Why Demanding More Gives You Less

To much to do The way we manage our business has changed; we must be leaner, cut back on our spending and demand more for less! It’s a rally cry from many companies in this new era of saving money whilst still having high expectations of ourselves, our direct reports and our peers.

Shouldn’t we be able to cut spending whilst increasing output? What effect does this have on the quality of our work and our motivation?

The Law of Diminishing Returns Disclaimer: this blog post does contain economic principles! But please don’t glaze over, it’s really very fascinating. Diminishing returns is the point at which adding more gives us less. In economic terms it usually refers to the point where adding more resources (workers, raw materials etc.) no longer produces the same output.

The output begins to decrease per additional ‘unit’ produced. For example, a business produces pencils – at the pencil factory we would expect that the more pencils produced the more money we make. Right? Wrong…we actually make less money per pencil until we finally make a loss.

To make more pencils we need to employ more people and more people = more costs. This is in terms of productivity (recruiting lower skillsets, tardiness) and the addition of extra costs (benefits, wages) This can be illustrated by a U-curve.

So why is this important?

The U-curve I believe also applies to our workload and our goals and has a direct effect on an employee’s engagement and motivation in the workplace. As a leader the more you demand (or the greater your expectations) will provide a better ‘return’ over the short-term.

For example, if you increase your goals from 1 to 3 you will be stretched, your output is greater and your motivation increases. Your workload is likely to be manageable.

When an optimum level (the top of the U) is reached, say at 5 goals, adding any more will start to give you less in return over the long-term and could lead to a poorer quality of output, goals not being met and sub-optimal levels of motivation. You are overcommitted and your workload becomes unmanageable.

Why Small Class Sizes Don’t Improve EducationEvidence for the U-Curve

I have been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book ‘David and Goliath’ where he uses an inverted U-curve to describe the point at which what we do is no longer positive.

One of the examples used is around the debate of large class sizes and the quality of education. We assume large class sizes are bad for our children’s education. However, do we also consider how very small class sizes can also have a negative effect on learning? We would assume the children get more attention…

In reality the teachers rarely change their teaching style to one that is appropriate for a smaller class and there are fewer children to contribute their opinion and to add creativity and energy to the group. There’s an optimum group size (the bottom of the U, or in Gladwell’s example the top of the inverted-U).

The clear point is that there’s a tipping point between to much of something or too little that no longer yields a positive return.

An inverted U-curve indicating productivity/output vs. goals/workload would look something like this:U-Curve Striking a Balance

In this era of ‘doing more with less’, are we ‘demanding more and getting less’? Whether this is in terms of diminishing returns, higher turnover (due to the pressure placed on colleagues) or sub-optimal motivation potentially leading to a ‘quit and stayed’ attitude.

I am by no means a perfect example of someone who has the balance correct, but my aim for the next 6 months is to review  my priorities every month and ask myself questions honest questions linking to these thoughts:

  1. Doing more = getting less – We do not have an infinitive capacity for work – more work and more targets do not automatically mean more output.
  2. Learn when to say no, be selective for the right reasons – Don’t over-commit yourself, it’s sometimes OK to say no and remember that there are trade offs (if I do X, I cannot do Y – am I OK with that?).
  3. Add more time to your commitments – give yourself extra time to do a good job (we all think things take a lot less time than they actually do), are you being realistic about what can be achieved?
  4. What are your optimum levels – Think about ‘optimum’ levels – are you in balance? Review goals and your ‘to do’ list.
  5. Think about your quality – for example, this could be the impact on customer service and quality assurance. Don’t spread yourself or your team to thinly – make a ‘quality contribution’.

So the question is: where are you on the U-curve?

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).

Why I Used to Hate Giving Feedback

How often have you heard your friends or colleagues moaning about someone or about something that has happened, but they never actually say anything to that person? It happens all the time and it’s all because people don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or are scared of giving feedback.

Giving feedback is tough, and something I often shy away from, so you are not alone!

Have you had that experience when you think, “I can give feedback,” and you do it, but crash and burn? You don’t get the response that you were hoping for, or nothing changes. You then get discouraged and think, “I am never doing that again!” Don’t worry, this is completely normal.

feedback2
I work with Situational Leadership® II, so I know very well that when I crash and burn, I am in the D2 stage, where I have low commitment and little competence to give anyone feedback ever again. The only way I am going to move to D3, where I feel more committed and become competent, is if I pick myself up, keep doing it, and ask for a bit of direction and support from people I know are good at giving feedback.

The more positive experiences you have with giving feedback, the more confident you will be, so please don’t shy away from it.

Handy Tips

Has this person demonstrated competence in this goal/task before?

Are you giving feedback to someone who has already completed this task or goal perfectly before? Or is this person new to the task or goal? Understanding this first will help you shape your discussion when giving feedback.

Always give feedback about a particular event/situation. Never make it general.

People cannot relate to general. So often in annual reviews, you hear feedback like, “You don’t respond to emails quickly enough”; if your colleague thinks they do reply fast enough, this type of general feedback will get someone’s back up. Instead say, “XYZ client emailed you and requested information concerning their leadership materials; they didn’t receive a response for three days. The consequences of this were their training materials didn’t arrive in time for the workshop.”

Try to give the feedback as quickly as possible.

You give feedback to try to stop mistakes from recurring. The quicker you address the problem, the less likely it is that mistakes will happen in the future. Plus it’s easier for people to embrace if it’s happened recently.

Give feedback from a good place.

When giving feedback, express why you are giving the feedback and how it can help that person in the future. If people see you are trying to help them, you are less likely to be met with resistance.

These are just a few tips I have picked up along the way—there are many more.

I would really like to hear from you about your experiences and tips on giving feedback. Please share your stories!

