Posts Tagged Training

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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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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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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You Forgot Your Socks… Again?! Leadership Priorities in a Time of Change

Leadership Priorities in a Time of ChangeToday’s post was written by How Gov Lead’s new contributing author, Amber Hansen.  Amber has worked in Government contracting for over nine years. She is currently a Project Manager working with Federal Government clients at The Ken Blanchard Companies. Watch this blog for more thought leadership from Amber.

Have you ever met someone who is really great at one part of their job and terrible at another?  I happen to be married to a man who for many years was a Navy Corpsman who loved his job but struggled with some of what comes with being in the military.  I once heard a leader of his say he was “an amazing Corpsman and a terrible sailor.”  To put it in very simple terms, that means he was really good at caring for his patients and training junior members of his team and not so great at keeping his uniform in order and being on time.  This leader understood clearly that my husband had significant strengths but like all of us, he had weaknesses, too.

What happens when forgetting to bring the right kind of socks for a uniform becomes a reason to be reprimanded at work?  That may depend on one’s leader.  Some of us are truly adept at handling the details of life; we might keep backup socks in the car just in case.  Others just do not think this way.  My husband is very bright, he learns things quickly, takes what he believes is useful and leaves behind what he sees as a bit of a waste of his time.  I suspect the things that may have made him a good sailor, like bringing the right pair of socks, were the same things that appeared to him to be a waste of time.  In my husband’s world, ensuring he had the right medical supplies packed for a mission ranked just a little higher than the socks.  If my life depended on him and I had to choose between socks and medical supplies I would be glad to have left the socks behind.

Some of the military leaders I have met would focus on those missing socks because they see that as the foundation to doing the rest of any job well.  They could not see past the socks to find a truly valuable and talented team member.  They allowed the socks to become the focus of their interaction with a Corpsman who by the end of his career was influencing the careers of junior Corpsman, helping them build their skills, improve their productivity, and learn to teach others.

Our military is dealing with stressors many civilians cannot fully comprehend.  From multiple deployments and Post Traumatic Stress to shrinking budgets and less time and resources to train; our military members work hard and they deserve leaders who are prepared to support and serve them. Our military and government leaders need to be innovative in this new world of looming sequester budgets and ongoing wars. And they must ensure their teams are able to fully realize their potential in order to bring the most value to the organization and to themselves. Empowerment is key!

When a team member can’t seem to remember to bring the right socks the leader must set him up to succeed anyway.  Helping that direct report remember to “bring the appropriate socks” may seem like a waste of time, but if it is a waste of time for the leader, perhaps that is the heart of the reason it’s a waste of time for the individual.  If a leader can show that helping that sailor succeed with his socks, the payoff is that the sailor will trust the leader to help him succeed in much more significant ways.

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It’s a Fiscal Cliff! It’s a Sequester! It’s Ineffective Leadership?

SequestrationAs much as I would like to jump on the “sequester bandwagon” and write yet another article about the impact this enormous change will have on our country, I’m going to take a different approach on the topic that is monopolizing water cooler discussions these days.  I, like the rest of us, have been reading articles, listening to news reports, and paying attention to other’s viewpoints on what the sequester means to them, their interpretations on how we got to this point, and the personal connections they have to specific individuals that will be heavily influenced by this modification.  But let’s take a look at the overall leadership that has, for the most part, guided this nation to be where it’s at today.

Most of us are familiar with The Best Places to Work report published by the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte.  The report is a survey that includes information on how federal employees feel about their workplace and their individual roles with regard to issues such as leadership, training and development, pay, and teamwork.  The object of the survey is to alert leaders to areas that are falling short of employee’s expectations and satisfaction. According to the 2012 report, there are three key factors that are the driving influencers among federal staff. These factors include; effective leadership, agency mission and employee skill match, and satisfaction with pay. All three of these factors are significant, but let me call out that for the seventh time in a row, effective leadership has been the principal component that is said to drive employee satisfaction and commitment to their jobs in the federal workplace. The category that evaluates how much leadership at all levels of the organization “generates motivation and commitment, encourages integrity and manages people fairly, while also promoting the professional development, creativity and empowerment of employees,” is the lowest-rated category in the report.

There is no doubt that if this sequester happens, it will have an additional impact on already strained learning and development training budgets. Although this may resolve immediate budget issues, it will only cause far more intense repercussions in the long run.  We are already seeing employees leave their public sector jobs in droves. We can’t continue to put a bandage on a much larger wound.  A seven-year decline in how our nation’s leaders are performing is a significant indication that improvements are imperative.

