Monthly Archives: April, 2013

It’s the Small Things

Guest Blogger - Andy

According to the latest Gallup poll that rated honesty and ethical standards in different fields, police officers still rated among the highest.  In 2012, 58% of people rated the police high or very high.  While that may or may not seem high, compared to other fields it’s pretty darn good.  However, I believe we can be better than that; there’s always room for improvement.


So how do we gain more favorable ratings? If you notice on the graph, nurses, pharmacists, and doctors rank the highest.  Why is that? I suppose that because they are perceived as caring and dedicated to helping others, people are always going to place them in high regard, and rightfully so.  Perhaps we, in policing, should take note.

Ethical standards in various professions

Aren’t the police caring and dedicated to helping others as well? You bet we are. We just don’t show it as best as we could at times.  Managing perception is an area that we can improve, both as individuals and as an organization.  At the individual level, we must recognize that every police- citizen encounter is important. And just like field goal kickers in football, we are only as good as our last kick, or in our case, our last encounter.  Officers are doing a great job out there, no doubt about it. I am not saying we are perfect, no one is.  But I contend that if we managed perception a little better, the view of the police would positively increase.


People want to be treated fairly, period. Studies show that people are more concerned about the process than the actual outcome. If police do the small things like explain why they took a particular action, most people will feel better about the situation.  They may not totally agree, but at the minimum, believe they were treated in a fair manner.


When I was a first line supervisor, I listened to many citizen complaints about alleged officers’ behavior, such as rudeness or an improper arrest.  First, I actively listened so I can clearly understand their concerns.  Then, I painted them a picture so they could see through the lens of an officer.  I can tell you that most people were satisfied after I explained why the officers acted a particular way.  As stated, people are more concerned about the fairness of the process.  Take the time to explain your actions.  If we all do that, I bet our ratings go up even more.


Calling All Radicals!

One of my favorite blog sites is Harvard Business Review, and one of my favorite writers there is Rosabeth Moss Kanter. I came across a quote from her the other day that really resonated with me.

“The most radical thing we can do is introduce people to one another. New connections produce new ideas.”

It seems so simple, right? We spend a lot of time developing strategic plans, creating alignment, cutting costs, and making sure that people follow through—and we should do all of those things. We’d be remiss if we didn’t. However, what Kanter is asserting is that if we want to be innovative, there is something that we can do that is far simpler. Catalytic leaders connect people, and as she says, “New connections produce new ideas.”

One of my mentors used to say to me, “There’s only three primary sources of growth in your life: (1) The books that you read, (2) The experiences that you have, and (3) The relationships that you make.”

You may or may not agree with his convictions, but one thing you can’t deny is this: Relationships change us. They can change us positively or negatively, but they change us. That’s why good parents of middle school students often worry about their daughter getting mixed up with the wrong group of friends, right? And that’s why an expert leader like Rosabeth Moss Kanter can say that if you want to do something radical, try being a connector.

Reflecting on what she said has caused me to give myself three challenges, which I’d like to ask you to consider as well.

  1. Get Connected Yourself – especially with people who aren’t like you and may not see things just like you do. For some reason, we tend to isolate ourselves from people who have different views. That may be safe, but it also may be stunting our growth in many areas of life.
  2. Learn! Learn! Learn! – especially about some things that don’t have anything to do with your area of expertise, at least not on the surface. I spent a lot of years focused on a very narrow slice of knowledge. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve discovered that by widening my horizons, I’ve learned more about what I thought I knew than I ever imagined possible.
  3. Be a Connector – One of the downsides of this wonderful world of information in which we now live is that there is a tendency to simply take it in but never take action. However, this idea of connecting people won’t do much good if we just “take it in.” So, stop reading now and start reaching out—Get Radical!

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources

Business Writing 101

There are many things that can derail an employee’s career, but one of the fastest means to a promotion dead end is poor business writing. Not only does poor business writing impact an employee’s promotion possibilities, it also damages an organization’s credibility.

Here are five simple business writing rules that all employees from the front line to executive staff should live by:

Write clearly. Doing so lets readers know we have thought about our message. It also allows us to equip the reader to infer what we intend. In addition, we send a positive message regarding our organization’s values, and we minimize rework which increases productivity. I have often heard employees say, “I need to hurry and get this memo out!” Hurrying and business writing simply do not go together. Writing clearly takes time, which ironically, saves time.

Write concisely. Eliminate unnecessary words. Do not use long, wordy phrases when a single word will do. For instance, use “now” rather than “at this time.” Use only relevant facts. There is a tendency to think that more information increases the likelihood of a greater impression. That is simply not true. Concise information that is organized and flows effectively has a much greater chance of keeping the reader’s interest while conveying your intended message.

