Archive for category Relationships
Who do you admire? Perhaps you know someone who has overcome some extreme personal challenges or has shown himself to be particularly true to his morals and an example to others. Take a moment and think of at least one person who has impressed you with their actions or kindness. Have you ever told that person you admire them? If you haven’t, you should.
There are many people I admire. One in particular is a very close friend of my family who has filled a role similar to an aunt to me since I was about ten-years-old. She and her husband lived an amazing balance of just enough planning for the future and living in the present. Their story is one marked by his chronic illness and struggle for health. We lost him suddenly late last year just before his 60th birthday, and it rocked our community.
Last year on Christmas I stuck a note into my friend’s purse while we were celebrating. She found it the next day and loved it so much she showed it to my mom, who was a little choked up when she told me. It was simple but important because I had never told her just what her example means to me.
In the note I told her that I aspire to be more like her in that she doesn’t make a big fuss over day-to-day life. When we were kids, she was the mom who said, “Whoever wants to go to the beach, put on your suit and grab a towel; we’re leaving in ten minutes”. She always kept things simple. I love that she can embrace whatever is good right now, even when she is dealing with some pretty terrible things that she cannot control. And she always finds a way to give of herself and make the people in her life feel valued.
Part of what makes my friend’s example so meaningful to me is that I struggle with some similar challenges. It doesn’t always look easy but I can see she is trying and making the best of what she has. I have struggled with my own husband’s injury, the limitations it has created, and the difference in both of us since it occurred. I have often thought I am no match for this task.
Leadership is about being an example in the way you live. It is about living in a way that makes you happy and proud. And it is about learning from challenges and mistakes. Leadership means showing those around you who you want to be in the hope that they may be inspired to live up to their own potential. My friend is a great example to her community, her daughters, and those of us who have grown up around her family. She is no doubt, an inspiration to those she works with and the people she serves in her role at work. She has the ability to effortlessly show care for those around her.
When working for the government, the opportunities to reward employees financially are limited. Telling someone you admire or are inspired by them might be even more meaningful than a financial reward. We all have our own stories that include personal struggle. It is important to be tuned into what those around us face because it helps to build understanding. The very best leaders take time to get to know what is important to their people.
Who inspires you and when was the last time you told them why?
Have you ever struggled with accomplishing, getting through, or getting started on something that you wanted to do? Many of us do. Often times we come up with an idea that we’re passionate about or that we know we can do but are hesitant to actually go through with it for fear we may fail or not have the drive or motivation to see it through.
In Ken Blanchard’s latest book, Fit at Last, Ken and fitness authority, Tim Kearin, follow Ken’s personal journey to improve his health and fitness. This quick read applies the battle with getting healthy and losing weight, something many of us can relate to, as an example of how sticking to a goal and making it happen can provide a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and happiness. Whether your goal is to get healthy, like Ken, start a business, or complete a major project at work, these six principles can keep you grounded as you tackle your goal.
Principle 1: Have Compelling Reasons and a Purpose
Figuring out what motivates you to make something a goal in the first place is the first principle that will set the stage to accomplishing your goal. Why do you want to do this? How will the outcome make you feel? What are the benefits that you will realize after this goal is met? If the goal is work related, find out whether or not your goal is aligned with your agency’s goals.
Principle 2: Establish a Mutual Commitment to Success
It’s tough to go it alone on any goal or task. Find someone who you care about, wants to see you succeed, and who can keep you motivated and remind you of why you started on this path in the first place. It is also important that you trust this person and value the feedback and support they can provide to you. Setting a mutual agreement that benefits both parties involved is a great way to not only hold you to your commitment, it also makes you want to accomplish your goal to reap the rewards once you reach your target.
Principle 3: Learn About Situational Leadership® II
Situational Leadership II (SLII) is a model that employs one common language and process for growing great leaders. It is a program that teaches leaders to analyze, diagnose, think, and apply leadership concepts effectively to reach their goals. SLII guides individuals at each developmental level, both business and personal, they encounter in every situation. When you have a clear understanding of your goal, your level of development, and the right leadership or support that helps you accomplish your objective, you increase your commitment, motivation, and productivity toward that task.
Principle 4: Develop Appropriate Goals
Jumping in and tackling a goal without carefully planning out your strategy can lead to burn-out and failure. Take the time to assess the goal and set some action items that will outline how you can accomplish each task. Making your goals SMART can also help you monitor your progress along the way. Evaluate where you are at certain points so you can have a clear vision of how you are progressing in your goal.
