A Power Outage Brings Out the Best in People

In case you haven’t read the news, Southern California and parts of Mexico were hit with a massive failure in the power grid yesterday afternoon.  While there are various estimates about the number of people who were without power, the average seems to be between 4-5 million people.  I was one of those individuals, and I have to say how surprised I was at how people reacted.

I now know that my emergency kit was probably not as prepared as I needed it to be.  We had flashlights, but dead batteries.  I previously had a Styrofoam cooler, but it must have been tossed out before we moved into our house.  Bottled water was non-existent.    Needless to say, I had to make a run to any stores that were open.

Unfortunately, for our largest flashlight, we needed one of those big 6 volt batteries that aren’t easily found in grocery stores.  Luckily, there was a Home Depot running on backup generators right by my house.  It was packed with people, but no one seemed to be panicking.  In fact, everyone seemed to be friendly and helpful towards one another.    We bought the needed batteries, along with a small Toy Story flashlight for my 5 year-old daughter.  It was dark outside after we finished checking out.  As we were walking through the dark parking lot, a man was standing by the sidewalk using his flashlight so people wouldn’t trip over the step.  He wasn’t even a Home Depot employee, but instead a Good Samaritan. 

We tried going to the local Ralphs grocery store, but they were only letting a limited amount of people in the store at a time, most-likely to avoid a panicked mob in case items became scarce.  We then headed over to an Albertsons grocery store which was letting all customers in at once.  All the bottled water was gone from the bottom shelves, but I saw individuals helping one another get down the large cases of bottled water.  In of everyone grabbing what they needed to rush off, they were staying to assist others. 

People were courteous in the checkout line, with two individuals letting us pass in front of them because we had fewer items than they did.  Every checkout line was open, and every line had at least 10 customers waiting to check out.  I could tell our cashier was a little overwhelmed, but she seemed cheerful, as if this was one of the best days of her life. 

It’s interesting to compare real life to television or the movies.  In the fictional world, you see people panic and loot at the first sign of a wide-spread emergency.  What I saw last night was a community of individuals coming together to support one another.  It didn’t feel like a real emergency to me, even though I know it was a serious situation.

How you react in these types of situations affects how everyone else reacts around you.  Think about working on a project team.  What happens when that major project your group has been working on for months hits a roadblock?  Do you panic and lose your cool?  What if one of your other team members did that?  How would you react to their stress levels reaching a boiling point?

Instead, do you come together as a group to work through the problem?  Which one of these scenarios will provide you with the best outcome in the fastest amount of time? 

Before you go to react in a high-stress situation, think about how you might react, or rather, how others will perceive your reaction.

Leave your comments!

What’s Your Sign?

Well, it’s September. For many, this means it’s time to prepare and plan for the big Labor Day weekend. To you, I say have fun and be safe.

For me, the arrival of September means that another birthday is near.  Don’t worry, I’m not looking for gifts. No, I tell you this because being a September baby means that I am a Virgo.

For most of my life I paid very little attention to astrology. But the older I’ve grown, the more open-minded I’ve become. And the funny realization is that I REALLY am a Virgo. Seriously. If you want to know what I’m like, just go to the Virgo Wikipedia page and read the key characteristics and definitions section. I find it a bit frightening how dead-on accurate it is.

What I’m also finding is that with each year that passes, I’m getting to know and understand myself better. In years past, I might not have been able to honestly assess who I truly am or what I am truly about. For instance, when I was younger and more immature, I would embrace and embellish Virgo’s positive qualities while completely dismissing or denying the negative qualities. I could always identify my strengths but did not want to see or admit to having weaknesses.

Today? I see the value in leveraging my strengths while also being aware of my weaknesses, and seeing them as growth opportunities. For example, I openly admit and acknowledge that I am overly sensitive to criticism. And, I also openly admit and acknowledge that I am a perfectionist to a fault. That said, I am able to recognize these as areas for personal and professional development.

To be the best you possible, it’s important that you know yourself. If astrology isn’t your thing, or even if it is, there are a number of personal assessments and resources out there to further help you get to know yourself better.

So, what’s your sign? Does it accurately represent you?

Think Different—An Ode to Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is the Thomas Edison of our era!

There, I said it. Now all of you Apple haters can stop reading the rest of this post and go back to texting or your version of surfing the Web in bitter disgust. Regardless, Steve Jobs is one of the most prolific visionaries of our era. His influence is cross-generational and has transcended time and space as the leader of one of the most innovative companies in American history, Apple, Inc.

Think Different, Steve Jobs

When Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of the world’s largest tech company late Wednesday, I felt compelled to offer an ode to his career—a salute to the inspiration he has been to many people over the years. But rather than make this article a cheap commercial for Apple products, we should focus on the genius behind the products—not the actual iconic imagery we think of when we think of an Apple product.

One of the most impactful quotes on my career was found within a February, 1996 Wired magazine interview with Steve Jobs. I still have the magazine in my office to this day and remember it well because I was a young dreamer living in the Silicon Valley, just starting my career during the height of the Internet revolution, when I came across this article—and the essence of what he said within that article still drives me at work to this day.

“Design is a funny word,” Jobs said. “Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.” Apple’s attention to the design of its products has been as revolutionary at the turn of the 21st century as Edison’s communications advancements were at the turn of the 20th century. Nothing short of epic!

Apple’s uncompromising pursuit of simple and effective designs of communication devices, under the visionary leadership of Steve Jobs, has transformed the computer, Internet, film, and music industries. The sleek and savvy look and feel of their products are only surpassed in their ease of use and practical application to professional and personal life. While the MacBooks, iPods, iPhones, and iPads are sexy in their look and feel, what has truly made them so successful is how they work on the inside. Simplicity, without being overly simple.

When it comes to designing ideas, stories, products, or projects you need to think different! You need to think from the inside out. You need to start with the essence of what you are trying to achieve for greater good and then add the look and feel later. If the inside of your project doesn’t work, than it won’t matter what you make it look like on the outside. Whether you’re designing a Website, creating a video, writing a book, or developing a product, how it works will ultimately determine how effective it will be.

Thank you Steve Jobs for your inspiration and unshakable will to think different. I wish you the best and lasting health in your new role as Chairman of the Board of Apple, Inc. “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

Jason Diamond Arnold
Co-Author of Situational Self Leadership in Action

When Trust Goes Out the Window

What happens when your people have lost trust in you or the organization you represent?  You might find yourself facing a hunger strike. 

If you haven’t been following the recent reports of Anna Hazare, media outlets and residents of India are referring to him as the “New Ghandi.”  As a well-known social activist from India, Anna Hazare was arrested by police this month in protest of an anti-corruption bill that was drafted by the government without the input of Mr. Hazare and other social activists.  Police stated that he was arrested due to the ban on public gatherings at the park he was staging his protest.

The same anti-corruption bill in question was originally requested by Mr. Hazare earlier this year.  Mr. Hazare refused to eat until an anti-corruption bill was drafted by the government.  The same techniques of civil disobedience used by Mohandas Ghandi were now being used by Anna Hazare.  The government gave into his demands, but soon went ahead with their own version of the bill that did not appear to be tough enough on corruption.  Mr. Hazare and other activists were barred from giving their own input on the bill’s wording.  This caused Mr. Hazare to begin a new hunger strike.

Mr. Hazare was released from jail the day before yesterday thanks to the waves of protestors supporting his cause.  However, he has once again begun to fast until death until the anti-corruption bill is re-written as the law he and others originally sought. 

Think something as serious as this wouldn’t happen in the business world?  Look at News of the World, with the recent fallout from their phone-hacking scandal.  Rupert Murdoch and son James recently dodged bullets from the grilling they received in the UK Parliament.  However, with each passing day, new information is coming to light that James may have known more about the scandal that he stated.  

If it turns out that James was lying, he will be the next leader to fall in a series of leaders from News Corporation that have either stepped down, or that are facing charges. 

Corruption of power may have been the norm in the past, but the public has faced too many scandals and the water has finally boiled over.  It’s now more important than ever, whether you’re a part of a government body, or a leader in a business, that those that follow you can trust you.  How can you expect to lead individuals when they have little to no faith in your leadership style?