Perhaps we need more servant leaders in the federal government, leaders that know their role is to help people achieve their goals. Servant leaders try to determine what their people need to perform well and live according to the agency’s vision and mission. Their goals are focused on the greater good and focuses on two major components of leadership-vision and implementation. Take three minutes and watch this video titled, It’s Always the Leader. In it, Ken Blanchard talks about a trip he took to the DMV and was pleasantly surprised by his experience with the facility’s leadership.

I can only imagine what federal public servants are feeling in this tumultuous time. Want a place to vent? Send in a video of how you’re doing even more with less in your role. Or, if you’re happy with the leadership at your agency (Congrats, NASA!), send us a video about how your leader motivates and inspires you to put your best food forward.

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See Ken Blanchard LIVE in D.C.

When agencies are hit with budget cuts, leadership development training initiatives are often the first to go. Without a clear understanding of the positive and measurable mission impact, it’s easy to dismiss leadership development as being too expensive and too time consuming. The result can lead to employees showing up for work to collect a paycheck, without the maximum motivation and engagement to support the accomplishment of their agency’s mission.

Reserve your space now to join Ken Blanchard and other leadership development experts who will share insights on how investing in your agency’s most important asset–people–will re-engage employees and grow great leaders.

Why you need to attend:

  • Learn ways you can motivate yourself and others by increasing productivity, enhancing motivation, encouraging creativity, and building loyalty.
  • Understand the three inherent needs every disengaged employee requires to get motivated. 
  • Address generational differences impacting today’s leaders and the next generation in line for those leadership roles, and why this is critical to attracting – and keeping – Generation X, Y, and Millennial employees engaged.

Share Best Practices, Skills, and Ideas with your Colleagues

You’ll also have the opportunity to interact with a panel of your colleagues as they share the leadership training, strategies, and programs that have been successful within their agencies.

Speakers include:

  • Ken Blanchard, Co-founder, Author – The Ken Blanchard Companies
  • Sharon Ridings, National Training Manager – Environmental Protection Agency
  • Sioux Thompson, Head of Organization Development and Learning – Board of Governors, Federal Reserve
  • Jeff Vargas, Chief Learning Officer – Commodity Futures Trading Commission
  • Peter Shelby, Chief Learning Officer – National Reconnaissance Office, Co-Chair – Federal CLO Council
  • Naomi Leventhal, Director – Deloitte Consulting

* Register by September 17th and bring a colleague from your agency for half the price. ($174 savings)

For more information, click here or call Christine Simmons at 800-272-3933.

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The Leadership Priority: Investing in Training to Grow Great Leaders

When agencies are hit with budget cuts, leadership development training initiatives are often the first to go. Without a clear understanding of the positive and measurable mission impact, it’s easy to dismiss leadership development as being too expensive and too time consuming. In addition to expending millions of budget dollars each year, less-than-optimal leadership practices negatively impact employee retention, satisfaction, morale, and productivity. The result can lead to employees showing up for work to collect a paycheck, without the maximum motivation and engagement to support the accomplishment of their agency’s mission.

Reserve your space now to join Ken Blanchard and other leadership development experts that will share insights on how investing in your agency’s most important asset – people – will re-engage employees and grow great leaders.

Why you need to attend:

  • Learn ways you can motivate yourself and others by increasing productivity, enhancing motivation, encouraging creativity, and building loyalty.
  • Understand the 3 inherent needs every disengaged employee requires to get motivated.
  • Address generational differences impacting today’s leaders and the next generation in line for those leadership roles, and why this is critical to attracting – and keeping – Generation X, Y, and Millennial employees engaged.
  • Interact with your colleagues to discover how they’ve implemented successful (and on budget) training initiatives within their agencies.

Share Best Practices, Skills, and Ideas Forum

You’ll also have the opportunity to interact with a panel of your government colleagues as they share the leadership training, strategies, and programs that have been successful at their agencies.

Speakers:
Ken Blanchard, Co-founder, Author – The Ken Blanchard Companies
Sharon Ridings, National Training Manager – Environmental Protection Agency
Sioux Thompson, Head of Organization Development and Learning – Board of Governors, Federal Reserve
Peter Shelby, Chief Learning Officer – National Reconnaissance Office
Naomi Leventhal, Director– Deloitte Consulting
Jeff Vargas, Chief Learning Officer – Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Jim Atwood, Director of Government Leadership Solutions – The Ken Blanchard Companies

Date, Time, and Location:
September 26, 2012
The City Club of Washington
555 13th Street, NW
Columbia Square
Washington, D.C. 20004

Breakfast and Registration
8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
Leadership Development Summit
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

For more information and to reserve your seat, call Christine Simmons at 800-272-3933.

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