The 2020 Silver Lining

As we approach December 31, it’s a good time to reflect on this historic year. I’m sure there are many things we’ll all want to leave behind. Yet there may be some things we will want to carry with us into the future.

There’s no question that 2020 has taken a toll on tens of millions of people. The loss of loved ones, jobs, businesses, and the cherished daily activities we used to take for granted has tested us all. I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready to get my vaccine and say goodbye to social distancing! I really miss hugging my friends and extended family. I also won’t miss reading about yet another company going out of business due to the pandemic. And I sure won’t miss watching the numbers of sick and dying going up on a daily basis.

A few weeks ago, our friend Simon Sinek joined our “Determining Your Leadership Point of View” class via Zoom. During a discussion about what a trial this year has been, we discussed an interesting point: despite the challenges of 2020, it’s possible that many of us are going to look back at this time with more positive than negative feelings.

Don’t get me wrong—my heart goes out to those who have suffered painful losses this year, and I grieve right along with them. Yet if life has taught me anything, it’s to look for the silver lining, no matter how dark it gets. So let’s look at the positives.

What’s Good about 2020?

One positive to come out of this pandemic is that it has forced us to adapt in ways that have created positive changes for the future. For example, thanks to Zoom and similar technologies, our company has been able to make an amazing turnaround from classroom and in-person training to hundreds of online sessions every month. Going forward, this means that we’ll reach more people around the world than ever before.

For me, personally, I’m excited that thanks to Zoom, I can contribute to associates and clients without traveling. I must admit, I don’t miss airports and flying!

Another friend of mine appreciates the way that working online reduces the amount of traffic on the road and pollution in the air.

Spending time at home has allowed many of us to finally get around to making needed changes, such as overdue maintenance, decluttering, and organization. Those of us who’ve been working from home have been able to adapt our environs to suit our needs for office space, exercise areas, or places where kids can do their classwork.

A major positive has been getting to spend so much time with our loved ones at home.  Margie and I have certainly enjoyed our time together watching Netflix and snuggling with our beloved dog, Joy.

As for friends and colleagues outside our COVID bubbles, we’ve come to realize what a privilege it is to have those relationships in our lives and just how important they are to us. I think we all have a backlog of people we intend to socialize with as soon as it’s safe!

On my Facebook page recently, I posed the question: What have been the positives for you, your organization, and your family from this pandemic? Here are some of the replies:

“Rediscovered lost strengths and launched a new business to help thousands of people who lost their jobs.”

“Spiritual growth and insight.”

“For my organization? Innovation, agility, and flexibility.”

The coming year promises a return to a more familiar way of life, as well as the opportunity to apply our learnings from the past tumultuous twelve months.  So—what will you take forward from this year into 2021?

Pay the PRICE to Make Good on Your New Year’s Resolution!

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? How are they working for you so far?

Every year I hear people say they are having a hard time motivating themselves to put their New Year’s resolutions into place. My first question is always “How many resolutions do you have?” The answer usually goes something like this: “Well, this year I want to lose weight, exercise more, start reading, spend more time in the garden, watch less TV, travel more, and stop drinking.” Of course those people don’t feel motivated—they are so overwhelmed by their resolutions, they don’t even want to get out of bed! So my first piece of advice is to pick one or two resolutions that you really believe you can accomplish and focus on those.

Several years ago, my friend Bob Lorber and I wrote a book called Putting the One Minute Manager to Work where we talked about the PRICE system. This model works great for New Year’s resolutions. Here’s what the letters in the PRICE acronym stand for:

P is for pinpoint. What is the thing you’d like to do? Is it to lose weight? Exercise more? Get to bed earlier? Identify what you want to work on and be specific.

R is for record. What is your present level of performance in that area? Record your weight or your clothes sizes, write down your present level of exercise, or write down your typical bedtime so you have baseline data. Now you have something to compare with where you want to go, which involves the next step.

I is for involve. Gather key people in your life who can help you set a One Minute Goal for each resolution based on the difference between where you are now (what you’ve recorded) and where you’d like to go. We need to ask for support from people who care about us because it’s very hard to stick to resolutions on our own. Perhaps you could agree to help someone with their resolutions while they help you with yours! Almost everyone needs support from others. What will they do to cheer you on? How can they help hold you accountable? Plan it out and get agreement on your goal or goals. And remember, the best goals are SMART: Specific and measurable, Motivating, Attainable, Relevant, and Trackable/time-bound.

