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5 Critical Mistakes That Blunt Leadership Effectiveness

Since 2000, according to numerous national surveys, less than one-third of workers in the United States are engaged in their work as measured by their involvement, enthusiasm and commitment. If you simply reflect on your most recent encounter as a consumer at your local retail store, restaurant or government agency, your own experience will more than likely validate the reality of these startling statistics.

Leaders account for as much as 70 percent of the variance of employee engagement. A Gallup study of 7,272 adults in the United States revealed that one in two had left their job at some point in their career to get away from a manager in order to improve overall quality of life. People don’t leave jobs; people leave people.

Effective leadership requires not only doing the right things, but also understanding what not to do. Here are five mistakes to aggressively avoid.

Critical Mistake #1: Failing to schedule time for learning conversations

You do what you schedule. When you listen, you learn. Leaders should only be doing what no one else can do and no one can listen to your team members like you.

Schedule regular opportunities to ask clear, concise and clarifying ...

4 Reasons to Take the Survey

Real change in the workplace comes from the bottom up. Each employee has important feedback to give and now is the time for your voice to be heard.

The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey provides senior leaders and managers with data that shows what works well and what needs to be improved within each agency.

I know some federal employees aren’t really sure why they should take the survey. Here are four things you should know about why it’s important to participate.

1. Your voice is important. The FEVS asks for your opinion on a wide range of topics, such as training, job satisfaction, performance appraisals, work-life programs, and management. Agencies use this valuable information to improve their organizations.

2. Your responses are confidential. Individual FEVS responses cannot be linked back to you. No one -- not even your supervisor -- will know how you answered. The reason we insist on confidentiality is we need your candid and unfiltered feedback.

3. Your participation matters. The FEVS is sent to a sample of employees, so not every federal worker gets a survey every year. If you received one this year, your participation is important and will serve as a crucial voice for ...

The Weakening Definition of 'Diversity'

What qualifies as a “diverse” workplace? Does it mean that employees are of a variety of different races and genders? Or does it mean they’ve had a variety of life experiences?

Millennials seem to be tilting toward that latter, more easily attainable vision. Arecent study from Deloitte and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, found that when it comes to defining diversity, rather than focusing on demographic features, such as race, or gender, Millennials—those born roughly between 1980 and 2000—are more concerned with hiring those who may have different cognitive viewpoints due to growing up in a different part of the country, or attending a different type of school. Differences in race or gender can play a role in those differing viewpoints, but they may not be singled out as important diversifying characteristics. “Diversity means to me your background based on your previous work experience, where you were born and raised, and any unique factors that contribute to your personality and behavior,” said one Millennial who was surveyed.

This is a departure from what older generations understand diversity to mean. “Millennials frame diversity as a means to a business outcome, which is in stark contrast to ...

Smart Hiring: The Quality Imperative

With the emergence of several job sourcing sites like USAJobs, there are more candidates applying for more positions in the federal government than ever before. Each year, agencies post thousands of job vacancy announcements, resulting in many more thousands of applicants. This seems like great news. By creating larger pipelines of applicants, however, agencies have created an even bigger quality and time problem for themselves.

Generating more applicants does not yield better applicants—actually quite the opposite. The most recent Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey reports that only 40 percent of workers believe that their team is capable of attracting the right people with the skills they need for their work unit, a drop of more than five percentage points since 2010. What seems like an advance (more applicants) has spiraled into a significant challenge, and the federal government’s “posting and praying” approach to recruiting isn’t working.

That said, the federal government is not alone in this challenge. In fact, CEB research shows that private sector organizations have experienced a 30 percent jump in the number of applicants per job posting.  Complicating matters more, of the candidates that apply, only 28 percent are considered to be well-qualified. In essence ...

Leaders Are Willing to Get Uncomfortable

Most leadership courses focus on how best to influence others—how to communicate more effectively, how to build successful teams, and how to motivate an organization to achieve a desired result.

But for Harry Kraemer, a clinical professor of strategy at the Kellogg School and author of Becoming the Best: Build a World-Class Organization Through Values-Based Leadership, the Dale Carnegie approach misses a crucial first step. “It actually starts one step further back,” he says. “Before I can lead others, I had better be able to lead myself.”

Yes, leaders need to master communications, team-building and establishing lasting partnerships, but they cannot do so unless they first become their best selves. Of all the elements of leadership to master, Kraemer says, this is the most difficult.

In order to become their best selves, leaders need to be self-reflective—a quality that does not come easily to most. Part of the reason, of course, is that leaders simply do not have the time. “At the end of the day, most of us live in a world where we’ve got so many things to do and not enough time to do them,” Kraemer says. “There is this perpetual motion machine that ...