The Power of Positivity

A+One of my favorite sitcoms, How I Met Your Mother, ended last month. In the final episode the character, Marshall Ericksen, an environmental lawyer, was shown working for a corporate law firm; a job that made him miserable. He had resolved to say only positive things about his job and in one scene was asked how he liked his job. Marshall responded, “I have a very comfortable chair”. This is an extreme example but we do know that there is power in positive thought and focusing on the good in things. As a leader, there are some simple things you can do to help your team stay positive.

Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge included 12 Simple Truths in their book Helping People Win at Work. The book shares the business philosophy “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A”.  In other words, give people the tools they need to be successful; if they know what will be on the test they can get an A. Here are a few of my favorite Simple Truths:

Simple Truth 1 – Performing Well: What Makes People Feel Good About Themselves

This Truth addresses the importance of experiencing and then building on success. People need to know they are making progress. It is cumulative; people who get good results feel good about what they do and build their confidence. With that confidence they can go forward and get more good results.

Simple Truth 6 – The Ultimate Coaching Tool: Accentuating the Positive

It is important to catch people doing things right, even if you are only able to praise progress. Some managers show up when they need to correct a problem but forget to point out the positive contributions their team members make every day. When was the last time you went looking for a team member doing something right?

Simple Truth 12 – Celebrate Successes

Look for the good, celebrate it with your team members, and tell others.

I have heard many times from those who work in the public sector that they are limited in what they can do for their team members by regulations. There is no regulation that can limit your ability to approach leadership with the intent to serve those you lead. Be available, remove roadblocks to success, look for and point out the good in people every day. Positivity is contagious and leaders have the ability to spread happiness in their organization. Even if your team never mentions it they will see and react to your example.

In the end Marshall, an aspiring public servant, achieves his dream of becoming a judge. He finds his happiness in his dream job and no doubt spreads his joy every day. How have you helped your team members find their happiness and get an A?

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Building a 21st Century Government…One Leader at a Time

Federal Government MoraleWhen Obama’s budget plan for fiscal 2015 was released, the plan had its fair share of supporters and naysayers. There are obviously many sections to the plan, but there is one specific portion that addresses the challenge that a plethora of articles have been written about and many agencies are challenged with lately…leadership, and specifically leadership that could use a bit of an overhaul. Lately, there seems to be less and less agencies that are exempt from a lack of effective leadership. Even the Secret Service has been in the news recently claiming the agency is lacking the right leadership. Reports that I have referred to in this blog, such as the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government and the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), have found that leadership is on the decline and steps need to be taken now to avoid the situation from continuing to spiral downward.

Will the new budget plan be enough to change the current leadership crisis?

Obama’s goal to “create a 21st century government” includes addressing management initiatives to drive further growth and opportunity and “deliver a Government that is more effective, efficient, and supportive of economic growth.” The President’s budget plan incorporates the following strategies to begin tackling this leadership crisis:

  • Includes initiatives to deliver better, faster, and smarter services to citizens and businesses, including investing in new approaches to digital services to provide a world-class customer service experience to citizens and businesses to Government information technology.
  • Expands the use of shared services between Federal agencies and strategic sourcing to leverage the buying power of the Government, bringing greater value and efficiency for taxpayer dollars.
  • Continues to open Government data and research for public and private sector use to spur innovation and job creation, while ensuring strong privacy protections.
  • Invests in training, development, and recruitment of the Federal workforce, unlocking the potential of our Government and ensuring that we can attract and retain the best talent and foster a culture of excellence.

Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was requested to conduct a study to analyze the reasons why morale has declined to its current level and determine the steps that need to be taken to boost employee engagement, motivation, and productivity. Research of this caliber would be helpful to provide a set of guidelines to federal agencies that are in desperate need of a leadership change. The training investment President Obama has included in his budget plan is the right direction needed to initiate that change.

The Ken Blanchard Companies has worked with several organizations to conduct an Employee Work Passion assessment that measures employee perceptions revolved around twelve organization and job factors and the intentions that result from these perceptions. An individual employee’s perceptions influence not only their feelings about their job but also influence whether or not they intend to stay with the agency, their discretionary effort and productivity they put forth in their role, and their intent on how they endorse the agency. When an individual’s perceptions are understood, a strategy for improvement is recognized, thus improving individual morale and organizational success. Researchers at Blanchard conducted a study along with Training Magazine that centered on important factors regarding employee retention, job and organizational factors that survey participants felt were most important, and who was responsible for ensuring that the needs pertaining to those areas were met. Learn more about this study and the results the research team at Blanchard uncovered in the Employee Work Passion whitepaper.

