Archive for category Attitude

Overachievers Anonymous and the 80/20 Rule

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My name is Amber and I am an overachiever and a perfectionist at heart… I often hold myself to an unachievable standard, something I have worked hard to stop doing over the years. For a long time I knew this was my worst habit, but did not know how to give myself permission to let some things go. I often found myself overcommitted, overwhelmed and burnt out.

People who push themselves too hard and expect too much are setting their own path to failure. Whether you are paralyzed with fear of failure, fear of missing out, or over commit and cheat yourself out of leisure time, those overly ambitious expectations can lead to disappointment.

Years ago, a few colleagues and I formed what we jokingly called Overachievers Anonymous. We would catch each other in the halls and take a minute to chat and laugh about whatever was the latest example of our reach for perfectionism. It was the first time I got real feedback about my unrealistic expectations. It was helpful because it was a safe way to recognize challenges, attempt to make adjustments, and laugh through it instead of being frustrated.

More than anything the 80/20 Rule has helped me move forward. This is the idea that 80 percent of what is accomplished is completed with 20 percent of effort. It reminds us that if we prioritize and set goals, we will be able to accomplish the most important things, and often have time left over to do the little things too.

For overachievers, is important to recognize that others may not hold themselves to your standards. Nor do they hold you to those standards. We do that on our own. Here are some basic tips I used to determine what is important and should be my focus:

  1. Identify the important things – For yourself and your team, you need to know how you define success in career, family, even health.
  2. Set achievable SMART goals – Remember to apply the 80/20 Rule. Don’t assume your team know and remember their goals, talk about them often. You can find out about SMART Goals here.
  3. Get some perspective – Ask someone you trust to point out when you are being too hard on yourself and your team.
  4. Schedule breaks in your day and your year – It is important to have some real down time to recharge. I mean, the get-out-in-nature, meditate, travel, or whatever feeds your soul type of break. Schedule a walk into your day, set a regular lunch with a friend, and go on vacation! You really will be better off in the long run.

With practice I’ve learned to relax, stay focused, and to live without perfection. I don’t always get it right. Sometimes I even let go a little too much. But life is about learning and it gets easier with practice.

What helps you remember to focus on the truly important? How do you keep your own bad habits from getting in your way?

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Leading a Team to Perform

TeamThere are few jobs today that allow a person to work autonomously. Certainly in government there are many examples of jobs that are interdependent. Even at its most basic level, the branches of government must work together to pass a bill into law. Teams are important. As important as teamwork is in government and business today, working on a team is not always easy, and leading a team successfully can be downright difficult. When it does work, a successful team can feel like magic and every task is easier to complete.

The important thing about successful teams is that they bring together the strengths of a group to work toward a common goal or purpose. Successful teams often view members as equal and have a leader who is just as comfortable taking the lead as he is to step back and let an expert take the reins at the right time.

No one person is as strong or smart as a team but sometimes things or people get in the way. While the leader is not the most important part of a team, he can make or break that team. The best team I have been a part of had a leader who openly admitted he did not know the best way to meet our shared goal. He was often heard letting anyone who would listen know his team was a group of experts who could handle any job they took on. His humility combined with the steadfast belief in his team mates made him a great colleague. His ability to set reasonable goals, communicate effectively, and keep the team on task made him one of the best leaders I’ve met. He wasn’t the magic that made that particular team work but he flamed the fire and built up every team member so they were free to excel.

Being a great team leader is not about being the best in your field, it is about setting up the team for success. The Ken Blanchard Companies promotes the Perform Model as a way to highlight the important aspects of a high performing team:

Purpose & Values
Empowerment
Relationships & Communication
Flexibility
Optimal Performance
Recognition & Appreciation
Morale

With a skilled and knowledgeable team, the leader must only bring them together and help them to move in the right direction. The best question a leader of mine ever asked me is “How can I help you reach your goal?” Team leaders of highly skilled teams are not the stars of the show but facilitators, who get the team in place and cheer the team on throughout the race.

Have you worked on or do you lead a high functioning team? What worked best for you?

