Archive for category Leadership Development

What Is The Biggest Mistake Leaders Make When Working with Others?

Blanchard Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make Infographic

When The Ken Blanchard Companies asked 1,400 people the question “What is the biggest mistake leaders make when working with others?” 41 percent of respondents identified inappropriate communication or poor listening.

When these same respondents were asked to look at a list of common mistakes and choose the five biggest missteps by leaders, two responses stood out.

Not providing appropriate feedback was chosen by 82 percent of respondents. Failing to listen or involve others came in a close second, cited by 81 percent. (Failing to use an appropriate leadership style, failing to set clear goals and objectives, and failing to develop their people rounded out the respondents’ top five of things leaders most often fail to do when working with others.)

A 700-person follow-up study conducted by Blanchard in 2013 with readers of Training magazine found similar results. In that survey:

  • 28 percent of respondents said they rarely or never discussed future goals and tasks with their boss—even though 70 percent wished they did.
  • 36 percent said they never or rarely received performance feedback—even though 67 percent wished they did.

Why are communication and feedback such a challenge in today’s workplaces? The fast pace of work and increased workloads are certainly part of the equation—but another possibility is that new managers are not trained in either of these essential skills. Research conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that 47 percent of organizations do not have a formal training program in place for new managers. Research by leadership development consultancy Zenger Folkman has found that most managers don’t receive training until they are ten years into their managerial careers.

That’s too late. Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill has found that most managers who survive their first year develop habits—good or bad—that they carry with them for the rest of their careers.

The Ken Blanchard Companies believes it is essential for new managers to develop good communication skills as they step into their first leadership roles. In a new first-time manager curriculum, Blanchard identifies four communication skills new managers need to develop as well as four conversations new managers need to master.

Four Essential Communication Skills

  • Listen to Learn—a deeper type of listening where the goal for the manager is to hear something that might change their mind, not just prompt a response.
  • Inquire for Insight—when the manager uses questions to draw people out and probe for understanding that might not be shared at first.
  • Tell Your Truth—being direct in communication in a way that promotes honest observation without assigning blame.
  • Express Confidence—conveying a positive attitude toward the other person and toward future conversations, regardless of the subject.

Four Performance Management Conversations to Master

  • The Goal Setting Conversation—setting clear objectives: all good performance begins with clear goals.
  • The Praising Conversation—noticing and recognizing progress and good performance: catch people doing things right.
  • The Redirecting Conversation—providing feedback and direction when performance is off-track: seize the opportunity before the problem escalates.
  • The Wrapping Up Conversation—conducting a short, informal review after a task or goal is finished: savor accomplishments and acknowledge learnings

Becoming skilled in each of these areas not only helps new managers get off to a great start but also can help them succeed for years to come. How are your managers doing in these critical areas? You can read more about the Blanchard approach to first-time manager development in the white paper Essential Skills Every First-Time Manager Should Master.

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Building Healthy, Desirable Cultures—The Leader’s Role

Multi-Cultural Office Staff Sitting Having Meeting TogetherWhen we think about the mandates, budgets, and activities around developing leaders, we often forget to take into account an important aspect of the environment in which leaders lead—the culture of the organization. Culture can exist at various levels; for example: the overall federal government, an agency, or a branch. Wherever culture resides it must be accounted for, and integrated within, a leadership development program.

Identification and Integration

If cultural norms are to be taught to new members as basic assumptions, it is essential that a leadership development program incorporate methods for teaching these rules.

Leaders must be able to convey both explicit and implied rules and to reinforce desired behaviors to their teams. They also must know how to address and redirect unacceptable behaviors.

The first step toward accomplishing this goal is the identification of organizational values and assumptions. Values are a major underpinning of culture and define an organization’s rules of behavior. Values determine how members represent the organization to themselves and others. Basic assumptions are derived from lessons learned by the group as it solves problems. Both values and assumptions must be identified before they can be taught to new members as the expected way to perceive, think, and feel.

Manager Behavior and Culture

Once values and assumptions are identified, ongoing leadership development needs to provide models of useful day-to-day leadership behaviors.

At least three areas should be addressed.

  • Communication style. This is critical to building and sustaining a desired culture because the way in which a manager communicates sends signals about how to engage with others. In other words, what type of communication is acceptable—top-down only; consultative; peer-to-peer advising; bottom-up feedback?
  • Relationship style. This is how leaders interact with peers and direct reports. For instance, are relationships predominately adversarial, competitive, and distrustful, or supportive and collegial?
  • Decision making style. Leaders need to be equipped with appropriate decision making practices that will contribute to the successful completion of tasks in support of agency mission. Employees need to understand both formal and informal approval processes.

But don’t stop there—consider other ways in which model behavior can be identified, reinforced, and publicized. Make sure actions and strategies are aligned to other key elements of the culture. For example, don’t overlook visually recognizable organization artifacts that should be taken into consideration. Architecture, furniture, and dress code provide tangible signs of behavior norms and parameters. Leaders need to be aware and use artifacts to support processes and systems that drive desired behaviors.

Future Perspectives on Culture

Does the federal government have a culture? Absolutely—there are written as well as unwritten rules about how things get done. Both need to be addressed in the development of leaders. In future posts we will explore how culture impacts agency performance and culture change.

