Monthly Archives: February, 2014

Make a Choice… and Make the Right Choice!

When you hear the name “Jim Collins”, you probably think of the book From Good to Great. It’s the most famous of his many works on leadership and excellence. But tucked away in another fine book, Great by Choice, is a compelling story of a set of schools that “beat the odds” in a study of schools that were working with underprivileged students. Even though they were facing enormous difficulties, one set of schools consistently outperformed other schools that were facing similar adversities.

The study found that many factors were outside of the principals’ control, such as class size, length of the school day, underfunding, and low parental involvement. However, those things didn’t seem to impact whether a school was ranked as a high-performing school or a low-performing school.

What made the difference? The principals in the “beat the odds” schools put their energies into what they could do. These principals focused upon a set of disciplines that they could execute even in the midst of adverse circumstances. They had three critical principles:

  1. Don’t play the blame game. Have the strength to look at the problem and take responsibility.
  2. Don’t think the solution is “out there”. If things aren’t going well, leadership is responsible to make changes to improve the situation.
  3. Everyone matters. If every student in every classroom isn’t learning, the school isn’t doing its job.

They saw that “grasping for the next ‘silver bullet’ reform—lurching from one program to the next, this year’s fad to next year’s fad—destroys motivation and erodes confidence.”  (p. 57)  There isn’t an easy three-step solution out there to find!

circle of concernsThe late great Stephen Covey taught that we all have a circle of concern and a circle of influence. The circle of influence is contained within the circle of concern. That’s because we all have things about which we are concerned, but over which we have no influence. On the other hand, there are some things that are both within our circle of concern AND our circle of influence.  We have control over those things.

Great leaders focus their energy, not on their circle of concern, but on their circle of influence. They concentrate on things over which they have some control. Covey taught that when we focus our energy on our circle of influence, it tends to expand; but when we focus our attention on our circle of concern, not only are we unable to really make a difference, at the same time, our circle of influence shrinks because of lost time, resources, and opportunities.

Turns out these principals aren’t just teaching kids! They are setting the example for all of us.

Mike Mowery

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

That’s Not My Job!

not-my-jobI can always sense when someone will soon check out from the job and just go through the motions. No, I’m not psychic; I just have ears.

All I have to hear is someone repeatedly say, “That’s not in my job description” or “They don’t pay me enough to do that.”

Are you guilty of uttering these deadly phrases at one time in your career? You’re certainly not alone. You’ve worked so hard to achieve your prestigious title, so why be bothered with any menial or peripheral work?

I’ll tell you why—because no matter what title you hold, your purpose should be to work for the good of the team. Actually, the best bosses I’ve ever had were the ones who went above and beyond their job description to show they were team players.

The “that’s not my job” mentality is unhealthy to your organization. You’re all there for the same purpose—you just have different duties assigned to get the job done.

Think of your organization as being a body. And imagine every employee being a member of that body. How silly would it be for the pinky toe to say, “I’m so small and always getting stepped on. That wasn’t in my job description!” But in actuality, without the pinky toe, we’d be off balance.

So yes, you’ll do some things outside the realm of your “original job description”, but I don’t think there’s any job that can state every single task that you will ever perform during your tenure there.

As long as the good times outweigh the bad, and you’re still doing something you love, swallow your pride and be a team player!

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

Fourth Dimension Leadership

High-performing organizations nurture leadership competency at every level, in every role, by every employee.

A utility billing clerk can TELL a customer why their bill is correct and be 100% accurate and still leave the customer with a bad attitude towards the organization. By contrast, the utility billing clerk who LEADS the customer into understanding why their bill is correct produces a far different long-term outcome for the attitude that customer has about the organization.

Unfortunately, developing leadership skills at every level is a foreign concept to most organizations. We devote huge resources to achieve compliance and technical competency, while ignoring the absolutely essential leadership competencies to truly become a high-performing organization.
Relational Leadership is the first and foundational dimension upon which all future success is built. A lack of competency in Relational Leadership is the single most common denominator in management mediocrity, and yet few organizations devote resources to developing it. At this level, people follow you largely because of how you treat them — or they fail to follow because of how you treat them!

