Posts Tagged Collaboration

Measure these Five Areas to Focus Your Engagement Efforts

Strategy business concept with magnifying glassOrganizations and agencies of all sizes hope to create a work environment where people perform at a high level, go above and beyond when needed, stay with and endorse the organization as a good place to work, and act as good organizational citizens. But are leaders in these organizations actively measuring employee perceptions and dealing with low scores as they are discovered?

In a new article for Chief Learning Officer researchers at The Ken Blanchard Companies recommend leaders measure employee work intentions in five key areas to focus their efforts: Discretionary Effort, Intent to Perform, Intent to Endorse, Intent to Remain, and Organizational Citizenship

Discretionary Effort: The Blanchard research shows that people are more apt to go the extra mile when they have autonomy and variety in their role. Peer relationships also influence discretionary effort. The more connected an individual is to his or her colleagues, the more likely he or she is to expend extra energy on behalf of the organization. People feel good about working extra hard when they believe the organization they are working for treats them fairly.

Intent to Perform: Blanchard data shows the more that people feel their jobs contain variety and include more than routine tasks, the greater their intention is to perform at a high level. Autonomy also plays a large role in performance intentions because people feel the need to have the freedom to decide how their tasks are performed and the authority to do their jobs.

Intent to Endorse: Blanchard research also identified that fairness in the work environment influences an individual’s willingness to endorse the organization as a good place to work and to recommend it to their family, friends, and potential customers. Most people also have a need to feel support for both their job and career growth. Autonomy also has influence on the intent to perform.

Intent to Remain: The Blanchard data indicated that the intent to stay with an organization is a statement of confidence in leadership as well as the organization. Lack of growth opportunities, fair benefits, and adequate pay cause intent to stay to diminish over time.

Organizational Citizenship: The Blanchard research also found that individuals who feel more highly connected to their colleagues and see their workplace as collaborative tend to focus more on the welfare of the organization. This connection is due to the concepts of sportsmanship, fair play, and taking care of others.

6 Recommendations for Leaders

Are you creating the type of environment that encourages your best people to stay and perform at high levels? The Blanchard researchers share six ways to get started drawing from their studies into 12 Employee Work Passion Factors.

Increase Task Variety. Scores on all five key intentions improve when employees have a variety in type and complexity of tasks

Provide Meaningful Work. Communicating vision, the value of an employee’s contribution to the organization, and the organization’s contribution to the community are important to people, and can influence intentions to Remain, Perform at a High Level, Endorse, and Engage in Organizational Citizenship Behaviors

Promote Procedural Fairness. Apply policies and procedures fairly to all employees to improve intentions to Perform, Remain, and Apply Discretionary Effort

Increase Autonomy. Allow people flexibility in how they accomplish their work and approach their jobs to improve intentions to Apply Discretionary Effort, Perform at a High Level, and Engage in Organizational Citizenship Behaviors

Encourage Employee Connections. Foster the development of personal and professional relationships among employees to influence the intention to Apply Discretionary Effort and Engage in Organizational Citizenship Behaviors

Offer Job and Career Growth Opportunities and Exhibit Distributive Fairness. Make sure compensation and distribution of resources are fair to improve employees’ Intention to Remain

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5 Leadership Skills for Succeeding in a Matrix Structure

Matrix managementIn a matrix organization structure, individuals are allocated to projects based on need, availability, region, and other factors. While this fluid structure has definite merits, it also presents leaders with the challenge of dealing with ambiguous budgets, authority, accountability, and performance evaluation.

Leading in a matrix structure, therefore, requires an implementation strategy unlike that of traditional management. Five core skills are necessary for leaders to be successful operating in a more fluid matrix environment.