C is for coach. Now your plans are in place and you are starting to make good on your resolutions. You are getting the coaching you need—the cheerleading, the support, and the redirection. Let other people help to keep you in line. As I say, if you could do it by yourself, you would.

is for evaluate. When you have made some headway on your goal, look back and evaluate how you are doing. First, catch yourself doing something right and give yourself a One Minute Praising—any forward progression toward your resolution is worth celebrating! Now think about whether you may be off track in any way. Is there anything that needs to be “tweaked” to enable you to continue your progress? A One Minute Re-Direct may be in order. Don’t stop now! Keep tracking so you can see how you are continuously improving, and plan your future strategies. What will you pinpoint next?

It’s exciting to look ahead at a new year, especially when you have plans for self-improvement in place and friends to support you and help you accomplish your goals. What are you going to be smiling about in December? Take care and have a terrific 2020!

Three Best Practices to Help People Learn

One of the hallmarks of great organizations is their commitment to constantly retraining and educating people so they have cutting-edge knowledge in their work.

But how do you assure that your investment in learning pays off and produces measurable results? You can’t just send people to a seminar or give them an online course and hope for the best. Our research at Blanchard reveals three best practices that turbocharge learning.

 

Best Practice #1 – Use Spaced Repetition to Make Learning Stick

Spaced repetition is a learning technique where you don’t learn something in just one sitting. You’re exposed to the information periodically over time, so that the learning sinks in.

My friend John Haggai calls spaced repetition “the mother of all skills” because it’s so effective. Advertisers use this technique all the time; they call these repetitions “impressions.”

To be learned, information almost always requires repetition over time. But why? It’s sort of like putting something away in your garage—it’s not very useful unless you’re able to retrieve it! After your brain stores information into memory, you need to revisit that information a few times, so that you can recall it when you need it. This is how short-term memory becomes long-term memory.

To make your learning stick, take notes and review them within the first 24 hours of taking them. Be sure to think about what you’re reviewing. Don’t just re-read your notes; try to recall the main points without looking at them. Then—within a week—teach what you learned to someone else. This will force you to recall what you’ve learned.

 

Best Practice #2: Tap Learning Power with Cohort Groups

Learning flourishes in a social environment where conversation between learners can take place. Several studies examining group learning have shown that people learning in a collaborative environment acquire more knowledge, retain that knowledge longer, and have better problem-solving and reasoning abilities than people working alone.

At Blanchard, we’ve seen hundreds of instances of the power of group learning in our Master’s in Executive Leadership (MSEL) program at the University of San Diego. Every year our students are amazed by how effectively their cohort groups help them learn to become great leaders through role-playing, assessments, presentations, and collaborative projects.

By learning in groups, people develop teamwork, communication, and decision-making skills faster and more effectively than they would learning alone. The social aspect of group study helps people keep their commitment to learning. Accountability to the group keeps procrastinators on track. People learn faster by drawing on one another’s knowledge of the subject.

Group interaction is a key strategy for learning that works. As I always like to say, “No one of us is as smart as all of us.”

 

Best Practice #3: Design Learning Journeys to Drive Results

The best learning experience isn’t a one-time thing—or even a one-methodology thing. Our research shows that optimal learning is more of a process than an event. Such processes are called learning journeys.

We define a learning journey as “a training and development experience that unfolds over time.” These learning journeys can be customized to the needs of a business, department, or person.

For example, a person might begin their learning journey in a classroom or with a webinar. Their next step might be to engage with a discussion group. Next, the learner might go back to their workplace, apply the new concepts, and see how they work. The journey might continue with a return to the group, where the learner would share their real-world findings. From there, they could continue with follow-up classroom or e-learning, then take their new knowledge and skills back to the workplace for more real-world application.

By blending theory with real world experience, learning journeys are highly effective in driving sustainable business results.

 

An Organization That Learns, Thrives

In the long run, only smart organizations survive. Leaders in high performing organizations understand that knowledge exists in knowledgeable people; they know that unless its employees continue to learn, even the smartest organization will not say smart.

So, be smart and apply these learning practices. I guarantee you’ll be making a wise investment in your organization’s knowledge capital.

3 Simple Ways to Master Learning and Make Things Happen

Years ago, a dear friend of mine asked me what my biggest disappointment was with my career. That thoughtful question motivated some real self-reflection. I realized that what bothered me most was that my work was not having lasting impact. While my books were widely read, many people were not following through on the concepts and using them consistently in their day-to-day work. Most managers seemed content to merely talk about leadership practices, rather than to actually implement them.

My friend said, “You’re trying to change people’s behavior only from the outside. Lasting change starts on the inside and moves out.”

