Tag Archives: leadership

New Year’s Resolutions for Elected Officials Who Want to Leave a Legacy That Matters

Worker carrying suitcase on the road with numbers 2016

In electing me to office, my fellow citizens have entrusted me with the sacred duty of shaping the future of our community. Because I am committed to creating a future that is brighter and healthier and more beneficial to all citizens than when I was called to lead, I will:

  1. Base my decisions on the next generation more than the next election, committed to the ideal that my loyalty must be to the entire community (both now and in the future) and not merely to those who got me elected.
  2. Focus on mission, vision and values as the benchmark for my decisions and recognize that my responsibility is the pursuit of the greatest good for the entire community and not the satisfaction of any particular group’s agenda.
  3. Make decisions based on fact based evidence and not allow myself to be manipulated into bad decisions for the future based on the decibel level of critics.
  4. Recognize that “it takes a smart man to know where he is stupid” and have the wisdom to be smart.   Accordingly, I will value those who have the courage to tell me what they really think and will listen sincerely to those who disagree with me to truly understand their perspective, recognizing that understanding other perspectives makes me a better leader.
  5. Embrace my responsibility to govern rather than to manage; recognizing that if I am doing staff’s job I am not doing my job, while also understanding and embracing the appropriately exercised governance role of holding staff accountable.
  6. Place a greater emphasis on solutions than on problems; while refusing to offer solutions before I understand the problem.
  7. Understand that mutual trust is the foundation for everything and that if I refuse to trust others they will be unable to trust me.
  8. Protect the integrity of the process more than the rightness of my position; I will fight hard for my issue but then unify behind the governing body when the decision is made because the decision was made with integrity of process, even if I disagree with the outcome.
  9. Understand that my deeply held beliefs, values and positions will be strengthened, not compromised by courteous, respectful and civil discourse. I will not treat someone as the enemy just because we disagree.
  10. Treat everyone with dignity and respect because of who I am as a leader… not because of how they treat me or what I think about them.
  11. Be a role model for civility. I will not treat my colleagues or staff in any way that I would be embarrassed if my five year old child treated someone the same way.


Written by:
Ron Holifield
CEO, Strategic Government Resources


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Your Mission: Hire Veterans

Soldier salute. Silhouette on sunset sky. War, army, military, guard concept.

A few months ago I was on the hunt for a job, a task that I’m sure many of you are familiar with. It’s not easy. After a few months of searching you begin to wonder if there is something on your resume that is glaring up at companies and holding them back from hiring you…and you ask yourself, what could be the problem?

I am a Navy Reservist, so for a while I thought that my reserve status was holding companies back from hiring me. Maybe they had seen a military movie and thought I’d be screaming my head off at employees like a drill sergeant or maybe they immediately associate a service member with deployment. But then I thought to myself, that’s ridiculous. Why wouldn’t they want to hire me? Sure, there is a chance that I could deploy. But if I am put on orders for deployment, I would be enhancing my skills in a professional field, a field that they would be hiring me in.

It made me question whether or not employers see the value in hiring and employing service members. So, I put together a list of five attributes that a service member brings to your organization:

1) Leadership skills

Service members are bred to become leaders. We are instilled to accept responsibility for getting things done,  manage cross-functional team communication and promote a culture of hard work by setting the example.

2) Work well under pressure

Military training assists members to flourish when working under pressure. A key trait necessary for working in high-stress career fields in the civilian world.

3) Attention to detail

If you miss one tiny detail during a mission, you are putting lives at risk. The military workplace puts service members into scenarios where they are challenged to pay attention to every detail. Making a conscious effort to understand causes instead of just the effects translates well into the corporate world, because details that fall through the cracks can cost a company time and money.

4) Teamwork

We work in teams. That’s just what we do. Never leave a man behind. Veterans instill a sense of team pride and cohesiveness. Teamwork builds trust and trust builds speed. Working together, we are able to achieve organizational goals and success faster.

5) Great work ethic

Military members have an incredible work ethic, and make personal sacrifices to accomplish the mission. We don’t let the team down. We get our jobs done, and we do it well, regardless of the organizational demands.