Write completely. Have you ever received instructions that are missing a step? If you have, you know how frustrating that can be. The same is true for business writing. Complete your thoughts. Include appropriate contact information. Anticipate questions a reader might have and write proactively. This does not mean you have to write an encyclopedia! Creatively use white space and do not be afraid to use bullet lists, tables, or text boxes to draw attention to specific information points.

Write correctly. It is critical that you check spelling, grammar, noun/verb agreement, etc. One misspelled word, or one grammatical error could derail a major business deal, lead to an audit, set a criminal free, or potentially cost someone his or her job. Do not rely exclusively on spell check, and do not simply glance over a document prior to sending. One trick is to read backwards. Doing so forces you to look at the document differently and may help you catch an error that you may have missed the first or second time through.

Write courteously. Even if you have to deliver bad news, do so courteously. “Please” and “thank you” are two of the most powerful expressions in the English language. Use them consistently as a means of communicating dignity and respect, regardless of your intended audience.

Let’s keep the conversation going. What business writing tips would you offer if you were teaching a class on the topic?

Greg Anderson

Written by:
Greg Anderson
President of Online Learning, Strategic Government Resources
Follow Greg on Twitter!@SGRGreg

Three Traits of a Great Job

Let’s imagine that we had the luxury to work where we wanted to, to choose the company we worked for, and to even choose the boss/supervisor we reported to. What would we want?

In one sense, we would want someone to hire us, and then leave us alone to do our job. But that is not really what we want.

What we really want is someone to hire us, and then do everything possible to help us get better at doing our job – this current job, and what ever job is next.

And we definitely do not want to work for someone who is hurting our ability to do our best work.

These thoughts come from two insightful excerpts from The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton:

If you have a great job — one with unlimited growth opportunity, a manager who is interested in your development, and that gives you a sense of mission and purpose — you have about the best life you can have at this time in human history.


If a leader chooses good managers, everything works. If a leader assigns the wrong person as manager, everything fails. Nothing fixes bad managers, not coaching, competency training, incentives, or warnings — nothing works. A bad manager never gets better.

So, here are the traits:

A great job has:

  1. Unlimited growth opportunity
  2. A manager who is interested in you (as a person) and in your development
  3. The ability to instill within you a sense of mission and purpose

A bad job/bad work situation is:

  1. One with a bad manager.

I find his conclusion, that “nothing fixes bad managers… a bad manager never gets better” pretty disturbing. And sadly, I agree. I’m convinced it is possible to take an average manager and make him/her better. It is possible to take a person who has the “potential”’ (what a loaded word) to be a good manager and help that person develop that potential. But nothing fixes a “bad” manager.

Now, what do we all do with this?

How about: if you are a manager, work really hard at being a good and always-getting-better manager. If you are a bad manager, fess up… and do something else. Because if you are a bad manager, you are hurting the people you manage.

And for all of us, we need to aim at growing, developing, and focusing clearly on fulfilling the mission and purpose of our organization.

Randy Mayeux

Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

So, We’re Going to Hire a Millennial…

Guest Blogger - Melanie

What makes a Millennial new hire a challenge for the workplace today?

For one, their expectations walking in the door are different than any other generation we’ve seen in the past. Where Baby Boomers and Gen Xers came to us believing they had to put in their time to “earn” various elements of compensation or benefits, Millennials expect those up front. Remember, many Millennials have grown up in a world where an effort produces an immediate result or reward. The idea of having to wait for rewards can be both foreign and frustrating for them.

However, we as the employers know that benefits are expensive. We struggle with the business need for a Return on Investment (ROI) on what we’re already investing with our current, traditional compensation and benefit models. And we’ve all been burned in the past by the individual we invested a great deal in who bailed on us long before that ROI came our way.

So what do we do for our Millennial new hires, and why? To answer the second question first: because they are here! They aren’t just our “future” workforce, they are becoming our current employees. With each graduation and each retirement, we will see the numbers of Millennials in our workforce climb, and their advent will demand that employers examine their benefit offerings carefully in order to attract and retain their talent.

I don’t think it would be a stretch to see the waiting time for paid vacation shortened — instead of six months, maybe three? Does the basic start off of two weeks paid vacation need to grow to three weeks? Will we see gravitation away from separate vacation and sick time to Paid Time Off (PTO)? What about some type of reward or buy-back system for unused sick time? Will tuition reimbursement eligibility decrease from one year of service to one day? What about a more broad availability of cell phone/data/text plan reimbursement? We are limited only by our imagination and creativity. And our budget, of course!

Changing our benefit offerings in some of these areas may seem like quite a polar shift. However, it’s important for us to know that if we are willing to be creative and flexible here, we will find that our Millennials will be highly motivated, energetic, and ready to work hard for us. They will bring their fresh perspectives and enthusiasm to our teams, and perhaps an ROI we weren’t expecting.