I knew immediately he was right, because all I had been focusing on were leadership methods and behavior. I hadn’t focused much on what was inside people’s heads or hearts.

Armed with this new insight, I teamed up with Paul J. Meyer and Dick Ruhe to write Know Can Do, a book about how to close the learning-doing gap. Together we developed three simple ways to help people make the leap from knowing to doing.

#1 – Learn Less More (and Not More Less)

While it’s fine to spend energy learning new skills and knowledge, you also need strategies to retain and apply all the helpful information you take in. For example, perhaps you love reading books and attending seminars. There’s nothing wrong with that—unless you do those things so often that you don’t pause to integrate your new know-how and put it into action.

The fact is, we retain only a small fraction of what we read and hear only once. Instead of gobbling up new information, focus on a few key concepts and study them deeply. Then repeat what you’ve learned over time, which is called spaced repetition. This way, the new knowledge becomes firmly fixed in your mind and you become a master in those areas.

#2 – Listen with a Positive Mindset

There’s nothing wrong with thinking critically; in fact, it’s essential for survival. However, many if not most of us did not receive unconditional love and support when we were young. This gives us a tendency to doubt ourselves and others. Self-doubt causes us to filter all information—whether in book, audio, video, seminar, or conversation format—through our indecisive, closed-minded, judgmental, fear-ridden mindset, which leads to negative thinking.

Negative thinking causes us to learn and use only a fraction of what we see and hear. As a result, we achieve only a small percentage of what we could achieve. We accept too little too soon.

A positive, open mind ignites creativity, ingenuity, and resourcefulness. Instead of trying to find what’s wrong with new information, be a green light thinker who actively seeks out what’s right. Practice saying to yourself, “I know there is something of value in what I’m reading or hearing; what is it?”

#3 – Use a Follow-Up Plan

Doing what you’ve learned cannot be left to chance. To keep and apply the knowledge you’ve gained, you need a follow-up plan that provides structure, support, and accountability.

For example, suppose you’ve been out of shape most of your life, but thanks to your newfound positive thinking, you just finished a session with a personal trainer at the gym. You’re feeling proud of yourself—but you don’t have a follow-up plan. What do you think is going to happen in the coming weeks and months? Chances are good to great that you’ll revert to your old ways.

Follow-up plans can take many forms, but the best ones include someone who can tell you, show you, observe you, and praise your progress or redirect you as you practice the new skill. Don’t let your teacher skip the praise part of that sequence, because accentuating the positive motivates learners. Soon you’ll be able to praise and redirect yourself. Over time, you’ll become a master in that skill.

And what’s the best way to maintain that mastery? By teaching what you’ve learned.

So, put the knowledge you’ve just gained into action by reviewing this blog with a positive mindset, practicing these steps, and sharing them with others!

3 Mindsets to Brighten Your Day

I’ve talked a number of times about Norman Vincent Peale and the positive impact he had on my life. I love this quote from him that I often read for inspiration as I enter my day:

“We are here to be excited from youth to old age—to have an insatiable curiosity about the world. Aldous Huxley once said that to carry the spirit of a child into old age is the secret of genius. And I buy that. We are also here to genuinely, humbly, and sincerely help others by practicing a friendly attitude. Every person is born for a purpose. Everyone has a God-given potential, in essence, built into them. And if we are to live life to its fullest, we must realize that potential.”

I like this quote for several reasons that all have to do with having a positive daily mindset.

  • First of all, I love the idea of carrying a childlike spirit into our old age. I feel sorry for adults who mope around and act like they have tight underwear. I love being silly and curious—it makes things more fun for me and, I hope, for the people around me. I’ve always said we should take what we do seriously but ourselves lightly. Norman had a twinkle in his eye and a childlike smile all the way until his “graduation” at age 95.

 

  • I am also a firm believer in practicing  a friendly attitude. That was core to the philosophy behind Norman’s perennial bestseller, The Power of Positive Thinking. Whenever I would call him, he would respond in that wonderful singsong voice of his: “I was just telling Ruth the other day, the only thing wrong with our life is that we don’t see Ken and Margie Blanchard enough.”

 

  • Finally, I think it’s important for every person to realize their life purpose. Why are we here? How can we live life to the fullest and be more helpful to our families, friends, and colleagues, our companies and communities, and other good causes and people? Serving and helping others makes life more positive and meaningful.

So as you go out into the world each day, bring three positive daily mindsets along with you: a childlike spirit, a friendly attitude, and a purpose that includes service to others. Your day and the days of everyone you meet will be all the brighter for it!