Federal Contracting in 2021 – My Thoughts

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From COVID-19 to politics to protests, our world has changed a lot over the past year. Thankfully it does appear we can expect the potential for returning to some sort of normalcy on the COVID front toward the end of 2021. 

While some things may never return to what we once knew as “normal,” let’s look to some more positive things we can leverage moving forward: 

  1. Working from home is working. Over the past year, most of us have become quite proficient at working remotely from the comforts of home. After an initial learning curve, many of us have noticed a dramatic uptick in productivity and creative ways of accomplishing results in our new environments. As COVID gets more under control and the vaccine becomes available to the masses, I do believe our workforce will start to migrate back to the office, or more likely a hybrid approach where we will work from the office maybe 2-3 days a week and remotely the remainder. 
  2. We can make do with less space. As a small business one of our largest expenses is work space for employees. By adopting a more permanent work-from-home or hybrid approach, many companies will be able to reduce their office space square footage when re-negotiating their leases. Employees that are required to come into the office may “hot desk” their work spaces with other employees on alternate days. I’ve seen some of our Government clients transitioning to this model with great success.
  3. We can expand our recruitment nationwide. Of course our other major expense is our employees. Not only have our overhead employees been working remotely but so have many of our direct employees. This has allowed us to expand our search for top quality employees from all areas of the country. Since they may not reside in extremely high cost of living areas such as Northern Virginia or the DC Metro area, their salaries are often far less demanding, allowing us to be more cost competitive. 
  4. We can be team players. I see the continuation of the trend of moving requirements to established GWACs and multiple-award contract vehicles. Just a couple that come to mind for this year are CIO SP4 and Polaris. These contract vehicles provide the necessary access to the customers and their requirements and are excellent opportunities for the small business community to work with our large business counterparts to build the best teams. 
  5. Better virtual conferences and meetings. While I do see some events opening up toward the end of this year, it seems most will remain virtual. Over the past year there have been great improvements to virtual event platforms, with features like breakout rooms and other virtual introduction tools. It’s hard to beat face-to-face interactions, but we have come a long way. 

While no one can predict the future, one thing is certain – change is something that will continue.


Is it Time For a Controller?

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As your small business grows, your needs and regulatory requirements change. You have to have approved forward pricing rates and go through audits. These are things that may be best suited to be led by a controller working directly with your organization, rather than an external bookkeeper or accountant. 

How to hire a controller

The first thing you need to determine before hiring a controller is which functions you actually want or need out of the position. Bookkeeping, accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, audit preparation, government rates submissions, pricing efforts…the list goes on. 

You need to also consider the level of experience and the systems they are expected to know and understand. Are you doing a conversion from an older system to something like Deltek Costpoint? If so, you may need someone with that requisite experience, and that experience does come with a price tag attached.  

Are they the lone ranger in their section or will they be managing staff, leading a team made up of payroll and AP personnel or even a junior bookkeeper? 

How much experience does the controller need to have in your specific industry? 

This is a tricky question in our GovCon industry. There are many requirements of us that the typical controller for a commercially-focused company may not know about or understand. Pricing and your direct/indirect rate structures are critical to your success and you want someone very familiar with these aspects. 

What are important qualities to look for in a controller?

  • Experience
  • CPA designation
  • Trustworthiness – After all, these folks will have access to all your organization’s financial accounts and data 
  • Dedication
  • Length of time at previous organizations – This is important because it takes some time for a controller to get acquainted with your organization and ways of doing business. You don’t want to get them up to speed and then have them leave quickly – likely to a competitor – with knowledge of your rates and practices. NDAs are needed but remember the NDA doesn’t erase their memory. 

To find controller candidates, look to your network or colleagues, friends, and industry organizations, as well as previous controllers or accounting staff; also consider third-party sites, recruiters, and LinkedIn. 

Here at TAPE we’ve just gone through the process of hiring our own new controller. We found the most important thing to do is to really define what you want before going out to look to fill a position. It’s also important to form a comfort level with that candidate. They will know all things financial about your organization. You have to be comfortable with that, and with them.


Finding Talent in a Flood of Resumes

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This is a guest post by Ross Statham of Dogwood Services Inc. Note from Bill: In a previous post, Ross shared the top three reasons to hire an executive search firm, and offered his expert tips for ensuring a productive partnership.

Want to tackle the hiring process yourself? Here are some suggestions for how to proceed, though keep in mind that the top talent will rarely respond to job postings.

