Monthly Archives: October, 2013

The Mentoring Dilemma We Don’t Talk About

If you ask a Millennial what they want from their company or managers, one theme you will hear over and over is that they are hungry for relationships. They crave them. It’s ironic, right? They are the most connected generation in history, yet they are starved for relationships and mentors. Here’s a list of the top nine things that Millennials said they wanted from their company, based on a series of interviews done by The Randstad 2008 World of Work:

  1. Help us learn.
  2. Believe in us.
  3. Tune in to our technology.
  4. Connect us.
  5. Let us make it our own.
  6. Tell us how we’re doing.
  7. Be approachable.
  8. Plug in to our parents.
  9. Be someone we can believe in.

At least 7 out of those 9 have to do with relationships.

And they are going to need them because they are going to be forced into leadership positions very soon, and they are going to need a web of relationships with more experienced leaders to whom they can look to for ongoing, “on the job” learning.

Relationships give us a wider perspective. One of the most important things you can do in developing your Millennials is to create avenues where networking becomes an important and ongoing part of their lives. Networking isn’t just for finding your next new job; it’s for how to do the job! Some researchers have started referring to this as CxQ (Connectional Intelligence). So we have IQ, EQ, and now CxQ. Of the three, some would say that CxQ is the most important!

Millennials value collaboration. They have worked in teams throughout their education. Whereas Baby Boomers learned to compete in school and had to learn to collaborate in their career, Millennials learned how to collaborate in school, perhaps at the expense of learning to compete.

You may be saying, “Well, if technology has made this generation so good at collaboration (CxQ), why do we need to help them develop it?” That’s a good question. And here’s the answer. Many of the people that they need to know in order to be successful are in your network, not theirs. One of the most helpful things you can do for Millennials is to open the gate and allow them into your network.

This can be intimidating for Baby Boomers because they have learned to compete in order to survive, so it’s almost counter-intuitive. After all, if Millennial leaders have access to powerful relationships, won’t that give them a competitive advantage? Once again, Baby Boomers are faced with the dilemma: compete or collaborate? In the “old world”, the right answer was clear. In the “new world”, the answer is just as clear, but it’s different.

Mike Mowery

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

Clogged Gutters and Tacit Rules

A few nights ago, we had torrential rain. I’m not joking when I say I could have kayaked down our street. I took a peek outside and noticed something that caused immediate concern—water coming over the gutters. Obviously, the downspout was obstructed; but since it was pouring rain, checking it out was out of the question.

I caught the weather earlier this evening and more violent storms are forecasted for tomorrow. So after dinner, I grabbed my ladder and made the 10+ feet ascent up the rungs dreading what I might find. Surely enough—leaves. LOTS of leaves. I couldn’t see them from the ground, but looking down from above, I was amazed at how full my gutters were. I began working my way around the house, removing leaves and debris. Now that all channels are clear, I expect to look out during the next downpour and see water diverting properly.

Sometimes what we don’t see really can hurt us. This is spot-on in many contexts; but in organizations, one of the places this truly becomes an issue is within the context of tacit rules. We do not use the word tacit too often in daily conversation. Tacit means “understood or implied without being stated”.

By contrast, a formal rule may be: “All employees must arrive no later than 8 a.m.” Formal rules are almost always codified via policy or procedure. Tacit rules, on the other hand, are not written down, but they do affect our behavior. For instance, I assume you do not work for an organization that has codified shaking someone’s hand when meeting him or her for the first time. In our culture, however, it is understood that a customary greeting is shaking someone’s hand as a proper means of introduction. Such behavior is simply understood as acceptable. In that context, a tacit rule can be a good thing.

However, tacit rules can also be a bad thing. When it becomes understood or implied that we are rude to customers, when unethical behaviors become the norm, when crude conversations are “just the way it is”, when setting someone up for failure motivates more than equipping someone to succeed… you get the idea.

When it comes to “seeing” tacit rules, we may need to change our perspective. Do you only listen to one group? Do you only seek counsel from one person? Do you always take the side of one group of employees? If so, you could be contributing to a tacit rules culture that is clogging your system and may ultimately do a lot of damage.

Think about walking several miles in the shoes of multiple perspectives. When it came to my gutters, I couldn’t see the system issue until I changed the way I looked at the system. When it comes to tacit rules, a perspective change just may revolutionize the way you do business.

Happy training!

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

Captain Phillips

Captain Phillips Movie PosterMy wife and I saw Captain Phillips on Saturday. Yes, I have read the articles about the ways that the movie might not quite be fully accurate. But, it is still a great “business conversations starter” movie.

