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The 5 A’s to Dealing With Problems

As a millennial, I’ve grown into a world where people expect things to be dealt with quickly, and they want as much information as they can get in the process. Just look at Domino’s pizza tracker. Why just wait for your pizza, when you can check when it’s being prepped, in the oven, and out for delivery?

This speed, and thirst for information, is transposed onto complaints and problems. According to a Lithium-commissioned study by Millward Brown Digital, survey, 72 percent of people expect a response to a Twitter complaint to a company in less than an hour.

To make sure I’m always ready with a response when someone complains, I like to remind myself of “The Five A’s to Dealing With Problems”. They provide a simple process that I can follow to connect with the disgruntled person in front of me, make them feel better about the issue, and then actually do something about it there and then.

A scrabble tile

Acknowledge the problem – try to really understand why someone is complaining. Stop listening to them complain, and start hearing what the issue actually is.

Apologize – you can directly apologise if there’s something that you’ve done wrong; or you can make the apology generic. Try: “I’m sorry that you feel that way”. Either way, the apology needs to be genuine. “Don’t ruin an apology with an excuse”. Don’t apologise, and then say “…but”.

Analyze the issue –find the cause of the problem. Complaints contain insight, so listen to the feedback – it should be part of the solution, not part of the problem. If you’re still not clear what remedy the person stood in front of you is looking for, involve them in your resolution decision-making – use questions such as: “What do you think would be fair?”

Act – tell them what you are going to do about the problem. If it’s an obvious solution, you might be able to tell them there and then. However, sometimes it’s not as simple – if that’s the case, we can still provide an immediate response just by being up front and honest – if you need to get someone else’s input, explain that, and then give them an idea of when you might be able to give them a solution.

Appreciate the situation – check in with the person that complained, and invite their feedback to verify that you have solved the problem. Even if it is obvious that the situation has been corrected; the fact that you care enough to follow up makes people feel valued.

 

I use these “Five A’s” as a tool to building trust and effective relationships with, and ensure that no one is left with an unresolved problem. They provide a valuable insight into continuous improvement, by inviting feedback – and then people know you’ll take the feedback on board and do something about it. It’s a useful skill to have in your leadership portfolio – because, even with the best intentions – your team members won’t be happy all of the time. If they know that you’re willing to listen to their problem, apologise if you haven’t achieved and accept your own mistakes (or at least acknowledge how their feeling about things and empathize), and then take action on it – they can know that they can come to you with problems; and you’ll continually be able to grow and develop and take the feedback on board to improve.

That, or you could just buy your team pizza. I’ve just checked on my app, and mine’s “Out for Delivery”….


 

Jemma Garraghan is a Project Manager for EMEA at The Ken Blanchard Companies, and can be contacted on jemma.garraghan@kenblanchard.com

Create Your Own Placebo Effect

Blog Pic - Placebo 4

I was talking with a group of individuals at my running club and one of the ladies said, ‘isn’t it strange how you feel you can run faster when you’ve tied your shoelaces tighter’.

Other runners mentioned feeling increased performance after a decent warm up, pre-race rituals or times when a ritual abandoned before a run left them feeling heavy legged and lethargic.

So I was interested to read a column in Runners World (May 2015) by Sam Murphy on placebos. She mentioned a study by the University of Glasgow where volunteers injected what they were told was a new drug that mimicked a banned substance that boosted endurance. The performance of the runners over a 3K distance increased by 1.2% (9.7 seconds) and they perceived their effort to be lower. It turns out the volunteers were injecting a saline solution, providing zero benefits to their performance.

I have also heard similar examples of people with terminal illnesses who, when given a placebo, improved dramatically. Their symptoms decreased and some seemingly made miraculous recoveries. When they found out they were taking a dummy drug their symptoms returned.

This got me thinking about how our minds work and the effect this has on our performance, both in the sporting world but also in the world of work. I certainly feel my concentration decreases at work without a morning coffee, but would I have still had the same level of performance if someone switched my coffee for a decaff without telling me?

So, is it then possible to train the brain to make you believe you can perform at an optimum level every day? I think it is.

About a year ago Lily Guthrie, Office of the Future Executive Assistant at the Ken Blanchard Companies, provided a group of us with a virtual session on ‘Creating Healthy Habits’. This was mainly focused on habit forming activities in order to keep fit, eat well and increase the health and alertness of your brain. Applying this concept to your work day would also provide structure and your brain will believe these habits are fundamental to good performance.

If you always have a healthy breakfast, keep water by your desk and write a ‘to do’ list every morning before even opening your emails would this fundamentally increase your productivity? Possibly it would, as you are hydrated, won’t be hungry and are organised.

It could also be said that these habits make you feel more productive too – it’s a little placebo at the start of your day. Without these daily habits you might not feel you are working optimally, but with these habits you feel you have started the day as you should and are ready to face any challenges that lie ahead.

I would challenge yourself to think about your ‘best’ days; when do you feel in control, creative, productive and organised? This could mean recording in a diary or somewhere on your computer what you did each day and how you felt. Make your own placebo – take the best parts of your week and make them a reality every day.

