Employee Engagement EGOS

The search to create a high-performing organization is ripe with literature on the whys, hows, and the results you will get. In my experience reading books, articles, and journals on high-performing organizations, one big gap is apparent: specific tools that can help build high performance organizations are rarely mentioned or are specifically tailored for a private sector environment. Over the past 11 years in consulting with clients around the country, I have identified four characteristics of high-performance for government and nonprofit organizations:

  1. Engaged Employees.
  2. Governance Expectations.
  3. Operational Leadership and Team Focus.
  4. Strategic Direction.

I love developing acronyms, so for shorthand, I call it EGOS. My first thought was that calling this EGOS might be a nonstarter for some folks who decide to read this article. But taking a short pause and thinking more deeply about the concept, it became clear that the acronym might not be all that bad. Rarely have I encountered an elected official or manager who is not passionate about their organization and community. Yes, they may have issues, but in the end, they care and have invested a lot of themselves (ego) into the good work of making a difference for the organization and communities they serve.

So, what is EGOS and what tools does it use to build high-performing organizations? Let’s unpack it:

Engaged Employees: If your employees are not engaged, it is difficult, if not impossible, to start developing a high-performing organization. We have found that Gallup Q12 is an excellent tool to evaluate employee engagement. The Gallup Q12 survey measures employee engagement through 12 key questions designed to assess various aspects of the employee experience, such as job satisfaction, communication, leadership effectiveness, and opportunities for growth and development.

Governance Expectations

You can have the best-run organization in the world, but if your elected board is dysfunctional, it is challenging, if not impossible, to become high-performing. A high-performing governing board supports organizational performance, not the other way around, as many managers unfortunately think. This system helps define the expectations between the city council and the city manager, fostering better teamwork and organizational effectiveness. By developing shared expectations, the council aims to focus on strategic planning and community outcomes rather than day-to-day operations, following the John Carver Governance Model.

Operational Leadership and Team Focus

If your organizational leadership does not have clear expectations tied to their annual performance to promote high performance, how can you achieve it? Additionally, if they lack a real focus and commitment to teamwork, their efforts toward high performance will not be effective. An excellent tool for assessing teamwork among your executive group is Patrick Lencioni's "5 Dysfunctions of a Team," which identifies key issues that hinder team cohesion and effectiveness. These include the absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results. Addressing these dysfunctions is essential for fostering a cohesive and effective team.

Strategic Direction

The key foundation to high-performing organizations is strategic direction. We have found that communities that have developed strategic plans aligned with their elected board's priorities can focus on major priorities that improve organizational performance, service delivery, and customer service. Their strategic plans are integrated into their annual budget process and board agenda, providing long-term sustainability. Unfortunately, some communities develop strategic plans that are not approved by their governing bodies. They focus too much on vision instead of getting things done through an annual work plan with specific assignments and deadlines and are not integrated into the annual budget cycle or agenda. These plans often collect dust on a shelf.

Does EGOS work? Yes, it does, and the proof is with a number of clients who have successfully implemented all or a majority of the components. At the micro-certificate program at the upcoming ICMA Annual Conference in Pittsburgh, our firm will be presenting on Saturday, September 21, in a session titled "Building High Performance Board-Manager Relations." During the session, we will provide details on components of EGOS and how to start your journey toward effective high performance. Hope to see you at the session.




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