This article is an expansion to a presentation that I gave to doctoral students at Old Dominion University on October 16, 2008. The presentation related to administrative supervision in a community mental health center. However, the principles outlined in this paper are useful in any organization.
In Executive Supervision, Part I, I pointed out that Executives plan, organize, integrate, motivate, measure, lead, teach and support. For an Executive to do those functions successfully, the Executive must have several administrative competencies. These administrative competencies that I will discuss over several weeks strongly correlate with the functions discussed in the first article. In fact, the competencies outlined throughout this series are required qualifications for anyone applying for a SES (Senior Executive Service) position with the federal government. The competencies are as follows:
In addition to those competencies listed above, I will share with you other management tools an Executive will need to be successful. These additional tools will look at management do’s and don’ts as well as offer tips on providing self care (managing oneself) as you try to effectively lead and mange people. But today’s topic will be about leadership.
Leadership requires the Executive to be pro-active. As a leader, the Executive must mentor, coach, teach and direct. As mentioned in an earlier blog, I believe we all have the potential to be leaders. It’s a matter of getting people to believe in you and follow through on your ideas. People will follow through on your ideas if you are a strategic thinker and can provide a vision for your team’s future.
To be strategic and visionary, the Executive must stay abreast, and in many instances, ahead of the learning curve within his or her given industry. This continuous learning requires the Executive to read the industry’s various trade magazines, a variety of books, fiction and nonfiction, attend workshops, conferences and yes even to listen to all the debates and discussion in business meetings. It is also a good idea to read articles and books outside your given industry; this helps with “out of the box” thinking.
Strategic thinking and visioning requires “planned quiet time”. My recommendation is that you have “planned quiet times” for yourself, but also plan quiet times or quadrant II times for your team. My scheduled quiet time is based on Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In his book Covey’s discuss his time matrix. The time matrix has 4 quadrants. Quadrant II is the quadrant of productivity and balance. Activities often associated with this quadrant are considered important, but not urgent. These important activities include preparation, prevention, planning, relationship building, re-creation and value clarification. To learn more about these activities, Covey’s time matrix and the other 3 quadrants, I recommend that you read Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, or attend one of his many workshops.
Personally, I schedule several private quiet times. I have scheduled quiet times for meditation with my Creator, which varies from 30 minutes to an hour. I then schedule additional quiet time when I arrive at work. The time varies accordingly; if I am planning for the entire week, my planning time is about 20 minutes. If daily planning, the time varies from 5 to10 minutes. I also try to find time during the weekend to have quiet time, which I spend reading a book. Unfortunately, I do little reading on weekend during football season (September-February). In his book, It’s About Time: A Time Management Tool Chest for Retailers, Harold C. Lloyd shares that to assure a productive day at the office, the Executive needs to disappear for the first 20 minutes of his or her workday. He states that the first 20 minutes will allow the Executive to get organized so that the Executive can provide direction to the team that depends on the Executive for leadership. He writes “the key to a successful “20-Minute Disappearing Act” is to use that time to get your thoughts in order, decide what your priorities are, review important appointments, and figure out what you want to accomplish today” (p.11).
For the team that I lead, the quadrant II time is scheduled quarterly. We primarily use this time to re-educate or educate ourselves. It may be reviewing and discussing an article in a trade magazine. There may be discussion about a workshop that someone had attended, discussion and overview of new service that one of the program managers have started or plan to start. It may be a topic about leadership. This quiet time may also be used for strategic planning. Regardless of what is discussed, this time builds team spirit and energizes the team to strive for excellence.
This quiet time, both individually and collectively as a team, allows the Executive and the team to be creative and innovative. For an Executive to be successful he or she must also be creative and innovative. Creativity and innovation come about when the work environment is ripe for it and it is the Executive’s responsibility to create an environment that encourages creativity and innovation.
One method for creating an innovative environment is to allow your team to be the experts. Your team members are on the front line and have more direct contacts with the customers. Often they know how to improve service for the customers but need permission to offer new ideas or new processes for delivering services. Your job as the Executive is to listen to the experts, ask clarifying questions, guide the experts, encourage the experts, suggests measurable outcomes for evaluation purposes and to provide the resources needed by the experts to do their jobs and/or to try new things. Once you are satisfied with the team’s reasoning for trying something different, support them in putting the processes or service into action. It has been my experience that many of the ideas put forth by the team experts will increase efficiencies and benefit the customers. Of course this requires the Executive/Leader to be flexible and open to change. Yes, be open to trying something different even when it appears to be a little risky. As the leader you must trust the process and as the Executive you are the one who create the environment where trust is possible. Again this will lead to creativity and innovation in your team unit.
A part of leadership is motivating and team building. Motivation comes when team members understand and believe that they are providing a meaningful benefit to their customer and often the Executive must remind the team about the organization’s purpose and the efforts of the team in fulfilling the purpose. Keeping the vision in from your team along with genuine praise, recognition and yes, compensation when it is merited will go a long in providing motivation to staff and building team spirit.
Team building is important. It inspires, motivates and guides your staff members toward a common goal. It also fosters commitment, pride, trust and a spirit of camaraderie. Needless to say a united team fosters a pleasant work environment. An Executive can build his or her team by emphasizing team work. I often tell my team, that the team solves problems; not me or any one individual. This is important because in today’s work environment interdependency is often the norm and should be encouraged.
Since interdependency is the norm in most industry, conflicts are guaranteed to occur. Therefore, the Executive must be skilled at conflict management. It would behoove the Executive to try to resolve conflicts quickly and to seek a wi
n-win approach for all involved. If a win-win approach is not an option then a resolution must be reached that will have minimal impact on the organization and its customers.
Open communication is a key to minimizing conflicts, but also building and motivating the team. Therefore, the Executive must have excellent communication and listening skills. This means being clear about your message; being repetitive with your message and having an open door policy that team members feel comfortable coming to you with critical issues and problems. If you offer a trusting environment, team members will often come to you prior to an issue or a problem becoming a crisis. It is advisable not to solve the problem or issue brought to you by a team member since part of your goal is to build internal leaders. It is recommended that you put on your mentoring and coaching cap to help guide your team or staff to a resolution on an issue or problem. It has been my experience that team members know how to resolve a problem, but need confirmation from you as the leader before they are ready to move forward.
This concludes the section on Leadership. In the next series, we will focus on Execution.