Pent Beneath Fancy Knot

To the one pent beneath fancy knot,

pent behind fancy knot

pent behind fancy knot

It is curious to look at your affair
Catching you gaze toward heaven
Each afternoon seeking fresh air
Petitioning social network for leaven
Numb cheek now fermenting                                                        

Who could rejoice with thee now?

Fatigued, slipping into some ancient chat
You lie back in whispering waves of mocha
Toes banked in lukewarm grains of sand
Swimming in ocean’s of caramel bliss
Careless of the call you just missed

 

Pent beneath fancy knot

Ulysses’ alarm, pale reason to depart
Returning home at sundown—eyes half shut
Visions of Marla—the happy stray mutt
Once proud royal, mourn the day left behind
Slumber to the door—the angel’s tear has descended
You slide softly and silently into your favorite spot.

 

Still pent beneath fancy knot

 

by J. Diamond Arnold

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and Learning Media Producer at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, at lynda.com.

 

 

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

The Amazing Girl Who Was Not Allowed To Say “Can’t”

Please watch the following video:

2014-08-15 10_11_46-Jen Bricker 5 min.mov - Google Drive

Video Credit: BBDS Talent

Jennifer believed she could do anything as long as she put her mind to it. And the same is true for anyone else.

Are you facing a challenge that seems too difficult to overcome? Try thinking outside the box, or ask for a second opinion. But be persistent and remember that sometimes a few falls are necessary before you can fly.

So remove “can’t” from your vocabulary and motivate yourself to stick to it. You may surprise yourself with how much you can achieve!

The boomerang generation: When 18 years isn’t good enough anymore

Get good grades they say. Get a college degree they say. Your life will be much easier they say.
I’m not sure who this “they” is but if someone can find them, I have a few friends and millions of young Americans who I’m sure would like to have a conversation with them.
The “they” that most parents may have been referring to was the previous economy, because Uncle Sam’s pockets have been quite drained for some time. He’s no longer the rich uncle that lives outside of town—now he’s more the one that lives in the baseboomerangkidsment.
Nearly eight-in-ten (78%) of 25- to 34-year-olds say they don’t currently have enough money to lead the kind of life they want, and thirty-six percent of this nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31 were living in their parents’ homes in 2012, according to a Pew Research Center.
Also, large majorities (78%) say they’re satisfied with their living arrangements (living at home with mom and dad). So the stigma associated with living with parents is nowhere to be seen with this generation.
And according to the Journal of Marriage and Family, 79% of adults between 18-33 receive financial help, though there are varying reports about this data. I must admit that I fall in this age range and I used to receive some financial help from my parents while I was out of college. Since my cell phone and auto insurance were tied to the same bill, they never passed it along to me—thanks Mom and Dad!
If I had to guess, I would say the majority of the boomerang generation would like to spend the rest of their 20’s and 30’s chasing the American Dream as much as the previous generations. Stagnate wages, higher unemployment, and large student debt have been major obstacles to financial independence for the boomers. Although it has not been easy, much of the boomerang generation is optimistic about their future and financial progress. Many would suggest that they live life “entitled” but I believe many are hungry to begin their careers and add value to the organizations they serve.

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

Is “meaningful work” actually meaningful?

Employee engagement is a hot topic these days.   According to a Gallup poll estimate, disengaged employees cost the US between $450 – $550 billion each year in terms of lost productivity.  Could you be contributing to that figured by not finding out what’s truly meaningful to your employees?

EmployeeWorkPassion4According to The Ken Blanchard Companies own research on the topic of Employee Work Passion, there are five job factors that can have a direct impact on retention: Autonomy, Workload Balance, Task Variety, Feedback, and Meaningful Work.

Over 800 individuals responded to a survey asking them to rank these factors by order of importance.   While all five factors are important, Meaningful Work was most commonly ranked as being the #1 priority.  In other words, respondents feel that employees need to know that the work they do has a direct positive impact on their organization, whether that impact is internal or external.

It makes sense, right?  If I’m an employee who feels my job duties are really just “busy work” that aren’t contributing to my organization’s success, will I really be engaged in my work?  If I don’t see my own work being important, how motivated will I be to go the extra mile?

offonThink about those fabulous people who work in IT.  Lots of companies, regardless of what business they are actually in, rely on the systems and technology maintained by these individuals.  While IT support may differ entirely from the type of work being done to maintain/grow a customer base, that doesn’t mean the work is any less important.  If you have a frontline IT help desk representative who doesn’t see that their own contributions have a direct impact (i.e. employees from other departments could not complete their own work without the assistance of IT support), their quality of work may suffer.

A common trap leaders fall into is to assume that just because their organization is in the business of making positive impacts on customers and people, that their employees see it that way, as well.  Leaders need to be proactive to ensure that their people also see the benefits of the work they complete.

ASK your employees how they feel about their work.  Be sure to check this barometer on a regular basis.  It’s easy for people to forget their importance in the grand scheme of the organization’s success.  If your company has ever been through a series of changes, you can probably relate.

SHOW them the results.  Ensure they know that they make a positive difference based on positive outcomes.

PRAISE them when praisings are due.  If they did a good job, be sure to tell them!  If you hear from another employee or customer that that they did a good job, pass that along to the employee!

How do you personally make sure your employees understand their contributions are meaningful?  Leave your comments!

