Capacity Building

Building capacity is a topic that is on everyone’s lips in local government. Whether it is capacity for a project, in a department, team, or one’s self. Everyone wants to know how to build more capacity because it seems like there is never enough.What is capacity?  Capacity is the capability to perform, the amount that can be contained, or the maximum production possible. When I coach individuals or teams, and I hear “We don’t have the capacity to do that”, I get curious. Sometimes, it means they do not have the capability. If that is the case, we need to peel back those layers and understand what is interfering with performance. Is it training, money, knowledge, or people? Until we go below the surface, we cannot fully understand how to address the concern.If the capacity issue is one of time, it may be time to examine what you or your team is working on. Many times, we do work activities, because we think we have to or because we always have done them. When we get on autopilot with our daily work activities, we are not really looking at what we do with a critical eye. Some of the activities may no longer be needed.Another aspect to look at - is if you have the right people doing the right activities. I was recently certified in an assessment tool that looks at how we work, naturally. How we use our energy in certain aspects of our workday and what is the natural way we use our energy to complete work most efficiently and effectively. This was so enlightening for me and explained so much; why certain tasks were painful and took twice as long as those tasks that came naturally to me and were completed with joy and ease.Chances are we have members of our teams who are especially skilled at certain work tasks because they come naturally to them. Perhaps, with a bit of shuffling, we may be able to put the right people on the right tasks to complete those necessary tasks with joy and ease. Do you remember the old swap meet phrase, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure?” This same idea may be applied to our team’s tasks. You may find after this awareness and shuffling, you really do have the capacity.As always, I love to hear from you. What would be necessary for you to have capacity?With Love and To Your Success,Maria

Leadership Light

I love this quote by Edith Wharton, “There are two ways of spreading light…To be a candle or the mirror that reflects it.”In this season of light, I ponder what light represents in our lives and how that relates to our leadership. I love Edith Wharton’s perspective of spreading light, but what exactly does that mean?Spreading light comes in the form of lighting up a room. As leaders, we can light up a room with our presence; you know, by being fully present to others. We do this by listening without distraction and giving our full attention to those around us.We can also spread light through our attitudes and behaviors. We spread light through love, care, and compassion. Light takes away the darkness. We know that smiles are contagious and can be a great conduit to spreading light and love.As leaders, we can also be the mirror that reflects light. Through encouragement and support of those we lead, we see the light in their eyes, their behaviors, and in their attitudes. Mentoring those we lead and reflecting back their greatness is one of the most profound activities we can do as leaders.We also reflect light by “lightening” the load of others. We can help lighten the heaviness of others by supporting our teams literally and figuratively. We can support others in a variety of ways that don’t cost any money. Sometimes small acts of just listening, giving an encouraging word, or acknowledging others can be extraordinary and have lasting profound effects. Serving those we lead is an example of love-based leadership.Light in the darkness and lightening the load are profound ways we demonstrate love-based leadership. In this season of light, I wish you a blessed holiday season and a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.As always, I love to hear from you. How will you be a light to others today?With love,Maria

Great Leaders Are Full

Great leaders, who communicate and connect, fill their minds with the person in front of them. We feel this connection when others are fully engaged in what we are saying. We see it in their eyes, we feel it energetically, we know we are connected and drawn to that person and the moment. Presence is mindfulness. Mindfulness is found in the present, and when you are present, you show up.When we find this connection with others through mindfulness, we gain a deeper understanding of each other and of ourselves. Of course when we do, we are mind-full of their presence in the moment. We also understand ourselves better when we connect with others. It is not unusual with this deep union of souls, to see ourselves in those people with whom we feel connected. In a mindful state, empathy, connection, compassion, and equality surface to our consciousness. We see and feel each other as the same, without division and without judgment—we feel love.Not only is a mindful practice one that provides clarity, vision, connection, and beauty, but being present in the moment also confers peace of mind. Living in mindfulness is living in peace. This is especially relevant in our current culture plagued with chaos, competition, rage, and fear.How do you know when you’ve really been heard?With love,Maria

Innovation meets Implementation

“The innovation point is the pivotal moment when talented and motivated people seek the opportunity to act on their ideas and dreams.” -W. Arthur Porter

