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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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Six Challenges Consuming Federal Agencies And How To Overcome Them

Government agencies are being confronted with a multitude of challenges that are forcing leadership to make some drastic changes. Decreased budgets, increasing workloads, and high turn-over are just a few hurdles that agency leaders have to overcome as they struggle to improve the general consensus of working for the federal government. Earlier this year, fifty-five Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) were interviewed on the state of the federal workforce and the challenges they encounter in the federal government.

These interviews were conducted by the Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton, LLP and their findings were recently published in the report, Bracing for Change. What they uncovered after talking with these CHCOs were six challenges that are evident in the federal government: declining budgets, higher employee turnover, inadequate succession planning, lack of key competencies, gaps in agency leadership skills, and job satisfaction and communication issues.

Budget-cuts are not a new topic in the federal government. Agency employees have had to endure pay freezes, increased workloads, and limited resources. These conditions can lead to a decline in productivity, motivation, and engagement. According to the report, 72% of CHCOs are anticipating workforce reductions as a result of plunging budgets. These circumstances, along with the influx of government employees at or near retirement, are leading to high turnover. When these individuals leave, they’ll take vast amounts of experience and expertise along with them. Will the next generation of leaders have what it takes to step up and fill that gap? Inadequate succession planning, another challenge facing agencies, is causing CHCOs to wonder if future leaders possess the skills required for the roles they’re about to step into. Surprisingly, only twenty-seven percent of the CHCOs interviewed said their agency’s succession planning was sufficiently gearing-up employees to take on a leadership role.

When asked about the overall competency of agency’s HR staff, only forty-two percent viewed them as a trusted advisor. This number was down from forty-six percent in 2010. But it’s not only the HR staff that is getting a raised eyebrow. Only eighteen percent feel that agency leaders possess the skills needed to be successful and lead their staff. It’s no surprise then that federal employees are wavering in their commitment and satisfaction with their jobs and agencies are having a tough time attracting new talent.

The good news is that not all hope is lost. Based on these interviews and the feedback provided from the participating CHCOs, there are several recommendations on how to overcome these challenges and set-backs.

Reform the civil service system – The phrase, never let a crisis go to waste, has some bearings in this situation. Now is the time for government officials to turn things around to rethink pay and compensation reform, further improve the federal hiring system, update veterans preference laws and merit systems protections.

Stay the course on initiatives that are achieving results – Now is not the time to shy away from certain initiatives because they consume scarce resources. Investing in training to improve staff skill-set, devising ways to grow great leaders within the agency, and using metrics to guide decision-making will aid agencies in meeting their missions.

Improve succession planning – With the impending number of employees leaving the organization due to retirement and other reasons, many agencies must ensure knowledge transfer and skill-set for the next generation of government leaders.

Increase standardization of HR IT and use of shared services – Limited resources are forcing agencies to abandon their own unique systems. Many are relying on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to guide and support them on this issue.

Use available data and metrics – Utilizing available data to communicate with employees and increase transparency can lead to more engaged, committed, and passionate employees.

Implementing these recommendations based on the challenges most agencies are facing, can be a difficult task. How do you communicate change to your staff? How can employees open up to their managers and discuss the struggles they’re having within the workforce? You can learn how by signing up for an upcoming webinar featuring Eryn Kalish, professional mediator and relationship expert. Eryn will address these sensitive issues, reveal an important skill that can make a huge impact, and explain how to create a positive work environment that will lead to passionate employees that want to perform at their best. Sign-up to learn more!

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From Vegas to Colombia: Scandals Impacting Government Leadership

Scandal is nothing new to the White House. Many of us can recall several “mishaps” involving former presidents. This time, however, it’s the Secret Service. On April 11th, a dozen Secret Service agents and eleven military personnel were involved in an incident that involved partying at a local nightclub in Cartagena, Colombia, heavy drinking, and involvements with prostitutes while preparing for a visit by President Obama. Since that event, two supervisors who were involved in the scandal have been identified and removed from their positions. The case has been all over the news and has been causing quite a stir for the agency responsible for the well-being of the President of the United States.