So, the next time you’re recruiting for a position, boldly accept the challenge of our Millennial applicants — their success is OUR success!

Leadership: It’s COMPLICATED!

Leadership never takes place in a vacuum. There are always unique circumstances, numerous stakeholders, pressures, deadlines, and the list goes on.

And all of those things must be considered appropriately—though not necessarily evenly—in a timely manner. As someone in a recent SGR class quipped, “Managing people is hard work!”

Leadership is complicated. For example, one city leader shared his struggle with trying to respect an employee’s right to confidentiality while, at the same time, keeping the camaraderie high on the team. They knew that their colleague was spending inordinate amounts of time in the supervisor’s office with the door closed. This employee would come to his office, shut the door, and share some very personal things that were going on in his life.

To make things more “complicated”, these things were affecting his job performance. The team sometimes asked questions about this man when he wasn’t there. How tempting to share some “insider information” that would have satisfied the critics.

Not so fast, my friend. Throwing someone under the bus may be tempting, but it’s not ethical, and it’s not even effective.

This leader cared about his employee and guarded his confidence. But what about the rest of the team? This man’s performance was affecting them, so didn’t they have a right to some explanation? And what about other “hidden stakeholders”? It’s complicated!

The leader shared enough information with his team to confirm that it was a tough situation and that he, as the supervisor, acknowledged the difficulty it was causing them; but he did this all without sharing any private information or divulging any details. He refused to throw the man under the bus, and by his example, he assured the rest of his team that he wouldn’t do that to them, either.

The team weathered the storm, the employee made it through the crisis, and that leader’s stature grew in everyone’s eyes.

In his book, The Power of Communication, Helio Fred Garcia reminds us of the close connection between leadership and communication. He points out that in every situation, there are at least four decisions that leaders need to carefully make in relation to communication.

  1. What will be said?  Too little or too much can both be equally damaging.
  2. Who will say it?  It’s not always clear, but it is always important.
  3. When will it be said?  To control the narrative, you have to have good timing.
  4. Where will it be said?  Settings “frame” the message like backgrounds for photographs.

Leadership isn’t easy, but harnessing the power of communication is a tool that every leader can learn to use. You never know when it will come in very handy.

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources

How to Lose Your Credibility… Fast!

I needed a mechanic’s opinion a few weeks ago about a car I was thinking about purchasing. So naturally, I hopped online and Googled repair shops that were in my area. I called around, checked for the best prices, and eventually narrowed my choices down to two companies.

To make a decision, I visited the websites of both companies. And after seeing one of the webpages, my mind was immediately made up.

What did I see? (I know the suspense is killing you.) It was a misspelling of the make of the car I needed to get inspected!

How could I trust a company that couldn’t even correctly spell the exact thing that I needed?

If you think about it, that’s the thought that comes into a lot of people’s minds when they see simple spelling errors. It may not mean the loss of a client, but it definitely tarnishes you or your organization’s credibility.

spelling_cartoonMaking sure “spell checker” is enabled won’t always help the situation because it won’t catch words in all caps or words that are actually in the dictionary (like a typo of write and right, too and to, quiet and quite, etc.).

That’s why you need to always check, double-check, and maybe even triple-check anything you send via e-mail, newsletter, social media post, or through the company’s website.

You won’t get it perfect. I definitely have had my share of cringe-worthy spelling mistakes that were caught too late, but the key is to not allow it to become habit.

Spelling errors are like paper cuts. Getting them every once in a while is a little irritating, yet tolerable. However, if you get paper cuts everyday, multiple times a day, that’s just plain annoying.

Besides, if all you have is your word, and it is full of errors, you don’t have much!

Before I get off of my English teacher soapbox, I’ll leave you with some great resources to avoid the common errors in spelling and grammar. You’re welcome!

Hope Boyd
Written by:
Hope Boyd
Director of Communications, Strategic Government Resources

Using Learning Games in a Training Environment

Learning games are a great way to enhance the learning experience in a training environment. Here are a few things you need to know to ensure those activities are as effective as possible:

Know your audience.
If I am training a group of utility billing clerks, I would probably be more comfortable with a game that is “fun” more so than “competitive” due to the fact that their training environment should be a stress-free zone; antithetical to stressors that are faced in the work environment. If I am working with a group of senior engineers, I might lean more towards a game that is constructive as a means of playing to their strengths. I would never use a game with any audience that purposefully sets a participant up for ridicule.

Timing is very critical.
If a learning game goes too long, learners can quickly grow weary and move on in their minds, even if their bodies continue to participate. A wise facilitator will test a learning game with a focus group before using it in a live training session. He or she will seek feedback that is specific. Is the game too long? Is it too short? Does it reinforce learning or will participants miss the point?

