Archive for the ‘ self leadership ’ Category

5 Simple Leadership Lessons I Learned from Ken Blanchard

When I first entered the workforce 15 years ago, I had the great honor of working directly with best-selling business book author Ken Blanchard. At the time, I had little knowledge of his work or his reputation as one of the most influential thought leaders in the business world. I knew even less about his numerous best-selling business books, including one of the most successful business books of all time, The One Minute Manager.

Don Shula, Jason Diamond Arnold, Ken Blanchard

Don Shula, Jason Diamond Arnold, Ken Blanchard

Shortly after working with Ken on book endorsements, and helping him organize and publish The Little Book of Coaching with Don Shula, I quickly came to realize how worthy Dr. Blanchard was of his celebrity status. Ken Blanchard has a way of making you feel like you’re the most important person in the room, whether you are one-on-one with him in his office or a captivated member of a 5000-person audience. Ken is one of the most down-to-earth and compassionate people I have ever met.

This January, I graduated from the Ken Blanchard Companies, taking with me a wealth of knowledge and experience applicable to my own leadership development and media firm. There are five key leadership and career principals I learned from working with Ken Blanchard during my 15-year apprenticeship with the company that bears his name and helped start a leadership revolution.

“Take a minute to set goals.” 

Not only is goal setting the first secret in The One Minute Manager, it is also the first skill of one the world’s most influential leadership models, Situational Leadership II. Most leaders and individuals have goals set in their minds, but few leaders and individual contributors actually write those goals down and actively use them to manage performance. Ken often quotes fondly the enigmatic Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Goal Setting is a foundational business skill, whether you are a leader of others or a self-led leader. Setting clear outcomes makes your path more certain and productive.

“Catch people doing things right.”

If one lasting legacy of Ken Blanchard will be passed on for generations, it will be the practice of catching people doing things right. We all have a tendency to focus on the negative—to point out what’s going wrong rather than what’s working well and thus making the adjustments to improve. Great leaders build upon others’ strengths. They lift up and encourage the people they’re trying to influence toward peak performance. Once people have goals set and desired outcomes determined, the leader’s role is to encourage them to achieve those goals—not micromanage them by emphasizing the details of their shortcomings and failures on the path to achieving those goals.

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

The best way to encourage others is by praising or redirecting toward the desired outcomes. Feedback is the conduit through which we provide the praise or redirection necessary on the path to excellence. Most leaders don’t think of feedback as a skill, but studies highlight the importance of effective feedback in motivating and building trust in the people you’re trying to influence. Great leaders understand how to give effective feedback. Excellent individuals learn how to seek feedback from leaders and anyone that can help them advances their goals.

“None of us is as smart as all of us.”

There is perhaps no greater truth in today’s knowledge-based workforce than the wisdom of the crowd. When people try to solve problems on their own, go Lone Wolf on tasks and goals, or keep acting as the gatekeepers of knowledge, they not only disrupt the outcomes of projects critical to organizational success, they isolate themselves from real solutions and the support of others. Great leaders seek wise counsel and seek input by empowering people to create solutions to everyday business challenges and employ strategic initiatives. Today’s most influential leaders and successful individual contributors understand the importance of collaborating with others for organizational and personal excellence.

“Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

This is one of the most influential concepts I learned from Ken Blanchard. People often think of themselves too highly or, conversely, suffer from low self-esteem. Being humble may be more about a person’s attitude than an actual skill, but people who think about themselves less and focus on the needs of others often build trust and have a greater influence on the people they lead. Humility is not as difficult as it seems when you have a healthy self-awareness of your place in the world at large. Not only is humility a great character attribute, it’s a powerful leadership concept that will elevate the success of your team and your career.

Thank You, Ken Blanchard

The lessons I learned from Ken Blanchard are worth more than a Ph.D. in leadership. These five Key Leadership Lessons are valuable life skills that, if embraced, will guide you on your own journey toward professional and personal excellence. Whether you are serving clients through your own company or within the organization that employees you, clear direction, positive praise, consistent feedback, collaboration with others, and humility will all go a long way to ensure lasting success in all your endeavors. Ken Blanchard is a thought leader in the business world because he has learned to tap into the timeless truths that have inspired people to flourish throughout human history. I hope you will consider these five simple truths this day as you engage in your daily tasks and interactions with others.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant for The Ken Blanchard Companies and Cofounder of DiamondHawk Leadership & Media. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, a powerful learning experience designed to help individual contributors to excel at work and in their career through critical leadership and business skills.

Streaming: The Future of Virtual Learning?

There is a revolution happening in the world of video games. It is called Twitch. It’s a website where gamers can directly stream footage of their game daily and provide voice commentary. Most also share their webcams in the corner of the screen and respond to chat either directly in the chat window or via voice. They generate revenue through subscribers who pay monthly ($5 on average) for special benefits (like being entered into giveaways) and donations. And it’s gaining so much popularity that Amazon purchased it for almost a billion dollars and was considered the fourth largest source of internet traffic in the US in early 2014.

