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Be the Gazelle

There is much to admire about the gazelle. She is a beautiful creature—delicate and graceful yet agile, fast and resilient. What makes her truly remarkable is her unique ability in response to a life-threatening situation to literally just shake it off. You’ve probably seen a similar National Geographic video: a gazelle is grazing with the herd when she suddenly becomes the target of a ravenous cheetah’s hunt. One second she’s foraging and the next she’s running for her life. Instantly her heart is pounding and adrenaline is racing through her veins as survival instincts take over. Watching this scene you can’t help but think, “this is NOT going to end well,” but the cheetah unexpectedly gives up. When the gazelle realizes she’s no longer being chased, she slows to a halt and waits to ensure that she is safe. Then something incredible happens: she starts shaking and quickly her entire body erupts into convulsion. Her nervous system is physically discharging the excess energy and arousal that it no longer needs. Soon she’s bounding off across the plain…time to get back to the herd.

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Have you ever had an experience in which you were faced with some kind of threat (physical or psychological) and as fear creeps in, you start trembling uncontrollably? I will never forget the moment when this happened to me two years ago. I was faced with an absolutely overwhelming situation that I didn’t know how to handle and suddenly it started–I began shaking and I couldn’t stop! It’s a very strange sensation. I felt completely helpless until I realized what was happening and thought to myself, “yes, be the gazelle.”

Self-leadership is predicated on self-preservation and it comes down to being adaptive. We must be keen to what’s happening around us and prepared to react appropriately to any trial. Evolution has made it difficult for humans to simply shake off the physical and emotional effects of trauma, but we all have the innate capacity to organically restore our own inner balance. Absorbed negative energy can be detrimental to our health, making us inefficient and more vulnerable to future stress.

What are you holding onto that’s preventing you from returning to the herd? What is keeping you in place, at risk, or in peril? Life is tough. You never know if a cheetah is lurking in the bushes waiting to attack. The next time something confronts you, terrifies you, or chases you to the point of exhaustion, don’t just collapse and surrender. Get back up and shake it off! Let go of whatever you’re carrying around that no longer serves you. Shake off the fear of failure, the anxiety of the unknown, the soreness of the sprint, the ordeal of a near miss. Don’t let a setback paralyze you. Shake it off and move on.

In the midst of challenge it’s easy to lose sight of the beauty before us. Look to the horizon…the sun is still shining and the grass is still growing across the plain, so get back out there and enjoy it! Be the gazelle.

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 the study of mindfulness. You can contact her at sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

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 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.

Peer Coaching- A truly secret tool for success

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

Collaboration

A collaborative approach

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

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

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

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

Gus is a Learning and Performance Professional at the Ken Blanchard Companies and is currently finishing his PhD in I/O Psychology. He can be reached at gus.jaramillo@kenblanchard.com

3 Simplistic Ways to Lead with Resilience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Warren Bennis

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies. To learn more about The Ken Blanchard Companies please visit www.kenblanchard.com

Leadership Failure

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

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

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

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

  • I never really gave him full autonomy

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

  • I shouldn’t have given him full autonomy

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

  • My communication was not aligned with my expectations

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

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

3 Essential Pieces to the Puzzle of a Successful Team

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

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

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

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

Brian Alexander is the Marketing Project Specialist with The Ken Blanchard Companies. To learn more about The Ken Blanchard Companies please visit www.kenblanchard.com

Facebookin’ on the job boosts productivity?

Ok, maybe posting pictures of you from that awesome Black Keys concert from the night before or gossiping about who unfriended who on Facebook while on the job is more of a productivity killer.

However, earlier this week, Microsoft released the results of a global survey conducted by Ipsos regarding the use of social tools in the workplace.  Nearly 10,000 individuals responded from over 32 countries, all of which were from various industries and age groups.  While the results aren’t necessarily surprising, leaders definitely need to be aware of the emerging trends.

networkingBefore getting into the results, I want to point out that it’s obvious why Microsoft commissioned the survey.  With products like SharePoint and Lync, Microsoft is building a business case for implementing more social enterprise tools within organizations.   With that being said, the trends are still very real:

  • 46% of respondents stated that their productivity increased because of their use of social tools.
  • 40% stated that social tools have results in more collaboration in their workplace.
  • 39% stated that other individuals in their organization did not collaborate enough.
  • The top reported use of social tools was to communicate with colleagues, followed by reviewing documents and communicating with customers/clients.

