In addition to regular traffic signs, drivers often encounter other types of signs. For example, have you ever been surprised by a key route that has recently been designated one-way, or that there’s a temporary detour? In those instances, you have to follow the signs, adjust plans, and adapt to all of these new inputs to get to the destination.
Here’s the bad news about looking for signs in business. There usually aren’t any. Sure, you have market studies, and feasibility studies, and cost-benefit studies, and compliance studies, and studies of other studies, but very rarely do they clearly tell you when and where to turn.
In business, you are on your own most of the time. And when you’re on the business road you’ve got to keep going—even when you are in uncertain territory. And sometimes you have to fix the bicycle while you’re riding on it.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Here are three action items to help you reach your destination successfully.
- Make it clear to everybody on your team that it is part of their job to look for the clues that it is time to make a turn. And tell them that sometimes that turn isn’t even on the current agenda. You need gutsy people out there where the rubber meets the road. They’ve got to deal with reality.
- Make it safe for people to communicate with you. Very few trips come off exactly as planned. But how many times have people followed along with a driver obviously going the wrong way until everyone’s completely lost, and then said, “I had a feeling we weren’t going in the right direction.” There are always going to be glitches in the plan, and even times when the original plan should be downright scrapped.
- Do what you can to improve the signal-to-noise ratio. Protect people’s time. They can’t be nimble and ready for change if they are buried in bureaucratic distraction and static. They can’t do every last thing that somebody dreams up in a “perfect world.” There is no such thing as a perfect world. Don’t just keep adding to their to-do list; you need to add to their not-to-do list.
Seeing and reporting signs is challenging. Dealing with them successfully depends on having the information in the first place and the initiative to share it in the second place. This stuff isn’t easy. But it’s the stuff that business is made of.
About the author
Dr. Dick Ruhe is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read his posts here on LeaderChat the fourth Saturday of each month.
Two years ago I was in Kenya doing some volunteer work when our van got stuck in the mud on the way to visit one of the local schools. We tried everything to get unstuck but nothing worked. We needed help.
In the workplace as well as other areas of our lives, we sometimes encounter people who apparently are stuck in the mode of complaining and unwilling to move toward resolution. I have discovered a simple process to help complainers move from whining to action.
1. Hear them out. First, hear them out one more time. When they complain again—and you know they will—take the time to listen to them, giving them your full attention and energy. It is best to do this in a private setting where neither of you will be distracted.
2. Summarize their issue. Next, when you are sure that you understand the problem at hand and the other person feels heard, interrupt them if necessary and gently say, “Let me make sure I fully understand.” Restate the situation and their frustration as you see it. For example, if they have been complaining about being micromanaged, you might say, “What I’m hearing is that you are frustrated because your boss is micromanaging you.” Get their agreement to your summary—but do not let them continue with their rant.
3. Help them consider their options. Now ask this magic question: “Understanding that this is the situation, what are your options?” In a best-case scenario, they will have some ideas and you can help them come up with an action plan. Chances are, however, that they are too stuck to think of any options. If so, lead with some ideas of your own and solicit their feedback. Either way, help them consider their options and decide on their next steps.
4. Make them accountable for next steps. To add an element of accountability, at the end of the conversation summarize the agreed-upon action plan. Ask the person when they plan to take the first step and set up a date and time to check in with them
What do you do if, despite all your efforts, the other person refuses to move on and seems as if they want to stay stuck?
At this point, I suggest a few options:
- Try to help them understand the effect being stuck is having on them and on those around them. Hopefully, you can stir them to action.
- Refer them to someone else for counseling. Perhaps the HR department has some options for them.
- Remember to take care of yourself. It may be time to ask yourself: Is this relationship worth the emotional drain I experience each time we are together?
I hope these thoughts help you to move others to action. Let me know any other ideas you have to help others get unstuck.
About the author:
John Hester is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who specializes in performance and self-leadership. You can read John’s posts on the second Thursday of each month.
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” ~ Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz
Judy Garland’s line from The Wizard Oz could appropriately capture the feeling of many leaders when it comes to managing Millennials in the workplace – it’s a whole new world! Millennials, or Gen Y (born 1982-1995), are rapidly becoming a greater share of the workforce and some studies have estimated that by 2025 they will comprise 75% of the working population. Like each generation before them, they bring a unique blend of attitudes, traits, and characteristics that define how they “show up” at work. Building trust with this generation and leveraging their strengths in the workplace is a pressing priority for today’s generation of leaders.