Principle 5: Set up a Support System to Hold You Accountable
It’s inevitable that you’ll struggle at some point on your quest to accomplish your goal. When this occurs, it’s important to have a support system to keep you on track toward success. Whether it be a spouse, friend, or coworker at your agency, establish regular check-ins with this person or group to report on your progress. Again, trust is important here since you need to value the feedback that you receive from your support group in order to actually apply it.
Principle 6: Have Measurable Milestones to Stay Motivated
Anyone can become disengaged if they feel that they are not making progress on a goal or task. Setting specific milestones, big or small, will remind you of each success and how far you’ve come. Setting mini rewards along the way is another way to make your journey fun. Rewarding yourself suddenly turns your hard work into something that doesn’t even feel like work at all.
What other strategies do you use to stick to your goals and commit to your commitments?
As 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?
Driving to work today, I was listening to a popular talk radio station that led discussions focused on September 11. Likely so, as today marks the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that changed our nation. Specific conversations on this radio show centered on effective methods to weaken terrorist groups, potential new attacks using biological weapons, and how Americans are remembering those lost in the horrendous acts 12 years ago.
A particular story that stood out to me was about a non-profit movement that observes September 11 every year by urging individuals to go out and perform a charitable service or good deed. The association is called 9/11 Day and was created in 2002 by two friends, David Paine and Jay Winuk. The website, www.911day.org, includes a “quilt” of volunteers and individuals that support the movement along with their pledge of performing a good deed, opportunities to volunteer in your community, and toolkits that offer employers, teachers, non-profits, and government agencies tips on how to get involved. This incredible group describes their efforts as a means to “honor those that rose in service in response to the attacks, and remind people of the importance of working more closely together in peace to improve our world.” Wow! When I read that sentence, it caused me to pause (not while I was driving) and really think about what I am doing to “work more closely together in peace to improve our world.”
Over the weekend, I visited some friends at their house for the first time. Upon walking into their home, I immediately noticed a large framed American flag. What I didn’t notice at first glance, sewn into the white panels of the flag, were the names of each individual that lost their life on September 11. I inquired about this amazing piece and learned that it was a charitable effort done by a church in New York City. I don’t know how many of these flags exist nor how many people proudly display this flag in their home, but I was in awe by the work. To these friends, 9/11 is a daily reminder to live their lives to the fullest and “work more closely together in peace to improve our world.”
Through the company I work for, I am lucky to have the opportunity to give back to my community in many ways. I try to take advantage of as many as I am able, as well as support charitable events outside of the workplace. But could I be doing more? Sure, we all could!
What are you doing to “work more closely together in peace to improve our world,” not just on 9/11 but every day?
I 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?
At a recent conference in Richmond, VA, I had a chance to conduct a workshop with 160 Legislative Clerks and Secretaries. It was part of a week-long National Conference of State Legislatures. The topic for the morning session was Creating an Engaging Work Environment. In an exercise during the session, I asked participants to remember a time when they were the most engaged in their work environments.
Participants thought back over their past and present experiences and shared with each other some of the factors that created such an engaging environment. Factors such as meaningful work, growth opportunities, collaborative work environment, trusting and caring relationships were all mentioned.
Next we looked specifically at their present roles and work environments. Using a six point scale they evaluated their current work environment on 12 different factors that Blanchard research has identified as contributing to individual engagement and passion.
While their scores averaged a “4” on the 6-point scale, there were also “2s” and “6s” included in that average. This is true anytime you bring a group of people together—there is always a wide variation of scores that an average often conceals. While an organization may score a “4” overall, the reality is that the average represents some low scores as well as pockets of excellence.
So what does a smart leader do? Actively seek out both groups for more information.
You want to identify low scores early on so you can address them. You also want to identify pockets of excellence so that you can learn from them. In our work with clients, one of the biggest ways we help is by identifying these high performing pockets so that best practices can be shared with others.
4 steps to identifying your pockets of excellence
How’s your organization doing when it comes to measuring overall engagement levels? Do you know where your pockets of excellence are operating? If not, here’s a 4-step process to get you started.
- Conduct an employee engagement survey across your entire organization. Be sure to capture responses from as many different functions, sub-units, and teams as possible. Survey widely.
- Review responses and look for patterns at the team, functional, or location level. Identify your individual pockets of disengagement and pockets of excellence.
- Conduct follow-up interviews—especially with your pockets of excellence. Your goal is to find out what is contributing to high ratings. What managerial practices or environmental factors are contributing to positive employee perceptions?
- Share best practices broadly across other units. Share the practical strategies that you discover from individual teams and units with others in the organization.
Too often we think that the answer is “out there” somewhere. The best ideas are usually closer to home. Be sure that you are looking for them!