  1. Building Trust. In a traditional organization design, individuals know who their direct manager is and rely on that person for their workplace needs. However, in a matrix structure, employees can be allocated to numerous managers. Building trust quickly with multiple people is crucial to getting work done efficiently across department lines.
  2. Influencing Others. Given that decision making is distributed in a matrix organization, it is important for leaders to develop their negotiation skills. Because resources will be flexed and shared, leaders need to know how to make a case for the resources they need—and how to accomplish agency goals through influence rather than command and control tactics.
  3. Understanding and Appreciating Differences. Leaders in a matrix organization have frequent interactions with people with whom they do not have a daily relationship. Therefore, it is critical for them to understand subtle variations in the way others process information, evaluate ideas, and make decisions.
  4. Managing Conflict. Conflict is not uncommon in a matrix environment. Resources are seldom aligned to budgets controlled by one person, which creates a need for negotiating win-win outcomes. In this regard, leaders need to know how to clearly communicate their desired results, understand the needs of others, and develop solutions that address multiple stakeholder interests.
  5. Having Constructive Conversations. Engaging in tactful and effective dialogue when there are differences of opinion and emotions are running high. In particular, leaders need to be more planful to exercise patience and discipline in their communication style.

The matrix organization holds great promise for those that are able to operate within it successfully.  With practice, the matrix environment allows organizations to operate more effectively and cross functionally to better serve customers—or, in the case of government, citizens. Leaders who evaluate themselves and others in their organization in each of these areas will give their organization a head start toward more effectively meeting the needs of the people they serve.

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A Common Language for a Common Mission

Language Word Signs Diverse Groups People CultureA common language is an essential ingredient for communication.  Consider the challenge people in any group face if they are trying to get ideas across without a shared reference point.

Let’s say there is a group assigned to providing support and aid to the victims of a natural disaster. This support will come from various agencies and require the coordination of human resources and material.

Without a common reference point and language, several elements of the relief effort could be inadequate—for example: determining the quantity of material, how the material will be delivered, personnel assignments, and logistics to support the movement of people to a necessary location. The success of this coordination is predicated upon the presence, understanding, and utilization of a common understanding.

The same is true within an agency.  A shared language works just as well to help people from different functions work together effectively. Consider the following factors as you put together a common language dictionary.  How many of these would you say have a shared understanding for your agency?

  1. Investments—A Common Vision. Agencies must set appropriate parameters and boundaries for what is in scope and how to define those elements. Where are we going as an agency?  How do our individual roles contribute to that mission?  Creating a common vision is the first place to begin.
  2. Execution—Fundamental Leadership. When an employee makes the transition from individual contributor to first time supervisor, skills need to be addressed such as how to address common challenges like conflict management, communication, delegation, and motivation. Have you created a well defined set of behaviors so that first time supervisors understand expectations?
  3. Empowerment—Defining Authority. Empowerment is central to the fulfillment of mission and employee engagement. But without a common definition of what empowerment entails, leaders will initiate empowerment in ways that can cause alignment and execution issues.  Have you identified how procedures are to be performed by specific parties and what the limits to authority are?  People perform best when the playing field is clearly marked.  What have you done to identify what is in bounds and what is out of bounds?
  4. Beliefs—Shared Values. The common leadership language should reflect agency values that drive and support necessary outcomes. Further, leadership has the responsibility to periodically reinforce these shared values and remind the organization that converting values from common sense to common practice will deliver sound public service. Have you clearly defined agency values in a way that leaders can use to reinforce values and ensure adherence?
  5. Integration—Working Collaboratively. A final goal of a common leadership language is the elimination of silos that prevent two-way communication, feedback, and the sharing of resources. Have you identified and shared best practices on how to connect and leverage ideas and resources and provide continuous improvement feedback?

Speaking a Common Language

A common language provides an agency with a chance for incremental improvements in engagement and retention while it maintains the ability to deliver against mission. A common leadership language will improve the pace at which new leaders will learn and appropriately apply desired leadership practices. Mentoring and feedback across the agency will be aided because all leaders will have a common understanding and vision, allowing for more objective, timely, and accurate improvement of leadership capacity.

If your agency has not established a common leadership language, consider what steps you can take to reap the benefits of a common framework.

