Posts Tagged Buy-in
In the cover story for this month’s Training magazine, author Gail Dutton takes a look at the ongoing presidential primary races from a unique perspective: what learning and development professionals can learn from each candidate’s approach.
Just like a presidential candidate, Dutton says, L&D professionals have to remain relevant, stay in the race, and advance their agendas.
By taking a closer look at presidential campaign positioning and maneuverings, Dutton believes that executives charged with leading the learning and development of others can “identify tactics that work, determine why others failed, and apply those insights to ensure their message is heard above the chatter.”
Here are a few of her key points:
Be Aspirational—Express a Great Purpose
Whether it is Donald Trump’s “Let’s Make America Great Again” slogan or Bernie Sanders ’ anti-corporate, anti-establishment, anti-money stance, it’s important that L&D leaders achieve that same clarity by refining their message down to its key elements, says Dutton.
Dutton quotes Lawrence Polsky, cofounder of teambuilding and coaching firm Teams of Distinction. In politics, Polsky says, “Sanders talks in terms of revolution, appealing to his followers to act. Trump outlines his specific steps to make America great.”
Sanders’s and Trump’s statements in their respective debates have catalyzed discussions. That happens in business, too, writes Dutton. “When L&D leaders can articulate an aspirational goal and connect it to specific steps employees can take to reach it, they inspire action.”
Tailor Your Message—Cautiously
Leaders must understand their audience but they also must consider the consequences. Dutton writes, “During primary elections, candidates appeal to their bases. But statements that appeal to core supporters may backfire during the general election. As a case in point, when Hillary Clinton was asked of which enemy she was most proud, she said, ‘The Republicans.’”
Dutton points out that William Senft, coauthor of the book Being Rational, writes, “That pitch appealed to the self-interests of one group but alienated much of the electorate.”
Dutton says the message for L&D leaders is to consider the big picture. Focusing strictly on one element of a program may resonate with leaders from that discipline—but when pitching to the C-suite, concerns such as expenses, returns, capital usage, and opportunity costs must be considered.
Be Authentic and Show Your Human Side
Dutton shares that a Bell Leadership Institute survey of 2,700 employees found that a sense of humor was one of the two most mentioned attributes of good leaders. In the first Republican debate, Carly Fiorina apparently forgot that fact and appeared painfully severe. Soon afterward, she released an old family photo of herself and her young daughters posing in a bubble bath to highlight her whimsical side. Business leaders needn’t go that far, but the ability to laugh does make them more approachable.
Dutton quotes author William Senft again: “Hillary, on the other hand, has issues with authenticity. She’s tried over the years to present herself as easygoing and likeable. In reality, she’s intense and ambitious. People sense that and have a difficult time accepting her [when she tries to be something she isn’t].”
“That’s true for organizations, too,” writes Dutton. “Be who and what you are.”
In our last blog we reviewed four key points to ensure successful leadership assimilation, and invited our readers to comment. Today we will highlight additional tips and an insightful suggestion from one our readers.
It is essential for a new leader to fully comprehend the existing agency culture before making changes. This same need applies whether the leader has accepted a position in a new agency or has been promoted within their own agency. In both cases leaders should reflect or refresh their knowledge of the agency’s norms, patterns, and expectations. Here are four important areas that need to be examined before the new leader launches any initiatives.
- Decision Making Patterns: Understanding how information is processed, acted upon, and ultimately used in decision making can be important to learning about nuances in internal culture and politics. This area of investigation will also help to establish awareness of key stakeholders and build bridges to them. It is critical for the new leader to respect the way in which decisions are made if they want to influence outcomes, corrective actions, and potential new directions.
- Expectation Management: A new leader should take the time to explore what will be expected of them in the new role. Expectations will exist on three levels: manager, team, and agency. Communication is the key. At a team level, ask the team what they need, what has worked well in the past, and what changes might be necessary. At the manager and agency level, a series of one-on-one meetings with senior leaders and direct reports will help to charter a course with respect to desired outcomes and how to best address issues.
- Feedback: A new leader needs candid feedback to ensure expectations are met and integration into the operational flow is occurring as desired. New leaders should not hesitate to ask a simple question such as “How is it going?” This is a great way to open a dialogue and receive feedback in a non-threatening way. Further, the lost art of MBWA (Management by Walking Around) is an excellent, non-intrusive way to hear about operational activity, discuss projects, establish a presence, and build a connection to the team.