Last week I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion on the topic of Trust in Millennial Leaders, on the Trust Across America radio show, hosted by my friend Jon Mertz, a leadership writer and marketing executive. Jon assembled representatives from Gen Y who are in the early stages of their careers along with a couple of “old guys” (me included!) further along in their career.
The insightful discussion produced a number of valuable learning moments, four of which stood out to me as particularly important for leaders to grasp in order to build trust with Millennials.
1. Millennials are a trusting, optimistic generation – Whenever you speak about generational demographics, there is the danger of over-generalizing and stereotyping individuals. With that said, by and large the Millennial generation has a higher propensity to trust others and they value authentic relationships. A study by Deloitte showed that 87% of the Millennials they surveyed reported that they “completely,” “mostly,” or “moderately” trust their boss, with nearly 1 in 3 falling in the “completely” category. This opens the door for leaders to extend trust to the Millennials on their team with the expectation that trust will be reciprocated. Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship and it’s the starting point for leaders interested in maximizing the talents of the younger generation.
2. Tech savviness of Millennials opens new doors – Gen Y is the first workforce generation to grow up completely in the world of modern computers and it fundamentally drives the way they approach work. Millennials take to technology like a fish takes to water and their use of technology is forcing organizations to reevaluate their business practices. The ubiquitous use of social media by Millennials is one prominent example. For many younger workers there is a blending of work and social community interaction through Facebook, Twitter, or other platforms. Today’s leaders need to consider ways to build trust with Millennials through the use of technology rather than viewing these new methods with fear or suspicion.
3. Millennials are quick learners – In large part due to their upbringing in the computer age, Millennials are conditioned to consume, absorb, and apply large amounts of information. (No experience with creating a business plan? Google it and have nearly 3 million options to meet your need!) Because of their fast-paced nature to learn on the fly, many in this generation have gotten the bad rap of not wanting to “pay their dues” or are “entitled” (Generation Me!) to quick promotions and pay raises. Leaders interested in building trust would be wise to avoid labeling Millennials with these stereotypes and treat them on an individual basis. As Jon Mertz pointed out, many Gen Y’ers understand that growth in organizations today is much more horizontally focused than vertically up the traditional corporate ladder.
4. Millennials know the power of community – A common trait of this generation is their focus on social causes and the strength that comes from like-minded individuals banding together to achieve a common goal. Whether it’s assisting in disaster relief, combating slave trafficking, or providing clean water to villagers in Africa, Millennials have emerged as leaders in addressing social issues. What does that mean for organizational leaders? Millennials are naturals at teamwork! Who wouldn’t want that skill in their company? Millennials are eager and ready to accept new responsibilities and have a natural inclination to partner with others to achieve ambitious goals. Rather than forcing Millennials to “wait their turn,” leaders can build trust by looking for appropriate projects and growth opportunities where they can showcase their talents.
I encourage you to listen to the recording of the radio show. I think you’ll come away from the discussion with a greater appreciation for the skills and talents that Millennials bring to the workforce and a greater hope for a bright future with this new generation of leaders.
Randy Conley is the Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies and his LeaderChat posts appear the last Thursday of every month. For more insights on trust and leadership, visit Randy at his Leading with Trust blog or follow him on Twitter @RandyConley.
I just arrived back from beautiful Fujairah—one of the northernmost emirates in the UAE—where we held the final module of six in a 15-month leadership development curriculum for a global technology company.
The total program included modules around personality, values, organization vision and alignment, leadership style, high performing teams, change management, and motivation—the gamut.
This final module consisted of five one-hour-long group presentations about various aspects of their learning journey and its impact on people, process, and results. We asked about personal insights, how they applied their learning to real work, and what the human and economic impacts were of such application. And finally, in terms of their development, we asked them what they wanted to do next.
In terms of roles, the “what’s next” question revealed an array of ambitions. One wants to be CEO within 10 years. Another wants to lead the expansion of engineering capabilities in the African subsidiaries. And a third sees a future in corporate strategy with the aim of improving how global change initiatives are conceived and executed.
What was most beautiful was not the ambitions themselves, although I often feel their gravitational pull compelling me to double-check my own goals and velocity toward them. Instead, the most heartening aspect of their ambitions was how they promised to approach them.
Reduce Pressure to Go Fast
Whereas in the past, on their way to greater roles and responsibilities, these executives would have passed the pressure they received from their bosses to others in direct proportion—or even amplify it—now they realize that pressure often does more harm than good. The motivation research shows that pressure is easily internalized as a form of control, which then undermines a person’s eagerness to perform an act voluntarily and with an optimistic sense of purpose. In other words, pressure creates a negative Motivational Outlook, which slows the pace and quality of work in the moment and in the long run.
