Have you had a team member that was reluctant to move forward with a new program or plan? And it wasn’t the normal naysayer or the daily dissenter – it was your loyal, dedicated team member. Maybe it was even the one person on your staff who is always on board and supportive.
In the excitement of new initiatives, we can assume that the problem is with those who don’t share our enthusiasm. We can easily think, “What is wrong with him? Why isn’t she running with this? Why don’t they see the benefits?” We’re tempted to explain again all of the reasons why ours is such a phenomenal plan.
Even when we’ve done our due diligence, sometimes we still get ahead of ourselves or miss an important detail. A loyal supporter who is slow to embrace the change may have insight we need to hear. Yet many employees don’t feel comfortable disagreeing with their leaders. They may question their own hesitation, fear being wrong, and say nothing. But they just can’t seem to get on board.
Perhaps like some of you, I’ve occasionally focused more on convincing than listening. In one particular situation, one of my team members who was typically very supportive and positive, was hesitant about a contractor we had hired. I thought we needed the outside perspective and additional resources the contractor provided. Eventually my employee took over the project with much better results than we experienced with the contractor. I would have been wise to fully explore his hesitation much sooner.
If we are met with reluctance, what are some options for us as the leader of the team or organization?
We can remain confident that we are on track and move forward without complete buy in. An employee with less experience may not be able to conceptualize the end result. For some people, the pieces begin to fit together when the puzzle is partially completed. For others, change is difficult. Even positive changes require time for them to adjust. Pacing the implementation of the new initiative may be the solution.
Or we can probe a little deeper into the resistance. We can ask more questions with a genuine desire to understand, and a willingness to hear sincere objections. We will need to make it a safe conversation for the employee who doesn’t like disagreeing or fears disappointing us. We can assure the employee that we welcome input, and we will listen and carefully consider his or her opinions and objections.
One aspect of crisis prevention is to keep asking at every step along the way, “What could possibly go wrong? What are we missing? What could backfire?” Dreamers and visionaries often see only what could go right. That’s the wonderful balance of a diverse team! We need the idealist, the realist, the “jump in and get it done” people as well as the “let’s wait and evaluate” team members.
It can be a very wise investment to keep humbly asking the right questions to get to the source of reluctance. What we learn could be a gift that allows us to sidestep a land mine, readjust our timeline, or tweak the plan so we are on the very best path for success!
Executive Search Manager
Sometimes people come into your life, and you know right away that they were meant to be there. They serve some sort of purpose, teach you a lesson, or help you figure out who you are or who you want to become. You never know who these people may be, but you know at that very moment they will affect your life in some profound way.
Sometimes things happen to you that at the time may seem horrible, painful and unfair, but in reflection you realize that without overcoming these obstacles you would have never realized your true strength, willpower or heart.
Everything happens for a reason – nothing happens by chance or by means of good luck or bad luck.
Whether it is illness, injury, love lost, moments of defeat, or sheer stupidity, all these things occur to test the limits of your soul. Without these small tests, life would be like a smoothly paved, straight, flat road to nowhere; safe and comfortable, but dull and utterly pointless.
The people you meet, who affect your life, and the successes and downfalls you experience create who you are – even the bad experiences can be learned from. In fact, they are probably the most poignant and important ones. If someone hurts you, betrays you or breaks your heart, forgive them, for they have helped you learn about trust and the importance of being cautious to whom you open your heart. If someone loves you, love them back unconditionally; not only because they love you, but because they are teaching you to love. They are opening your heart and eyes to things you would never have seen or felt without them.
Make every day count and learn from each moment you spend with another, for you may never be able to experience it again. Live your life with purpose, and live it to its fullest potential. And at the end of every day, be sure to ask yourself….“Have I Made a Difference Today?!”
Member Collaboration Manager – Western U.S.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch,” and while much of the time this can ring true in an office environment, it really doesn’t have to.
If you have someone in your office that you feel has a “negative” attitude toward work, this is a huge red flag for you as a leader to look around and make sure that all of your employees are satisfied with their positions and the work environment. Chances are, the negativity or frustration is affecting more than one person. This is where relationship building comes in and the importance of actually getting to know your employees. Not just their names, but actually who they are.
Let me give you an example. Many moons ago I worked as a retail manager. While in this position I was transferred to a new store, a store that already had their own culture and employees who were used to a certain management style. Let’s just say that the change in management did not go over well with employees, because after all, adding someone new into the mix, especially a newly promoted manager, can be a hard thing to adjust to. Instead of letting the defiant attitudes get me down, what did I do? I got to know my employees. I learned about who they were, what they liked to do for fun outside of work, and most importantly what their aspirations were for their careers. I listened.
What I learned from all of that is that, like customers, frustrated employees simply want to be heard. They want to build that rapport with their managers so that they can go to them with any issue they may be facing, because they then know that their manager will look out for them and get things done. So while you must listen, you also must show that you follow through with your promises. Never make promises you can’t keep. This is what makes a good leader.
So here’s a list of some suggestions for how to become a better leader and cut out office negativity:
- Get to know your employees and build a lasting rapport with them.
- Listen to them. This is where that open door policy that everyone talks about comes in.
- Show them that you are a doer not a don’ter, because the minute you promise something to an employee and don’t follow through, you lose their trust.
- Finally, ensure that you are treating your employees as well as you treat your customers.
In my opinion, dedicating yourself to these steps will help to cut out any negativity that may invade the workplace. Treating your employees as well, if not better, than how you treat your customers will give them the motivation to succeed, contributing positively the organization’s goals.
That’s just my two cents. What are your thoughts?
I suspect I learned this especially from my graduate school days, in the writings of Kenneth Burke. Or maybe from my preaching days, and my intent to be true to the meaning of the Text I was preaching.
And, so, one of my complaints is the way we think it is better to abbreviate, or turn into acrostics, words and phrases that we need to linger over.
Take “Human Resources” for instance. Here are two definitions, both quickly lifted from the web:
the personnel of a business or organization, especially when regarded as a significant asset.
The company department charged with finding, screening, recruiting and training job applicants, as well as administering employee-benefit programs.
I like the first one much better, for the simple reason that it includes this phrase: “especially when regarded as a significant asset.”
After all, Human Resources should be all about resources that are human; i.e., unique to humans, and only available, only found, in real, live human beings.
So, when we reduce “Human Resources” to “HR,” and we don’t say the phrase with the honor it deserves and beckons forth, one flowing from this kind of sentiment — “we cherish our human resources more, much more, than any other resources in this company” – then “HR” loses it meaning. At least, that’s my view.
I thought of this as I read Rethinking Work by Barry Schwartz in the New York Times. Consider this sentence:
companies that placed a high value on human resources were almost 20 percent more likely to survive for at least five years than those that did not.
“A high value on human resources.” That is another way of saying “a high value on human beings.”
Such a view, and approach, and “culture,” strikes me as a good thing in and of itself (first), and a good business strategy (second).
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis
Last month, the city management profession lost a great leader with the unexpected passing of David Watkins, city manager of Hot Springs, Arkansas.
When we began our graduate studies at the University of Kansas, we were provided the opportunity to meet great local government leaders, one of which was David Watkins. At the time, he was the city manager of Lenexa, Kansas, and each year he hired an intern from the graduate class to work in his office. During our year on-campus, he hired Maria Ojeda.
In the fall of our first year, our entire class attended the ICMA Conference. From afar, David walked with such confidence through the conference halls, greeting everyone along his path. To aspiring city managers, he seemed entirely unapproachable. We later learned that David was the complete antithesis; he was approachable, accessible and never took himself too seriously. He naturally drew people to him with his laugh and great sense of humor. David took time to meet students and in the classic ICMA tradition, made time to socialize and share stories of the profession.
From that point on, I believe everyone in our class felt comfortable with David. He demonstrated to us that he was “just a regular guy,” not a “city manager giant,” and built a foundation to begin his mentorship with us.
“David was a great supporter of the University of Kansas Internship Program. As an intern in Lenexa, David always made an effort to welcome my participation at different levels of the organization. Most importantly, he never micromanaged and allowed me the opportunity to learn. As an impressionable newbie to local government, I appreciated his ability to talk government, family and sports; he valued connecting with people and that made him a great leader,” Maria Ojeda.
Throughout his career, David shared his dedication to the local government profession and his commitment to developing future generations of leaders. He spent his time with us to not only serve as a mentor for decades of local government students; but, he also spent his time to get to know others. He was a true role model to so many.
Mentoring can be time consuming and complex such as a long-term formal mentoring partnership or an internship program at your city. It can also be simple like meeting with new entries into the profession over lunch or inviting local students to your community for a tour of city services. Consider honoring David’s career by taking the time to focus on mentorship and improve the future of our profession.
Winston Churchill has been credited with saying, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” David gave a great amount of himself to the future of city management.
Executive Search Manager, Katie Corder
& Assistant to the City Manager of Pleasanton, CA, Maria Ojeda
Do you need to have all the boxes checked in order to promote?
The answer is easy, no, you do not.
Last month, I wrapped up my Master of Public Administration degree and in my studies I approached the topic of diversity in local government, and more specifically, how to inspire women to take on leadership positions in government. What I found out was interesting…
You may already be aware that women comprise over half of the United States population, but what you may not know is that, according to ICMA, “by 2006, women earned 59 percent of MPA degrees while the proportion of men had declined to just more than 40 percent.” So if women make up more than half of the population and are earning more MPA degrees than men, why isn’t local, or federal government for that matter, representative of this part of the population in leadership positions?
After researching this topic to death, and spending multiple all-nighters chugging coffee, I finally found a reason that made sense. It’s not that women don’t want to take on leadership positions in government, it’s that they believe that before they can promote they must have all the boxes checked. This differs with men, who tend to apply for a position when they have a little over half of the boxes checked. I know, it may sound silly, but I can definitely relate to this. I have stopped myself from applying for many jobs because, after reading the job description, I thought that I didn’t meet all of the standards that the position was asking for. But the thing is, you don’t have to meet all of the standards, you just have to be willing to learn.
I have read this over and over, and believe wholeheartedly, that government leadership should be representative of the people with whom they serve. It is because of this that I think that government’s should be taking the necessary steps to achieve diversity and to encourage the growth and development of ALL staff members. Now, whether you achieve this through the establishment of a mentor program (inside or outside your organization), coaching, or by encouraging your employees to pursue further education or training, is up to you, but sometimes it helps to give your employees a little push and remind them that you are an advocate for their career development. Who knows, that little push could lead your employees on the path to the next presidency.
What are your thoughts?