Archive for category Culture

The Established Culture…When Is It Time for Change?

When faced with a changing marketplace or regulatory environment, a new technology, or a required shift in strategic direction, an organization’s established culture can impede progress and require change.  As a case in point, one could argue the U.S. federal government is faced with just such a challenge as it deals with external and internal changes.

Externally, emerging cloud technologies and solutions are changing the way that documents are stored, shared, and updated. With regard to culture, cloud solutions will unleash important methods to support a new era of cross agency cooperation and an improved ability to harness intellectual capital and leverage the power of virtual teamwork.

Recent changes in the European financial markets will require global commerce policy to be more sensitive to how the U.S. responds.  Changes to Swiss National Bank policy stunned financial markets and had a tangible impact on trade. Further, the recent and unexpected changes in Greece’s government are challenging the way governments are supported with loans and subsidies.

Internally, the declining trend in Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) scores suggests that each agency may need to reexamine the way in which it defines and manages its culture. Questions from EVS results regarding culture flow include:

  • Do values exist and are they real, visible, and connected to agency mission?
  • Does the current culture foster openness and contribution to decision making such that the workforce feels engaged with a vested and accountable interest?
  • Are leaders sufficiently prepared to lead others?

If agencies are to drive new policies and practices into their operations to satisfy necessary changes related to the above circumstances and deliver the highest degree of value to constituencies, a culture change initiative might be required to support new practices, processes, and policies.

What is involved in changing organizational culture?

A deliberate culture change process should follow three critical steps.

  1. Awareness—an agency must communicate the change and establish the reason for change. In this regard, agency leadership must clearly and deliberately address the question why. Once the workforce understands the need for change, there is a greater likelihood that the workforce will accept the need for change. Not everyone will embrace and agree to the change, but awareness does help in the move to acceptance. 
  1. Informing and Training—to move the organization from awareness and acceptance to the desired state of buy-in and participation, senior leadership must message the specifics behind the why. The agency must discuss more than just what has prompted the change. It is also important to establish what consequences exist if the change does not happen. Moreover, with a future desired state established, leaders need to be trained in leading others through training, building trust for change, and maintaining levels of customer service. 
  1. Measures, Milestones, and Structure—what gets measured and discussed will get done. As with any project, a change initiative should have specific success criteria, supporting metrics, and a schedule for tangible indications of change. Additionally, an organizational structure should be established to manage the change effort. This structure could take the form of an executive steering committee, a task force comprising individual contributors, midlevel managers, and senior leadership, or a program management office (PMO).

To succeed in a changing world, organizations need to periodically evaluate the external and internal environment with an eye toward trends or conditions that warrant adjustments in practice.  Culture can hinder progress—or, with proper foresight and training, it can help smooth the way toward change.

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I Choose to Remember the Good

9-11What do you remember about September 11th? In the weeks following, I found myself driving around San Diego, my home. I took hundreds of pictures of the flags displayed on homes, schools, businesses, and churches. I remember feeling patriotism in a way I had not since I was a kid. The tragedy of that day changed our country, and redirected the path of countless lives.

Like many people the events of September 11th and what followed changed my life in ways I could not have guessed. Even 13 years later, I think of myself as a patriot. For all of our mistakes, and our achievements, I remain a proud American.

In recent years it seems that patriots are becoming a new minority. The Pledge of Allegiance is not part of every school day. A chasm separates those with opposing political views.  And we tend to focus on what makes us different instead of how we are alike. It took tragedy to unite us after September 11th, but it doesn’t have to.

Our nation is facing renewed threats of terrorism and a frightening international climate. Tomorrow is the anniversary of what is probably the worst day in our nation’s history. This year, I choose to remember the good things that came from the tragedy that shifted the course of my life, the things I have learned, and the people I have met because of it.

This year I will take time to remember the patriotism I felt when the stars and stripes were displayed everywhere I looked. To remember to remind people what they mean to me. And to hold on to the hope that this nation remains strong enough to continue to lead the world. Go ahead, call me a hopeless optimist. I choose to remember the good.

How do you remember September 11th?

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Safety First

cautionHave you seen Simon Sinek’s 2014 TED talk, Why good leaders make you feel safe? He said, “In the military, they give medals to people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may gain. In business, we give bonuses to people who are willing to sacrifice others so that we may gain.” He is pointing out the best and worst of these two work environments.  The culture in the military expects and rewards those who look out for others.  Yet, we seem to reward just the opposite in business.

I have seen this sacrifice of others in government workplaces first hand but the most visible example I can think of is the impact of delaying the annual budget each year. Congress and the President are responsible for the budget but in recent years they have put it off too long, or been unable to agree on what programs get funded. As a result the people are unexpectedly denied services and government employees are faced with unplanned, indefinite furloughs. Workers have to live without a paycheck. And though they will eventually get their job back, and are likely to get back pay, they are living on savings. Not a safe place to be. It is easy to understand workers feeling betrayed.

Every day people perform extraordinary acts of selflessness. Sinek tells the stories in his TED talk of a Medal of Honor winner and a manufacturing company with a furlough program that saved every employee’s job and improved moral during very hard times. The people we would choose to follow are those who inspire our loyalty by giving of themselves. They are leaders because they go to great lengths to do what is best for the safety and the lives of their people.