These executives also described how they helped even very senior employees build additional competence faster than before, and how those employees then displayed increased confidence that they could handle even more-complex projects. It was nice to hear, too, how the quality of their relationships improved as a result.
Executives take a lot of heat—much of it deserved—for leading as if people do not matter much. So, I decided to share this with you because I wonder what you think when you read about executives who have dedicated themselves to leading in challenging times with boldness, grace, warmth, ever-increasing skill, and maturity. How does it inspire you or catalyze new thinking about how you lead?
It was a privilege to watch these leaders commit to a truly human—and humane—approach to leading others, and to see that by actually doing it things are already improving for them and everyone around them. Sometimes it is nice to take a break and simply enjoy watching people flower and shine right in front of our very eyes. I thought you might enjoy that, too.
About the author:
The Motivation Guy (also known as Dr. David Facer) is one of the principal authors—together with Susan Fowler and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop. Their posts appear on the first and third Monday of each month.
- Don’t set them—it is a waste of time
- Set them—and it is a waste of time because I don’t take them seriously
- Set them, take them seriously, but am regularly disappointed in myself
- Set them, take them seriously, and have figured out how to make them work
- Set them for personal matters, but not professional or workplace situations
- Refuse to live my life this way, and/or …
- Sick of hearing about them—enough already!
- Other (There may be other categories. Let me know what you come up with so I can add it to the list.)
No matter how you feel about resolutions, one thing as inevitable as the arrival of the New Year is the advice forthcoming about how to write resolutions. For example: Write resolutions more like SMART goals that are specific and measurable, motivating, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, making them more achievable.
Resolution-setter, or not, I encourage you to consider a different focus this year. Let’s say you have notions for workplace resolutions such as …
- Be more timely when it comes to _____ (fill-in-the-blank with expense reports, budgets, performance reviews, etc.)
- Provide better customer service
- Make a greater contribution
- Achieve greater work-life balance
- Speak up in meetings
- Be more upbeat in the office
All of these so-called resolutions might benefit by being written as a SMARTer goal statement. But before you even attempt that, try shifting your focus to the question of “Why?” Ask yourself this key question: “Why did I create this resolution?”
Can you answer with one or more of these answers?
1) This resolution aligns with important values I have established.
2) This resolution helps me fulfill my work-life purpose.
3) The mere pursuit of this resolution brings me joy.
Any one of these three answers is going to result in a more resolute resolution. So before you start following the good advice about rewriting your resolutions as goals (or the less-good advice to incentivize yourself with rewards or perks) consider first asking “Why did I create this resolution?” and tie it to your values, purpose, and sense of joy.
At the end of the day (or week or year), you are more likely to experience an optimal Motivational Outlook and positive results when you channel energy to those things that have a meaningful why behind them.
Here’s to an optimally motivated New Year!
About the author:
Susan Fowler is one of the principal authors—together with David Facer and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop. Their posts appear on the first and third Monday of each month.
Peter Drucker said the only valid purpose for a business is “to create a customer.” Yes, profits are necessary, but Drucker adds that “the customer is the foundation of a business and keeps it in existence. He alone gives employment.”
What does Wiki Answers say? According to Wiki, “the purpose of a business is to fill a need. Money comes after.”
These are all well and good. And yes, profits ARE necessary.
However, in Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, the ghost of Jacob Marley warns Ebenezer Scrooge of the perils of focusing only on profits at the expense of his responsibility to others. He tells Ebenezer:
“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
So… what is the business of any leader? To make a difference in the lives of others– employees and their families, customers, suppliers, and even shareholders. Yes, we need to ensure the organization is profitable AND do well by our fellow men and women.
During this holiday season, what can you do to demonstrate that mankind is your business? Let me know your ideas.
About the author:
John Hester is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. You can read John’s posts on the second Thursday of every month.
Back in 2005, one of our clients, American Express, wanted to measure the impact of Situational Leadership II training that they had rolled out in their organization. The program was delivered via three venues—traditional classroom with people attending in person; completely virtual with people working through self-paced modules; and a third ‘blended approach’ that combined aspects of both.
After the training was completed, Dr. Paul Leone, an OD expert within the American Express organization, measured the impact of the three delivery methods. He found that the self-paced virtual model produced a 5% boost in productivity which was good, the traditional classroom produced a 10% boost in productivity which was better, and the blended approach produced a 12% boost in productivity which was best.
