Archive for category Collaboration

Why Work? Moving from Compliance to Commitment

Diverse Business People on a MeetingWhy do people work?  Thinking beyond the basics (health insurance, income to meet obligations, etc.) is crucial for any agency leader looking to develop initiatives designed to improve engagement and productivity.

Asking why helps leaders identify ways to move from compliance to commitment.  When that occurs, individuals and teams will put forth extra effort to achieve desired outcomes, contribute to continuous improvement efforts, and anticipate actions that will prevent undesired consequences.

Here are three methods for sparking a vested interest in your agency’s mission and moving individuals beyond compliance. (And they don’t require any incremental costs beyond fiscal year budgets!)

  1. Give employees a voice.

When employees feel as if they have a voice in how things get done, a vested interest is created. This vested interest builds commitment and a desire to exercise discretionary effort.  Focus groups are a good place to start—they provide a forum for employees to respond to a basic framing question: “What’s working well and what’s not?”  Be sure to create a safe harbor of anonymity where employees know their ideas and constructive feedback will not be met with punishment.  Also, make sure that focus group ideas are acknowledged and acted upon.

  1. Use action learning projects.

Appoint teams to address potential solutions. In this context, requesting a team of individual contributors to explore options demonstrates that other views and opinions count and can make a difference. Moreover, individuals who normally do not work together can have an opportunity to collaborate and build connections across departments. A corresponding benefit is that the selection of individuals for these teams can be treated as a form of recognition.

  1. Create process improvement teams.

Launch a practice by which individuals can recommend changes. This practice will generate excitement about shaping agency practices and demonstrate that going beyond compliance can be rewarding. This is a place where a proven methodology such as Six Sigma can provide structure and a proven framework to ensure constructive channeling.

Empower Your People to Identify, Solve, and Recommend

When employees are asked to explore options, provide solutions, and recommend action steps, they become an extension of leadership and are increasingly engaged in agency decision making and success. Don’t miss the opportunity to inject a healthy dose of empowerment into your work environment. Give people an opportunity to contribute in ways beyond the basic need to work.  You’ll be surprised at the difference it can make in turning a compliance mentality into commitment.

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3 Tips to Encourage Collaboration

Many of the people I know who work in the public sector were drawn to their jobs by a desire to serve, to make a difference in their community or the country. After landing that first desk job though, I have also seen them lose their drive. If you’ve ever done it, you know, sitting in a cubicle day after day, surrounded by endless paperwork and coworkers who checked out years ago is anything but fun.

Getting stuck in a routine is a hazard of many desk jobs. Being around complacency is often contagious. But you don’t have to catch it and you can help build an environment that is invigorating rather than draining.

  1. Spend time innovating – It will not always be successful but actively spending time thinking about how to improve a processes, offer a better experience to customers, or solve a problem is important. It is not only useful but can be invigorating. You won’t always find a solution but working on problems and processes will keep you and your team focused on a positive future.
  2. Make time to move around – Get up, take a walk, talk to neighbors, or go to someone else’s workspace to ask a question instead of calling. A change of scenery, however small is important. You never know what you’ll learn when you get out of your regular space.
  3. Remind your team to engage their customer – Even if the only customer is internal, make a point to check in and ask if there is anything they would like to see change. It’s easy to operate with blinders on; you can’t always see how others are impacted by your habits and processes. If you and your team make a habit of asking for and responding to feedback you will learn a lot about how others work and what they really need.

Being motivated about work is not about the financial reward but the emotional reward when you experience success and satisfaction from making a meaningful and positive impact. Mixing up the routine and interacting will help create a collaborative environment. Team members can draw on the unique experiences they have which makes everyone stronger. One of my favorite sayings around the office is: “None of us is as smart as all of us”. It is the theme of High Five by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles that explains “the magic of working together”.

How do you keep your team excited about their work?  Is there something you do regularly to remind yourself why you love your job?

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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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3 Steps to Discover and Retain the Intrapreneur at Your Organization

intrapreneur, change, innovationChange is a constant. Like it or not, it is inevitable that at some point throughout your career, you will experience a change that forces you to rethink everything; your goals, your strategy, your outlook, maybe even your job. Nobody is exempt from change. Despite whatever GS level you currently hold or where you reside on the corporate ladder, change will find a way to squeeze onto your to-do list. When most people think of change, they think of current events that unenthusiastically impact an agency from the outside in, much like the shutdown or sequestration. The change that I’m referring to is change that comes from the inside and, if leaders are paying attention, has the opportunity to transform the way an agency, even the government, does business.  The change agents that initiate these transformations are called intrapreneurs.

Intrapreneur is not a new marketing buzzword. Most people have heard of these idea generating, passionate, radical thinkers. Many companies, like Google and Apple, encourage their employees to spend time thinking outside the box to come up with the next innovative idea. The challenge, when you’ve been lucky enough to uncover a forward thinker within your organization, is preventing leadership from the unbearable internal resistance that can cause intrapreneurs to take their ideas and run. This is the last thing that government agencies need to happen while they try to obtain and retain the talent they already possess. If you are lucky enough to have an intrapreneur working at your agency, there are steps you can take to make sure they don’t jump ship at the first opportunity.