When people know they will be taken care of, they can focus on making great things happen. Just imagine if business and government leaders focused on creating environments that foster cooperation and make people feel safe. The possibilities are endless.

What do you do to make your people feel safe and cared for?

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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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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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Giving the Gift of Generosity

GiftThis time of year expends a lot of time and energy into choosing just the right gift for our loved ones, finding the perfect ugly sweater for the holiday bash, or setting out holiday decorations for the season. These traditions can be a lot of fun but the season encompasses so much more than the material gifts, the parties, or the decorations. For me, generosity is at the heart of what brings us together, particularly during this time of year. For those working in and around the government, there are rules we have to contend with about gift giving and receiving. I believe the best gift we can give our colleagues, customers, and business partners is something that cannot be restricted or regulated; ourselves.

My first suggestion to anyone wishing to give something to their team members or partners is to stop and spend a little time thinking about how you might make a difference in someone’s day by simply being present. Making a conscious effort to focus on the interactions you have with the people around you every time you come in contact with them is not always easy. When we put away our smart phones while meeting in person, stop reading emails or talking on the phone and focus on one person at a time, those interactions become richer. We are able to see posture and expressions or hear inflections in a voice. It is so easy to miss a cue that could change the way a conversation goes when we are not completely focused.

Second, give the people you work with the benefit of believing the best in them. Sometimes, particularly in written communications, we read between the lines and create a problem when there really was none. If you aren’t sure that there is something more to a communication, ask. Generosity is more than spending money on gifts, more than helping a friend or colleague when they ask. Being generous can also be about giving of yourself, making an effort to connect with people to learn what they need. Best of all it costs nothing.

I plan to take a break this year from the stress that often comes with the pressure of gift giving and over packed schedules. Instead, I will focus on giving the people I see every day my attention and kindness. I hope you will too.

Have you already shared the gift of generosity this season? Share your story here.

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5 Ways To Be A Motivating Leader

motivating leadershipAs we begin to wrap up 2013, many of us are starting to think about resolutions for the New Year and what we can do differently in 2014.  The common resolutions like going to the gym more often, losing 20 pounds, or the like tend to lose their luster before the end of January.  Why not take a different approach to your New Year’s resolutions and make it a goal to be a better leader? People follow and support leaders they believe in and create positive influences in their lives. A Gallup poll found that only 1 in 11 (9%) employees are engaged when led by a leader that neglects to focus on individual’s strengths. Yet when a leader acknowledges an individual’s strengths, that statistic jumps to 3 in 4 (73%) employees.

While we can’t necessarily control the budget cuts or whether there will be another round of furloughs next year, we can absolutely control the type of leader we choose to be and the reputation we build as we lead others to greatness.

Here are a few traits you can add to your resolution list in your quest to becoming a more well-rounded leader.

1. Allow for autonomy – Empowering your staff to make decisions is key to creating a motivated and productive staff. Employees need to be allowed to make mistakes as well as have the support and guidance from their manager when flubs do happen. A Situational Leader knows when to provide support and allow individuals to grow into great leaders, while a self-serving leader only has their best interest in mind. Coach your direct reports to come up with a winning strategy and work with them on defining that strategy rather than dictating their next move.

2. Build trust with everyone – This is a tough one as trust among many government employees has been tested with the recent sequester, shutdown, pay freezes, and furloughs mandated government wide. But all hope is not lost. The individual encounters you as a leader have, not just with your staff but with everyone you come across at the office, help to build, or in some cases rebuild, trust. Trust is the crux of everything we do and is the foundation of effective leadership. Without it dedication, loyalty, motivation, willingness to support the agency’s mission falters. The ABCD Trust Model that promotes a leader’s Ability, Believability, Connectedness, and Dependability is a good place to start to evaluate how trustworthy you are within your agency.

3. Create a culture that people want to be a part of – I recently watched a news segment about Zappos, the online shoe retailer, and was impressed with the culture they’ve created at the organization. The CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, was proud to say that the first requirement they take into consideration when hiring for a position at the company is whether or not the candidate would be a good culture fit. In fact, they label the coveted culture they’ve built as their biggest asset. Take a look at this 30 second video the folks at Zappos created to give you an insight to their fun, yet productive, culture.

4. Acknowledge even the smallest successes – It’s an important motivator and morale booster when you catch people doing things right. People like their accomplishments to be acknowledged and to know they are truly appreciated for the hard they do day in and day out. The number one criteria, however, is to MAKE IT MEANINGFUL. There’s no point in praising someone for a task they’ve accomplished if there’s no substance behind it. Be authentic with your praisings.

5. Thank your employees – It’s amazing the impact a smile and a thank you can have.  Government workers are dedicated and work hard, despite the continuous ups-and-downs they’ve endured lately. Showing your employees some gratitude for that dedication, loyalty, and unrelenting productivity makes a difference. Follow your action from item #4 above with a thank you and watch your employee’s motivation and satisfaction soar.

What steps are you taking to become a more motivating government leader?

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