadership Livecast.  You can even view 17 minutes of the Livecast for free.

Leave your comments!

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.”

Corporate Citizen X

Corporate Citizen X

Corporate Citizen X

He was found by all Human Resource accounts to be
An individual contributor against whom had no official complaint,
And all the annual reviews on his performance agree
That, in the new millennial sense of a classic word, he was an
Angel,

For in all of his daily tasks he did serve the greater good of the organization.
Except for one Sabbatical till the day he retired He worked at his desktop and never got fired,
But satisfied his many managers at Grey Consulting Inc.
Yet he wasn’t offensive or strange in his worldview,
For his mature colleagues report that he had paid his dues,
(His HR file also shows this service was satisfactory and sound)

And the outsourced Positive Therapists too had found
That he was respected by his peers and liked to sip the news
Social Media is convinced that he engaged CNN’s blog every day
And that his algorithms regarding advertisements were typical in every way.
Insurance records under his name prove that he was fully insured,
His health card showed it had been swiped once in the ER, and that he left completely cured.
All of Nielsen’s numbers and Gallup results do declare

He had taken full advantage of his 401k-employee match plan,
And had everything necessary for a 21st century man,
Laptops, SMART phone, wireless signals running through his living room air.

Our investigation into Eco Footprints demonstrate a spirit of circumvent
That he maintained the proper green omissions based on the time of year;
When there was no conflict, he was not conflicted; when there was tension, he was proportionately tense.
He had married and added two and a half children to population,
Which all NBC Social Political polls indicate was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And a few witnesses observed that he never influenced or manipulated their
Online Education.

Was he free? Was he happy? The questions are rediculous and absurd:
Had anything been wrong, in this connected world, we surely would have heard!

A Parody of WH Auden’s, The Unknown Citizen

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and Learning Media Specialist at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a self-paced learning course about personal excellence and effective collaboration.

Enjoy Your Work!

“Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” —The Adventures of Tom Sawyer 

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Tomy Sawyer Whitewasing A Fence by Norman Rockwell

There are high-minded folks who are prone to speak confidently, and perhaps somewhat knowingly, about the challenges of today’s  “workplace,” as some distant plot of time and space that is in desperate need of inspiration. These gurus and generals of thought and attitude speak of a place that somewhere along the way has gotten separated from the rest of our lives.

What we have come to call “work” now seems to consist of only duties and tasks that our minds and bodies are obliged to do nearly three out of every four days of our lives, rather than a grand stage where our hearts and souls lead the dance. The mere mention of the word “work” has become synonymous with labor and toil, with survival and disengagement, with quiet desperation and the worship of weekends.

Today’s deepest leadership challenge is not finding a way to influence people and ourselves to work harder or more efficiently; rather it is to inspire and encourage meaning and joy in the tasks we set out to achieve in the service of others.

“The work that is really a man’s own work is play and not work at all,” Mark Twain noted in A Humorist’s Confession. “Cursed is the man who has found some other man’s work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world, we really mean the great players of the world.”

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Enjoy Your Work

The poorest paid receptionist to the highest paid executive should be challenged to cultivate the eternal, to store up treasure in others, and to ultimately rename work as pleasure—a dispensation that rewards our highest calling as human beings through the consumption of meaning, purpose, and happiness. The teacher, architect, salesperson, accountant, mechanic, engineer, copy editor, software developer, legislator, actor, pastor, poet, prince, homemaker, painter, speaker, writer, software developer, or singer, should seek the higher rewards of their daily endeavors through the enjoyment and adventure of completing what they have learned to do, have trained to do, were born to do at work.

But the ones who have subtly and silently slipped into the chorus of groans and now tread in the mental pool of toil, have in fact resigned themselves to no longer hope to do something great in their work.

“How can they when their souls are in a ferment of revolt against the employment of their hands and brains? The product of slavery, intellectual or physical, can never be great,” Twain concluded in his sober confession.

It is time to rename work as pleasure and seek to master it with as much passion and persistence as we do a good meal, a child’s laughter, or the deep and intimate connection with a friend or family member who reminds us of how precious this life is. It’s time to renew our spirits during the three out of every four days of which our minds and bodies are not obliged to “work,” but inspired to work with joy.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies and CoAuthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a virtual learning experience that empowers individuals with the skills to achieve excellence at work.

Inspired vs. Required

It’s back to school time! While the memories of summer fade into our conscious, to be called upon in future years of eternal youth, young minds reluctantly transition into formal education mode. The thought of spending the next nine months sitting in a classroom cramming information into their brains is far from the glorious lessons learned on rope swings down by the river, swimming pools, and lemonade stands of summertime.

Square Peg, Round Hole

Square Peg, Round Hole

So why is it such a haunting proposition to return to the classroom this time every year? Why are our children not as excited about learning—the core purpose education—as they are about the freedoms of summer?

Today’s formal education conditions young people to jump through hoops, rather than train them to think for themselves.

Core curriculum and Standardized Testing provides checklists and incentives/consequences for the fulfillment or lack of fulfillment of the duties outlined. Today, we require rather than inspire a healthy and effective learning process. We worry about skills, test scores, grade point averages and assignments rather than focusing on the process and the development of the whole person into a critical thinker and unique individual contributor with valuable ideas and a mission to fulfill in life.

These children grow up to work for organizations and continue the program they learned in childhood…. hoop jumping, get by, do your duty until their eyes glaze over from the combination of boredom and stress of today’s formal education process.

We applaud those who successfully jump through the hoops and we shake our heads at those who don’t. We forget that some of the greatest minds and contributors to our culture and civilization were children that we would have shaken our heads at in their youth because they couldn’t “hack” it. Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs, as well as many of today’s movers and shakers come to mind.

What would happen if we took time to have great discussions with children? What would happen if we inspired them to learn all they could and then turn around and fulfill their life mission and inspire others in the process? What would happen if we stopped focusing on the outcome (scores, grades) and focused on how effective the process is? What would happen if we adults stopped being “the sage on the stage”, but rather the “guide by the side” and became fellow learners with children showing them how to effectively learn, lead, and apply during the process? What if we mentored them as a whole person and took delight in them and in drawing out their thoughts on various subjects?

When the inspired children grow up, how would that change the way they approached their careers? How would they lead others differently? How would that affect entire organizations as they started to hire employees that had the quiet confidence and desire to serve a higher cause that inevitably stems from having been treated with interest, and respect and given time and attention and encouragement to naturally grow in areas of weakness and strengths, rather than be criticized and measured by the results of cookie cutter tests?

The way we raise and teach our children conditions them to accept mediocrity and boredom and a state of disempowerment as the norm for their adult lives to the detriment of us all. There is a better way, but it is time-consuming, messy, harder, less measurable, but for sure more fulfilling. It’s time to rethink the way we teach our children to becoming healthy, happy, adults through the learning process.

 Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies and is CoAuthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a virtual learning experience for Individuals in the workplace. He also a Master Trainer of Student Self Leadership, a leadership program designed for youth to be more effective collaborators and problems solvers in their schools and communities.

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.

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.

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