Making the Most of Critical Conversations

Difficult Convos

We’ve all found ourselves dreading going into the office on days we know we are going to have an uncomfortable conversation. Whether it’s asking for a raise, disciplining a subordinate, or requesting that your boss stop micromanaging you, there doesn’t seem to be a clear, easy way to have these difficult conversations. Should I start with a strong lead or work my way into the conversation? How do I make sure that all the points I want to cover are covered? How do I go about ending the conversation?

Fortunately, we’re taking the guesswork out of preparing for these conversations by offering some do’s and don’ts for having critical conversations.

Do’s

  • Have a plan but not a script. Have an outline of the points you definitely want to hit before going into the conversation. Avoid scripting, however, because often times these conversations don’t always go according to plan. By having a bulleted outline, you can ensure that you can make all of your points even if the person you are talking to goes off script. Go into the conversation with a mindset of flexibility and you’ll leave feeling accomplished.
  • Practice active listening. Even though you may be the one initiating the conversation, it is still imperative that you listen to what your counterpart is saying back to your points instead of rushing to get all your points out there. Give the conversation your undivided attention and show that you are listening by responding substantively to what your conversation partner is saying. Make sure your body language shows you are listening too by using gestures to convey your attention and avoid fiddling with your phone or things around you.
  • Reflect and learn. Regardless of if you felt the conversation went well or poorly, take some time after to debrief and reflect on what went right and wrong. Think about how you reacted to certain parts of the conversation and contemplate what you could have done differently. Once you know how you engage in critical conversations you can practice the parts you are good at and work on areas you are lacking in, making each subsequent conversation much easier to have.

Don’ts

  • Start the conversation with content. Rather than diving into the content of the conversation, start with intent and why you are having the conversation in the first place. Establish mutual purpose and respect and lay out what your intentions for the discussion are. By establishing that the conversation is taking place in a safe space before diving into the meat of the discussion allows your counterpart to open up and have a more productive conversation.
  • Forget the facts. Critical conversations are often emotionally charged and it can be easy to base the discussion in your feelings about the topic instead of the facts. Presenting the facts makes the conversation less controversial and more persuasive and also gives you an opportunity to ask the other party for their facts. After you discuss the facts about the topic at hand, you can then turn and examine your feelings on the situation and start moving towards a conclusion.
  • Let the conversation end by dwindling off. After you go through the main points of what you wanted to get through in the conversation, you may find yourself at a loss at where to end it. Instead of letting the discussion dwindle off awkwardly, recognize when a critical conversation is coming to a close and end it with clarity. This means both parties know that the conversation is over and there is a clear outline of who is doing what and when follow up conversations will take place. Having a necessary critical conversation is a good start but it will be much more worth it if the outcomes of the discussion are clear and there is a path to meet the goals set through the conversation.

Want more career development resources? The NextGen Leadership Development Program could be for you. Learn more about what you can get out of the program here.

Source: GovLoop

Project Management for the Rest of Us

PM Article.jpg

For many individuals thrust or drafted into the role of initiative or project leader without a formal background in project management, expect a steep learning curve and bumpy ride.

In spite of the popularity of project management training and the growth in the number of certified professionals, most projects in organizations are led by functional or technical experts tapped to pull a team together and make the magic happen. The magic, in this case, is successfully completing the initiative on time, under budget and at the right level of quality.

Experienced project managers everywhere are smiling externally while secretly writing your project obituary in their minds. Yes, the road ahead is rocky. In this article, I frame the challenges and offer some getting started ideas and resources.

Understanding 5 Big Challenges

While some might suggest that I am cynical starting out by describing barriers and headaches, I prefer to think of myself as pragmatic. Forewarned is forearmed. And we’ll offer solutions to each of these obstacles in subsequent posts.

1. The words, “I want you to lead this project” are the beginning of a quest for success that may at times feel like Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece of mythology.

You are right to be excited about the opportunity—it is a vote of confidence in you and your abilities and a fantastic opportunity to show your firm’s managers what you are capable of doing with a big initiative. And then, you should be scared. Or at least a little nervous about the realities of making this work.

The early steps you take in establishing a strong foundation for your project, including crystallizing the scope of the work; assessing the needs/issues/obstacles of the people touched by the project (stakeholders) and getting started properly with your project team and sponsor are critical. You get one chance to start this out properly. My advice is to secure a great resource to give you some context for your work and consume it quickly. My recommendation is the non-text I use in teaching my MBA courses in project management: “The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management,” by Eric Verzuh, 5th edition. It grows larger with each edition; however, Verzuh’s great content is distilled for mere mortals operating without project management experience and certification.

