Posts Tagged performance

5 Leadership Skills for Succeeding in a Matrix Structure

Matrix managementIn a matrix organization structure, individuals are allocated to projects based on need, availability, region, and other factors. While this fluid structure has definite merits, it also presents leaders with the challenge of dealing with ambiguous budgets, authority, accountability, and performance evaluation.

Leading in a matrix structure, therefore, requires an implementation strategy unlike that of traditional management. Five core skills are necessary for leaders to be successful operating in a more fluid matrix environment.

  1. Building Trust. In a traditional organization design, individuals know who their direct manager is and rely on that person for their workplace needs. However, in a matrix structure, employees can be allocated to numerous managers. Building trust quickly with multiple people is crucial to getting work done efficiently across department lines.
  2. Influencing Others. Given that decision making is distributed in a matrix organization, it is important for leaders to develop their negotiation skills. Because resources will be flexed and shared, leaders need to know how to make a case for the resources they need—and how to accomplish agency goals through influence rather than command and control tactics.
  3. Understanding and Appreciating Differences. Leaders in a matrix organization have frequent interactions with people with whom they do not have a daily relationship. Therefore, it is critical for them to understand subtle variations in the way others process information, evaluate ideas, and make decisions.
  4. Managing Conflict. Conflict is not uncommon in a matrix environment. Resources are seldom aligned to budgets controlled by one person, which creates a need for negotiating win-win outcomes. In this regard, leaders need to know how to clearly communicate their desired results, understand the needs of others, and develop solutions that address multiple stakeholder interests.
  5. Having Constructive Conversations. Engaging in tactful and effective dialogue when there are differences of opinion and emotions are running high. In particular, leaders need to be more planful to exercise patience and discipline in their communication style.

The matrix organization holds great promise for those that are able to operate within it successfully.  With practice, the matrix environment allows organizations to operate more effectively and cross functionally to better serve customers—or, in the case of government, citizens. Leaders who evaluate themselves and others in their organization in each of these areas will give their organization a head start toward more effectively meeting the needs of the people they serve.

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The Established Culture…When Is It Time for Change?

When faced with a changing marketplace or regulatory environment, a new technology, or a required shift in strategic direction, an organization’s established culture can impede progress and require change.  As a case in point, one could argue the U.S. federal government is faced with just such a challenge as it deals with external and internal changes.

Externally, emerging cloud technologies and solutions are changing the way that documents are stored, shared, and updated. With regard to culture, cloud solutions will unleash important methods to support a new era of cross agency cooperation and an improved ability to harness intellectual capital and leverage the power of virtual teamwork.

Recent changes in the European financial markets will require global commerce policy to be more sensitive to how the U.S. responds.  Changes to Swiss National Bank policy stunned financial markets and had a tangible impact on trade. Further, the recent and unexpected changes in Greece’s government are challenging the way governments are supported with loans and subsidies.

Internally, the declining trend in Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) scores suggests that each agency may need to reexamine the way in which it defines and manages its culture. Questions from EVS results regarding culture flow include:

  • Do values exist and are they real, visible, and connected to agency mission?
  • Does the current culture foster openness and contribution to decision making such that the workforce feels engaged with a vested and accountable interest?
  • Are leaders sufficiently prepared to lead others?

If agencies are to drive new policies and practices into their operations to satisfy necessary changes related to the above circumstances and deliver the highest degree of value to constituencies, a culture change initiative might be required to support new practices, processes, and policies.

What is involved in changing organizational culture?

A deliberate culture change process should follow three critical steps.

  1. Awareness—an agency must communicate the change and establish the reason for change. In this regard, agency leadership must clearly and deliberately address the question why. Once the workforce understands the need for change, there is a greater likelihood that the workforce will accept the need for change. Not everyone will embrace and agree to the change, but awareness does help in the move to acceptance. 
  1. Informing and Training—to move the organization from awareness and acceptance to the desired state of buy-in and participation, senior leadership must message the specifics behind the why. The agency must discuss more than just what has prompted the change. It is also important to establish what consequences exist if the change does not happen. Moreover, with a future desired state established, leaders need to be trained in leading others through training, building trust for change, and maintaining levels of customer service. 
  1. Measures, Milestones, and Structure—what gets measured and discussed will get done. As with any project, a change initiative should have specific success criteria, supporting metrics, and a schedule for tangible indications of change. Additionally, an organizational structure should be established to manage the change effort. This structure could take the form of an executive steering committee, a task force comprising individual contributors, midlevel managers, and senior leadership, or a program management office (PMO).

To succeed in a changing world, organizations need to periodically evaluate the external and internal environment with an eye toward trends or conditions that warrant adjustments in practice.  Culture can hinder progress—or, with proper foresight and training, it can help smooth the way toward change.