I recently attended an innovation conference for local governments where I learned of fantastic innovative solutions that some local governments are doing. First, there was a Park District that launched an idea dashboard where staff can upload ideas. Others can give the ideas a thumbs up or comment. Ideas grow here and through ongoing dashboard input, collaborative thinking in born. This park district has created and implemented several innovations that began on their idea dashboard.Another innovative solution was a local government that uses Alexa technology to help with light maintenance and customer assistance. They use inexpensive technology in creative and innovative ways to add services, while reducing costs.It starts with an idea in the mind and then action puts it into motion.How do we get into an innovative space? Try these 3 steps:

  • Get curious. Channel your inner 3-year old. Ask and dig from a place of curiosity.
  • Try the opposite. If you’ve always done it a certain way, try the opposite. See what happens and ask yourself and your team, “What else is possible?”
  • Be fast to acclimate. The quicker you are to acclimate and adapt to change, the quicker you will be able to innovate.

What are some innovations we could use in local government?With Love and To Your Success,Maria

The Benefits of Complaints

So often, when we hear the word, complain, those of us who have worked in customer service bristle! However, complaints are not always a bad thing – sometimes complaints can be quite valuable. When we shift our perceptions from negativity to a positive frame, we may actually welcome complaints…well, sometimes!Complaints can be beneficial because:

  • Complaints can give you information you may not otherwise have. Sometimes we can’t see the forest through the trees, in other words, we may be too close to the situation to see problems or issues.
  • When we receive complaints, we receive information. Let’s face it; often times some information is better than no information. When people take the time out to complain, that means at some level they care! If they were complacent or indifferent about you or your organization, they would say nothing.
  • If the complaint doesn’t come to you, it doesn’t mean the complaint is not being shared with someone else…perhaps shared with someone else with whom they are now doing business!The complaint gives you an opportunity to correct the situation. Contrary to popular belief, ignorance is not bliss.

Think about this: When people do share a complaint with you, they are actually saying:

  • I value this relationship.
  • I hope to continue this relationship.
  • I am presenting this problem to you because I care.
  • I know you can fix this.

What are your thoughts about complaints?With love,Maria

Leadership in Local Government Culture

Local governments are at a crucial time in their evolution. Over 60% of local government employees are eligible to retire within the next five years. Wow, 60%!And if that isn’t significant enough, only 6% of current college students are even remotely thinking about public service.That means that we are potentially looking at a 54% gap of local government employees. The implications of the impact that we could experience from this gap are pretty profound!This gap, in this current day, requires an urgent and profound shift in the way local governments do business. The shift that I am talking about is a paradigm shift in organizational culture in local governments.OK, simply what does this mean?It means that we need to change the workplace culture in many cities and counties. First of all, we need to create a culture that will attract and retain a new workforce. Forbes released a study a few years ago that found that 95% of people looking for employment believed that culture was more important than compensation. 95%!Social sites like Glassdoor and Indeed openly discuss organizational culture with employee ratings and comments. Just like an entire generation chooses restaurants, hotels, movies, and most purchases based on ratings and comments, please know that they too, are choosing employers based on ratings and comments.Cultures that encourage innovation, entrepreneurial thinking, flexibility, challenge, growth opportunities, and meaningful experiences are cultures that are going to attract a new generation of eager employees.I love this work that we do with local governments, strategically and intentionally designing fantastic workplace cultures. Local governments are ripe for innovation, entrepreneurial thinking, and meaningful experiences. Build it and they will come!Secondly, cities and counties couldn’t possibly deliver the same services in the same way with 50% less people. We need to find different, innovative ways to serve our communities.As always, I love to hear from you. How would you describe a great workplace culture?With Love and To Your Success,Maria

