Monthly Archives: June, 2014

Getting Input: No Longer Optional

The spread of social media has made us expect everything to be more interactive. Think about how we interact with the news.

In the old days, a person could respond to a newspaper article with a letter to the editor. Perhaps three or four would be published in any given edition. However, today a journalist may write a great article that’s published in a national publication, but that article is followed by comments which may number into the hundreds or thousands. And this happens day after day on countless sites.

How has this affected the way we expect to interact with issues, organizations, leaders, and events? I think it has created a new expectation that our voices, our perspectives, and our opinions are valid, regardless of our age or position in the organization. We see our comments published. We see other people’s comments published. It has fundamentally changed the way we expect to be treated.

Not only do we expect our voice to be heard, but we also expect to be responded toalmost immediately.

Just consider the new show that ABC Television is launching soon called Rising Star. I remember just a few years ago when the show American Idol allowed viewers to vote for their favorite musical artist by texting in their choice. The results were announced on the next episode, which was a day or a week later. Rising Star is also a show where new musical artists are chosen. However, in this new format, not only does the viewing audience get to be the judge, (recognize the theme?), but now the results are published immediately.

I see a lot of organizations that are skimming the surface of social media, but totally ignoring the deeper implications of this fundamental change. At the same time, we continue to hear that the American worker is largely unengaged.

Some surveys suggest that as many as 7 out of 10 workers are not engaged at work. Is it possible that one big reason is that we expect to have a meaningful venue for input—and that the average job simply doesn’t provide it? Is it possible that the result is that they give their compliance, but not their passion?

I’m convinced that shows like American Idol and Rising Star are giving us some big clues about how to inspire a shared vision on your team. In simple words, find a way to get meaningful input from every person. It’s a little bit like salt. Once you get used to it, when you eat something without salt, it’s just not the same. When you are used to giving input in so many places, you start to expect the same thing at work.

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Chief Operations Officer, Strategic Government Resources

Are You Really That Busy?

Underpaid and overworked. That’s the mantra of a majority of the workforce these days—and it’s perhaps even more prevalent in the public sector.

It’s almost a competition at the water cooler to point out how much work one person has compared to everyone else.

Yes, some people are that busy—but not everyone is. The other batch of people who claim they’re “so busy” really just suffer from poor time management.

The 80-20 Rule of Time Management suggests that 20% of your time (or effort) creates 80% of your results (or productivity). So, in a typical eight-hour workday, only two of those hours would have the most impact on what you really need to get accomplished.

What are people doing in the other six hours? Wasting time on other people’s “urgent” tasks, catching up on irrelevant emails, getting distracted by other duties that aren’t as important, etc.

If this sounds like you, here are three ways to make sure every minute counts:

  1. Prioritize.
    I cannot stress this enough. What task has the earliest deadline? Focus on that one first. Don’t look at your “to-do” list as a whole—that can be too overwhelming. Instead, determine which task needs to be done first, shift all of your energy towards it until it’s complete, and then tackle the next task that needs to be accomplished.
  1. Ask For and Accept Help.
    The last time I checked, none of us have a cape on our back and an “S” on our chest. Stop thinking that asking for help is a sign of weakness. If you’re bogged down with work and you keep taking on more tasks without voicing your workload concern, it’s just a sign that you’re not good at knowing your own capabilities. You will look much worse if you don’t complete a project because you decided to never speak up.
  1. Stop Complaining and “Git ‘er Done.”
    People underestimate the amount of time wasted simply by complaining about their workload. Getting out your frustrations to a close coworker is reasonable, but don’t make every, “How are you doing” an open invitation to unleash why you’ll be working late for the next few days. Suck it up and start tackling what you need to do. Besides, the earlier you start, the earlier you’ll finish.

Next time you say that you’re too busy, make sure it’s not a result of poor time management. Once you figure that out, make the appropriate adjustments because working more than 40 hours a week has become the norm for a majority of the workforce, and it doesn’t look like that will change any time soon.

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

Fairness is Good Business

Guest Blogger - Andy

One of my favorite classes I teach is: “Discovering the Importance of Every Police-Citizen Encounter.” Although I speak to mostly police executives, the concepts presented can be applied anywhere. The first concept presented in the class is what I call the three phases of every encounter.

  1. Initial Contact
  2. The Process
  3. The Outcome

The initial contact could be a traffic stop, a response to a call, or even while in line at the local Starbucks.  The process is what “happens in the middle.” It’s where facts are gathered, perceptions are made, and the decision-making process begins. The outcome is what the officer decided to doa citation, arrest, or a warning.

The follow-up question I usually get from these seasoned veterans and police leaders is, “Which phase do you think is most important to citizens’ satisfaction with the experience they receive during an encounter with the police?”