Blog Pic - Placebo 3

Lisa is the EMEA Client Services Manager at the Ken Blanchard Companies. The Client Services Team specialise in delivery; Project Management, Learning Services (virtual learning and online assessments) and Staffing (trainer allocation).

 

Got Skills?

One summer afternoon, on the way to his favorite fishing hole, my grandfather took a short rest in the middle of a field behind house. He gazed upon his modest crop of corn that he had planted earlier in the spring as if he were Cortez, first looking upon the Pacific Ocean.

“You ain’t a man unless you own some land,” he spoke softly, as if it were a proclamation to the heavens, rather than an attempt to impart wisdom to his grandson.

Intellectual PropertyIntellectual Property

It wasn’t until recently when I heard a colleague and friend of mine, Dana Robinson, a professor of law at the University of San Diego School of Law and author of several learning courses at lynda.com, talk about a new form of equity in our knowledge based economy—Intellectual Property.

“You probably know something about personal property. Your house or the things you probably have in your house. These are tangible things. That’s how we think of property in most cases, but what about intangible property? What about the things that are invisible that we want to consider property? We call those things “intellectual property.”

(See Dana Robinson’s course on Intellectual Property Law at lynda.com)

For generations, like my grandfather’s, land ownership was a significant and tangible asset to either provide or supplement a means to a living for much of the world. To this day, owning a home or physical property is still a valuable economic resource for individuals and families. But over the past quarter century, technology has pushed the light of the dawning knowledge revolution high into sky, dramatically shifting precious resources from the fertile fields of physical property, to the wellspring that reside in the minds of individuals throughout every level of today’s workforce—intellectual property.

40 years ago, the typical American company had about 20% of its assets in intellectual property or intangible assets. Today that number is more like 80%. Leveraging the 80% of today’s intangible assets within an organization is as great of a challenge as it is an opportunity for leaders and individuals.skills_cloud

Knowledge into Action

But intellectual property is not just about knowledge, it’s about how organizations and individuals leverage corporate and employee knowledge into action as a means to create revenue. If the acquisition of lynda.com by LinkedIn last week (LinkedIn to Buy lynda.com , NY Times) did not send sock waves through the business world last week from the sheer numbers, 1.5 Billion, than the fact that LinkedIn is preparing to transcend beyond the FaceBook of business and a real time resume resource, into becoming the leading provider of real time skills to polish up your LinkedIn profile, than you’re not paying attention to how the world of business is changing.

Gone are the days when executive leaders can simply make a decision and pass it down the chain of command for implementation. Gone are the days where you punch a clock, push some buttons, pull some levers and the company generates revenue like a well-oiled machine. And even perhaps more importantly, gone are the days when we hire and retain employees based solely on where they received their degree, or the level they attainted at a university, or the years of experience they have in the workplace—but rather how they can turn their theoretical knowledge from the halls of academia or years of experience into action through demonstrated real time skills that cultivate tangible assets for today’s knowledge economy.

Skills are the New Currency

In today’s highly technical job market, skills are quickly becoming the new currency for new hire selection and on the job performance. Mastery of job skills is more critical to personal and organizational success than degrees and certificates. The right set skills matched to the right job function is the difference between excellence and mediocrity in today’s workforce. Skills are the new currency of today’s workforce.

Perhaps while on the way to the local fishing hole this summer, I’ll take a rest with my son, pull out my iPhone, and open up my LinkedIn profile and look toward the sky’s and proclaim, “You can’t pay the bills unless you got the skills,” as he shakes his head at me with displeasure.

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. 

 

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.

To collaborate, or not to collaborate: that is the question…

Collaboration 2

If you are a millennial or manage millenials you probably perceive collaboration as a key to success.

Managers who believe in top-down leadership are likely to see the negative impact their style has on younger employees. These younger team members have a desire to learn and to know ‘why’ a task should be completed in a certain way. What can ensue is a lack of motivation when their answer is not met with a sufficient explanation.

Collaboration encourages team problem solving, creativity and the support of individuals when they have ‘bought-in’ and been part of the solution. I specifically refer to millenials as they have contributed to this big shift in the way we work and think. However, I am going to be controversial and say,

Is collaboration always positive?

I think we need to take stock of our actions and ask ourselves:

Are we always the most effective leaders if we default to a collaboration mentality?

What happens when we need to make quick decisions for the good of the team and are paralyzed by our fear of not including others?

The Collaboration Pitfall

I first questioned this seemingly ‘best practice’ mentality when I read Jake Breeden’s book ‘Tipping Sacred Cows: Kick the Bad Work Habits That Masquerade as Virtues’.

Jake states that ‘working with others is sometimes a blast, sometimes a must and sometimes a waste’. We can ‘auto-collaborate’; gaining comfort from working in a team and avoiding conflict by reverting to consensus.

If you need to make a quick decision in a manager’s meeting, would you reconvene in order to discuss the matter with the team first? You potentially risk losing your credibility and a decision being made on your behalf in order to move the agenda along.

Being a representative is all about understanding the vision of your team and being able to speak on behalf of the individuals within it – not being able to do so can stifle progress and does not reflect well on your leadership.

