Why Your Leadership Strategy Matters

Take a look at the model below. What do you notice is the end state? Results. Results are always the end state in every organization. That’s all that anyone cares about. One famous organization has a mantra of “don’t tell me, show me.” It may sound callous, cold, or unnerving, but it all depends on the mindset that takes you there. And really wAction Modelhat makes the good organizations great is they innately understand how the experiences and beliefs of the employee are the most instrumental part of creating results. In the same way that quality ingredients make a great dish, a wonderful experience can make impactful results.

So what’s the best way to impact your direct reports’ experiences? Your leadership style, of course. And by shaping their experiences, you are helping them form beliefs about those experiences (either being aligned or not aligned) which impact their actions and results.

It’s quite simple conceptually, but it’s often overlooked since people focus too often on just one part (particularly the results) and do not look at their leadership strategy as whole. What we often forget is foundation for those results. I’ve heard some say, “I want to hire someone with the “It” factor”, but there isn’t a psychological measurement in existence that accurately and reliably tests for that. A person successful in one role may fail miserably in the same role at another company. Instead, you have to consider the experiences and beliefs that person is bringing to the table and how well those will mix with the rest of the team.

And what is the culture of your team or department? Don’t think that’s an important question? Try to change it. It will be incredibly difficult and take significantly longer then you would ever imagine. This is because the culture is made up of, and held in place by, the experiences and beliefs held within your team or department. By providing the correct leadership styles, you can influence not just the results, but the organizational culture around you for the better.

Think strategically and act permanently.

Next time you head up a team or a project, understand what experiences and beliefs you are leaving for your team. You may be surprised at what results are yielded if you create a people-centered, result-oriented experience.

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

Got Skills?

One summer afternoon, on the way to his favorite fishing hole, my grandfather took a short rest in the middle of a field behind house. He gazed upon his modest crop of corn that he had planted earlier in the spring as if he were Cortez, first looking upon the Pacific Ocean.

“You ain’t a man unless you own some land,” he spoke softly, as if it were a proclamation to the heavens, rather than an attempt to impart wisdom to his grandson.

Intellectual PropertyIntellectual Property

It wasn’t until recently when I heard a colleague and friend of mine, Dana Robinson, a professor of law at the University of San Diego School of Law and author of several learning courses at lynda.com, talk about a new form of equity in our knowledge based economy—Intellectual Property.

“You probably know something about personal property. Your house or the things you probably have in your house. These are tangible things. That’s how we think of property in most cases, but what about intangible property? What about the things that are invisible that we want to consider property? We call those things “intellectual property.”

(See Dana Robinson’s course on Intellectual Property Law at lynda.com)

For generations, like my grandfather’s, land ownership was a significant and tangible asset to either provide or supplement a means to a living for much of the world. To this day, owning a home or physical property is still a valuable economic resource for individuals and families. But over the past quarter century, technology has pushed the light of the dawning knowledge revolution high into sky, dramatically shifting precious resources from the fertile fields of physical property, to the wellspring that reside in the minds of individuals throughout every level of today’s workforce—intellectual property.

40 years ago, the typical American company had about 20% of its assets in intellectual property or intangible assets. Today that number is more like 80%. Leveraging the 80% of today’s intangible assets within an organization is as great of a challenge as it is an opportunity for leaders and individuals.skills_cloud

Knowledge into Action

But intellectual property is not just about knowledge, it’s about how organizations and individuals leverage corporate and employee knowledge into action as a means to create revenue. If the acquisition of lynda.com by LinkedIn last week (LinkedIn to Buy lynda.com , NY Times) did not send sock waves through the business world last week from the sheer numbers, 1.5 Billion, than the fact that LinkedIn is preparing to transcend beyond the FaceBook of business and a real time resume resource, into becoming the leading provider of real time skills to polish up your LinkedIn profile, than you’re not paying attention to how the world of business is changing.