- Relationship Building: If others do not trust and respect the new leader, alienation, passive-aggressive resistance, and other undesired behaviors may emerge. One of our readers has an excellent and practical idea to ensure that integrity and openness are part of a new leader’s foundation: the new leader simply shares their calendar with the team and keeps it updated. This is an excellent way to create trust through transparency. In this way the direct report team can understand the new leader’s availability and appreciate priorities.
New initiatives are better received when leaders take the time to thoroughly understand the culture they are operating in. Increase the quality and frequency of communication to set yourself up for success in your new role.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, half of senior outside hires fail within 18 months. This can occur for many reasons, but one of the most prevalent is the newly hired leader not understanding, respecting, or practicing the organization’s procedures. It is critically important for any new manager to begin from a place of acknowledgment before starting a dialogue around change. Otherwise, organizations just reject the person and their outside ideas even though the new ideas could improve agency mission.
So, what will work to ensure the success of a new manager and the continued delivery of services in the interest of public service? Here are some best practices for new managers—and their leaders—to consider.
- Provide Opportunities for Early Wins. This is not specifically about implementing change or achieving a specific outcome. Instead, an early win should address the new manager’s fit with the agency and reinforce that the agency made the right decision. This helps the team settle in.
- Model Effective Meeting Management. Meetings can often amount to lost opportunities if not well managed. On the other hand, with a well crafted agenda and the appropriate attendees, meetings can be the perfect forum in which to dialogue on tough issues, discuss breakthrough ideas, and build team cohesion through active listening and participation.
- Help with Conflict Resolution. Because conflict is inevitable in any workplace, it is important for a new manager to understand the organization’s existing process for conflict resolution. For example, are conflicts openly discussed? Is it common to bring a third party into the process to provide an independent view? Or are conflicts generally ignored? Once the new manager understands the norm, they can deal with conflict appropriately—or, if no real process exists, they could begin laying the groundwork for a new process by preparing an outline that includes change rationale.
- Learn from a Pro. A very useful and often overlooked assimilation technique is for a manager who had previously held the same role to share their insights with the new manager. This individual can offer a perspective that is usually void of personal agenda; therefore, there is a good likelihood they will provide quality feedback.
This list is designed to be a thought starter. What would you add for leaders in public agencies? Share your thoughts in the comments section, and I will include them in my next post.
Transitioning to a new agency, a new branch, or a new role requires some homework to learn, understand, and appreciate rules and workflow. By anticipating the questions and challenges new managers may have around policy and process, you can help them get off to the best start possible.
Why do people work? Thinking beyond the basics (health insurance, income to meet obligations, etc.) is crucial for any agency leader looking to develop initiatives designed to improve engagement and productivity.
Asking why helps leaders identify ways to move from compliance to commitment. When that occurs, individuals and teams will put forth extra effort to achieve desired outcomes, contribute to continuous improvement efforts, and anticipate actions that will prevent undesired consequences.
Here are three methods for sparking a vested interest in your agency’s mission and moving individuals beyond compliance. (And they don’t require any incremental costs beyond fiscal year budgets!)
- Give employees a voice.
When employees feel as if they have a voice in how things get done, a vested interest is created. This vested interest builds commitment and a desire to exercise discretionary effort. Focus groups are a good place to start—they provide a forum for employees to respond to a basic framing question: “What’s working well and what’s not?” Be sure to create a safe harbor of anonymity where employees know their ideas and constructive feedback will not be met with punishment. Also, make sure that focus group ideas are acknowledged and acted upon.
- Use action learning projects.
Appoint teams to address potential solutions. In this context, requesting a team of individual contributors to explore options demonstrates that other views and opinions count and can make a difference. Moreover, individuals who normally do not work together can have an opportunity to collaborate and build connections across departments. A corresponding benefit is that the selection of individuals for these teams can be treated as a form of recognition.
- Create process improvement teams.
Launch a practice by which individuals can recommend changes. This practice will generate excitement about shaping agency practices and demonstrate that going beyond compliance can be rewarding. This is a place where a proven methodology such as Six Sigma can provide structure and a proven framework to ensure constructive channeling.
Empower Your People to Identify, Solve, and Recommend
When employees are asked to explore options, provide solutions, and recommend action steps, they become an extension of leadership and are increasingly engaged in agency decision making and success. Don’t miss the opportunity to inject a healthy dose of empowerment into your work environment. Give people an opportunity to contribute in ways beyond the basic need to work. You’ll be surprised at the difference it can make in turning a compliance mentality into commitment.