I believe this links to time management and could potentially be a cause of overwork and increased stress. I would love to know your thoughts on the matter – so please do share your comments at the bottom of this post.

Get Smarter About Your Time

Bad Team Meeting

We are over-committing to the team, always looking to gain consensus and as a result having longer meetings when we could have made an informed decision ourselves.

Using this example of meeting length, ask yourself the following questions before your next team huddle:

  • Why are we holding a meeting? Will actions be noted and decisions made.
  • Who will be held accountable for the actions? There needs to be follow-up; will individuals be held accountable and how will you do this.
  • Is this the most effective use of everyone’s time? Is everyone going to be actively participating in the meeting; it’s good practice to consider if everyone needs to be there. Does the meeting need to be as long – could all agenda points be covered in 10 minutes (I have never had anyone book a 10 minute meeting, but there have been meetings where I am sure all agenda points could have been covered in that time)?

If you can’t think of adequate answers to these questions you should cancel the meeting. Collaboration has potentially driven you into ineffectiveness.

Changing Our Collaboration Mindset

 This does not mean that collaboration isn’t crucial for the success of individuals, teams and the organisation. It does mean we need to think smarter about when to collaborate.

We need to strike a better balance.  Let’s collaborate smarter to gain back our time, make meetings more productive and refocus on getting results.

 

About the author: Lisa Ellis is the EMEA Client Services Manager at the Ken Blanchard Companies, she manages a team of Project Managers, Learning Services (online learning) and Staffing (resource scheduling).

 

Why You Should Be a Power Poser

Power-Pose

Social psychologists study the ways in which we influence others through our body language, but did you know that body language also influences our own behavior? It is part of our human nature to draw conclusions based on information we collect from social cues and context. I’m very keen on how people present themselves so I notice how they move, walk, speak, make eye contact, and hold their physical frame. You can infer a lot about someone by their posture, facial expressions, and other non-verbal communication. How you show up in your body provides clues about your mental and emotional state, and it subtly suggests elements of your character. People often comment on my “perfect” posture and it’s a running joke among my close friends. I have always believed that the way you carry yourself on the outside reflects what is happening within you, but which of these variables predicts the other?

Amy Cuddy, Harvard Business School Professor, studies the connections between nonverbal behaviors, emotions, and social judgments, and how these relationships impact business and society. In her 2012 TED talk, she explains how the use of “power poses” can literally change the way a person feels, reacts, and ultimately performs. If you want to feel something, embody it! If you want your brain to react like everything is in order, stand tall and walk with composure. The biofeedback loops which connect brain to body transmit signals back and forth about the state of the union, so if the body is being held in a submissive way, then that is how the brain will respond. If you want to display confidence, even when you’re not convinced of it, hold a confident stance and your body will tell your brain to feel that way.

With over 23 million views, this wildly popular video has likely caught your eye and it is definitely worth 20 minutes of your time. Yes, I’m a bit of a posture freak, and I hope that after watching this video, you’ll become one too. Why?…Because it can make you powerful. I do not always feel confident and collected but I move with purpose and carry myself with poise because I have learned that I can cultivate what I need and so can you. Sometimes you just have to “fake it ‘til you make it.” Amy Cuddy talks about the paralyzing trap of the imposter syndrome, but her research shows that true power comes from realizing you can create an alternate reality simply by taking a stance. Give it a try! Strike a pose for power.

About the Author: Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology, and her research is based on mindfulness. Contact: sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

How to Lead a Millennial

I am a millennial. I almost feel obligated to apologize for that because, for some, it has almost become a dirty word. Disjointed, entitled, unsocial… the list goes on. These are just some of the adjectives that people might describe this large portion of the Hipster Girlwork force and the current and future leaders of America.

For now, let’s say we get past our differences and agree on one thing: What we (millennials) need out of our leaders is different than what you needed. We need:

  • We don’t do politics very well. We haven’t quite navigated the whole office politics thing at all. You may see that as naive, but chances are, we may never actually master office politics. Truth be told, we are just not that into it. Our office politics are more like “The Office” and less like a scene from “House of Cards.”
  • Yes, we were the age that grew up with MySpace and “the” Facebook. We crave information and can read through it very quickly. We have the ability to look at a large amount of information and sift through the minutia to get what we need out of it. We actually embrace vulnerability as long as we are kept in the know about things. We hate to be blindsided or caught off guard.
  • Once we’ve earned it, stay out of our way! (In a good way). We are not a big fan of being micro-managed and want opportunities to be creative and innovative. We’ve grown up with technological innovation happening constantly around us and so that has nurtured our own creativity. And we want to show that off in our work.

Unemployed MillennialTo all non-millenials, remember, we are the generation that saw our parents lose their jobs, pensions, and futures during the economic downturn. We watched the news as the unemployment line was packed with people looking to stay afloat. We heard many say, “I lost my job and that was the only thing I knew how to do.” So we are diversifying our biggest portfolio by investing in ourselves. We are getting as many skills as possible, and although we may be accused of “coming for your jobs”, we are really just in survival mode. And we probably always will be.

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

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