What are your thoughts on Obama’s budget plan to implement more efficient leadership and management training and an overall positive perception in the Federal Government? Do you think it’s enough?

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6 Principles Of Committing To Your Commitment

Achieve Your Goals

Have you ever struggled with accomplishing, getting through, or getting started on something that you wanted to do? Many of us do. Often times we come up with an idea that we’re passionate about or that we know we can do but are hesitant to actually go through with it for fear we may fail or not have the drive or motivation to see it through.

In Ken Blanchard’s latest book, Fit at Last, Ken and fitness authority, Tim Kearin, follow Ken’s personal journey to improve his health and fitness. This quick read applies the battle with getting healthy and losing weight, something many of us can relate to, as an example of how sticking to a goal and making it happen can provide a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and happiness. Whether your goal is to get healthy, like Ken, start a business, or complete a major project at work, these six principles can keep you grounded as you tackle your goal.

Principle 1: Have Compelling Reasons and a Purpose

Figuring out what motivates you to make something a goal in the first place is the first principle that will set the stage to accomplishing your goal. Why do you want to do this? How will the outcome make you feel? What are the benefits that you will realize after this goal is met? If the goal is work related, find out whether or not your goal is aligned with your agency’s goals.

Principle 2: Establish a Mutual Commitment to Success

It’s tough to go it alone on any goal or task. Find someone who you care about, wants to see you succeed, and who can keep you motivated and remind you of why you started on this path in the first place. It is also important that you trust this person and value the feedback and support they can provide to you. Setting a mutual agreement that benefits both parties involved is a great way to not only hold you to your commitment, it also makes you want to accomplish your goal to reap the rewards once you reach your target.

Principle 3: Learn About Situational Leadership® II

Situational Leadership II (SLII) is a model that employs one common language and process for growing great leaders. It is a program that teaches leaders to analyze, diagnose, think, and apply leadership concepts effectively to reach their goals. SLII guides individuals at each developmental level, both business and personal, they encounter in every situation. When you have a clear understanding of your goal, your level of development, and the right leadership or support that helps you accomplish your objective, you increase your commitment, motivation, and productivity toward that task.

Principle 4: Develop Appropriate Goals

Jumping in and tackling a goal without carefully planning out your strategy can lead to burn-out and failure. Take the time to assess the goal and set some action items that will outline how you can accomplish each task. Making your goals SMART can also help you monitor your progress along the way.  Evaluate where you are at certain points so you can have a clear vision of how you are progressing in your goal.

Principle 5: Set up a Support System to Hold You Accountable

It’s inevitable that you’ll struggle at some point on your quest to accomplish your goal. When this occurs, it’s important to have a support system to keep you on track toward success. Whether it be a spouse, friend, or coworker at your agency, establish regular check-ins with this person or group to report on your progress. Again, trust is important here since you need to value the feedback that you receive from your support group in order to actually apply it.

Principle 6: Have Measurable Milestones to Stay Motivated

Anyone can become disengaged if they feel that they are not making progress on a goal or task. Setting specific milestones, big or small, will remind you of each success and how far you’ve come. Setting mini rewards along the way is another way to make your journey fun. Rewarding yourself suddenly turns your hard work into something that doesn’t even feel like work at all.

What other strategies do you use to stick to your goals and commit to your commitments?

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Dealing with a Bully at Work? Four Tips to Take Back the Power

bullyHave you ever been bullied? Have you supervised a team that included a bully? Though they sometimes go by other names, I have known my share of bullies and have struggled to deal with them at different times in my life. It doesn’t really matter if the bully is part of a little league soft ball team, a fellow student or a boss or co-worker. If you have a bully on your hands they probably will not just go away.

Repeated encounters with a bully can leave one feeling powerless, frustrated, and exhausted. At work, the consequences of dealing with a bully can include stolen credit for effort and ideas, loss of passion for the work or even a job. Government employees face an additional challenge because when someone does not fit into a team there are often limited alternatives.  No one likes to deal with a bully and while it is challenging, it is necessary to find a way to start a conversation and build a positive relationship.

The bully may be the aggressor but the target of a bully does have the power to make some changes:

  1. Draw up some solid boundaries to protect yourself. – We surround ourselves with family and friends who understand us best. We show them the closest version of our true self because we trust them. This is your inner circle and you should let them know you are struggling. Be honest and be sure they know that you may need a sympathetic ear but you should not expect them to solve your problem for you. You should rely on them to offer moral support. Ask them to remind you of your talents; build your confidence and you can wear it like armor.
  2. Recognize and own your feelings. – We each live in a reality that is uniquely ours. A combination of personality, past experience, emotional intelligence and learned behaviors make up our feelings and how we deal with them. I think of feelings as the layer of colored glass through which we each see the world. If you can separate your feelings from the situation, working toward a solution will become much easier.
  3. Open a dialogue that does not include accusations. - Sometimes a person who is behaving like a bully may not realize how they are being perceived or how they impact you. Remember, you want to find a way to work with the person, not around them; you want to solve the problem. It may feel like a big risk but if you don’t take the first step nothing can change. Talk about what you want from the relationship and how you would like to make a positive change in order to move forward.
  4. Don’t wait. – Bad news only spoils with age. Approaching someone to address a strained relationship will not get easier over time either. If you are not prepared to speak directly to the bully, approach your supervisor and ask for help as soon as you realize there is a problem.

Some people do not grow out of bullying behavior as adults. If you are impacted by their behavior and don’t let them know it, they may never get the chance to change. Addressing the issue can be difficult but the reward for taking that chance could be the working environment you have always wanted.

How have you dealt with bullies at your agency?

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Why You’re Really Hitting The Snooze Button

employee engagementMillions of people watched Gwen Dean as she quit her job as an engineer in a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl last week. Gwen’s dream was to start a puppeteer business, and with the help of GoDaddy.com, she is doing just that. Over 17 million of us have watched Marina Shifrin’s “I quit” video announcing her resignation from her role at a Taiwanese animation firm. Shifrin’s move landed her countless job offers, including an offer to be a digital content producer on Queen Latifah’s talk show. These decisions by Gwen, Marina, and others have caused some colorful feedback on whether or not the method they chose to leave their current jobs, in order to pursue their dreams, was appropriate. Despite that, these individuals have taken the steps to do what makes them happy, whether they loved their job or not.

CareerBuilder conducted a study and found that 1 in 5 U.S. workers will search for a new job in 2014, despite the economy and the unemployment rate. Gallup study results have shown that only 13% of employees are engaged at work, 63% are not engaged, and 24% are actively disengaged. (Go ahead and read that sentence again if you’re as shocked as I was by those stats.) Specifically in the federal sector, we’ve seen reports like the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government study uncover a steady decline in how satisfied government employees are with their jobs, leadership, and agencies.

A whitepaper, written by researchers at The Ken Blanchard Companies®, includes findings that state, “when employees perceive a manager is more concerned with his or her own agenda than with the welfare of others, negative affect is often the result. This is coupled by the employees’ reluctance to endorse the organization and its leadership, to stay with the organization, and to feel connected with their leader or colleagues.” The report goes on to affirm, “another implication for practice is for HR personnel and strategic leaders to create and sponsor leadership training programs and company values that stress and support servant leaders. Consistent, overt, self-concerned managers should be counseled and invited to become more aware of their behavior.”

Training magazine and The Ken Blanchard Companies asked over 800 Training magazine readers what they felt were the most important factors when it comes to staying engaged in the workplace. The responses include:

  • Job Factors—Autonomy, Meaningful Work, Feedback, Workload Balance, and Task Variety
  • Organizational Factors—Collaboration, Performance, Expectations, Growth, Procedural Justice (process fairness), and Distributive Justice (rewards, pay, and benefits)
  • Relationship Factors—Connectedness with Colleagues and Connectedness with Leaders

Are these factors aligned with what keeps you engaged at your agency? Share what additional factors are important for you to remain engaged and passionate about your role?

So the next time you’re about to hit the snooze button for the eighth time, think about if the factors that keep you engaged in the workplace exist with your current role.

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A Breakthrough Year for America

state of the union addressIn last night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama covered a lot of ground around topics like jobs and the economy, immigration, education, and energy. As with many of these addresses in the past, regardless who was serving as our country’s Chief of Staff, there are several mixed reviews of what the President had to say. Some may support the proposed initiatives highlighted last night, while others may have little faith that many of the changes will occur, and there are many articles already published that critique the address.

One constant that was evident and encompassed the entire Address was change. In order for America to grow, we need change. President Obama structured that change in the form of raising the minimum wage, offering equal pay for equal work, keeping the dream of homeownership alive, driving health insurance reform, providing next-generation connectivity, and incentivizing clean energy solutions, among others. Another change that caught my ear was the examination of federal job training programs.

President Obama stated he is involving Vice-President Biden in an “across the board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need.”  “That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life,” Obama said.

A change like this to federal job training programs could solve a complex issue that is facing our government—leadership deficiency. Agencies need to develop their leaders and equip them with the skills needed to develop into a candidate for the Senior Executive Service (SES) or other leadership positions that are currently unfilled. With a vast number of federal employees set to retire, many agencies will soon be faced with the conundrum of who will fill those leadership roles. Considering that this next generation will lead the federal agencies that support the overall mission of our country, let’s hope that Obama’s hope to reform federal job training programs includes leadership training.

What did you think about President Obama’s State of the Union Address last night?

Are you ready for a Year of Action?

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8 Values of Teleworking on a Snow Day or Any Day

benefits of teleworkToday is a snow day for government employees in DC. Oh, wait, never mind. You still have to get to the office but you are allowed a two-hour delayed arrival time due to inclement weather in the DC area. Some federal government employees may choose to brave the weather and make their way through the snow to get to work, while others will take advantage of the opportunity to take an unscheduled telework day.

Those that choose the latter will reap the benefits of several values that come along with teleworking, according to a study, that also includes a ROI Toolkit, conducted by the Mobile Work Exchange in conjunction with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The findings review the advantages that not only individual government employees enjoy by teleworking but the value that the agency benefits from by authorizing more employees to work in a mobile work environment.

Commuting costs - By teleworking at least one day per week; employees can save time and money on their commute. This benefit is primarily for the employee, however, the agency can still use this value to increase a current employee’s commitment or attract new talent to the agency.

Transit subsidies – This value helps agencies save money by reducing the amount of transit subsidies processed by employees who are able to decrease their commuting miles or work from a mobile location.

Environmental impact – Executive Order 13514, signed by President Obama in October 2009, requires agencies to meet a standard reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. This teleworking value can support agencies’ efforts in meeting that goal and help the environment. Employees are also able to use less transportation, thus reducing their carbon footprint.

Continuity of operations (COOP) – A disruption in business operations can cost millions in lost productivity. We’ve seen evidence of this in unexpected office closures due to harsh weather in the past, as well as during the government shutdown late last year. Agencies can avoid this by ensuring that their staff is able to do their jobs from home or other remote locations.

Productivity – Many teleworkers report an increase in productivity and an increase in actual amount of time spent working when they telework due to less distractions and the elimination of the time required to commute to and from the office.

Recruitment/retention – As employees try to find the right work/life balance, many are praising the ability to telework as a means to achieving that perfect balance. This flexibility helps agencies retain their top talent and avoid the high cost of recruiting, onboarding, and training new employees.

Real estate – Desk sharing and hotel spaces are two ways agencies can reduce the amount of office space required by its employees. Federal workers can collaborate with one another and coordinate their schedules so each can utilize the same office space on varying days of the week, eliminating the need for more desk space.

Utilities – In turn, when agencies eliminate the need for so much office space, utilities such as gas, electric, and water are reduced and the agency is able to save on those costs. During Telework Week 2012, USDA asked eligible employees to telework one day per week. Following that week, the agency calculated the cost savings on utilities to be equivalent to what 50 homes would use over the course of one week. Imagine if more agencies adopted this policy more often!

Telework Week 2014 just around the corner! Last year, over 136,000 government employees participated in Telework Week saving $12.3 million in commuting costs, reclaiming 665,936 hours back into their day, eliminating 7,892 tons of pollutants from the air, and saving 12.1 million driving miles. Now isn’t that better than a two-hour delayed start time? Pledge to telework the week of March 3-7 and reap the benefits for both you and your agency.

Share how teleworking has saved your agency money.

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