In case you have not seen it, it is based on the true story of the attack on the Maersk Alabama container ship by Somali Pirates. And if you want to read an interesting, apparently factual take on whether the film is accurate or not, there’s an article that breaks it all down pretty well.

Whether fully accurate or not, the movie provides a few “obvious” business lessons and suggests other conversations. Here are three business lessons:

  1. Always be on the lookout for the next dangerous threat—because, chances are, there is a next dangerous threat headed your way.
    In this case, the threat was really dangerous! But, every business faces threats from internal failures (or even internal laziness), external forces, lack of preparation, and from something simply going wrong. Many threats are not as “dangerous” as those posed by Somali Pirates, but there are still threats to the well-being of your business. Do not be surprised when they arrive. Try to anticipate them; try to prepare for them—because the threats are certainly coming!
  1. When you face a genuine crisis, your focus is pretty much shifted completely to dealing with the crisis.
    In the midst of a genuine crisis, a genuine threat that has arrived on your front door, nothing else matters until you deal with the crisis—the threat. So, that is where you put all of your focus.
  1. After the crisis, get back to work as soon as you can.
    I assume the ship got back to its work of transporting containers pretty quickly. And, at the end of the movie, in the “what happened next” lines of text on the screen, we learn that Captain Phillips did return to sea. It would have been understandable if he had never returned, but he did. I’ve got a hunch that that is the best strategy to move forward after surviving or facing down any crisis.

Here it is:

  • Be as prepared as possible for any and every threat or crisis. (Get prepared; stay prepared.)
  • Face the threat/crisis.
  • Get back to work.

There are certainly other lessons to be learned. The movie provides great discussion starters on preparation, checklists, team work, communication, etc. Good movie!

Randy Mayeux

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

Making Yourself a Better Mentor

One of the keys to being a successful mentor is to know how to leverage your experiences so that you can be of help to protégés. If you are being sought out as a mentor, it suggests that you are recognized as a successful leader. However, being a successful leader does not always translate into being a successful mentor. That requires developing a different set of skills and asking a different set of questions.

It’s very helpful to consider how the protégé learns. Some people love to read studies, books, and scholarly articles that examine issues in a very thorough way. If your protégé learns well in this manner, then you will want to assign the right kind of reading. Other people prefer to read material that may only be indirectly related to their particular field because they are motivated to develop innovative approaches by connecting seemingly unrelated things. Providing new information is a key to being a good mentor, and the best mentors provide the right kind of information to the protégé.

Another question to answer is, “What kind of instruction do they prefer?” Some people prefer to be given direction and other people prefer directions. Determining which way to go with this issue may be the single most important thing in being an effective mentor. If you are someone who prefers direction, you may find it very difficult to break everything down into step-by-step directions. If you prefer directions and you are working with a protégé who simply wants direction, you will have to be very careful not to micromanage things.

Finally, pay attention to whether they are motivated more by logic or feeling. You can learn the answer by asking them to describe a satisfying result to a problem that they faced. If they describe the outcome as being one that made sense or improved a process, that’s a clue that they are motivated more by the language of logic. On the other hand, if they describe the result as being better because of how it made people feel, such as, “everyone was a lot happier”, then that is a clue that they are motivated more by the language of feeling.

Mentoring can be a bit deceptive. You often become recognized as a mentor because of your own success, and that can lead you to think that you have reached the summit of learning. However, that’s not quite the case. Being recognized as a potentially good mentor is really an invitation to focus on learning a new set of skills. You can do it, but just remember that what got you here isn’t necessarily what will get your protégé there!

Mike Mowery

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

You Teach People How to Treat You

How do people treat you? Are you constantly mistreated and undermined? Have you found yourself googling “how to demand respect”? Believe it or not, there’s a good chance that you are a large factor in your own poor treatment.

My former co-worker is a great example of this. She would always complain about management being meaner to her than everyone else. She was a great colleague, but for some reason, she was never regarded in high esteem by the higher-ups.

One day as she was talking to me about her frustration, she said, “It’s always like this at my jobs! People think I’m an easy target who will let them get away with anything.”

Finally, it hit me. This wasn’t a rare case—she’s the common denominator. There’s obviously something that she’s doing to contribute to how people are treating her. And there is.

With every interaction you have, you’re teaching people how to treat you. Your reactions and responses build the boundaries for each relationship you have. Not setting such boundaries could evolve into you subconsciously becoming a pushover; and once that happens, it’s difficult to change that image.

On the other hand, you also don’t want to build your boundaries so far away that people are terrified to interact with you. Doing that just makes you a bully.

As I said, you are a large factor in your own treatment. The fault is not solely yours, but it’s important to know that you do have some control over it.

Once you find a healthy balance of boundaries in your relationships—whether you’re the boss or employee—you’ll automatically have the level of respect you want (without having to google it).

