Archive for category Management

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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Leading a Team to Perform

TeamThere are few jobs today that allow a person to work autonomously. Certainly in government there are many examples of jobs that are interdependent. Even at its most basic level, the branches of government must work together to pass a bill into law. Teams are important. As important as teamwork is in government and business today, working on a team is not always easy, and leading a team successfully can be downright difficult. When it does work, a successful team can feel like magic and every task is easier to complete.

The important thing about successful teams is that they bring together the strengths of a group to work toward a common goal or purpose. Successful teams often view members as equal and have a leader who is just as comfortable taking the lead as he is to step back and let an expert take the reins at the right time.

No one person is as strong or smart as a team but sometimes things or people get in the way. While the leader is not the most important part of a team, he can make or break that team. The best team I have been a part of had a leader who openly admitted he did not know the best way to meet our shared goal. He was often heard letting anyone who would listen know his team was a group of experts who could handle any job they took on. His humility combined with the steadfast belief in his team mates made him a great colleague. His ability to set reasonable goals, communicate effectively, and keep the team on task made him one of the best leaders I’ve met. He wasn’t the magic that made that particular team work but he flamed the fire and built up every team member so they were free to excel.

Being a great team leader is not about being the best in your field, it is about setting up the team for success. The Ken Blanchard Companies promotes the Perform Model as a way to highlight the important aspects of a high performing team:

Purpose & Values
Empowerment
Relationships & Communication
Flexibility
Optimal Performance
Recognition & Appreciation
Morale

With a skilled and knowledgeable team, the leader must only bring them together and help them to move in the right direction. The best question a leader of mine ever asked me is “How can I help you reach your goal?” Team leaders of highly skilled teams are not the stars of the show but facilitators, who get the team in place and cheer the team on throughout the race.

Have you worked on or do you lead a high functioning team? What worked best for you?

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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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It’s a Fiscal Cliff! It’s a Sequester! It’s Ineffective Leadership?

SequestrationAs much as I would like to jump on the “sequester bandwagon” and write yet another article about the impact this enormous change will have on our country, I’m going to take a different approach on the topic that is monopolizing water cooler discussions these days.  I, like the rest of us, have been reading articles, listening to news reports, and paying attention to other’s viewpoints on what the sequester means to them, their interpretations on how we got to this point, and the personal connections they have to specific individuals that will be heavily influenced by this modification.  But let’s take a look at the overall leadership that has, for the most part, guided this nation to be where it’s at today.

Most of us are familiar with The Best Places to Work report published by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte.  The report is a survey that includes information on how federal employees feel about their workplace and their individual roles with regard to issues such as leadership, training and development, pay, and teamwork.  The object of the survey is to alert leaders to areas that are falling short of employee’s expectations and satisfaction. According to the 2012 report, there are three key factors that are the driving influencers among federal staff. These factors include; effective leadership, agency mission and employee skill match, and satisfaction with pay. All three of these factors are significant, but let me call out that for the seventh time in a row, effective leadership has been the principal component that is said to drive employee satisfaction and commitment to their jobs in the federal workplace. The category that evaluates how much leadership at all levels of the organization “generates motivation and commitment, encourages integrity and manages people fairly, while also promoting the professional development, creativity and empowerment of employees,” is the lowest-rated category in the report.

There is no doubt that if this sequester happens, it will have an additional impact on already strained learning and development training budgets. Although this may resolve immediate budget issues, it will only cause far more intense repercussions in the long run.  We are already seeing employees leave their public sector jobs in droves. We can’t continue to put a bandage on a much larger wound.  A seven-year decline in how our nation’s leaders are performing is a significant indication that improvements are imperative.

Perhaps we need more servant leaders in the federal government, leaders that know their role is to help people achieve their goals. Servant leaders try to determine what their people need to perform well and live according to the agency’s vision and mission. Their goals are focused on the greater good and focuses on two major components of leadership-vision and implementation. Take three minutes and watch this video titled, It’s Always the Leader. In it, Ken Blanchard talks about a trip he took to the DMV and was pleasantly surprised by his experience with the facility’s leadership.

I can only imagine what federal public servants are feeling in this tumultuous time. Want a place to vent? Send in a video of how you’re doing even more with less in your role. Or, if you’re happy with the leadership at your agency (Congrats, NASA!), send us a video about how your leader motivates and inspires you to put your best food forward.

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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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How are your agency’s training dollars being spent?

In 1967, President Johnson signed an executive order that provided agency leaders and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) the presidential guidance on how training programs should be implemented at government agencies. The order requires OPM to support agencies in developing adequate training programs and to provide assistance with planning, programming, budgeting, operating, and evaluating training programs. Specifically, leaders working in OPM’s Training and Executive Development (TED) Group offer direction on how to implement training programs within agencies, as well as, provide counsel to ensure that those training programs support strategic human capital investments. In fact, OPM created five guides that agencies can use to reference when deciding on specific training programs for their staff. These guides include Human Resources Reporting, Training Evaluation Field Guide, Draft Training Policy Handbook, Collection and Management of Training Information, and Strategically Planning Training and Measuring Results.

Many struggles that federal agencies are facing today include building and maintaining the talent pool of employees, preparing the next generation of leaders, and bridging the gap of multigenerational workers. Overcoming these challenges requires appropriate training programs and government leaders must know how to implement that training in order to achieve the agency’s mission. Below is a list of eight best training practices that the United States Government Accountability Office recommends all agencies implement in order to support effective training investment decisions.

Practice 1: (a) Identify the appropriate level of investment to provide for training and development efforts and (b) prioritize funding so that the most important training needs are addressed first.

Practice 2: Identify the most appropriate mix of centralized and decentralized approaches for its training and development programs.

Practice 3: Consider government-wide reforms and other targeted initiatives to improve management and performance when planning its training and development programs.

Practice 4: Have criteria for determining whether to design training and development programs in-house or obtain these services from a contractor or other external source.

Practice 5: Compare the merits of different delivery mechanisms (such as classroom or computer-based training) and determine what mix of mechanisms to use to ensure efficient and cost-effective delivery.

Practice 6: Track the cost and delivery of its training and development programs agency wide.

Practice 7: Evaluate the benefits achieved through training and development programs, including improvements in individual and agency performance:

(a) Has a formal process for evaluating employee satisfaction with training.

(b) Has a formal process for evaluating improvement in employee performance after training.

(c) Has a formal process for evaluating the impact of training on the agency’s performance goals and mission.

Practice 8: Compare training investments, methods, or outcomes with those of other organizations to identify innovative approaches or lessons learned.

Source: GAO analysis based on prior GAO reports, other related expert studies, and federal training requirements.

How many of the practices listed above has your agency put into practice?

On September 26th, several agency leadership training developers will be discussing the training initiatives that are working within their agency and how you can fund and implement a training program in your agency. Learn more about how you can join and participate in that conversation.

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Six Challenges Consuming Federal Agencies And How To Overcome Them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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