About half of the class will choose the initial contact, about 30 percent will choose the outcome, and the few remaining think that the process is most important. What do you think it is?

Now, let me emphasize that all phases are important and should be treated as such. However, according to studies, one phase stands out clearly as most important to citizens.

The answer: the process, or what happens in the middle, is overwhelmingly the highest area of concern for citizens.

Citizens want to feel they were treated in a fair manner, and with a level of dignity and respect. Academia calls this “procedural justice.” Most will still feel satisfied with the experience if they felt they were treated correctly, at least in their minds. Furthermore, if the officer’s decision-making process appeared to be transparent, then their level of satisfaction increases.

So why should this matter to police departments or any other governmental agency for that matter? Simply put, if you had a business, wouldn’t you want to know what your customers think of your product or your service? Absolutely! If you don’t, I guarantee you won’t stay in business very long.

Those that live, work, and visit our cities are our customers. And knowing how to better serve them is just good business!

The Servant Leader and Conceptualization

According to Robert Greenleaf, conceptualization is a key characteristic of Servant Leadership. It is the ability to create a future-oriented concept that provides vision and mission. What is the result for employees? Finding purpose in their work.

Servant Leaders Conceptualize in Community.
Conceptualization does not occur in a vacuum. Servant leaders invite ownership to help shape vision. In order to do that, servant leaders approach relationships on a long-term basis. True servant leaders do not use others to meet personal goals. Rather, they equip others to realize corporate goals. This means early in a relationship, formal and informal expectations are clarified through shared negotiation.

Servant leaders have the ability to conceptualize the inevitability of crises. That means while relationship expectations are formed, a process for dealing with broken expectations is outlined. For the manager, this may be as simple as, “I have an open door policy,” or “Retaliation is not in our vocabulary.”

Servant Leaders Nurture Conceptualization in Self and Others.
As a leader, how often do you dream about the future of your organization? Do you keep those dreams to yourself? Only share them with a select few? Or do you “dream out loud” with everyone in your organization while providing consistent opportunities for them to do the same?

Servant leaders do not dream and tell people to dream the same dream or else. Instead, they dialogue shared dreams as a means of weaving a collective narrative. In such environments, phrases like, “I hate my job” are rarely, if ever, heard.

Servant Leaders Remain Calm, Even in Crisis.
Greenleaf noted:

“A mark of a leader, an attribute that puts him [or her] in a position to show the way for others, is that he [or she] is better than most at pointing the direction… the leader can articulate [the vision] for any who are unsure.”

Crises can certainly pull a team together, but they also have a tendency to exacerbate lack of surety. A servant leader’s ability to be a non-anxious presence, even in the midst of crisis, is a testimony to their commitment to vision. They see the future, anticipate obstacles, and refuse to abandon ship at the first sign of a leak in the boat.

This is not to say servant leaders will take an organization to its grave rather than change the vision. Conceptualization is exercised consistently as a means of evaluating integrity of the vessel and seaworthiness for the journey ahead.

Serve on!

Greg Anderson
Written by:
Greg Anderson
Online Curriculum Developer, Strategic Government Resources
Follow Greg on Twitter!@SGRGreg

One Book to Help Lead People Better

“What’s the one book – only one – you would recommend to help me lead people better?” That was the question a woman asked me at the conclusion of one of my training sessions recently.

It is a good question. And, thankfully, it was specific: “to help me lead people better.”

I hate it when the question is generic: “What is the best book you have ever read?” That’s like asking what is your favorite movie. To have just one is basically impossible. My answer to both of these questions (favorite book and favorite movie) might change day-to-day based on factors I can’t begin to fathom.

But, I had an answer to her question because it was so specific. My answer was/is Encouraging the Heart: A Leaders Guide to Rewarding and Encouraging Others by James M. Koiuzes and Barry Z. Posner.  This is my choice because, whatever else leadership requires, it requires actually leading real people. And people need encouragement to do their best. This book will help.

I don’t know if this woman is a book reader with a stack of books always at her side or not. But, the way she asked it reminded me that for many people, their life is full enough, including the demands of their work life, that reading a stack of books is almost beyond their reach.

They really do need the “one book” to help them with a specific challenge. And if they did read that one book, and put the lessons into practice, they would in fact become much better at the job they tackle. I am fully convinced that this woman will be a better leader if she reads this one book and puts what she learns into practice.

Now, for people who always have a book going, there are newer books/other books/always the next good book to read. But, here is my challenge to those of you who may not have a stack of books going all the time.

You’ve got six months left in 2014. Pick out one area of your work life that you just know you could get better. Google the phrase: “what is the best book on ________.” Read an Amazon review or two of the top choices, pick out the book that appeals to you, buy it, and read itslowly. And then, put the lessons into practice.

And, by the way, my answer might not even show up in your Google search. I just googled “what is the best book on leadership?”, and no mention of Encouraging the Heart popped up. (I can’t help it if Google isn’t as smart as I am…)

Seriously, just the act of reading a/any good book will help get you where you need to go, if you put what you read into practice! If more people read even one book carefully, and put what they learn into practice, we would see improvement all around, wouldn’t we?

Randy Mayeux

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

The Ingredients of a Shared Vision

Part of the challenge for any leader is to get the team to agree on what direction it should go. In other words, the question is: “How do you create a shared vision?”

It’s easy to get things out of order. Both inexperienced and seasoned leaders can fall into the trap of hoping that by “casting a vision,” they can create emotional buy in. Casting a vision is certainly an important task for any leader, but it has to come at the right time. If leaders are to succeed in creating a shared vision, they must find a way to combine two possibly very different ingredients:

  1. The Ideas of the Team
  2. The Convictions of the Leader

Before a leader attempts to cast a compelling vision of what the team needs to do or become, he/she must find a way to hear and incorporate the ideas of all of the team members about things such as: their own ambitions for the team, their insights about possible innovations, their experiences with current processes, and their wisdom about the way forward.

When a leader really knows the people on the team, listens to them, and takes their advice, it creates an emotional connection. It makes people feel important, and it moves the vision from “me” to “we.” Many leaders rely too much on their ability to persuade in order to create a “shared” vision, and not enough on allowing the team to contribute to the ingredients of the vision.

Perhaps the reason that so many leaders are afraid to really listen to the ideas of the team is that they are afraid those ideas will hijack the team. This is understandable because the leader has a set of objectives to achieve, and his/her success is measured by whether the team reaches these objectives.

These are what we might call the leader’s convictions. These are things that cannot be sacrificed or ignored. They are just as important as the input of the team because they give definition, direction, and energy. The leader has to know what they are and communicate them in an effective way.

When a leader finally reaches that stage of casting a vision before the team, it needs to be both like looking in a mirror at themselves, and looking through a window at the heart of the leader. Too much or too little of either one will create a distortion.

If the leader starts with the ideas of the team and skillfully mixes it with his/her own convictions, there is a much greater chance of creating a shared vision that will inspire everyone to pull in the same direction without concern about who gets credit for success.

Mike Mowery

Written by:
Mike Mowery
Chief Operations Officer, Strategic Government Resources

What’s So Special About Your Organization?

From as early as you can remember, you were told you were individually special. And growing up, you were supposed to find what makes you unique and utilize it.

Any business resource you read will even tell you that a “unique factor” is how companies distinguish themselves from their competition and win customers. (Disney- a magical experience, Apple- innovating the way people live, Google- the ultimate information hub, etc.).

So, where’s the uniqueness in local government? It shouldn’t be “leading edge” when a community decides to find its niche and capitalize on it—that should be the norm.

Just because local governments or other organizations don’t necessarily have a product to sell or direct “competition” doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a distinct identity. If you’re struggling to find one, these tips may give you some ideas:

  • Pay close attention to the needs (or wants) of your public.
    Your community is unique because of the people who live in it. What can you provide to them that they’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere?
    (Pet-friendly facilities for an animal-loving community, unique ways to stay in touch with the local government for more younger or tech-savvy communities, etc.)
  • Host an annual event that is fun for the whole family.
    All major cities and thriving suburbs have at least one annual event in which people from all age groups can participate. Festivals, runs, fairs, and concerts geared towards your public are great ways to brand your community.
  • Go the extra mile with customer service.
    If budget or time is an issue, this final tip will leave you with no more excuses.
    Let the outstanding way your employees treat everyone they encounter be what sets your organization apart. Teach your employees to serve the public to the best of their abilities—even if the problem isn’t directly related to their job title or department. Instead of saying “You’re welcome” at Chick-fil-A restaurants, their employees say, “My pleasure.” Maybe you could develop a similar way of speaking that becomes unique to your organization.

What would you add to this list, and what makes your organization stand out from the rest?

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

Five Keys to Achieving Sustainable Excellence

I remember when I facilitated a City Council retreat for one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. It was a city that considers excellence the routine floor to work from, not an unattainable goal to simply strive for. During the course of the retreat, there was some reflection upon their rapid transformation from a small rural farm community into one of the premier cities in the nation.

Certainly, regional growth patterns contributed to their success; but while many cities experience rapid growth, only a few achieve sustainable excellence. I work with city council’s all over the nation and a consistent pattern is very clear. Sustainable excellence is always accompanied by the following key characteristics:

  • A compelling strategic vision shared by elected officials and city management of what they want the future to look like and a realistic game plan to get there.
  • Elected officials who understand their role as strategic thinkers and vision casters and enforcers of the mission, vision and values. Elected officials who abandon this top level responsibility by trying to do the city manager’s job ensure a culture of mediocrity and that their vision will never become reality.
  • An effective citizen engagement plan to ensure that the community has meaningful input and buy-in to the vision. Great visions are not cost free, but most citizens are willing to pay the price for pursuing excellence if they have bought into the legitimacy of the process that produced the vision.
  • The political will to make decisions based on a fifty-year time horizon, rather than the next election.
  • The courage to stand strong and do what they know is right for the future despite threats and bullying from CAVE men (citizens against virtually everything) and articulate incompetents (those who make doing the wrong thing sound SO right). Those who get satisfaction from destroying rather than building are always the loudest, but volume rarely equates to what is best for the overall community.

The question is not whether your city can achieve excellence (you can) –the question is whether you truly aspire for excellence. And if you do, it’s a matter of whether your council/manager team is willing to follow a proven formula for achieving sustainable excellence, or whether you are going to keep doing business like you always have and remain trapped in a world where tomorrow looks just like yesterday.

Ron Holifield

Written by:
Ron Holifield
CEO, Strategic Government Resources

The Servant Leader and Stewardship

Stewardship is derived from the word “steward,” a term used to describe someone who cares for or manages people, processes, events, things, etc. Peter Block defined stewardship as “holding something in trust for another.”

According to Robert Greenleaf, Servant Leaders must be great stewards if they are to successfully lead.

In essence…

  • Servant leaders care more and control less.
    Larry Spears notes, “Servant-leadership, like stewardship, assumes first and foremost a commitment to serving the needs of others. It also emphasizes the use of openness and persuasion rather than control.”
    “Control” isn’t just represented by the red-faced boss who pounds on a desk when things don’t go his or her way. Zero control also indicates lack of caring for those within your circle of influence. In essence, the two extremes of “I micro-manage everything you do,” and “I don’t have time to notice anything you do” greatly diminishes the likelihood of individuals within an organization finding a “sweet spot” within which to thrive.
    Genuinely showing that you care about others is one of the most powerful actions any leader can model.
  • Servant leaders understand they are entrusted with that which they do not own.
    Servant leaders care for people and possessions. They do not carelessly toss people aside (especially those within their circles of influence), nor do they use equipment, resources, budgets, etc., carelessly. This is especially important to realize in local government. A government owns nothing. We simply care for and manage that which belongs to the public.
  • Servant leaders leave a legacy.
    A legacy is defined as, “A thing handed down by a predecessor.” Servant Leaders believe in “handing down” knowledge, skills, abilities, insights, and wisdom. They are not as concerned about reputation as they are character.
    Stewardship asks servant leaders to become accountable for an organization’s outcomes for the greater good. Along the way, Servant leaders express genuine care without the need to scheme or control.

Can you imagine how different our world would be if we had more leaders like that?

Greg Anderson
Written by:
Greg Anderson
Online Curriculum Developer, Strategic Government Resources
Follow Greg on Twitter!@SGRGreg

Always Remember Your Multiple Audiences

So, have you learned this yet? Everything you say, anywhere, might end up on YouTube or quoted or replayed on some websitefrom some gossip site to a much more reputable one.

And here’s the bad news: if it lands on some obscure blog or  “gossip” website, that means that it could spread to other sites. Once it’s up there, it’s out there…

Just ask Donald Sterling.

So, be careful.

And when you give a presentationany presentationyou always have multiple audiences. Back in my graduate school days, we studied the work of Chaim Perelman. He wrote about the “universal audience” and “particular audiences.”

In other words, you’ve always got more than one audience whenever you speak.

Here’s just a sample of what you have to keep in mind:

  • The actual, physical audience – the people present who are listening to your presentation.
  • Your peers who will always be “evaluating” with some level of comparison in mind.
  • Your boss/manager/supervisor. Every presentation is an opportunity to raise your value (or, to detract from your value).
  • The people who will report about your presentation, whether “official press” (what is “official press” these days?), or bloggers, or commenters.
  • People who will read such accounts (I recently heard a terrific presentation on LinkedIn at a MeetUp gathering in Dallas. Dozens of people left comments on the value of the presentation. Those comments then took on a life of their own).
  • Your critics and opponents who want to “catch you” in a mistake.
  • Yourself – you always have to please yourself with the quality of your presentation.

And, by the way, these audiences are not just for your verbal presentations. You know that anything you write, or even your comments in a meeting, might be evaluated and discussed.

So, as you prepare your next presentation, remember to keep your multiple audiences in mind.

Randy Mayeux

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

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