There’s a simple-to-follow model called the TrustWorks! Model that allows both leaders and individuals create an environment of trust, provided the model is followed consistently.  In order to build and maintain trust, individuals follow an A-B-C-D formula:

  • A – “Able”: The individual can demonstrate competence.  They have knowledge, problem solving skills, and can show they are able to meet goals set by them and others.
  • B – “Believable”: The individual acts with integrity.  They are ethical, admit when they’re wrong, and treat others equitably. 
  • C – “Connected”:  The individual cares about others. They enjoy working with people, they’re receptive to feedback, and they constantly praise the contribution of others and celebrate successes.
  • D – “Dependable”: The individual is reliable.  They follow through on their commitments, holds individuals accountable (including themselves), and are organized in some fashion.

Based on this model, can you see what skills these leaders were missing?

What about you?  Do you already exhibit some of these skills?  Are there areas you could improve upon?

For further reading on trust, our sister blog Leading with Trust offers plenty of information and tips about becoming more of a trust-worthy individual.     

Leave your comments!

Determining Your Leadership Approval Rating

Yesterday on LeaderChat, one of our sister blogs, we were Exploring the Value of Leadership Approval Ratings. Today we’ll discuss how you might go about determining your leadership approval rating.

The way I see it, there are two primary benefits for adopting a system similar to the Presidential approval ratings that we’re all familiar with and then applying it within your organization:

  1. It would demonstrate greater transparency within the organization.
  2. It would provide the leader(s) with the ability to keep a pulse on how others in the organization feel about their overall job performance.

Now, keep in mind that the idea is to have a quick, timely snapshot of public opinion. The intention here is not to do an in-depth analysis with detailed feedback. What we want is a very simple, broad overview. To obtain the information we’re looking for, there is really only one question we need to ask:

Do you approve or disapprove of the way ‘LEADER’ is handling his/her job as ‘TITLE’?

If that question sounds familiar, that’s because it’s nearly identical to the question posed to respondents polled by the Gallup organization. It’s quick, it’s to the point, and it gives you the broad overview you’re looking for.

Continuing with the K.I.S.S. theme, it would also be very easy to set-up and maintain. Consider the following:

  • Delivery Method – Choose your favorite free survey software and send out an anonymous survey.
  • Frequency – Try every two weeks. Once a month doesn’t seem frequent enough and every week feels a tad excessive. Whatever you decide, just make sure to stay consistent.
  • Respondents – Send it to everyone in the organization that you interact with. This includes direct reports, peers, and those above you.
  • Accountability – Display the results someplace visible to the organization.

Obviously there would be some other kinks to work out as you go. For instance, you’d need to determine your baseline number of respondents. You might also consider asking a qualifying question (such as, “direct report, peer, senior executive”) so that you could make sure your getting a decent cross-section of respondents. That said, being an early adopter should allow you some leeway with colleagues until you perfect the process.

You’ve heard the pitch, so what do you think? If you like the idea, make sure to tell a friend…my Klout score could really use some help.

A Brave New World of Knowledge

O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world! That has such people in it!

Shakespeare‘s The Tempest, Act V, Scene I

While driving down a Southern California freeway recently, my son and I observed a billboard promotion of a major league baseball team. After some debate on which featured player was on the advertisement, we exited the freeway, picked up my “smartphone,” and consulted the Oracle. Not the classical antiquity, nor the modern software firm; but rather the postmodern, one touch, voice activated, portal to an eternity of information—my Google App. Brave New World

“Number 16, Los Angeles Dodgers,” I spoke loudly into the speaker of the phone, half irritated at the possibility of my son already having the correct answer and half uncertain that it would translate my words exactly as I spoke them. I anxiously anticipated the results of my quick search. Within a few moments my fears were confirmed; my son was right.

“But what position does he play?” I grasped for one last shot at redemption.

“Not sure about that,” the ten year old was finally humbled. “Somewhere in the outfield, I think.”

“Right Field to be precise!” I proudly proclaimed, feeling useful for something. He, of course, shook his head in disgust at how happy I was to know something more about Andre Either than he did. I’m sure what was more appalling to him was that I needed the help of my iPhone to gain a knowledge advantage over a ten year old.

Yet, I knew it wasn’t really my knowledge, just an ability to quickly link to a world of information. It has become easier than ever to access nearly any piece of information imaginable.