Laughter is Underrated

Laughter is completely underrated. Laughter is our heart’s outpouring of love. We know laughter is contagious, yet it is powerful medicine. Leadership use of laughter is like a power-charged tool with many uses.One of the most compelling benefits of laughter is shared, joyous connection. Comedian Victor Borge said, “Laughter is the closest distance between two people.” He is right; laughter connects us at deep level, which is why it is so contagious. Laughter moves beyond the superficiality of words right to our souls, moving all pretense and guard aside.I’m always amazed at the extreme power of laughter; people laughing just in response to someone else’s laughter. I remember a time when my husband, daughter, and I were watching a silly movie. The premise was a bit far-fetched, but we liked the actor, Bill Murray, in the film. He inherited a circus elephant and wanted to take it across country to sell it to a zoo. In one scene, he was driving an 18-wheeler, which he did not know how to drive, with the elephant in the trailer. In the cab, he had several boxes of candy that he was feeding to the elephant, since he didn’t know what else to feed the animal and of course he experienced one series of hysterical mishaps after another!I laughed so hard—it was one of the funniest scenes I ever saw! What was even funnier was how hard my husband and daughter were laughing at my reaction. They did not find the scene as hysterical as I did, but my deep belly, soulful laughter was so contagious that all three of us were rolling on the floor, in tears. Laughter goes to the core, infecting those within its path.When was the last time you had a good, deep belly laugh?As always, I love hearing your stories!With love,Maria

Conflict With Colleagues

In both group coaching and individual coaching, I am consistently asked how to get along with people that we have conflict with – conflict with direct reports, peers, or our bosses. This is a universal problem for local governments and private sector employers as well.Here are three strategies that I’ve found to be extremely effective with my clients as well as myself:

  1. Find something you have in common with the person you have conflict with. Yes, there is at least one thing you have in common besides breathing. I had a boss once who had very ugly behavior with most of the team – equal opportunity ugly - and I dreaded any encounters that I had to have with him. I realized one day that he had a beautiful piece of art hanging in his office. When I asked about the artwork, his entire demeanor changed, and he became very animated discussing his love of art. Bingo! I too, know art (my father is an artist) and I immediately found a connection with him. I made it my mission each weekend to find a new art opening or exhibit in our city so that I could discuss it with him on Mondays. I wouldn’t say we became fast friends, but I will tell you that once we connected, our encounters were much more pleasant.
  2. Learn a bit about their hobbies or family’s hobbies. I had a client who tried everything to connect with another department director to no avail. When she found out that her co-worker’s son was in soccer, we realized that his name and the name of his team was reported in the Sports section of the local newspaper on a weekly basis. She watched for these articles and was able to establish a connection with her colleague discussing his son’s soccer games. They built a strong relationship that resulted in several inter-departmental collaborations.
  3. When you anticipate going into a conflict-ridden meeting, get there early and work the room. Meet people as they are coming into the room, shaking hands and making eye contact. While this may sound simple, remember that simple is profound. I used this strategy time and again when I facilitated HOA meetings and community planning meetings. It is more difficult for people to have ugly behavior with you when they feel a personal connection with you.

As always, I love to hear from you. What strategy have you done that reduced or neutralized conflict?With Love and To Your Success,Maria

Leadership Choices Today are Tomorrow’s Results

“Yesterday was the birth of today. Today is the birthplace of tomorrow.” ~ Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye spoke those words at the Motown 25th Reunion show that aired on television in 1983. Simple words with a profound message.Today, many of our organizations are spiritually bankrupt, halls walked by zombies, the living dead. The grim reaper has become the human resources director handing out yet another layoff notice, or the boss giving you yet another task because someone else has left the company. Too many organizations discourage deeper forms of communication, emotions, and intimacy, opting instead for superficiality.If we continue down this path, the same path that got us here, we are doomed to fail. Boleman and Deal stated in Leading with Soul, “Spiritual bankruptcy ultimately leads to economic failure. The deeper cost is creating a world in which everything has a function yet nothing has any meaning.”Life gives us many opportunities to learn lessons and if we fail to learn them the first time, we get the opportunity to experience the lessons again and again until we learn them.George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” If we want progress, abundance, and new way of life then, we must as Gandhi stated, “Be the change we wish to see in the world.”Instead of following a path full of limitations, let’s construct a path illuminated with choice and abundance.With love,Maria

