Archive for category Engagement

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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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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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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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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What Will Your “I Will” Pledge Be Today?

We will never forget September 11.Driving to work today, I was listening to a popular talk radio station that led discussions focused on September 11.  Likely so, as today marks the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that changed our nation.  Specific conversations on this radio show centered on effective methods to weaken terrorist groups, potential new attacks using biological weapons, and how Americans are remembering those lost in the horrendous acts 12 years ago.

A particular story that stood out to me was about a non-profit movement that observes September 11 every year by urging individuals to go out and perform a charitable service or good deed.  The association is called 9/11 Day and was created in 2002 by two friends, David Paine and Jay Winuk.  The website, www.911day.org, includes a “quilt” of volunteers and individuals that support the movement along with their pledge of performing a good deed, opportunities to volunteer in your community, and toolkits that offer employers, teachers, non-profits, and government agencies tips on how to get involved.  This incredible group describes their efforts as a means to “honor those that rose in service in response to the attacks, and remind people of the importance of working more closely together in peace to improve our world.”  Wow!  When I read that sentence, it caused me to pause (not while I was driving) and really think about what I am doing to “work more closely together in peace to improve our world.”

Over the weekend, I visited some friends at their house for the first time. Upon walking into their home, I immediately noticed a large framed American flag.  What I didn’t notice at first glance, sewn into the white panels of the flag, were the names of each individual that lost their life on September 11.  I inquired about this amazing piece and learned that it was a charitable effort done by a church in New York City.  I don’t know how many of these flags exist nor how many people proudly display this flag in their home, but I was in awe by the work.  To these friends, 9/11 is a daily reminder to live their lives to the fullest and “work more closely together in peace to improve our world.”

Through the company I work for, I am lucky to have the opportunity to give back to my community in many ways.  I try to take advantage of as many as I am able, as well as support charitable events outside of the workplace. But could I be doing more?  Sure, we all could!

What are you doing to “work more closely together in peace to improve our world,” not just on 9/11 but every day?

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Learning To Be A Great Leader: How Leading Up Can Influence Your Supervisor’s Leadership Skills

leadership skillsI work for a leadership organization.  On a daily basis, I am surrounded by comments, articles, research, subject matter experts, blogs, and books on how to be a great leader.  I believe in these wisdoms and the years of research that the experts walking the halls around here have uncovered.  They are prudent truths to me and I try to adopt these best practices every day.   A few months ago, I made the decision to go back to school and pursue a Master’s of Science in Leadership.  As if I am not inundated with enough about leadership, I wanted to learn how “outsiders” interpret what a great leader looks like, the experiences they’ve had with the leaders in their lives, and how they plan to be the best leader they can be both in and out of the workplace.

This educational journey has been interesting and exciting.  What I find most intriguing are the vastly different interpretations of what makes a great leader and the behavior great leaders demonstrate day in and day out.   I recently conducted a poll on Facebook and GovLoop and asked people what they believe to be the top three traits of a great leader.  The responses I received were so varied.  Some of them include thoughtfulness, integrity, consistency, good listener, collaborator, honesty, action oriented, passionate, empathy, and trust.  After reading all of the feedback, I started contemplating whether or not there really is a general list of the best leadership traits.  Does a leadership model, that we can provide to every individual that wants to be a great leader, really exist?  Or does every individual require their manager or supervisor to possess the specific leadership skills that will motivate, engage, and help guide them to success?  What if you find your dream job but not your dream leader?

Two traits that over 50% of the responders included in the conducted poll as a must-have in every great leader are communication and listening skills.  These skills are critical to every single relationship you will encounter in your life.  Sharing information, facilitating conversation, and listening to each other fosters trust and motivates people to want to do something good and productive.   What I realized is that if we do find our dream job minus the dream leader, we have the ability to “lead up” and communicate our needs to our leader in order to create a successful relationship.  This does require us as individuals to have good communication skills ourselves.  An effective way to build on these skills for both you and your manager is to hold regular one-on-one meetings that will allow the two of you to discuss each other’s needs that will lead to goal accomplishment.  After all, what should be equally important to the both of you is the success of the organization.

How are you leading up?  Are you able to openly communicate to your supervisor the needs you have in order to be successful in your agency?

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