Archive | February, 2010

Good news from big government

24 Feb

We have a dream about employees coming to work with anticipation of personal growth, excitement and a deeper sense of accomplishment that results from being the VERY BEST.”

At a meeting last week I had the great pleasure of hearing two key leaders from the National Center for Organizational Development at the Veteran’s Administration share the work that a small group of internal consulting psychologists has been doing to make the VA a more effective organization and a better place to work.  Here are their goals:

• Raise employee satisfaction

• Establish connections to improve patient satisfaction, quality of care and clinical outcomes

• Be data driven

They use triads of highly qualified organizational development professionals to work with individual workgroups (there are more than 11,000 in the VA) establishing teams tasked to improve the organizational climate.  They do extensive before- and after- employee surveys to measure results and the results are impressive.

Their tag line is:

Civility, Respect & Engagement in the Workplace

Leadership in action within a large Federal bureaucracy.  If they can do it there then….

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The orchestra as a leadership metaphor

17 Feb

Leadership develops and is practiced in context.  Understanding the context is essential to becoming an effective leader.    It is also a way to understand your current work environment.

Peter Drucker noted companies are like orchestras.  An orchestra has four essential components:

• People

• Instruments

• Music

• Conductor

People are the greatest asset of any organization.  Without high performing people a high performing organization is impossible.  These people must have the tools and training to do their jobs.  Assuring these are in place is one role of leadership.  Leadership also chooses the music.  Finally, all the elements of the orchestra must be playing the same music.  The music is the vision, mission and purpose of the organization made explicit through its strategies and tactics.  Finally what holds this together and makes it work is the Director.

Consider your organization.  Rate each component on a scale of 1 – 5 where one is outstanding and five is very poor.  As you rate each element list the reasons for your rating.  You have just performed a simple yet powerful organizational analysis.  If this is process is carried out individually by a management team or a sample of key managers and/or employees you can produce a matrix that accurately reflects the functioning of your organization.  This is a valuable tool to begin a conversation about your job satisfaction as well as how your organization is performing.

Poker and leadership

2 Feb

Developing competence is like playing poker.  Initially parents deal your hand, providing their DNA and your childhood environment.  Then you grow up and start to reshuffle and redeal the deck through your actions.  This explains how some people can overcome terrible childhoods and become successful, whereas others with all the starting advantages fail.

So learning how to reshuffle and redeal is essential to improving yourself.  There are two major ingredients in this developmental process:

• Understanding what is in the hand you are holding and,

• Your ability to play the hand strategically.

Having some empirical tools to help you assess what you hold can give a big boost. The Gallup Corporation has developed such a tool, Strengths-Finder 2.0. This is an online statistically based self-test that measures your top five talents, gives you an in-depth description of them and provides a number of online tools to help you use this knowledge.

This tool is innovative in two ways: First it is entirely focused on your positives and there is abundant evidence that building from strengths works much better than trying to correct weakness. Second, the talents are not personality based.  Personality doesn’t change much.  Just check out the people you have known for 20 years.

Leadership is difficult to define but leaders, without exception, have a deep understanding of who they are and deploy themselves in a manner that maximizes their effectiveness.  – Food for thought.