Posts Tagged Leadership

Take Time to Pause and Reflect: Introducing the “Wrapping Up” Conversation

First-Time Manager A Great Start GraphicIn the just-launched First-time Manager program from The Ken Blanchard Companies, co-creators Scott Blanchard, Ken Blanchard, and coaching expert Linda Miller focus on one aspect of good performance management often overlooked by first-time managers.

“We call it the wrapping up conversation,” explains Scott Blanchard. “It’s not complicated or formal; it’s simply to acknowledge the completion of a project, task, or goal and honorably conclude it before moving on to the next thing.

“The late Warren Bennis often said managers need to balance action with reflection. Typically, managers and teams race toward a goal. But as soon as they attain it, before anyone has the time to honor, celebrate, or even take a deep breath, they jump in to the next one.

“The wrapping up conversation gives managers and direct reports a chance to look back and savor success as well as learn from mistakes. It’s a way to reflect, process the experience, and gain knowledge before starting another project.”

One area that Blanchard believes can be improved through more frequent wrapping up conversations is the annual performance review process—a hot topic in management circles these days.

“Offering feedback only once a year makes it hard to provide people with meaningful or actionable information. But having regular wrapping up conversations creates space for both manager and direct report to discuss what they’ve just learned. It allows them to take action and make changes in real time instead of waiting until the end of the year when it might be too late.

“Feedback needs to happen a lot more than once a year. Our research shows that there is a 30-point gap between how often people want to receive feedback and how often they are currently receiving it.”

Blanchard believes the wrapping up conversation can help both new and experienced managers see the performance review as more of a side-by-side discussion than a top-down evaluation.

“Traditionally, a performance review is a review of the employee’s performance, not a review of the quality of the relationship between the manager and the direct report. The wrapping up conversation creates a more thoughtful situation where both people can reflect on their individual roles and contributions toward the success—or lack of success—of a project or task. It’s a good time to discuss what the manager did or didn’t do to help the person achieve the goal. We believe the job of a manager is to help people get an A, not to mark their paper—a concept made popular in the 2009 book Helping People Win at Work, co-written by my father and Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Company.”

For managers interested in exploring the use of wrapping up conversations with their direct reports, Blanchard suggests three ways to get started.

Begin by endorsing the person and celebrating the achievement. Ask how the person feels about the goal or project.  For example, you might ask what the direct report thinks went well and what they learned from doing the project.

Discuss the results and the impact collaboratively. Focus on the benefit that was derived or the learnings that occurred as a result of the project.

Ask about possible areas for improvement. If something could have been handled differently, be willing to tell your truth. Be sure to listen for wisdom gained and to inquire about personal development. Remember to finish by expressing confidence in the direct report.

Done right, wrapping up conversations create space for managers and team members to celebrate results, acknowledge learning, keep people energized, and promote development by honoring work that’s been done.  Are you taking time to pause and reflect?  A wrapping up conversation can help.

PS: Interested in learning more about how wrapping up conversations help with improving your performance review process?  Join Blanchard for a free webinar on March 23.

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Most First-Time Managers Are Not Ready to Lead (infographic)

Blanchard First-time-Manager Infographic ImageA new infographic from The Ken Blanchard Companies looks at the challenges individual contributors face when they step into their first leadership assignments.

With over two million people being promoted into their first leadership roles each year—and over 50% struggling or failing—the care and feeding of first-time managers needs to be front and center on every leadership development curriculum.

Unfortunately, research shows that new managers are usually promoted without the skills needed to be a good manager and that 47% of companies do not have a new supervisor training program in place.

As a result, 60% of new managers underperform in their first two years according to a study by CEB resulting in increased performance gaps and employee turnover.

More importantly, research by Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill has found that negative patterns and habits established in a manager’s first year continue to “haunt and hobble them” for the rest of their managerial careers.

It’s critically important that learning and development professionals help new managers get off to a fast start—both for their immediate and long-term future.  What type of support are new managers experiencing in your organization?  If it’s not what it should be, the new Blanchard infographic can help open up a conversation and encourage some steps in a better direction.

You can download the first-time manager infographic here—and be sure to check out a new Blanchard first-time manager white paper that explores the issue more completely—including suggestions for a first-time manager curriculum.

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Why You Don’t Feel Motivated—and 6 Ways to Move in a New Direction

Two new articles by motivation expert Susan Fowler point to some of the challenges leaders face in trying to create an engaging and motivating work environment for team members. The two big challenges?  Weaning yourself and others off suboptimal motivators—which Fowler labels as “junk food” motivation—and focusing instead on six best practices that support autonomy, relatedness and competence.