Just as they did with the GSA scandal, lawmakers, citizens, government workers, and the media have been questioning the integrity, ethics, and accountability of the agency. So who is responsible? Who will ensure behavior like this will never happen again? President Obama has said that he has full trust in the Secret Service Director, Mark Sullivan, to continue the investigation and take the appropriate corrective actions needed. That’s all fine and dandy, but what about the trust that the American people, who are losing millions of their tax dollars due to these scandals, have lost for our government? Randy Conley, Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies, says that leaders must purposely engage in four trust-building behaviors in order for individuals to maintain confidence with their leader. Those behaviors include:

  • Demonstrate competence
  • Act with integrity
  • Care about others
  • Maintain reliability

After reading many articles and watching several news stories about both scandals, I can’t say that those involved with the GSA and Secret Service events practiced these four behaviors. So what corrective actions can government leaders now take to ensure that debauchery such as this won’t continue at other agencies? After all, people do make mistakes. Even with the best of intentions, leaders make mistakes that impact the commitment, morale, and performance of the people who work for them. With investigations in both cases still underway, we’ll have to wait and see the effects that these scandals will have on the future leadership and behaviors of our government.

Want to learn three actionable steps leaders can take to self-diagnose, assess, and change unwanted behaviors? Take a break at 9:00am PST/12:00pm EST today to listen to best-selling author and consultant Chris Edmonds share insight on how leaders can avoid making some common mistakes.

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Leadership in Las Vegas

Another official at the General Service Administration (GSA) was named in the scandal that has shocked the agency. Earlier this month, it was announced that several top officials at the GSA were accused of lavish spending at a Las Vegas training conference in 2010. Martha Johnson was one of the initial employees to resign from the agency. Before submitting her resignation, Johnson fired Public Buildings Service Commissioner, Robert Peck and senior adviser, Stephen Leeds. Since then, several other officials have been named in the scandal and are under investigation. To add insult to injury, several videos are now surfacing bragging and poking fun at the excessive spending the agency is responsible for from 2010.

What went wrong with the leadership at the GSA? When Martha Johnson was brought on as the GSA administrator in 2010, did she intentionally set out to go astray in leading her staff? Did the other officials involved in this incident take the time to consider what type of leadership skills they were portraying in Las Vegas? Being a leader is a full-time job. There are no breaks. A leader’s actions not only influence the organization, they also influence the level of satisfaction of the individuals working at the organization. A new book written by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller entitled, Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life describes four factors that promote great leaders and encourages them to challenge and stretch themselves both on and off the job. These four factors are reflected in the GROW acronym:

                Gain Knowledge

                Reach Out to Others

                Open Your World

                Walk Toward Wisdom

 Want to learn more about the four keys to becoming a leader for life? Watch this webinar that will teach you the four strategies to reaching your highest potential.

Do you possess the skills to be a great leader? Take this personal assessment, based on the GROW model to find out.

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The Boss Knows Best?

Today’s blog was written by guest blogger, David Carroll, Consulting Partner with the Ken Blanchard Companies and President of Carroll and Associates. David also writes for his own blog, Leadership Manager.

Organizations today are constantly undergoing change in order to stay competitive. These changes demand flexibility, fluidity, and innovation as well as a high priority on being “people-focused.”  Customers and employees both must feel that the organization cares passionately about them.  This only happens when organizations, and the organizations’ leaders, are trusted.  All relationships, personal and professional, are based upon trust.  However, trust means different things to different people. It is difficult to define what an environment of trust looks like…in fact it is easier to describe what a distrustful environment looks like: people withhold facts and information; managers set convoluted goals; management is not available; people talk behind each others’ backs. The list goes on and on.   

I recently heard a frustrating story of a real-life situation that left an employee feeling demoralized and undervalued.  The experience significantly diminished the level of trust he had with his manager.  The experience began when an, the employee responsible for reviewing inquiries and sending proposals received an e-mail from a client about a project.  The employee spent several hours researching and assessing the difficulty of the proposed project.  He then followed-up with an email to the client asking additional questions to clarify any current work being done relative to the project.   The client had very little information but was clearly very frustrated with the lack of progress on receiving a proposal. The employee notified his manager that due to the level of difficulty and the lack of clarity on the project that he recommended that the project should not be accepted.  Although the employee attempted to explain the supporting evidence for his decision, the manager responded that the employee had not spent enough time researching the project and that he would do the research himself.  The manager took two days to research the project and forwarded the research data to the employee late in the evening on the day before a scheduled call with the client. During the call, the client struggled to answer any questions brought up by the manager or employee and was unsure on what approach should be taken to resolve the issue. The client then asked if the organization would be willing to send a proposal and take on this project. The manager eventually agreed to accept the work and send a proposal…against the recommendation of the employee. The manager told the employee to generate a proposal that included a quote for a two weeks feasibility study.  The feasibility study gave the agency a reason to back out of the project if it proved to be too difficult.  The manager told the employee to tell the client that the agency couldn’t start work for at least a couple of weeks…hoping that the client would find somebody else to work on it. The employee reluctantly did was he was instructed. The feasibility study was conducted and it was determined that the project was beyond existing technology to complete. 

