Monthly Archives: January, 2014

The 5 Languages of Appreciation — What’s Yours?

Did you know that everyone has a “love language”? It’s the way we prefer to express and receive love.

Psychologists and counselors use the term when referring to romantic relationships, but this same concept can be applied to work relationships also.

In the workplace, it’s called an “appreciation language”—the way one prefers to express and receive appreciation. It’s a great way to ensure that you’re showing gratitude in a manner that most impacts each specific employee.

There are five kinds from which to choose, according to Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Paul White’s guidelines:

  1. Words of Affirmation
    This language uses words (both oral and written) to affirm and encourage others. Some people prefer one-on-one communication, while others value being praised in front of others (but it is important to know that relatively few people like to receive public affirmation in front of a large group).
  1. Quality Time
    Under this category, personal, focused time and attention with a supervisor is highly affirming. It could also include hanging out with coworkers, working together as a team on a project, or simply having someone take the time to listen to them.
  1. Acts of Service
    This type of appreciation is about assisting in getting a task done. Helping a teammate catch up on work or working collaboratively on a project that would be difficult to do alone are all ways to demonstrate appreciation for their efforts.
  1. Tangible Gifts
    This language is pretty self-explanatory. However, the key to an effective gift in the workplace is the thought, not the amount of money spent. Taking time to notice what a colleague enjoys and buying them a small related gift shows that you are getting to know them as a person.
  1. Appropriate Physical Touch
    The keyword here is appropriate. These interactions occur spontaneously and in the context of celebration—a high-five, fist bump, slap on the back, or congratulatory handshake. To not touch one another at all often leads to a cold, impersonal environment for those in this category.

So, which language are you? And most importantly, what languages are most effective for each of your colleagues?

Knowing this could be the difference between a coworker feeling uniquely valued or just part of the crowd.

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

Rethinking Service Delivery

ServiceIncreasingly, local governments are outsourcing services and tasks traditionally handled by employees. One finance director in Florida told me about research he has done regarding where things are headed and has concluded that local governments of the future are going to be operating with a much smaller staff of highly-trained professionals, who manage a large number of outsourced contracts for all sorts of traditional services.

His research is consistent with anecdotal evidence shared by other finance directors, as well as SGR’s real world experience. In addition to project-oriented contract executive search and training, SGR is now providing contract city secretary services, contract PIO services, contract website management, and are in discussions with one city to provide contract HR services and with another agency to outsource all of their training function. And it is working in the opposite direction as well.

SGR was previously featured in Entrepreneur Magazine because we have grown into a national company serving local governments in 41 states, with such a small number of full-time employees. We contract out a huge portion of our behind-the-scenes tasks because we discovered we could deliver higher quality service by bringing in companies as partners who are experts in their field. As just four examples (of many more), we rely on a private investigation firm to do our legal/civil/criminal background checks; we rely on the leading online learning management training platform in the nation to provide the technology behind our leading-edge LMS; we rely on a professional graphics designer for our recruitment brochures; and we partner with a leading national HR Consulting company when one of our members need a compensation study.

SGR’s experience is that sometimes a local government can outsource an activity to SGR and achieve both savings as well as higher-quality service. And sometimes SGR can outsource an activity and achieve both savings as well as a higher quality of service.

It is clear that this is a growing trend for the future. I have concluded that the finance director in Florida is right— the future of our cities (and private companies) will be more reliance on a smaller, highly-skilled staff, managing an increasing number of contracts for delivery of specific services and activities.

I would love to hear from you at on lessons you have learned in outsourcing various functions. It is an area in which we all have more to learn – and quickly.

Ron Holifield

Written by:
Ron Holifield
CEO, Strategic Government Resources

Employee Analysis Step Two – Evaluating Inputs

In the last two blog posts, we noted that often the question, “Who needs development activity?” is easily answered due to substandard performance, internal or external customer complaints, poor performance ratings, etc. We also noted that by contrast, development activity may be necessary due to a promotion that involves gaining additional skills, adhering to new laws, transitioning from peer to leader, etc.