The whole experience made me stop for a moment, and wonder how my grandfather, an avid Dodger fan, would have known exactly who it was, when he played, what position he played, as well as his batting average since his rookie season—and a whole lot more. This incident came immediately to mind when I heard about a study released last month, in Science Magazine, entitled, Google Effects on Memory, by Dr. Betsy Sparrow, which explores the changing nature of learning due to the creation of highly effective Internet search engines.

“When people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself and enhanced recall instead for where to access it. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves,” Sparrow wrote.

The article then hauntingly harkened my mind back to a book I had read in my Undergraduate program in college, Aldous Huxley’s, Brave New World in which he explored a fictional world that was loaded with miles of information, but lived by people that had an inch of depth in knowledge. Through his narrative, Huxley was able to use the setting and characters from his science fiction novel to express fears over the eventual loss of personal excellence in the expedienancy of a future world.

While Google is an extremely helpful tool to get us information, when we and, where we need it; I fear that we may be missing something more. If we rely only on Google for our learnings about people, new concepts, ideas, or philosophies, without exploring them more intimately, than we may fall prey to trivial pursuits of information, not a dedicated quest for knowledge and intimacy.

At home, at work, or at play, let us remain dedicated to the quest for knowledge by engaging the information we seek, and applying it to our higher pursuits. You might even want to take the time to Google the phrase,

“Two Tickets. Dodger Stadium. First Base Side”

Dodger DogOnce your there, just follow the smell, and you’ll find the Dodgers Dogs without any help from your PDA.

Jason Diamond Arnold
Co-author of Situational Self Leadership in Action

The Vicious Cycle of Enabling Fear

There comes a point in a lot of parents’ lives where all reasoning goes out the door when dealing with your children.  It’s called “swim lessons.” 

My 5 year-old daughter has been in swim lessons since the spring (now on her 4th round of classes).  While she is learning basic techniques, she still hasn’t figured out how to actually swim.  She enjoys the water, but it has to be controlled.  In other words, she uses her swim coach as a crutch.  While there’s nothing wrong doing that initially, she has become so attached to the coach that she’s not willing to take any risks.

The biggest barrier that has been in her way has been her own fear.   She has told us that she thinks the coach will not catch her if she jumps in the water.  She will literally scream if the coach lets go of her while assisting her in the water.

The most pronounced example of this is the water slide.  It’s a slide approximately 7 feet tall, and empties into the deep end of the pool.  All of the other children in her group can go down the slide on their own, including other children that can’t fully swim.  They all know the coach will catch them once they land in the water, but my daughter is so fearful that the only way she’ll go down the slide is if the coach will slide down with her.  When that happens, she loves going down the slide.  This has been an ongoing issue since her 3rd round of swim lessons.

We’ve tried to tell her that she has nothing to worry about.  The coach will not leave her by herself in the water and she’ll have fun if she takes chances.  She doesn’t believe us no matter how we explain it because she has not had a situation where she was forced to take a chance.

The main issue is that her various swim coaches have enabled her to continue down this path.  Each and every time they go down the slide with her, or when they won’t let go of her while she’s gliding through the water, they’ve kept her leaning on that same crutch.  Instead of telling her that they can’t go with her down the slide and that she can either go by herself or not go at all, she can continue to avoid the risk and inevitably, the fun.

It’s like having a broken leg.  How are you going to know if your leg is healed if you never put pressure on it?  You’ll be walking with a crutch for the rest of your life, even though you may not need it.  Doctors tell plenty of individuals all the time that they may never fully recover from severe injuries, only to find their patients proving them wrong six months later. 

For leaders, how often do we over-tighten our control by not letting our people face fears and risks on their own?  I’ve seen plenty of situations where a leader took a project or task for themselves because they thought an individual didn’t have the skills.  The only way that person will learn the skills is if they face the risks.  Alternatively, I’ve seen leaders give so much direction, that their people did not learn their own ways of doing things. 

Facing the possibility of failure is the only way to grow.  I’m not saying that we should blatantly let our people fail.  However, we need to let them face risks and help them control the failure as much as possible, but only from the sidelines.

Leave your comments!

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