The second dimension is Operational Leadership. At this level, people follow you because of both intellectual and positional authority. In other words, I presume you know more about the job than I do; therefore, I look to you as my leader. This is the level that most organizations devote the most resources to developing. However, without competency in the predecessor dimension of Relational Leadership, the typical organization ends up developing a layer of “stealth incompetents” at the mid-management levels — individuals who are too technically competent to fire, but too incompetent in Relational Leadership skills to promote. The net result is that they stagnate in their role and nurture a culture of management mediocrity.

The third dimension is Systems Leadership. At this level, leadership moves from personal to organizational. In other words, at this level, the leader is creating systems that are not dependent upon who the personalities are to ensure success. Developing truly high-performing systems requires highly skilled managers to avoid the law of unintended consequences. Too many organizations have systems that are designed to achieve mediocrity, and then are surprised and frustrated that mediocrity is the result.

Strategic Leadership is the fourth dimension. Strategic Leadership shifts away from an internal focus on how the organization can get better at what it does, into a focus on transforming the organization into what it aspires to become. It is much more externally focused. Strategic Leadership is designed to identify and understand the major shifts and trends that are going to affect the future of the organization, and prepare the organization to both withstand and exploit the changing environment.

High-performing organizations recognize that every employee should exercise leadership within their particular context using the leadership dimension that is appropriate for their particular role. They also recognize that Relational Leadership competency is predecessor to Operational Leadership competency, which is predecessor to Systems Leadership Competency, which is predecessor to Strategic Leadership competency. In other words, you cannot attain competency at a higher dimension without attaining competency in all predecessor dimensions first.

To take your organization to a higher performance level, start by asking how many of your mid and upper-level managers have attained competency in the leadership dimensions that are predecessor to their current role — particularly Relational Leadership. If the right foundation is not there, rebuild the foundation before you do anything else!

Ron Holifield

Written by:
Ron Holifield
CEO, Strategic Government Resources

Employee Analysis Step Four – Evaluating Consequence

Greg Anderson

In this series of blog posts we are examining process questions that can assist supervisors, managers, mentors, coaches, etc., with evaluating employee performance.

Why is this 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.

Earlier, we processed Step One – Evaluating employee knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes.

In the second post, we turned our attention to Step Two in the process – Evaluating Inputs.

Last week, we examine evaluating outputs. In this post, we take a look at questions that can help mangers evaluate consequences. What do we mean by the term? According to training and development expert Raymond Noe, “Consequences refer to the type of incentives that employees receive for performing well.”

Although not an exhaustive list, the following questions can help determine an employer’s response to a job well done:

  • Do our employees communicate back to us that performance rewards and/or incentives are adequate?
  • Are groups of employees intentionally not meeting performance standards?
  • Have we articulated potential personal and career motivating factors relevant to 
developmental activity?
  • Are employees receiving encouragement from our executive staff?
  • Have we made promises we are not keeping?

It is not enough to ask these questions. We must make time to process them openly, honestly, and without bias. When we do that, we not only help our employees maintain improved performance – we incentivize them to keep heads and hearts aligned with our overall business strategy.

We will review Step Five – “Providing Feedback” in next week’s post.

Until then – Happy Training!

Written by:

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

Four Ways Executive Teams Can Get Better

In my last blog post, I raised the question, “How can Executive Management Teams best function as teams?”  It’s a delicate balance for several reasons.  First, Department Heads are often more closely aligned with their own departments than they are their fellow Department Heads.  Leading that team requires that the employees see him/her as loyal.  If they perceive the Department Head as wavering in commitment to the department, it could undermine his/her effectiveness.  Second, there is almost always a certain amount of competition for budget funds between the Department Heads.  When budgets are tight, even close friendships might feel the stress. Third, the functions, assignments, and expectations on each department cover such a wide spectrum that Department Heads can sometimes feel like their goals compete with each other—and perhaps even conflict with each other!  Sure, all of these departments fit under the umbrella of the city, but, let’s face it:  That’s a pretty big umbrella!

So, is it just pointless to even try to function as a team?  Is an Executive Management Team destined to be nothing more than a dysfunctional team, and, if so, would it be better to just maintain the silos after all?  Or is it possible for an Executive Team to function as a healthy team without undermining the individual’s leadership of his/her department?  Let’s leave aside the question of whether or not they should try.