While there are other traits that could be mentioned, this short list is great to keep in mind when hiring and employing a Veteran because they all have the potential to promote a culture of teamwork and growth.

So now I ask you, what benefits has your organization seen in hiring veterans and service members? Let us know your feedback.

For more information about employers who have benefited from hiring veterans or if you are a veteran seeking employment go to the ESGR website.


Written by:

Michelle Pelissero
Communications Coordinator

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Saving Yourself from Scandal

Like many American’s I am pretty much obsessed with the confident television phenomenon that is Scandal’s Olivia Pope. As a communication’s professional, it’s hard for me to not want to be her. She’s confident, she’s smart, and she’s basically everything that you would want in a crisis management professional. So instead of ranting about how great the show is, I’ve opted for informing you on some of the things that I’ve learned from Scandal that directly translate to real-life communications situations.

  1. Never Tell a Lie

DonotLieThis is probably the most important one, especially for government employees. In government as well as the business world, it is vital that you maintain transparency with your public. The days where “no comment” would suffice are no longer here. “No comment” has warped from a way to avoid responding to a topic to a term that evokes wrongdoing and gives your public the impression that you are hiding something. So, don’t ever use that. Instead, stick with the truth. Don’t make anything up, don’t stretch the truth, simply state the facts that you do know. And if you don’t know how to answer a question, it’s perfectly OK to respond to someone by telling them that you will get back to them. But, let me emphasize that you MUST get back to them. You can’t leave them hanging.

  1. Always Have A Backup Plan

Another important thing that Olivia Pope does is that she develops multiple plans. It is vital for organizations to formulate crisis plans so that they are prepared to respond to just about any scenario that they may come across. If your organization does not already have a crisis plan in place, say something. Lead your organization in the development of a plan, the creation of a crisis team, and acquire or reach out to obtain the necessary resources that are necessary in  implementing something of this magnitude. It is far easier to respond to a crisis when there are already steps outlined on how to respond. If you have no plan in place, you are relying on your reactions and emotions to formulate a plan at the last-minute, and this has the potential to add to the crisis rather than help to solve it.

  1. Confidence is Key

I feel like that phrase is strong enough to use on its own, however I will elaborate a bit so you see where I’m coming from. In a crisishandled scenario it is vital that you choose a confident spokesperson to respond to the community about what is not only happening, but also what is being done to solve the problem at hand. The spokesperson needs to not only believe what they are saying, but they need to be empathetic with their audience, letting them know that the situation is being handled and that there is nothing to worry about. Sometimes all it takes is a little confidence to reassure the public that they are in good hands. There’s nothing worse than having an unconfident spokesperson, as their lack in confidence in themselves translates to the community as untrustworthy and creates panic and worry in a crisis scenario. Both things that you do not want proliferate.

  1. No One Is Perfect

Always remember, no one is perfect. Not even Olivia Pope or Mary Poppins (who was only practically perfect). We all have our faults and we all make bad decisions every once in a while. It’s how you respond to these bad choices that makes you a good leader. tweet-graphic-trans

  1. Be a Gladiator

Finally, this is my favorite take-away from Scandal, “be a gladiator.” Get out there and be a leader. If you see something wrong within your organization or if you have an idea on how to improve something, be a gladiator and take the necessary steps to lead your organization down the right path.



Written by:
Michelle Pelissero
Communications Coordinator

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Sending the Right Message

Have you ever had a conversation with someone or sent an email that may not have been interpreted the way that you intended it to?

sarcasmI have. In fact, in face-to-face conversations I tend to have issues with my level of sarcasm. I often hear, “I can never tell if you’re being serious or not.” In which case, I giggle to myself and then explain that I am indeed simply being sarcastic.

I bring this up to emphasize the fact that communication is a two-way street, and that in order to be sarcastic with someone or to simply send a normal toned email, text message or make a phone call you must know how to specifically communicate with your intended audience. We all know that jokes don’t go over well if someone doesn’t have a clue what you’re talking about…

Back in high school we all learned about the Two-way communication model with the sender, receiver, verbal pubefftea3and non-verbal messaging types, but since we originally studied that way back in the day, things have changed. Technology, telecommuting and other scenarios have taken communicating to a whole other level; making something as seemingly simple as communication extremely challenging.

