It Takes A Village

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I wanted to share some good tidbits about effective management, collaboration, and engagement that I heard this week at a Partnership for Public Service event.


It Takes A Village – No I don’t mean the book by Hillary Clinton, but rather the idea that no one person is an island and no one can do everything themselves. Rather, we need the strengths and insights that others have to offer; we need teamwork; we need each other!


2-Way Communication – Traditionally, organizations communicate from the top-down or center to the periphery (depending how you look at it).  But that doesn’t build buy-in and ownership. To do that, we need to have 2-way communication, people’s active participation in the process, and genuine employee engagement.


Get Out Of The Way –  We (generally) don’t need to tell people how to do their jobs, but rather develop the vision for what success looks like and then get out of the way of your managers and people. “Make managers manage and let managers manage” and similarly, I would say, hold people accountable but let people work and breath!


Things Change – While it’s important to have consistency, momentum, and stay the course, you also need to be agile as the facts on the ground change.  “Disregard what’s not working, and embrace what is.” But you must stay open to new ideas and ways of doing things.


This is our world of work–our village–and either everyone helps and gets onboard the train or they risk getting run over by it. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Whose Throat Do You Choke

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So this was an interesting term that I heard about getting people to take responsibility for their actions.


“Whose throat do I choke for this?”


Sounds a little severe, no?


I think this is partially an adverse reaction to “analysis paralysis” and “death by committee” — where no decisions can ever get made. 


And organizations where lack of accountability runs rampant and it’s more about finger pointing at each other, rather than owning up to your responsibilities, decisions, and actions.


So with dysfunctional  organizations, the pendulum swings aimlessly being no accountability and the ultimate chopping block. 


But choking off the life blood of our human capital certainly isn’t conducive to innovation, exploration, and discovery or to productivity, employee morale and retention.


So when it’s simple human error with our best effort and no bad intentions, how about we say a simple “Who done it this time,” do a post-action, figure out the valuable lessons learned, and resolve how we do better going forward. 


No throats or heads necessary (most of time). 🙂


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Getting Valuable Performance Feedback

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So here are three simple questions to ask your boss that can help you get valuable performance feedback and advance yourself and your career:


1) What am I doing that you want me to keep doing?


2) What am I doing that you want to me quit doing?


3) What am I not doing that you’d like me to start doing? 


There you have it in a nutshell–you can partner with your boss to improve yourself and get ahead. 


Just three easy questions gets you a lot of good information. 

 

The hardest part is getting up the nerve to ask and then being willing to really listen to what’s said.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Balancing Change and Stability

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So new leaders frequently want to come into town like a knight in shining armor riding speedily on their white stallions to “save the day.” 


Being new and needing to prove themselves, change and quick results are the imperative.


The problem is that fast, quick wins can be mistakenly and superficially achieved while sacrificing longer-term organization success.  


We push people to hard, too fast, and without the underlying care and emotional feeding to duly support the rainbow in the sky changes being sought. 


People are human beings that need to be brought along in a unified manner and with a solid infrastructure and not plowed over for the sake of some short-term gains.


You can push for change so hard–you can crack the whip and you can demand what you want when you want–but rest-assured that you are leaving a great pile of destruction in your wake. 


Performance results are built by maintaining a sane balance between change and stability–pushing others to do more with less has to be replaced instead with getting out front yourself and pulling the organizational weight at a measured pace so that workers aren’t trampled by the raw, unbridled ambition of the leadership. 


You may have a great scorecard of accomplishments, but they may be the tip of what is otherwise an iceberg of discontent and disaster beneath. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Polarized = Broken!

Left Right United

As a country, we need to be very concerned at how ridiculously polarized things have gotten. 


It is one thing for right and left to disagree, but still practicably negotiate, compromise, and forge a united and decided path forward.


And it is quite another for the polarization to become so deep-rooted that it becomes obstructionist to our national security and progress. 