In The Science Behind Why You Don’t Feel Motivated, Fowler shares that people bring different motivational outlooks to the projects they face at work.  Three of these outlooks are suboptimal—disinterested, imposed, and external.  Fowler asks readers to consider a couple of questions to identify if they might be exhibiting signs of one of these three outlooks.  Ask yourself, Am I…

  • Unable to find value or meaning in the project?
  • Feeling imposed? Is there someone pressuring me to get this done? Am I pressuring myself?
  • Feeling resentful?
  • Fearful of what might happen if I don’t do it? Am I concerned about disappointing someone else—or myself?
  • Doing the work in an effort to avoid guilt or shame?
  • Doing the work for the money?
  • Doing the work with hopes of gaining favor, power or status in the eyes of others?
  • Am I taking this on to impress someone else?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your motivation is suboptimal explains Fowler.

“Suboptimal motivation is like junk food. Think about what happens when you are low on energy and go for the quick fix—a candy bar, an order of fries, a caffeinated drink. Your blood sugar spikes and then you crash. That doughnut tasted really good going down, but it didn’t do your body any good—especially in the long term. When your motivation is based on disinterest, external rewards (tangible and intangible), or feeling imposed, you will simply not have the energy, vitality or sense of well-being required to achieve your goals.”

To move in a better direction Fowler suggests a different approach.  In an article on What to Do When Rewards and Incentives Don’t Work Fowler recommends looking at three basic human needs and three ways to rediscover your own personal motivation.

As she explains, “The best motivation comes from three basic psychological needs: autonomy, relatedness and competence, or ARC. When psychological needs are satisfied, people flourish. When these needs are undermined, people languish.”

You can wean yourself—and others—off carrots and sticks by adopting six motivation best practices that support autonomy, relatedness and competence.  Here are Fowler’s recommendations:

Encourage autonomy. Frame deadlines as useful information critical for achieving important goals rather than sticks for applying pressure.

Deepen relatedness. Reframe metrics that have no emotional meaning. Conduct motivational outlook conversations with employees to help them attribute their own sense of meaning to critical organizational goals and outcomes. You cannot impose your values or feelings on others, but you can guide their exploration of values and sense of purpose they find compelling.

Develop people’s competence. Focus on setting learning goals, not just output goals. Shift your focus from accomplishment to building competence. Instead of just asking, “What did you get done today?” try asking, “What did you learn today?”

Promote mindfulness. Prompt awareness of options a person may not have considered. Ask questions such as “Why is this important to you (or not)?” and “Why are you finding this goal so challenging (or rewarding)?” These simple yet powerful, open-ended questions help individuals rise above patterns of behavior that often sabotage their best intentions.

Align with values. Conduct a values conversation with individuals you lead. They may have succumbed to suboptimal motivation based on money, rewards, incentives, power, status, fear, pressure, guilt or shame because they have not consciously or deliberately aligned their work to meaningful values that generate sustained positive energy, vitality and sense of well-being.

Connect to purpose. Your organization has probably spent enormous resources crafting and socializing its vision, purpose and mission. Now help individuals do the same. Encourage the people you lead to develop their own workplace purpose statements. There are few things in life more powerful than acting from a noble purpose.

As Fowler encourages, “The more mindful you are, the more opportunity you have to shift to an optimal motivational outlook. Motivation is a skill. You can learn to experience high-quality motivation any time and any place you choose.”

You can read more on Susan Fowler’s approach to motivation at SUCCESS online.

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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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Filling the gap between today’s talent and tomorrow’s leaders

Succession PuzzleLike it or not, leadership will turn over as a function of retirement or resignation.

In fact, according to OPM data, from 2011 to 2013 total federal government retirements increased by 40 percent.

As today’s GS 7, 8 and 9s move toward 10, 11 and 12s and beyond, there must be an identification of the talent pipeline—those high potential individuals with the skills, capabilities, and desire to take on more responsibility.

A talent pipeline is essential because:

  • A feeder pool to GS 10 through SES positions needs to be established to determine the set of people to develop. With constraints of time and budget, investments must be made in an actionable set of individuals.
  • Once the pipeline is identified, there is retentive value in sharing that one is included in the planning of future leadership roles. Of course, there are no guarantees; however, when aware of future potential and the investment in development, there is a greater likelihood of retention with the government and enhanced engagement.
  • Further, the pipeline should and can be stratified to understand where critical talent exists. Critical talent consists of those individuals who can perform and contribute in more than one way. For example, critical talent should be able to work across multiple agencies and in a variety of roles or functions. Their value and contributions represent horizontal possibilities rather than vertical limitations.

How to invest in future leaders?

  • Identification: Chief human capital officers would organize a government-wide effort to establish criteria for high potential candidates. With the identification of common criteria, a framework for evaluation would be developed by chief learning officers. The evaluation framework would consist of common tools, processes, and templates to evaluate, nominate, and build an inventory of candidates to consider. The final selection of pipeline candidates would occur in a discussion among senior agency leadership (a small group who ensures confidentiality and maximum opportunity for healthy debate). The final product would be a targeted and manageable list of individuals that would become part of a high potential watch list. This exercise would be repeated once every two years to ensure the vitality of the process and identify additional future leaders. It would be critical to conduct a semi-annual review of progress.
  • Development: Given the 70/20/10 approach to development, several low cost, highly effective techniques are available for investing in the development of high potential talent. For instance, experiential development can consist of job rotations: challenging assignments monitored by a mentor and assigned reading with follow-up discussion groups. Moreover, in the spirit of public service, participation with and contributions to community and civic organizations can focus on and improve teamwork and presentation skills. In addition, we should not forget about the core, basic, and critical leadership skills that can only be acquired in the classroom. It is critical for high potential future leaders to learn and work with a common leadership language. Because these individuals will likely rotate throughout government, they should use a common leadership language and framework to ensure consistency among agencies. It is also helpful to refer and relate back to a common framework when these future leaders meet as a group to discuss the current and future state of the government.
  • Self Awareness: Any development needs to be accompanied by a focus on self awareness. Self awareness is of utmost importance for future leaders—it is the critical ingredient to ensuring blind spots are identified and avoided. In this context, blind spots result in a lack of appreciation for conflict, organization distraction, the political process, and ineffective communication. For instance, 360-degree feedback is an excellent tool to help individuals improve their awareness of how others perceive and react to them.

Opportunity Cost 

Of course, talent pipelines and succession planning take time and some level of investment. It is always easy to ignore this initiative given lack of time, budget constraints, or time away from the job. The question is not: Should we engage in identifying and developing our future leaders? The question is: What happens if we avoid this critical step toward continuing our progress as a leader among nations?

 

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Moving the Employee Engagement Needle

Engage Button On Computer Pc Keyboard KeyEngaged workers use three less sick days each year than their disengaged counterparts.  In a workforce the size of the federal government, this difference translates to a loss of nearly 19,000 work years annually. That’s one of the startling statistics Paul Wilson, VP of Federal Solutions at The Ken Blanchard Companies, shared at a recent government executive briefing looking at moving the engagement needle.  Pointing to the results of recent Federal Employee Viewpoint Surveys, Wilson identified that an effective employee engagement framework is critical now more than ever.

Part of that framework involves identifying the work factors and understanding the evaluation process workers use in deciding whether a particular work environment is deserving of effort above and beyond basic job requirements.  It is a state of mind that Wilson describes as employee work passion which goes beyond satisfaction, or even engagement at work.

Wilson was joined at the briefing by Dr. Drea Zigarmi, a founding associate and Director of Research at The Ken Blanchard Companies.  Zigarmi shared details on Blanchard’s research into employee work passion including the 12 environmental factors that—when perceived to be present to a high degree in the work environment—result in employees who intend to

  • Perform at a higher level
  • Put in extra effort as needed
  • Act as good corporate citizens
  • Stay with the organization longer
  • Recommend the organization to others

Zigarmi shared how an assessment of employees’ perceptions allows leaders to focus in on the issues that translate into intentions and behaviors moving in the right direction.

At the operational level, managers can begin to think about the four Job Factors and start to explore the degree to which their direct reports feel their needs are being met in each area. Once identified, managers can look at ways to set up the conditions that are more favorable for each factor.

At a strategic level, senior executives can begin looking at ways to shape the organization’s systems, policies, and procedures to address the four Organizational Factors. The scores on the four Relationship Factors will allow leaders at all levels to understand how to improve the connections between people in the organization. The goal is to create a pull-type organization and a workplace environment that invites people to choose to be their best.

With a solid grounding in the latest behavioral science research, the Blanchard approach offers leaders a way to thoroughly understand what is happening in the work environment and how to improve it. By taking a more in-depth look at employee perceptions, their own leader behaviors, and the subsequent impact on intentions and performance, leaders now have a tool that allows them to move the needle and bring out the best in their people.

To learn more about the Blanchard approach and the 12 work environment factors measured, download a four-page overview, The Employee Work Passion Assessment: Moving Beyond Satisfaction.  You can also check out other free Blanchard resources and white papers at the research section of their website.

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