Archive for category Motivation

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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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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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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‘Tis The Leadership Season

leadershipI have an advantage. I reach hundreds of people every week as a writer of this blog. I write about leadership, motivation, communication, work passion, and the latest topic going on in the US Government. This week I would like to do something a bit different. I am not going to write about the vision and mission every agency or team could adopt to help them achieve their mission (although I firmly believe in having both). I do not want to share tactics you can choose to implement in order to be a trustworthy leader (although I firmly believe in the positive impact of an effective leader). Today I hope the message you get from this blog post is geared toward the kindness and empathy we give to each other on a daily basis, both in and out of the work place.

I have shared some personal endeavors of my life with you in this blog; my current educational endeavor, individual encounters I have had with colleagues and clients, and other insights about my job.  I have shared information about the leadership best practices of The Ken Blanchard Companies and I hope you have found these tidbits helpful.  Today, I would like each visitor of this blog to share a random act of kindness they have completed and tell us how you felt afterwards.  How did the act of kindness, no matter how big or small, set the tone for the rest of your day or week?  After all, we ARE all leaders and when we share the love we have in our hearts with one another, that is the best form of leadership we can exhibit.

Happy holidays, Everyone!  Enjoy this time.  Share the love and kindness you possess with the rest of the world.  Love and lead one another.

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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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