Infectious Thought Germs Will Anger You

Looking past the viral-oriented nature of this video, the main concept presented is critical for leadership. Thoughts, when attached to emotions other than sadness, generally have higher “infection” rates.

Thus, it is important to generate more emotion (hopefully positive and not anger-inducing) around messages that you want your direct reports to remember or share. It seems idea is lost at times in the data-driven world of today, where it’s more important to get across the numbers and metrics than it is to tell a story.

So communicate with feeling and generate positive emotions in your direct reports. Make the topic relevant to them. They will be more receptive to your messages and will remember them better. Let’s infect the world with the good germs to promote healthy thoughts.

Just don’t anger them… or you may end up on the wrong side of a thought germ!

The Selfie-Stick Madness

I get it. Really, I do. As a millennial and self-prescribed hipster, I enjoy the photo as much as anyone else. But the selfie stick is on a whole new level. It’s basically the extended arm of self-absorption. It’s a tool for people who are just trying to outdo themselves online and using selfie-sticks as the catalyst for promotion.  I mean, we’ve all taken selfies (including myself), but we really need awareness and support to end the selfie-stick madness.

And honestly, being a big deal online is like, having a ton of money in monopoly.

Even the Smithsonian isn’t having it. They’ve recently issued a ban to unsuspecting tourists and wannabe narcissiSelfie Collagestic enthusiasts: No selfie sticks. The Louvre in Paris hasn’t taken action yet, so if you want to grab a selfie with Mona using your stick, now’s your chance.

Side note: With all this going on, how the heck did Kodak go bankrupt? Seriously.

Anyways, at Blanchard we have launched a new campaign around connectedness and collaboration. “We is the new me”.  We are using the “USIE” (apparently the new word for a group selfie) to express that and share amongst colleagues. I think “groupie” sounds more appropriate for this new phenomenon, but apparently a few women in the 60’s beat us to the punch. We even have the virtual group selfie. I’m calling it the Velfie.

Regardless of all of these shenanigans, what we really want is to share our story, connect with others, and dialogue about ways to be collaborative and connected at work in a meaningful way. How do we really collaborate across cross-functional teams and provide productive and meaningful results? A recent large study confirmed that people with more friends and connections are generally happier, healthier, and better off, and that happiness spreads through social networks. Social connections can also influence and discourage potentially harmful behavior such as smoking. Research suggests creating a healthy connection with influences that are constructive and positive. Good health, employment, and feeling safe and secure all increase people’s chances of developing positive social networks that help improve our lives.

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.

Passion + Enthusiasm = Success?

What is “Passion”? The dictionary says: “a strong and barely controllable emotion”; “a state or outburst of strong emotion”; and “an intense desire or enthusiasm for something”. Passion is the positive emotional state of mind – which drives a willingness to apply discretionary effort; long-term commitment; peak performance; and satisfaction.

passion at work

The Passionate Leader

Leaders need to love what they do; otherwise, where are they leading their employees? Leaders who display passion can engage the hearts and mind of employees, foster their commitment and determination, and empower their employees to meet meaningful goals.

Passionate leaders create an environment that energizes others; mixing passion with employee involvement, and transparency. Communicating passion every day, and in different ways – a face-to-face engagement, an exciting meeting, or a quick e-mail – allows the leaders’ enthusiasm to shine. If an employee feels trusted and involved, they can share their leaders’ passions and develop their dedication to their organizations.

Leaders with a passion have the power to instill a sense of meaning – they can provide a “bigger picture”, making the work their employees do worthwhile. Passion makes work about more than just a paycheck. People who feel that their work is valued feel empowered to make meaningful changes for their customers.

The Passionate Employee

Employee engagement and employee passion are essential for productivity, profitability, and customer loyalty. An engaged, motivated, and empowered workforce is far more likely to work at optimal levels, and have a higher performance.

In 2006, The Ken Blanchard Companies embarked on a new study to explore the concept of Employee Passion more fully concluding that, for employees to be passionate about their work, they need to have meaningful work – which means they should understand how their work adds value to the organization and creates positive results. They need an organizational culture that encourages collaboration, sharing, interdependence, and team spirit. The work environment needs to be fair – benefits, resources, and workloads are fair and balanced. They should be given the autonomy to choose how tasks are completed; have the information and authority needed to make authoritative decisions – and know the boundaries of this; and be trusted to do their job without micro-management.

Employee passion is reinforced with recognition – which can be verbal, written, or monetary; praise or promotions – for their accomplishments, and the opportunity for growth, where employees are supported in future career planning. Employees also need to feel connected with their leader and their colleagues, which requires honesty and integrity at all levels; and making an effort to build rapport.

Studio isolated. Blonde girl working with computer. XLarge

Train Your Passion

By asking yourself what drives you to work hard; commit; achieve; and what makes you happy, you can grow your own enthusiasm for your work. Ask yourself:

  • What makes you feel energized?
  • What makes you get up in the morning?
  • What keeps you going when things get tough?
  • What makes everything you do worthwhile?

Passionate leaders spend time with their employees – learning about employee needs and desires, how to communicate with them, and what makes work meaningful to them. Employees with a passionate leader – where this passion is communicated and shared – are more enthusiastic and engaged. Organizations must provide meaningful work, autonomy, and opportunities for growth, encourage collaboration and recognition, and address the concept of fairness in order to maximize Employee Passion. Passion, in turn, creates driven, enthusiastic, committed and hard working employees.

Employees with a positive attitude create success.

Find your passion, grow it, and share it!

– – –

About the author: Jemma Garraghan is an EMEA Project Manager at the Ken Blanchard Companies. She can be reached at jemma.garraghan@kenblanchard.com

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).

 

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