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What the Government Shutdown Taught Me

What I learned from the government shutdownWe’re all familiar by now with the impact the 2013 Government Shutdown had on government employees, the American people, and the economy. Just to recap a few statistics from the shutdown; 6.6 million days of lost work, $2 billion in back-pay costs, 120,000 private sector jobs lost, estimated decrease of fourth quarter real GDP of 0.2-0.6 percent, and roughly 850,000 Federal employees furloughed per day. You can read additional statistics in the full report, Impacts and Costs of the October 2013 Federal Government Shutdown, issued by The White House.

These are difficult facts to think about and acknowledge. Additionally, the 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results were posted last week by the OPM and it shouldn’t be a surprise that of the 77 areas included in the survey, 53 show decreases in satisfaction among Federal employees. Since I work for a leadership development organization, I try to seek out the learning opportunities in every situation. Fortunately, I received an email from my friend, Jeffrey Vargas, Chief Learning Officer at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that outlined what he learned from the shutdown. I found it to be an impressive list that can be applied to both the public and private sector. I hope you enjoy the list as much as I did and find at least one silver lining from it.

Well done, Jeff!

What I learned from the shutdown – Jeff Vargas

1. Save, save, save $$.
2. Trust in God, even when he is silent.
3. Appreciate your job/coworkers.
4. Anxiety produces no fruit, prayer calms the soul.
5. Import and export encouragement.
6. Appreciate your friends.
7. Honor your medical needs/health condition – don’t always eat in a hurry, enjoy lunch.
8. Appreciate your church.
9. Appreciate your role as a parent.
10. Dare to dream.
11. Control what you can control and let go of the rest.
12. Develop plans B, C, and D for your life.
13. The one who has power has a plan – discover Gods plan for your life, listen to the everlasting architect.
14. Government executives and members of congress should dress in jeans, shorts and football jerseys; builds a sense of team and belonging.
15. All opinions don’t warrant a response.
16. Truth – Don’t pay attention to uninformed idiots who have never worked a day in a federal agency but believe they know how to run a government better than you do. Trust your experience.
17. Walk at least 30 minutes a day.
18. Having a daily routine isn’t so bad.
19. Your biggest investment of self should be in people, not technology, systems, or process.
20. The Good Shepard takes care of His sheep – God has blessed me with a better life than I ever deserved and I am forever grateful for His grace, love, and provision. He gets all the praise.

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Put the SERVE Back in Public Service – 5 Ways to Rebuild Trust in Government

JFKIs it my imagination or was there once a time when government service was considered a noble and worthy endeavor?

Elected representatives, appointed officials, and even hired employees viewed public service as a calling rather than a job, inspired by ideals such as self-sacrifice, civic duty, compassion, patriotism, and social justice. President John F. Kennedy’s call to “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” epitomizes these lofty principles of public service.

I’m sure there are many individuals in government service who still hold to these ideals, but our government leaders as a whole seem to have lost sight of their role to SERVE the public interests and instead thinks it exists to be served. As a result, Americans have developed a chronic sense of mistrust toward government. The Pew Research Center’s October survey of Americans’ trust in government reported that only 19% trust the government to do what is right almost always or most of the time. This is down seven points since January and matches the level reached in August 2011, following the last battle over the debt ceiling.

So what can government leaders do to regain the trust of the citizenry? They can start by putting the SERVE back into public service.

Start listening – There seems to be an awful lot of talking going on in Washington but not much listening. Trusted leaders apply Stephen Covey’s fifth habit: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Taking the time to listen to the needs, concerns, and feedback of your people, and incorporating their ideas where appropriate, builds trust in your leadership. Listening to others signals that you value them as people and believe their ideas have merit, whereas constantly talking makes you come across as an uncaring “know it all.”

Embody the ideals of public service – A leader’s actions are a reflection of his beliefs and values. Do the actions of our leaders in Washington show they deeply value the ideals of self-sacrifice, honor, duty, and compassion? Leaders build trust by acting with integrity. That means they hold honorable values, and more importantly, live them out. They walk the talk and not just talk the talk.

Realize it’s not about you – Our governmental leaders are supposed to be public servants. What is the attitude of a servant? It’s one that places the needs of others ahead of his own. Public service should be servant leadership in action. Servant leadership doesn’t mean a mamby-pamby, weak style of leadership that lets “the inmates run the asylum.” It means the leader charts the vision and direction of the team and then works to provide team members the resources, training, direction, and support it needs to be successful.

