Posts Tagged commitment

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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Trust—Hard to Earn and Easy to Lose

Cracked cement symbolizing broken trust between people or partieRegardless of the lens through which each of us views the OPM data breach, we can all agree that its historical significance and impact on federal employee trust is rather extraordinary.

While an investigation into how the data breach occurred and what corrective action might be necessary to prevent future breaches is best left to the experts, the way in which this type of non-routine matter is handled by agency leaders has a real bearing on trust. Trust is so hard to gain and sustain—and it can evaporate quickly, depending on how leaders respond to and manage through the unexpected.

While it is inevitable that the unexpected will occur, and only so much can be controlled by leadership, here are four local action steps that can help.

  1. Create a strategic plan. Define important and common terms so that—regardless of time zone, role, tenure, or level of experience—information is processed and acted upon according to common practices and standards. Without a common framework, there is risk that an individual or team could misinterpret an action and inadvertently cause an undesired outcome. For instance, a decision could be made that is not consistent with the necessary actions to reduce or eliminate an undesired variance. It is critical for leadership to establish common frameworks and language to support coordinated, expeditious, and desired actions.
  1. Build alignment between role/function and outcomes. Often organization decision making is hampered by role or function ambiguity. Departments sometimes overstep their capacity because clear boundaries and charters have not been established. It is paramount for leaders to define “swim lanes” and levels of accountability by individual, teams, and departments so that there is never any doubt about who is required to act, when, and how.
  1. Ensure that measures are in place. Establishing operational performance metrics is crucial to knowing when an undesired gap has occurred. Of course, metrics are not necessary to recognize when a catastrophic event has taken place—but the criticality and importance of metrics lie in the ability to understand the magnitude of undesired variance. A performance scorecard or dashboard is an excellent way to keep employees engaged and aligned with mission because of a common understanding and appreciation for the state of agency performance.
  1. Communicate corrective action procedures effectively. When the unexpected strikes, it is vital for corrective action to be a reflex activity. There will not be much time for analysis. In fact, if certain anticipated corrective measures have not been anticipated, trained, and understood, the agency will be starting from a position where recovery will be inhibited. Leadership cannot orchestrate a potential solution to all scenarios, but an 80-20 rule should be applied where a majority of scenarios are forecast. This projection will prevent the erosion of trust by providing rapid response and unequivocal confidence in the continuity of agency operations.

Leadership must be prepared to provide continuity in times of crisis. This includes proactive agency planning before having to respond and manage a crisis. By following the four steps outlined above, leadership can improve the chances of mitigating risk and provide the desired response to the unforeseen.

When leaders prepare their agencies to respond to the unexpected, there is a much greater chance of preserving the public trust, continuing to deliver on expected services, and support for mission.

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Performance Appraisal—An Opportunity for Engagement?

Performance evaluation formThe time has come to think about performance appraisal as more than just a dreaded, required, annual exercise.  No one would argue that performance appraisal needs to include “accountability, fairness, and alignment with the function and strategy of the agency” (U.S. Office of Personnel Management). But what is missing from this purpose statement is how these elements—and others—can contribute to better employee engagement.

Blanchard research into the factors that create a passionate work environment include performance expectations, feedback, and fairness as recommended leadership focus areas. What would happen if leaders were trained to consider and use performance appraisal as a tool to “peel the onion back” to determine how engagement levels relate to performance outcomes?

For example, the performance appraisal process might include conversations in these four areas:

  1. Barriers to high performance. Discuss the environmental factors that may be inhibiting maximum performance. This gets team members thinking about work processes that might be underdeveloped or inefficient.
  1. Opportunities for improvement and change. This element is useful for seeking continuous improvement input. It also could identify growth and autonomy opportunities for direct reports.
  1. Support for both meeting and exceeding expectations. In addition to measuring past performance against agreed-to expectations, be sure to include discussion on ways to improve performance outcomes going forward.
  1. Commitment and passion. Have an open conversation about the importance of maximum engagement and the things that may be either limiting or supporting it. This is the perfect opportunity to check for work commitment and the factors that can lead to improved engagement. 

Incorporating a broader view and talking about engagement can help agencies improve the performance management process. With guidance and training, leaders can identify and remove barriers, seek ideas for continuous improvement, and establish ways to maximize work passion.

To learn more about the Blanchard approach to engagement, visit the company’s online research archive.  All white papers are available for free immediate download.

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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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Why Work? Moving from Compliance to Commitment

Diverse Business People on a MeetingWhy 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!)

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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6 Principles Of Committing To Your Commitment

Achieve Your Goals

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?

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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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