Boldness Be Your Friend

The past couple years for me have been nothing short of a bold adventure dotted with opportunities, seen and unseen, to face my fears. Head on. And I don’t regret a second of it. I previously earned the nickname “safety cat” (a light-hearted play on “scared-y-cat”), but I have learned to embrace a maxim put forth by the great playwright and poet:

Boldness

Fear is such a primal force. It does funny things to the brain. Fear works its way into the psyche and hijacks all reason and logic. It can be gripping and paralyzing, or rousing and electrifying. It can prevent you from thinking clearly and cause you to react without will or succumb to danger. When I was younger, I had a terrifying recurring dream when distressed that I was drowning in deep water. Dozens of times I have watched myself in this nightmare desperately struggling at the water’s surface but slowly sinking into a murky abyss. It was absolutely horrifying, every single time. Every once in a while, when I’m swimming around in fear surrounding some new challenge or perceived barrier, it sneaks in again and haunts my slumber. Naturally I’ve developed an irrational fear of being in deep water and therefore, I have never been comfortable in the ocean. Drowning is a powerful image of fear, so imagine my reaction when my brother approached me about getting scuba dive certified on vacation in the Virgin Islands! Knowing that he also harbored some anxiety around the idea of breathing from an air tank underwater, and not wanting to discourage him from challenging his own fears, I agreed to do it. I managed to say something like, “that would be fun for us to do together,” while in the background my brain was completely freaking out!

Fear2

Fear is powerful, but it is not absolute. Although the brain’s course of translating fear-inducing sensory information into a behavioral response is largely an unconscious process, neuroscience has shown that we can learn new ways of reacting to fear-inducing stimuli. So how did I do it? Well, it was basically a matter of diving right in! I chose to be bold.

My brother and I signed up for the PADI Open Water Diver certification course, affiliated with a reputable dive shop in St. Thomas, and completed our e-learning modules. Then there we were on day one, all geared up with BCDs, tanks and regulators, and ready to begin the confined water dive skills portion of our training, and my brain started freaking out again. “All you have to do is breathe through your mouth and everything will be fine,” I told myself. “That’s crazy, you can’t breathe underwater, don’t do it,” my brain fought back with me. With my heart pounding, I submerged and instantly hated it. “Go back to the surface and rip your mask off so you can breathe through your nose like normal,” my brain shouted at me. “Just try to take slower, deeper, more controlled inhales and exhales,” my yoga teacher self told my brain. My chest was tight and I felt like I couldn’t get enough air no matter how hard I tried. “I’m suffocating…This is horrible…I hate this,” my brain cried out in panic. I struggled through the entire morning, dreading the impending open-water dives that afternoon.

”Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” – Helen Keller

Facing your fear is often about taking calculated risks and learning how to handle them. I chose to override my instinct to give up on diving, but my internal argument continued during the boat ride out to our first dive spot. “50 feet down is a long way…What if your regulator doesn’t work and you suffocate? What if you can’t clear your mask and you breathe in some water and choke on it? This is really scary. You don’t have to do this,” my brain tried to convince me. “Look here, amygdala, you’re not winning this time,” I answered back. Standing on the edge of the platform at the boat’s stern and heeding my brother’s advice from earlier that day, I rehearsed what was going to happen. “Walk yourself through it,” he said, so I reminded myself that I was in control and I stepped out into the ocean. We carefully made our first descent to the ocean’s floor and began our first underwater exploration!

Sarah

Diving_SarahWhat a mystical experience it was to be floating freely through the abyss, not struggling and fearful, but literally and figuratively buoyant. I fell in love with diving that day! More importantly, I gained an enormous sense of confidence in my ability to overcome the greatest obstacle to pursuing my dreams: fear.

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

How many times have you allowed fear to speak louder than reason or passion and missed an opportunity to challenge yourself and take a chance on growth in your personal or professional life? No one is immune from fear and it serves its purpose in warning us of potential threat, but it need not hold you back. You can still explore, try new things, step into the unknown, and know that you are in control even if you’re anxious. You can likely recount your own vivid tale of standing at the edge of whatever it is you were afraid to do, then taking that giant leap forward and feeling the rush of pure joy and pride afterwards. Revel in those moments and soak in the strength of resilience that you build when you do choose to face your fears. The first step is choosing to do it. The next step is going out and doing it. Share your stories below.

Boldness be your friend!

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” -Dale Carnegie

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.

Flow to Success!

Have you ever become so engrossed in a fun task that you lost track of time? Then you’ve experienced the concept of flow. Developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, it describes the state of mind when you reach the perfect combination of task challenge and personal skill:

Flow_Senia_Maymin

Click the image below for a simple demonstration of flow (use the mouse to move and remember to return when you’re finished):

Flow_logo

The creator of this simple game used Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow to develop the game elements. Since you can decide when to move further, you are always in control of both the level of challenge and skill, meaning you can always keep yourself in a state of flow.

Now think about your direct reports and their tasks. Are they in a state of flow? If not, is it due to the task being too difficult, or the direct reports not having high enough skills? Or perhaps the challenge isn’t increasing proportionately with their skills? And think about your own tasks. Are you in a state of flow? Why or why not? What can you do to improve your workplace and encourage more flow?

It’s clear that employees can become more engaged and productive, while constantly developing and growing, by applying this simple model to the workplace. So the next time you’re at work, try adjusting the level of challenge to match the level of skill. You might be surprised to find how much fun you can have while in flow!

Image Credit: 1

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