Pewdiepie Playing Goat Simulator

So why is this important? Well, within the realm of learning, MOOCs have gained much popularity for providing content on the go at little to no cost. But the content is not flexible and other than forums, there’s no fast way to interact with the content provider, especially if you need clarification or have a quick question. It lacks the feel of communicating directly with a live human being. And virtual training/learning is great, but could be expensive and the scheduling might be inconvenient or infrequent.

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In a sense, MOOCs are like YouTube, where people upload content and others view it. So what is out there for learning that is like Twitch? Currently, virtual training/learning and live video blogging comes the closest. But imagine if there were entertaining individuals streaming, for instance, a fun learning videogame or sharing some interesting but educational videos for just a half hour every night and providing witty commentary. And also answering questions out loud on the video as you ask them in the chat window. And providing free giveaways for both subscribers and regular viewers.

How-To-Video-Your-Way-To-Success

There are technology platforms already in place to enable this type of streaming to occur. And there are many people who would benefit from this type of content. And for the streamers, there is revenue to be generated through subscribers. I believe that this will be the next big learning platform to take off once more people start taking advantage of this technology, particularly when more of the YouTube generation starts to enter the workforce.

What are your thoughts? Would this be something that would interest you?

Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

Motivation: What’s Yours?

I was asked a question today: “What motivates you?”

I immediately thought about context: Motivations for work-related tasks? For my own personal goals? And then I thought about life in general. What motivates me to get up every day?

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This is such a powerful question. The answer says so much about who you are as a person. Whether you are internally or externally motivated, and your reasoning for why you are motivated in that way can shed light on your values and morals. Even how you frame the answer conveys what you find most important in your life.

And yet, despite the wealth of information this simple question could provide, many leaders don’t ask this of themselves and of their direct reports. Leaders can uncover why they’ve become leaders and what strengths and weaknesses they possess. They can also discover how engaged their workforce is and how to better inspire their employees.

So go ask yourself and those around you, “What motivates you?”

motivation

Image Credit: 1 | 2

Have the negatives taken over time and focus?

If you think for a minute about your average workday, how would you divide that workday between focusing on positives versus focusing on negatives?  Do you tend to catch people doing something wrong more often than doing something right?  If you answered “yes”, you might be adding to the overall negativity, yourself.

Praise or Condemn

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This negative focus may be a byproduct of our own culture.  Pull up any of the major news websites at any given time and you’ll see that a high percentage of the headlines usually have negative undertones.

While we might be quick to blame the media, our own behavior feeds the fire when it comes to this trend.  For example, in a 2012 study, Outbrain, a marketing firm that specializes in internet traffic, found that negative headlines had an average click-through rate (meaning people were actually clicking on the headlines to go to the source content) 68% higher than positive headlines.   There are many different reasons as to why negative headlines receive more attention, but the end-result is still the same.

Even television may be lending a hand.  I admit that I enjoy my own fair share of reality television.  Look at how many reality programs exist on various channels (ex: what happened to the good ‘ole days of MTV just showing music videos?).  Most of those shows thrive on drama, such as verbal arguments or fights between the characters.  Drama and negativity clearly sell.

However, a study published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that those who watched reality television or even violent crime dramas that included verbal or relational aggression between characters tended to have more aggressive responses to threats related to ego.   Does this mean that if you watch reality television that you’re automatically going to get in a fist fight at work?  Probably not, but you have to question how is this might be affecting behavior in the workplace.

To add to this, two sayings come to mind that I’ve heard all throughout my careers at different places of employment.  There’s a good chance you’ve heard these, too:

  1. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
  2. “No news is good news.”
Yelling

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Number 1 is especially important, because solving problems makes up the bulk of most jobs.  Yet, this has trained us to spend our most of our time focusing on those problems, whether the problems are task-related or people-related.   If you have someone reporting to you who is under-performing, it’s likely that individual will take up more of your time and focus compared to your top performer.  Just because “No news is good news” when it comes to your top performer doesn’t mean that they should simply be ignored.

FineAwards.com published a press release in which it reviewed data from a series of Gallup polls on the topic of employee engagement.  They put together an excellent infographic that you can find here.  Some of the interesting data they found is as follows:

  • 35% of respondents consider lack of recognition the primary hindrance to their productivity
  • 16% of respondents left their previous job based on a lack of recognition
  • 17% of respondents stated that they have never been recognized at their place of employment
  • 69% of respondents stated they would work harder if they received increased recognition

In other words, if only the squeaky wheel is getting the grease, you might look down one day and find that some of your wheels have simply disappeared while your ride is sitting up on blocks.

It takes effort, but intentionally finding people doing things right can have a positive outcome on your work environment, such as lower turnover and higher productivity.  If you can train yourself to also be on the lookout for the positives, you can turn it into a habit.

Leave your comments!

Pent Beneath Fancy Knot

To the one pent beneath fancy knot,

pent behind fancy knot

pent behind fancy knot

It is curious to look at your affair
Catching you gaze toward heaven
Each afternoon seeking fresh air
Petitioning social network for leaven
Numb cheek now fermenting                                                        

Who could rejoice with thee now?

