Posts Tagged communication
When we hear the word change, there is usually some pause in our thinking as we reflect on the why, when, what, and how of potential impact. This is especially true in a large organization because of the number of people affected and the diversity of views. What can agency leaders do to help individuals embrace and support change? Here are a few key areas to address.
Address the Why: Any change, regardless of complexity or scale, requires sensitivity in addressing the need for change. This should include anticipating questions and concerns about why the change is needed. If leadership cannot come up with a tangible, concise statement about the need for the change, there is likely little value in it.
Consider Impact: It is only normal for individuals to evaluate change through the lens of how it will impact them personally. Achieving buy-in calls for a detailed response to the question What’s in it for me? (WIIFM). Once each person recognizes how the change will impact them as an individual, they can begin to consider the change from a broader point of view. Communication and employee involvement are key before energetic support for change can be realized. Communication could include emails highlighting supporting points, staff discussions, town hall meetings, and focus groups. It is also very useful to involve a cross section of employees in contributing to the design and development of the desired change.
Demonstrate the Value: With an explanation for the change and grass roots buy-in within reach, leadership needs to develop a safe harbor in which to test the change. This test could take the form of a pilot in a specific part of the organization that would illustrate how the change will positively impact the organization. The duration of the pilot would depend on process complexity and degree of perceived change.
Measure, Monitor, and Adjust: Once a desired change strategy has been implemented, it’s important to monitor, measure, and adjust the strategy as required. Measurement can be in the form of qualitative survey or quantitative output measures. In both cases, results should be openly shared with employees so that everyone can objectively observe the positive contribution of the change. Managing with facts and data will secure commitment to current and future changes because it will show a demonstrated desire for positive impact.
Challenges are a reality in any organization facing a change initiative. But transparent communication, employee involvement, and adjusting and measuring impact can go a long way toward calming initial resistance, getting past the pause, and managing the change process.
Got change in your future? Make sure to include these elements in your change strategy to ensure greater success.
Who 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.
Feedback is not easy for most people. Learning to give it constructively and receive it gracefully are two skills that can make difficult situations much less so. Getting in the habit of asking for feedback is also important. You should be soliciting feedback from your direct reports, or letting them know that you are interested in hearing what they have to say.
Giving constructive feedback takes some thought. You must consider the impact to the person. It seems simple but the words used, the venue and time chosen, and event the topic of feedback will all make a difference in how it is received.
- Know your audience –Some people would be happier to have you praise them privately. If you are giving good feedback be aware of the person’s preference for being praised publically.
- Give notice – For negative feedback try to give the person time to get ready to talk about it. If you have regular meetings tell them you want to talk about the issue or project during the meeting, if not set something up specific to the topic.
- Plan your words – Remember to separate the tasks, actions, or project from the person. Be sure you will hit all the essential points and be specific. Give examples of what a good job looks like or what has been done well.
Receiving negative feedback gracefully can be even more difficult. No one likes being told their efforts have been for not, or that their work must be redone. There is a lot to learn from how others see us and welcoming feedback can help you redirect your efforts and be more successful.
- Listen for the meaning – Not everyone is good at communicating directly. Difficult conversations sometimes inspire people to tap dance around an issue. Listen for the problem, try to be task specific, and ask for suggestions on how to make a correction.
- Ask questions –General feedback is usually only a mask for the problem, you need to learn the specifics so you can make a change.
- Agree on expectations – It is easier for many people to be indirect. They get to leave the conversation feeling like they gave you the necessary feedback but you might be left wondering what it is they want. Ask what the person needs or expects from you.
Cultivating truth tellers among your team and being willing to play the role for others is a useful way to actively gauge how effective a leader you are. Learning to give and receive useful feedback takes trust and practice. The benefits of knowing where you stand with your team, being able to make meaningful changes mid-project, and building understanding are so valuable. Much more so than the temporary comfort of avoiding an awkward conversation.
Do you have truth tellers on your team? Do you have any tips for giving good feedback?
There 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
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?
I have an advantage. I reach hundreds of people every week as a writer of this blog. I write about leadership, motivation, communication, work passion, and the latest topic going on in the US Government. This week I would like to do something a bit different. I am not going to write about the vision and mission every agency or team could adopt to help them achieve their mission (although I firmly believe in having both). I do not want to share tactics you can choose to implement in order to be a trustworthy leader (although I firmly believe in the positive impact of an effective leader). Today I hope the message you get from this blog post is geared toward the kindness and empathy we give to each other on a daily basis, both in and out of the work place.
I have shared some personal endeavors of my life with you in this blog; my current educational endeavor, individual encounters I have had with colleagues and clients, and other insights about my job. I have shared information about the leadership best practices of The Ken Blanchard Companies and I hope you have found these tidbits helpful. Today, I would like each visitor of this blog to share a random act of kindness they have completed and tell us how you felt afterwards. How did the act of kindness, no matter how big or small, set the tone for the rest of your day or week? After all, we ARE all leaders and when we share the love we have in our hearts with one another, that is the best form of leadership we can exhibit.
Happy holidays, Everyone! Enjoy this time. Share the love and kindness you possess with the rest of the world. Love and lead one another.
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?