  1. Allow sufficient time. My own experience has been to allow two or more hours per day (minimum) for 2-3 weeks.
  2. Determine the salary range, daily duties, and a brief overview of desired qualifications.
  3. Ask for help. This could be from your HR department, from subordinates, or from others on your team. They could help you write a good job description, help you better communicate with candidates and help you to find and select better talent.
  4. Setup someone you trust (HR, a member of your team or subordinate) to do some of the heavy resume filtering before handing them over to you.
  5. Post your job opening. But as noted above, don’t have the resumes come to your work email (which can be overwhelming), have them go elsewhere for filtration. 
  6. As the resumes arrive to you, toss out those who obviously won’t make your cut. Those who are a “maybe” can be sent a (form email) note thanking them for their interest, and spelling out some details of what you are looking for and painting a realistic picture of the job. Many people can be filtered out this way, saving you additional looking.
  7. If you need to perform a software “scan” for key words again (perhaps using a Boolean search), now’s probably a good time to do so. This is particularly helpful with technical positions, when you’re looking for details of what they’ve done and when.
  8. At this point you’re starting to see where some resumes are starting to meet your needs by putting eyeballs on the ones that get your attention. Save these; if you think it appropriate, you can put their names on a spreadsheet (such as Google Sheets) with notes.
  9. As your eyeballs scan resumes, look at their last three jobs. How long were they there? What did they accomplish? What were their daily duties?
  10. If they continue to hold your interest, drill down from “scanning” to reading. Look for obvious negative and positives. Red flags may include employment gaps, evidence of decreasing responsibility, a career that has flattened or is moving in the wrong direction, short-term employment at several jobs, and multiple shifts in their career path.
  11. Continue to review your selected resumes against your criteria and each other.
  12. Found someone you like? Look them up on LinkedIn and Google them and see what you can learn about them.
  13. Telephone screen potential candidates.
  14. Bring in strong candidates for a face-to-face.

Again, you need to ask yourself if you really have the time. If so, then have at it! But if you’re like most busy executives, using an experienced outside expert will tremendously shortcut the process which will save both time and money. Most importantly, it will help you find those harder to find talented people who rarely respond to job openings.

This post was originally printed on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/finding-flood-resumes-ross-statham/ and was adapted and reprinted with permission.


Three Reasons to Hire an Executive Search Team

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This is a guest post by Ross Statham of Dogwood Services Inc.

The firm I founded and lead (Dogwood) provides talent across a wide range of industries (including the Fortune 10), non-profits and government. Typically we are called in by those who have had previous experience with trying to do their own talent search and found it was much more efficient to use us or other recruiters, or by those who tried to do their own search but realized that it was more than they could effectively take on.

First, let’s discuss the three biggest reasons that organizations use outside search firms:

  • The best talent rarely responds to job openings
  • Your H/R department may be not equipped to help with this
  • Not enough hours in the workday

Challenge #1: The best talent rarely responds to job openings

You’re probably heard it before, and it’s true. The top talent is careful and circumspect as to making career moves. The best talent rarely goes looking for new opportunities – but they will listen when the right opportunity presents itself.

Many years ago this happened to me. I received one of those calls out of the blue, which turned into a great new job well suited to my own talents in the tech field. I loved my new job and never looked back. 

Your best talent will usually need to be recruited (reached out to) by someone outside your organization. Executive recruiters use their own databases, can dig and find the right talent and pitch your organization’s strengths to the very best prospective talent.

Challenge #2: Your HR Department may not be fully equipped to help

My general observation is that most HR departments may not be fully equipped to find talent, because it’s not their primary responsibility. Even at the company I lead (a talent acquisition company, no less), our own HR folks are concerned with administering to employees, ensuring that benefits are being properly managed, paperwork is up to date, regulatory compliance is being fully met and in dealing with the myriad of payroll, benefits, vendor, personnel and other HR issues that arise every day.

Most HR departments have stated goals to include talent acquisition in their responsibilities, but even the best HR departments have difficulty in doing so. However, my opinion is that most do an excellent job of supporting the process once candidates are identified and interviewed.

Challenge #3: Not enough hours in the workday

If you’re like most people, you are constantly adjusting your daily priorities in order to get things done on time and under budget.

Do you have time for this? Probably not. Our past experience has shown that those searching for talent need to allocate between 1-3 hours per day per job opening to pore through resumes, screen out those who are completely unqualified, second screen those who may be of interest, conduct basic phone screens and perform some basic information searches on potential candidates.