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Building Bridges: 4 Keys to COPE with Workplace Demands

business woman leading a team isolated over whiteIt’s people and their associated behaviors—not just spreadsheets and action plans—that drive successful projects. An effective manager-employee connection is vital: everyone has times when they need support, direction, and encouragement to stay energized and committed. Still, the notion of managers establishing and sustaining relationships with their people is often overshadowed by the day-to-day work of managing projects.

Here are four relationship building practices managers can use to help employees stay focused, stay energized, and COPE with workplace demands.

  1. Career planning. When employees believe there are options for advancement, they are more likely to have a high level of commitment. But it is important to remember that career advancement means different things to different people. One person might have a desire to lead others while another is content to be a specialist without supervisory responsibility. Successful leaders open a dialogue about specific options that are important to each employee, review potential paths to achieving goals, and maintain an ongoing conversation.
  1. Open door approach. Next, employees need to see the manager as easily accessible. An open door approach is a relationship building tool that enables a trusting, two-way dialogue. This can be achieved through MBWA (management by walking around—somewhat of a lost art); one-on-one meetings that create a safe harbor for exchange; reserving time in the office for employees to visit as desired; and using 360-degree feedback. Reserved office hours might take many of us back to university days when professors welcomed a visit to discuss a class assignment or clarify a topic. In addition to gathering needed information, these hours were conducive to relationship building—students knew they would be welcome without appointment or concern about interrupting workflow.
  1. Problem solving. The open door approach not only creates an environment and opportunity for exchange, it also provides a forum for problem solving. Problem solving often requires the support of others—and its success can depend upon the extent and effectiveness of the manager-employee relationship. If a solution calls for a change in policy, an allocation of resources, or something else requiring a manager’s involvement, the presence of a quality manager-employee relationship will smooth the process.
  1. Engaged Innovation. Innovation can move the agency needle on breakthroughs related to delivering the best public service. Often the answer to recurring and persistent issues can be found at the point of delivery: customer-facing employees will likely have ideas on how to remove obstacles to success. Bringing these innovative ideas forward requires engagement on the part of the manager and the employee—and the level of engagement is based on the success of their relationship.

Every agency should explore the degree to which leaders acknowledge, understand, and participate in relationship building. This is not a “nice-to-have” task; effective manager-employee relationships should be an important component of every workplace.

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3 Ways to Create a More Inclusive Work Environment

Businesswoman Working At Desk With Meeting In BackgroundPeople don’t show up to work as robots—they are human beings with hearts, minds, and feelings. Today’s leaders must be adept at recognizing and embracing psychological needs, especially as they relate to performance and engagement.

How do leaders accomplish this? The answer can be found in the latest research on employee work passion and the factors that contribute to it

It is a given that employees are motivated in some way. Their motivation might not always align with desired behavior and outcomes, but it is there. To channel employee energy toward larger agency goals, leaders have to embrace tools and techniques that address common needs that people bring to any work environment, including desires for collaboration, connectedness, and an opportunity to influence decisions that impact their work.

Here are three ways to get started:

  1. Include employees in the planning process. Seek employee perspectives on how to execute agency mission. For instance, how can administrators include front line personnel in developing customer care strategies?
  1. Ask people for their opinion. Doing so in a genuine way is an easy, no cost way to create passion and a sense of ownership toward the success of any initiative.
  1. Share information. Sharing senior leaders’ viewpoints as well as progress toward objectives is another low cost method that promotes inclusion.

Individuals are more committed when they know and have some say in the direction of the agency. Think of it this way: would you like to be told where you will spend your vacation, or would you prefer to be given options, information on each option, and a chance to participate in the decision process?

Information and a corresponding participatory process create more commitment, engagement, and passion than a directive decision process. By considering ways to increase inclusiveness, collaboration, and connectedness, leaders can take their first steps toward creating a more passionate and engaging work environment for their people.

For more information (and access to research) on how The Ken Blanchard Companies helps agency leaders develop motivational strategies that directly support employee work passion, please visit www.kenblanchard.com/

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Federal Employee Engagement: Who is Responsible?

