Monthly Archives: June 2010

How Do We Build Trust?

The popularity of Stephen M.R. Covey’s 2008 book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, suggests that there’s an inherent recognition of how central trust is to pretty much everything else in our personal and professional lives.

At the most recent session of the Emerging Leaders Academy, PMC director Charles Jones spent time with the participants talking about what he foresees for the future of the public sector. His presentation focused on three issues: efficiency, adaptation, and trust.

It all goes better, Charles noted, when there is trust.

Stephen M.R. Covey agrees, offering this communication example at the beginning of his book: “In a high trust relationship, you can say the wrong thing and people will still get your meaning. In a low-trust relationship, you can be very measured, even precise, and they’ll still misinterpret you.”

So how do we build trust? The circular answer is, of course, by being trustworthy. But what does this look like? Here’s the list that Charles shared:

• Tell the truth. If you can’t, explain why. Small lies kill trust.
• Keep promises. Promise less and deliver more.
• Admit mistakes; and say you’re sorry
• Trust others. To be trusted, you must first trust others.
• Don’t micromanage, use rules to empower vs. distrust.
• Hire and promote integrity.
• Walk the talk.
• Respect the ideas of others.
• Say “no” clearly when you have to, but explain.

So easy, and yet so challenging. What would you add to this list? What examples do you have of how trust really matters or how the things on this list really do build trust?

Upcoming Events at the KU Edwards Campus

There’s something for everyone in July at the KU Edwards Campus, with an event next week featuring the Public Administration Department Chair, Marilu Goodyear.

Mentoring: How to Reach Out for Professional Improvement with Dr. Marilu Goodyear
8am, July 7, Regnier Hall auditorium
Managing your career is an important aspect of overall personal happiness. Reaching out for advice and counsel from others is a way of understanding how well our perceptions about ourselves matches reality. How can I reach out effectively? How do I know whether someone will be a good mentor? These are a few of the questions that will be addressed in this presentation.
Click here for more information and/or to RSVP.

Start2Finish 5K Run: Saturday, July 10, 7am
Start at Johnson County Community College. Finish at the University of Kansas Edwards Campus. That’s the premise behind Start2Finish, an educational partnership between JCCC and KU Edwards Campus, and it’s also the premise behind the Third Annual Start2Finish 5K Run-Walk benefiting undergraduate scholarships. Click here for the route map and registration information.

Prospective Student Information Session, Thursday, July 15 at 6pm
Thinking about returning to school to finish an undergrad degree or for a masters? KU Edwards offers a variety of options at both levels (including an undergraduate major in public administration and the master of public administration). The info session is a great way to learn more about the programs and support offered at Edwards. Click here for more information.

Fun, Food, and Friends

In a post last week we talked about the serious side of our Certified Public Manager program, the very tangible way participants connect their experience in the course to their workplaces through their capstone projects.

But CPM participants spend a lot of time together. A lot. Two to three days a month for a year. So while we’re all about the important learning and tangible benefits that flow from the time spent in CPM, we encourage a lot of fun, too. Because it’s in the fun that relationships develop, and the relationships matter as much as the content.

We hope folks will remember and draw on some of the tools from the Emotional Intelligence sessions, for example, to see them through the challenging issues they’ll face as managers. But if they can pull up someone in their contact list who they can turn to in those moments, someone they met through CPM, we consider that to be an equal success.

We’re pretty sure that Yolanda, Larry and Emily–from the General Services Administration, the City of Overland Park, and the City of Olathe, respectively–wouldn’t have foreseen this particular outing (to celebrate Larry’s birthday) as part of the CPM experience when they signed up. It’s amazing what can happen in a few short months.

Are there any fun workplace traditions that have fallen by the wayside in this very challenging year? Perhaps now would be a great time to resurrect one of them to put a bit of spark back into things.

The Part We Have Control Over

How will you know if you’ve achieved your goals?

The answer seems obvious: when the goal is met, right? “My goal is to get admitted to this program.” or “Our goal for the event is to attract 150 attendees.” or “The goal for the software roll out is that it should result in no down time on the server.”

That’s fine to the extent that the person or group setting the goal has control over most or all of the factors that will affect its success. But is that realistic?

What if it storms on the day of the outdoor event? Or, for that matter, on the day of the software roll out? What if you’ve assembled the strongest possible application packet that you can put together but it isn’t enough to sway the gatekeepers?

In this very thoughtful post on The Tiny Soprano, blogger Natalie Christie shares what she dubs “probably the most valuable piece of advice I have ever received.” In her words:

I had the privilege when I was 20 years old of learning from the stupendous Dame Joan Sutherland. She was a vocal titan, but in person remarkably grounded in an earthy, no nonsense Australian diva kind of way.

I would start to sing a phrase and she would interject with probably the most valuable piece of advice I have ever received –

“Stop. Think of the note before you sing it.”

So, before I even started to make a sound, I would focus silently on the quality of the sound I wanted to make, the way I wanted the vowel to be shaped in my mouth, and the intention behind the words I was about to sing.

The difference this advice made to me as an artist and as a person was profound. When I followed her advice, I felt strong. More in control, of my voice and my craft. It was not about me so much anymore, but about the music and the responsibility I had been blessed with – to do it justice, to make it sing, to move people.

Can you sense why that’s a BIG shift?

Because intention shifts the focus away from the outcome – “Oh please let her like my voice!” to the process – “How do I want this note to sound?”

And when we shift from outcome to process, we dislodge ourselves from the fear and unpredictability of the future.

That is, when we shift to a focus on the process we focus on the part where we actually have control. We can’t imagine every possible eventuality that might affect the outcome–whether positively or negatively.

We can, however, make every effort to make sure that our role in the process is as creative, thorough, thoughtful, appropriate and/or enthusiastic as the situation calls for. Once we’ve done that, whatever happens will happen. But we won’t be left stewing over the “what ifs” in regard to our effort and attitude. And that counts for a lot.

Click here to check out Christie’s full post, as she develops this idea further and makes some suggestions about bringing this focus on the process into the little everyday moments in addition to our bigger projects.

What does a focus on the process rather than the outcome change for you? What experiences do you remember fondly because of your approach to the process even though the outcome wasn’t what you had hoped for?

“A Perfect Kansas Night”

This year’s Symphony in the Flint Hills happened a couple of weeks ago. One attendee has posted a recording of Governor Parkinson’s welcome to the audience on YouTube.

The Governor’s words offer a rich reflection on the beauty and history of the state and are a lovely tribute to those of us who call Kansas home.

And here are some great photos of the event that offer a better view of the music, the attendees, and the beautiful vista. Click on the photo below to go to the slide show.

Why Agencies Keep Sending People to Our Certified Public Manager Program

Today, Harvard Business Review blogger Ron Ashkenas observed that one of the reasons why management training is so easy to cut in tight budget times comes from the lack of tangible connection between sending managers to training and results in the workplace.

Participants may note that they found the training valuable or enjoyable, but can anyone point to clear outcomes and improvements that stem from the training? Often they can’t. And the program gets cut.

Ashkenas offers a simple solution: ask participants to bring a business problem to the class to work on; have them develop a way to address that problem as part of the class; and insist that managers execute those plans after the training.

As part of our Certified Public Manager program, participants work with their supervisors to identify an area for improvement in their department or organization. Generally this takes the form of process improvement, revenue generation, or cost savings. During the year-long CPM course, they identify a problem or opportunity and develop a plan to address it.

Of course, we don’t have any say in whether these plans get implemented. Some don’t. But many do. Like this Olathe, Kansas recycling program that will likely save the city $500,000 a year.

And not only does the sponsoring agency see a direct relationship between the training program and a result in the workplace, but the participant has had the experience of going through this process–hopefully it sets them up to be able to think creatively and strategically again when they next run into a situation that seems to need improvement.

For both the agency and the CPM graduate, then, there’s a connection between the training and an outcome. Financial times are tough, but agencies keep sending folks to CPM. I believe Ashkenas helped us articulate why. Click here to read his full piece. Or click here to learn more about CPM.

So what do tangible training results look like? What do you need to see in yourself or others after a class for you to consider it a worthwhile investment? Tell us in the comments.

The Heart of True Leadership

Our delightful colleague Jonathan Morris kicks off another 3-day supervisory training class tomorrow. A class of Jonathan’s design, the class is titled The Heart of True Leadership and has this preface to the listing of course content areas:

“A supervisor is a leader. It takes sacrifice, commitment, and selflessness to lead effectively. Leaders understand what gives a sense of self-worth to themselves and the people they lead. Leaders use this understanding to create and maintain effective relationships, reduce conflict, transfer knowledge and build more productive teams.”

Fortunately, most of us have encountered some gifted and inspiring leaders in our lives and we’re better people for it.

Unfortunately, most of us have also encountered some leaders who were leaders only in the title of their position, whose behavior did not suggest an understanding of the responsibility to others that comes with it and was anything but inspiring.

The importance of strong, ethical leadership can become most evident when it’s lacking. The BP oil mess in the Gulf of Mexico is only the most recent example of this–though it is certainly among the more stunning examples.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter of the Harvard Business School recently offered a thoughtful reflection on BP’s CEO and what she calls the failure of leadership accountability in the disaster. It’s a useful example of what leadership isn’t. As Kanter notes:

“The public doesn’t expect miracles. Stuff happens. But it’s reasonable for stakeholders to expect that every possible step will be taken to prevent the stuff from happening in the first place and then to keep it from get out of control if it does. When stuff happens, a true leader should apologize quickly and take responsibility.” Click here to read more.

When have you experienced the benefit of a leader owning up to a situation that left everyone better off? Share your thoughts on what the heart of true leadership looks like in the comments below.

Using Our Readerly Impatience to Become Better Writers

A strange disconnect seems to exist between how we see email when we’re the writer and how we see it when we’re the reader.

As readers, most of us are impatient. We’ve got a hundred other things to do with any moment of our time so we want things to be, as a professor friend likes to say, concise and precise. Opening an email, we are unconsciously thinking: Give me the relevant–and only the relevant–information, get to the point, tell me if something’s expected of me, and stop.

But most of us, and I certainly include myself in this, seem to forget our experiences as readers as soon as we step into the writing role. When it’s our information about our project, we want to make sure we include all the details to make as strong a case as possible for whatever we’re sharing and whatever we need.

The trouble is, our main point can get lost in all those details. Our readers find themselves needing to invest extra effort in finding the heart of the matter because we didn’t clearly highlight it for them with the written equivalent of a flashing neon sign. They may or may not make the investment.

And because it’s so clear to us what we’re asking for from people, we may not notice when we leave out a clear statement of expectations, request, or assignment complete with specific requirements and due date.

It’s a similar experience to what we may have experienced after asking our spouse to put dinner in the oven. It’s so obvious to us that this dish should be covered that we may not think to say so–only to arrive home to a dryer-than-intended meal and a spouse who assumed that if it needed to be covered we would have said so.

Before getting frustrated with others for not doing what we believe we asked them to, it’s probably worth taking a look at our written request to assess whether the information about the request and the deadline was clearly outlined. Sometimes it will have been. But other times not.

It might become easier to leave out some of the details we see as so important when we remember that leaving them out may mean that the recipient will actually read our message, while including the details may mean that the wordy email doesn’t get read at all.

What habits have you developed to make sure that the necessary information is included and the unnecessary details are not? Share your tricks in the comments below!

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for the Training You Need

As we’re all well aware, the Great Recession has greatly affected many people’s workloads.

The Lawrence Public Schools superintendent succinctly captured why in a statement about administrative cuts this week: “make no mistake, the elimination of these 11.5 positions means that all of those duties will be shared by staff members who already have full-time responsibilities.”

This affects people at all levels of the organization. Supervisors can find themselves with more staff and units reporting to them when a colleague retires and the position is not filled.

For those in these supervisory roles who never received much training in how to effectively manage people–or who received such training years ago when management models were more authoritative than is appropriate for today’s collaborative workplace–this increased responsibility can create real strains.

If this describes your situation, consider taking an active role in advocating for the training you need. Budgets are indeed tight, but the modest expenditure on training can result in huge productivity gains if the entire unit becomes more functional as a result.

And the few hundred dollars spent on a class still represents a huge savings compared with the costs of positions that have been cut.

If you’re staggering under the weight of expectations for which you don’t feel adequately prepared, be strategic: identify the problem with a solution in hand by presenting the information about the training course you need.

The Public Management Center’s The Heart of True Leadership: Supervisory Training for the Public Workforce is scheduled for next week and for September and is one route to address this gap; other organizations have options, too. Find the one you need and find a way for your organization to get you there.

“I don’t mean to interrupt, but…”

The new session of the Emerging Leaders Academy got off to a great start this week–well, at least from my perspective! I hope that the participants felt the same.

While much of the first day consisted of getting-to-know-one-another activities and discussions of what we all expect of the program, we also did our first skills session. The topic on the agenda? Communication skills. Specifically, listening.

Many people have a great deal of awareness about the importance of communication skills to workplace success. But if asked about what these skills include, most would note speaking and writing, the abilities that allow us to clearly and effectively communicate our messages, goals, and priorities.

What is often neglected in our thinking about communication skills is the piece that’s necessary in order for us to create a message others want to or need to hear in the first place.

Are our ears and our intentions open to hear what people are saying around us so that we can truly discern how we can contribute best to the projects in our organizations? Are we attuned to what our customers and clients want from us to make sure the products we offer truly serve the needs they have? This is especially important for those of us in government where we don’t have competitors offering our products and where citizens can feel frustrated when they don’t feel we’re doing our best to understand and meet their needs.

Among the many habits that get in the way of our listening is the practice of interrupting. In a recent post on her I’m Listening New website, Jill Chivers reflects on two well-intentioned types of interrupting, correcting and cheer leading, that I think nearly all of us do. She asks us to consider the effects of both of these and invites us to tune in to track our own habits of interruption to see how it affects conversations. Click here to read the full post.

What if you decided to listen more deliberately today? What would you learn? Try it and find out, and share your story in the comments below.