Posts Tagged Government

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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Time for Action!

Time For ActionThe results of the latest Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) remind us it will take a concerted effort to slow down and reverse the decline in engagement scores across the federal workforce.  After four years of declining scores, it’s time for a comprehensive human capital strategy for the largest workforce in the world.

For agency leaders—including chief human capital officers and chief learning officers—The Ken Blanchard Companies has just released a breakthrough pricing opportunity for federal agencies to elevate leadership capacity and address workforce disengagement and dissatisfaction.

Leverages Government Purchasing Power

Blanchard’s Core Solutions License Package allows all agencies to meet their missions with greater flexibility and effectiveness by offering a tiered-pricing model based on headcount. The package enables agencies to leverage combined government-buying power and have greater access to training solutions at the individual, team and executive levels than ever before. The train-the-trainer qualification process quickly moves agencies to self-reliance, an important ingredient to reducing dependency on outside consulting fees.

The annual licensing solution allows agencies to implement a proven, affordable, award winning end-to-end Leadership Development Maturity curriculum, resulting in more than $1 billion in savings if adopted government-wide.

Applying a value-based, people-centric tool that is comprehensive at all levels gives agencies the ability to realize a common passion and accountability throughout an organization. As accessibility to training is a primary success factor for many government organizations, Blanchard’s solutions package grants agencies a transformative approach to motivate and evolve the nation’s most critical workforce.

Enhanced Return on Investment Where It Is Needed Most

As Paul Wilson, Blanchard’s vice president of federal solutions identifies, “These solutions allow for unprecedented savings and training advancements to make a tangible, substantial impact and enhanced return on investment where it’s needed most – our federal workforce.”

You can learn more about Blanchard’s approach to a comprehensive human capital strategy via this press release. To view Blanchard’s full suite of solutions, visit www.kenblanchard.com/licensing-package-for-gov

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Safety First

cautionHave you seen Simon Sinek’s 2014 TED talk, Why good leaders make you feel safe? He said, “In the military, they give medals to people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may gain. In business, we give bonuses to people who are willing to sacrifice others so that we may gain.” He is pointing out the best and worst of these two work environments.  The culture in the military expects and rewards those who look out for others.  Yet, we seem to reward just the opposite in business.

I have seen this sacrifice of others in government workplaces first hand but the most visible example I can think of is the impact of delaying the annual budget each year. Congress and the President are responsible for the budget but in recent years they have put it off too long, or been unable to agree on what programs get funded. As a result the people are unexpectedly denied services and government employees are faced with unplanned, indefinite furloughs. Workers have to live without a paycheck. And though they will eventually get their job back, and are likely to get back pay, they are living on savings. Not a safe place to be. It is easy to understand workers feeling betrayed.

Every day people perform extraordinary acts of selflessness. Sinek tells the stories in his TED talk of a Medal of Honor winner and a manufacturing company with a furlough program that saved every employee’s job and improved moral during very hard times. The people we would choose to follow are those who inspire our loyalty by giving of themselves. They are leaders because they go to great lengths to do what is best for the safety and the lives of their people.

When people know they will be taken care of, they can focus on making great things happen. Just imagine if business and government leaders focused on creating environments that foster cooperation and make people feel safe. The possibilities are endless.

What do you do to make your people feel safe and cared for?

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Public Servant or Servant Leader

leaderI was struck last month by a story I read in The New York Times. The Prime Minister of South Korea announced he was stepping down after 302 lives were lost in a ferry disaster. In that article, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won is quoted saying “when I saw the people’s sadness and fury, I thought it was natural for me to step down with an apology”.

Arguably, our public servants should be doing what is in the best interest of the public. It is sometimes difficult to imagine American leaders being so altruistic, though I do know some lesser known public leaders who are. The South Korean Prime Minister seems to have applied the philosophy of Servant Leadership. He made a decision to step down so that he would not be an impediment to his country moving forward after a tragedy. He took ultimate responsibility even though the disaster will likely be what he is remembered for.

Government employees are often called public servants. The idea is that when you work for the government, the people are the ones to whom you are ultimately accountable. When working as a public servant it is important to ask ourselves, am I a self-serving leader or a servant leader? It is easy to tell the difference. When faced with feedback self-serving leaders are ruled by their fear of loss of position or status, while a servant leader will see feedback as information useful to allow her to provide better service.