Accountable Stamp in red ink assigning credit or blame to the peWho should be held accountable for employee engagement in the federal workspace? Many different arguments and perspectives surface when this question is posed. Recently, the White House, the GAO, Cabinet leaders, the SES community, and direct managers have all been mentioned.

But in some ways, it is a misleading question.  Engagement is addressed best when there is a collaborative accountability.  Collaborative, or joint, accountability ensures that resources necessary to support engagement initiatives are planned for and allocated, targets are set, and managers are provided with refresher and advanced skills training needed to manage and lead daily activities.

While it might be a radical paradigm shift with respect to the current situation, it would make perfect sense to design and deploy a check and balance system of accountability. Such an approach would be consistent with the principles of government that hold the three branches of government accountable to one another. In the instance of engagement, this check and balance system should ensure that frontline managers to SES staff are held accountable only if budget authorizations are approved in a timely manner, and that such budgets make provisions for training leaders in improving employee engagement on a continuous basis.

Assuming that the budget authorization and allocation process provides for the necessary tools and techniques to appropriately and adequately lead and manage engagement efforts, there must be some consequence associated with not driving and achieving higher levels of engagement.

That seems to be where the current conversation is headed. However,  in a joint accountability scenario the following would need to be in place:

Set a Baseline: With the introduction of consequences, a baseline must be established that would represent a starting point upon which improvement must be made. A timeframe would also need to be set.  In our experience at The Ken Blanchard Companies, a two-year cycle would be an equitable timeframe that would give managers an opportunity to influence engagement outcomes.

Provide Training: A proven skill-building program that provides insights into key drivers of engagement can help focus the application of tools and techniques. This would allow agency managers to concentrate on specific interventions proven to influence engagement scores. The idea here is something new that goes beyond the standard satisfaction survey approach of the past. Knowing where employees draw their energy and passion from and how to address it is essential to focusing time and energy.

Measure Results: When we reference consequence, there has to be a tangible byproduct. One that has certainly captured a lot of attention recently has been indexing agency leader compensation to engagement scores.  However, in the spirit of the two-year cycle (or window) for improvement, only the second year of the cycle would connect pay to engagement outcomes. This will provide the time to work through the responsibility, motivation, and attention all parties need to explore resources, budget, execution, and outcomes.

In working with organizations large and small in the government and private sectors, The Ken Blanchard Companies has found that a collaborative effort, where strategic and operational leaders work together, generates the best results.  Employee engagement is a big issue.  Plans, alone, won’t fix it.  Accountability, alone, won’t fix it.  Only collaborative efforts will generate the long-term, sustainable results that everyone is looking for.

 

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How Motivated Are You?

Let’s face it; there are some days when you are just not that motivated.  We’ve all seen the commercial on television where the guy is out with friends and asks a raspy-voiced woman to call his place of employment to say he will be out sick for the day.  While the commercial is all in good fun, for some people, calling in “sick” can be a sigh of relief when they lack motivation or passion in their role.

Motivation is a skill that can be taught, learned, developed, and nurtured.

So what motivates people to excel in their job and truly enjoy what they do?

Dr. Drea Zigarmi and Susan Fowler with The Ken Blanchard Companies have been researching what exactly motivation and passion mean to individuals and how they can leverage both to improve their state of mind at their workplace.

Employee passion is the positive emotional state of mind resulting from our own perceptions of worthwhile work, autonomy, collaboration, growth, fairness, recognition, connectedness to our colleagues, and connectedness to our leader, all of which lead to standards of behavior that include effort, long-term commitment to the agency, peak performance, low turnover, and increased tenure with the agency.  Motivation increases the probability of employee passion that results in three intentions highly valued by any agency:

  • The intent to stay, support, and use good judgment on behalf of the agency
  • The plan to perform at or above expectations
  • The willingness to demonstrate organizational citizenship behavior

Want to learn more?  Drea and Susan will be discussing the results of their cutting-edge research and the implications on how we work and lead within the workplace on June 1st in Washington, DC.  They will also be sharing key skills needed to engage employees and sustain optimal motivation and employee passion.

Registration is currently open for this briefing.

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