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The Power of Positivity

A+One of my favorite sitcoms, How I Met Your Mother, ended last month. In the final episode the character, Marshall Ericksen, an environmental lawyer, was shown working for a corporate law firm; a job that made him miserable. He had resolved to say only positive things about his job and in one scene was asked how he liked his job. Marshall responded, “I have a very comfortable chair”. This is an extreme example but we do know that there is power in positive thought and focusing on the good in things. As a leader, there are some simple things you can do to help your team stay positive.

Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge included 12 Simple Truths in their book Helping People Win at Work. The book shares the business philosophy “Don’t Mark My Paper, Help Me Get an A”.  In other words, give people the tools they need to be successful; if they know what will be on the test they can get an A. Here are a few of my favorite Simple Truths:

Simple Truth 1 – Performing Well: What Makes People Feel Good About Themselves

This Truth addresses the importance of experiencing and then building on success. People need to know they are making progress. It is cumulative; people who get good results feel good about what they do and build their confidence. With that confidence they can go forward and get more good results.

Simple Truth 6 – The Ultimate Coaching Tool: Accentuating the Positive

It is important to catch people doing things right, even if you are only able to praise progress. Some managers show up when they need to correct a problem but forget to point out the positive contributions their team members make every day. When was the last time you went looking for a team member doing something right?

Simple Truth 12 – Celebrate Successes

Look for the good, celebrate it with your team members, and tell others.

I have heard many times from those who work in the public sector that they are limited in what they can do for their team members by regulations. There is no regulation that can limit your ability to approach leadership with the intent to serve those you lead. Be available, remove roadblocks to success, look for and point out the good in people every day. Positivity is contagious and leaders have the ability to spread happiness in their organization. Even if your team never mentions it they will see and react to your example.

In the end Marshall, an aspiring public servant, achieves his dream of becoming a judge. He finds his happiness in his dream job and no doubt spreads his joy every day. How have you helped your team members find their happiness and get an A?

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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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Motivating Your Employees When Change is Looming Around the Corner

Fiscal cliff, political objections, merging agencies, and pay decrease discussions around the water cooler have many government employees concerned.   Many of us are wondering what exactly 2013 is going to look like for ourselves and for our country.  Now is the time for agency leaders to take action and encourage their teams.

Culture can be a powerful change agent.  If you think about high performing agencies, most of them have a clear culture that is actually implemented within the organization.  An agency’s culture generally dictates the values, vision, and missions.  It is an indicator of how the agency gets things done on a daily basis.  When leaders adhere to the culture when integrating change, it will support and encourage employee’s reaction to the change.

Can you explain your agency’s culture?  Are your goals and the goals of your team members aligned with the organizations culture?  If not, this could be a great discussion to have in your next one-on-one meeting with your employees.  Employees that know their performance and success is contributing to the success of the organization are more motivated, confident, and passionate about what they do.

Involving your employees with the agency’s mission can lead to confident, engaged, and high performing individuals.  Studies reveal that the more employees are involved in the decisions of a change that will impact them, the more committed they are to the agency.  In turn, the more committed they are, the better their performance.  The better their performance, the more effective the agency will be at accomplishing their mission.

Would you be more accepting of a decision that was made by others and dictated to you or would you rather have an opportunity to provide your contribution and feedback to that decision?  An effective way to implement any change is to allow those who have to endure the change to be involved in the change process.

Our immediate reaction to change tends to be objection.  This is where leaders can really use their skills and influence a direct report’s perception of the impending change.  An employee’s supervisor is the first line of defense against a closed-minded approach to change.  Scheduling regular one-on-one meetings, building trust, and providing the tools the employee needs to successfully overcome the negative mind-set that can occur during change can be the difference in an employee staying with the agency versus leaving for another job.

Do you have a strategy to resolve people’s concern and negative mind-set on change?  Ken Blanchard, author and co-founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies, reveals that “none of us is as smart as all of us.”  Shifting your employee’s outlook can often lead to a change of heart and commitment to the agency.

Want to hear more about how you can motivate yourself and your employees?  Join Dr. David Facer, author of Optimal Motivation, today at 12:00pm EST today as he shares a fresh approach to motivation that can increase employee engagement, productivity, and employee well-being.  Now who doesn’t want that during these hard times?

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How are your agency’s training dollars being spent?

In 1967, President Johnson signed an executive order that provided agency leaders and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) the presidential guidance on how training programs should be implemented at government agencies. The order requires OPM to support agencies in developing adequate training programs and to provide assistance with planning, programming, budgeting, operating, and evaluating training programs. Specifically, leaders working in OPM’s Training and Executive Development (TED) Group offer direction on how to implement training programs within agencies, as well as, provide counsel to ensure that those training programs support strategic human capital investments. In fact, OPM created five guides that agencies can use to reference when deciding on specific training programs for their staff. These guides include Human Resources Reporting, Training Evaluation Field Guide, Draft Training Policy Handbook, Collection and Management of Training Information, and Strategically Planning Training and Measuring Results.