Free up your time by using an outside expert

By now you are learning why successful executives use outside executive search firms.

First, find someone who already understands your industry (so you don’t have to educate them) and who already knows where some of the best talent can be found. Make sure they’re reputable, well established and have a track record of success. (Yes, it’s okay to ask for references!) Ideally, they’re large enough to be well established, but not so large that your needs can get lost in the shuffle. 

You can use a contingency-based firm (where you only pay for success), or use a retained-search firm, where you pay a fee (in advance) and they exclusively represent you to candidates. Either way works, but I generally recommend you select an experienced contingency-based firm that you’re comfortable with and give them an exclusive for 30 days. That way they’re focused on you, you have a definite time frame in front of them, and you’re only paying for results. If they don’t work out, you can add someone else to the mix as needed without additional cost.

Allocating time to your expert

One of the best executive recruiters on our team tells his new clients that he’s their sharpshooter, and they’re his spotter (to tell him how he’s doing with the people he sends them, or in military terms, to tell him where his shots are falling). Because the hiring manager he’s working with has a need for specific talent, they form a “partnership” for a relatively short time while he finds, filters, screens and interviews talent for the client. Keep that in mind – these outside experts need your input for this to work in a timely manner.

During your initial call (which should only take about 15 minutes), tell them what you’re looking for, what you’re trying to accomplish and details about the job as you see it. Perhaps refer them to a subordinate for additional details and discuss compensation and benefits. Good executive recruiters know what kind of questions to ask and will guide you through areas you may not have even thought about.

Once you’ve started the process, turn them loose and let them do their jobs. You should start to see real results within two to five business days, depending upon the complexity of your needs. But remember – they need you to communicate where their shots are falling. Just five minutes per day allocated to your executive recruiter during the search can yield stellar results.

This post was originally printed on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/finding-flood-resumes-ross-statham/ and was adapted and reprinted with permission.


The Five Most Common Technology Pain Points for GovCons

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This is a guest post by Staci L. Redmon, President and CEO of Strategy and Management Services, Inc. (SAMS).

Sometimes it’s said that Amazon is the only truly modern organization. Because it was founded on the Internet and never had the traditional limitations of a brick-and-mortar business, it could afford to develop and fully embrace technological innovation when it came.

Most of us aren’t Amazon. There are limitations on how much contractors can adapt to technology or use it effectively – and that’s okay. But as federal IT spend increases, businesses in the public sector are called upon to take stock of their organizational structure, highlighting areas where innovation and better planning can make a difference.

Here are five of the most common struggles we have identified in our clients:

1. Too much data, not enough insight

Today, organizations are swamped in data from multiple sources, including IoT, CRM, web analytics, social media and more. 73% polled say they struggle to use it effectively.

Why it hurts

In the first place, contractors are paying for everything they collect, and they’re paying even more to store it. Second – even if they forego collection altogether – they miss out on the many insights that data can provide.

How to fix it

Using data effectively requires two steps:Efficient collection and storage, such as cloud, hybrid cloud

  1. Efficient collection and storage, such as cloud, hybrid cloud or data lakes
  2. An analytics strategy to extract useful information

An analytics strategy to extract useful information

The best data strategy will vary from business to business, requiring human expertise for optimization and refinement.

2. Deprecated systems

We know that technology changes at the speed of light. When organizations get used to a certain workflow, they often stop moving forward and systems become outdated. As a result, some U.S agencies are still depending on Windows 3.1 and floppy disks.

Why it hurts

80% of IT professionals say that outdated tech holds them back. Customers and clients will move forward even when a business does not, thereby slowing down operations, creating customer experience (CX) issues, and lowering productivity in the workplace.

How to fix it

Systems must be updated on a periodic basis to prevent disruption, ensure continuity of operations, and lower expense. Having an enterprise IT strategy and C-level tech officers ahead of time will significantly reduce blind spots.

3. Technical debt

When contractors fail to adopt new technologies, they accumulate “technical debt,” an abstract measure of the expenses they will inevitably have to pay as a result.

Why it hurts

While a business lags behind, it exponentially loses ground in terms of potential profit; it also loses market share to competitors who modernize in the same time frame. Technical debt is thus more costly than an initial investment in new technology.

How to fix it

Organizations must stay ahead of technical trends to avoid debt and minimize future expenses. However, that does not mean they should invest in every new trend – research, strategy and careful observation should inform all business transformation efforts.

