Posts Tagged Management

Leadership and Customer Service in the Public Sector

Hand Held Magnifying Glass over the word Service Isolated

Does customer service really matter in the public sector? Isn’t the act of working in the public sector the fulfillment of service? Not in the eyes of the taxpayer, according to the latest report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

In its 2014 report, the ACSI identifies that “Americans are less satisfied with services of the U.S. federal government for a second consecutive year, as citizen satisfaction recedes 2.6% to an ACSI score of 64.4 (scale of 0 to 100).  Overall, the services of the federal government continue to deliver a level of customer satisfaction below the private sector, and the downturn this year exacerbates the difference. Among more than 40 industries covered by the ACSI, only Internet service providers have a lower score.”

There is, and should be, an expectation that customer service be delivered in the public sector in a way that at least meets, or more preferably, exceeds, the expectations of the American public.

With the American public expecting service comparable to what they receive in the private sector, how do our public sector agencies ensure that they meet expectations?  Leadership and employee engagement are the critical elements that develop a culture and spirit of service.

Research conducted by The Ken Blanchard Companies found a strong relationship between leadership practices, employee work passion, and customer service scores.  Better leadership practices—at a strategic and operational level—lead to higher levels of employee work passion and customer satisfaction.

Strategic Leadership and Operational Leadership

From a leadership perspective, resources in the form of information and resources to do one’s job must be allocated. That is, the workforce is only as good as the tools they have to perform their roles.

Strategic leadership defines the imperatives for everyone in the organization. It is the what that provides the key relationships and metrics needed to ensure that all units follow the same strategy. Examples of strategic leadership include vision, culture, and the declaration of strategic imperatives.

Operational leadership practices provide the how in the organization. This enables departments and employees to understand how they specifically contribute to organization success. They are the procedures and policies that clarify how each unit will achieve the overall strategy.

For instance, extraordinary client service cannot be delivered unless appropriate response times are established and communicated to those responsible for delivering service. Response time can be defined in minutes or days, but an operational definition must be developed and communicated so that the appropriate workforce understands the expectation, trends can be measured, and corrective actions can be implemented as necessary.

But that is only half the job. Defining service goals is a somewhat useless exercise unless a passion exists to deliver on the goal. This passion must be fostered and nurtured by agency leadership. Rather than a culture where the workforce sees the act of responding to public inquiries as drudgery, leadership must create an environment where there is a passion for service.

This requires specialized knowledge—but many leaders have never learned how to create this vision and passion for service.  They are not naturally focused on or committed to building a customer service ethic. It’s not because they lack desire—it’s because they lack know-how.

A great place to start exploring how leadership can impact service is through the white papers: The Leadership Profit Chain, Leadership Purpose Chain in Government Agencies, and Employee Work Passion: Connecting the Dots.

For more information on how The Ken Blanchard Companies helps organizations and agencies define, promote, and deliver on a culture of outstanding service, visit www.kenblanchard.com/government

, , ,

1 Comment

Building Healthy, Desirable Cultures—The Leader’s Role

Multi-Cultural Office Staff Sitting Having Meeting TogetherWhen we think about the mandates, budgets, and activities around developing leaders, we often forget to take into account an important aspect of the environment in which leaders lead—the culture of the organization. Culture can exist at various levels; for example: the overall federal government, an agency, or a branch. Wherever culture resides it must be accounted for, and integrated within, a leadership development program.

Identification and Integration

If cultural norms are to be taught to new members as basic assumptions, it is essential that a leadership development program incorporate methods for teaching these rules.

Leaders must be able to convey both explicit and implied rules and to reinforce desired behaviors to their teams. They also must know how to address and redirect unacceptable behaviors.

The first step toward accomplishing this goal is the identification of organizational values and assumptions. Values are a major underpinning of culture and define an organization’s rules of behavior. Values determine how members represent the organization to themselves and others. Basic assumptions are derived from lessons learned by the group as it solves problems. Both values and assumptions must be identified before they can be taught to new members as the expected way to perceive, think, and feel.

Manager Behavior and Culture

Once values and assumptions are identified, ongoing leadership development needs to provide models of useful day-to-day leadership behaviors.

