Weeds and Wishes

Photo by Saad Chaudhry on Unsplash

Over the weekend I heard the story of a mom who, when asked what moments were bringing her joy as she endured the COVID-19 stay at home orders, shared a photo of her young daughter blowing the top off of a dandelion in their backyard. The mom, according to the story, found herself lost in the pure enjoyment of her child as they watched the seeds spread in the wind. And, just for a moment, she was able to put aside the impacts physical distancing and isolation have had on her and her family.

In reflecting about the experience, she recalled that only a few days before, she and her husband were marveling at their lovely, weed-free lawn. Now with her daughter spreading hundreds of dandelion seeds, she watched as the dream of a weed-free lawn drifted away and was struck by the contrast in perspectives. For her, the dandelions represented an intrusive weed but, for her child, those same weeds offered the promise of a wish. Read More…

Essential Leadership in the New World of Work

Since March, our world of work has changed more than any of us ever would have imagined. Now organizations are starting to explore a phased return to previous work arrangements. Last week I shared some thoughts on practices leaders should employ to help their teams successfully navigate their return.

But, for teams and organizations to thrive in the long run, leaders will need to embrace new skills and new ways of leading. And, while there are numerous areas you could focus on developing, here are three key capabilities that will help better prepare your team for future disruptions:

Authenticity – A recent literature review on team resilience suggests that team identity is a key enabler of teams that can successfully recover from disruption. Strong team identity requires a leader who engenders trust through authenticity. Authentic leaders are genuinely self-aware and inspire loyalty and trust by consistently being who they really are. And research has shown that authentic leadership is the single biggest predictor of employee satisfaction. As your team slowly returns to more typical ways of working, you have the opportunity to show up in a more authentic way. Practice openness and true humility. Be honest about the challenges and opportunities you are facing as a leader and as an organization. And, create a safe space for your team to do the same. Read More…

Making a Comeback: How to Lead Your Team’s Post-COVID-19 Return to Work

While we are not out of the woods with COVID-19 yet, many organizations are beginning to plan for gradual return to office work. For some employees, this will be a welcome relief from the isolation of remote work. But, for others, it will be a disruption that could feel even bigger than the shift to working at home.

Regardless of where you and your team fall on that emotional spectrum, as a leader you should see this change as an opportunity to demonstrate empathy and strengthen the connections that can help drive high performance. Here are some key practices that will help you lead your team through their return to work: Read More…

Accelerating the Impact of New Government Leaders

Navigating leadership changes can be a difficult challenge for teams and organizations. New relationships, new ways of working, and shifts in strategic priorities can derail even the most successful teams. And with many organizations already struggling to meet performance expectations, it is imperative that leaders quickly make an impact on key mission priorities. So, how can new leaders more quickly assimilate?

Formal New Leader Assimilation

Most existing new leader assimilation processes trace their roots to original research conducted by John Gabarro first published in 1985. Gabarro studied the succession of 14 general managers to understand the challenges of taking charge of a new organization. Using longitudinal studies and historical case reviews, Gabarro examined successions covering:

  • Functional and general managers
  • Organizations ranging in annual sales from $1.2 million to $3 billion,
  • Turnarounds and normal situations
  • Successions that failed as well as those that succeeded.

In Gabarro’s work, he found that it typically takes 13 to 18 months of learning before a new leadership is ready to significantly impact the organization. Given the amount of time and resources invested in finding and placing a new leader, waiting a year or more to see a return on that investment is a daunting proposition for most organizations. As such it is no surprise that Gabarro’s work spawned tremendous interest in finding ways to significantly reduce that timeline. Read More…

Leadership Lessons From Unlikely Authors: Part 2

Portuguese author Fernando Pessoa wrote, “Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.”

I’ve certainly found this to be true as I’ve been packing for our move. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about procrastinating from packing by rediscovering lessons from past reads. And, that particular procrastination has become my go-to activity of late. So, I thought I’d finally post the follow up to that blog and share a few more of the leadership lessons I’ve found in unexpected places. Read More…

Stepping Away From “Hurry Sickness”

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my attempts to take a day off from being busy. Since that post, a lot has changed, and the challenge of unbusying is harder than ever for some.

Between the shift to remote work, increased responsibilities to care for the kids, a spouse/significant other, aging parents, etc, and the need to plan and adapt, I know for many of you, time is still a very scarce resource.

In fact, despite having fewer commitments due to physical distancing requirements, I’m still not doing a great job of being less busy. For all the really hard things this season is bringing, I’ve decided to commit finding some good by taking advantage of the opportunity to reset my schedule.  Here’s why I think, for me at least, now is a perfect time to make the shift to being less busy. Read More…

Virtual Onboarding For Remote Employees

virtual onboarding

Last week OPM issued new guidance providing flexibilities for agencies to onboard new workers using remote tools. The memo lays out a few key activities that agencies can now perform using teleconferencing tools and encourages HR and IT leaders to work together to find the most effective ways to complete the administrative requirements of onboarding.

The new options are intended to enable agencies to continue meeting their staffing needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, while the memo addresses remote delivery for the administrative elements of onboarding, agencies may be struggling to effectively connect new employees to the new organization. And, with one recent study suggesting that a negative onboarding experience makes new employees two times more likely to look for a new job, it’s clear that effective onboarding must be a priority.

Here are six things to consider as you are working to quickly shift to virtual onboarding: Read More…

Leadership Lessons From Unlikely Authors

leadership lessons

I’m currently in the process of prepping my house to go on the market and our real estate agent has issued the edict that I have to box up some of the books in my office. So, I’ve been reluctantly working through the shelves, trying to decide which ones I can live without until we move sometime in the summer. Despite my initial resistance, the packing process has actually turned out to be a really good thing. In fact, I’ve discovered two really important things:

  1. I have a lot of books. In fact, I may have a problem. Even after donating a few to the local library, I’ve still got far too many, if I’m perfectly honest.
  2. Nearly each book on my shelf has been the source of a valuable piece of leadership insight that has helped me on my journey of continuous learning.

Read More…

Healthy Leadership Practices to Cure What Ails You

Healthy Leadership Practices

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months (and perhaps that’s where we all ought to be moving to right now!), I’m sure you’ve been inundated with updates, plans, and preparations for COVID-19. There are a lot of great resources out there that can help you know what to do as we move into a new way of working and leading. And there are plenty of experts out there with tips for building resilience and adaptability while leading under crisis. Folks like the Center for Creative Leadership and ProHabits have great resources available or on the way to help. But, I thought I’d share a few key practices that you may have overlooked in your efforts to lead your team through this current or any future crisis. Read More…

Building Empathy To Address Critical Talent Gaps

organizational empathy

Talent challenges continue to be a priority for most agencies across the federal government. Frequent turnover, hard to fill roles, and shortages in mission-critical skill sets are all too common in most federal agencies.

There are countless strategies and approaches agency leaders can, and have, tried to address these complex challenges. But, building organizational empathy may be just the tool HR leaders need to make a near term impact.

Building organizational empathy is a strategic element for organizations trying to hire and retain top talent in an increasingly tight labor market. Research by the benefits technology firm, Business Solver in their State of Workplace Empathy report reveals that empathy is a key driver of retention, motivation, and productivity. More than 90% of employees surveyed indicated they were more likely to stay with an empathetic employer. In fact, respondents were even willing to trade off hours and pay in favor of increased empathy.

In an increasingly competitive talent environment, building a culture of empathy should be a key part of the people strategy in all organizations.

Read More…