Posts Tagged relationships

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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Welcome to the Team (Part 2) Helping New Leaders Get Up To Speed

Authorized personnel only sign vector illustration In our last blog we reviewed four key points to ensure successful leadership assimilation, and invited our readers to comment. Today we will highlight additional tips and an insightful suggestion from one our readers.

It is essential for a new leader to fully comprehend the existing agency culture before making changes. This same need applies whether the leader has accepted a position in a new agency or has been promoted within their own agency. In both cases leaders should reflect or refresh their knowledge of the agency’s norms, patterns, and expectations. Here are four important areas that need to be examined before the new leader launches any initiatives.

  • Decision Making Patterns: Understanding how information is processed, acted upon, and ultimately used in decision making can be important to learning about nuances in internal culture and politics. This area of investigation will also help to establish awareness of key stakeholders and build bridges to them. It is critical for the new leader to respect the way in which decisions are made if they want to influence outcomes, corrective actions, and potential new directions.
  • Expectation Management: A new leader should take the time to explore what will be expected of them in the new role. Expectations will exist on three levels: manager, team, and agency. Communication is the key. At a team level, ask the team what they need, what has worked well in the past, and what changes might be necessary. At the manager and agency level, a series of one-on-one meetings with senior leaders and direct reports will help to charter a course with respect to desired outcomes and how to best address issues.
  • Feedback: A new leader needs candid feedback to ensure expectations are met and integration into the operational flow is occurring as desired. New leaders should not hesitate to ask a simple question such as “How is it going?” This is a great way to open a dialogue and receive feedback in a non-threatening way. Further, the lost art of MBWA (Management by Walking Around) is an excellent, non-intrusive way to hear about operational activity, discuss projects, establish a presence, and build a connection to the team.
  • Relationship Building: If others do not trust and respect the new leader, alienation, passive-aggressive resistance, and other undesired behaviors may emerge. One of our readers has an excellent and practical idea to ensure that integrity and openness are part of a new leader’s foundation: the new leader simply shares their calendar with the team and keeps it updated. This is an excellent way to create trust through transparency. In this way the direct report team can understand the new leader’s availability and appreciate priorities.

New initiatives are better received when leaders take the time to thoroughly understand the culture they are operating in. Increase the quality and frequency of communication to set yourself up for success in your new role.

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3 Ways to Create a More Inclusive Work Environment

Businesswoman Working At Desk With Meeting In BackgroundPeople don’t show up to work as robots—they are human beings with hearts, minds, and feelings. Today’s leaders must be adept at recognizing and embracing psychological needs, especially as they relate to performance and engagement.

How do leaders accomplish this? The answer can be found in the latest research on employee work passion and the factors that contribute to it

It is a given that employees are motivated in some way. Their motivation might not always align with desired behavior and outcomes, but it is there. To channel employee energy toward larger agency goals, leaders have to embrace tools and techniques that address common needs that people bring to any work environment, including desires for collaboration, connectedness, and an opportunity to influence decisions that impact their work.

Here are three ways to get started:

  1. Include employees in the planning process. Seek employee perspectives on how to execute agency mission. For instance, how can administrators include front line personnel in developing customer care strategies?
  1. Ask people for their opinion. Doing so in a genuine way is an easy, no cost way to create passion and a sense of ownership toward the success of any initiative.
  1. Share information. Sharing senior leaders’ viewpoints as well as progress toward objectives is another low cost method that promotes inclusion.

Individuals are more committed when they know and have some say in the direction of the agency. Think of it this way: would you like to be told where you will spend your vacation, or would you prefer to be given options, information on each option, and a chance to participate in the decision process?

Information and a corresponding participatory process create more commitment, engagement, and passion than a directive decision process. By considering ways to increase inclusiveness, collaboration, and connectedness, leaders can take their first steps toward creating a more passionate and engaging work environment for their people.

For more information (and access to research) on how The Ken Blanchard Companies helps agency leaders develop motivational strategies that directly support employee work passion, please visit www.kenblanchard.com/

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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.

 

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Dealing with a Bully at Work? Four Tips to Take Back the Power

bullyHave you ever been bullied? Have you supervised a team that included a bully? Though they sometimes go by other names, I have known my share of bullies and have struggled to deal with them at different times in my life. It doesn’t really matter if the bully is part of a little league soft ball team, a fellow student or a boss or co-worker. If you have a bully on your hands they probably will not just go away.

Repeated encounters with a bully can leave one feeling powerless, frustrated, and exhausted. At work, the consequences of dealing with a bully can include stolen credit for effort and ideas, loss of passion for the work or even a job. Government employees face an additional challenge because when someone does not fit into a team there are often limited alternatives.  No one likes to deal with a bully and while it is challenging, it is necessary to find a way to start a conversation and build a positive relationship.

The bully may be the aggressor but the target of a bully does have the power to make some changes:

  1. Draw up some solid boundaries to protect yourself. – We surround ourselves with family and friends who understand us best. We show them the closest version of our true self because we trust them. This is your inner circle and you should let them know you are struggling. Be honest and be sure they know that you may need a sympathetic ear but you should not expect them to solve your problem for you. You should rely on them to offer moral support. Ask them to remind you of your talents; build your confidence and you can wear it like armor.
  2. Recognize and own your feelings. – We each live in a reality that is uniquely ours. A combination of personality, past experience, emotional intelligence and learned behaviors make up our feelings and how we deal with them. I think of feelings as the layer of colored glass through which we each see the world. If you can separate your feelings from the situation, working toward a solution will become much easier.
  3. Open a dialogue that does not include accusations. – Sometimes a person who is behaving like a bully may not realize how they are being perceived or how they impact you. Remember, you want to find a way to work with the person, not around them; you want to solve the problem. It may feel like a big risk but if you don’t take the first step nothing can change. Talk about what you want from the relationship and how you would like to make a positive change in order to move forward.
  4. Don’t wait. – Bad news only spoils with age. Approaching someone to address a strained relationship will not get easier over time either. If you are not prepared to speak directly to the bully, approach your supervisor and ask for help as soon as you realize there is a problem.

Some people do not grow out of bullying behavior as adults. If you are impacted by their behavior and don’t let them know it, they may never get the chance to change. Addressing the issue can be difficult but the reward for taking that chance could be the working environment you have always wanted.

How have you dealt with bullies at your agency?

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Learning To Be A Great Leader: How Leading Up Can Influence Your Supervisor’s Leadership Skills

leadership skillsI 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?

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A Leader’s Fear of Taking a Stand

So often, individuals shy away from making a major decision or taking on a major initiative because of the potential risk involved. Making a decision to pursue a campaign for public office carries a lot of uncertainty. Studies in motivation indicate that autonomy and competence are key contributions to personal fulfillment. These two attributes alone would benefit an individual when running for office. However, there is a third element to this motivational tri-pod that may be the leg that is keeping capable individuals from becoming a government leader…relationships. People are motivated when building and continually enriching a strong, caring, and supportive organizational community and culture. In the public sector, some may just be biding their time for when one leader leaves and another comes in and implements new strategies and a new way of leading their employees. The leader never obtains the “buy-in” from their employees.

In the book, The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do, authors Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller use the word SERVE as an acronym for the five fundamental ways in which every great leader serves. SERVE stands for:

S – See the Future

E – Engage and Develop People

R – Reinvent Continuously

V – Value Results and Relationships

E – Embody the Values

Great leaders – those who lead at a higher level – value both results and relationships. Most leaders believe that they must choose between one or the other. A leader must reflect on whether they are getting the performance and results from those they lead and if their direct reports follow and believe in their mission and strategy for the agency. If a leader can honestly reply yes to both of these questions, they are on the right path for building and maintaining successful relationships.

There are many reasons why fear could creep into a leader’s mind and prevent them from moving forward in accomplishing their mission. Here are a few hurdles that could prevent a manager from moving forward when considering running for public office.

  • They reflect on how others who are running are being treated.
  • They understand not all their decisions will be able to reflect core beliefs.
  • They are concerned they will be tarred when making counter decisions.
  • They realize they will be shunned when declaring unpopular positions.
  • They look at the risks and decide not to take a stand.

I realize that taking a stand could come with negative results. The risk may end up damaging or it may be the best decision you make. We all know that there is a risk in taking a risk, but you’re also taking a huge risk in not taking a risk at all.

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