Psychological Contract

I’ve been working with a city government who is going through some pretty significant changes. They are going through a major re-organization, and of course, some people are experiencing layoffs.I was coaching a department director whose position may be eliminated. He was very uneasy about his future and even more importantly, he was devastated at the thought of his thirty years of service suddenly ending. He thought the City would take care of him in exchange for his tri-decade loyalty. He felt extremely let down, devastated, and was shocked that the City he loved so much would do this to him.Enter, the psychological contract. We often times enter into a psychological contract with our employers unconsciously. These contracts are built on unspoken expectations. We’re not even aware that we’ve formed these contract. But don’t let that fool you…just because we are not aware of these psychological contracts, does not mean they don’t exist.To the contrary - the greater the lack of awareness we have around these contracts, the greater the hold it has on us.Our psychological contracts are like a love affair. We give so much to our organization in this relationship. We work hard for this relationship. We don’t sleep, we hardly make time to eat, and we are almost always thinking about this relationship. How can we give more? How can we please more?When there is a breach in the contract, the employee/employer relationship can quickly erode and this is where disengagement sets in. It’s like a break up. Our expectations were not met.We need to manage expectations with ourselves and our team members. We can do this upfront with interviewing, onboarding, reinforcing it during orientation and training, and periodically throughout the year.A very simple expectation could be that I’m going to give my all to this organization, my expertise, my experience, and my knowledge, and in return they are going to give me a paycheck every two weeks.Hmmmm that simplifies it.When did you experience a breach in your psychological contract? How did you handle it? As always, I love to hear from you.With Love and To Your Success,Maria

Wakeup Call!

When sleeping women wake, mountains move. ~ Chinese proverbI love the power of this statement. I would like to expand it to read, “When sleeping people wake, mountains move.”The most obvious interpretation of this is when we get into our day with focused attention; we get a lot of work done.But ahhh, as we know, Chinese proverbs go much deeper, and so do I, so let’s get right to it!When we “wake up” from unconsciousness, we move obstacles and barriers to love – also known as fear and ego. Our fear and ego sometimes feels like mountains. The only way to “move” the mountains is to eliminate the fear and ego with the supreme power of love.We can only know the truth of love with consciousness.It is time to set the alarm – this is a wakeup call! Good morning mountain movers.What practices do you do to stay “awake” and conscious? I always love to hear from you and sharing your insight.With love from your fellow mountain mover,Maria

Rage Age

We have found ourselves in the Rage Age. Incivility is almost becoming the norm. In a recent retreat I facilitated for a Mayor and City Council, incivility was a big part of our conversation. They’ve noticed an increase of incivility in the community, especially after the last major election. It was their belief that the frustration with the federal government and the incivility demonstrated during the last divisive presidential election has trickled down to the local government level.We certainly do not need to look far to see the incivility demonstrated on “social” media. I know of many people who stopped using Facebook and Twitter during the campaign because the conversation went from civil discourse to rage, rude, and abusive dialogue…in other words, the conversations became uncivil.We also see this in our own communities. A very good friend of mine recently was the victim of road rage. When I discussed this incident with a local sheriff, he explained that he wasn’t surprised by this act of rage as it is becoming much more apparent in this time of uncertainty. Wow, living in uncertainty contributes to rage.This incivility is also showing up in our workplaces. 18% of the 867 hate incidents reported in the 10 days after the election occurred in workplace environments. However, incivility in the workplace is not new. A study conducted two years ago uncovered contributing factors to this phenomenon at work. More than half of the employees said they were overloaded at work, 40% claimed they did not have the time to be nice, and 25% reported that their rude behavior was because that is the way their bosses behaved.According to another study released in August of 2016, the experiencing rude behavior reduces employees’ self-control and leads them to behave in a similar manner, which only prolongs the cycle of incivility. This type of behavior is compounded in workplaces that are perceived to be political in nature where co-workers act out of self-interest rather than what is best for the organization or the community in which they serve.When people don’t feel respected, productivity, innovation, and loyalty suffer. People just stop communicating with each other. They stop sharing and seeking information. This can be the death of an organization.Another study showed that people lose the ability to concentrate after being treated rudely. Cognitive skills dropped 30% in experiments that the researchers conducted.In many cases, rude, uncivil behavior stems from a lack of self-awareness. People who behave rudely often don’t realize the impact they have on others around them. We need to get those people who are acting rudely to understand what is going on around them and how they can improve their behavior.Start now, to create more civil workplace cultures by:

  1. Getting support from senior leaders to change their cultures.
  2. Walk the talk, model the behavior you want to see.
  3. Coach your executive leadership team, department directors, managers, supervisors, and employees on how to be civil and respectful of each other.
  4. Hold people accountable, regardless of their title in the organization.This change won’t happen overnight, but moving in the right direction with commitment and awareness will help to change workplace cultures to civil, productive, and innovative organizations.

