A Team of Leaders
In OPM’s most recent Employee Viewpoint Survey, Federal employees ranked the following areas highest:
When needed, I am willing to put in extra work - 96.5% I am constantly looking for ways to do a better job - 91.4% The work I do is important - 91.2%I am satisfied with Alternative Work Schedule (AWS) - 88.5%I like the work I do - 83.8%
As you can see, the most positive scores generally centered on the work itself and the employees’ desire to do whatever it takes to improve things. The one exception here is the AWS program, which people appreciated for the flexibility it provided them.
Conversely, let’s take a look at the areas that Federal employees rated the lowest:In my work unit, differences in performance are recognized in a meaningful way -33.8% Promotions in my work unit are based on merit - 33.5% In my work unit, steps are taken to deal with a poor performer who cannot or will not improve - 29.4% Pay raises depend on how well employees perform their jobs - 21.6%
Interestingly, all of these low ratings relate to something their supervisors did or did not do. In other words, from the viewpoint of Federal employees, they are most dissatisfied by the actions of their supervisors, meaning if they were to supervise more effectively, the employees theoretically would be more satisfied with their working conditions.
Overall, only 43% reported that their leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment and only 52% thought there was a results oriented culture. All in all, these numbers are pretty staggering, as only 2 in 5 employees are truly motivated and only 1 out of 2 feel the government’s culture values performance. A natural conclusion to draw from these statistics is that the way government managers deal with their employees is what most drives morale and more importantly performance.
One approach to address this huge problem is to change the way that these officials manage. Of course, that would require an enormous amount of training and in many cases retraining the government’s hundreds of thousands of supervisors.
It would also require removing those supervisors who aren’t effective and are either unwilling or unable to develop the requisite skill sets. Interestingly, the government’s current supervisors do not believe that the government does an effective job in dealing with its problem supervisors.
For example, in a recent survey, OPM reported that Federal supervisors:“…Would like to see the supervisory probationary period used more effectively to identify new supervisors who have not demonstrated they have the competencies for successful performance as supervisors;Generally perceive that poor performing supervisors are ignored and receive little feedback on how to improve…”
Given the fact that the Federal government has been struggling to address this issue for decades, without much success, perhaps training is not the only answer. Maybe it is time to take a different approach. The new book, A Team of Leaders: Empowering Every Member to Take Ownership, Demonstrate Initiative, and Deliver Results, by Paul Gustavson and Stewart Liff, AMACOM Books, March 26, 2014, offers a new and exciting way forward.
The idea behind the book is that organizations with the traditional top-down, supervisor-to-employee work structure, struggle with the inherent nature of this design. From the supervisor’s perspective, there is pressure to perform, frequent demands on their time, problem employees to address and unions to deal with. Moreover, they are required to make all of the key decisions and the weight of the world seemingly rests on their shoulders.
From the employees’ point of view, they face stringent performance demands, often feel like they are a cog in the wheel and replaceable, are expected to do what they are told, and have little autonomy, authority or room to be creative. Their satisfaction often depends on less-than-effective supervisors resulting in most of them not being fully engaged.
A Team of Leaders proposes a different design and a far more effective and modern work structure. In a nutshell, it argues that the most effective work design is a team of leaders wherein everyone has the training and skills to be a leader within the team. Under such an approach, leadership is shared, with the supervisor ultimately becoming a coach who serves as an advisor to the team. Knowledge is spread throughout the team, which does all of the planning, performance management and accountability, including dealing with problem employees.
When you properly use teams of leaders, everyone is highly engaged, involved and motivated and the focus is on outstanding performance. Such an approach would by design, eliminate many of the problems and complaints that were outlined in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.
Obviously, transitioning to teams of leaders is not an easy thing to do, especially in government. Otherwise, everyone would do it. It requires careful planning and appropriate tools as well as time, energy, some patience and the expertise to make such a shift. However, for organizations, including those in the Federal government, that want to reinvent themselves and move to this approach, the payoff can be quite significant.
A Team of Leaders shows you how to design and implement teams in a way that brings out the leadership potential of every team member. Among the topics it covers are:Connecting teams around a sense of purposeUsing The Five-Stage Team Development Model, which describes how to evolve from a traditional team to a team of leadersThe secrets of great team designHow to design team processesA Team Value Creation Tool that allows members to appreciate the significance of what they contribute each dayHow to develop and manage the knowledge of team membersVisual Performance ManagementTeam startup tools
Many organizations in a variety of sectors have already adopted this approach and as a result, are flourishing. Perhaps it is time for your agency to consider such an approach.
