Monthly Archives: December, 2013

Working Under the Right Manager…You!

The more you tackle “knowledge work”, the more you work in the realm of ideas, the farther you get from having a traditional manager. A manager is that person who tells you exactly what to do, exactly when to do this, exactly where to do it, etc. The manager directs your every action.

And, in the past, a lot of jobs were done with more efficiency and greater productivity because of the fine work done by managers. Today, many still are. But increasingly, we are in a “I have to manage my own work” world. Today, many more of us are functioning without some such directive voice. Thus, we have to become our own managers.

It took Peter Drucker just a few sentences to get to the heart of the matter in his essay Managing Oneself.  Here is the key excerpt:

Companies today aren’t managing their employees’ careers; knowledge workers must, effectively, be their own chief executive officers. It’s up to you to carve out your place, to know when to change course, and to keep yourself engaged and productive during a work life that may span some 50 years. To do those things well, you’ll need to cultivate a deep understanding of yourself—not only what your strengths and weaknesses are but also how you learn, how you work with others, what your values are, and where you can make the greatest contribution. Because only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence.

History’s great achievers—a Napoléon, a da Vinci, a Mozart—have always managed themselves. That, in large measure, is what makes them great achievers. Now, most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves. And we will have to stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life, which means knowing how and when to change the work we do.

Here are five questions that Peter Drucker raised in this essay to help you manage yourself effectively:

  1. What are my strengths?
  2. How do I perform?
  3. What are my values?
  4. Where do I belong?
  5. What should I contribute?

Let’s add a sixth, hinted at by Mr. Drucker’s line: And we will have to stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life, which means knowing how and when to change the work we do.

  1. How will I next change the way I work?

Because you will change the way you work—yet again—before you know it.

So, add this to your ever-growing list of understandings about how you work: you have to learn to better manage yourself. Afterall, a better managed you is a more productive, more successful you.

Randy Mayeux

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

Mundane Abilities that Make a Major Difference

People often debate the question, “Are leaders born or made?” There’s no doubt that some people seem to be born leaders; but on the other hand, there are a lot of people who seem to grow into the role of being a leader by virtue of their accomplishments, promotions, and continued education. Of course, even those who are natural leaders will be more effective as leaders if they purposely develop their leadership skills, and the truth is that any leader can be a better leader if he/she intentionally practices some important behaviors.

There are some leadership qualities that seem more intuitive. However, there are other important leadership skills that any person can develop, and competency in these areas will help improve a leader, even if he/she feels inadequate in some of the more mysterious qualities such as being charismatic, visionary, or dynamic. These may seem rather mundane, but they can make a big difference.

  1. Ability to Focus:  The more pervasive that technology becomes, the harder it is for some to really concentrate on the matter at hand. Phone calls, emails, text messages, Twitter, Facebook, etc. are incredible tools, but they can also be annoying interruptions. I hear a lot of complaints about them, and that’s why I believe a leader’s ability to master these things, rather than be mastered by them gives him/her a tremendous advantage! If you can focus (and I mean really focus) your intellect upon a problem or situation, it will differentiate you. The ability to do nothing more than zero in on priorities will place you in the top 10% of all leaders.
  2. Embrace Change as a Process: Great leaders have a strong bias to action. They don’t rest upon past accomplishments, and are always seeking to improve through change and innovation. That probably comes naturally for many leaders, but the opportunity for you to differentiate yourself is in how you lead change. Many leaders who want to see change do not know how to lead change. The key is to create a process where people can embrace and own change. Imposing change rarely works. Creating a system that builds buy-in for change will be much more successful.
  3. Develop Organizational Acumen: Great leaders know how to elicit trust from others because they create an environment that allows others to fulfill their potential. People want to follow these kinds of leaders because they make the organization work well. These leaders know when and how to share information, and they are expert listeners. They can quickly diagnose whether the team/organization is performing at full potential, delivering on commitments, and whether the team is changing and growing versus just operating.

Mike Mowery

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

Are You Heart Smart?

Don’t be fooled by the title. This isn’t about eating foods that lower your cholesterol.

You may call it emotional intelligence. You may call it being intuitive. You may even call it being sensitive. The fact of the matter is that leaders aren’t as great as they think unless they possess some form of these “heart smart” qualities.

I’m not talking about throwing a company party or buying everyone lunch. Those are great gestures, but leaders need to also impact an employee somehow on a personal level.

I recently read a great example of this in the news.

According to the article, a North Carolina family with an epileptic son was eating at a restaurant. The 8 year old, Riley, had been rowdy and disruptive during the whole meal—the norm when he gets frustrated because he can’t speak. Riley was getting loud and hitting the table, which the family knew was aggravating to the other patrons.

But the family’s spirits immediately lifted when a waitress approached them saying that a stranger had paid for their dinner and left a note that read: “God only gives special children to special people.”

No matter what your religious affiliation is, you can see how touching the deed was. It doesn’t take much to make a difference in someone’s day, and in some cases, their life.

For leaders, it doesn’t require blurring the lines of the work and home environment. A simple handwritten “thank you” card will work. Or maybe you could let an employee leave early if you know that day was especially bad for them (if his or her work is done for the day and you can afford it). Basically, it’s showing that the individual is more than just another worker bee.

Head smarts can get you the job, but heart smarts is how to build and maintain your team after you land the job. So, are you heart smart?

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

Eight Steps for Building Your Leadership Pipeline

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Colorado City/County Management Association on Building Your Leadership Pipeline. Nothing is more critical to the future of your organization; and yet for most organizations, no critical issue is more ignored.

There are roughly 78 million Baby Boomers and 80 million Millennials, but only 54 million Gen X and Gen Y’ers combined. This means that as the Boomers retire, there simply are not enough Gen X and Gen Y in your organization to replace them. The net result is that you are going to be faced with promoting Millennials into supervisory and mid-management positions before they are ready.

Millennials Cartoon
The typical organization does not have a coherent strategy for ensuring that every employee understands and walks the talk of organizational values or for imprinting the corporate DNA and culture on new hires. And even fewer are devoting resources to preparing a leadership pipeline of outstanding talent who are ready for promotion as the generational “trough” begins depleting your promotional pool.

Eight easy steps will help you build your own leadership pipeline:

  1. Do a risk analysis to know where you have inadequate bench depth, professional niches that are going to be hard to fill, and where you have emerging leaders who are not ready yet, but have the potential to become great leaders if you properly prepare them.
  2. Define the goals of your program with specificity. Understand that traditional replacement planning is about more than just filling vacancies as they occur. By contrast, succession planning involves building a leadership pipeline filled with high potential employees who have been invested in to prepare them for the next step of responsibility. Know the difference and plan for success by knowing what you want to accomplish.
  3. Determine the competencies you want to develop. If you don’t carefully define the desired competencies, it is unlikely you will equip these emerging leaders to become the home run hitters they have the potential to become.
  4. Designate the type of leaders you want to develop. The type of program that will produce outstanding Level 5 Leaders is very different from one that will produce outstanding Level 3 Leaders (Good to Great) — and the impact they have on the organization is very different as well.
  5. Design your program. An excellent leadership development program should be: holistic, challenging, thorough, honest, collaborative, rigorous and comprehensive, as well as reformational — and it should honor the nobility of public service. You WILL produce the types of leaders your program is designed to produce, so make sure your program is designed to produce the type of leaders you WANT to produce.
  6. Decide what expectations you have for program participants and what criteria you will use to select them. It is critical that participants know exactly what they are getting into and what investment on their part will be required to achieve success.
  7. Drive success by ensuring a well-marketed and attention-getting program launch.
  8. Don’t stop once the first class completes the coursework. Have them do a capstone project, seek brutal honesty in how you can make the program better, and have an ongoing program for engaging program alumnae and continuing their growth and development and contribution to organizational greatness!

I would love to hear about the very best leadership pipeline programs you know about!

Ron Holifield

Written by:
Ron Holifield
CEO, Strategic Government Resources

Merry Christmas from SGR!

It’s hard to imagine anyone reading a blog on Christmas Day, so if you’re reading this on Christmas Day, I’m not sure what to say.  Should I tell you to stop reading and give your twelve year old daughter’s I-Pad back to her?  (After all it is Her Christmas Present, right?)

On the other hand, you may be reading this at the end of a great day of celebration with your family and you are reading because, as much as you love them, you really do need some down time because otherwise, you’re not so…Ummmm….loveable yourself.

At any rate, regardless of why or when you’re reading this, let me take the chance to say, on behalf of the entire SGR organization:  Merry Christmas!!!

It’s a wonderful time of year, and I hope that you’ve been able to have some time with the people you love.  As I think about Christmas Day as it relates to SGR and our mission of helping local governments be more successful, these are my reflections about it.

  • Christmas Day reminds us to say “Thank You”

Whether you are a Mayor, a City Manager, a Utility Billing Clerk, an employee at the Water Treatment Plant, a Firefighter, or any other position in a local government—we want you to know that we appreciate what you do.  Public service is a noble calling.  Your unselfish and tireless (some of you worked today!) efforts make life better for untold numbers of people who live, work, or play in your city.  You don’t hear it often enough, so at SGR, we think it’s important to never miss a good chance to say:  Thank You! Christmas Day is about giving, and we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the vast number of employees in the public sector who give a lot to the public every single day.

  • Christmas Day reminds us to practice the Golden Rule

One of the core values for SGR reads:

The Golden Rule – Our primary market is comprised of local government officials who could be making more money working in the private sector but have been drawn into public service because they want to make a difference. We will honor that noble calling of our clients in the way we treat them, the way we interact with them, and the way we talk about them. SGR team members value our relationships with others and do not take them for granted. We treat everyone with dignity and respect, and we value diverse opinions, perspectives, and life experiences.

The Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and it comes from the lips of Jesus of Nazareth, whose birthday Christmas Day acknowledges.  That’s something we strive to live up to at SGR, though we never do so perfectly.  Today, above all others, should be a day that inspires us all to that ideal.

  • Christmas Day reminds us of one of the deepest dreams of the human heart

The Biblical Account of Jesus’ birth says that it was accompanied by angels whose chorus was, “And on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”  From every American suburb to the metropolises of China, the small villages of Turkey and everywhere in between, there’s a longing for peace that is filled with justice, fairness, love, and joy.  When I was a boy, we used to sing a song that said, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”  Christmas Day reminds us that it is not only the longing of mankind—but of heaven, as well.

So with those reflections about the meaning of this day…May you truly have a Merry Christmas!


Mike Mowery

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

What is Ten Seconds of Praise Worth?

“Hey, I just wanted to let you know you did an amazing job on that project. Can’t begin to tell you how glad we are to have you on our team.”

The encouragement above takes about ten seconds to speak out loud. It communicates to an employee, “Your work is noticed. You are important to us. We value what you do. We don’t want you to even think about going anywhere else.”

Comments such as these provide incentive that money cannot buy. They feed an employee’s motivation. There is nothing that demotivates faster than working yourself to death only to hear crickets. Nothing crushes an employee’s spirit faster than shooting down every idea he or she proposes. Eventually, the un-praised or shut down employee just stops talking and some day, they will leave.

When an employee leaves, the costs to an organization can be staggering. According to Boushey and Glenn, “30 case studies taken from the 11 most-relevant research papers on the costs of employee turnover demonstrate that it costs businesses about one-fifth of a worker’s salary to replace that worker.”

You may think, “Well, if an employee is not assertive enough to be heard, then we don’t need them around here anyway.” Here’s the problem. It may be that the one who needs to examine levels of assertiveness is you. An over assertive manager can devastate the morale of any employee.

Choose your battles wisely. Even if you don’t like an employee’s recommendation, think carefully about your response before you shoot them down — especially in front of others. If a decision doesn’t affect outcome substantially, allow employees to put their own fingerprints on decisions. If you do not show trust in small decisions, how can you expect them to risk wading into the deeper waters of creativity?

The point is: a little bit of praise goes a long way. Don’t let a paycheck be your only means of sending an encouraging message to your employees. Loyal employees only partially work for income. Loyal employees work for you, for your organization, for a cause they embrace as greater than them.

Now get out there and see what a difference ten seconds of praise can make!

Merry Christmas from SGR!!!


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

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

Impartial Interaction

I had the pleasure of going to an event where I got to meet Wintley Phipps, world-renowned vocal artist and education activist.

He told the audience a story of how he was finishing up a concert in Baltimore, Maryland and was on his way back to his hotel. Before he could make it to his car, a young lady stopped him on the street and wanted to talk to him.

Phipps described the woman as homely. He said there was nothing spectacular about her; but nevertheless, he took the time out to chat with her.

The lady explained how she was troubled at her job and had the feeling they were going to fire her. She said she was inspired by the words Phipps spoke and needed encouragement. Phipps was touched and provided the woman with some extra words of inspiration to keep the woman motivated, and the woman went on her way.

In a very candid manner, Phipps informed the audience that he probably never would have stopped for the woman in his bachelor days because of her appearance. He said his wife eventually taught him to be kind to every type of person without bias.

Anyways, back to the story. That woman who stopped Phipps at the concert did get back on her feet and made a great career for herself. You may have heard of her before—Oprah Winfrey.

Because Phipps provided Winfrey with the attention and encouragement she needed back then, she later contributed millions of dollars to his educational foundation. It’s something that never would have happened if Phipps turned his nose up at the “homely” looking lady.

EqualityThat story got me thinking. It’s almost cliché now to tell someone to treat others equally, but somehow that advice gets twisted when it’s being applied to leaders in organizations.

How many times in your organization have you given precedence to a certain stakeholder just because of his/her occupation, family background, financial status, etc.? Or how about doing something for someone else only because you’re expecting something in return? (I’ve seen it more times than I’d like to admit…)

The true measure of character is how you treat and relate to those who can do nothing for you. Keep this in mind with every interaction you are part of.

Because at the end of the day, with all the politics and cronyism aside, all you have is yourself to look at—and you might not like what you see.

Besides, you never know who the “homely” person whom you ignored might turn out to be!

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

In Pursuit of Mediocrity

Most organizations have hiring systems designed to select mediocre talent – and then spend a lot of time wondering why they have so many mediocre employees!