Allow Employees Time to Think – There may be an intrapreneur right under your nose and you may not even realize it. Heck, they may not even realize it! A good leader encourages and coaches individuals to instill forward thinking. Inspire your staff. Build confidence. Empower their originality. Lead change.

Nurture New Ideas – A new idea doesn’t have to derail the overall strategy of the agency. Often times, leaders dismiss what could have been a more efficient and innovative concept, that contributed to the accomplishment of the agency’s mission, simply because it’s outside the routine way the organization does business. As a leader, recognize that your ideas are not the only good ideas that come out of your department. Work with your staff, don’t dictate, about how their ideas could or couldn’t work for your agency.

Incorporate Innovative Ideas into Daily Tasks – Not all ideas will work for your agency but when a thought-out concept is brought to the table, don’t immediately dismiss it unless you’ve given it a test run. Try incorporating innovative ideas into the daily tasks that are already working for your agency. By changing the routine up just a bit, you might uncover a more efficient way of performing a task or accomplishing a goal. Taking small steps to test out a new idea can set a leader’s mind at ease by avoiding a significant set-back that could occur by taking the idea full throttle too soon. It can also make the intrapreneur feel valued, trusted, and supported knowing that their idea spurred a positive change within the agency.

People often resist change when they’re not a part of the change process. Create a culture where intrapreneurship thrives and ground-breaking ideas are encouraged and the idea generators will want to support the mission.

Are you an intrapreneur? How does your agency allow for intrapreneurship at your agency?

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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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Transforming American Governance

Today’s post was written by guest blogger, Alan P. Balutis.  Alan is the Senior Director and Distinguished Fellow for Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group.

Our nation faces a large – and growing – long-term fiscal imbalance driven by an aging population, which will dramatically increase health care and retirement costs. A report by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget, with the assistance of the Government Accountability Office, stated that “Unless action is taken to bring program costs in line with available resources, the coming surge of entitlement spending will end in a fiscal train wreck. . .”

Today's leaders must be partners with their people.

The nation certainly faces other challenges: the continuing war on terror, increasing economic competition from emerging world powers like China and India, rising energy costs, environmental concerns, and other new and unknown problems and threats. Any one of the challenges would be a large enough agenda for a President and Congress. Their convergence creates an atmosphere of unparalleled complication for government management.

The nation, then, has no shortage of problems to solve. The question is whether it will adapt new approaches to the management of government to meet the challenges it faces. Facing these challenges will require a “changed” government, a 21st-century government transformed to operate on demand. Eighty percent of people in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll described themselves as either “angry” or “dissatisfied” with the way Washington works – the highest that number has been in nearly 20 years. With confidence in government at a historic low, the time for action is now.

What characteristics would a transformed “21st-century government have? Although the outline of such a government is becoming clearer, the literature has yet to describe a real model or even its key characteristics. Transforming American Governance: Rebooting the Public Square is designed to help public management practitioners, thought leaders, theorists, and researchers to ask the right questions as we move forward in this uncharted territory. The book, just out from M.E. Sharpe, was edited by Terry Buss, Dwight Ink, and Alan Balutis. We have assembled a prominent cast of experts to envision the future of government and governance on a broad scale, covering social policy, managing and regulating the economy, federalism and the states, and the new international order.

Our experts have come at this issue from different perspectives. Our contributors view the question from the perspective of public administration theory and the administrative state. They discuss it within the framework of such current policy challenges as the nation’s fiscal crisis and our ongoing war on terrorism. They debate it as it affects state and local governance and ponder the question, “Whither American Federalism?” They speculate about exactly how government will respond, while some assert that the answers already exist in the past – or current and emerging – changes and reform models. And they ponder the future – as a new Millennial generation enters public service, powerful 2.0 social networking, collaborative technologies become more prevalent, and new models of citizen engagement, and even co-production, change the very nature of government itself and/or government management.

These trends will dramatically affect what it is like to work in the public sector. New forms of coordination and control will evolve. Governments will place a premium on the skills of orchestration and facilitation and the ability to recognize the credibility and authority of sources of policy insights and advice outside the formal structures of the public sector. New accountability methods will be developed to match the radically dispersed and collaborative nature of public purpose work. Governments will need to make their own workplaces flatter, more connected, and less hierarchical, more in tune with the values and behavior of the talented people who need to be attracted to public service. Scott Blanchard, Drea Zigarmi and their colleagues at The Ken Blanchard Companies have contributed an intriguing chapter on the Leadership Purpose Chain in Governmental Organizations. There is certainly the need in governments today to answer the questions these authors pose, such as how to build leadership capabilities, what can leaders do to increase organizational performance, and so on.

You can read more about how to approach this transformation or the Leadership Purpose Chain by ordering a copy of Transforming American Governance: Rebooting the Public Square .

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