4. Underutilized assets

Contractors are often unaware how much they can accomplish with a single solution; both software and hardware are underutilized, and features go ignored.

Why it hurts

Underutilization leads to redundant costs, as businesses invest in multiple solutions which they could consolidate into one. Given power, training and licensing fees, the costs add up quickly.

How to fix it

Ideally, organizations will choose optimized solutions during the Enterprise Architectural Planning (EAP) phase which won’t call for redundant investments. Afterwards, they should consult with their vendors carefully to assess the extensible functionality of every asset they acquire.

5. Lack of expertise

According to a recent Gartner press release, talent shortage is emerging as the top risk for organizations in several categories – among them, cloud computing, data protection and cybersec.

Why it hurts

The majority of technological pain points result from a lack of technical executives or experts, leaving organizations vulnerable to their own mistakes, questionable investment decisions and attacks from the outside.

This issue is especially serious for government contractors who are often responsible for managing confidential data: regulations and auditing add an extra layer of risk for any careless decisions.

How to fix it

An organization should make sure that experts are involved in all the decisions it makes by:

  • Hiring and retaining elite talent in every major area of their infrastructure
  • Positioning one or more C-Level executives (CIO, CTO, CISO, etc.) to oversee continual development
  • When all else fails, consulting with external experts for guidance and an outsider’s perspective

For peace of mind in an organization’s continual stability, nothing can rival regular assessments from those who know what they’re doing.

Planning for Longevity

In 2019, technology is the lifeblood of a business: it shapes client interactions, management, teamwork and productivity across the board. But while it may come with upfront costs, it pays in longevity and success for the long term.

As technology changes, a business must be prepared to change with it, and that means – among other things – enterprise-level planning, good investment strategy, and a dynamic organizational structure. Staying modern is hard, but not impossible for a contractor who always aims at improvement.

Staci L. Redmon is President and CEO of Strategy and Management Services, Inc. (SAMS), an award-winning and leading provider of innovative operations, management and technology solutions in a variety of public and private sector industries and markets. SAMS is based in Springfield, VA.


Reinforce Accountability to Reenergize Your Leadership Team

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This is a guest post by Jack McGuinness of Relationship Impact.

Reenergizing your leadership can have a massive impact on your entire organization. In his final post in the series, Jack McGuinness tackles the topic of accountability.

The business dictionary defines accountability as “the obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and disclose the results in a transparent manner.” Inherent in this definition are three levels of accountability – power, individual and team accountability.

We believe that all three are important in building a great leadership team and a recent HBR article supports our assertion. The article breaks down team performance as follows – in the weakest teams, there is no accountability; in mediocre teams, bosses are the source of accountability; and in high performance teams, peers manage the vast majority of performance problems with one another.

For many leadership teams this last level of accountability where peers hold each other accountable presents a significant challenge. In his bestselling book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni had the following to say about accountability – “Once we achieve clarity and buy-in, it is then that we have to hold each other accountable for what we sign up to do, for high standards and behavior. And as simple as that sounds, most executives hate to do it, especially when it comes to a peer’s behavior.”

Not surprisingly, there is a strong relationship among the three tips we are presenting in this blog post series. Specifically, leadership teams require a purpose to be accountable to and the skill of engaging in productive dialogue (including giving and receiving feedback) is instrumental to a team’s ability to hold each other accountable. The following are a few steps for helping leadership teams move from poor or mediocre accountability to an environment where a healthy balance exists between individual, power and peer accountability:

  1. To start, the formal leader needs to clarify and reinforce the importance of the three levels of accountability. Most importantly, the leader must model the behaviors she expects for the team. This includes receiving feedback well and providing timely, direct and respectful feedback. She also needs to clarify that the leader’s role does not exist to settle problems or constantly monitor the team; rather it is focused on creating an environment where peers address concerns immediately, directly and respectfully with each other.
  2. Next, the leadership team needs to focus on its unique purpose and gain agreement on specific individual and collective accountabilities for decisions and actions required to achieve the purpose. Most importantly, the leadership team needs to take action and demonstrate its ability to effectively perform and adjust course as required.
  3. Periodically the leadership team should to step back and reflect on progress from two perspectives – what results is the team achieving and how is the team achieving the results. In our experience, reflecting on tangible business issues is the most effective mechanism for addressing a leadership team’s ability to engage in productive dialogue and hold each other accountable directly and respectfully.

