Call Dr. Stebbins today 503.957.6528

Call Dr. Stebbins today 503.957.6528

Archives for March 2015

When Professional Development Initiatives Don’t “Stick”….

In a recent e-mail exchange with the leader of a new organizational client, concern was expressed about how professional development initiatives, once started in the organization, diminish over time. I have discovered that when this situation occurs, the impact can be more than financial: emerging cynicism towards such initiatives can be an obstacle to successfully implementing future professional development activities.

In my opinion, these programs/strategies which are so critical to internal leadership development, employee retention and engagement should be pursued with the same commitment, long term vision and resource allocation as other strategic initiatives important to an organization’s success.

Can ‘professional development’ truly become an organizational cultural attribute? YES! The CEO’s of two past client organizations told me on separate occasions “Professional development is what we do”. In other words, they recognize that the long term viability of their organizations depends on a stable, well trained work force. Even during lean times, professional development is not eliminated.

The keys to sustaining professional development initiatives are found in answers to these questions:

  • Does ‘professional development’ appear as a recognized organizational value?
  • How does our current workforce match the future needs of our organization?
  • What will we do to close the gap between current and future talent needs?
  • How can can we instill in our employees that ‘professional development’ activities are an integral part of their overall performance?
  • How can we maintain  professional development as a value even during lean times?

I would love to learn how you and your organization are answering these important questions! Contact me and let me know!



“Mindful” Leadership

The act of defining leadership has produced an ever evolving body of research and generates spirited conversations within the business community. I have participated in many of these conversations and read much of the research. I conclude that leadership does not involve titles nor is it a “thing”. Rather, I firmly believe sound leadership is a journey of the heart-this journey is “mindful leadership”. This idea is confirmed by an inspirational passage I read early this morning. From the March Science of Mind magazine, this passage is so profound, I quote it directly here:

“True leadership does not mean exerting power over others,but rather learning how to manage our own weaknesses and modeling the behavior we expect from our team….True leaders seek conscious solutions to everyday problems. They build trust and allow people to feel safe and heard”

At the center of this passage is the realization that we, as leaders, must recognize/acknowledge our own emotional wounds as they will influence how we interact with others and how we create our own vision of personal/organizational success.  In my opinion, the more vulnerable we are as leaders, the safer our followers will feel. And the more connected we all will be to our work/each other.

I leave you to ponder this quote from Science of Mind magazine:

“Mindful leadership means accepting that strong leaders are vulnerable and vulnerable leaders are strong”.

Culture and Conversation

What is the relationship between the Culture of an organization and Conversation?  Plenty!!!

Dr. Jim Harter, of the Gallup organization, concludes from his extensive employee engagement research that “Most people come to work well intentioned and only turn sour when their basic needs aren’t being met. You have to get the basics right if you want great engagement…..the data proves it, doing what’s right for people proves to be right for the organization.” []

In my opinion great engagement leads to a dynamic, positive organizational culture.  Conversations are the single most important tool organizations have for maximizing employee engagement. In fact, Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, claims “conversations are the workhorses of organizations”. Conversations are the way ‘things get done’.

This idea leads me to these questions:

What kind of conversations are happening inside your organization?

Are the conversations advancing the relationships needed to fully engage your employees and thus, move your organization forward?

The quality of these conversations does indeed define your organization’s ‘culture’!

If you would like to assess how conversation is viewed in your organization, contact me!

Transparency Part II

I often hear leaders speak about the relationship between employee autonomy and organizational success. There are studies that certainly support this idea! In defining autonomy, Fierce Inc. [2012] says that it is the “freedom to make appropriate decisions that ensures employees remain focused and engaged.” The Fierce [2012] study of 800 participants revealed that almost 50% of respondents identify the most beneficial organizational practices as those which  encourage accountability, development and individual empowerment within the organization.

Organizational transparency is required if employee autonomy is going to be successful. In my opinion, a part of the transparency ‘equation’ is a dynamic ‘feedback loop’. I know from my consulting that the only thing worse than not requesting feedback is receiving it and then not acting on it. It is in the area of feedback solicitation/action that I believe, organizations can improve their overall productivity.  The gap between employee desire to provide feedback and the belief that he/she will be heard is striking. Fierce [2012] found that 70% of study respondents said they would candidly approach decision makers if they felt a company practice needed to be re-evaluated or adjusted.  However, when it comes to following through on this feedback, less than one third believed their company was willing to change practices based on their input and feedback. The final statistic from this study is sobering: while 98% of respondents believe a leader’s decision making process should include input from the people impacted by the decision, a full 40% feel leaders and decision makers continuously fail to ask.

How can transparency in your organization be improved?  Contact me and let’s explore this topic together!

Linking “I Don’t Know” with “Seeking Answers”

My previous two blog postings  are part of a much larger challenge for leaders in particular and organizations as a whole….it is “transparency”.  This word is used so much inside organizations that I believe its meaning has truly been lost. In my client work, I have discovered that it means having the important conversations that have been avoided, gaining all perspectives necessary for improved decision making, being as open as possible about the issues/matters important to organizational business  and engaging all stakeholders in meaningful conversation. I have found that the organizations I work with believe they demonstrate this definition of transparency and yet, in speaking with employees I find that is not the case.  And this disconnect between how leadership views transparency and what employees experience is not unique to my clients.In a 800 participant study, Fierce, Inc [2012] found that nearly 50% identify lack of company-wide transparency and too little involvement in company decisions as key areas of concern.

Much has been written about the reasons for this discrepancy and rather than delve into those reasons, I prefer to focus on how to achieve/model transparency. In my opinion, the first step is addressed in my previous two posts: “I Don’t Know” and “Seeking Answers”. The second step is learning the strategic communication skills that can literally create a transparent organizational culture!

Curious? Contact me for more information!