The Ken Blanchard Companies specializes in leadership development and the connection to building healthy, desirable cultures. For more information on Blanchard’s leadership development and culture building solutions—specifically in a government setting—explore the culture section of Blanchard’s website.

 

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Millennials: The Future is …

Knowledge Level ConceptYoung, bright, capable, eager—these words describe many people, but especially individuals with about ten years of government service, aged in the low to mid 30s and likely in a GS 11-13 role. Management and leadership development theorists would identify this group as Millennials.

While this group of future leaders is especially well prepared academically, this does not necessarily ensure readiness to lead others in the mission of public service. Skills such as motivating others, addressing conflict, developing teams, building trust, providing extraordinary service, anticipating policy changes, and assigning tasks are typically not included in undergraduate or graduate degree programs.

Are your leaders ready?  

Agencies considering the development of future leaders need to begin with an assessment of competencies that will be required to lead the government over the next five years. This process is not costly; however, the cost of not doing this type of assessment can be detrimental to preparing the next generation of leaders.

Once identified, core skills must be taught, reviewed, reinforced, and mastered. For example:

  • Delegation – Multiplying oneself by successfully assigning projects to others in a way that creates commitment, ownership, accountability, and engagement.
  • Motivation – Learning various methods for motivating others to maintain energy for and commitment to the mission.
  • Conflict – Knowing how to spot and address conflict to ensure continued focus on necessary outcomes.
  • Measurement – Developing performance metrics to measure output and productivity.
  • Management – Providing encouragement for assignment completion and taking corrective action when the assignment is not on the proper path.

It’s necessary to be mindful that leadership is by definition a dynamic topic. In this context, leadership is situational and future leaders must learn to evaluate the readiness of their teams to engage in tasks and be ready for change. Specifically, a leadership technique that works for one situation cannot necessarily be applied to the next, even if the circumstances appear to be similar. The situational nature of leadership requires a commitment to continuous learning and practice.

Making the Transition 

The development of leadership capacity is more important than ever given the dynamic, fast-paced, and unpredictable world we live in.

While ambition, desire, and commitment are necessary ingredients for evolving leadership responsibilities; a range of topics needs to be addressed, learned, and applied. If we are mindful of this, our future will be bright and led by a group of well developed and ready individuals.

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Passing the Torch to the Next Generation of Government Workers

Torch

Just before my 24th birthday, I landed what I thought would be a great government job. My boss was a long time public servant. She had worked hard for the government for her entire career and was proud of her service. I quickly learned that she believed in traditions, in doing things by the book, and that I should always take notes. I thought she was a dinosaur who would never hear my exciting new ideas.

On my first day, she had me begin printing out the Federal Acquisitions Regulation or FAR. The FAR is a document that spells out the rules for government purchasing and payment. It is more than 2,000 pages long and filled about twenty, four inch binders that I stored in two large file cabinet drawers. My next task was to look up specific regulations that would be important to my work. I quickly logged onto Google, found the correct parts and read all about them. I never cracked open those binders again in the nearly three years I worked there.

As wasteful and time consuming as the exercise was, I did learn a few things from it:

  • There are a lot of rules for spending government money.
  • Google makes it easy to look up any part, subpart, or subchapter of the FAR, if you know what to look for.
  • Printing, hole punching, and filing a 2,000 page document by hand takes a very long time.
  • Most importantly, I learned that some bosses are more focused on keeping things from changing than they are on helping their people learn, grow, and succeed but even they have valuable knowledge to share.

I had heard jokes about government employees and the paperwork involved in government work. I expected some of it but was shocked by the deeply ingrained need for adherence to tradition and unwillingness to change that I saw. Though not universal, this reluctance to encourage or even accept growth and change is particularly damaging to the public sector because if the next generation cannot pick out the useful wisdom, it will be discarded with the outdated traditions.

In order for an organization to maintain knowledge gathered over the course of a career, it is necessary to pass it on to the next generation of government leaders. If the current leaders fear the change, new ideas and ways of the next generation, that knowledge will get lost in translation. Likewise, if the new generation of leaders is unable to see past the old and outdated traditions of the outgoing leaders, they will not have the benefit of those lessons already learned.

If you have a boss who seems like a dinosaur, try to ignore the outdated ways and look for the meaning behind them. My boss insisted that I always bring a notebook when I met with her. I knew I could remember the majority of what she told me and figure out the rest. But showing up with that notebook was what she needed to trust that I was listening to her. By playing the game I was able to learn a lot from her in the end. Had I made the choice to dig in my heals and refuse to go along, I would have missed out on wisdom that I still use in my career today.

If you are a boss who struggles with the new generation, be careful to remember that the new ideas and ways of doing things that they are so excited about will be the foundation of your organization’s future. Try to encourage and direct those ideas to give them the best chance for success. The new generation may not have your experience but their enthusiasm is valuable. Along with your accumulated knowledge that enthusiasm might just make a critical difference you could never have seen and the impact of your encouragement could be felt for generations.

What advice do you have for passing down or receiving wisdom and traditions?

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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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