If you look online, you can find various opinions regarding the use of social tools in the workplace.  We can see there’s a trend based on the results above, but there are also individuals who feel social tools do not belong in the workplace.  Some say it could be comparable to putting the water cooler outside of everyone’s workspace.

The purpose of these tools, at least from a business perspective, is to increase communication.  If you can increase communication, it should be easier to increase collaboration.  Sure, the use of these tools can lead to non-work related discussions among employees, but in today’s work environment where resources are scarce and employees are doing more with less, this should be embraced.  There is no longer a clear line between work life and personal life.

There is one clear benefit to using these tools that I can identify that’s not listed in the survey results: documentation.

emailFor example, everyone has preferences when it comes to email vs. phone calls.  Some prefer voice-to-voice interactions, while others prefer email communication.  Personally, I prefer emails to phone calls because it automatically gives me a record of the conversation.    I’m not the greatest note-taker, so if I can automate that process, I have a clearer picture of the commitments I have made along with the commitments others have made to me.

I also don’t have the greatest memory, either.  If you asked me about the details of a meeting that took place last week, I might be able to fill in the details.  If you asked me about a meeting from a few months ago, the details I can recall will be much hazier.

The more I’m able to use technology to document my interactions, the easier it will be to increase my overall productivity.  That’s because I’m spending more times on real action items, instead of simply trying to remember details.

If you’re still on the fence about using social tools in the workplace or are even a naysayer, be careful: according to the results of the survey, 17% reported that they ignored their organization’s IT policy and installed social tools on their work device(s).  Further, 28% reported that they knew of others in their organization who had done the same thing.

What has your experience been with using social tools at work?  Did they lead to an increase in productivity, or were they more of a distraction?

As always, be sure to leave your comments!

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

The Look of Ethical Leadership

Call me idealistic, but I want more from Gen X and Gen Y when it comes to leadership. I want to see us go beyond the standard leadership stereotypes to something more global, accepting, and inclusive. To encourage non-typical leadership types to emerge and develop.

Can you imagine what it might look like if high-potentials weren’t chosen based on how well they fit the corporate image, but instead on how well they treat others? Have we gone overboard with making sure leaders present themselves a certain way as seen in the following video?

Sure, they all have the right corporate image, but is that what the leader of the future should be? What if these guys in the following video were the most ethical leaders you would ever met…

What about those people you work with right now who might not say the right corporate buzz-words, wear the right clothes, or graduate from the right schools?

What if instead, true leaders naturally emerge because everyone whom they come into contact with experiences a solid trustworthy person. When faced with the decision between right or wrong without hesitation he or she takes the ethical high-road. They might not have the right hair, but go out of their way to give credit to the entry-level employee with the bright idea that just made the company millions.

Maybe leadership looks more like the quiet co-worker who detests public speaking and back-to-back meetings, but whose character is unmistakable. Maybe it’s the guy who knows nothing about golf and can’t stand wearing polo shirts or it’s the girl who really doesn’t want to hide her tattoo because it’s part of who she is.

The Look of Ethical LeadershipWhat if tomorrow’s leaders are more about the inside than the outside? Less about the look and more about how they make you feel. Can you imagine? What if tomorrow’s leaders make good decisions, treat people well, and have brilliant ideas, but don’t look or sound the part.

I realize that in a global context, defining what it means to be an ethical leader will differ slightly, but the idealist in me once again asks whether we can move to a broader view of what an ethical leader should look like…

…to a leader who treats others with respect at every given opportunity, someone who is inclusive in encouraging dissenting opinions and viewpoints. Someone who really hears the thoughts and ideas of others, who doesn’t hold an employee’s title over his or her head as a mark of competence, and instead encourages all people regardless of background to lead at all times in everything they do.

All regardless image. Can you imagine…something different?

***

Cheryl DePonte is a Human Resources Learning and Performance Specialist at The Ken Blanchard Companies and has over 15 years experience in the fields of organizational effectiveness and human resources development.

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