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

Who Owns This Question?

Different people on teams ask different “motivating questions”, and understanding who owns the question may provide your team with a huge breakthrough. Here’s why.

Some people most commonly ask the question, “When?” They are driven to action. They want to know, “When are we going to do something?” Others ask the question, “How?” They want to know, “How are we going to do this?” A third group basically focuses on the question, “Why?” Their concern is, “Why are we doing this?” Finally, the fourth group asks the question, “What?” They think often about possibilities and ask, “What if we tried something new?”

  • When?
  • How?
  • Why?
  • What?

Here’s my observation: to be an effective team player, you have to own your own question. Translated: You have to answer your own question!

Now, I want to distinguish between “fact-gathering questions” and “motivating questions”. Fact-gathering questions are questions that you cannot answer yourself. These are questions that relate to what you do not know, but you need to know. If you try to answer these “fact-gathering questions” without listening to others, you frustrate your co-workers who do know the answers; you perpetuate your own lack of knowledge; and you are likely to build upon a false set of presuppositions. Good leaders know what they know. Great leaders ask about what they don’t know. You need to ask “fact-gathering questions,” but you cannot answer them yourself.

However, when it comes to “motivating questions”, you have to answer your own question. In fact, if you do not answer your own “motivating question”, you will frustrate your team, frustrate yourself, and deprive your team of one of the biggest contributions that you can make to its success.

Why is this so? Your team doesn’t really know the answer to that question, but you do. It is not the same as a fact-gathering question. It is a question that motivates you, but it doesn’t motivate others on the team. They are motivated by other questions, so when you try to get them to answer YOUR “motivating question”, you are asking them to set aside what really motivates them and be motivated by what motivates you!

If you answer your own “motivating question”, it creates synergy and makes the other team members’ questions more relevant. In other words, there’s no reason to ask, “How should we do this?” if there’s never been the answer to the question of “What should we do?” The motivating questions are all interdependent on each other.

So, if you want to really help your team to perform, don’t be afraid to answer your own question and let go of the expectation that someone else can answer it for you.

Mike Mowery

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

Building Trust in Government

Guest Blogger - Katherine

We’ve all seen the headlines: “Trust in government at all-time low” or “Declining number of Americans have confidence in government to fix problems” or “Government shut down—what next?” Like many of you, I’ve become numb to these headlines.

One positive aspect to this otherwise depressing news is that the public’s confidence in local government continues to be vastly higher than their confidence in state or federal government. Gallup’s most recent poll, from September of this year, shows that 71% of those asked had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of confidence and trust in their local government to handle local problems. Compared to the public’s confidence in their state government (62%) and the downright dismal results of federal government (34%), those of us in local government should view this as a win.

That being said, we increasingly face anti-government sentiment and frustration with government within our communities, and that can make local government work difficult.

So the challenge is: how do you lead effectively amidst this anger, frustration, disgust, and unhappiness towards government? How do you change some of the public’s perception that government is cumbersome, ineffective, lazy and slow? I think the answer is in taking a bite-size approach.

Attempting to change the public’s perception of government as a whole is an overwhelming and awesome task, but attempting to change one citizen’s interaction with the Parks Department when that person calls to rent a pavilion for his or her child’s birthday party is attainable. When you tell a resident you will provide an update on a problem you agreed to look into, keep your word and call back when you say you will. When there is a fair and ethical opportunity to cut down red tape for a business trying to open its doors in your community, take it. And, even more importantly, when you find out you cannot solve that resident’s problem, or that red tape is necessary and cannot be avoided, taking the time to deliver that message in a timely fashion can soften the blow of the “no” and build trust.

When you build trust with citizens and clients, their opinion of you and your organization increases.

Although what happens in Washington is largely out of our control, we can have a positive impact in our own communities on a daily basis. Each interaction with a customer is an opportunity to change how the public views their local government a little bit.

As local government professionals, we know that the vast majority of public employees are passionate, committed, and highly skilled. Let’s give the public more reasons to have trust and confidence in their local government.

Use Up All Your Energy, Then Replenish it

Full Engagement Book ImageThe Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal.

You will run short on energy.
You will, at times, run out of energy.
When this happens, you need to say, “That’s ok. I’m currently out of energy.” 
And then, you need to build your energy back up—to replenish your energy.

If you try to accomplish something meaningful when you are practically out of energy, it will not work out very well. Let’s call this a “law.” It is a law of human life, and it is certainly a law of productivity.

Energy management is probably a new skill for this era of ever-increasing productivity expectations.

The problem in today’s competitive environment is that we need to replenish our energy as quickly as possible because there is always the next project to tackle, the next assignment to fulfill, or the next new thing to get to immediately.