Unfortunately, we are beyond the point where large portions of the governing of this country has become fundamentally go nowhere and do nothing


Whether from immigration control to closing Gitmo, from reducing the national debt to tax reform and robust economic growth, from funding the fight against the Zika virus to developing a meaningful space exploration and colonization program, from controlling the proliferation and dangers of weapons of mass destruction to sensible policies on gun rights/control, we are deep in political gridlock. 


The result is lots of executive orders and regulations, but little significant lasting legislation, abiding decisions, or national momentum in any particular direction. 


Our red lines are erased and our finish lines are grossly undefined–we are becoming a nation aimless, adrift, and without directed and meaningful goals.  


Further, in the process of mental, emotional, and global disengagement, we have alienated our friends and embraced our foes and confused everyone in between. 


Moreover, our inconsistency and weakness has made us less safe and emboldened the resurgence and militarization of deadly adversaries like Russia, China, North Korea, Iran as well as radical Islamist terrorism


As a nation, we cannot be ruled by spectrum divisiveness between Democrats and Republicans, between races, between genders, between socio-economic classes, between religions, and between the public and the police.  


There are two critical things we need to bridge the huge divide that is engulfing us: 


One is strong leadership with the integrity that can be respected and followed by everyone on all sides of every aisle.


Two is focused commitment to our underlying values of democracy, freedom, human rights, entrepreneurship and innovation.  


When we have leadership that unites rather than divides, and we maintain our good and fundamental identity then once again, we will be able to go forward together towards peace and prosperity for not only ourselves, but ultimately the progress and good of the world. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Driving Your Organization Off A Cliff

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So life is generally supposed to be a series a peaks and valleys. 


There are highs, but also lows.  


No one and nothing can perform at peak all the time. 


Like the commandment to keep the Shabbat, everyone needs a rest. 


And studies have shown that getting a healthy dose of sleep, pause, and rest in life is healthy.


When we force ourselves or others to perform past their “designed” limits, then we risk a breakdown. 


Machines break and people can break. 


The risks are either explosion or implosion: some people can frighteningly “go postal” and others end up on psychiatric medication or even sick and in the hospital. 


What is key to remember is that you can push the limits of performance so far, but then no further without a healthy, recuperative rest period and down time. 


If you want to raise the bar on yourself, others, or your organization, you need to do it strategically so there is a surge forward and then a normative recovery and energy buildup again. 


As we all know, life is a marathon and not a sprint, and the journey is as important as the destination. 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Alan Levine)

The Federal Island Of Insanity

SOS

So a colleague at work was supposed to get something done. 


Well it didn’t happen, and someone else got left holding the bag–not really very fair.  


Too make matters worse, the guy sort of unapologetically and clouded pops in my door and says to me, “What are we doing here?”


Taken aback and not sure what this guy is talking about, I say “Excuse me?”


He looks up into space for a moment, and turns back toward me and repeats emphatically, “I mean, like what are we e-v-e-n doing here?”


Getting more than a little frustrated at this point, I ask quizzically and with some sarcasm, “You mean on planet Earth?”


Again, turning and looking oddly away and then back my way, he says, “In this building!”


I must’ve been looking at him at this point like is he on drugs, and I say, “We’ll there are important laws that we’re fulfilling here (implicitly referring to FOIA, Records Act, Privacy Act, E.O. 13526, etc.).”


Unbelievably, he continues, now shaking his head, “Well that’s what I mean…why we need that?”


Having too much work to play out whatever this toxic game was any longer, I’m like, “[if you don’t believe in transparency and safeguarding/security of information,] Maybe you should write your Congressman,” [smile!] and with that went back to the million and one serious work things I still had waiting for attention.


In retrospect, I can’t help but think that incredibly, there are people coming to work here in D. C. that either don’t know why they are there in the first place (but should know!) or don’t believe in the mission or meaning of what they are doing.  


In the private sector, I certainly don’t think this conversation would’ve even gone on as long as it did…the consequences there seeming more pronounced, abrupt, and in a definite way connected with reality. 


With more than 16 years into the Federal sector, I still can’t believe a lot of what goes on–both good and hopeful, and bad and more than a little disappointing. 😉


(Source Photo: Danielle Blumenthal)