2. Your success is dependent upon a group of people who are already overworked and overstressed. You know that excitement you have for this new project? No one else feels the same way. Your new team members may very well groan out loud when they learn they’ve been assigned to your project team. For some, it may well be the second or third project team they’ve recently been “invited” to join.

You will be competing for minds, hearts and time with all of the other priorities your new team members are struggling to navigate. Success is 99.9 percent about your ability to form a productive team out of a group of frazzled, reluctant contributors. We will spend a great deal of time on the topic of developing and leading a team. I wrote: “Leadership Caffeine for the Project Manager—and anyone else responsible for leading teams, groups, or committees,” just for this purpose.

3. Your biggest ally is your executive sponsor—if you have one. And in cases where your organization offers this valuable resources, know that your executive sponsor likely has little real understanding of what this role is supposed to do. And let’s not discount the fact that you don’t have any experience in working with and managing executive sponsors.

If you don’t have an executive sponsor, you need to get one. If you have one, you need to quickly define roles, accountabilities, communication protocol and identify the initial steps the sponsor can take to improve your odds of surviving the first month. Run, don’t walk to my podcast (with transcript): How to Survive and Thrive with Your Executive Sponsor.

4. Your hastily assembled project team will want to jump into the work within the first 20-minutes of your first team meeting. After all, everyone is busy, and this is just another item on their list.

Measure twice, cut once. Part of the foundation for project success is in the upfront project planning and team development process. You and the team have some work to do before you jump into the detailed work. It’s time to work on scope, stakeholders and work definition, who’s going to do what and how the work will be coordinated.

5. Your skills as a diplomat will be severely tested. The people project managers reference as stakeholders—anyone impacted by your initiative—can be some of your biggest supporters and fiercest adversaries. Others will be passive obstacles. You will need to move beyond your noble view to your initiative and actively engage friend and foe alike. Skip this step, and you will die the project death of 1,000 slights.

Yes, this is the dirty sounding issue of power and politics in the world of projects. You have little choice but to enter and play. The trick is learning to play while not compromising your principles.

These are just a few of the challenges you will encounter, but get these right at the start of your initiative and your odds of success rise dramatically. And don’t let all of the talk of potential doom around every corner dampen your enthusiasm for this work. Even your project manager friends understand this work—while incredibly challenging—is genuinely exhilarating.

Art Petty is a coach and consultant working with executives and management teams to unlock business and human potential. He writes the Leadership Caffeine blog.

Original article link: http://www.govexec.com/excellence/promising-practices/2017/01/project-management-rest-us/134473/?oref=eig-river

Recruiting, Retention of Younger Federal Employees Examined

Employees under age 40 make up a much lower share of the federal workforce compared with the overall American workforce, GAO has said.

While employees of that age make up 45 percent of the overall national employed workforce, they make up only 30 percent of the federal workforce, GAO told a Senate hearing. Just 1.8 percent of federal employees are age 25 or younger compared with 12.6 percent overall, and just 6.4 percent are age 26-29 compared with 10.8 percent, it said (OPM recently reported slightly different figures).

Budget restrictions several years ago had crimped hiring of younger employees in those years but those pressures are now mostly relieved; however, the under-40 cohort also has slightly higher turnover than other age groups, it said.

Ability to recruit and retain younger workers is a special concern given they are the most likely to have the skills the government needs in fields such as the cyber, science, technical, engineering and math fields, and in the face of high levels of retirement eligibility among older workers, it said.

“As retirements of federal employees continue, some agencies with few millennials may face future gaps in leadership, expertise, and critical skills because millennials represent the next generation of workers,” GAO said.

“To help ensure agencies have the capacity to address these challenges, it will be important for them to recruit and retain employees able to thrive in organizations that are flatter, results-oriented, and externally focused, and that collaborate with other governmental entities as well as with the private sector to achieve desired outcomes. In short, agencies need to be competitive in the labor market for top talent, including millennials,” it said.

“This means going beyond merely attracting and hiring quality candidates; rather, it calls for a robust talent management strategy,” it said, adding that such elements should include: data-driven workforce and succession planning; active recruiting; effective on-boarding programs; results-oriented training and development; meaningful performance management; comparable pay and benefits; and a culture of employee engagement.

 

3 Steps to Inspire Your Team Without Paying Them (Or Without Paying Them More)

Inspire Team ArticleFrom https://www.govloop.com:

As a leader of more than a dozen volunteer organizations and a founder of three not-for-profit organizations, I have extensive experience in trying to motivate people who are extremely talented but aren’t financially reimbursed for their time. In addition, as a supervisor in government work, I know the challenges of inspiring employees who are older and more experienced, or younger and may not feel that they have the skills or abilities to tackle a new responsibility.

This year, I’ve written about reward programs to incentivize the performance you want repeated, and I’ve covered using authentic compliments to build closer relationships with your team. But what about when you simply need to get a job done today? You don’t have time to create an employee recognition program or build that relationship with an employee whose nose you need on the metaphorical grindstone. The job needs to be done now and you may have to work with limited resources who are constrained by other work obligations. How can you do it?

First: Perform A “Sanity Check”

Before you step out of your office, perform a quick “sanity check” on the plan you want to put into action. I always recommend using S.M.A.R.T. goals, which helps to ensure that you’re giving someone a task they can accomplish. S.M.A.R.T. is a classic business acronym which stands for:

– Specific: The goal must be detailed and focused, not vague or too broad.
– Measurable: The goal must have targets that can identify under performance and over performance.
– Attainable/Achievable: The goal must be able to be accomplished with the time, budget and resources available.
– Relevant (Some use Realistic): The goal must meet the mission of the organization.
– Timely: The goal must have a deadline for completion.

When you perform this quick analysis, you can be confident that you have created a goal worth pursuing, and that will help you in the next phase.

Next, Get “I’ve Had Way Too Much Coffee!” Enthusiastic

Remember, at this point, your goal is exactly that; yours. You need to build enthusiasm and support for this solo mission to become a team effort, and this starts from within. Make sure you are aware and confident of the importance of this project to the agency, and that will be conveyed when you begin promoting it to your team. After all, how many times have you had to watch your manager try to push senior leadership’s “mission statement” on you? You can tell if they believe in it or if they’re just toeing the company line because they have to. You must be convinced that this is a mission-critical task that will make or break the organization. Make sure you communicate this with all of the answers you developed in making your goal S.M.A.R.T., so the team member knows exactly what is expected and when it is due.

Finally, Follow-up With Your Full Support

Don’t forget, you are delegating this task because the resource has the talent you need to successfully meet the objective. Ensure they have the resources and time commitment (especially if this is a multiple department or inter-agency project) to be successful. Check in with them at a frequency they designate, and do so in-person (do not send an email), to see how they are progressing. Ask how other teams are cooperating, or if they need additional support to accomplish the task. Most importantly ask; “are you still as excited about this task as I am?” And follow up with authentic compliments to help recognize the individual’s work and build professional rapport as the project progresses.

This Technique May Work Better Than You Expect

Recently, I needed a member of another team (who is brilliant, and is constantly tasked with more than his fair share of work) to help me out by developing an API (computer code that let’s one system talk to another) that was very important for my team’s success. It involved partnering with a third department in our agency to create a real-time link with our phone systems to ensure my disaster recovery alerting system always had the latest contact information to reach employees. After checking with another department supervisor to make sure my goal was S.M.A.R.T., I approached the employee with the task and explained how amazing it would be for our organization to have this information available at the touch of a fingertip. Before I could even complete my sales pitch, he was already telling me how excited he was to work on this project, and how the information could be used in other areas of government business. I’ve pledged him my full support and I will be checking in with him on a weekly basis (his requested follow-up period) to find out how I can help clear the way for this project.

How can you apply this method at your agency?

Daniel Hanttula is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

Want to make a difference in the lives of those in need?

In very rare circumstances, a disaster of extraordinary size (such as September 11 and Katrina) may occur that would require DHS departmental components and other federal agencies to augment FEMA’s workforce. In exceptional circumstances such as these, we will need a volunteer employee force, known as the Surge Capacity Force (SCF), that is willing to be deployed to a disaster location to help FEMA with response and recovery support.

SCF logo--full size

The SCF program is seeking volunteers who want to help when the need is greatest in support of natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters, including catastrophic incidents. The SCF program is currently being rolled out throughout the department and will then be rolled out government-wide. All volunteers will be trained and utilized in three FEMA program support elements — National Processing Service Centers, Cadre Support, & Community Support. The cadre support element offers opportunities for members to consider that may be in-line with current job series, skills and abilities.

This site provides answers to frequently asked questions, training requirements for the program and links to training courses, how you might be deployed, and much more. To complete your enrollment, you will need to provide your home address, email, and emergency contact information to be entered into FEMA’s Deployment Tracking System and complete a 2-hour responder orientation webinar. This data will be protected with the highest level of security. Please contact your agency POC for more information.

With your help, we can be ready to respond to any event or to simultaneous events, no matter how large the impact.

Submit questions to SurgeCapacityForce@fema.dhs.gov or call the Surge Capacity Call Center at 855-377-3362

Read stories from SCF volunteers, as they share their experience supporting Sandy operations.

Story from: http://dhsconnect.dhs.gov/Pages/SurgeCapacityForce.aspx.