Regardless, ongoing employee analysis enhances an employer’s ability to move an organization’s business strategy forward while ensuring the right people get the right development activity at the right time.

In the previous post we processed Step One – Evaluating employee knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes.

In this post we turn our attention to Step Two in the process – Evaluating Inputs.

According to Raymond Noe, “An input relates to the instructions that tell employees what, how, and when to perform. Input also refers to the resources that the employees are given to help them perform.” (Noe, 2010, Employee Training and Development)

In this step, supervisors and mentors and/or coaches can utilize the following questions to work with employees to assess criteria such as:

  • Is the employee receiving adequate instruction related to how, what, when, and where to perform his or her job?
  • Do employees have the proper resources, i.e., tools, personnel, devices, budget, etc., to do their jobs?
  • Are other employees in the same division exhibiting similar poor performance?
  • If so, do we have a resource void or leadership void?

The answers to these questions will help supervisors, mentors, and coaches identify various types of needs, gaps, communication processes (or lack thereof), etc., related to inputs.

We will review Step Three – Evaluating Outputs in our next blog post.

Until then – Happy Training!

Greg Anderson

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

Is it a Soft Skills Shortage?

I have recently revisited Encouraging the Heart, again, by Kouzes and Posner. One person described it as that “touchy-feely” book. (It isn’t.) Actually, it is a simple step-by-step plan that any leader can and should follow to help people do better and aim for their best. The subtitle says it all: “A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others.”

But what it reminds us of is this: people who are really successful have mastered those “soft skills” that seem so elusive. They like people. They communicate well to people. They are clear, attentive, and observant. They listen. And they expect the best, and help bring out the best.

And they don’t let much fall through the cracks, including, they don’t let a person fall through the cracks.

I recently heard of a person with a Ph.D. in the sciences; and after a few years at a good job, this person’s project “lost its funding.” (or, this person was not able to secure the next round of funding). Why? Apparently although the science expertise was there, the interaction soft skills may have been neglected. Thus, the lack of relational success may have cost the next round of funding.

In the NY Times article It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk, here are some telling portions:

The college degree is becoming the new high school diploma: the new minimum requirement, albeit an expensive one, for getting even the lowest-level job…
Economists have referred to this phenomenon as “degree inflation,” and it has been steadily infiltrating America’s job market…
because so many people are going to college now, those who do not graduate are often assumed to be unambitious or less capable…

But if you read this article carefully, I think you “hear” this: the degree can get you in for the low-paying job, and then work ethic and the soft skills can get you the promotions.

Now, here’s the problem with the “soft skills” shortage. These skills are hard to teach. Some of them seem to simply be “life traits”. And, trying to help people get better at them seems like a “luxury” training dollar expense.

But they are critical! And working on them is not a luxury, but a necessity.

And I am convinced that they can be taught, brought to front of mind, and real progress can be made.

Maybe we do need to read more of those “touchy-feely” books after all.

Randy Mayeux

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

Why You Have to Step Back to Move Forward


Ever feel like you would like to have an off-site meeting with your staff to do some strategic planning or teambuilding, yet felt like you couldn’t afford the cost? It’s a dilemma that I often hear about.  Leaders can sense that their team’s performance is lagging and that they are far from the high performance team that they dream of being, but it seems so disruptive to have an off-site meeting–even for one day! However, there are several benefits that come from an off-site workshop that may or may not show up in the final report or strategic plan document.

Clear the Air— The daily grind can lead to more than a few hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and festering grudges between teammates.  Off-site meetings may not mean sitting around the campfire singing camp songs, but they do provide an opportunity to clear up misunderstandings, address differences, and to both give and receive forgiveness.  Like an air filter that needs to be cleaned out once in a while, relationships need clean air to breathe—even professional/business oriented relationships.

