Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Event With Local Government Gets Me Thinking

I'm really looking forward to a speaking event/seminar I have next week with a local county government agency. This appears to be a group that is in need of some repair within their organizational efficiency and leadership accountability.

After my initial phone conference with several of the management team about our upcoming event it became clear that the elected and appointed officials within this group tend to operate independently from the rest of the organizational tree leading to an inefficient team void of communication. This becomes even more critical for the group as they are currently facing significant budgetary challenges.

It seems as though many of the employees that work within the management tree under the supervision of the elected and appointed officials do not feel that they can comfortably approach their leadership with suggestions and complaints. This leads to disdain and uncooperative strategies within the group. The leadership feel that they are consistently right in their approach, whereas the rest of the team has concerns that this is not always the case. The breakdown occurs when the team feels that the leadership is unapproachable.

I take a page out of Steven Covey's book when I initiate the dialogue segment of my seminar with groups that are struggling with problems such as these. I will often ask everyone in the room to close their eyes and point north. Everyone then proceeds to point all over the room. Then I will ask that no one point except those executives who are 100% certain they know the direction of north. Those who point still point in all directions. The lesson: Executives don’t know it all, and had better develop a culture of open, honest discussion.

FranklinCovey launched its xQ Survey 18 months ago to find what it calls gaps in execution. Of 12,000 employees surveyed, half feel safe to express their opinions without fear of retribution. About the same amount say they clearly understand their role in helping the company achieve its goals. Little more than a third say they don’t undermine others on their work team.

This illustrates that this governmental agency has a very typical problem evident in corporate that requires a healthy discourse that promotes approachability and genuine honesty. Harnessing the individual strengths within the reigns of the team to better steer the company.

Covey says companies often remind him of a soccer team of 6-year- olds. There’s a lot of energy, and everyone on the team wants to win. Yet, the players have no clue what they need to do. Whats critical is to define success, rally around it and nurture your teammates.
Passive-aggressive soccer teams would have very pleasant halftime meetings -- just as long as they didn’t look at the score.

There will be several goals at the end of the day:
Have the entire group create a clear definition of the organizational Vision.
Determine whether everyone shares that Vision.
Create an action plan and then execute it.

Open simple to discuss but oh so challenging to create.