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

The End of Innovation

“Innovation is dangerous!” says Yawn Fearman, Gatekeeper of Ideas at Acme Corporation—an international consulting firm that provides executives and managers the tools and skill sets needed to maintain power and balance within organizations. “Innovation is an unruly attitude that ignites revolutions and unwillingly forces change upon the slow and steady hand of the status quo.”Death of Innovation

Fearman asserts that there several simple mindsets to avoid disruptive an inconvenient ideas within an organization:

Isolate Innovation

When a child acts up or misbehaves at home, the best discipline is to give them a Time Out and send them to their room. You don’t have to kick them out of the organization, but isolation will make them think about the real vision and values of the company in more detail. It will encourage them to align their hopes and dreams with the hierarchy of the organization who own the vision and values.

But if you do want to innovate within your organization, keep it limited to one or two departments that are led by individuals who have a degree from a prestigious school and who are in close collaboration with you as a key leader.

Just Say No

Hey, if it worked for Nancy Reagan in the mid-80s (and look how far we’ve come since then), it can work for leaders when individual contributors come up with creative and new ways to serve clients. When ideas come up from the front line, just say, “no.” You probably don’t have the resources or money to implement the ideas anyway, so no real harm can come from this approach. It’s clean and effective and eventually, people will stop coming up with their own ideas so that you can do your job—implementing your own.

Show Them Who’s Boss

When the first two strategies don’t work, flex your Position Power. You have the degree, the experience, the complex title, and the pay grade—so use them!

If employees discover that they have other avenues of power, such as personal experience, knowledge, relationships outside the organization, or a specialized ability to perform specific tasks that the executives may or may not, this could become very disruptive to an organization. Don’t shy away from the fact that you are getting paid the big bucks to drive the organization into the future—not them. You have the title and the authority to make the first and final decision.

Enjoy the Silence

Don’t allow the loud distractions of individual or collaborative innovation to drown out the brilliance of your leadership ability. You’ve earned the corner office, and you were born to lead. The future of the world depends on you—don’t leave it to chance by putting its fate hang on someone else’s wild ideas.

** The views and opinions expressed in this fictitious article do not necessarily reflect sound advice or the views and opinions of
 the author, or The Ken Blanchard Companies.

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant at The Ken Blanchard Companies and Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action, an asynchronous learning experience for Individual Contributors within Organizations.

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!

Effective Leaders Choose to “Humanize” Communication

One of the workplaces largest challenges is communicating effectively to achieve desired results and outcomes. Due to the quick advancements in technology over the past few years, everyone is available at all times. It is fantastic that the people who need to make important decisions are available at a moment’s notice no matter where they are in the world, but do all forms of communication allow managers and leaders the ability to clearly understand the needs of their direct reports without communicating face to face? I do not always believe this is true. We need to remember that business is built on relationships and in order to create a meaningful relationship we need to “humanize” communication. I would like to highlight the four most common ways we have available today to communicate and describe some of the advantages and disadvantages with each.20130523-140123.jpg

  1. Communication via email is time stamped and an effective alternative to “snail mail”. It is a great way to send someone in your company a quick message, a long list of to-dos, or a detailed inquiry on any given task. Email correspondence is not always time sensitive and is a great way for multiple people to read, process, and refer back to tasks or initiatives sent to them by their manager before they respond with questions, concerns, or approval. The pitfalls of emailing revolve around missing the physical and vocal cues people unintentionally respond to face to face. Also, if there is ever an emergency situation a quick response may be difficult to come by. In speaking directly to your manager, you can convey certain concerns through the pitch of your voice and body motions which elicit emotions you are feeling. We read these signals unconsciously and they connect us to others. This is especially important when you have an urgent matter. Many times writing styles are confusing and may not be interpreted in the same manner in which it was intended. I would not suggest trying to email your leader or direct report when you need to make a quick decision.
  2. Communication via telephone is one of the earliest technological advancements and is extremely effective for a number of reasons. You can get straight to the point and make quick real time decisions. It is also possible to convey emotions through the pitch and tone of your voice which does help in connecting with the person on the other end of the phone line. However you lack the ability to gain a complete perspective of what the other person is experiencing in that given moment. Environment plays a key role in connecting people through experience and can affect the productivity of communication. Someone on the other end of the line could be fighting traffic while on the phone, distracted by their surroundings, which would take their mind off of the present moment. Important urgent decisions are influenced by environment and it is important to understand all variables influencing it. It is impossible for people on opposite lines of a telephone to know what the other is going through.
  3. Communication via video conference is a great alternative for people who are working together from multiple locations. Programs like Skype and Face time have brought families, friends, and colleagues from around the globe together in real time. Both parties can see each other face to face and somewhat experience their environments. You can see their facial cues and mannerisms through the video and gain a pretty accurate impression of what the other is experiencing during your conversation. While this is a great way to connect to people in your organization from around the globe it is still not the best. You miss the complete interactive feeling of being in the presence of another human being. It is often difficult to really gain full understanding of the other persons thought process because you only see the top half of their body and/or what the video screen captures behind them. Frustration may set in if the internet bandwidth is not strong enough. Complications can arise delaying the video feed and chopping the audio so I would not recommend holding high level business communications through this medium if at all possible.
  4. Communication in person is of course the original form of relating to others inter-personally and remains the most productive. You just cannot beat a face to face interaction. One of my coaches told me that he would evaluate the effectiveness of his interactions by imagining himself viewing the interaction as a third person in the room looking down from a corner. While this may sound strange, it is very useful to imagine how the two of you are relating and meshing with one another. After all people are not robots and a sense of connection is important to establish the feelings needed so that you can work together. You must look at a situation from another person’s perspective. If the logistics of an in person meeting are difficult to figure out I would revert back to a video conference meeting but if at all possible do it in person. You will gain a much richer experience with the other person and really connect, which increases the likelihood that you will achieve your desired results.

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.
– Anthony Robbins

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

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

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