Gone are the days when executive leaders can simply make a decision and pass it down the chain of command for implementation. Gone are the days where you punch a clock, push some buttons, pull some levers and the company generates revenue like a well-oiled machine. And even perhaps more importantly, gone are the days when we hire and retain employees based solely on where they received their degree, or the level they attainted at a university, or the years of experience they have in the workplace—but rather how they can turn their theoretical knowledge from the halls of academia or years of experience into action through demonstrated real time skills that cultivate tangible assets for today’s knowledge economy.

Skills are the New Currency

In today’s highly technical job market, skills are quickly becoming the new currency for new hire selection and on the job performance. Mastery of job skills is more critical to personal and organizational success than degrees and certificates. The right set skills matched to the right job function is the difference between excellence and mediocrity in today’s workforce. Skills are the new currency of today’s workforce.

Perhaps while on the way to the local fishing hole this summer, I’ll take a rest with my son, pull out my iPhone, and open up my LinkedIn profile and look toward the sky’s and proclaim, “You can’t pay the bills unless you got the skills,” as he shakes his head at me with displeasure.

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. 

 

Act Before You Think – The “OODA Loop” in Leadership

I have always been taught to “think before you act” – I should  consider what exactly I want to do; why; and what the impact is. This way, you have clarity on what you’re doing, and you can avoid making the wrong decision or upsetting people (especially important in leadership).

However, we’re working in business around the globe, using real-time communication, and keeping up with continuous improvements technology; and we need to keep pace with a constantly changing environment – and this means changing our decision making process to match this faster pace.

The “OODA Loop” is not new – it was developed by US Air Force Colonel John Boyd in the 1950’s, and refers to the recurring decision cycle of: observe-orient-decide-act. The quicker this cycle can be processed, the more an organization or individual can gain the upper hand, by being one step ahead of their “opponent’s” decision making.

The model demonstrates a four-point decision loop that supports fast, effective and proactive decision-making:

Observe Gather as much relevant information as possible. (In business, data becomes an important part of this process).
Orient Analyze the information, and use it to change the situation. The better and quicker the leader of an organization is able to gain clarity, the better the decision that can be made
Decide Determine a course of action. Having good data analysis and orientation allows organizations to make better and more repeatable decisions.
Act Follow through on your decision. Act with energy, discipline and drive. This is the heart of the execution process

You cycle through the loop by observing the results of your actions, reviewing and revising your initial decision, and moving to your next action. It needs to be a smooth, continual process, and the faster you can move through each stage the better. In fact, if you were to sit down and map out each step, it would slow down instead of speed up.

OODA Loop

The initial concept was based on military combat operations. Consider a fighter pilot trying to shoot down an enemy aircraft. Before the enemy is even in vision, the pilot considers information of the enemy pilot (level of training, cultural traditions, etc). When the enemy aircraft comes into the radar, our pilot gets more information on speed and size of the enemy plane. A decision is made based on the available information. Our pilot can then loop back to observation: is the attacker reacting to the action of our pilot? Then to orient: is the enemy reacting characteristically? Is his plane exhibiting better-than-expected performance? Based on these, he can cycle back through the loop to making a decision on his next course of action, and carry it out.

Fighter Pilot (TopGun)

If you’re looking to work on your leadership, and become a better leader, your first step might be to create an action plan. “In order to be a better leader, I want to do this, this, and this”. Whilst this action plan might focus your efforts, and provide a roadmap; it is just that: a plan.

When it comes to leadership, the way to produce the change of mindset – to improve the skills you require to become a better leader – is to act differently, rather than just think about it.

In fact, acting differently is more likely to make you think differently.

Someone once told me that, if I act like someone that I would like to meet, in time, I’d become a person that other people want to meet (and this is now written on a piece of A4 paper, stuck on the ceiling above my bed, and I read it every morning when I wake up). This is Boyd’s OODA Loop theory applied to being a ‘nicer’ person; but the same can apply to leadership. Act like the leader that you would like to have leading you, and in time, you’ll become the kind of leader that others want leading them.

You can try something new and, after action, observe the results – how it feels to us, how others around us react – and only later reflect on what our experience taught us.

In other words, we “act like a leader” and then “think like a leader”.

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.

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