At least three areas should be addressed.

  • Communication style. This is critical to building and sustaining a desired culture because the way in which a manager communicates sends signals about how to engage with others. In other words, what type of communication is acceptable—top-down only; consultative; peer-to-peer advising; bottom-up feedback?
  • Relationship style. This is how leaders interact with peers and direct reports. For instance, are relationships predominately adversarial, competitive, and distrustful, or supportive and collegial?
  • Decision making style. Leaders need to be equipped with appropriate decision making practices that will contribute to the successful completion of tasks in support of agency mission. Employees need to understand both formal and informal approval processes.

But don’t stop there—consider other ways in which model behavior can be identified, reinforced, and publicized. Make sure actions and strategies are aligned to other key elements of the culture. For example, don’t overlook visually recognizable organization artifacts that should be taken into consideration. Architecture, furniture, and dress code provide tangible signs of behavior norms and parameters. Leaders need to be aware and use artifacts to support processes and systems that drive desired behaviors.

Future Perspectives on Culture

Does the federal government have a culture? Absolutely—there are written as well as unwritten rules about how things get done. Both need to be addressed in the development of leaders. In future posts we will explore how culture impacts agency performance and culture change.

The Ken Blanchard Companies specializes in leadership development and the connection to building healthy, desirable cultures. For more information on Blanchard’s leadership development and culture building solutions—specifically in a government setting—explore the culture section of Blanchard’s website.

 

, , ,

Leave a comment

Public vs. Private Sector: The Big Five Elements of Effective Leadership and The Five Corresponding Outcomes

QuestionIs there a difference between private and public sector leadership development and practices? This is a timely question given the recent turbulence of global financial markets. The short answer is that leaders in both sectors, no matter the organization or agency, need to be sensitive to how they set the stage for success. In fact, it is leadership that drives organizations and agencies through change—whether the change is planned for or in response to market conditions.

There are five interconnected and common elements of effective leaders in both the public and private sector:

  1. Promoting open communication
  2. Supporting individuals
  3. Allocating resources
  4. Removing obstacles
  5. Sponsoring innovation

These elements must be embedded in the culture of an organization or agency to ensure successful fulfillment of the mission. Today’s operating environment is complex: the rapid rate of change, the instant availability of data, the pace of product innovation, and the global connectedness of people all require organizations and agencies to ensure the development of leaders. This development can range from identification of who has the potential to be a leader to refresher training, and is even more critical for those who are making the leap from individual contributor to first-time leader or from manager of a project to leader of people.

When an organization or agency addresses the five core leadership elements, there is a greater chance that:

  1. Ideas will flow from those who are on point for delivering to end users—customers in the private sector and constituents in the public sector.
  2. Employees will operate with enhanced passion, leading to an improvement in discretionary effort and a commitment to the organization’s or agency’s purpose.
  3. The right resources will be allocated to the places of highest impact with the least amount of cost. Employees will be better equipped to fulfill both their own and their organization’s or agency’s mission.
  4. Barriers to success will be removed, thus changing and improving processes so that information flows better, measures are in place that support key indicators, and gap closure is a reality.
  5. Because of rapid change and a constant stream of unpredictable events, an idea factory will be created that will support the need for continuous and necessary innovation and change.

When leadership capacity and development are not a part of standard work, there is a far greater risk of atrophy. In other words, leadership is fundamental to creating a strong and vibrant organization or agency just as daily diet and exercise is fundamental to sustaining healthy living and reducing medical costs.

In the end, there is no difference between the private and public sectors when it comes to the five core leadership capabilities and the five corresponding outcomes.

The Ken Blanchard Companies can help organizations and agencies build high performing leadership and change roadmaps to improve operational efficiency and mission effectiveness. Future blogs will address how to measure leadership development.

To learn more about the Blanchard approach, download Building the Capabilities to Lead Agile, People-Centered Companies in the 21st Century.  You can also check out other free resources and white papers in the research section of the Blanchard website.

 

, ,

1 Comment

Feedback, Are You Doing it Right?

ListenFeedback 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Ask questions –General feedback is usually only a mask for the problem, you need to learn the specifics so you can make a change.
  3. 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?

, , , ,

1 Comment

Building a 21st Century Government…One Leader at a Time

Federal Government MoraleWhen Obama’s budget plan for fiscal 2015 was released, the plan had its fair share of supporters and naysayers. There are obviously many sections to the plan, but there is one specific portion that addresses the challenge that a plethora of articles have been written about and many agencies are challenged with lately…leadership, and specifically leadership that could use a bit of an overhaul. Lately, there seems to be less and less agencies that are exempt from a lack of effective leadership. Even the Secret Service has been in the news recently claiming the agency is lacking the right leadership. Reports that I have referred to in this blog, such as the Partnership for Public Service’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government and the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), have found that leadership is on the decline and steps need to be taken now to avoid the situation from continuing to spiral downward.

Will the new budget plan be enough to change the current leadership crisis?

Obama’s goal to “create a 21st century government” includes addressing management initiatives to drive further growth and opportunity and “deliver a Government that is more effective, efficient, and supportive of economic growth.” The President’s budget plan incorporates the following strategies to begin tackling this leadership crisis:

  • Includes initiatives to deliver better, faster, and smarter services to citizens and businesses, including investing in new approaches to digital services to provide a world-class customer service experience to citizens and businesses to Government information technology.
  • Expands the use of shared services between Federal agencies and strategic sourcing to leverage the buying power of the Government, bringing greater value and efficiency for taxpayer dollars.
  • Continues to open Government data and research for public and private sector use to spur innovation and job creation, while ensuring strong privacy protections.
  • Invests in training, development, and recruitment of the Federal workforce, unlocking the potential of our Government and ensuring that we can attract and retain the best talent and foster a culture of excellence.

Recently, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was requested to conduct a study to analyze the reasons why morale has declined to its current level and determine the steps that need to be taken to boost employee engagement, motivation, and productivity. Research of this caliber would be helpful to provide a set of guidelines to federal agencies that are in desperate need of a leadership change. The training investment President Obama has included in his budget plan is the right direction needed to initiate that change.

The Ken Blanchard Companies has worked with several organizations to conduct an Employee Work Passion assessment that measures employee perceptions revolved around twelve organization and job factors and the intentions that result from these perceptions. An individual employee’s perceptions influence not only their feelings about their job but also influence whether or not they intend to stay with the agency, their discretionary effort and productivity they put forth in their role, and their intent on how they endorse the agency. When an individual’s perceptions are understood, a strategy for improvement is recognized, thus improving individual morale and organizational success. Researchers at Blanchard conducted a study along with Training Magazine that centered on important factors regarding employee retention, job and organizational factors that survey participants felt were most important, and who was responsible for ensuring that the needs pertaining to those areas were met. Learn more about this study and the results the research team at Blanchard uncovered in the Employee Work Passion whitepaper.

What are your thoughts on Obama’s budget plan to implement more efficient leadership and management training and an overall positive perception in the Federal Government? Do you think it’s enough?

, , , , , , ,

1 Comment

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?

, , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

My Agency is the BEST!

The Best Places to Work results were posted today and topping the charts is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  Following the NRC, in the 2nd and 3rd best place to work in the federal government, is the Government Accountability Office and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Employee satisfaction increased in 68% of federal organizations.

The survey, conducted by the Partnership for Public Service and American University’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation (ISPPI), was sent to over 263,000 civil servants to determine employee satisfaction and commitment across 290 federal agencies.   The agencies are scored in a number of categories including training and development, effective leadership, teamwork, and strategic management.

An analysis of the results showed that, for the fifth time in a row, leadership was the main reason why many of the agencies’ overall scores greatly improved.  The results from the leadership category reflect how much importance employees place on having effective leadership throughout the agency. 

How can agencies improve an individual’s commitment and performance within an organization?  A whitepaper on employee passion published by The Ken Blanchard Companies includes eight factors that reflect on what employees need to create a positive emotional state of mind.

So how is your agency improving passion in the workplace?

, , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: