SGR Conference on My Mind
It’s been almost a month since the Emerging Local Government Leaders Network (ELGL) attended the first annual SGR Conference on Organizational Development. Since then, ELGL has provided a recap of our conference experience, and we have thoroughly enjoyed the conference video. But I also wanted to take a minute to reflect on the lessons learned, now that the conference is in my rearview and I am back in my job as the Assistant City Manager for West Linn, Oregon. There are three main takeaways from the conference that are worth repeating here:
CREATE A LEARNING ORGANIZATION
On day two of the conference, SGR CEO Ron Holifield spoke convincingly of the value of “creating a learning organization.” Holifield shared that continual learning, and sharing what you’ve learned with your leadership team can be a powerful way to create a culture of continual improvement, where everyone is striving to learn more and contribute more to the conversation.
In West Linn, we put this idea into action, and had both our Youth Leadership Academy and Adult Leadership Academy participate in a book club discussion. Then, last week, the participants posted their responses to their selected books (“Who Moved My Cheese” for the kids; and “Start With Why” for the adults) on our Leadership Academy Blog. Check it out online here.
THE POWER OF CONVERSATIONS
Also on day two, ELGL had the chance to interview Grapevine City Manager Bruno Rumbelow about his research and perspectives on the local government management guideposts, originally developed by L.P. Cookingham in 1956. The format of the interview was casual and conversational.
Admittedly, ELGL was a bit nervous to interview someone with Bruno’s career arc and stature in the local government community. But after just a few minutes, we realized that ELGL and Bruno shared the same passion for and interest in local government management. The power of a conversation helped us better understand those important guideposts, which will now result in a new ELGL original content column titled “Cookingham Connection,” where we will showcase a Cookingham guidepost, and a “real-world” local government conversation about how that guidepost is still relevant today.
EVERYTHING’S BETTER WITH BOWLING
The SGR conference social event at Main Event was a reminder that sometimes, the best work can be done – when we’re having fun. Tim Clark is an MPA student at UNT. Previously, we had only communicated with Tim over email and social media. But the chance to really hang out with him – to learn more about him – gave ELGL the confidence to make Tim our primary point person for ELGL Southwest. We are placing a lot of confidence in Tim’s communications and organization skills (which is much more than we can say about his bowling skills).
What were the takeaways from the SGR conference that have remained with you? Special thanks to Ron Holifield and his exceptional team for including ELGL in the conference experience.
Quit Trying to be Ethical!
Every organization claims high ethical aspirations. Unfortunately, the least character-driven team members often tend to be the most “ethical” because they know EXACTLY where the line is and make sure they never cross it. Meanwhile, the most character-driven members of the team get caught in “gotcha” ethics violations because they were not worrying about where the line was since they knew their motives were pure.
It is time to quit trying to be “ethical” and instead create a character-driven culture. A formal ethics policy is still necessary, but we need to transition beyond a policy as the standard to aspire to, and make it the lowest common denominator foundation, upon which is constructed a more noble cultural value system.
When it comes to behavioral standards, there are four progressive levels. Organizations who create cultures of sustained excellence tend to operate at the fourth level.
The first level is simply compliance with the law.
Most teams do a pretty good job of complying with legal standards, but team members unduly focused on the legal standard are often searching for loopholes and opportunities to work in the dark. The legal benchmark is avoiding criminal prosecution.
The second level is compliance with ethical standards.
Ethics can generally be described as a formally adopted set of behavioral standards. While an ethics policy sets a higher standard than mere legal compliance, it still creates a “compliance-based value system” instead of a “character-driven value system”. The ethics benchmark is avoiding the embarrassment and humiliation of violating the ethics policy.
The third level is integrity-driven.
While ethics tend to focus on public compliance with formal behavioral standards, integrity has been described as what you do when no one is watching. Integrity comes from deep within. It is who you are more than what you do. To be integrity-driven is a far higher standard than mere compliance with a formal ethics policy. The benchmark here is not what is allowable, but what is RIGHT.
But being character-driven (the fourth level) is the test of real leadership.
While integrity suggests doing the right thing when no one is watching, character-driven decision making is doing the right thing when you are under immense pressure to do the wrong thing. It is infinitely easier to be integrity-driven than character-driven. The benchmark here is whether you have the courage to pay the price to do what is right in spite of the pressures.
In today’s brutal political environment, where it is popular to demonize those with whom we disagree, character-driven decision making is more important than ever. Unfortunately, the short supply of character-driven leaders is enabling and empowering the cavemen and the articulate incompetents in too many of our communities.
John Rockefeller said, “Live your life in a way that you can look any man in the eye and tell him to go to hell.” There is no more desperately needed advice for today’s leaders.
Go for it. Be willing to do what is right regardless of the pressure, the name calling, the threats. Be willing to lose your job over it. Your legacy will be a better community as a result of your sacrifice, and you will look back and know it was your greatest moment.
CEO, Strategic Government Resources
Expect the Unexpected
If you have ever given a presentation, something probably happened that you did not expect. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
The host agreed to supply copies. You sent a master file but upon arrival there are no copies. The host agreed to supply audio-visual. Unfortunately, a memo was never sent and you arrive to a room with no projector, sound, or both. You arrive at the training location, only to discover it has been moved to another facility. You are expecting 30 participants and 4 show up.
If you have never been in a situation when things did not go as planned – then congratulations! However, the law of averages pretty much guarantees if something can go wrong – it will!
Here are a few suggestions when confronted with the unexpected:
Choose a positive attitude in advance of your arrival – As a presenter – your job is to make the event about participants. Simply put, training is not about the trainer. If a mistake is made, do not point fingers at the host and demand that your needs are met. Instead, politely ask what options are available and respond graciously and with enthusiasm.
Bring back-up resources – I always take a master copy of participant materials with me. In addition, I carry an extension cord, power strip, and if I am presenting locally, a back up projector. I will also run various scenarios in my head of how I will approach the training differently if the unexpected occurs. If you are able to “roll with the punches” then your audience will respect you for it and applaud your efforts to do the best in spite of difficult circumstances.
Technology is “A” tool, not necessarily “The” tool – There is tendency to become so enamored with technology that we often lose sight of the fact that technology in the classroom is a means to a learning end. There are many other tools that are still highly effective: Discussion, role-play, problem solving, case study, peer learning, etc. If a video clip does not play, or if an Internet connection is lost, will you crawl under a desk or will you say, “No worries – I prepared for this just in case!”?
Overprepare – if you are scheduled to teach for four hours, make sure you have some optional exercises to fill another half hour. Who knows? A non-talkative group may be one of the unexpected things happens. So, if you’ve built in discussion time, but no one is talking, you will have additional tools at your disposal to make sure that client expectations are met.
Expect the unexpected. As a trainer – you’ll be glad you did.
Chief Learning Officer, Strategic Government Resources
You Can Build a Great Place to Work
If someone’s baseline rewards aren’t adequate, or equitable, her focus will be on the unfairness of her situation and the anxiety of her circumstance. You’ll get neither the predictability of extrinsic motivation nor the weirdness of intrinsic motivation. You’ll get very little motivation at all. But once we’re past that threshold, carrots and sticks can achieve precisely the opposite of their intended aims.
Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us
I attended a terrific program today at the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce. (Great job by the North Dallas Chamber, and the co-sponsor of today’s event, YP Connect – a group I am too old to join, by the way!). There was an excellent panel discussion, with four panelists; Bronwyn Allen (Bronwyn is a regular attendee/participant at the First Friday Book Synopsis), Tom Montgomery, Tip Housewright, and Kevin Wallace.
Today’s topic: ”Making Your Place a Great Place to Work.” Each panelist shared such valuable observations. At times, I felt like I was listening to a tutorial on how to successfully build a company based on the principles taught by James Kouzes and Barry Pozner in their essential book, Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others. They each shared stories about how they have made their companies a “great place to work,” and each story seemed to fit somewhere in one of these“seven essentials of encouraging” (from the Kouzes and Posner book):
• The Seven Essentials of Encouraging
1) Set clear standards
2) Expect the best
3) Pay attention
4) Personalize recognition
5) Tell the story
6) Celebrate together
7) Set the example
But here are a couple of points that I especially want to point out. Tom Montgomery, of Montgomery Coscia Greilich (Certified Public Accounts), said this:
“Salaries; bonuses; these are just baseline. Find creative ways to show appreciation above baseline. You need outward, visible signs of appreciation.” (emphasis added)
In other words, the extra mile, the extra “gift,” the extra appreciation, “above baseline” — this is critical in creating a “great place to work.” (Take another look at the quote above by Daniel Pink to reinforce this important point).
And Brownyn Allen of High Profile Staffing pitched in, and reminded us all to make each “sign/gift of appreciation” a personal one. She told of the time that one employee, who never gave her order for a preferred coffee for a “staff coffee run,” told Bronwyn that she really did not like coffee. Bronwyn said she should have known that, and she added that we all need to know each person on our team personally – their likes, and their dislikes. This is what Kouzes and Posner refer to as “personalizing recognition.”