Stewart Liff writes on human resources management issues in government for OhMyGov. A recipient of the President's Council on Management Improvement Award, he is the author of five books, including Improving the Performance of Government Employees. His expertise includes employee relations, labor relations, Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), performance management, staffing, training, rewards and recognition, metrics, systems design and succession planning. More at StewartLiff.com
Thanksgiving 2013: A time to be thankful...
Images of Thanksgiving for most are football, turkey, shopping, and the inevitable holiday weight gain, but past Thanksgivings were not predicated on excess and plenty but survival, unification, and need to stimulate the economy. Even today the roots of this holiday resonate.
However, for approximately 1.9 million executive branch civilian employees, is it another day off or a day of reflection and thankfulness?
Perhaps an OhMyGov! history of the holiday will provide some grounding.
In 1621, after a hard and devastating first year in the New World, the Pilgrims' fall harvest was very successful and plentiful and they showed their gratitude to the Native Americans for their help by hosting a feast to give thanks. While this was not the first Thanksgiving in America ("thanksgiving" services were held in Virginia as early as 1607), it was America's first Thanksgiving Festival.
The custom of an annually celebrated thanksgiving, held after the harvest, continued through the years. During the American Revolution (late 1770's) a day of national thanksgiving was suggested by the Continental Congress. On October 3, 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation and created the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the national government of the United States of America.
By the mid-1800s, many states observed a Thanksgiving holiday. Meanwhile, the poet and editor Sarah J. Hale had begun lobbying for a national Thanksgiving holiday. In 1863 President Abraham Lincoln, looking for ways to unite the nation during the Civil War, gave his Thanksgiving Proclamation declaring the last Thursday in November a day of thanksgiving.
In 1939, 1940, and 1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeking to lengthen the Christmas shopping season, proclaimed Thanksgiving the third Thursday in November. Controversy followed, and Congress passed a joint resolution in 1941 decreeing that Thanksgiving should fall on the fourth Thursday of November, where it remains.
Just a reminder... there is only one federal holiday left for 2013. This year Christmas falls on a Wednesday, so unlike prior years, government workers only get a standard two-day holiday weekend.
A salute to veterans on this Veterans Day 2013
Thanks in large part to our military men and women, we have freedom and opportunities that others in many countries don't have. Veterans Day gives us a chance to stop and recognize those who have served the U.S. throughout its history.
First proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson as Armistice Day, November 11, 1919, became a day to remember around the world. But it took another 19 years for this day to be proclaimed as an official day of observation in the U.S. Only in 1938 was a public law passed making the 11th of November each year a legal holiday: "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day."
Soon our country found itself in another World War, and Al King, an Emporia, Kansas store owner, had the idea to expand "Armistice Day" to celebrate all veterans, not just those who served in World War I. In a bold move, the Emporia Chamber of Commerce supported closing their shop doors on Nov. 11, 1953, to honor veterans. With the help of a U.S. Representative from Kansas, Ed Rees, a bill for the holiday was passed through Congress and signed it into law in 1954, changing "Armistice" to "Veterans," and it has been known as Veterans Day ever since.
In honor of military veterans, it is usually observed on November 11 as both a federal holiday and a state holiday nationwide. Feds still get a day off if it occurs on a Sunday, as the following Monday is designated for holiday leave. If it occurs Saturday, then either Saturday or Friday may be so designated.
In a time of international unease, in countries far away and directly involving less than one percent of the U.S. population, we can easily forget the reason for this day off from work. But veterans (current and past) have left their families behind to wait for their safe return, giving up the very freedoms they went to protect to keep us safe and free from harm. They fight to protect our way of life and are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. And for that, we remember them.
Today is also a time to remember and honor the 6,776 U.S. military members who have lost their lives fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Veterans Day, we are supposed to honor veterans who have served to protect the things we take for granted. So if you see or know a veteran, say, "Thank you. Thank you for all you've done."
For more information on Veterans Day, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website. Or to share your thoughts and interact with veterans and their families, see the Department of Veterans Affairs official blog, to personalize the relationships with veterans to an Agency they often view as impersonal and unresponsive.