Truly great leadership teams are resilient and have the capacity to reenergize and get back in sync after inevitable periods of dysfunction. Team members of great leadership teams recognize that they serve as stewards of their organizations supporting a unique enterprise-wide purpose. Great leadership teams also do the hard work necessary to engage in productive dialogue and hold each other to high performance and behavior.

This post originally appeared at ChiefExecutive.net at https://chiefexecutive.net/tips-reenergizing-leadership-team and was reprinted with permission.


Foster Productive Dialogue to Reenergize Your Leadership Team

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This is a guest post by Jack McGuinness of Relationship Impact.

As Jack McGuinness stressed in Part 1 of this series, great leadership teams never succeed by accident. In this post he explains how to get your team talking.

In her landmark study on the science of team self-awareness, Amy Edmonson coined the term ‘psychological safety’ to describe “the shared belief that it’s safe to ask one another for help, admit mistakes, and raise tough issues.” She goes on to suggest that “psychological safety is meant to suggest neither a careless sense of permissiveness, nor an unrelenting positive effect but rather a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up.”

Most importantly, Edmonson’s research discovered that the highest-performing teams were “the ones with the highest reported errors – teammates were comfortable openly discussing mistakes. On these teams, they weren’t afraid to tell the leader that something had gone wrong.”

Unfortunately, as we see everyday in our work with leadership teams psychological safety is hard to come by. In Relationship Impact parlance we refer to psychological safety as ‘productive dialogue’ or the ability for teams to challenge, debate and discuss their most important issues in a manner that progresses the issues and leaves minimal relational scars. Over the past 9 years we have worked with close to 100 teams and the number one challenge we have seen and continue to see is the inability of leadership teams to engage in productive dialogue.

As an example, last summer we began to work with the leadership team of a trade association and the lack of productive dialogue was palpable. The CEO was serving as a referee and managing conflict among his VPs individually and behind closed doors; staff were visibly uncomfortable talking to colleagues in other departments without sanction from their VPs; and leadership team meetings lacked substance and were often cancelled.

Fostering an environment where productive dialogue can thrive is challenging and requires hard work and commitment on the part of each leadership team member. Below are a few steps that will get the work started:

  1. Start by taking some time to help the team get to know each other at a deeper level. We regularly use Patrick Lencioni’s Personal Histories Exercise, which asks team members to describe struggles they faced earlier on in life. This never fails to provide teams with interesting insights into why colleagues might behave as they do. After the exercise we often hear comments such as ‘wow that explains a lot’ or ‘now I understand why he approaches decisions like that.’
  2. Next, invest time to help team members become aware of how they are ‘showing up’ to each other. We use psychometric instruments such as MBTI, DISC, or SDI to enable individuals to step back and reflect on what they value most and how this influences how they behave. We use these instruments as non-threatening discussion starters where teammates are asked to provide feedback to each other – ‘I appreciate that you are a results oriented person but sometimes I feel like you steamroll your ideas.’
  3. Perhaps most importantly, use the dialogue from steps one and two to help team members make behavioral commitments that will strengthen the effectiveness of the leadership team at the current point in the team’s journey. Team members should make commitments based on the input from their teammates and proactively ask for feedback when they struggle to live up to their commitments.
  4. Finally, team members must promise to ask for and provide feedback. As Tasha Eurich suggests in her book Insight, giving and receiving feedback is not easy – “In a misguided attempt to cling to the comfortable mental image we have of ourselves, it’s tempting to react by getting angry and defensive or trying to run away (either literally or by not listening, shrugging it off, pretending it never happened).” However, without feedback there can be no improvement so we encourage teams to use the newfound insights they discover from steps one and two above and take the leap. We have witnessed the power of feedback transform individuals and teams – recently one senior executive client commented ‘I’ve been doing these things for over 15 years and no one ever told me how damaging they were.’

In the final post in this series, Jack McGuinness will explain the importance of peers holding each other accountable.

This post originally appeared at ChiefExecutive.net at https://chiefexecutive.net/tips-reenergizing-leadership-team and was reprinted with permission.


To Reenergize Your Leadership Team, First Confirm Your Purpose

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This is a guest post by Jack McGuinness of Relationship Impact.

All leadership teams have the opportunity to serve as force multipliers for their organizations where the team’s impact goes far beyond the contributions of individual team members. Leadership teams work hard to shape long-term visions and missions that rally employees, shepherd the execution of strategies that set their organizations apart from competitors, and define values that form strong cultural foundations.