Fatigued, slipping into some ancient chat
You lie back in whispering waves of mocha
Toes banked in lukewarm grains of sand
Swimming in ocean’s of caramel bliss
Careless of the call you just missed

 

Pent beneath fancy knot

Ulysses’ alarm, pale reason to depart
Returning home at sundown—eyes half shut
Visions of Marla—the happy stray mutt
Once proud royal, mourn the day left behind
Slumber to the door—the angel’s tear has descended
You slide softly and silently into your favorite spot.

 

Still pent beneath fancy knot

 

by J. Diamond Arnold

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and Learning Media Producer 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.

 

 

Boldness Be Your Friend

The past couple years for me have been nothing short of a bold adventure dotted with opportunities, seen and unseen, to face my fears. Head on. And I don’t regret a second of it. I previously earned the nickname “safety cat” (a light-hearted play on “scared-y-cat”), but I have learned to embrace a maxim put forth by the great playwright and poet:

Boldness

Fear is such a primal force. It does funny things to the brain. Fear works its way into the psyche and hijacks all reason and logic. It can be gripping and paralyzing, or rousing and electrifying. It can prevent you from thinking clearly and cause you to react without will or succumb to danger. When I was younger, I had a terrifying recurring dream when distressed that I was drowning in deep water. Dozens of times I have watched myself in this nightmare desperately struggling at the water’s surface but slowly sinking into a murky abyss. It was absolutely horrifying, every single time. Every once in a while, when I’m swimming around in fear surrounding some new challenge or perceived barrier, it sneaks in again and haunts my slumber. Naturally I’ve developed an irrational fear of being in deep water and therefore, I have never been comfortable in the ocean. Drowning is a powerful image of fear, so imagine my reaction when my brother approached me about getting scuba dive certified on vacation in the Virgin Islands! Knowing that he also harbored some anxiety around the idea of breathing from an air tank underwater, and not wanting to discourage him from challenging his own fears, I agreed to do it. I managed to say something like, “that would be fun for us to do together,” while in the background my brain was completely freaking out!

Fear2

Fear is powerful, but it is not absolute. Although the brain’s course of translating fear-inducing sensory information into a behavioral response is largely an unconscious process, neuroscience has shown that we can learn new ways of reacting to fear-inducing stimuli. So how did I do it? Well, it was basically a matter of diving right in! I chose to be bold.

My brother and I signed up for the PADI Open Water Diver certification course, affiliated with a reputable dive shop in St. Thomas, and completed our e-learning modules. Then there we were on day one, all geared up with BCDs, tanks and regulators, and ready to begin the confined water dive skills portion of our training, and my brain started freaking out again. “All you have to do is breathe through your mouth and everything will be fine,” I told myself. “That’s crazy, you can’t breathe underwater, don’t do it,” my brain fought back with me. With my heart pounding, I submerged and instantly hated it. “Go back to the surface and rip your mask off so you can breathe through your nose like normal,” my brain shouted at me. “Just try to take slower, deeper, more controlled inhales and exhales,” my yoga teacher self told my brain. My chest was tight and I felt like I couldn’t get enough air no matter how hard I tried. “I’m suffocating…This is horrible…I hate this,” my brain cried out in panic. I struggled through the entire morning, dreading the impending open-water dives that afternoon.

”Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” – Helen Keller

Facing your fear is often about taking calculated risks and learning how to handle them. I chose to override my instinct to give up on diving, but my internal argument continued during the boat ride out to our first dive spot. “50 feet down is a long way…What if your regulator doesn’t work and you suffocate? What if you can’t clear your mask and you breathe in some water and choke on it? This is really scary. You don’t have to do this,” my brain tried to convince me. “Look here, amygdala, you’re not winning this time,” I answered back. Standing on the edge of the platform at the boat’s stern and heeding my brother’s advice from earlier that day, I rehearsed what was going to happen. “Walk yourself through it,” he said, so I reminded myself that I was in control and I stepped out into the ocean. We carefully made our first descent to the ocean’s floor and began our first underwater exploration!

Sarah

Diving_SarahWhat a mystical experience it was to be floating freely through the abyss, not struggling and fearful, but literally and figuratively buoyant. I fell in love with diving that day! More importantly, I gained an enormous sense of confidence in my ability to overcome the greatest obstacle to pursuing my dreams: fear.

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

How many times have you allowed fear to speak louder than reason or passion and missed an opportunity to challenge yourself and take a chance on growth in your personal or professional life? No one is immune from fear and it serves its purpose in warning us of potential threat, but it need not hold you back. You can still explore, try new things, step into the unknown, and know that you are in control even if you’re anxious. You can likely recount your own vivid tale of standing at the edge of whatever it is you were afraid to do, then taking that giant leap forward and feeling the rush of pure joy and pride afterwards. Revel in those moments and soak in the strength of resilience that you build when you do choose to face your fears. The first step is choosing to do it. The next step is going out and doing it. Share your stories below.

Boldness be your friend!

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” -Dale Carnegie

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.

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

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