5 Secrets to Learning Better

Below is a blog post from LeadingBlog.

5 Secrets to Learning Better

With exam season upon us in the northern hemisphere, experimental psychologist Tom Stafford has offered some lessons for learning better. He and his colleague Mike Dewar, studied how people learn to play an online game. “Computer games provide a great way to study learning: they are something people spend many hours practicing, and they automatically record every action people take as they practice. Players even finish the game with a score that tells them how good they are.” 


Here is what they found:

1.    Space Your Practice. Cramming isn’t the answer. You should space out your studying. People who spaced out their practicing scored higher. “In fact, the longer the gaps the higher the scores.”

2.    Make Sure You Fail Occasionally. People that were the most inconsistent in the beginning had better scores later on. People who did better didn’t worry about making mistakes. They explored and made mistakes.

3.    Practice the Thing You’ll be Tested On. If your exam is an essay, then you need to practice writing. If it is fact retrieval then you need to practice retrieving information. Practice exams make good sense.

4.    Structure Information, Don’t Try to Remember It. There is almost no correlation between trying to remember something and actually remembering it. Our brains remember by making connections to existing memory. “You need to reorganize the information in some way – whether by making notes of your notes, thinking about how what you’re reading relates to other material, or practicing writing answers.”

5.    Rest and Sleep. Studying all night doesn’t help you. “New research shows that a brief rest after learning something can help you remember it a week later. Other experiments have shown that a full night’s sleep helps you learn new skills or retain information. Even napping can help consolidate your memories, and maybe even make you more creative.” Get your sleep. It’s more important than another hour of study.

A One Minute Tip for Changing the Way You Set Goals

Originally posted on How We Lead:

Business People Shaking Hands At DeskAll good performance starts with clear goals. That’s why Spencer Johnson and I made sure that the First Secret of The New One Minute Manager® is One Minute Goals. This is illustrated perfectly in the children’s story Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when Alice asks the Cheshire Cat which path she should take. The Cheshire Cat responds, “That depends on where you want to go.” When Alice says she doesn’t know, the smiling cat says, “Then it doesn’t matter.” The same is true in the work environment. If people don’t have a clear understanding of where they are going and what they need to focus on, they can’t perform at their highest level.

The secret of setting One Minute Goals is for the leader to work side by side with each direct report to write goal statements that include performance standards, so that both people agree on what needs to…

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What Do Workers Want? Better communication with their leader for starters

Originally posted on Blanchard LeaderChat:

Business InterviewEarlier this month, I noticed that a few of my Facebook friends were posting a link to a Wall Street Journal post titled What Do Workers Want from the Boss?

The article describes the results of a Gallup study showing that employees want communication, a trusting relationship, and clear measurement standards from their immediate supervisor.

I messaged some of my friends to learn why they posted the article. They all replied that the findings matched their own experience and they wanted to share. In fact, each of them told me about how a negative experience in one of these areas had resulted in their search for a new place to work.

That’s pretty sad.

The findings identified in the Gallup study are consistent with those uncovered through research by The Ken Blanchard Companies on the subject of Employee Work Passion. We frame these elements as Connectedness with Leader, Feedback, and

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A NOTICING MIND-SET

The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See by Max H. Bazerman is fantastic book. Below is an excerpt from the book about leadership and first-class noticers.

A NOTICING MIND-SETThe Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See

Before reading further, try to remember a crisis that surprised you or your organization. (Stop and really do this.) Now imagine that you are telling a close friend, someone from outside the organization, the story of that crisis: what happened, who did what, and what resulted. Your friend’s response would very likely be “Why didn’t anyone see that coming?” Keeping in mind the actual crisis, think through what your answer would be. (Again, please actually do this before reading ahead. Even better, write your answer on a piece of paper.)

Was your response something like one of the following?

  • No one could have predicted what happened.
  • The odds of its happening were so low that it didn’t seem worthy of consideration.
  • It wasn’t my job to see the warning signs.
  • There are so many possible crises at any given moment that we couldn’t reasonably have known that this was the one that would get us.

Or was your response something more like one of these?

  • I didn’t examine what threats were confronting our organization.
  • I didn’t think about how other parties could affect our organization.
  • I didn’t ask others about what data were missing.
  • I didn’t search hard enough for more options for my organization to consider.

Do you see the difference between the two lists? The first consists of external attributions. These explanations focus on factors outside your control; the problem was the situation, not you. In contrast, the second group consists of internal attributions for the failure, things you realize you could have done better. Most crises are due to both internal and external causes: you and the organization were in a tough environment fraught with unfortunate and surprising conditions, and you and your colleagues didn’t anticipate and manage the crisis as well as you could have.