As always, I love to hear from you. What steps have you taken to help create a civil culture?With Love and To Your Success,Maria

What Makes Greatness in Leadership?

Great leadership is highly sought after. These are the three qualities that I think are most important. What would you say are yours?With Love and To Your Success,Maria

Let Freedom Ring

Happy Independence Day to all of my fellow Americans!Today is a day that we celebrate life’s freedom with gratitude. I have a very long list of life’s freedoms for which I am grateful. Topping that list is my ability to make choices.And we always can make a choice…always!Dr. Viktor Frankl, one of my greatest mentors, was a brilliant psychiatrist captured by the Nazis and imprisoned in a series of concentration camps. His notes of his work and all of his possessions were seized. Stripped of everything, literally and figuratively, he was given a number to replace his name. “The experience of camp life shows that man does have a choice of action,” Frankl stated in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Man can preserve a vestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even in such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress.”Dr. Frankl realized this truth when he wrote, “What alone remains is ‘the last of human freedoms’—the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.”Those are very wise and applicable words then, and today. When we place ourselves in a victim role, we are victims. We do create our own realities. However, we have a choice in how that reality looks, as co-creators. We can choose to create a different perception, a different reality.Let freedom ring!With love,Maria

Impact of Fear

What impact has fear had in your life?Head over to my Facebook and post your thoughts!With Love and To Your Success,Maria

Strategic Doing

We just completed the season for local government strategic planning. I’ve seen and used many different strategies for the strategic planning process. Brainstorming sessions are great fun, looking at possibilities. As we start to drill down our brainstorming into goals, hopefully actionable, SMART goals, the more real our planning becomes. Stating the goals, listing the objectives, and identifying the milestones are all necessary elements to your strategic plan.I’ve see so many great plans brought to this point. Strategic plan done, check that box! However, the plan means nothing if there is not strategic doing.Strategic doing is where the real work begins. We need to pull the plan off of the shelf and put the pedal to the medal. It is time to start doing the strategy. The strategy I find most effective in this action planning process is:

  1. Start with the end goal in mind. For example, if you were to complete Project A in 12 months, determine what success looks like at the completion of that goal.
  2. Next, determine what needs to be done in month 11 to reach your goal in 12 months.
  3. Then determine what needs to be done in month 10 to reach month 11 deliverables.
  4. Determine what needs to be done in month 9 to reach month 10 deliverables.
  5. Continue this process until you’ve identified the necessary actions for the current month.
  6. Identify who is responsible for each of the deliverables needed each month.
  7. Agree to how reporting will be communicated and how often.
  8. Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate! Make sure to celebrate the small wins along the way as well as the big wins at the completion of your goal. This keeps energy up and focus tight.

As always, I love to hear from you. What are some tactics you use for strategic doing?With Love and To Your Success,Maria

Employee Engagement

What needs would employees need to fill that they aren’t getting at work? I’d love to hear your thoughts!With Love and To Your Success,Maria

Better Late Than Never

Several years ago, I had a tremendous learning experience regarding forgiveness.My mentor, a consultant hired by our corporate office specifically to mentor me for one year, leveraged the difficulty in the relationship I had with our division general manager to his advantage. By indicating that he was still needed beyond his contract (due to the strained relationship between the division general manager and me), he prolonged his lucrative consultant income for another two years.I was eventually relieved of my managerial role and the consultant continued his monthly visits to manage and lead my department. I was hurt and resentful. I became exhausted carrying this load of pain and then I finally realized that holding this anger was not honoring or serving anyone, least of all, me.After reconnecting with my spirit, I knew that I had to forgive him. The next time he was in town, I apologized for my behavior and told him that I forgave him for his part in reinforcing the wedge between the divisional general manager and me.The immediate sensation I had was lightness. I could hardly believe how physically light I felt, and I remember holding on to the edge of the desk as it felt like I was going to float away. I was nearly giddy with delight and wondered what had taken me so long to get there.What is keeping you from forgiving someone or yourself? The weight and burden are only hurting you. Free yourself with the amazing gift of forgiveness.Better late, than never…With love,Maria

3 Steps for Leadership to Build Mindfulness

Are our minds, hearts, and spirits truly present? So often, we are replaying in our head the argument we may have had with a spouse, the traffic on the way to work, or the e-mail we just read. How different would it be if we really showed up—mind, body, and spirit? How would our mindfulness, with these three steps, affect our communication, our connection and relationships…our leadership?We’ve learned and studied so much about good communication skills and body language that many of us have mastered the art of “listening” with our bodies. Bodies leaning in, head nodding, eyes fixed on the other person, yet all the while our minds are anywhere but in that conversation.Great leaders, who communicate and connect, fill their minds with the person in front of them. We feel this connection when others are fully engaged in what we’re saying. We see it in their eyes, we feel it energetically, we know we are connected and drawn to that person and the moment. Presence is mindfulness. Mindfulness is found in the present, and when you are present, you show up.Here are three steps to practice presence and soon enough, you’ll definitely be showing up!Not only is a mindful practice one that provides clarity, vision, connection, and beauty, but also being present in the moment creates peace of mind. Living in mindfulness is living in peace. This is especially relevant in our current culture plagued with chaos, competition, rage, and fear.When we find this connection with others through mindfulness, we gain a deeper understanding of each other and of ourselves. We understand ourselves better when we connect with others. It’s not unusual with this deep union of souls, to see ourselves in those people with whom we feel connected. In a mindful state, empathy, connection, compassion, and equality surface to our consciousness. We see and feel each other as the same, without division and without judgment—we feel love.As always, I love to hear from you. What practices do you do to show up? How would you like to show up differently and what will you do to accomplish stronger presence?With love,Maria

Leadership Basics With Maslow

Abraham Maslow’s well-known and highly respected Hierarchy of Needs theory describes five level of needs. What does Maslow’s theory have to do with leadership?If we don’t understand peoples’ needs, we don’t understand people. Let’s look at the needs beginning with the basic needs:

  • Physiological needs – basic needs of air, food, water, shelter, sex, and relief and/or avoidance of pain.
  • Safety needs – after the basic needs are met, safety and security must be met.
  • Belongingness or Social needs – after safety needs are met, we want to feel connections with people.
  • Esteem needs – after social needs are met, we desire self-respect, status, and recognition for our accomplishments.
  • Self-Actualization needs – the highest level of needs is the development of our full potential. To achieve this sense of fulfillment, we seek to understand and grow, to find meaning in our work and our lives.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is based on three assumptions:

  1. only unmet needs motivate,
  2. needs are hierarchical in nature, basic to complex, and
  3. lower level needs must be met before moving to a higher-order need.

We can see how the first two tiers, our basic and safety needs are met, just by having a job and a paycheck. The pay affords us the ability to meet our basic and safety-level needs.The third tier, belongingness and/or social needs, are the connections with others we crave. Often, after a certain period of time on the new job, we seek relationships with those with whom we work. Going to lunch, taking coffee breaks with each other, or perhaps a cocktail after work are all ways in which we fill these belongingness needs. It is not unusual for someone to say they "hate the job, but love the people they work with". This is an important sign for leaders to notice. As soon as those employees get their social needs met outside of work...they are gone!Our esteem needs are when we seek outside approval from others. We want to know we are valued and appreciated. Employees always remember leaders who are good at this. We often remember how we felt when someone said something to or about us, rather than the specific words uttered by the person. How we felt about those statements or actions, has a much longer duration and more deeply affects us than the actual words. I remember while growing up I often heard my mother repeating one of her favorite mantras, “Actions speak louder than words.” How true mom, how very true! This is often the place that we lose “good people” at work, because they don’t feel valued and honored.The highest level of needs Maslow presented was the need for self-actualization. This is where we seek, with a ferocious hunger to find meaning and purpose in what we do. OK, we may start a new job and begin the quest of the hierarchical pyramid all over again, but we will eventually be right back to this higher order of need. Meeting this need is the fulfillment of meaning. People leave organizations when they reach this need level because their work is not a conduit to their meaning-seeking behavior and need.As always, I love to hear from you. What level are you at currently? What is one immediate action you can take today, based on this knowledge?With love,Maria