Instead, let’s approach it this way:  If an Executive Management Team is going to function as a team, what can be done to make it work successfully?

Here are four suggestions.

1.       Together—Create a Shared Vision—It is probably not going to work for the leader simply to give the team the shared vision.  That kind of approach may elicit their compliance, but it will not inspire their passion, and, believe me, you’re going to need everyone working together to make this happen.  That means the vision must be a shared vision, and the only legitimate way to create that is to allow everyone to participate in helping to create the vision.  Every person on the team needs to feel ownership of that vision and be able to see how accomplishing that vision, in turn, helps his/her team.  Honestly, taking a short cut here is taking a short cut into the bar ditch.

2.       Together—Spend Time Learning—I’ve noticed that when management teams invest the time learning together through leadership development programs that there is a bond created that helps overcome a lot of things.  To function well as a team, each team has to overcome things like a lack of trust, a fear of conflict with each other, and an absence of emotional buy-in.  However, when teams learn together by reading the same books, blogs, and studies and discuss them together to see what applies and doesn’t apply to their specific situations, it helps them to find real common ground.  Of course, this requires spending more time together, but I’m convinced that what seems like a loss, is actually a gain.  Your team will gain in their ability to collaborate and create better and more innovative approaches.  They will save time, not lose time, because they will work together more effectively.

3.       Together—Do Something besides Go to Meetings—I remember a Department Head saying to his colleagues, “I will never feel as connected to this team as I do with the team that I lead because all this team does is talk, and on my team we are forced to work with our hands together in adverse situations, and that creates a bond that is a lot stronger than talk does.”  I knew he was right, and I think the rest of his team did, too.  Is there a solution for this?  Absolutely!  Go do something for someone else together!  Pick a day and serve breakfast together for the rest of the organization.  Go work on someone else’s pet project.  Go get your hands dirty—together—doing something that no one expects you as Department Heads to do.  I’ve heard more than a few people tell me what it meant to them for former Southwest Airlines CEO, Herb Kelleher, to load baggage on Christmas Eve.  It doesn’t seem to be a very “Executive” thing to do, but it certainly made an impression on people.  I think that if you did something like that as a team, not only would others perceive you differently—you would start perceiving yourselves differently, too.

4.       Together—Accept Imperfection but See Constant Improvement—It’s not going to be perfect.  The complications mentioned earlier are not just going to disappear.  And there are several other significant challenges for Executive Teams to overcome.  Team leaders need to be realistic about how much time it takes for the team to come together as a team and how difficult it is for Department Heads to feel divided loyalties.  Department Heads have to be able to accept the possibility that strengthening the Executive Team may, in fact, turn out to be better for the organization and their department.  The point is that you can’t give up.  Every Executive Management Team that has persevered through the awkwardness of it, which can feel like going through adolescence all over again, will admit that things get increasingly better.  The pain is worth the gain. It won’t be perfect, but if you work at it-together—it can be constantly improved.

Mike Mowery

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

The Impossible Goal Employees Still Try to Achieve

The word perfectionist gets thrown around a lot. It’s the default answer when interviewers ask, “What is your weakness?” And it is mistakenly used to describe a person who is really good at what they do.

Perfection means flawless. Do you know how high of a standard that is? Basically, you fail the second you mess up. That’s a lot of unnecessary pressure on yourself. Not to mention, studies have shown that perfectionists are more likely to suffer from depression, low self-esteem, and tend to hide their mistakes.

“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.” ― Michael Law, Author

I’ve already given my take on fear in a previous post, so I won’t delve into that further. My point today is that you must start learning to take it easier on yourself.

Life, including your career, is a marathon. If you try to sprint the whole way through, it won’t take long for you to burn out.

Books like Good Enough is the New Perfect and Womenomics emphasize this fact. The basis is that people should focus on balancing tasks and duties, rather than perfecting everything, without settling. (Note: these books are geared towards women in the workplace, but can be applied to all perfectionists. It’s just that statistics show women are more likely to be perfectionists.)

You’ll never reach perfection, so stop stressing yourself over it. Shift that energy towards learning to balance what’s on your plate. It may not make your job any easier, but you’ll finally have attainable goals—and achieving goals brings you closer to success.

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

But We’re not Really a Team…Are We?