They don’t THINK they have systems designed to achieve mediocrity, but they do, and their blindness to how their system is designed to hire mediocre talent is an indicator of how broken their systems are.

One study I recently saw suggested that you have a 14% chance of making a good hiring choice using traditional interviewing methods; but if you took the stack of resumes, threw them into the air, and snatched one out of the cloud of paper fluttering to the ground, you have a 17% chance of making a good hiring decision. In other words, RANDOM SELECTION will produce better hiring results than the process you are probably using.

You may know that one of the most reliable indicators of who will win a presidential election, based on our almost 250-year history as a nation, is the height of the candidates. reports that in presidential elections since 1888, the tallest candidate has beat the shorter candidate in every single election except for when FDR beat Wendell Wilkie, who was a half-inch taller, and both of George W. Bush’s elections when Bush was a bit shorter than Al Gore and John Kerry. Our clear height bias in presidential elections has been confirmed in studies of organizational hiring and reward systems. One such study suggests that if you have two employees of the same race and gender who have identical education, identical training, identical experience, and identical track record of success, the taller candidate will make $417 more per inch of height differential. No one really believes height (or any of our other biases) has anything do to with performance, but the brutal reality is that these unacknowledged biases really do cause us to make poor hiring decisions.

Jim Collins says one of the first things an executive must do to hire great talent is to acknowledge that they are incompetent at hiring great talent (and yes, he was talking about you and me). A few key steps will help you begin pursuing excellence instead of mediocrity in your hiring processes.

  1. Rethink your rules for hiring in at entry level.
    Many organizations require hiring managers to go through all sorts of hoops to hire above bottom of range. Rarely is great talent found at the bottom of the range. If your processes make it harder to hire exceptional, by definition you are encouraging your organization to hire mediocre.
  2. Use validated psychometric assessments to understand the candidates better before hiring.
    For example, great customer service is delivered by people with personality styles which exhibit empathy, who are good listeners, and who authentically care about meeting the needs of other people. All of which are easily assessed in psychometric assessments. Improving our customer service is as easy as using psychometric assessments, which measure the very things we want in the person we select. We must quit relying on our intuition (and hiring the taller candidate) and instead use the tools that will help us actually hire excellence!
  3. Implement behavioral interviewing processes instead of traditional hiring processes to produce better indicators of how the employee will actually perform, not just who has the best resume.
  4. Require all interview panelists to receive behavioral interview training within the previous 12 months.
    Just as with any other core competency, being a great interviewer doesn’t just happen — it requires training and equipping to do it well. Hiring is the single highest risk activity the typical manager engages in. It deserves more preparation than just putting it on the calendar.
  5. Always use at least two interviewers of equal stature to bring different perspectives and insights through which to evaluate the candidates.
  6. Place an emphasis upon reference checks and have someone who has been trained to conduct effective reference checks do them.
    It is still true — the best predictor of future performance is past performance. Yet, reference checks are typically rote exercises which yield very little meaningful insights because they are conducted by individuals with no training or expertise in this critical step of the process.

The stakes are too high to keep pursuing mediocrity in the way you are doing business!

Ron Holifield

Written by:
Ron Holifield
CEO, Strategic Government Resources

You Only Believe What You Tell Yourself

People make all kinds of statements in the workplace. Most of the time such statements are encouraging, focus on problem solving, help us communicate effectively, etc.  However, there are times when people are just downright mean. They can be critical, rude, and insulting. When we are on the receiving end of such “verbal vomiting” here are some key tips to keep in mind:

Watch what you say to yourself – Many years ago, a friend shared the following statement with me. “You never believe what others tell you. You only believe what you tell yourself.”  That simple statement created one of the most profound “aha” moments in my life.  If a supervisor says, “You obviously have no idea what you’re doing.” What do you say to yourself? Do you say, “I don’t have any idea what I’m doing,” or do you say, “I am competent and qualified for this job.”?

Turn your critic into your coach – This can be super effective when dealing with criticism. Instead of saying to yourself, “I am so going to get this guy!” Say, “I have an opportunity to be better at what I do.”  Suppose the criticism is, “You never do anything right.”  You can then ask a question like, “Can you provide some specific examples of what I am not doing right?” Treat the conversation like a library. If you discover helpful insights – use them. If not – leave them on the shelf.

Go the extra mile – This is even harder to do, but it can yield highly beneficial feedback while serving to silence your critic. Using the critical statement just made for example, once the critic shares a specific example of something you are not doing right, ask, “Can you think of anything else I need to work on?” All the while, say to yourself, “This information may actually help me improve my job skills.”

In short – what others say to you does make a difference, but what you say to yourself makes ALL the difference!

Happy Training!

Greg Anderson
Written by:
Greg Anderson
Chief Learning Officer, Strategic Government Resources
Follow Greg on Twitter!@SGRGreg

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