Archive for category Leadership Development

A Breakthrough Year for America

state of the union addressIn last night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama covered a lot of ground around topics like jobs and the economy, immigration, education, and energy. As with many of these addresses in the past, regardless who was serving as our country’s Chief of Staff, there are several mixed reviews of what the President had to say. Some may support the proposed initiatives highlighted last night, while others may have little faith that many of the changes will occur, and there are many articles already published that critique the address.

One constant that was evident and encompassed the entire Address was change. In order for America to grow, we need change. President Obama structured that change in the form of raising the minimum wage, offering equal pay for equal work, keeping the dream of homeownership alive, driving health insurance reform, providing next-generation connectivity, and incentivizing clean energy solutions, among others. Another change that caught my ear was the examination of federal job training programs.

President Obama stated he is involving Vice-President Biden in an “across the board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission: train Americans with the skills employers need.”  “That means more on-the-job training, and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life,” Obama said.

A change like this to federal job training programs could solve a complex issue that is facing our government—leadership deficiency. Agencies need to develop their leaders and equip them with the skills needed to develop into a candidate for the Senior Executive Service (SES) or other leadership positions that are currently unfilled. With a vast number of federal employees set to retire, many agencies will soon be faced with the conundrum of who will fill those leadership roles. Considering that this next generation will lead the federal agencies that support the overall mission of our country, let’s hope that Obama’s hope to reform federal job training programs includes leadership training.

What did you think about President Obama’s State of the Union Address last night?

Are you ready for a Year of Action?

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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 the Government Shutdown Taught Me

What I learned from the government shutdownWe’re all familiar by now with the impact the 2013 Government Shutdown had on government employees, the American people, and the economy. Just to recap a few statistics from the shutdown; 6.6 million days of lost work, $2 billion in back-pay costs, 120,000 private sector jobs lost, estimated decrease of fourth quarter real GDP of 0.2-0.6 percent, and roughly 850,000 Federal employees furloughed per day. You can read additional statistics in the full report, Impacts and Costs of the October 2013 Federal Government Shutdown, issued by The White House.

These are difficult facts to think about and acknowledge. Additionally, the 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results were posted last week by the OPM and it shouldn’t be a surprise that of the 77 areas included in the survey, 53 show decreases in satisfaction among Federal employees. Since I work for a leadership development organization, I try to seek out the learning opportunities in every situation. Fortunately, I received an email from my friend, Jeffrey Vargas, Chief Learning Officer at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission that outlined what he learned from the shutdown. I found it to be an impressive list that can be applied to both the public and private sector. I hope you enjoy the list as much as I did and find at least one silver lining from it.

Well done, Jeff!

What I learned from the shutdown – Jeff Vargas

1. Save, save, save $$.
2. Trust in God, even when he is silent.
3. Appreciate your job/coworkers.
4. Anxiety produces no fruit, prayer calms the soul.
5. Import and export encouragement.
6. Appreciate your friends.
7. Honor your medical needs/health condition – don’t always eat in a hurry, enjoy lunch.
8. Appreciate your church.
9. Appreciate your role as a parent.
10. Dare to dream.
11. Control what you can control and let go of the rest.
12. Develop plans B, C, and D for your life.
13. The one who has power has a plan – discover Gods plan for your life, listen to the everlasting architect.
14. Government executives and members of congress should dress in jeans, shorts and football jerseys; builds a sense of team and belonging.
15. All opinions don’t warrant a response.
16. Truth – Don’t pay attention to uninformed idiots who have never worked a day in a federal agency but believe they know how to run a government better than you do. Trust your experience.
17. Walk at least 30 minutes a day.
18. Having a daily routine isn’t so bad.
19. Your biggest investment of self should be in people, not technology, systems, or process.
20. The Good Shepard takes care of His sheep – God has blessed me with a better life than I ever deserved and I am forever grateful for His grace, love, and provision. He gets all the praise.

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Combating Erosion of Trust during Government Shutdown

Oak TreeWith the government shutdown now in its third week, I keep finding myself thinking about the conflict government employees must experience in their relationship with our government. Those who work for the government may not only be feeling the disappointment many Americans do with the shutdown, they may feel disillusionment with the government as their employer as well. Once they are back to work, they might also encounter a backlash of anger and frustration from the people they serve making a difficult situation even worse.

Disillusionment and loss of trust in an employer can impact work performance, drive, and dedication. As our nation struggles to come together, our federal workers must remember their reasons for choosing public service in the first place. In my experience, people who choose a career in public service often do so because they have a strong sense of national pride and a desire to serve the country in some way.

For many the government shutdown means being caught in the middle. Disappointment over the failures of our leaders, anger or frustration over lost hours at work, the financial worries associated with not working and challenges that will come with getting back up to speed once the shutdown ends. There are amazing people who work as federal employees who possess experience that is varied and valuable. They know how to solve problems but often find their hands tied with red tape. It is important to maintain motivation and to remember that the job each federal employee does is essential to someone.

The ABCD Trust Model, highlighted in the last weeks post, spells out the aspects of building trust. For trust to exist it is important to strive to be Able, Believable, Connected, and Dependable. Trust is also something that comes from faith in someone or something other than oneself. I’ve often heard people say “trust must be earned”, but I find it is something that comes much easier when we are willing to offer it on faith. The best leaders are those who trust us to do our best and offer the opportunity to prove our value. Every government employee has the power to offer their trust to the people they serve, to their leaders, and to coworkers.

Even though being furloughed is hard and the government has broken promises to the people and its employees, we need to remember that this situation is temporary and something that happens rarely. For most there is a job to go back to and people to serve that need help; people who rely on those “non-essential” programs every day. There will inevitably be situations where trust appears to be broken between those who staff our government agencies and the people they serve. It will be important to remember the ABCD Trust Model and work to live by it to rebuild that trust.

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The First Step in Rebuilding Trust During the Government Shutdown

If you're not extending trust, you're not leading. As I was sifting through updates on Facebook last night, I came across an interesting photo that one of my friends “Liked” on her Facebook page. The picture was of a letter sent from Republican Congresswoman, Ann Wagner, to Dan Strodel, Chief Administrative Officer, requesting that her pay be withheld throughout the shutdown. Ann’s request is not a common one but struck me as an excellent indication of her leadership style. If over 800,000 government employees are unable to work and collect a paycheck, why should members of Congress be exempt. Ann stated in a comment, “As a result of partisan bickering and gridlock, I have waived my salary for the duration of the government shutdown because congress didn’t get the job done.  Those who make the laws should have to live by those laws, and I will continue to fight for the people of Missouri’s 2nd District.”

I’m sure some readers may be thinking, “She’s a republican and is part of why the shutdown is occurring in the first place.” In fact, as I was doing some research on Wagner, I came across an article that disapproved of Wagner’s actions. However, regardless of your political stance, you have to applaud her for making such a bold move and not exempting herself from the same fate as the other “non-essential” government employees. That is the mark of a true leader and also a trust building attempt.

In the new book, Trust, Inc., Randy Conley, trust expert at The Ken Blanchard Companies, writes, “Trust is based on perceptions, so each of us has a different idea of what trust looks like. For leaders to be successful in developing high-trust relationships and cultures, they need to focus on using behaviors that align with the ABCD’s of trust.” The ABCD Model of Trust is an acronym that stands for:

Able –Being Able is about demonstrating competence.
Believable – A Believable leader acts with integrity.
ConnectedConnected leadership shows care and concern for people.
Dependable – Being Dependable and maintaining reliability.

Unfortunately, trust in our government leaders has been taking it on the chin for some time now. Fortunately, Conley outlines the five-step process in rebuilding broken trust in the book. The first step in rebuilding trust is to acknowledge that a problem exists, followed by leaders admitting their part in causing the breach of trust. The third step is to apologize for their role in the situation in order to move on to assessing which elements of the ABCD Trust Model were violated. The final step is for the leader and the offended party to agree on what they can do differently moving forward. This is clearly not an easy task. Stephen M.R. Covey, another contributing author to Trust, Inc. acknowledges that leaders need to take the first step in order to increase influence and grow trust in a team, organization, or community. Covey states that the first job of a leader is to inspire trust, and the second is to extend it.

I don’t think that the action Ann Wagner took will have much impact on the direction of the other Congress members nor the direction of the government shutdown. However, I do believe that she took the first step to increasing and growing trust in a highly untrustworthy and difficult situation.

As we wrap-up a second week of the shutdown and the two parties attempt to come to a compromise, what are you doing to demonstrate your leadership values? Share your thoughts here or on the How Gov Leads Twitter page, #leadinginashutdown.

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You Forgot Your Socks… Again?! Leadership Priorities in a Time of Change

Leadership Priorities in a Time of ChangeToday’s post was written by How Gov Lead’s new contributing author, Amber Hansen.  Amber has worked in Government contracting for over nine years. She is currently a Project Manager working with Federal Government clients at The Ken Blanchard Companies. Watch this blog for more thought leadership from Amber.

Have you ever met someone who is really great at one part of their job and terrible at another?  I happen to be married to a man who for many years was a Navy Corpsman who loved his job but struggled with some of what comes with being in the military.  I once heard a leader of his say he was “an amazing Corpsman and a terrible sailor.”  To put it in very simple terms, that means he was really good at caring for his patients and training junior members of his team and not so great at keeping his uniform in order and being on time.  This leader understood clearly that my husband had significant strengths but like all of us, he had weaknesses, too.

What happens when forgetting to bring the right kind of socks for a uniform becomes a reason to be reprimanded at work?  That may depend on one’s leader.  Some of us are truly adept at handling the details of life; we might keep backup socks in the car just in case.  Others just do not think this way.  My husband is very bright, he learns things quickly, takes what he believes is useful and leaves behind what he sees as a bit of a waste of his time.  I suspect the things that may have made him a good sailor, like bringing the right pair of socks, were the same things that appeared to him to be a waste of time.  In my husband’s world, ensuring he had the right medical supplies packed for a mission ranked just a little higher than the socks.  If my life depended on him and I had to choose between socks and medical supplies I would be glad to have left the socks behind.

Some of the military leaders I have met would focus on those missing socks because they see that as the foundation to doing the rest of any job well.  They could not see past the socks to find a truly valuable and talented team member.  They allowed the socks to become the focus of their interaction with a Corpsman who by the end of his career was influencing the careers of junior Corpsman, helping them build their skills, improve their productivity, and learn to teach others.

Our military is dealing with stressors many civilians cannot fully comprehend.  From multiple deployments and Post Traumatic Stress to shrinking budgets and less time and resources to train; our military members work hard and they deserve leaders who are prepared to support and serve them. Our military and government leaders need to be innovative in this new world of looming sequester budgets and ongoing wars. And they must ensure their teams are able to fully realize their potential in order to bring the most value to the organization and to themselves. Empowerment is key!

When a team member can’t seem to remember to bring the right socks the leader must set him up to succeed anyway.  Helping that direct report remember to “bring the appropriate socks” may seem like a waste of time, but if it is a waste of time for the leader, perhaps that is the heart of the reason it’s a waste of time for the individual.  If a leader can show that helping that sailor succeed with his socks, the payoff is that the sailor will trust the leader to help him succeed in much more significant ways.

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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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