If a similar thought has not gone through your mind lately, then clearly, you have been sleeping through the evening news. There is not a week that goes by that some new video surfaces where someone is claiming police mistreated them. And clearly some were. But is this something new that has happened, some new change in police procedure or are our police departments just hiring a bunch of brutal racists?
You may now think “I’ve always supported law enforcement, I’ve always respected police officers, but now I am not so sure…” Historically, the police of the last century were used as a means of oppression for minority groups. It has been a long process of change since the 1960s for both the police and our country. Because of this past, and in some cases more recent events like Rodney King and now Michael Brown, support for law enforcement is not always prevalent in all communities.
I have spent my life as a police officer and worked at all levels within police agencies, including as a Chief of Police. And even Police Chiefs are shocked at some of the incidents that have occurred. So why is this happening? We are now in a media age where every person has the ability to instantly publish video of an incident to the entire world. And since the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, the news media is alert and anxious to publish any inappropriate police action.
Police Officers have an awesome responsibility. They can legally stop you, take away your freedom (arrest) and even use force, up to and including deadly force in some circumstances. So how do Police Departments make sure their officers do the right thing? They basically use four methods. First they hire the best people they can find. They train them to the best of their ability. Then they supervise them. And since most officers work alone, the ability of a Sergeant to watch their every move is limited, so most supervision is done through policy. In other words, the department writes policy on how situations should be handled. If an officer violates policy, they use a disciplinary system to modify behavior or remove the officer.
So, why is this happening now? Well, we are now getting better video proof, but the truth is, it has been happening much longer. The Justice Department has conducted over 20 investigations over the last 20 years, into Police Departments that use excessive force. It is my belief that we, Police Chiefs and City Governments, have failed our Police Officers and our communities. We have failed to see these issues and improve our policies and training. We have failed to properly supervise our officers and hold them accountable for their actions. And we have failed to engage all segments of our community in an open dialog to bring understanding. Some chiefs and some cities have done a much better job of this than others, and we need to learn from each other.
I have assisted SGR in the development of a new seminar called The Future of Policing for City Managers and Police Chiefs to discuss these issues and develop specific plans for their community and department. We certainly don’t have all the answers, but together, we can examine our operations, our policies, and our training; and learn new ways to engage our communities.
The men and women that I know in law enforcement are certainly not brutal racists. They literally put their lives on the line every day. But they are human beings and are subject to the same human emotions and frailties as the next person, and they do make mistakes – even with all the training they have had. They deserve better from us and so do our communities. They deserve our very best efforts.
Senior Vice President, Executive Search
As part of my MBA program at Texas Tech (Wreck ‘em), I am taking a Business Analytics course. Recently, we did an exercise in class where we had to rank how certain we were about answers to random trivia questions (80% sure the answer is A, etc.). It looked like this…
Answer: A or B
Confidence in your answer: 50-100%
(Obviously, if it is less than 50% you would choose the other answer.)
After we completed the questionnaire, the instructor called out the correct answers and we tallied the results to show which we answered correctly/incorrectly and how accurate we were when we guessed our confidence level in our answer. Some of you may already realize this… but we were ALL over-confident. Everyone in the entire room, law school graduates, CPA’s, CEO’s, future CEO’s, and one Managing Director of Development and Collaboration were all more positive that we knew the correct answer than we really did. (I think my statistic was something like when I say I am 70% sure, I am only correct 30% of the time. Scary right??)
Fortunately, for this defeated group of students, this was exactly the point the instructor was trying to prove. We rely on gut instinct and intuition, and we are wrong… A LOT. Then, once the facts do show that we are indeed incorrect, we actually rationalize our error (typically using extenuating circumstances beyond our control). We say things like, “that would have been successful, but we ended up having to switch gears to focus on something else” or “it really was a great idea, but the customer base ended up needing something else…” or “nobody could have predicted that downturn in the economy.” Next, we repeat this situation, time and time again.
So, how do we overcome this over-confidence? Well, the answer is really not that black and white. We can make use of metrics, data, and algorithms, but we have to be careful. As Mark Twain once said, there are “lies, damned lies, and statistics” but, numbers can be powerful and algorithms are more accurate than our gut feeling (seriously, it is true, read this). When you track data over a period of time, find trends, form algorithms and analyze, you are able to look at results in a more unemotional state that lets you make truly informed decisions without your own preconceived notions, desires and bias weighing in. This type of decision-making can also lead to greater efficiency organization wide, because instead of multiple people using debate and brainstorming (or worse, group think), you can implement tools and processes for making quick and accurate decisions.
That said the POWER of over-confidence is actually very beneficial to an organization. Yes, you heard that correctly! When looking back over the course of history, we see inventions and innovations like the first car, first flight, and medical advancements. It is clear that without some creative humans setting lofty goals, brainstorming, and trying again, and again, and again (despite the overwhelming statistics showing they would fail), we would not have progressed as a society like we have. Innovation is the key when starting new initiatives and staying on the leading edge (being in the 16%). Especially in local government, it would be detrimental to eliminate or even stifle the creativity that over-confidence brings to the organization. Sometimes success is not about what would be supported through numbers and data, because only a human can make a JUDGMENT call.
All of this is to say, while we all think we are more correct than we really are, it is important to acknowledge and understand and use it to our advantage. Leaders in local government face an even more unique challenge, because while most are driven to serve the public and create a learning organization, they are also focused on streamlining operations and overall efficiency. As leaders, we must find the right balance to utilize the over-confidence to spur innovation, while being aware of the impact over-confidence has on accurate decision-making.
My boss, Ron Holifield, often says, “I would rather try ten things and only succeed at five than to try three things and succeed 100% of the time.” This is a truly innovative approach and has allowed the entire company to take risks and think outside the box.
So, what are you doing in your organization to overcome over-confidence? Are you using it to spur innovation?
Managing Director of Development and Collaboration
Good question. Let’s start with a very brief definition of Employee Assessments. Employee Assessments are products that evaluate employee behavior, typically by asking respondents to answer questions about how they perceive themselves at work. There are several very effective products available on the market today, both in paper and online formats.
Now…why bother? Can’t we just assign employees the work and expect them to get it done? Sure, you could try that. Another idea is to discover more about the behavior styles of your individual employees, and maximize the positive behavior traits of each individual employee.
For example, say you have an employee named Sally. Sally works in your finance department. Say that Sally exemplifies the classic introverted personality style. Sally appears painfully shy, is often soft-spoken, and prefers to work solo rather than in a team environment. She is a number cruncher, a paperwork guru, and a powerhouse auditor.
Now, let’s pretend the City Council has requested an oral presentation of the recently completed fiscal audit. Did I also mention that City Council meetings are televised and broadcast over and over again on the City TV channel! Would Sally be your first choice in conducting that presentation?
I’d guess not.
Sure, Sally knows the material inside and out, she was involved in every aspect of the audit and knows the findings, but is that the only consideration in deciding who should present the findings? Would Sally even WANT to do that presentation? Would she freeze like a deer in the headlights in front of the dais? Would she embarrass herself? The department? How would the Council Members perceive the audit itself if the presenter of the material isn’t able to clearly and concisely articulate the findings? Can’t you see Sally up there, stammering and red-faced, uncomfortable and sweating under the lights and the cameras? Not a good look.
Another idea would be to capitalize on Sally’s expertise more effectively by having her prepare the presentation to the Council. She could write the talking points. She could prepare handouts and documentation to support the findings. She could also spend time discussing the audit report with the selected presenter beforehand so that the presenter is fully versed in the material. Sally could play a vital role in the presentation while being behind the scenes.
Spending time to learn about your employees and their behavior styles gives you the opportunity to learn what their comfort zones are. It allows the employees to learn more about themselves, more about their co-workers, more about how they interact with each other. Assessing employee behavior also provides a common language for all employees to speak, teaches respectful ways to communicate with each other. Assessing employee behavior styles also gives leaders a clear understanding of how they can better plan work assignments.
Assessing employee behavior can lead to increased employee retention, improved relationships, and an overall more successful work group. All of these things open up the lines of communication between you and each of your employees and that’s ALWAYS a good thing!
Participants of the upcoming Parks and Recreation Leadership Summit in Albuquerque, New Mexico, can learn more about Assessments during my session “Understanding Personality Styles”. Now…who’s ready to go on camera?
Member Collaboration Manager, Central & SE Texas Region
The wind that famously sweeps down the plain can quickly become a violent vortex leveling everything in its path … homes, schools, entire communities. Oklahoma local government leaders are experts on storm recovery.
A couple of years ago when I was the Executive Director for the City Management Association of Oklahoma, I wanted to host an informational panel discussion at one of our quarterly meetings and invite managers who had been through the worst of the storms to participate. Other conferences focused on the administrative or technical aspects of storm recovery. I wanted to hear about the leadership skills that these managers drew on to restore the confidence of their community and heal its spirit after such devastation.
Our panel included managers who had been through severe weather events that left death and extreme destruction in their wake. This experienced panel had walked through the fire and some of their shoes were still charred when we met.
First we asked how they dealt with their own stress. One manager shared that he couldn’t always turn to his normal support system because his spouse and family were also experiencing the shock of what happened to the community. He received encouragement and support from the members of his Sunday school class. A young manager admitted that he would do some things differently – he worked too many hours, forgot to eat at times, and used alcohol for stress relief. He was honest in sharing that the ways he dealt with the tremendous pressures were not always healthy for him or his family.
We asked which leadership skill was most critical to them in the hours and days after the devastating destruction. Every manager on the panel agreed on the one leadership skill that helped him best serve his suffering city.
When I was attending college, one of my part-time jobs was working at a day care. (Stay with me, I promise this is relevant.) One afternoon while I was working, a little boy fell and hit his face. When I lifted him up, his lip was bleeding and I panicked. I grabbed him and ran through the day care calling for the manager. She calmly set him on a counter and asked to see his lip. Then she told him that it looked like the kind of injury that could be helped by a Popsicle. He stopped crying, took the cold treat, and went back to play. Then the day care manager said something I have never forgotten, “Claudia, they are looking to us to see how serious the situation is. When we stay calm, it helps them be confident that things are under control.”
Even in such critical circumstances, the same leadership skill helped these local government leaders reassure their battered communities. They shared that they always spoke calmly, and with confidence in their staff and their community. Every time they were asked to speak at a press conference, in an interview, in an internal or external meeting, they assured their hurting communities that they would recover.
Did they always “feel” calm? Were they always confident of the future? They admitted there were times they were frustrated, weary and overwhelmed. But they also instinctively knew one key leadership principle would have a positive and healing impact at the point of their city’s greatest need – when leaders express confidence, they instill it in others.
In every instance, the communities represented by these managers pulled together, rebuilt and recovered. Their cities are proof of the principle.
Executive Search Manager
Photo by Mike Mezeul II Photography
Peter Burchard is a multi-sector consultant, university instructor, and author. He has served as a city manager, health care executive, and as a board member for numerous organizations. He was the city manager of Naperville, Illinois and village manager of Hoffman Estates, Illinois. He served as the chief operating officer for inVentiv Medical Management in Augusta, GA. He serves on the board for the NIU Alumni Association and GreenFields-Mill Creek, a continuing care residence. Previously, Peter served on the boards of Hoffman Estates Medical Center, the Suburban Law Enforcement Association, and the Alliance for Innovation. He received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Northern Illinois University. Reach Peter at: peterburchard.com.
Is your future filled with goals or goats?
Think about your professional development goals.
Think about your current work goals.
Are your goals more like goats?
Here’s the difference:
If it’s a GOAL, you think:
- Future Focused
- Desired Change
If it’s a GOAT you think:
- Stares Back
- Doesn’t do much
Look at your goals for work and your own professional development. Now ask yourself: “Three months from now, how will my work place be better? How will I have grown?”
If you don’t have any goals it could be because you’ve experienced too many goats.
Real goals – deep goals – solve real problems and create the work place you and others want. Goat-type goals are forgettable and just stare back because we know the goal dances around real problems. Goats like to chew on things – just like people do – as if there is no greater purpose.
Real goals create real change. Goats tend to do nothing that actually matters.
Goats play mind games and create the illusion of progress. Sadly, goat-type goals may be what we like – unconsciously protecting the status quo.
A Plan for Creating Goals and Not Goats:
Setting goals can be a waste of time when the effort doesn’t bring the real problems to the surface. (Read Good Strategy – Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt.)
Personal goals may, perhaps inadvertently, just secure our present comfortableness. Real goals need to propel us forward – solving key problems and creating the future we want.
Want goals and not goats? Try this:
- Embrace Uncomfortableness: Look at your goals. If your goals make you feel comfortable then your goals are goats. James Collins writes about the curse of the comfortable work place. Create goals that create uncomfortableness.
- Surface Real problems: People have problems. The work place has many problems too. How do some of your goals speak to real problems? If none of your goals surface problems, they are goats. Our desire to be positive is also a curse when it protects the status quo and prevents an honest assessment of problems (Read Good Communication That Blocks Learning by Chris Argyris).
- Be Big! Really big!: When accomplished, what will your goals create? As Rumelt notes, people notice real strategy and goals. You and others will be excited because as a team you are 1) tackling real problems and 2) creating a better future.
- Seek Deep Personal Growth: When it comes to skills, how am I too much as I was just one year ago? Am I too satisfied with me? As an old saying goes, do I have twenty years of experience or one year repeated twenty times? To what degree am I more relevant today compared to last year? Can I prove my escalating relevance?
- See More Clearly: Test your vision – test your insight. What can you see about yourself, about your team and about your environment that you couldn’t see last year? Here is a difficult question to ask one’s self: “To what extent do I only see what reinforces the world I’ve created – the one I want to see?”
Your journey from goats to goals is packed with personal potential and organizational possibility. Let your personal resourcefulness blossom.
“Passion and Reality at Work”
Over the past 3 months, I’ve written numerous posts on employee engagement, and like me, you may be wondering: What else is possibly left to discuss? While the answer is “a great deal,” I’d like to wrap up our look into Gallup data on employee engagement with one final viewpoint: Generations.
If you were to visit one of my classrooms where the topics were coaching or managing employee performance over the past few years, you’d have thought the Millennial generation was going to be our undoing. Now, I don’t tolerate bashing of any generation, but we tend to encourage discussion and discovery about the youngest generation in our workplace because they’re the least known and most feared (and there are so many of them!). If you’re reading this Millennials, please hear me! Your slightly older and certainly wiser counterparts don’t necessarily dislike you, but they may fear you a little. Or a lot. And if my observations are correct, some are even envious. But you’re not off the hook! Many of you Millennials have a lot to learn from those of us who have been in the workforce a lot longer than you…and we have a lot to learn from you, too!
Back to the engagement topic, though. Gallup, has defined for us what an actively engaged employee is, “those who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work and workplace.” Not engaged employees are those who are emotionally checked out. They go through the motions, but their connection to the organization is faint. Actively disengaged employees are more than just “unhappy” at work. These employees undermine the organization and those around them.
The majority of Americans are not engaged (51%) or actively disengaged (17.5%), and thankfully, actively engaged (31.5%) figures remain steadily on the rise in recent years! But I’m interested to see which generation is the least engaged and which is most. Based on what I’ve heard in the classroom and seen play out in organizations I work closely with, it could be reasonably assumed that Millennials are the least engaged of all. They’re the least loyal, the most aloof, the most “just on their phones,” the ones who are “all about me.” According to older Gallup figures from 2013, that assumption is completely untrue.
Traditionalists have the highest engagement – but they make up less than 4% of the workforce today. The Millennials have a spread very similar to the national average, higher on the positive side! It’s the Boomers and Generation Xers who are less engaged. Not only are we less engaged, we’re the MOST actively disengaged. Boomers, you’re the ones we should be concerned about engaging. Maybe you’re the ones we need to harness – better. The key to engaging Boomers and Xers is to align their work and help them feel connected to the organization’s mission and values.
Interestingly, engagement is typically synonymous with retention. But with Millennials, this is less and less true. From a 2013 Gallup report,
“Despite their higher engagement levels, they are particularly prone to job hopping. Millennials are the most likely of all generations to say they will leave their company in the next 12 months if the job market improves. To increase retention among Millennials, [organizations] need to emphasize engagement and provide plenty of opportunities to learn and grow. While nearly half of actively disengaged Millennials want to find new jobs, only 17% of engaged ones do.”
While I think that the numbers are interesting, I honestly don’t think that there’s enough substance in them or what else I’ve found about generational engagement to substantiate a truly different approach to engaging people, regardless of which generation they were born into. In addition to the 4 Essentials of Engagement for Managers, provide folks development opportunities and help them connect to the big picture of your organization. To me, we all need these things, no matter how young or old-ahem-tenured we are.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t get enough of this Gallup report, State of the American Manager! It’s almost like, “Managing Employees For Dummies.” Well, that’s not entirely true – BUT – there are a few simple things that Gallup found that engaged employees said consistently of their managers. Gallup also tells us that 50% of adults have left a job to get away from their manager at some point in their career. The study says this, and I couldn’t say it better, “Having a bad manager is often a one-two punch: Employees feel miserable while at work, and that misery follows them home, compounding their stress and putting their well-being in peril.” I hope you personally haven’t had this experience, but chances are, half of you reading this have, and chances are, 50% of the employees in your organization feel or have felt this way. I’d like to help you understand how to avoid being the reason someone leaves you – not their job.
Step 1: Address Your Employees’ Strengths (not weaknesses)
Some factoids from the report:
- Employees who receive strengths feedback have 15% lower turnover rates than employees who do not receive feedback.
- People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job.
- Employees who learn to use their strengths are 7.8% more productive.
- Teams that focus on strengths every day have 12.5% greater productivity.
Many organizations operate under the idea that a manager’s job is to identify what’s wrong with an employee and “fix them.” But Gallup has found that there is infinite potential in developing what is right with people versus fixing what is innately “wrong” with them.
High performing managers focus on strengths by leveraging and developing areas of strengths. A large amount of limited and functioning talent managers said that they emphasized a balance of strengths and weaknesses, while more limited talent managers focused on weaknesses alone. I understand that the Gallup terms may have jumbled this message, so let me be clear: managers with high talent and engaged, high performing employees focus on strengths, and strengths alone.
Step 2: Consistently Communicate
You’ve probably heard that communication must be regular and frequent from every management and leadership course you’ve ever taken. This report shows that the frequency of communication is not the key, nor the mode, but the consistency. Specifically, employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers do not hold regular meetings with them. Those managers who maintain daily contact using a combination of communication modes (in person, phone, email, text) have the highest engaged employees, but engagement rests largely on consistency alone. Consider this: if you have a meeting scheduled every Tuesday at 2:00 with your boss, and it is cancelled 25% of the time, or even 50%, what does that say to you? Or you’re told by your boss that they’ll call you (perhaps at your request, to discuss a specific project), and that call doesn’t occur – how do those irregularities affect your assessment of how your boss values you? I’m sure that your boss – and you – can justify the times that another call or another meeting took precedence over a standing meeting. But the effect of having regular meetings far outweighs the cancellation of them. Unless you like losing your top talent.
Step 3: Don an Authentic and Approachable Attitude
I’m a huge fan of authenticity. I like being myself. I like surrounding myself with people who aren’t fake. I delight in getting to know people (I know, my extroversion is showing…) I believe that real relationships can only occur when you’re your true self. Even at work, even when you’re the boss. I’m not saying that you have to share everything with your employees, but be a human! Share bits of your life with them, and encourage them to do the same. What are their hobbies, outside of work? If they have a family, ask about them periodically! You might find that you – gasp – actually like your employees! There’s a different level of trust developed when you’re real with people, and the Gallup study shows a correlation between people who answered that they felt that they could safely talk with their boss about non-work matters and those who answered that they felt they could ask their boss anything. Wouldn’t you rather your employees come to you with the questions they have, regardless of what the topic is? Rumor control, change management, quality control, priority of work, so many questions either aren’t asked or are asked of other people, but they could be asked of you. Be real with your people. You all deserve it.
Step 4: Proactively Provide Performance Coaching
For the most part, we have managing employee performance all wrong. There are a few organizations across the country, a handful of cities in Texas, starting to get things right. But even in well-designed performance management systems, individual managers can still mess things up. Employees whose managers help them set work priorities and goals are more actively engaged (though only 12% report their managers do), and employees whose managers don’t set these are most likely actively disengaged. The basics of performance coaching include clarity of expectations, understanding the employee’s role and how that fits into and aligns with the team and the larger organization, and frequent updates about priorities and progress (not just when HR requires a tool to be completed). So, regardless of what your organization mandated performance management system is, give your employees more. Have consistent, authentic coaching conversations about your employee’s strengths. It’s really that simple.
As we began looking at last week, according to Gallup’s State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders report, there are 5 characteristics of a great manager:
Great managers possess a rare combination of five talents. They motivate their employees, assert themselves to overcome obstacles, create a culture of accountability, build trusting relationships and make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and company.” Gallup’s definition of a manager is “someone who is responsible for leading a team toward common objectives.
Statistically – and logically – engaged managers have more engaged employees. If you’ll recall from a previous blog on employee engagement, ultimately, female Baby Boomer managers with high school diplomas who live in Montana, in their first six months of work have the highest engagement in America! Furthermore, female employees working for female managers have the highest overall engagement (35%), while male employees who work for male managers have the lowest engagement (25%). Again, women are more engaged at work, and women are more engaged when they work for women!
Now, this is not a post about feminism or leaning in or girl power, but we do have to ask ourselves: if we desire employee engagement, which we all do, for many reasons, and it is proven that women managers cause greater engagement, why is there only 13% of women in top leadership roles in local government, the same percentage for 30 years!? Yes, you heard that correctly. The same percentage – 13 percent – of females in top local government leadership roles has not changed in 30 years.
We have an opportunity here. I’m not suggesting “reverse discrimination” by saying we should select more females than males just to change this number. According to the report that claims the 13 percent issue, there are larger pools of female talent in mid-level management positions to develop and select from (yet still far fewer than males). So I implore you to take a look at your applicant pool better the next time you’re hiring or promoting a manager. Are we passing by a great opportunity to blow the roof off our organizations’ engagement by passing by females for leadership roles? If so, why? Is there a cultural bias toward having males as managers? Perhaps. Is there some other reason that we don’t see more women step up and not even get considered for the top leadership roles? Why are women less prevalent in leadership if they are statistically more effective?
The issue was recently brought to light by an article in ICMA’s PM Magazine and is being explored in an ongoing series of blogs by the Emerging Local Government Leaders network in their #13percent initiative, which looks at how we can actually cause change in the unfortunate low percentages. Remember, women managers have greater engagement, so having fewer of them won’t fix the engagement problem.
I’ve had the benefit of working for four incredible female managers so far in my local government career. I’ve worked for more managers, but these four women were all exactly what I needed them to be so that I could grow, learn, and thrive in my position and career. These four did not hold the top positions in our organizations, but they could very well have. They motivated me, they built trusting and authentic relationships with me, they lived according to their own expectations and held our team accountable, and they were bold and guided our team through adversity, to success. Cindy, Kelly, Debi, and Krisa – thank you.
Employee engagement has an incredible impact on your organization – it can look like great customer service, high performing employee retention, a trust-filled environment, efficiencies and innovations at every turn, or it can be the complete opposite of those things. According to a Gallup study, managers account for 70% of variance in employee engagement! Likely, if you’ve been following my blog series on employee engagement, you’ve thought about your employees, what they can do, and maybe what they should do. But now, I want you to take a look at yourself, managers and supervisors. And even more so, those of you at the highest level in the organization. We need to look at who we choose to be our managers. This is the tipping point in employee engagement.
In one of our live class presentations, I found a list detailing what an ideal boss/manager/leader is. An ideal boss is pleasant, approachable, understanding, caring, serves as an adviser and supporter, is flexible and open-minded, respects, values and appreciates employees, and has good management skills. If you’re like me, this resonates with you! Who wouldn’t want this? We all deserve to be valued, supported, and even cared for. In my experience, employees thrive in this type of environment! Now, it has to be balanced with boundaries and some structure. So I’ll pair this with more from Gallup. According to Gallup, a manager with better employee engagement beneath them is able to individualize, focus on each person’s needs and strengths, boldly review his or her team members on a regular (daily) basis, rally people around a cause, align team members with the organization’s mission, and execute efficient processes.
But here’s the kicker. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup, shares a scary fact, “Authentic management talent is rare. Gallup’s research shows that just one in 10 have the natural, God-given talent to manage a team of people. They know how to motivate every individual on their team, boldly review performance, build relationships, overcome adversity and make decisions based on productivity — not politics. A manager with little talent for the job will deal with workplace problems through manipulation and unhelpful office politics. Gallup’s research has also found that another two in 10 people have some characteristics of functioning managerial talent and can perform at a high level if their company coaches and supports them.”
What I get from that is, we have 30% of our leadership who has or can have what it takes to be a great manager. I’m not – and Gallup isn’t – saying that the remaining 70% aren’t great people or great employees. But just because they were an expert in their field, does that mean we should make them a manager? As Ron Holifield says (loosely), and this is just one example, “Why do we make our top Engineers our Public Works Directors and expect them to be great people managers? They should stay Chief Line Drawers. That is what they’re great at.” So what are we to do? Who are we to recruit, assess, and develop? First, we need to understand what a good manager is.
According to Gallup’s State of the American Manager: Analytics and Advice for Leaders report, there are 5 characteristics of a great manager, “Great managers possess a rare combination of five talents. They motivate their employees, assert themselves to overcome obstacles, create a culture of accountability, build trusting relationships, and make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and company.”
We’ll continue to delve into this report in the coming weeks and see what makes a great manager. In the meantime, check yourself. Do an informal self-assessment or even ask your subordinates! How do you measure up to the characteristics mentioned above? Do you have the balance of providing both care and boundaries? Are you skilled at managing both people and processes? And remember, employee engagement hinges on you! No pressure…
Rather than join a band of managers saying, “We’re not worthy!” of ensuring employee engagement in your organization, let’s take a look at a list of ten common ways to destroy any engagement that your previous hard work may have earned. This is where you say, “No way!” and I say, “Way!”
- Lack of engaging leadership and management
Ghandi’s famous paraphrased quote might inspire you here, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” In other words, lead by example. If you desire an engaged workforce, you yourself must also be engaged. What does an engaged leader look like? Stay tuned until next week.
This killer needs very little explanation. Micromanagement involves a lack of trust and confidence, not in your employees, but in yourself. If you cannot assign work and let. it. go. then you should look within yourself to see why that is. If you have developed and equipped your employees, why should you need to step in, other than to provide support? Are you mental?
- Constantly changing teams and structures within the organization
At SGR, we believe that change is a norm, and it is something we embrace. As the 16%, we feel comfortable with change. However, in a typical organization, constant change can signify a lack of stability and a lack of clear mission or vision. However, if your change is purposeful or strategic, and you communicate that to your employees (like we do at SGR), then engagement may not suffer.
- Lack of clear mission, vision and values
Do you know your organization’s mission, vision, and values? Do your employees? Is it understandable? Are they realistic or livable? If your answer to any of these is no, you’re likely well on your way to creating an environment where engagement cannot thrive.
- Lack of clear job roles
Your employees need to know what is expected of them. Furthermore, creating clear boundaries and roles allows for your employees to operate freely within a framework. Want more creativity in your employees? You don’t need titles – but you do need for each employee to have an understanding of what they are expected to accomplish, individually. And then given the freedom to pursue – and exceed it.
- After feedback is requested or given, no follow-up is provided
If you have ever issued an employee or citizen survey and not followed up on it, I’m talking to you. If you have ever called a public forum or employee meeting to provide information only from the top down to create “buy-in” (though you led folks to believe they’d have a chance for feedback or questions), this is for you. If you have ever coached your employees during a performance management session and not followed up to ensure that you or they have done their part, hear me now. Feedback – it’s a gift! It truly is. An excellent way to kill engagement is to not listen or to create the perception that you haven’t listened. Another excellent killer: giving the impression that you don’t care enough to follow up or provide feedback in the first place.
- Lack of transparency or trust
This employee engagement – and relationship – killer is something I see happen at all levels of organizations. In the field, when foreman and supervisors attempt to build comradery with their crews by saying, “I’m with you, but City Hall just won’t listen.” Across department lines, when gossip fills the void of unanswered questions. When employees see their managers or co-workers doing less, without repercussion. Within departments, when managers hoard information as a form of mistaken power. Or when an issue with another employee is addressed, and nothing is done to solve the problem. At the top level, after something in the press calls a leader’s ethics into question. These are just a few ways a lack of transparency or trust manifests itself. And it breeds greater and uglier distrust. Pshaw, right!
- High turnover
While high turnover may be a symptom of poor employee engagement, it could also be a further killer. The instability of a team during transition or after losing members can have ripple effects on both productivity and customer service. What I see happen all too often in local government is that we ask our high performers to pick up the slack when we’ve lost employees, rarely providing more back than a 5% temporary pay increase or “interim” title, if they’re lucky. Want a guaranteed way to drive away your top folks? Pick a couple of these killers and then ask them to do more for an indefinite time period while you attempt to hire a replacement. And then make sure to not thank them. NOT!
- Lack of investment in your employees
Not developing your employees is a sure way to prove to them that they aren’t worth your time, money, or effort. I am not saying that you have to spend large amounts of money to develop your employees – or time for that matter! You can simply provide regular communication and coaching, set up mentoring opportunities, and take advantage of on-the-job training, as well as live and online training opportunities already provided by your organization.
- Organization’s perception that employee engagement is an HR issue (rather than an organization-wide issue)
Managers, if you believe that employee engagement is just some buzz word that HR uses and that HR is the only entity that creates initiatives for it, you’re missing out on the most effective way to build employee engagement. It begins with you. Your dedication to relational leadership is where it all begins.
Avoiding these ten killers won’t guarantee you excellent employee engagement, but it should keep you ready for your Extreme Close Up! (sorry, couldn’t help myself)