Servant leadership goes beyond putting others first. It is supporting and growing individuals to allow them to do their best work. That doesn’t mean letting your team run the show. It means taking initiative to remove road blocks and get your team what they need to produce quality products and services. You can read more about the philosophy in chapter 14 of Leading at a Higher Level. There is a great story about a Department of Motor Vehicles lead by a servant leader who made a big impact in how citizens were treated and how quickly they were served.

How do you serve those you lead?

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If You Admire Someone, Speak Up

applauseWho do you admire? Perhaps you know someone who has overcome some extreme personal challenges or has shown himself to be particularly true to his morals and an example to others. Take a moment and think of at least one person who has impressed you with their actions or kindness. Have you ever told that person you admire them? If you haven’t, you should.

There are many people I admire. One in particular is a very close friend of my family who has filled a role similar to an aunt to me since I was about ten-years-old. She and her husband lived an amazing balance of just enough planning for the future and living in the present. Their story is one marked by his chronic illness and struggle for health. We lost him suddenly late last year just before his 60th birthday, and it rocked our community.

Last year on Christmas I stuck a note into my friend’s purse while we were celebrating. She found it the next day and loved it so much she showed it to my mom, who was a little choked up when she told me. It was simple but important because I had never told her just what her example means to me.

In the note I told her that I aspire to be more like her in that she doesn’t make a big fuss over day-to-day life. When we were kids, she was the mom who said, “Whoever wants to go to the beach, put on your suit and grab a towel; we’re leaving in ten minutes”. She always kept things simple. I love that she can embrace whatever is good right now, even when she is dealing with some pretty terrible things that she cannot control. And she always finds a way to give of herself and make the people in her life feel valued.

Part of what makes my friend’s example so meaningful to me is that I struggle with some similar challenges. It doesn’t always look easy but I can see she is trying and making the best of what she has. I have struggled with my own husband’s injury, the limitations it has created, and the difference in both of us since it occurred. I have often thought I am no match for this task.

Leadership is about being an example in the way you live. It is about living in a way that makes you happy and proud. And it is about learning from challenges and mistakes. Leadership means showing those around you who you want to be in the hope that they may be inspired to live up to their own potential. My friend is a great example to her community, her daughters, and those of us who have grown up around her family. She is no doubt, an inspiration to those she works with and the people she serves in her role at work. She has the ability to effortlessly show care for those around her.

When working for the government, the opportunities to reward employees financially are limited. Telling someone you admire or are inspired by them might be even more meaningful than a financial reward. We all have our own stories that include personal struggle. It is important to be tuned into what those around us face because it helps to build understanding. The very best leaders take time to get to know what is important to their people.

Who inspires you and when was the last time you told them why?

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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
Empowerment
Relationships & Communication
Flexibility
Optimal Performance
Recognition & Appreciation
Morale

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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Giving the Gift of Generosity

GiftThis time of year expends a lot of time and energy into choosing just the right gift for our loved ones, finding the perfect ugly sweater for the holiday bash, or setting out holiday decorations for the season. These traditions can be a lot of fun but the season encompasses so much more than the material gifts, the parties, or the decorations. For me, generosity is at the heart of what brings us together, particularly during this time of year. For those working in and around the government, there are rules we have to contend with about gift giving and receiving. I believe the best gift we can give our colleagues, customers, and business partners is something that cannot be restricted or regulated; ourselves.

My first suggestion to anyone wishing to give something to their team members or partners is to stop and spend a little time thinking about how you might make a difference in someone’s day by simply being present. Making a conscious effort to focus on the interactions you have with the people around you every time you come in contact with them is not always easy. When we put away our smart phones while meeting in person, stop reading emails or talking on the phone and focus on one person at a time, those interactions become richer. We are able to see posture and expressions or hear inflections in a voice. It is so easy to miss a cue that could change the way a conversation goes when we are not completely focused.

Second, give the people you work with the benefit of believing the best in them. Sometimes, particularly in written communications, we read between the lines and create a problem when there really was none. If you aren’t sure that there is something more to a communication, ask. Generosity is more than spending money on gifts, more than helping a friend or colleague when they ask. Being generous can also be about giving of yourself, making an effort to connect with people to learn what they need. Best of all it costs nothing.

I plan to take a break this year from the stress that often comes with the pressure of gift giving and over packed schedules. Instead, I will focus on giving the people I see every day my attention and kindness. I hope you will too.

Have you already shared the gift of generosity this season? Share your story here.

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