Archive for category Morale

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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Dealing with a Bully at Work? Four Tips to Take Back the Power

bullyHave you ever been bullied? Have you supervised a team that included a bully? Though they sometimes go by other names, I have known my share of bullies and have struggled to deal with them at different times in my life. It doesn’t really matter if the bully is part of a little league soft ball team, a fellow student or a boss or co-worker. If you have a bully on your hands they probably will not just go away.

Repeated encounters with a bully can leave one feeling powerless, frustrated, and exhausted. At work, the consequences of dealing with a bully can include stolen credit for effort and ideas, loss of passion for the work or even a job. Government employees face an additional challenge because when someone does not fit into a team there are often limited alternatives.  No one likes to deal with a bully and while it is challenging, it is necessary to find a way to start a conversation and build a positive relationship.

The bully may be the aggressor but the target of a bully does have the power to make some changes:

  1. Draw up some solid boundaries to protect yourself. – We surround ourselves with family and friends who understand us best. We show them the closest version of our true self because we trust them. This is your inner circle and you should let them know you are struggling. Be honest and be sure they know that you may need a sympathetic ear but you should not expect them to solve your problem for you. You should rely on them to offer moral support. Ask them to remind you of your talents; build your confidence and you can wear it like armor.
  2. Recognize and own your feelings. – We each live in a reality that is uniquely ours. A combination of personality, past experience, emotional intelligence and learned behaviors make up our feelings and how we deal with them. I think of feelings as the layer of colored glass through which we each see the world. If you can separate your feelings from the situation, working toward a solution will become much easier.
  3. Open a dialogue that does not include accusations. – Sometimes a person who is behaving like a bully may not realize how they are being perceived or how they impact you. Remember, you want to find a way to work with the person, not around them; you want to solve the problem. It may feel like a big risk but if you don’t take the first step nothing can change. Talk about what you want from the relationship and how you would like to make a positive change in order to move forward.
  4. Don’t wait. – Bad news only spoils with age. Approaching someone to address a strained relationship will not get easier over time either. If you are not prepared to speak directly to the bully, approach your supervisor and ask for help as soon as you realize there is a problem.

Some people do not grow out of bullying behavior as adults. If you are impacted by their behavior and don’t let them know it, they may never get the chance to change. Addressing the issue can be difficult but the reward for taking that chance could be the working environment you have always wanted.

How have you dealt with bullies at your agency?

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Giving the Gift of Generosity

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

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

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

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

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

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5 Ways To Be A Motivating Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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