It’s something I come across quite often. They feel frustration, a bit of consternation, and an uncertainty of how to put it into words, but it is definitely there.  It’s the conflict between the desire of the leader for his/her team to function as a “team” and the team members’ unspoken feelings:  “But we’re not really a team!”

Increasingly, I think, City Managers want their executive management team to interact together both at staff meetings and outside of staff meeting, as a team.  To borrow from Patrick Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, these City Managers want their direct reports to take off their “specialist” hats and put on the “generic team member” hats, so that they can function as a team.

I don’t claim to know all of their motivations for this, but I believe they see it as one way to respond to the ongoing pressure that the public sector faces to do more with less.  Working together as a team is one way to compensate for this new reality.  Not only that, but it is easy to recognize that if someone has the experience to serve as the head of a department, he/she has accumulated a fair amount of wisdom and savvy along the way about municipal organizations.  So, I can completely understand why City Managers want their team to function like a team!

However, I notice that it often feels counter-intuitive to the Department Heads for several reasons.  First, many of them feel that they did not rise to their position of leadership by being a generalist.  They got there by being a specialist.  They have stayed in their lane, worked hard, and kept up with trends in their area.  Second, they often feel that if they give too much input about another person’s area or idea, it will be taken as an insult.  In addition, since staff meetings may be the only time in which they interact with each other, the team chemistry may not be as strong as it is within their respective departments.  Therefore, to many Department Heads it seems best to be cordial to others, (and helpful if needed) but to basically interact with the City Manager one to one, just like the rest of the Department Heads do.  As one man said to me, “We have enough work already.  I don’t want to create more work, just so we can work together.”

An astute City Manager fully recognizes all of this, but I think his/her response might be summarized by the adage, “What got us here, won’t get us there.”  The question is, “Given the nature of the situation, how can executive teams function most effectively?” I’ll tackle that issue next time, but in the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts and perspective on this issue.


Mike Mowery

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

Employee Analysis Step Three – Evaluating Outputs


Greg Anderson

In this series of blog posts we are examining process questions that can assist supervisors, managers, mentors, coaches, etc., who are in position to analyze employee performance.

Why is this 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.

Earlier, we processed Step One – Evaluating employee knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes.

Last week, we turned our attention to Step Two in the process – Evaluating Inputs.

In this post, we examine evaluating outputs. According to Raymond Noe, author of Employee Training and Development, “Output” refers to the job’s performance standards.

Although not an exhaustive list, the following questions can help determine if employee output is satisfactory or exceeds job performance standards:

  • Does the employee know at what level he or she is expected to perform?
  • Do we consistently clarify standards of excellence?
  • Do our development opportunities include clear objectives?
  • Are there certain competencies we have not defined in behavioral terms?
  • If so, how and when do we do that and how will we subsequently communicate those 
terms to our employees?

It is not enough to ask these questions. We must take time to process them openly, honestly, and without bias. When we do that, we not only help our employees improve performance – we also help heads and hearts stay aligned with mission, vision, and values.

We will review Step Four – Evaluating Consequences in next week’s post.

Until then – Happy Training!

Written by:

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

To Create A Learning Organization, You Need Leaders Who are Life-Long Learners Themselves

Strategic Government Resources (SGR) just completed its January, 2014 Conference, and I presented Daniel Goleman’s book, Focus, at one of the sessions.   The theme for the conference was: Creating a Learning Organization:  Leading-Edge Strategies for Employee Development

And here’s the description of the conference:

What is the most important asset to your organization? It’s not about having the latest and greatest gadgets (although that’s always nice too), but your PEOPLE are who truly make the difference. In fact, personnel costs are the single biggest expenditure in your overall budget! The future of your organization depends on how you invest in the development of your employees.

SGR is a company that “partners with local governments” in a variety of ways, with training, recruiting, collaborating tools to help local governments get better, and do better, at serving their communities.  Ron Holifield, the CEO, is a former City Manager, and a non-stop idea guy.  And he has put together quite a team to help turn those ideas into actions and tools.  The result:  SGR is in fact a valuable “partner” with local governments all across the country.

But…  back to the SGR Conference.  Just take a good look at the title: Creating a Learning Organization:  Leading-Edge Strategies for Employee Development

Some thoughts:

#1 – Learning Organizations do not happen by accident.  They have to be created.