Veto your ego – Ego is the enemy of public service leadership. Leadership positions in the government often bring access to high levels of power, and nothing is more tempting to the ego than power. Leaders have to actively guard against letting their ego get out of control by surrounding themselves with truth-tellers, people who aren’t afraid to share the unvarnished truth. Too many leaders in Washington have insulated themselves with “yes men,” people who believe and think alike, and that allows group-think to reign and egos to run wild.

Engage in transparent leadership – It’s hard to trust leaders who don’t share information about themselves or the organization. Information is viewed as power, and too many leaders withhold information so they can retain power and control. Withholding information also sends the subtle message that a leader believes people can’t be trusted to know or use the information appropriately. People without information cannot act responsibly, whereas people with information are compelled to act responsibly. Transparent leadership doesn’t mean all information is shared at all times with all people. It means leaders and organizations share information in an honest, forthright manner as appropriate for the situation at hand.

Public service is a noble profession that deserves leaders of the highest caliber. Putting the SERVE back in public service is a way for government leaders to get back to basics, to the ideals of what public service once was and still deserves to be.

Randy Conley is the Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies. For more insights on trust and leadership, visit Randy at his Leading with Trust blog or follow him on Twitter @RandyConley.

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You Forgot Your Socks… Again?! Leadership Priorities in a Time of Change

Leadership Priorities in a Time of ChangeToday’s post was written by How Gov Lead’s new contributing author, Amber Hansen.  Amber has worked in Government contracting for over nine years. She is currently a Project Manager working with Federal Government clients at The Ken Blanchard Companies. Watch this blog for more thought leadership from Amber.

Have you ever met someone who is really great at one part of their job and terrible at another?  I happen to be married to a man who for many years was a Navy Corpsman who loved his job but struggled with some of what comes with being in the military.  I once heard a leader of his say he was “an amazing Corpsman and a terrible sailor.”  To put it in very simple terms, that means he was really good at caring for his patients and training junior members of his team and not so great at keeping his uniform in order and being on time.  This leader understood clearly that my husband had significant strengths but like all of us, he had weaknesses, too.

What happens when forgetting to bring the right kind of socks for a uniform becomes a reason to be reprimanded at work?  That may depend on one’s leader.  Some of us are truly adept at handling the details of life; we might keep backup socks in the car just in case.  Others just do not think this way.  My husband is very bright, he learns things quickly, takes what he believes is useful and leaves behind what he sees as a bit of a waste of his time.  I suspect the things that may have made him a good sailor, like bringing the right pair of socks, were the same things that appeared to him to be a waste of time.  In my husband’s world, ensuring he had the right medical supplies packed for a mission ranked just a little higher than the socks.  If my life depended on him and I had to choose between socks and medical supplies I would be glad to have left the socks behind.

Some of the military leaders I have met would focus on those missing socks because they see that as the foundation to doing the rest of any job well.  They could not see past the socks to find a truly valuable and talented team member.  They allowed the socks to become the focus of their interaction with a Corpsman who by the end of his career was influencing the careers of junior Corpsman, helping them build their skills, improve their productivity, and learn to teach others.

Our military is dealing with stressors many civilians cannot fully comprehend.  From multiple deployments and Post Traumatic Stress to shrinking budgets and less time and resources to train; our military members work hard and they deserve leaders who are prepared to support and serve them. Our military and government leaders need to be innovative in this new world of looming sequester budgets and ongoing wars. And they must ensure their teams are able to fully realize their potential in order to bring the most value to the organization and to themselves. Empowerment is key!

When a team member can’t seem to remember to bring the right socks the leader must set him up to succeed anyway.  Helping that direct report remember to “bring the appropriate socks” may seem like a waste of time, but if it is a waste of time for the leader, perhaps that is the heart of the reason it’s a waste of time for the individual.  If a leader can show that helping that sailor succeed with his socks, the payoff is that the sailor will trust the leader to help him succeed in much more significant ways.

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Motivating Your Employees When Change is Looming Around the Corner

Fiscal cliff, political objections, merging agencies, and pay decrease discussions around the water cooler have many government employees concerned.   Many of us are wondering what exactly 2013 is going to look like for ourselves and for our country.  Now is the time for agency leaders to take action and encourage their teams.

Culture can be a powerful change agent.  If you think about high performing agencies, most of them have a clear culture that is actually implemented within the organization.  An agency’s culture generally dictates the values, vision, and missions.  It is an indicator of how the agency gets things done on a daily basis.  When leaders adhere to the culture when integrating change, it will support and encourage employee’s reaction to the change.

Can you explain your agency’s culture?  Are your goals and the goals of your team members aligned with the organizations culture?  If not, this could be a great discussion to have in your next one-on-one meeting with your employees.  Employees that know their performance and success is contributing to the success of the organization are more motivated, confident, and passionate about what they do.

Involving your employees with the agency’s mission can lead to confident, engaged, and high performing individuals.  Studies reveal that the more employees are involved in the decisions of a change that will impact them, the more committed they are to the agency.  In turn, the more committed they are, the better their performance.  The better their performance, the more effective the agency will be at accomplishing their mission.

Would you be more accepting of a decision that was made by others and dictated to you or would you rather have an opportunity to provide your contribution and feedback to that decision?  An effective way to implement any change is to allow those who have to endure the change to be involved in the change process.

Our immediate reaction to change tends to be objection.  This is where leaders can really use their skills and influence a direct report’s perception of the impending change.  An employee’s supervisor is the first line of defense against a closed-minded approach to change.  Scheduling regular one-on-one meetings, building trust, and providing the tools the employee needs to successfully overcome the negative mind-set that can occur during change can be the difference in an employee staying with the agency versus leaving for another job.

Do you have a strategy to resolve people’s concern and negative mind-set on change?  Ken Blanchard, author and co-founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies, reveals that “none of us is as smart as all of us.”  Shifting your employee’s outlook can often lead to a change of heart and commitment to the agency.

Want to hear more about how you can motivate yourself and your employees?  Join Dr. David Facer, author of Optimal Motivation, today at 12:00pm EST today as he shares a fresh approach to motivation that can increase employee engagement, productivity, and employee well-being.  Now who doesn’t want that during these hard times?

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Engaged Employees–4 steps to finding your “pockets of excellence”

At a recent conference in Richmond, VA, I had a chance to conduct a workshop with 160 Legislative Clerks and Secretaries.  It was part of a week-long National Conference of State Legislatures.  The topic for the morning session was Creating an Engaging Work Environment. In an exercise during the session, I asked participants to remember a time when they were the most engaged in their work environments.

Participants thought back over their past and present experiences and shared with each other some of the factors that created such an engaging environment.  Factors such as meaningful work, growth opportunities, collaborative work environment, trusting and caring relationships were all mentioned.

Next we looked specifically at their present roles and work environments. Using a six point scale they evaluated their current work environment on 12 different factors that Blanchard research has identified as contributing to individual engagement and passion.

While their scores averaged a “4” on the 6-point scale, there were also “2s” and “6s” included in that average.  This is true anytime you bring a group of people togetherthere is always a wide variation of scores that an average often conceals.  While an organization may score a “4” overall, the reality is that the average represents some low scores as well as pockets of excellence.

So what does a smart leader do?  Actively seek out both groups for more information.

You want to identify low scores early on so you can address them.  You also want to identify pockets of excellence so that you can learn from them.  In our work with clients, one of the biggest ways we help is by identifying these high performing pockets so that best practices can be shared with others.

4 steps to identifying your pockets of excellence

How’s your organization doing when it comes to measuring overall engagement levels?  Do you know where your pockets of excellence are operating?  If not, here’s a 4-step process to get you started.

  1. Conduct an employee engagement survey across your entire organization.  Be sure to capture responses from as many different functions, sub-units, and teams as possible.  Survey widely.
  2. Review responses and look for patterns at the team, functional, or location level.  Identify your individual pockets of disengagement and pockets of excellence.
  3. Conduct follow-up interviews—especially with your pockets of excellence.  Your goal is to find out what is contributing to high ratings.  What managerial practices or environmental factors are contributing to positive employee perceptions?
  4. Share best practices broadly across other units.  Share the practical strategies that you discover from individual teams and units with others in the organization.

Too often we think that the answer is “out there” somewhere.  The best ideas are usually closer to home.  Be sure that you are looking for them!

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