Clarify Expectations and Processes—More than once I have facilitated an off-site meeting where the team realized that what seemed like a “personality” issue was really a “systems” issue.  Sometimes people just don’t understand the protocol that is supposed to be followed.  On the other hand, they may understand the way it is supposed to be done, but they genuinely do not understand WHY it is supposed to be done that way.  Off-site meetings provide an opportunity to clarify not just the how…but, perhaps more importantly, the why.  Sometimes challenging the process results in the decision that it is time to change.  My observation is that these things simply cannot be done smoothly in the hustle and bustle of everyday work.  You have to step back to be able to see your way forward.

Share New Information—It doesn’t matter whether the purpose of the off-site is teambuilding or goal setting, it’s always wise to consider including a session, even a brief one, that introduces new ideas, the key concepts of a new book, a thought provoking blog post, or a powerful video.  New ideas stimulate our thinking and help light the fires of innovation.  Sometimes showing a short movie clip about something seemingly unrelated to your speciality will spark the team to make applications that even you had not made.  Don’t let your off-site meeting simply be a pooling of mutual ignorance.  Use it teach your team new things!

Encourage the Heart—No one (and I mean NO ONE!) on your team is getting too much encouragement.  Maybe you’re giving them all that you should, but there’s no one that’s getting too much.  And the reality is that people’s enthusiasm leaks out over time, just like a birthday balloon filled with helium leaks out after a few days.  Maybe your off-site will produce a dynamic new strategic plan. Maybe it won’t.  Regardless, if it’s done well, it will produce a team with new courage to dream the impossible dream and climb the highest hill…or at least not to quit before they quit.

Can’t afford to take the time away?  Can’t afford the cost?  It seems to me that may be a bit like a lumberjack not having the time to care for his equipment.  In reality, you can’t afford not to.


Mike Mowery

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

Posting, Tweeting and tagging: Local government use of social media

Guest Blogger: Bridget Doyle

doyle1Bridget Doyle is the Communications Coordinator for the Village of Lombard, Illinois. She recently transitioned from a career in traditional journalism to government communications. Bridget worked for the Chicago Tribune for four years covering both the city and suburbs for the Metro Desk. Prior to the Tribune, she held editorial internships with Standard & Poor’s and Naperville Magazine. Bridget continues to learn and grow in the realm of local government while also pursuing freelance writing outside of work.  Bridget graduated with honors from the Missouri School of Journalism in 2009. 

Social media use and strategy continues to evolve, so there are no hard and fast guidelines to how to use these communications platforms for local governments.  Really, the goal here is to shift the idea that social media is silly and utterly self-indulgent (though it can be) and instead reveal it as a free and incredibly useful tool for governments to share straight-from-the-source information to their residents – without having to wait for press coverage. Fostering strong social media accounts and pages undoubtedly informs and empowers the community. It’s in our best interest to take advantage of these ever-growing communication platform and hone our message to share with residents.

Here are a few tips for running your government’s social media sites. Again, these are simply opinion and formed from experience. Suggestions and differing opinions are welcome in the comments!

1. Find a voice

As a government organization, we often keep written updates to the media and the public formal. While formal communication is important, social media sites are innately less formal. That doesn’t mean we go and communicate the way we would to a best friend over a drink, but let’s tone down the formality and level with our social media followers. Start by taking formal communication from various facets of your government and rewrite it in a way that’s brief, informative, readable and has a hint of personality. Giving a human side to government communication never hurt. I’ve gotten feedback from residents of my community that the personable Facebook posts makes them feel generally more positive toward our Village. Now they’re informed and fostering a better image of our day-to-day operations.

2. Be choosey about what you share

It’s important not to share every little bit of communication to residents that comes through employee email. Posting too often can lead to quick unfollows if you’re clogging someone’s feed. They’ll likely be annoyed if they’re inundated. Be able to differentiate what is important and interesting to your residents and what isn’t. A good test for this is to gauge how many “likes” or “retweets” your update gets. Important council decisions, severe weather updates and hot-button topics are good items to share. Police and Fire activity often bring in a lot of interest. Photos and video are wonderful to share, especially if they’re relevant to an informational post. What you post and how often is a delicate balance – watch your follows and unfollows after certain posts to find out what is important to your community.

3. Respond and interact

As holds true in any form of government, there will be those who are pleased with your organization and those who have criticisms to share – and now you’ve given them a new place to voice their opinion. Some will likely use your social media to share their thoughts, give feedback or ask questions. If you’re running the account, make sure those opinions are replied to and questions answered. Though it adds extra time and tasks to your plate, your residents will begin trusting your social media accounts as a credible source of information and your government as one that cares about its constituents. Turn it into a polite and thoughtful discussion forum.

4.  Use different social media sites differently

What belongs on your Twitter vs. Facebook vs. YouTube vs. Instagram aren’t necessarily all the same thing. Each social media site has its own personality and its own regular users. It’s important to do research and get a feel for what is appropriate on each platform. Twitter is obviously shorter, briefer updates but is set up to be used the most frequently without jeopardizing followers. Facebook posts can showcase more personality and make for easy discussions in its thread-like format. Instagram is a great place to reach younger residents with photos from around town and complimentary hashtags. Each social media platform is different – learn how and use them in the best way.

Three Questions to Make Your Strategic Vision a Reality

What kind of community will best serve our current and future citizens, businesses, and visitors? This question sounds daunting, but the reality is that it is really easy to answer. I work with governing bodies across the nation, and members are always surprised that no matter how divided they are politically, when broken into small groups (which cross political boundaries) to describe the community they want to build, they are always at about 95% agreement on their vision for the future. They sometimes disagree about methodology, but rarely disagree over the vision. One of the most powerful things you can do to make your vision achievable is to start by discussing it in a way that blurs political lines and really focuses on the mutual vision. As the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Start by asking, “Where do we want to go?” You will be surprised at how much agreement there really is.

What kind of leadership does it take to create this kind of community? Once you know where you want to go (the vision), ask what type of leadership it will take to make that vision a reality. Unfortunately, we give lip service to believing that strong leadership makes a huge difference; but then we elect and appoint and hire leaders who are either not aligned or not equipped to make the strategic vision a reality. Once you know what you want to become, engage in a similar collaborative discussion regarding the kind of leadership necessary to make the vision a reality. Then, discuss whether those leaders are on the team or available to be drafted to the cause. Don’t waste your time pursuing a vision without the right leadership. Also, don’t forget that raising up the right kind of leadership must be holistic. It includes civic leaders, elected officials, appointed boards and commissions, and staff leadership. A transformational vision does not come to fruition through the efforts of one visionary leader; rather, it spreads virally as the influencers throughout the community catch the vision and begin evangelizing for it on their own. Viral transmission of the vision only occurs with multiple leaders willing to sacrifice for the greater good. Making your strategic vision a reality must be a team effort.

Are you willing to pay the price necessary to make the vision a reality? Successfully transforming a community from what it is to what you want it to become is, by definition, pushing people to change. The more bold and dramatic and world-changing the vision, the stronger the resistance will be. A meaningful strategic vision will be resisted and criticized and ridiculed by those who are clinging to the status quo. Overcoming the naysayers and making your strategic vision a reality requires courage, strength of character, and community buy in — which is a direct byproduct of broad-based and effective leaders who know how to sell the vision and persuade the community that it is worth paying the price that is necessary to make the vision a reality. If your community leadership can agree on what they want your community to become; if they are able to raise up the right civic, elected, appointed and staff leaders to make the vision a reality; and then can agree that they are willing to pay the price to make the vision a reality… anything is possible.

Ron Holifield

Written by: Ron Holifield CEO, Strategic Government Resources

Employee Analysis: Step One

In a previous blog post, we noted that often, the question, “Who needs development activity?” is easily answered due to substandard performance, internal or external customer complaints, poor performance ratings, etc. By contrast, development activity may be necessary due to a promotion that involves gaining additional skills, adhering to new laws, transitioning from peer to leader, etc. Regardless, ongoing employee analysis enhances an employer’s ability to move an organization’s business strategy forward while ensuring the right people get the right development activity at the right time.

Step One Evaluating employee knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes.