#2 – An organization needs multiple strategies, and on ongoing capability to capture and use “leading-edge strategies,” to develop employees. Because there are so many learning styles, and so much whiplash from technological change, you have to keep updating approaches and strategies.  What’s the alternative?  (What’s the opposite of “leading edge?’”  “Lagging-edge; faded-edge; left-in-the-dust edge?”)

#3 – For “Employee Development.”  This we know – employees do not arrive in a new position “fully developed.”  Employee development is an always needed, ever ongoing part of the schedule in every healthy and successful organization.  Ignore this at your peril!  Ignore this, and your employees remian undeveloped and underdeveloped.  And an undeveloped/underdeveloped employee! a great job serving the community.

Now, a thought I had about the emphasis of this conference.

To create a learning organization, you need leaders who themselves continue to learn. 

Regularly, all the time.  And, they need to be quite visible about their own learning.  They need to be seen in learning situations and gatherings.  They need to frequently be seen with a book in hand.  They need to make it clear that they do not yet “know everything,” and that they are in a perpetual learning mode themselves.  And they need to go out of their way to make sure that the people they lead/serve/develop see them as a model of a learning person, setting the example as a life-long learner.

There is little chance that you will succeed at building a learning organization if you are not a learner yourself — and then, if you are not seen and perceived as such a learner.

But, when the leader continues to learn, and regularly shares part of what he/she learns with the leadership team, and it then cascades throughout the organization, then employees also learn, and they are developed, and the organization has a much better chance at being healthy and effective and successful.

And, yes, this is true for every kind of organization, whether serving local governments, or in any other arena.

So, here are the questions for today:

Are you a learner? And, is your organization a learning organization?

If not, well…You are way behind the leading-edge.


Randy Mayeux

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

All We Really Want from a Leader is…

Recently I led a workshop for emerging leaders where the participants read some short biographies about different leaders from different parts of the world in different leadership sectors.  Through an exercise calling for discussions, debates, persuasion, and sometimes  for conflict resolution skills, these leaders had to agree on the five most important leadership traits based on the biographies of these diverse leaders.

The point of the experience is to give them practice in influencing, collaborating, negotiating, and in thinking critically about leadership.  It’s a way to create engaged learners, rather than passive learners who simply read the PowerPoint Slide that says, “The 5 Most Important Leadership Traits Are…”

This group chose these five traits…after some rigorous and spirited “robust dialogue!”

  • Communicator—They wanted someone who was a good communicator, through interpersonal interactions and through public presentations.
  • Competent—They wanted someone who was competent at the job.  Competence is inspiring in a leader, and even more importantly perhaps, incompetence is demoralizing.
  • Empowering—Great leaders empower others to act.  Leaders understand that leadership is not meant to be used to denigrate others, it’s meant to be a position that serves others by enabling them to be successful.
  • Trustworthy—These emerging leaders identified this as one of the most important traits a leader can possess.  While passion for the job—may ebb and flow—in that a leader may be more passionate about one thing than another, it’s not possible to say that about trustworthiness.  We want leaders who are trustworthy all of the time.
  • Visionary—Leaders are not just focused on the now.  Leaders focus on the future, too.  They cast shared visions of a preferred future which inspire passion and commitment.  They articulate our highest dreams and give voice to our own aspirations.

I liked their list.  Although I recognize that no list is exhaustive or definitive, I believe it helps us understand leadership better to inductively study leaders and identify the traits that we appreciate and long to emulate.  However, what made their list even more fascinating to me was when I compared it to the research of Kouzes and Posner as described in their classic book on leadership, The Leadership Challenge.  Kouzes and Posner have published the results of an ongoing 20+ year survey that they have done in which they ask participants what traits that they most admire in leaders.  Over the last two decades, here are the four that remain in the top five—year in and year out.

1)      Honesty

2)      Forward Looking

3)      Inspiring

4)      Competent

Almost the exact same traits that the group inductively chose!

What does it mean?  Kouzes and Posner suggest that altogether these traits all add up to one big word for leaders: Credibility.

If you want to be seen as a credible leader, maybe it starts with focusing on a few key traits.  It seems to be what people—everywhere—are crying out for.


Mike Mowery

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

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