Archive for category Teams

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
Relationships & Communication
Optimal Performance
Recognition & Appreciation

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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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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Do our nation’s leaders need more leadership training?

I work for a leadership and training development company. I am constantly surrounded by best practices on leading a team, leading in a situation, and even leading myself. I am continuously exposed to the skills required to develop an individual into a great leader, motivate a team member, and generate empowerment in a direct report. So when I read reports like The Federal Leadership Challenge from the Partnership for Public Service (PPS), I have to remember that not everyone has the same daily experience that I have. PPS conducted an analysis using the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) 2011 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and uncovered that leadership is the lowest ranking category in the Federal Government. The report states that out of 10 workplace categories, leadership has the lowest ranking, scoring only 54.9 out of 100. Read the rest of this entry »

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“My Performance Sucked”: Leadership at the NFL Playoffs

Empowerment is what leaders give to their people.

Today’s blog post was written by guest blogger, Doug Trainor, Consulting Associate with The Ken Blanchard Companies and Co-founder of Leadership Vanguard.

I know that many of you reading this might be Baltimore Ravens fans.  For those folks, I’m sorry about the playoff loss on Sunday.  I hope you will bear with me despite the fact that the leadership I am writing about comes from Tom Brady, quarterback for the Patriots.  After the Patriots win in the AFC Championship game Sunday, Brady was being interviewed and the reporter  mentioned how great Brady played, leading his team to a fifth Superbowl while he was quarterback—and tying a record doing so.  To which Brady responded, “I sucked today—fortunately the team did better than I did.”

Is that leadership? Yes! I think we need more of that type of leading in organizations across America—both public and private sector.  So please tell someone you were a poor performer today! It may sound a bit funny but there is something to it. A lot to it, actually. The first thing is candor.  We need candor to make our agencies and departments better.  Leaders address reality—even when it is tough to do and with upcoming budget pressures and the sometimes extreme political dialogues we hear on TV—candor will serve you well with those you lead.

The next quality Brady displayed with his comment was accountability. He took personal accountability for his performance and he did it publicly.  When leaders do this it builds credibility with those they lead and with the customers they serve.  It can be a powerful way to increase the trust in your organization. A side benefit is that makes it easier to give difficult feedback to people around you when you admit your own failings. Something that makes feedback easier?  Who couldn’t use some of that?

Last, but not least… it promotes humility.  Humility is a leadership quality that will serve you well in every way. Not thinking poorly of yourself; but realistically. And realizing our teams are the reason we succeed in our leadership roles and giving credit where it is due.

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Let Me Help You

Collaboration is, yet again, prevalent across the news, blogs, and industry publications.  Government Executive magazine featured an article in the September issue about agencies working with and supporting other federal government agencies.  The article focuses on how interagency collaboration has the potential to bring teams together that demonstrate the know-how to get things done efficiently and successfully.

Not one of us is as smart as all of us.High performing teams execute better and faster than traditional hierarchies.  People with collaboration concerns are focused on coordination and cooperation with others. They want to get everyone on board because they are convinced the change is making a difference.  Questions that arise with these concerns are: Who else should be involved?  How can we work with others to get them involved in what we are doing?  How do we spread the word?

In order to promote highly effective teams, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is concentrating on goals that call for collaboration of multiple agencies and programs.  These efforts can also promote key practices that can enhance and sustain collaboration.  The U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a testimony on strategies to improve collaboration in the Federal Government.  A few of the strategies include:

  • Establishing common strategies
  • Leveraging resources
  • Agreeing on roles and responsibilities
  • Developing compatible policies and procedures

How can you leverage other agencies to become a more effective team?  To find out how, click here to read a whitepaper on the role of teams.

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Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Released

The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (formerly the Federal Human Capital Survey) was released this week. This survey was designed to measure Federal employees’ perceptions about how effectively agencies are managing their workforces.

Conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), over a quarter-million Federal workers responded to the survey. “President Obama has made it clear: the Federal government needs to deliver results for the taxpayers. Our civil servants are the people who deliver those results, and we at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management are doing everything we can to make them the best, most productive workers in the world,” said OPM Director John Berry.

Below you’ll find some highlights of the results:

• 5% increase in belief that organizations’ leaders maintain high standards of honesty and integrity.
• 4% increase in having high level of respect for organization’s senior leaders.
• 4% increase in feeling that leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment, but scores on this item are still below 50 percent favorability.
• Less than half of respondents thought that promotions were based on merit, that pay raises were connected with job performance or that steps were taken to deal with poor performers.
• There are 3-5% increases in supervisor performance discussions seen as worthwhile, perceptions that performance appraisals are fair and differences in performance are recognized.

This survey is conducted every two years. Here are some interesting trends from the past three surveys (2006, 2008, and 2010):

• I have trust and confidence in my supervisor: 2006 – 63.8%; 2008 – 64.2%; 2010 – 66.5%
• I have a high level of respect for my organization’s senior leaders: 2006 – 49.5%; 2008 – 52.1%; 2010 – 55.6%
• How satisfied are you with the work/life programs in your agency: 2006 – 38.6%; 2008 – 39.9%; 2010 – 35.4%

To read the entire report, visit the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s website.

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Working Virtually—Challenges and Benefits

By Ruth Anne Randolph

With the blizzard that hit the Washington DC area earlier this year, estimates of the cost of lost productivity among federal government agencies totaled $550,000,000 for one lost week.  When people cannot physically get to their offices, current technology offers multiple options to allow staff to continue to work from home.  Recently, I talked with a client who wasn’t in her office because of the blizzard, then a personal illness, for three weeks in February.  Yet, she was productive because her agency was set up for teleworking.

Why is teleworking not more wide-spread in the federal government?  It is beginning, but government is not leading the way.   If teleworking were more established, this loss of productivity would definitely be mitigated.

What holds government agencies back?    Lack of trust and accountability are big hang-ups, our clients tell me.  Can we address these hurdles? Absolutely.  The virtual work world has to be structured with more intentional support and clear direction because people do not have the safety net of informal communications.  Expectations must be crystal clear, with milestones and check-ups more defined.

As Ken Blanchard says, “As a manager, the important thing is not what happens when you are there, but what happens when you are not there.”

What ideas do you have on building trust and ensuring accountability?  How can government agencies maintain productivity while staff telework?

Can we look at the blizzard of 2010 as an opportunity to open the door to new approaches to improve performance and worker satisfaction even when it is 70 degrees?


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