And when we go directly from one energy-expending task to the next, we don’t have time to replenish as we should.

Here’s the formula:

Build up your energy.
Use it nearly all up!
replenish it for the next challenge.
use it nearly all up again.
continue; repeat.

And here are a couple of questions:

  1. Are you spending your energy to the point of being “spent” occasionally? If not, you may need to become more productive. It’s probably a good thing to “spend it all” on projects that are worthwhile.

But, after you are spent…

  1. Do you try to keep going without replenishing your energy? If so, you are headed for real problems. You’ve got to replenish your energy, or ultimately, you won’t have energy left to use at all.

To help you think about and tackle this, here are the four principles of energy “management” from the book The Power of Full Engagement. If you follow them, you will become a “Corporate Athlete.”

  • Principle 1: Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.
  • Principle 2: Because energy capacity diminishes with overuse and with underuse, we must balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal.
  • Principle 3: To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same systematic way that elite athletes do.
  • Principle 4: Positive energy rituals—highly specific routines for managing energy—are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.

Randy Mayeux

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

Leadership Realities

I have the privilege of being with a lot of different leaders in a lot of different settings. Many times, leaders feel that their situation is unique, and in some ways, it’s true. Every leadership environment and challenge is unique. However, there are many things in leadership that are universal, and if you feel a little discouraged about your particular task, take a few minutes to remember some simple truths.

  1. Leadership is hard. Period. It’s hard for the rookies, and it’s hard for the vets. It’s hard in small organizations, and it’s hard in large departments and divisions. People, situations, environments, challenges, histories, shortfalls… all of these things are everywhere in abundance. Leadership looks easy from the sideline. It’s another thing in the ring. If you get discouraged because you think that it’s harder in your setting, then just remember: (1) Yes, it is hard, and (2) It’s not any easier in other places.
  1. It never seems “glamorous” when you are in the middle of it. Sometimes when you read an article or book about a great leader and how he transformed an organization or led her team to overcome some huge obstacle, it sounds so glamorous. You look at what you are doing, and think, “Compared to that, what I am doing isn’t very exciting.” The truth is, no matter how it sounds in print, it wasn’t that glamorous in real time. Leadership is made up of one thousand decisions and interactions a day—most of which are quite mundane. Only a handful of leaders are known outside of their organization, and some of the “success” stories we read about, pale in comparison to the stories of the unknown leaders buried in obscurity. Limelight and leadership aren’t usually synonymous. Most of the time, they are antonyms.
  1. You rarely know the difference you are making. I have the opportunity to listen to hard-working field operators in the trenches and deep-thinking managers dressed in coats and ties. When I hear them talk about the leaders that they’ve worked under, I realize over and over this one thing: relationships change us. As a leader, if you have healthy relationships with the people around you, then I am sure you are having a huge impact on their lives, even if they never tell you. Everyone needs encouragement from time to time, but great leaders don’t constantly crave validation from others. Great leaders are intrinsically motivated and that deeply impacts others.

Leaders, don’t give up! You’re influencing things and people a whole lot more than you realize. Like one grandmother told her grandson, adopt the attitude that says, “I may give out, but I’ll never give up!”

Mike Mowery

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

What’s Your Legacy?

As some of you may have already read through other SGR publications, it’s been a rough week for the SGR team because Laurie Groover, our finance manager, passed away on Monday after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

Although she’s not here physically, her attitude is something that can never be forgotten. Let me elaborate.

Laurie was seriously the nicest person I have ever met in my life. Not that kind of nice that can be turned on or off—she had a genuine gentle spirit about her. When you talked to her, you automatically changed your demeanor because she was a calming soul. Even going through chemo and losing her hair, she kept a positive attitude.

Seeing her optimistic spin on anything in the workplace, and in life, changed the way others viewed things. That’s the legacy she left.

If you were no longer working for your organization tomorrow, or if one of the employees on your team resigned, what’s the legacy you would leave behind? What would people have to say about you?

Taking too long to answer the question may mean that you have some things you need to work on.

“Live today the way you want to be remembered tomorrow.”
– Dillon Burroughs, Writer

It doesn’t have to be earth shattering.

I still remember the teacher who stayed until 8 p.m. helping me go over pre-calculus math problems, the boss who acted just like a coworker and took over people’s shifts, and the neighbor who would mow our lawn whenever he mowed his.

These things weren’t monumental, but they were still memorable.

So, with every person you encounter daily—coworkers, citizens, clients, etc.—what gesture are you making that is leaving a fingerprint in that person’s life? What will be remembered about you?

It’s one of the few things in life you can actually control.

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

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