In the 1960’s, Professor Albert Mehrabian established a statistic for the effectiveness of face-to-face communication, suggesting, “interpersonal communication is 7 percent verbal, 38 percent vocal and 55 percent facial”.

giphyThose are some crazy statistics! So for those of you who tend to not be able to control some of your facial expressions, you must learn. This is especially important with public speaking, and this would be why you may want to practice in front of a mirror before you deliver any kind of speech, because if you are standing up at the podium slouching and sad-faced while giving a motivational speech, I’m pretty sure that your intended message will not be received in the way that you had planned.

Taking this topic back into an office environment, I write all of this to tell you to make sure that you get to know your employees. Take some time to talk to them and understand what type of communication they prefer, get to know their background, culture, etc. Understand that there are many barriers that can hinder a message from being received as intended; including physical (music, noisy group of co-workers, etc.), psychological (hunger, stereotypes, etc.), perceptual (perception of meaning), and experiential (cultural misconceptions and attitudes).

Getting to know the people who you work with in person, or via Skype or whatever you prefer will help for you to understand each other and will cutback on communications issues in the office.

And well, if you’re still having issues with communication, you can always rely on the “emotional spellcheck for email,” ToneCheck.



Written by:
Michelle Pelissero
Communications Coordinator


Responses to Reluctance

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.

ExcitementIn 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.

DrwhoOr 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!


Written by:
Claudia Deakins
Executive Search Manager

Cutting Out Workplace Negativity

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.

giphyIf 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 kIf you treat employees as if they they makenow 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:

  1. Get to know your employees and build a lasting rapport with them.
  2. Listen to them. This is where that open door policy that everyone talks about comes in.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?



Written by:
Michelle Pelissero
Communications Coordinator


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

Mundane Abilities that Make a Major Difference

People often debate the question, “Are leaders born or made?” There’s no doubt that some people seem to be born leaders; but on the other hand, there are a lot of people who seem to grow into the role of being a leader by virtue of their accomplishments, promotions, and continued education. Of course, even those who are natural leaders will be more effective as leaders if they purposely develop their leadership skills, and the truth is that any leader can be a better leader if he/she intentionally practices some important behaviors.

There are some leadership qualities that seem more intuitive. However, there are other important leadership skills that any person can develop, and competency in these areas will help improve a leader, even if he/she feels inadequate in some of the more mysterious qualities such as being charismatic, visionary, or dynamic. These may seem rather mundane, but they can make a big difference.

  1. Ability to Focus:  The more pervasive that technology becomes, the harder it is for some to really concentrate on the matter at hand. Phone calls, emails, text messages, Twitter, Facebook, etc. are incredible tools, but they can also be annoying interruptions. I hear a lot of complaints about them, and that’s why I believe a leader’s ability to master these things, rather than be mastered by them gives him/her a tremendous advantage! If you can focus (and I mean really focus) your intellect upon a problem or situation, it will differentiate you. The ability to do nothing more than zero in on priorities will place you in the top 10% of all leaders.
  2. Embrace Change as a Process: Great leaders have a strong bias to action. They don’t rest upon past accomplishments, and are always seeking to improve through change and innovation. That probably comes naturally for many leaders, but the opportunity for you to differentiate yourself is in how you lead change. Many leaders who want to see change do not know how to lead change. The key is to create a process where people can embrace and own change. Imposing change rarely works. Creating a system that builds buy-in for change will be much more successful.
  3. Develop Organizational Acumen: Great leaders know how to elicit trust from others because they create an environment that allows others to fulfill their potential. People want to follow these kinds of leaders because they make the organization work well. These leaders know when and how to share information, and they are expert listeners. They can quickly diagnose whether the team/organization is performing at full potential, delivering on commitments, and whether the team is changing and growing versus just operating.

Mike Mowery

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

6 Traits of a Healthy Leader

Everyone wants to lead a great team that is known for innovation, excellence, and accomplishment; but great teams need leaders who are emotionally healthy enough to lead effectively. What does a healthy leader look like?

  1. Healthy leaders take advice from a variety of sources, yet they are independent enough to use wise discernment.
    I am equally leery of a leader who can’t take advice or can’t make their own decisions. Either extreme indicates a leader who is too insecure to lead effectively.
  1. Healthy leaders are resilient enough not to collapse when things go wrong.
    One thing is certain: “Things will go wrong.” Fragile leaders seem unable to accept this as a part of reality, so they play the blame game. Healthy leaders accept hardships and adversity as the pathway to success.
  1. Healthy leaders avoid the trap of seeking revenge.
    Following a leader who is driven by revenge is like being on a runaway train. The desire for revenge in the heart of a leader clouds his/her judgment, creates constant anxiety within the team, and makes it almost impossible for the team to stay focused on the right things.
  1. Healthy leaders do not show partiality due to political pressures.
    Every leader faces pressures from external forces. It’s simply one of those things that come with being a leader. However, great leaders possess the courage to lead without constantly checking to see which way the wind is blowing. Unhealthy leaders, who are not sure of who they are or what they stand for, tend to let political pressures cause them to show partiality. This creates uncertainty and fosters an environment where people lose confidence. It causes them to believe that there is an inherent lack of fairness.
  1. Healthy leaders speak the truth without using it as a battering ram.
    Some leaders are too afraid to speak candidly enough to give people genuine feedback. This often indicates that the leader has an unhealthy fear of people. On the other hand, some leaders should get penalized for “unsportsmanlike conduct” over and over. They tell the truth, alright, but they are so frank that they crush people’s spirits. This suggests that a leader is either immensely insecure or has a deep disrespect for others.
  1. Healthy leaders put the needs of others in front of their own wants.
    Some leaders see their position as a license to fill their own lives with comforts and perks, even while the rest of their team suffers from a lack of resources. They seek validation through status symbols. Healthy leaders aren’t looking for validation. They see themselves as servants to a great cause—and to their team.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Be Grateful and Be Healthy!

Mike Mowery

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

What Would You Do?

This week, one of my colleagues at SGR, who lives out in the country, had an infestation of rattlesnakes under her house! Can you imagine? She loves animals, but that didn’t keep her from taking drastic steps to make sure that the snakes understood it was her house—not theirs. She didn’t think for a second that co-existence was a long-term possibility, either. As soon as she knew they were there, she had complete clarity: it was either her or them.

Make it “them”.

It’s funny, but sometimes we lack the same clarity when it comes to “co-existence” with toxic team members. For some reason, we entertain the fantasy that it’s possible to keep toxic people on the team without the culture becoming… well, toxic.

That’s a fantasy that turns into a nightmare faster than you can say, “Rattlesnake Kate.” When we allow toxic people to remain on the team, we often do so because we misunderstand one really important reality. We console ourselves by telling ourselves and others that no one is getting seriously injured, and we ignore the fact that the issue is not how many people have been bit or how seriously they were hurt. The real issue is that the culture is toxic, even if someone hasn’t been poisoned.

My colleague didn’t tolerate the rattlesnakes or comfort herself by saying, “No one’s been bit, yet.” Common sense told her, “They can’t stay.”

Leaders have to realize that protecting the culture of your team is just as critical as protecting the safety of your home. If your team isn’t safe, if your culture is toxic, people can’t work as effectively because they are constantly concerned with minimizing, managing, and surviving the toxicity of the culture. The question is: leader, why do you tolerate that?

Harvard Business School has identified seven symptoms of a toxic team member:

  1. Frequently complains about and criticizes others in public.
  2. Brings out the worst in other members.
  3. Attacks people instead of criticizing the issues.
  4. Talks in the hall, but not in the room.
  5. Constantly disagrees with everyone and everything.
  6. Displays chronic discrepancies between public words and private actions.
  7. Claims to understand his or her behavior, but seems unable to change.

I don’t know about you, but I think that allowing someone like that to remain on your team is somewhat akin to letting a rattlesnake live in your house. It’s not easy to get rid of a rattlesnake that’s living under your house; but it’s worth it because no matter what it takes, it certainly beats the alternative.

The same is true with a toxic team member. Tolerating toxic team members should not even be an option.

Mike Mowery

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

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