The one difference that made all the difference
In looking at why the blended approach produced the greatest impact, Leone discovered that it was because the blended approach built the training into the student’s work life by including the immediate manager in the process, tying the learning to real work, and providing a way for feedback along the way. Leone’s conclusion was that it was these design factors that made all the difference.
Want greater ROI from your leadership training?
For years, instructional designers have known that adults learn best when they see how the learning impacts their work priorities and is in alignment with their work goals. Without this, it can be difficult to find the time for training. Learning—especially in the context of a work setting—has to be relevant, impactful, and produce results. If you don’t have that, people won’t find time in their schedules, and senior leaders won’t push for people to attend. People have multiple priorities these days. They have to focus on the things that help them get their work done.
Here are three ways to make sure that any new training you’re considering generates the bottom-line results you’re looking for.
Alignment—use impact maps to connect training to a student’s existing work goals. Have the manager and student identify the student’s key areas and then map how the training will help the learner meet those goals.
Modularize content delivery—deliver the content in small, bite-sized chunks over time. This allows students to receive the information in manageable segments that are much more conducive to learning. It also provides an opportunity for ongoing feedback.
Follow-up—involve immediate managers to check in on progress. Make sure immediate managers are on-board with the new behaviors and that they schedule time to interact and have discussions with learners as they begin to use their new skills. Nothing demonstrates the importance of a new skill learned in class than a manager checking up on its adoption.
People learn best when the information they are learning is relevant to what they are working on, when they see how it will help them improve, and when someone is checking on their progress and encouraging them to adopt new behaviors. Make sure that you are following these three steps to get the most out of your next training initiative!
Being aware of what is happening to you in the present moment without judgment or immediate reaction. It sounds so simple. The noticing and awareness part is one thing—but without judgment or immediate reaction? This requires practice: To notice when someone is pushing your button and take it in as information, but to not get caught up in the emotion of it. To be an observer of yourself in the world and not judge if what you observe is good or bad.
We are so caught up in the “busyness” of life, that practicing Mindfulness appears antithetical to producing the results and productivity required in our roles. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
When you notice and are aware of what is happening without judgment, you release yourself from patterns of behavior based on past experience, your dispositional tendencies, and your prejudices that limit your response. When you do this, you have a myriad of choices for how to respond or react. When mindful, you are able to choose a higher quality experience from your now unlimited choices. The benefits to your own health, success, and productivity are rewards enough.
Ready to practice some Mindfulness in your own life? Here are three ways to get started:
- Consider an important goal, task, or situation you currently have on your priority list.
- Notice the physical sensation in your body that occurs just by thinking about it. Does your stomach turn, your jaw clench, your chest tighten, your forehead frown? Do you break into a smile, have butterflies in your stomach, or feel your pulse race? Your body notices how you feel before you do!
- Now notice the emotion attached to the physical feeling. Is it positive or negative? That’s judgment. An emotion is your opinion of the physical sensation you are experiencing. What if you were to let go of it and simply notice? This would present you with a myriad of more choices than the one that so automatically came to your awareness.
Ripple effect with others
Donna, a participant in a recent Optimal Motivation workshop, told me that a major action step she committed to at the end of the session was to practice Mindfulness at work. Being a woman in a leadership role in a manufacturing environment, Donna described herself as extroverted, strong, vocal, and quick to react. She began taking a breath before calls and meetings; rather than immediately reacting to people and situations, she observed what was happening as “data.”
Donna reported that after a month of this practice her 17-year-old daughter said to her, “Mom, you seem really different; calmer.” Donna was amazed that her practice had filtered throughout her life and that even her teenage daughter had noticed.
I hope you will experiment with Mindfulness. Google it. Check out the research by Kirk Warren Brown. Travel to India and study with a yogi. Or better yet, join us for an Optimal Motivation session and discover how Mindfulness can help you experience greater energy, vitality, and sense of positive well-being.
About the author:
Susan Fowler is one of the principal authors—together with David Facer and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop. Their posts appear on the first and third Monday of each month.
“Change is hard,” explains Madeleine Homan-Blanchard in a new article for Chief Learning Officer. And being asked to help someone change is a tough assignment—especially when that someone is a senior leader in your organization—just ask anyone responsible for learning and development and they’ll tell you.
Have you been asked to help someone change?
Here are five suggestions from Homan-Blanchard that will give you your best chance for success.
1. Begin with data and dialogue. Business leaders live and die by the numbers. One of the only ways a leader will agree that change is needed is by being presented with unequivocal data and feedback.