Unfortunately, many times these efforts fall short. A recent survey of senior executives conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership indicated that only 18% of executives rated their teams as “very effective.” In the same survey 97% of executives agreed that increased leadership team effectiveness would have a positive impact on organizational results.

Great leadership teams never succeed by accident. Without nurturing, leadership teams can actually become organizational impediments as characterized by duplication of effort, finger pointing, “real” meetings happening after “official” meetings, unhealthy interdepartmental competition, delayed decision making and churning over and over on the same issues. Here’s how to reenergize your leadership team for maximum organizational impact.

Confirm Purpose

A leadership team’s purpose should serve as a guidepost for focusing the team and the organization on what is strategically most important at any given point in time based on the environment in which the organization operates. Absent of a specific purpose that goes beyond ‘leading the organization’ and ‘carrying out the organization’s strategy’, leadership teams will struggle to have a force multiplier impact.

Unfortunately, it is quite common for leadership teams to come together and immediately begin to do business or at least attempt to do what each member believes the group’s business should be.

Earlier last year we were asked to work with the global leadership team of a professional services firm to strengthen its effectiveness. It quickly became clear that each business unit VP was diligently executing strategies designed to maximize business unit growth but were missing opportunities to enhance the long-term potential of the organization.

This seemingly unintentional lack of coordination had a reverberating effect including increasing tension among VPs, customer confusion due to multiple touch points, and emerging competition among business units for limited resources. In short, this leadership team had failed to establish (or at a minimum had lost sight of) its unique enterprise-wide purpose.

As articulated in the book Senior Leadership Teams, a leadership team’s purpose should encapsulate what the formal leader (CEO/president) needs “this group of enterprise leaders to do that cannot be accomplished by any other set of people.” Below are four steps that leadership teams can use to shape or redefine their purpose:

  1. Start with the organization’s strategy and identify the most critical areas that must be tackled for the strategy to be successful. In the case of the professional services firm the critical need was to focus on diversification beyond a customer that represented over 70% of revenue.
  2. Next, identify the interdependencies among leadership team members that will drive the strategy. The leadership team of the professional services firm identified that every VP from the leaders of resource management, sales, finance and each service line was needed to develop a coordinated diversified growth strategy.
  3. Once the interdependencies are defined the leadership team needs to narrow them down to the critical few that the leadership team is uniquely positioned to address and drive. The leadership team of our professional services client identified a few critical priorities including shaping and executing an integrated sales approach for the three services they offer, developing new products and services that leverage their current offerings, and building a support infrastructure that enables them to scale effectively.
  4. Finally, the formal leader needs to take this input and shape a compelling leadership team purpose. The president of our professional services client developed the following purpose statement: ‘the long-term viability of our firm depends on our efforts to capture new customers and expand into new markets.’

In the next two posts in this series, Jack McGuinness will introduce two other essential tips for reenergizing your leadership tips, starting with fostering productive dialogue.

This post originally appeared at ChiefExecutive.net at https://chiefexecutive.net/tips-reenergizing-leadership-team and was reprinted with permission.


A Servant Leader

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This is a guest post from Tonya Buckner of BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc.

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” – Max De Pree

Servant leaders not only have to focus on what’s happening today, but what is happening in the future. Yes, today’s problems must be solved, profits must be made and bills must be paid, but a great leader must focus on the future and transforming the culture. It is more than checking items off a checklist. A great leader has a vision and a roadmap to successfully get there. This requires being inspired to achieve it, communicating it, and guiding the company from where it is to where it needs to be!

The top spot is not the only leader. Every level has leaders, whether positive or negative. Doomsayers can be leaders, too. They challenge the vision with their need to combat. Eighty percent of a company’s problems comes from twenty percent of its people. People will rise or fall to the level you set for them. It is important to foster a culture of optimism and the desire to succeed. If not challenged or motivated people will fall.

The key to leadership is to be fair, firm and consistent. Discipline starts with the leader; people will follow the lead you set. To master leadership you need to know what you are doing, find your inner voice, be creative, enjoy the process, and share that joy with others. Successful leaders are selfless, put others first, and look for other people’s 15 minutes of fame – not their own.

A servant leader supports others. This requires praising them in public and critiquing in confidence, driving out fear, and learning from mistakes. Most importantly, as a great leader you make those you lead successful, and as a result you become successful.

