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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

Robin Williams and the Pink Elephant at Work

pink-elephant

We must bring to light a dark topic which most of us would rather avoid. It is more common and detrimental in the workplace than we care to admit, and likely each of us knows someone who suffers from its burden. It is raw and painful and most people would gladly keep it in the shadows, but it is also pervasive and powerful so we cannot ignore the pink elephant at work: Depression.

For the week following his suicide, Robin Williams’s tributes were a main topic of social media feeds which quickly gave way to ice bucket challenge videos, but let’s rewind the tape for a minute. The recent death of Robin Williams (1951—2014) has sparked an important conversation that deserves your attention as a leader and quite simply as a human being.

Depression affects more people than we know about because it is often a hidden struggle. The general public was shocked by the news that Robin Williams was experiencing an inner battle and ultimately chose to take his own life, but the wake-up call here is that there are more people just like him whose pain and suffering is silent. Depression can make people feel weak, disengaged, isolated, hopeless, void of value, and imprisoned by thoughts of desperation, which can have a negative impact on everyday functioning.

Leaders, take note! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • 18.8 million American adults will suffer from a depressive illness yearly.
  • Approximately 80% of persons with depression reported some level of functional impairment and 27% reported serious difficulties in work and home life.
  • In a 3-month period, persons with depression miss an average of 4.8 workdays and suffer 11.5 days of reduced productivity.
  • Depression is estimated to cause 200 million lost workdays each year costing employers up to $44 billion.

Sometimes depression is severe. What are the warning signs and how can you help someone in an emotional crisis? If you manage people at any level, then you might face this enormous challenge among your staff. Broaching the subject is likely outside of your comfort zone but the American Psychological Association offers some guidance:

  • Look for sudden changes in behavior (e.g. poor hygiene, weight change, social withdrawal)
  • Reach out in a supportive and non-judgmental way. Listen more than you talk.
  • Get professional help: consult your Human Resources department, reference your organization’s employee assistance program, or use the APA’s Psychologist Locator service.
  • Intervene immediately if you suspect that someone is considering suicide. Trained crisis prevention counselors from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are available at 1-800-273-TALK.
  • Utilize available resources to help people who are struggling to cope after suicide.

Balance is paramount when addressing such a heavy and uncomfortable issue, so let us share and enjoy the laughter, lightheartedness, and life lessons of the man whose loss we mourn and whose memory we celebrate. I have always been fond of Robin Williams, and the 1989 film, Dead Poets Society, made a marked impression on me which I still appreciate 25 years later. Although depression may rob individuals of their ability to call upon their own internal resources to pursue their passions, those who are blessed with the capacity to do so, must seize the day and write their verse!

Every person has limitations and struggles, and every person has gifts and talents. As a leader in any aspect of life, can you truly recognize and accept this dichotomy of our human nature? Only then will you be able to contribute a verse to this powerful play that goes on and on.

What will your verse be?

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. You can reach her at sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

Photo credit: pink elephant

Party like its 1776!

With America’s recent bid for the World Cup title, coupled with the 4th of July weekend, I’ve been feeling pretty patriotic lately. I’ve decided that my first born’s sons name will be Tim Howard…Jaramillo. After the amazing 16 saves in the recent loss to Belgium in the World Cup by Tim Howard, I can admit that only this would be the appropriate and patriotic thing to do.  And with tTim Howardhis upcoming 4th of July weekend, I suddenly feel inspired to name my first daughter George Washington…Jaramillo. Some of these names, I’m sure, would have to be screened by my wife, but after some pillow talk and cuddling, I think they might be serious contenders.

The 4th of July weekend is a special weekend for so many reasons. In today’s modern America, it means fireworks, BBQ’s, family, and a whole lot of people trying some Pintrest(y) type desserts. We all need to eat a flag cake at least once in our lives, don’t we? Although John Adams never predicted the American hipster, he came pretty close to what celebrations look like today. He said the 4th of July, “Ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” He also wrote in a letter to his wife Abigail that the Second Continental Congress voted in Philadelphia to declare independence from Britain on July 2nd, not July 4th….whoops! And most of the signers actually signed on August 2nd and not on July 4th. Just to be safe, I’m recommending July 2nd-July 4th as national holiday(s). Who’s with me?

Whether it’s July 2nd or July 4th, I know one thing’s for sure. There have been incredible men and women who have sacrificed and fought to keep our nation independent. So let’s celebrate and cheer, not just for our nation, but for the folks who make up our great nation.

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

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.

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