A well-established social science research finding is that when we think of our successes, we tend to come up with internal attributions. We focus on what we did right to affect the ultimate result. By contrast, when we think of our failures, we tend to come up with external attributions; we blame others, the context, or circumstances beyond our control.” Executives who have a fantastic year often take personal credit for their success, or if they are more generous, they credit their management team. But executives who suffer severe setbacks are quick to attribute these results to economic conditions, market trends, or government interventions.

First-class noticers, however, are more consistent. Even when failures occur, they focus on what they did and, more important, on what they could do differently in the future. As a result, they avoid repeating their mistakes. It is this focus on self-improvement that allows us to learn from experience and develop the tendencies needed to become first-class noticers.

Mindfulness and Leadership: Three Easy Ways to Be a Better Leader

Originally posted on Blanchard LeaderChat:

zen stone garden round stone and raked sand making line patterns In the world of coaching, we’ve long practiced and shared the concepts of mindfulness with clients because we’ve seen and felt the results. Mindfulness as it’s practiced as a part of leadership development can take many forms, from something as simple as NOT multitasking or as intentional as active listening, or regulating self-talk.

So, how does mindfulness make you a better leader? Let me give you an example.

I work with a client who is very intense. She’s heading quickly to the top of her organizational structure and is the heir apparent. She is super busy and rarely sleeps more than five hours a night. A few weeks ago she commented that she was having trouble focusing on so many things at once and has been reacting rather than carefully responding to situations around her. Her edge was slipping. She wanted a way to adjust, change, and retool her leadership capacity…

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Innovators: Leadership

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson is a great book. Below is an excerpt about leadership.

Innovators: Leadership

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

The most successful endeavors in the digital age were those run by leaders who fostered collaboration while also providing a clear vision. Too often these are seen as conflicting traits: a leader is either very inclusive or a passionate visionary. But the best leaders could be both. Robert Noyce was a good example. He and Gordon Moore drove Intel forward based on a sharp vision of where semiconductor technology was heading, and they both were collegial and nonauthoritarian to a fault. Even Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, with all of their prickly intensity, knew how to build strong teams around them and inspire loyalty.

Brilliant individuals who could not collaborate tended to fail. Shockley Semiconductor disintegrated. Similarly, collaborative groups that lacked passionate and willful visionaries also failed. After inventing the transistor, Bell Labs went adrift. So did Apple after Jobs was ousted in 1985.

Most of the successful innovators and entrepreneurs in this book had one thing in common: they were product people. They cared about, and deeply understood, the engineering and design. They were not primarily marketers or salesmen or financial types; when such folks took over companies, it was often to the detriment of sustained innovation. “When the sales guys run the company, the product guys don’t matter so much, and a lot of them just turn off,” Jobs said. Larry Page felt the same: “The best leaders are those with the deepest understanding of the engineering and product design.”

Another lesson of the digital age is as old as Aristotle: “Man is a social animal.” What else could explain CB and ham radios or their successors, such as WhatsApp and Twitter? Almost every digital tool, whether designed for it or not, was commandeered by humans for a social purpose: to create communities, facilitate communication, collaborate on projects, and enable social networking. Even the personal computer, which was originally embraced as a tool for individual creativity, inevitably led to the rise of modems, online services, and eventually Facebook, Flickr, and Foursquare.

Machines, by contrast, are not social animals. They don’t join Facebook of their own volition nor seek companionship for its own sake. When Alan Turing asserted that machines would someday behave like humans, his critics countered that they would never be able to show affection or crave intimacy. To indulge Turing, perhaps we could program a machine to feign affection and pretend to seek intimacy, just as humans sometimes do. But Turing, more than almost anyone, would probably know the difference.

According to the second part of Aristotle’s quote, the nonsocial nature of computers suggests that they are “either a beast or a god.” Actually, they are neither. Despite all of the proclamations of artificial intelligence engineers and Internet sociologists, digital tools have no personalities, intentions, or desires. They are what we make them.

Managing Polarities: A Key Skill for the Well-Intentioned Manager

Originally posted on Blanchard LeaderChat:

What Comes After Plan B?Being a great manager means balancing the needs of your people with the results you are trying to achieve. This can be a fiendishly hard balance to strike, and maintain. For example:

As managers we are expected to have the best interest of the organization as a prime objective and yet the needs of each of our direct reports are also critical. The process of balancing both is a polarity because it involves two, interdependent, correct answers to the question: “In my relationship with this person, should I be concerned about her, or should I be concerned about her ability to perform her tasks?”

As a well-intentioned manager, you need to pay attention to your people’s needs, and you need to keep an eye on the extent to which things are actually getting done. If you just take care of your direct report and neglect the tasks at hand, it won’t…

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