So, here are your two lessons:
Take car of the baseline – and then, go above baseline
Personalize your recognition and appreciation
Take these two steps, and you will have a better chance of building a “great place to work.”
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis
What Kind of Team Do You Want?
“I admit that I shouldn’t have said anything about him behind his back, but come on! Don’t most leaders say things about others that they shouldn’t say?”
Jackie stared at me hoping to see in my eyes the affirmation that what she had done was, after all, not all that unusual. I wanted to be encouraging, but I also knew that a big part of the problem on this team was that they had a lot of meetings ABOUT each other and not nearly enough meetings WITH each other.
What would you have said?
Teams are here to stay. The need for collaboration, cooperation, and coordination has never been greater, and that’s not going to change any time soon. However, many teams are so dysfunctional that the very concept that should propel an organization forward to success has become more like an anchor that has the ship stuck in the harbor. We need high performance teams. Yet, for many leaders, the secret to leading successful teams seems to be just that—a dark secret that they cannot unlock.
The book, The Orange Revolution, gives three practices for teams to follow.
- “WOW! Each Other First”— Individually, these team members strive for excellence, but there is such a strong camaraderie on the team that they are motivated to be the best at their job for the sake of the team first. They truly have a “Team First” attitude. Teach your team to “Help the Helper” and cultivate a quest for excellence for each other.
- “No Surprises!”— Great teams practice the habit of intentional redundancy with each other. They over-communicate with each other. In most teams that I work with, there are hurt feelings, and 90% of the time, it’s because someone neglected to keep another person informed. Great teams treat each other like leaders, and one thing I know about leaders is this: “Leaders Don’t Like Surprises!”
- “Cheer With and For Each Other”— The truth is that no one likes to go to work in a place every day where people complain at you all the time. That’s not the kind of culture that fosters greatness. So, great teams build each other’s confidence by cheering for each other; and because they have a common goal that is greater than their individual goals, they cheer with each other when they hit their goals.
Back to Jackie. I looked back at Jackie and gently said, “Yes, most leaders do talk behind people’s back, but the great ones never do. What kind of leader do you want to be?”
Great teams do things that average teams don’t. My question to you is, “What kind of team do you want to be?”
Director of Leadership Development, Strategic Government Resources
Communicating Visually… It Works!
We live in a visual world. People aren’t finding the time to read a book, so they wait until there’s a movie about it. And when’s the last time you heard of a research paper going viral on the internet?
Sadly, there are a lot of “researchers” out there who have all the facts, but presenting those facts could fall on deaf ears if the audience isn’t being stimulated visually.
According to The Visual Teaching Alliance, approximately 65% of the U.S. population are visual learners. People don’t want to be bombarded with just words and numbers in this age of information; they want to understand the message in a way that doesn’t take too much time to decipher.
That’s why the use of video, images, or some type of illustration is especially crucial in today’s world. And when it’s done the correct way, the information is retained.
I remember back in third grade when my class was learning about liquid measurements and conversions (yeah… I know… exciting stuff). I could never remember how many pints were in a cup, or how many quarts were in a gallon, etc. Then after about three days of trying (and failing) to memorize the information, my teacher made a little illustration:
Is that what I’ve been trying to learn this whole time? With that drawing in my face, it all suddenly made sense… and stuck ‘til this day!
Perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words. After all, that’s one of the reasons why Pinterest (the fourth largest social media website) is increasingly popular.
So, what have you been trying to instill into the minds of your audience? If you somehow portrayed that message visually, I bet you’d have more luck!
Director of Communications, Strategic Government Resources
Change for Change Sake
When confronted with the need to change, many managers attempt to reassure their organization that “we are changing because we have to, but we are not going to create change just for the sake of change”.
While their intent is to make the change easier by reassuring fearful employees, in reality they accomplish just the opposite… their team hears that change is bad, and something to be endured only to the extent absolutely necessary. Indeed, the underlying message of “we won’t make you change just for change sake” creates an extra burden to persuade your team that each and every change is actually necessary – thus requiring far more resources and energy to drive the needed change.
But the only constant in today’s world IS change. And high-performing organizations recognize the constancy of change and develop an organizational culture that rises above merely “enduring” change, and actually embrace, harness and drive the right kind of constant ongoing change.
To harness and drive the right kind of change instead of being victimized by change — teach your team to thrive on change. Expose them to change, challenge them to change, and yes even force them to regularly change just for the sake of learning how to thrive in a constantly changing environment.
CEO, Strategic Government Resources
Employee Analysis Step Five – Providing Feedback
In this series of blog posts we are examining process questions that are designed to assist supervisors, managers, mentors, coaches, etc., with an employee performance evaluation process.
Throughout the series, we noted repeatedly that such questions are important because, 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.
We have discussed:
Step One – Evaluating employee knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes.
Step Two – Evaluating Inputs.
Step Three – Evaluating Outputs.
Step Four – Evaluating Consequences.
In this final post in the series, we present a handful of questions that can help managers provide effective feedback. According to training and development expert Raymond Noe, “Feedback refers to the information that employees receive while they are performing.” Note the key word “while.” If we provide feedback months after a job is complete, employees may have forgotten where, why, what, when, and how they performed in that past context. “While” denotes “current,” meaning feedback is an ongoing conversation.
Although not an exhaustive list, the following questions can help determine an employer’s response to a job well done:
- Am I meeting and/or exceeding performance standards?
- If training is not the proper developmental solution, is another option available?
- Does the amount of feedback employees are receiving equip them to self-manage personal and professional development more effectively?
- Do we provide feedback only when employees are deficient or are we also looking for employees “doing things right?”
- Does the feedback relate to standards we want employees to meet?
- Is our feedback timely, relevant, accurate, constructive, and specific?
- Are our feedback mechanisms sufficient?
The primary leaders of employee analysis are supervisors, coaches, and mentors. It is critical however, to include Human Resources as part of the employee analysis conversation. Human Resources is an invaluable employee analysis strategic partner.
“Analysis of HR data can indicate areas where training could improve performance. For example, departments or divisions with high turnover, high rates of absenteeism, poor performance or other problems can be tagged. After a thorough analysis, training objectives can be determined and the appropriate training developed. An organizational needs analysis may also deal with employee grievances, customer complaints, quality control issues, accident records, and so on.” (Brown, 2002)
We truly hope this series is of benefit to you and your organization. Please use the comment section below to “keep the conversation going.”
Chief Learning Officer, Strategic Government Resources
Actively Unhappy at Work
An “engaged employee” is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organization’s reputation and interests.
An organization with ‘high’ employee engagement might therefore be expected to outperform those with ‘low’ employee engagement, all else being equal.
From the Wikipedia article on Employee Engagement
“I was like a drone.” Then PhD candidate Scott Woody, who had grown weary working in a science lab
Then, after a shift:
“I thought work was supposed to suck, that work was work. Now I am doing a job that I love and that is fun.”
When people like Scott “flip” into a state of creative confidence, their faces light up with newfound optimism and courage as they talk about their new outlook. Some people, like Scott, have been actively unhappy with their work lives… Most of the people we meet, however, aren’t fully conscious of their level of dissatisfaction with their work. They just know that they could contribute more, if they were able to approach what they do differently. They realize they are just bringing half of themselves to work. When people go for the heart – when they seek out passion in their work – they can tap into and unleash inner reserves of energy and enthusiasm.
Tom Kelley and David Kelley, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All (emphasis added)
You can call it what you want to. Employee engagement; morale in the workplace. But, it boils down to this: do people want to be there? At work? With their hearts and minds and eyes and brains focused on the task at hand for that day, that week?
Or, are they “actively unhappy?” At work?
If they are “actively unhappy,” then let’s call this a serious talent/morale/employee engagement issue. A person at work who doesnot want to be at work; a person at work who is not really there at all; only “bringing half of themselves to work,” is not really there at work at all.
And most jobs need to be done by folks who are really there – you know, fully “present” — to do those jobs.
Imagine that you are having surgery performed on you. (OK – that’s a “big one.”) So, simply imagine that you are getting your hair cut/styled, and you have to look your best for that big presentation two days from now. (It will be recorded on video, and put up on the company web site). Would you like your surgeon, your hair stylist, to only be “half there” to do his/her work at the very moment that the work is on “you” — the work is on your body, or your hair?
Would you like your head trainer; your head customer service representative; your accounting person over payroll; your CEO… to be actively unhappy at work?
Would you like to work in a job where you are “actively unhappy?”
Now, there are times when “work” needs to get done, and it can be draining, close to drudgery. But even then, if that work is in service to a passion in your heart and life, it is “survivable,” and you find an inner energy to get such work done.
But if you show up Monday morning, simply wanting to be somewhere else – week after week – it’s probably time for a shift. Either a shift in jobs – a career change – or, maybe an inner shift in your own outlook.
And if you are leading a team, or an entire organization, where a bunch of the folks seem to want to be elsewhere – anywhere but there… well, let’s call this “big problem to work on” serious.
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis