Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Are Your Surveys a Waste of Time?

July 23rd, 2014


Are Your Surveys a Waste of Time?

Alignment solution: To ensure your surveys are not a waste of time, write questions that provide accurate, actionable data.

Developed correctly, a survey is a very powerful tool for gathering actionable data for a variety of purposes. Based on my experience, however, most surveys are a waste of time and effort for all involved. Why? Because the resulting data are worthless – i.e., incorrect, skewed, and/or not interpretable. In short, they are not actionable. Not recognizing they are working with bad data, however, people take action based on those results. Then they wonder why the initial problem hasn’t been resolved, or why people’s behaviors haven’t changed.

There are easy, no-cost ways to ensure that your surveys result in accurate, actionable data that you can use with confidence to identify effective ways to address the desired topics or issues. As long as you’ve decided to make the effort to conduct a survey, why not write questions that produce usable findings?

Below are three of the most common mistakes I see people making when developing questions for their surveys, as well as solutions for avoiding them. The good news: it doesn’t cost extra to write items correctly rather than incorrectly. So there’s no reason to let these mistakes derail your improvement efforts.

Mistake #1: Requiring a single response to an item that asks multiple questions

Example: “Our staff were knowledgeable and acted professionally.”

Problem: Demonstrating knowledge and acting professionally are two different behaviors. When your question includes multiple behaviors yet requires people to provide one answer, you have no idea to which of the behaviors they are referring. In this example, there are four possible behavioral combinations: knowledgeable and unprofessional, not knowledgeable and professional, knowledgeable and professional, or not knowledgeable and unprofessional. Because you can’t tell to which set of answers people are referring, you cannot identify an appropriate response.

Solution: Write one item per behavior, trait, or result. Although this may make the survey longer, the results will allow you to target your response.

Mistake #2: Asking only global questions

Example: “How satisfied were you with our customer service?”

Problem: Whether the responses are positive or negative, you can’t tell to what aspect(s) of customer service people are responding. As a result, you don’t know what actions must be taken to stop undesirable behaviors or practices or to reinforce desirable ones.

Solution: Ask questions about specific aspects of an issue – e.g., behaviors of customer service providers or the quality of the outcome. 

Mistake #3: Asking questions that require only “yes” or “no” answers

Example: “Are you satisfied with the quality of the service our staff provided?”

Problem: “Yes/no” response options provide very limited information. They indicate only that there may be a problem, and they fail to suggest the degree of seriousness. That is, how strong or weak is each “yes” and “no?” As a result, you have no idea what action to take, or with what degree of urgency.

Solution: Re-frame the question as a statement, and provide multiple response options along a continuum (e.g., strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, strongly agree). This change allows you to specify the behavior or outcome you want to target, and it indicates the urgency with which you must act.

To read about other no-cost tips that will ensure that your surveys are not a waste of time, take a look at my article 26 Insider Tips to Dramatically Increase the Effectiveness of Your Surveys.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Business Lessons from a 3-alarm Fire

July 9th, 2014

Business Lessons from a 3-alarm Fire

Alignment solution: Your organization’s ability to weather an emergency well depends on the strength of the foundation you have created through your employees.

For millions of people in the U.S., July 1st was memorable because it marked the highly anticipated World Cup soccer game between the U.S. and Belgium. Here in Long Beach, CA, thousands of excited fans crowded local streets and businesses well ahead of the 1 p.m. local starting time to party and cheer for their team. For the Long Beach Fire Department (LBFD), however, 1 p.m. on July 1st became memorable for a different reason: it marked the time of the first call alerting them to a fire at a local business. After assessing the magnitude of the situation, the first units on scene called in a second alarm, followed quickly by a third alarm. In addition to the multiple fire engines, trucks, and ambulances dispatched to the fire, the hazardous materials and search and rescue teams also were summoned as flammable materials fueled the blaze and the roof collapsed.

I happened to be at the LBFD dispatch center that day, which gave me a front-row seat to observe those who choreographed the emergency response. I watched in awe as the dispatchers quickly and expertly directed the appropriate apparatus to the scene, responded to radio questions and requests from the field, sent additional equipment, and re-positioned the remaining fire engines to other stations so that all parts of the city would have some coverage during this incident that suddenly demanded most of the available resources. To the public, nothing seemed amiss: both 911 and non-emergency calls continued to be answered promptly. Even the person who called 911 to demand that a fire marshal be sent to a local bar that was so crowded that she couldn’t get in (!) had no clue that the dispatcher simultaneously was handling the immediate demands of a 3-alarm fire.

Although such emergencies are rare, when they do occur, first responders must be on top of their games in order to prevent a catastrophe or mitigate its effects. Even with single alarm fires, the damage can be alleviated IF both dispatchers and firefighters are properly trained and have the appropriate resources. Whatever your organization’s equivalent of a 3- (or 2- or 1-) alarm fire, here are six observations about how you might apply the lessons demonstrated by this incident:

  1. The successful resolution of an emergency situation depends entirely on the knowledge and skills of the people involved. Are your employees properly trained to handle an emergency?
  1. Having enough people can make the difference between success and failure. Have cutbacks in personnel left your organization vulnerable?
  1. There is no substitute for having the right people in the right jobs. Do you have a sound succession process that ensures you have qualified employees in key positions throughout the organization?
  1. Institutional knowledge is irreplaceable. Do you have a process in place that ensures valuable knowledge is passed on to other employees?
  1. An emergency highlights the difference between employees who are committed and those who are not. Are your employees dedicated to providing professional, seamless customer service regardless of the larger emergency at hand?
  1. Exceptional communication skills enable more effective, timely, and accurate responses. To what extent would your employees’ communication skills help or hinder in an emergency?

Hopefully your organization doesn’t experience many emergencies. When it does, your employees’ abilities to respond effectively will test the strength of its foundation. Being able to address the above points positively will go a long way toward making sure you can recover quickly.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

 

 

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: 8 Tips for a Successful Consolidation Process

June 25th, 2014


8 Tips for a Successful Consolidation Process

Alignment solution: Leaders can effect successful mergers and consolidations by applying time-tested lessons from a merger expert.

Fire Chief David Sparling of the Fire Department or North Huron brings a unique perspective to his job. As a long-time owner of a company that has been recognized twice as one of the 50 best small and medium employers to work for in Canada, he has applied his business acumen successfully to enhance his department’s effectiveness in serving the community.

One of Chief Sparling’s areas of expertise is increasing the efficiency of organizations that have been joined through amalgamation. As an executive, he frequently acquired other businesses and merged them with his own. Over the years, his company grew to become one of the largest propane retailers in Canada, and one of the 25 largest in North America.

This business expertise came in handy when Chief Sparling was named fire chief of a newly amalgamated fire department. The Fire Department of North Huron was the result of the merger of two departments that, between them, had been owned by five different municipalities. As operations became unwieldy and inefficient, merger was the logical yet controversial solution. Despite serious resistance from both community members and firefighters, the department weathered the transition successfully.

Chief Sparling relied heavily on his business experience to effect a successful merger. He offers eight time-tested suggestions for those facing consolidation situations:

  1. Take care of your people. If they trust that you have their best interests at heart, they will appreciate what you are doing even if they don’t fully agree with it.
  2. Paint a clear picture for the short-, medium-, and long-term. Once the picture is painted, it’s okay to go back and add some color.
  3. Create a clear “play to win” message – i.e., this change is for real, we’re not playing around. Use a variety of media to communicate that message widely and consistently.
  4. Tell it like it is – i.e., be honest and open about what you can and cannot do. Do not avoid or sugarcoat information that people may not want to hear.
  5. Listen carefully to your stakeholders. While you need not agree with or do everything they ask, look for the “gems” of information. If everyone is saying something is a bad idea, take another look at it.
  6. Pick good employees. Use a neutral, bona fide selection process. If the leadership team has poor skills, the organization cannot succeed.
  7. Don’t be afraid to terminate those who are weak. They can undermine the entire organization.
  8. Do not promise savings in the first year of a merger. Generally you must spend more initially to make changes, get people on the same page, and generate some short-term wins. Stakeholders must understand that savings begin 2.5-3 years into the process.

As with any change effort, consolidation takes time: it is a process, not an event. By treating your merger or consolidation as a process that includes best practices such as those above, you can increase the likelihood that your consolidation efforts will be successful.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Lessons in Inclusion from Special Olympics Athletes

June 11th, 2014

Lessons in Inclusion from Special Olympics Athletes

Alignment solution: Practicing inclusion and acceptance in a diverse world may not require the same kind of bravery as that summoned by public safety professionals whose job is to run toward danger, yet it is equally challenging to many.

The world is full of differences; its diversity is what makes life rich and vibrant. Yet too often that diversity results in discord and strife instead of celebrations of our individual and collective talents. Special Olympics, the world’s largest sports organization, changes the lives of people with intellectual disabilities through year-round sports training and competitions. Many Special Olympics athletes have mild to severe physical as well as intellectual disabilities. Their oath states, “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

If you ever have attended a Special Olympics competition, you know the focus is not on winning. Although many of the athletes do want to win, their true reward comes from being accepted for who they are and for celebrating what they CAN do. It doesn’t matter how well they do; what counts is that they are brave enough to put forth their best effort. In so doing, they inspire those who witness their joy in testing themselves.

At last weekend’s 2014 Special Olympics Southern California Summer Games Invitational, I was particularly awe-struck by one young gymnast. Though wheelchair-bound, she competed in the balance beam and the floor dance events. Although she cannot stand and has limited movement in both arms and legs, she found ways to work around those constraints. A whole gym full of people cheered her on, inspired by her bravery and the huge smile on her face. Athletes who forgot their routines, or dropped their equipment, or fell off equipment didn’t let those hiccups faze them. They remained true to their promise to “be brave in the attempt.” No matter where they fall on the ability spectrum, the efforts of Special Olympics athletes are celebrated and supported without reservation. Their joy comes from the freedom to be accepted unconditionally for who they are and from being part of something bigger than themselves.

Here are ten life lessons that Special Olympics athletes can teach us about being inclusive and accepting of others:

  1. Have the courage to be yourself. Allow others to be themselves as well.
  2. It doesn’t matter whether you “win;”what counts is having the courage to use the talent you’ve been given.
  3. Perfection is not the goal. It is enough to do your very best.
  4. Look for reasons to support others. Cheer them on – loudly.
  5. Encourage people to test their limits. Rather than tell them they can’t do something, help them to find a way around obstacles.
  6. Be delighted with your efforts. Share your joy.
  7. “Small” victories often are huge. Celebrate all accomplishments.
  8. The effects of the talent unleashed by creating an environment of inclusiveness and acceptance are inspiring and contagious. The world is better off as a result.
  9. The joy is in the journey. Invite others along for the ride.
  10. It only takes a few minutes to celebrate another person.

Are you brave enough to embrace those who seem different than you? Could your work environment be more inclusive and accepting? If so, try some of the above tips. You might just find yourself inspired by the results.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Results through Implementation

May 28th, 2014

 

Results through Implementation

Alignment solution: The best-laid plans are doomed to failure if they are not implemented.

What is your track record for implementing your organization’s policies, procedures, programs, and initiatives? If you wrote down a list right now of all the plans developed on your watch, what percent of them could you honestly say have been transformed into actions that resulted in sustainable, meaningful results? For example, is your strategic plan driving your organization toward its goals, or is it gathering dust on a shelf? How about your succession plan? Do you have a pool of qualified candidates ready to step into key positions when vacancies arise, or do you promote the nearest warm body and hope for the best?

A critical success factor for leaders is the management of plan implementation – i.e., turning words into actions to achieve desired outcomes. The best-laid plans are worthless if they are not executed. This seems like an obvious point. Yet too often leaders fail to ensure that things get done. Last week, for example, articles in a number of media outlets took President Obama to task for his inability to move from campaign rhetoric to action to results on initiatives that he identified as high priorities for his administration. Politics aside, the facts to date indicate a dearth of follow-through on promises like providing timely care for U.S. veterans.

How can you avoid such a failure of leadership? Start with these three steps:

  1. Realize that plans have two essential parts: development and implementation. It is unlikely that a poorly developed plan can be effective in achieving its desired outcome. It is impossible for even a great plan to succeed if no action is taken to achieve it.
  2. Insist that an implementation plan accompany every plan, policy, procedure, program, and initiative. Such a plan is much more detailed than an action plan, which typically is a simple to-do list. The difference between the two can be compared to getting a request to bake a cake without any further information (the action plan), and being handed a recipe for the cake you’re asked to bake (the implementation plan).
  3. Become a master of delegation by accurately identifying the most productive ways for you to spend your time. Here’s an effective tool that can help you achieve such mastery. Ask yourself, “Am I the only person in the world who can do [X]?” If the truthful answer is “Yes,” then do it. More often than not, however, the answer is “No.” In that case, delegate the task. Everyone will be better off: you spend time addressing the things only you can do, and others handle what they do best. Morale is enhanced, productivity increases, and the organization maximizes its performance.

By paying attention to both the development and the implementation of plans, ensuring that their words are translated into actions that result in sustainable outcomes, and delegating necessary tasks effectively, you are highly likely to achieve the desired end.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

 

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: The #1 Job of a Leader

May 14th, 2014

The #1 job of a leader

Alignment solution: The number one job of a leader is taking care of his/her people.

Retired General Rick Hillier, former Chief of the Defence Staff for Canadian Forces, is a distinguished leader. So on May 5th when he declared, “The number one job of a leader is people,” he had the attention of every one of the nearly 600 attendees of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs’ annual conference in Toronto. For 90 minutes he drove home the point that leadership is all about people by telling story after compelling story about the men and women who had served under his command. Specifically, he said, there are two steps to a leader’s number one job: inspiring others to join you in what you do, and drawing inspiration from your followers to keep you going.

When you inspire others, according to General Hillier, people want to work with you to change the world. They will fight to join your team. And not only will they bring their bodies to work, which they are paid to do, they also will bring their minds. Whatever you focus on, they focus on as well.

When you are down, he continued, you need only look around you to find inspiration in the people who follow you. When you are surrounded by those who share your vision and are ready to do whatever it takes to achieve it, you cannot help but be inspired by them.

Here are nine ways General Hillier said that leaders can inspire their followers. You inspire people by:

  1. Having a vision that they can get behind.
  2. Aligning your priorities, words, actions, and values with that vision – i.e., truly walking the talk.
  3. Thinking outside the box.
  4. Equipping them properly to do the job you’ve asked them to do.
  5. Being there with them and giving them credit, with compassion, in the presence of others, and in a personal way.
  6. Not blaming others when things go wrong, and taking responsibility for whatever happened.
  7. Standing up for them, even if it means putting your own job on the line by doing the right thing.
  8. Creating learning organizations, which make people more competitive and save lives when they get to learn and practice ahead of time.
  9. Being yourself, and letting others see you grow, learn, and mature.

General Hillier closed by saying that heroism comes from the leadership you provide and the inspiration you create.

How many of the nine actions above can you honestly say you practice regularly? Which one(s) will you commit to adopting today? Following these steps consistently will result in a significantly higher likelihood of achieving your vision through the efforts of inspired followers who, in turn, serve as a source of inspiration for you, their leader.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Effective Delegation Tool for Busy Leaders

May 12th, 2014

Early Saturday morning I went to the Long Beach Fire Department’s Training Center to attend a traffic control class for CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members. The CERT program manager, Firefighter/Paramedic Jake Heflin, a highly respected and nationally recognized expert in emergency preparedness and response as well as a sought-after FEMA-certified trainer, came in a few minutes later. The look on his face suggested he hadn’t slept in days. Professional that he is, he rallied to get the class started by introducing our Long Beach Police Department trainer.

During the break, I asked Jake how things were going. He had just returned from a week-long trip to Phoenix, the White House had called him to request that he write a letter explaining how emergency preparedness would affect one of its initiatives, his work had piled up in his absence, and he was worried about the funding for his position, which ends in September. Plus he hadn’t seen his family in a week, and Sunday was Mother’s Day in the U.S. No pressure!

“Pat,” he said, “I need to be operating at the 50,000 foot level. Instead, I’m down here in the weeds. I need to learn now to delegate.”

“Jake,” I replied, “I have just the tool for you. It’s a very simple question that provides immediate clarity. Ask yourself, ‘Am I the only person who can do [the task at hand]?’ If the truthful answer is ‘Yes,’ then do it. Otherwise, delegate it.”

Though the question is a simple one that cuts to the chase, I find that leaders have a hard time actually releasing tasks they should be delegating. Sometimes there is no one to whom they can hand things off. However, even that “excuse” often can be overcome with a little creativity. Most of the time, there are beliefs that hold leaders back. See if either of these rationalizations resonates with you:

“No one else can do it as well as I can.”

“I can do it faster myself.”

Although these statements may be true, here’s why allowing such beliefs to prevent you from delegating tasks is problematic on three levels:

1. Organization: you are not serving your organization well because you are misallocating scarce resources, namely your time.

2. Employees: you are failing to develop your staff by withholding opportunities for them to learn and grow.

3. Self: you are hurting yourself because you unnecessarily are increasing the amount of stress you face, which has a negative effect on your health as well as on your performance.

So please – do yourself and everyone else a favor: stop making excuses and start delegating! By releasing those tasks that others can do and focusing on those that you are uniquely qualified to do (or that you love to do), you will experience a dramatic increase in well-being. As a bonus, those to whom you delegate the tasks will appreciate the trust you are showing in them.

© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

 

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: The Key to Successful Workplace Change Efforts

April 23rd, 2014



The Key to Successful Workplace Change Efforts

Alignment solution: The key to successful workplace change efforts is building and maintaining quality relationships with your employees.  

There are all kinds of changes occurring in the workplace today – e.g., adapting to new economic realities, consolidating functions, and aligning resources with revised organizational priorities. Though they take a variety of forms, change efforts share one key element: people are involved. Add to that fact the reality that human beings tend to resist change, and you have a potential recipe for disaster. The key ingredient that enables success, yet too often is missing, is the quality of your employee relationships. The return on your investment in making your employees a high priority – i.e., devoting the time and energy necessary to nurture those connections – is an exponentially greater likelihood that your change effort will succeed.

Can the desired change be accomplished if you ignore the quality of your employee relationships? Perhaps. Will it be effective? Most likely no. The best case scenario when relationships are poor: the change effort will cost more (in dollars, time, energy diverted from productive activities) than it would otherwise. The worst case scenario: the organization is much worse off than it was before, with long-lasting negative effects. Why? When you effect change by ignoring its human elements, you end up with employees who may be compliant, but they aren’t committed. Negative effects include high levels of distrust and cynicism, decreased productivity, low morale, increased resistance, unwillingness to follow your lead, a climate of “us vs. them,” and lack of ownership of the desired result. The time you “gain” by failing to make employee relationships a high priority on the front end will be miniscule compared to the time you will have to spend later dealing with the negative repercussions of ignoring or downplaying the importance of the human element in change management.

Here are seven ways to create and maintain quality employee relationships that will make your workplace change efforts proceed more smoothly:

  1. Be open and honest. Share the bad news as well as the good.
  2. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you find you cannot keep a promise, immediately let employees know why.
  3. Ensure the change process and decisions are procedurally fair – i.e., transparent, free of bias, and with meaningful opportunities for input by employees at every step, not just at the end.
  4. Utilize a variety of media to communicate your message consistently and frequently.
  5. Listen to what’s on employees’ minds. Show that you truly have heard them. Seriously consider their concerns/suggestions/feedback.
  6. Paint employees into the picture as soon as possible – before the picture is fully or largely formed – so they feel a sense of ownership.
  7. Explain the decision process at each step. Opt for more inclusion vs. less.

To read about additional steps you can take to create and sustain excellent relationships with your employees, take a look at my recently published article Relationship Excellence: 9 Steps for Providing Relationship Leadership. Although the article was written for leaders in the fire and rescue service, its lessons are universal. There also are links to two previous articles in that relationship excellence series.


To find other articles and resources that may be of value to you, I invite you to visit my web site at www.BusinessAlignmentStrategies.com and my blog at www.OptimizeBusinessResults.com.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: How to Demonstrate Your Workgroup’s Value

April 22nd, 2014



How to Demonstrate Your Workgroup’s Value

Alignment solution: Successfully navigating your organization’s political environment does not require bragging or begging.

The workplace is a competitive environment. How can you ensure your team, function, or department obtains the resources it needs to achieve its goals? By demonstrating the value you provide in ways that catch the attention of your stakeholders.

Regardless of the size of your work group, the following process will help you identify and communicate in a compelling way the impact you have on your organization. For example, let’s consider how workgroups at a large public university might make a persuasive case for the value they provide. Like other public institutions, those in higher education have come under the microscope and suffered massive budget cutbacks. Thus demonstrating value has become more important than ever.

  1. Identify clearly the desired end result.
    For our example, the university’s vision is to prepare students for success in a changing world.

  2. List the ways that your workgroup affects that end result.
    This step is especially important for staff positions, as employees in those jobs don’t always see a direct connection between their work and the organization’s desired outcome. For example, custodial staff ensure the classrooms and offices are clean and safe so students can learn and faculty can teach. Trades workers maintain the classroom and office buildings where people learn and work. Human resource professionals ensure staff get the training they need to perform their jobs supporting student learning. Administrative assistants perform tasks that enable faculty to focus on teaching, students to focus on learning, and administrators to focus on supporting students’ success.

  3. Frame information so it provides a context that is meaningful for your specific stakeholders.
    Educating your members and stakeholders is key. Focus relentlessly on outcomes. Make sure your workgroup is able to show students how it enables their success. Demonstrate how you are using taxpayers’ money effectively to educate tomorrow’s leaders. Provide evidence of the quality of education students receive and how it will enable their success in life. Couch the information in ways that answer the implicit question that all stakeholders ask about the services you provide: “What’s in it for me?”

  4. Communicate the above information widely using a variety of media.
    Use words, pictures, charts, and graphs appropriately to get your stakeholders’ attention. Disseminate the information through an intranet, the university’s web site, social media outlets, newsletters, and interactions with students, staff, administrators, faculty, community members, and alumni.

  5. Assess the results and adjust as necessary.
    Monitor the results of your relentless focus on value. Tweak your efforts as necessary. Educating your own members about how they contribute to the vision will enable you to be effective in demonstrating the contributions your workgroup makes to the organization.

Any size workgroup may use the above process to demonstrate its value. For the most part, the resources required are minimal. Simply frame the information you currently present so it focuses on the outcomes important to your stakeholders. Convey it in language and terms your stakeholders can understand and relate to easily.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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© 2014 Pat Lynch. All rights reserved.

Alignment Solutions Newsletter: Navigating Organizational Politics: No Bragging or Begging Required

March 12th, 2014


Navigating Organizational Politics:
No Bragging or Begging Required

Alignment solution: Successfully navigating your organization’s political environment does not require bragging or begging.

As a leader, how often do you feel that you are expected to brag and beg to get the resources needed to be successful in achieving your organization’s mission? How often do your employees feel the same way about their careers and professional success?

Regardless of their type, organizations inherently are political entities. While some, such as those in the public sector, are more overtly political than others, internal and external politics seldom are far from the surface. Consider the politics intrinsic in these common scenarios:

  • A manager can promote only one of several excellent candidates for a job.
  • A local school system wants voters to approve a bond issue to fund repairs.
  • A non-profit organization aspires to operate a halfway house in a residential area.
  • Managers at a service company are at odds with union members over an unpopular work rule.

Despite the fact that success depends heavily on their adeptness at navigating internal and external political processes, few leaders are willing or feel able to embrace that aspect of their jobs. One reason might be that politics in general have a bad reputation. For example, in a recent article, Washington Post columnist George Will quoted an individual who explained his reluctance to run for public office by saying, “Your parents warn you not to brag about yourself or beg, and what you do in politics is brag and beg.”

The fact is that while negotiating the relevant political system(s) effectively is part of an organizational leader’s job, bragging and begging are not necessary. Those who have been successful in navigating their political white waters engage effectively in at least four activities: (1) assiduously cultivating relationships, (2) learning and following the relevant political process(es), (3) demonstrating the value of the anticipated outcome to those affected, and (4) allowing stakeholders to make decisions along the way. Most notably, leaders who can show positive results communicate a powerful message. As St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean famously proclaimed early in 1934 when he predicted that his team would win the World Series that year, “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.” It turns out he wasn’t bragging.

Navigating the political process successfully without bragging or begging is a skill that can be learned and improved. To read about some time-tested, universal lessons in political acumen accumulated over the years by a fire chief who has been successful in guiding stakeholders through their political white waters, take a look at our article How to Succeed in Public Safety Politics without Bragging or Begging.


Alignment Solutions is a concise, bi-weekly newsletter written specifically to help organizational leaders optimize their business results. Your e-mail address is never shared with anyone for any reason. You may unsubscribe by clicking the link on the bottom of this e-mail.

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