2. Make it relevant. Leaders need to understand how their efforts to make and sustain any change will pay off. For instance, the investment is worth it because it will increase their business results or make their work days easier.
3. Mix it up and customize. Because each leader is growing and learning at a different pace across a spectrum of skill sets, learning leaders need to be prepared with a blended approach that uses all available resources, including online learning, classroom experiences, cohort or peer coaching, professional coaching and mentoring.
4. Consequences matter. Culture also plays a substantial role in effective leader development. Be clear that certain leadership behaviors are non-negotiable and even cause for dismissal.
5. Respect must be earned. Learning leaders who seek to support leaders’ change efforts need to be role models for growth and change, too.
Helping another person change requires clear direction, support, and accountability over time. It also requires a proven process. In an upcoming virtual workshop for leaders looking to identify and change unwanted leadership behaviors Homan-Blanchard outlines three key strategies individual leaders can use to manage their own change.
1. Identify behaviors that need to change. Articulate the gap. Put words to where you are now, and where you want to be. This helps you to understand the nature of the shift you need to make and keeps it real.
2. Practice your new behavior. Start in a safe environment with people you trust. Tell people that you are trying something new. Ask for help in tweaking your new behavior. Ask for support in identifying triggers, and in holding yourself accountable. Remember that you will not be good at your new behavior. Try on new things one at a time. You can make a lot of changes, just not all at once. Give yourself a chance to master one thing first—then you can move on to the next thing.
3. Try on your new behavior in a real-life setting. Promise yourself to do it ONCE, either once a day, once per opportunity, etc. Define a minimum for yourself and reward yourself every time you do it. Be kind to yourself throughout the process. Real change is hard, but worth the effort.
Coaching is an act of service
Helping someone change requires a service mindset. The process can be challenging, but also very rewarding when you can help people identify and modify behaviors that may be holding them back in their careers. To learn more about Homan-Blanchard’s advice for facilitating change, be sure to check out her article, How Do You Get Leaders to Change? Also, be sure to check out her upcoming online workshop, Taking the “Un” Out of Your Un-Leaderlike Moments.
Innovation also requires collaboration. Very few ideas can be successfully implemented without the cooperation and buy-in of others. Unfortunately, innovators often struggle in this area–especially if they fall in love with their idea and become defensive about feedback.
In an upcoming Leadership Livecast on Un-Leaderlike Moments I share a story about the way this sneaks up on unsuspecting innovators. See if this has ever happened to you.
The birth of an idea
You come up with an idea—it’s one of your best ideas—and you can’t wait to share it with the other people on your team. So you do. And you know what? They’re just as excited about it as you are. You decide to go in together and make this idea a reality.
But soon after, something you didn’t plan on starts to occur. Your teammates like your original concept, but they have some thoughts for making it better. They begin to share their thinking and give you some feedback. How do you react?
Dealing with feedback–two typical paths
If you are an experienced innovator, you take some time to really listen to what your team is sharing with you. You explore what they are saying, you ask for details, and you draw out the essence of their ideas. You realize that no matter how good your original idea may be, it’s always smart to treat feedback as a gift and to listen closely with the intention of being influenced.
If you are a relatively new innovator—and you are really attached to your idea—you may see feedback from your team in a completely different light. Ego can often get in the way and now you become defensive when others suggest changes. You dismiss their feedback as uninformed, uninspired, or just plain limiting. Instead of listening with the intent of being influenced, you listen just long enough to respond and remind everyone why the team should stay on course with your original concept. You become so focused on leading change that you don’t notice the energy, enthusiasm and participation of team members falling off as you march to the finish line.
It’s not until you get there and turn around for a group high-five that you see their weary exasperation with your leadership style. They congratulate you on your project.
A better way
Don’t let that happen to your next idea. Here are three ways to innovate and collaborate more effectively:
- Create space for other people to contribute. Take advantage of everything that people bring to a team. Utilize their head and heart as well as their hands.
- Listen to feedback. Explore and acknowledge what people are suggesting. Listen in a special way—with the intent of being influenced.
- Recognize that no matter how good your idea is, it can always be made better through the input of others. As Ken Blanchard likes to say, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”
True innovation requires passion and collaboration. Create some space for others. It will make your ideas stronger, give you a better chance for success, and create needed buy-in along the way.
PS: You can learn more about the 40 different thought leaders presenting in the October 10 Un-Leaderlike Moments Livecast here. It’s a free online event hosted by Ken Blanchard.