Many struggles that federal agencies are facing today include building and maintaining the talent pool of employees, preparing the next generation of leaders, and bridging the gap of multigenerational workers. Overcoming these challenges requires appropriate training programs and government leaders must know how to implement that training in order to achieve the agency’s mission. Below is a list of eight best training practices that the United States Government Accountability Office recommends all agencies implement in order to support effective training investment decisions.

Practice 1: (a) Identify the appropriate level of investment to provide for training and development efforts and (b) prioritize funding so that the most important training needs are addressed first.

Practice 2: Identify the most appropriate mix of centralized and decentralized approaches for its training and development programs.

Practice 3: Consider government-wide reforms and other targeted initiatives to improve management and performance when planning its training and development programs.

Practice 4: Have criteria for determining whether to design training and development programs in-house or obtain these services from a contractor or other external source.

Practice 5: Compare the merits of different delivery mechanisms (such as classroom or computer-based training) and determine what mix of mechanisms to use to ensure efficient and cost-effective delivery.

Practice 6: Track the cost and delivery of its training and development programs agency wide.

Practice 7: Evaluate the benefits achieved through training and development programs, including improvements in individual and agency performance:

(a) Has a formal process for evaluating employee satisfaction with training.

(b) Has a formal process for evaluating improvement in employee performance after training.

(c) Has a formal process for evaluating the impact of training on the agency’s performance goals and mission.

Practice 8: Compare training investments, methods, or outcomes with those of other organizations to identify innovative approaches or lessons learned.

Source: GAO analysis based on prior GAO reports, other related expert studies, and federal training requirements.

How many of the practices listed above has your agency put into practice?

On September 26th, several agency leadership training developers will be discussing the training initiatives that are working within their agency and how you can fund and implement a training program in your agency. Learn more about how you can join and participate in that conversation.

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13 Not-So-Unlucky Supporters of Change

Change is inevitable. Change is good. Change is bad. Change is coming. I don’t like change. Whatever your viewpoint is about change, it’s a reality of life. Change happens in our professional lives, in our personal lives, when we’re children, and when we’re adults. It surrounds us. The key is how you as an individual react to change. A reader recently sent me a story about the bald eagle’s 150 days of “rebirth” that allows the bird to have an additional thirty years of life. Well, it turns out that the story is an urban legend but the message got me thinking about our ability to endure change in our lives and the “lows” we discipline ourselves through in order to come out on the other side a better, more fulfilled person.

Probably the biggest implementor of change is the Federal Government with issues ranging from voting for a new leader in the latest election to censorship on internet search engines. OPM Director, John Berry recently delivered the commencement speech at the University of Maryland. His comments were rather inspiring. He discussed the changes that have incurred in government over the past 30 years touching base on how public officials, both Republican and Democrat used to work together to get things done and how “thinking through solutions and arriving at compromises that make the best sense for our country” was what inspired federal leaders. If you haven’t listened to his comments on YouTube or read the entire speech, I highly encourage you to do so.

So how do we make change a positive success in our lives rather than a daunting task? In the book, Who Killed Change, co-authors share 13 foundations that can support your change effort.

  1. Culture – defines the predominant attitudes, beliefs and behavior patterns that characterize the organization
  2. Commitment – builds a person’s motivation and confidence to engage in the new behaviors required by the change
  3. Sponsorship – a senior leader who has the formal authority to deploy resources toward the initiation, implementation and sustainability of the change; ultimately responsible for the success of the change
  4. Change Leadership Team – actively leads the change into the organization by speaking with one voice and resolving the concerns of those being asked to change
  5. Communication – creates opportunities for dialogue with change leaders and those being asked to change
  6. Urgency – explains why the change is needed and how quickly people must change the way they work
  7. Vision – paints a clear and compelling picture of the future after change has been integrated
  8. Plan – clarifies the priority of the change relative to other initiatives and responsibilities; works with those being asked to change to develop a detailed and realistic implementation plan, then to define and build the infrastructure needed to support the change
  9. Budget – analyzes proposed changes from a financial perspective to determine how best to allocate limited resources and ensure a healthy return on investment
  10. Trainer – provides learning experiences to ensure those being asked to change have the skills needed to follow through with the change and succeed in the future organization
  11. Incentive – recognizes and/or rewards people to reinforce desired behaviors and results that enable change
  12. Performance management – sets goals and expectations regarding behaviors and results that enable change, tracks progress toward the goals and expectations, provides feedback and training and formally documents actual results versus desired results
  13. Accountability – follows through with people to ensure their behaviors and results are in line with agreed upon goals and expectations and that leaders are walking the talk, and institutes consequences when behaviors or results are inconsistent with those that enable change

There you have it, 13 reinforcements that you can work on this summer to make some changes for the better.

What changes, if any, do you plan on making in the next 150 days?

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