A Roadmap for How . . .

Vintage compass


Today as I was going through a file related to our organizational strategy, I ran across a document from more than seven years ago related to my expectations for senior staff. I think this document is as relevant today as it was when it was written because it focuses more on the “how” than the “what.” Unfortunately, in our fast-paced world, the “what” changes not only from day to day, but often from hour to hour. For that very reason, the clearer you can be on your “how”, the more your staff will have a roadmap to guide their actions and allow them to respond to situations quickly and with confidence. I share these expectations not because I think they will be a fit for every individual or organization — they won’t be — but to challenge you to consider what you would include in a “roadmap for how” for your organization. In my experience, you can get to your destination much faster when you have a map.


DDR Expectations of Senior Leadership Staff

The quick and dirty . . .

  • Treat others as you would like to be treated
  • Always take the high road
  • No surprises
  • We have to be the grown-ups

Probably more what you had in mind . . .

  • I expect they are fully committed to the mission and vision of the organization and that they exemplify agency values in their interactions with individuals, both internal and external to the organization.
  • I expect they have the baseline knowledge necessary to fully carry out their job, or have developed a plan for acquiring baseline knowledge.
  • I expect the driving factor in decision-making is what is in the best interest of the agency as a whole, not personal or departmental priorities.
  • I expect the work within their area is consistent with, and supports the fulfillment of, Chaddock’s strategic and operational plans.
  • I expect when they come to me with a challenge, they will also come with potential solutions for consideration. My job is to offer guidance and feedback, not “solve their problems”.
  • I expect them to balance short-term urgency with long-term importance.
  • I expect them to be accountable to their team, including me, in carrying out their job responsibilities, and recognize that the decisions of one team member impacts the rest of the team.
  • I expect communication among the team, and with me, to be proactive rather than reactive, identifying upcoming decisions/activities before they occur rather than reporting afterwards.
  • I expect them to make the hard decisions in a thoughtful, caring and timely manner. I also expect them to understand that I’ll do the same, and although they may not always agree with my decisions I expect them to support them.
  • I expect them to look out for their team members, and raise concerns or observations in a supportive manner when appropriate. I also expect that they are receptive to the feedback from their team.
  • I expect them to model transparency in their actions, and foster two-way communications throughout the organization. Hierarchy is not a hideout.

We’re Never Too Old to Need Recess!

businessman slide cropIn our annual employee engagement survey, one of the “red flag” results was the large percentage of staff indicating they go home emotionally exhausted at the end of the day. While this response is consistent with previous surveys — there is no doubt we work in an emotionally exhausting field — we wanted to drill deeper into this response to gain additional insight into how we can support staff as they work to support our struggling youth. We are using three methods to drill deeper: discussions in team meetings, surveys, and a series of focus groups. I lead the focus groups, which are an hour-long discussion with up to eight staff members who voluntarily participate. We have frequently used focus groups as a way for staff to provide input into a decision, or to gain additional information on a specific topic, as was the purpose in this case.

Focus groups provide a wealth of unfiltered feedback — even more so now that staff have experienced that positive things can happen, and negative things don’t happen, as a result of sharing their thoughts. In terms of emotional exhaustion, there were two big take-aways from the focus groups: 1) It’s the little things that make a big difference, and 2) in the words of one of our participants, “We need a recess!”

I love that! We’re never too old to need recess. Maybe it’s not 20 minutes on the playground (although I’m a big proponent of getting up and moving around), but we all benefit from occasionally stepping away from the computer or meeting or problem du jour. Maybe it’s taking a few minutes to chat with some – about something other than work. Maybe it’s taking five minutes for a walk outside or allowing enough time to actually taste your lunch, rather than simply re-fueling.

“Recess” may mean different things to different people, but in my experience as leaders take on more and more responsibility; anything remotely resembling recess seems to get pushed out of their day. And yet, I’m guessing you’ve had the experience of being in the midst of a situation/project/meeting that was sucking the life out of you, and then you receive an unexpected call from a friend or family member that might only take a few minutes but when you returned to the project your entire frame of mind had changed. That’s the power of recess.

What would happen if you announced that at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow, everyone in your organization would stop whatever they were doing and do 10 jumping jacks. I timed it . . . it takes less than 15 seconds. Okay, admittedly not much of a recess, but I’m guessing it might be just enough of a distraction bring a smile to staff members faces, and at least for a few minutes provide an antidote for the emotional exhaustion lurking somewhere in those piles on your desk.

It’s time for recess!