Make sure the game fits the learning objectives.
Having a game for the sake of including one seems haphazard. Even if it is for an ice-breaker or a means of calling a group back together after lunch, etc., the learning game should, on some level, relate to the content at hand. The key is using a learning game as the proper tool for proper application. I would not hammer a nail with a screwdriver. Similarly, if a learning game complements learning outcomes — use it. If not, choose another tool.

Do not always use the word “game” in a training context.
The term can minimize significance, invoke competition fears, become more about winning than learning, etc. Sometimes, I will refer to it as a learning activity, or experiment. Again, this totally depends on the audience, objectives and context.

Happy training!

Greg Anderson

Written by:
Greg Anderson
President of Online Learning, Strategic Government Resources
Follow Greg on Twitter!@SGRGreg

The 20-Mile March

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen. (HarperBusiness. 2011).

For the last decade, Jim Collins has certainly been one of the most influential thinkers found in business book writing. He is a “vocabulary creator,” giving us phrases that become part of the current business vocabulary. From Great by Choice we get:

20-Mile March: a set pre-decided “advance” on schedule

This became Collins’ “model” for leadership throughout the book. Establish the goals. Make the progress planned for. Keep moving forward, no matter what…

Mr. Collins tells the story of Roald Amundsen, who reached the South Pole in 1911 and was the first to “undisputedly” reach the North Pole in 1926. He prepared himself, and prepared himself, and prepared himself some more to face any and every difficulty, and then made a critical decision — he and his team would march 20 miles a day toward their goal. Every day.

If the day’s march was “easy,” they would “rest” at the end. But not go a step further. If the day was hard, they would force themselves to make it the full 20 miles, and then collapse. 20 miles a day. Every day. He missed the actual daily goal, but reached the destination, and this unbending discipline was critical:

“Having a clear 20-Mile March focuses the mind; because everyone on the team knows the markers and their importance, they can stay on track.
… Financial markets are out of your control. Customers are out of your control. Earthquakes are out of your control. Global competition is out of your control. Technological change is out of your control. Most everything is ultimately out of your control. But when you 20-Mile March, you have a tangible point of focus that keeps you and your team moving forward, despite confusion, uncertainty, and even chaos.”

A good 20-Mile March has the following seven characteristics:

  1. Clear performance markers
  2. Self-imposed constraints
  3. Appropriate to the specific enterprise
  4. Largely within the company’s control to achieve
  5. A proper timeframe — long enough to manage, yet short enough to have teeth
  6. Imposed by the company upon itself
  7. Achieved with high consistency

In the book, Collins issues a profound warning:

“We live in a modern culture that reveres the Next Big Thing… If you always search for the Next Big Thing, that’s largely what you’ll end up doing — always searching for the Next Big Thing.”

In story after story and line after line, he calls for focused decisions and a ruthless determination to maintain such focus. What’s your 20-Mile March?

Randy Mayeux

Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

The Formula for Leadership?

The Leadership Challenge gives leaders a fantastic template for providing dynamic leadership in almost every situation. We all know that leadership is complex and can never really be reduced to a formula, but I have found that using this simple approach almost always clears the fog.

  • Model the Way.
    The first thing a leader needs to ask is, “Am I setting the right example in this situation?” You can’t expect to be very effective if your behavior doesn’t match what you are expecting from others.
  • Inspire a Shared Vision.
    Leaders inspire others to strive for a future that elicits passion and excitement. This means you have to project enthusiasm and lift people’s spirits. Key thought: shared vision. If you really want to inspire them, forget the William Wallace speeches and just let them have a part of creating it.
  • Challenge the Process.
    Leaders have the ability to look at a situation and ask, “Why does it have to be this way?” They spot the bottleneck and dare to say, “We’re going to overcome that problem.”
  • Empower Others to Act.
    Leaders do what only they can do so that others are free to act. Find the money for what they need, restructure their job, or protect them from vicious critics. The bottom line is that you empower them by getting the obstacles out of the way— whatever they are.
  • Encourage the Heart.
    Most of us are engaged in long journeys toward success, and there are many issues to address. Frankly, those issues become overwhelming and discouraging. Wise leaders know how to encourage the heart, so that no one quits too soon. Leaders create a culture of hope that pulsates with the thought that success is imminent.

There it is. MICEE: A great template for knowing what you need to do right now in this situation.

Think about your own “Leadership Challenge.” What’s needed? What’s missing? Are you setting the right example? Are you modeling the way? Is your team inspired? Do they have a shared vision that is inspiring? Or is there some situation that everyone just says, “It is what it is.”

Perhaps you need to question that conclusion. Perhaps it’s time to challenge the process. Or maybe there are some things that you need to do before your team can really have a chance to succeed. Or is it simply that in the long battle of trying to do the right thing, your team is emotionally bankrupt and fatigued?

One thing’s for certain, your team is looking to you to know what to do next. Try applying this template to the situation, and I’m convinced you’ll know the answer.

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources

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