Proper analysis doesn’t happen accidentally. It involves careful planning, deliberate questioning and strategic response and implementation. The first phase of employee analysis involves supervisors and their mentors or coaches meeting with employees and gathering information related to employee knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes. There are multiple ways to gather such information, but one of the simplest (yet still effective) is via the following questions:

–  Has the employee mastered the basic skills necessary to perform his or her job?

–  Has the employee shown a willingness to participate in past developmental initiatives?

–  If so, have they exhibited the ability to learn?

–  Are advanced business writing, reading comprehension, interpersonal, etc., skills necessary for participation in identified developmental opportunities?

–  If such skills are necessary, how will we assess readiness?

–  Are additional verbal comprehension and quantitative and reasoning abilities required for participation in identified developmental opportunities?

–  If so, how will we assess readiness?

–  Has the employee completed a personal development map and is he or she sticking with it?

–  Does the employee understand why he or she is being asked to participate in development activity?

–  Can he or she articulate the link between developmental activity and personal and professional development? In other words, is he or she exhibiting self-awareness?

The answers to these questions will help supervisors, mentors, and coaches identify readiness for development or the need to prepare employees for readiness.

We will review “Step Two” in our next blog post.

Until then – Happy Training!


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

Be Self-Aware, Practice Empathy, and Focus!

Focus:  The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman is a wonderful, “focusing,” book.

Known for his work in Emotional Intelligence, Goleman brings such insight into the challenge of finding, keeping, and fine-tuning our focus.  Here is his “overview” paragraph:

All that can be boiled down to a threesome: inner, other, and outer focus. A well-lived life demands we be nimble in each. The good news on attention comes from neuroscience labs and school classrooms, where the findings point to ways we can strengthen this vital muscle of the mind. Attention works much like a muscle—use it poorly and it can wither; work it well and it grows. 

Inner focus attunes us to our intuitions, guiding values, and better decisions. Other focus smooths our connections to the people in our lives. And outer focus lets us navigate in the larger world.
A leader tuned out of his internal world will be rudderless; one blind to the world of others will be clueless; those indifferent to the larger systems within which they operate will be blindsided, and there’s a strong case that leaders need the full range of inner, other, and outer focus to excel—and that a weakness in any one of them can throw a leader off balance.

And the book issues a call to practice empathy – a trait far too lacking in many leaders.  He describes studies of doctors, and how the simple act of looking a patient in the eye (instead of looking at a tablet or computer screen, or chart), genuinely listening to the patient, and speaking with a caring tone of voice, builds bridges from the doctor to the patient.

This is a needed trait for all leaders, because:

The just-get-it-done mode runs roughshod over human concerns.

And, for leaders, they are too often woefully unaware of how they “come across” to others.  In other words, they lack “self-awareness”:

But there was one “meta” ability that emerged: self-awareness.

I found myself thinking, throughout my reading of this book, “I need to work on this personally.”  When that happens, I know I’ve read a good book.

Here are my takeaways from Focus:

#1 — Organizational rigidity keeps the old focus for too long, and can lead to being left behind.
#2 — Focusing on IQ only takes you so far.  Then you need other skills (in Goleman’s world, skills connected with Emotional Intelligence).
#3 — Since top leaders may not listen to other people about their own deficiencies, they have to be incredibly self-aware to spot their deficiencies and work on them.
#4 – Leaders must – MUST! — provide time and space to talk about human concerns.
#5 – Getting the right balance between intense focus and attention, and the value of “mind wandering,” is a great challenge.
#6 – Master the “long view” – or risk being left behind…
(And… don’t forget to develop and demonstrate empathy)…

Randy Mayeux

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

Four Ways to Stay in Bounds

When I was a kid, we played a lot of sandlot baseball, front yard football, and driveway basketball.  Almost every day after school, the kids on my street and the surrounding streets, convened to play the daily version of the game of the century in one sport or another. Oh, I played on organized teams, too, but in my neighborhood, the real  prestige didn’t come from winning the Little League Championship on July the 4th.  It came from the reputation you earned as an after-school  “game warrior.”