Leadership is directly related to character. Character is determined by your behavior, which is reflective of the value system that is in place. When people perceive you as a strong leader, they will believe in you, even if they don’t agree with you.

Despite the myth, leaders are not born nor is leadership innate for everyone. The good news is there are various programs to assist in developing leadership skills. The key is finding the program that best suits your needs. For instance, there is the Women President Educational Organization (WPEO), which develops and mentors presidents of women-owned businesses, the Montgomery County’s Veterans Institute of Procurement (VIP), which assists veteran leaders to foster success as businesses and employers, and the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Program, which is aimed at business growth and job creation, just to name a few.

Servant leaders also understand the importance of mentorship. Mentors assist in navigating through the obstacles that are not taught in leadership programs. By sharing best practices and lessons learned, mentees are able to build on their experience and avoid pitfalls.

Lastly, the bottom line as a leader is to ask yourself, do my actions represent who I believe I am? Remember that it is not about the position, it is about your actions; thoughtful actions with leadership in mind, drive and sculpt companies to new heights.

BucknerMT Management & Technology, Inc. (BucknerMT, Inc.) is a verified service-disabled veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB) and woman-owned small business (WOSB). Since 2007, BucknerMT have supported the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) by providing services that include engineering, integrating, and sustaining critical military platforms and systems.


When An Employee Passes Away

man and a woman holding hands at a wooden table

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This is a guest post by TAPE CEO/President Louisa Jaffe.

This is a subject very much on my mind these days since we just lost a long-time employee who succumbed to bone cancer. Three years ago, we lost another long-time employee to another form of cancer. Such events are always devastating in our personal lives with family and friends, but as a business owner, there are other considerations.

To begin with, it is important to realize that there is a reason we offer HR benefits. Often among those are not only health care but also short-term and/or long-term disability, as well as life insurance. No one likes to think about the worst case scenarios in life but it is important for business owners to consider the impact of these benefits (or the lack of them) on the company and to the individual employee’s wellbeing should they need to use them.

Part of our responsibility as executives is to make sure that the pieces are in place to offer the best support possible within our planning constraints so that the professionals on the vendor side will be ready to step in and offer specific help to our employees and their families when the need arises. That way, as managers, we will not have to figure everything out at a time that likely we may be emotionally compromised ourselves.

Just as with the passing of a loved one in our private lives, the news that an employee has died, even if after a long illness, can feel shocking and unexpected. If we can be prepared as suggested above, then we can give in to the grieving process and deal with just that aspect of such a situation. And the “feelings” part of the whole thing is what this blog post is really all about. There are very important leadership actions that can greatly help your entire company if you set the example from the beginning.

My suggestion to executives is to prepare yourselves mentally in several ways. I am drawing on my military experience where the Service does things very well in terms of “taking care of their own.” If an employee becomes ill, we stay in touch with them personally to the extent we can. If possible, visit them and their families in the hospital or even at home, if the family welcomes it.

Going through an illness and death can be very lonely and alienating for an employee and their families. We go visit them, call them, and stay in touch with our personal support. It is both the least and the best that we can do. We can handwrite get well and sympathy cards with our own heartfelt and authentic sentiments.

Most importantly, when the person passes away, be sure to notify your entire company and subcontractors, where appropriate. Put out a message of farewell to the company, adding some interesting facts about the deceased for those who may be on a different project or live in a different place and do not know the employee. Announce the details of family plans, when known. We can attend memorial services and burials in person wherever feasible. It is the most powerful sign of respect for both the employee and the family to stand with them at the very difficult time of these “good-bye” ceremonies.

My own parents passed away many years ago. I well remember how much it helped my sorrow – how much it meant to me – that people came to both of their funerals and told me what my parents had meant to them. Before then, I might have been more inclined not to discuss with someone their loss of a loved one and to stay away from the process as much as possible, thinking I was respecting the mourners’ privacy. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.

I have learned to reach out to the suffering people left behind, let them cry, let them reminisce, let them connect in whatever way they need to get through the otherwise saddest experience of their lives. It is a way to reach outside of ourselves to think of the needs of others. It is a way to do service. There are few things more empowering than giving service to those who have served you, in their time of need. When we do these things, we can feel proud to know we have conducted ourselves as leaders.

This post originally appeared on the TAPE blog at http://tape-llc.com/2017/06/employee-passes-away/ and was reprinted with permission.


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