 How often do situations like this occur? Unfortunately, more often than some would like to admit. Events like this result in wasted time, energy, productivity, and trust. Some managers may say they want to build an empowered work force, but get in the way of their own best intentions.  So how can they create an environment of trust…one that fosters empowerment?  They must demonstrate trust for their staff and be trustworthy themselves.  Blanchard’s Building Trust program illustrates for us what a trustful environment looks like by teaching us exactly which behaviors build trust using the ABCD Model. The model guides individuals to identify aspects of their relationships that need repair, as in the example above, or need to be further nurtured in order to build and maintain trust. 

Are you currently experiencing a lack of trust with one of your co-workers, managers, or direct reports? Learn how you can utilize the ABCD Trust Model within your agency.

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Mobile Management – A Good Strategy or Just Disruptive?

Today’s post was written by guest blogger, Jim Atwood, Director of Government Solutions at The Ken Blanchard Companies. Jim also presented on last week’s webinar, A Situational Approach to Leadership.

Last week’s webinar on taking a situational approach to leadership created a lot of discussion around the concept of mobile management.  Several participants related to the idea and shared their experiences with mobile management within their agencies.  I am most familiar with this type of management as it relates to the military… where a leader is usually only in a particular position for 18 months to 3 years.  However, following the webinar, I received several comments about how it also is a significant issue in other government agencies as well.  It was particularly evident with leaders who are in direct political appointee positions or those who report to political appointees. 

For me, mobile management is the planned periodic rotation of managers.  I know there are a great number of positive elements that can result from a well executed mobile management plan…unfortunately I have seen very few that were either well planned or well executed.  My experience has primarily been with individuals who, knowing that their position is short-term, have made immediate large-scale organizational changes to be able to “make their mark” on the organization.  Unfortunately, it appears that often the change was only for the sake of change…to be able to say that things were different from the previous manager.    The results of many of the changes I observed were rarely to enhance mission capability for the organization as a whole and often had a negative effect.   I recall one such individual who believed in this kind of change and said, “I like to really shake things up when I arrive…change everything.  I believe that dust settles at a higher level.”  He definitely shook things up but had a negative effect on morale and commitment to the command and its mission. 

I really am hoping that my experiences are not common…that I just had the bad luck of interacting with inefficient leaders initiating ineffective change.  But are my experiences the anomaly? 

What have been your experiences with mobile management?  How big of an issue is mobile management within the government?  What positive experiences have others had…and what were the resulting effects on the organization?

If you missed the webinar on taking a situational approach to leadership, you can still listen to the recording and hear more about how to lessen the negative impact of mobile management.

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Change is A’Coming to Rocket City

An article in Government Executive magazine announced that Huntsville, Alabama is becoming the next stomping grounds for several government agencies.  This transition kicked-off with the expansion of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in 2005 when the Missile Defense Agency learned that they would be relocating their agency from a Washington suburb to Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.  Since that announcement, several agencies have followed in the MDA’s footsteps. A few of the MDA’s neighbors now include:

  • 1700 positions from the AMC and USASAC
  • 180 positions from SDMC
  • 400 positions from the Aviation Technical List Center & Rotary Wing Platform
  • 113 positions from  the 2nd Recruiting Brigade

When the BRAC transitions are completed in September 2011, approximately 4700 positions will be relocated to Redstone.

Organizational change is a fact of life in the workplace.

All of this change has led to increased stress levels on the organizations and people involved.  The transition has required employees to wear multiple hats while leaders have been implementing several training efforts to get others up to speed. 

Leading people through change is an ongoing challenge in any agency.  So how do BRAC or other leaders maximize high levels of productivity and morale and ensure a successful transition?

A U.S. Department of Education project originally conducted by Gene Hall and his colleagues at the University of Texas suggests that people are faced with change express 6 predictable and sequential concerns.

  1. Information concerns
  2. Personal concerns
  3. Implementation concerns
  4. Impact concerns
  5. Collaboration concerns
  6. Refinement concerns

Resolving concerns throughout the change process builds trust in the leadership team, puts challenges on the table, gives people an opportunity to influence the changes process, and allows people to refocus their energy on the change.

At the Ken Blanchard Companies, new work by Pat Zigarmi, Judd Hoekstra, and Ken Blanchard on the Situational Leadership II and Leading People Through Change programs provides guidance for diagnosing concerns and then using the appropriate change leadership strategy to address those concerns.

Watch this video of Ken Blanchard discussing the reality of change.

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