In “Pick-up” games, the first thing you do is choose the teams.  You have to have fair teams to have a good game.  The second thing you do is to choose your boundaries.  What’s out of bounds?  Where’s the goal line?   How far does the baseball have to go for it to be a homerun?  The answers to these questions frame the boundaries in which the game is going to be played.  They have to be clear.  Everyone has to agree on them, and, of course, you have to go by them.  If you don’t go by them, it’s cheating.

What does this have to do with leadership?  I’ve come to see that leadership starts with self-leadership or self-management.   To be a good leader, you have to know what your boundaries or core values are, and you have to go by them.  I don’t know how you would, personally, articulate those boundaries, but I think it’s critical that if you are going to be good at self-leadership that you have to know your own boundaries, and you have to stay with them.  Otherwise, it’s cheating, and cheating is a fatal flaw.

As you think about what those boundaries should be, here are some things to keep in mind because they will help you select boundaries that will help you be successful as a leader.

Boundary #1—Don’t be driven by unbridled hunger for prestige

Most leaders want to accomplish something great, and many want to receive a certain amount of recognition for it. That’s natural, and probably not disastrous, as long as it is held in check.  However, if you let that hunger get out of control, it will compromise your judgment in more ways than one.  Take the important discipline of networking, for example.  Being a good networker is supremely important for you as a leader in order to be successful, but what happens to the person who has an insatiable hunger for prestige?  You can find yourself entwined in a lot of phony relationships that rob you of your sense of integrity—all in the name of “networking.”  I’m sure you can think of many other ways that you can end up “out of bounds.”

Boundary #2—Don’t neglect your duties at home

Simply put: There are some things that cannot be delegated nor honorably neglected.  Leadership is not a 9 to 5 job.  That’s for sure.  At the same time, I’ve seen a lot of leaders in all sectors who be consumed with their responsibility to every stakeholder—except their families.  A mentor of mine shared an experience early in his marriage.  He was leading a growing organization, and he was an up and coming “star” in his sphere. He was a model of what it meant to be a servant-leader.  He was dynamic, likeable, and insightful.  The people in his organization were crazy about him, but things weren’t going so well at home.  Things changed only when his wife confronted him and said, “You’ll do anything for anyone in this place, except for me.”  My mentor showed what a great leader he really was by realizing that he was out of bounds, making amends to his family, and finding a way to “play the game” within the proper boundaries.  That was well over thirty years ago, and I can promise you that today, he doesn’t regret those changes one bit!  I’m quite certain that had he not “self-corrected” his behavior, it would be a different story.

Boundary #3—Don’t forget that just because you can doesn’t mean that you should

As you accomplish more and more things as a leader, you will experience more and more opportunities.  You will be given benefits that you didn’t receive at earlier points of your career.  People will give you space, room, and authority.  These can be good things and helpful things because those kinds of freedoms can allow you to operate without being unduly bothered by some constraints.  That sort of an environment can lead to more and more success. However, that kind of freedom can also severely cloud your judgment.  It can lead just about any person to conclude that “If I can, it’s alright if I do.”  Obviously, when a leader acts on that conclusion—he/she is out of bounds.  Yes, maybe you can, but once you develop an appetite for ignoring the discipline of self-restraint, it won’t be long until that appetite goes viral.  You will find yourself willing to cross one boundary after another.  Self-restraint is almost a forgotten virtue, but without it you will soon find it impossible to stay within any boundaries.

Boundary #4—Don’t let the level of your education surpass the quality of your character

When followers are surveyed on the qualities that they most admire and desire in leaders, the terms character, integrity, and credibility are always near the top.  We don’t expect perfection, but we do expect them to be forthright and honest.  If you think about the various leadership scandals that have rocked our nation, they almost always involve people who are well educated.  I’m not saying that education isn’t important.  I am a strong advocate of life-long-learning.  However, along with that, must be an equally stout commitment to make sure that your walk matches your talk, and that when it doesn’t, you admit it, accept the penalty, and correct your behavior for the future.


Mike Mowery

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

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