Solutions Summer/Fall 2006

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.
State of Illinois
Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor
Department of Human Services
Carol L. Adams. Ph.D., Secretary
  1. Message from the Secretary
  2. We're all unique - or are we?
  3. What is "The Advance"?
  4. SPP in Action at DHS
  5. CHP SEED Process
  6. New Strategic Plan for the Division of Developmental Disabilities
  7. Start the Revolution!
  8. Leveling the Playing Field at DHS
  9. A Self-Inventory of Leadership Styles
  10. People, Product and Leadership
  11. 5/5 with 10/1 Tendancies Seeks 10/10 Leasder Object: Synergy
  12. Elements of SPP
  13. On Another Note
  14. State of Hope
  15. Staff

Message from the Secretary

Almost ten years ago, the Illinois Legislature voted to merge several human service agencies into a single entity - the Department of Human Services, with the intent of creating an integrated service delivery system with "No Wrong Door" access, offering holistic assistance to Illinois families.

We spent the early months of this administration evaluating just how far the agency had progressed toward this goal, and realized that there was more to be done. Although the administrative and program staff from different divisions were under the same roof, they were still operating primarily within their areas of specialty - maintaining the separate identities they had brought with them from their legacy agencies.

We needed to do more than share space - we needed to communicate, collaborate and create a new version of DHS, where the original vision could become a reality. We were determined to craft a strategy to make it happen...But how?

To succeed, we needed to develop a new culture with a shared management philosophy and a collaborative approach to problem solving. This is a huge agency, with a talented and dedicated staff - what could it be if the whole truly became more than the sum of its parts? Tapping all of that human capital could generate a new dynamic that would speed us toward our goal.

To jumpstart that process, we introduced The Advance and the Synergistic Planning Process (SPP). The Advance created an opportunity for staff to hone skills and to meld into a team, and SPP is an intensive, problem-solving discipline, designed to awaken the leadership qualities in each of us.

Synergistic Planning is the antithesis of the bureaucratic process. Instead of an assembly line approach, where each of us tinkers with our own little part of the mechanism, it brings everyone who has a piece of the action to the table to work together to develop a lasting solution.

That kind of problem-solving, where all of the stakeholders are included, has initiated some very productive partnerships - with our contract providers, with advocates, with customers and with other state agencies. (Take a moment to read the section titled, "Synergistic Planning in Action at DHS," beginning on page eight.) Our internal roadmap for integration across divisions - Smarthpath - is the brainchild of SPP. Our new Integrated Service Delivery Framework (page 11), which will address the technological barriers that have stymied efforts to streamline access to services, has "Advance" written all over it.

This progress is exciting, but there's still a well of untapped talent here, and we won't reach our fullest potential until each of us is working strategically, and seeking the benefits of synergy. Our intent is to see that everyone at DHS has an opportunity to participate in the Advance process. In the interim, we hope that what you find in this issue will pique your interest in what is to follow.

As always, it is a privilege to serve with you.

Carol L. Adams

"Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful."

Joshua J. Marine

We're all unique - or are we?

by Linda Wiens

People ask me quite often what similarities and differences I see between their organization and others with whom I work. A good and interesting question.

Three types of organization can be easily distinguished: commercial or private sector (business and industry); non-profit (with staff and/or volunteers); and governmental (Federal, State, Municipal).

The private sector has generally been regarded as leading in effectiveness, due in large part to competition and elimination through market forces. More recently, the spectacular collapse of some major enterprises and the demise of their pension plans have diminished that reputation.

Non-profit organizations have grown in both size and number. Since they depend on donors for funding and must meet rather stringent regulations, a number have set new quality standards in recent years. Those that depend heavily on volunteers must, more than anyone else, provide for work satisfaction, also called "intrinsic motivation."

That leaves government. Widely regarded as bureaucratic, slow to change, wasteful and unresponsive, government itself and the services it renders are nevertheless important to us all. In most cases the private sector cannot and would not want to provide those services.

All enterprises share some common elements:

  • The fundamental combination of people and purpose - the interests of the people who do the work, and the results to be achieved.
  • Organizational culture - the accumulation over time of norms and practices that hold the enterprise together.
  • Challenges of change in their external environment.
  • Competition for resources - "productivity" means getting more done with the same or less manpower; "doing more with less" means curtailment of (mainly) fiscal resources.
  • Leadership-management-administration and communication requirements.

While these factors are the same across organizations, the way in which they are addressed can vary greatly.

For example, in a large bio-science company, the Agricultural Chemicals division consistently produced results far beyond other divisions. Two things made this possible: the division head was an unusually competent leader and manager, and the division had autonomy since it was physically far removed from Headquarters.

One hospital in a relatively small city was widely regarded as better than it's lone competitor. The preferred hospital was operated by Catholic Sisters who had a very strong work ethic and were disciplined and autocratic. ("The patient comes first!!!")

A university wanted to go from fourth or fifth in its region to #1. Their strategic plan started with extensive research into best practices, breadth of curriculum, quality measures, scholarships, and endowment chairs and involved key people from every department. Planning and development engaged all departments as well, and the common goal inspired the staff, enabled more careful selection of students, and attracted more donors. They soon stood out as much better than their counterparts.

These examples illustrate some of the factors that can distinguish enterprises: The better the leadership at the top, the better the organization can be - and usually is. The greater the autonomy of any work unit, the more freedom it has to be excellent - or not!

  • All organizations go through cycles of birth, growth, peaking and decline, not necessarily at the same pace. Those that don't start to renew or transform before peaking, usually die.
  • Organization culture degrades if it is not recognized and deliberately managed. Most enterprises do not give enough attention to their culture.
  • There is a common assumption that one must offer top dollar to attract top candidates. This is not true, but many enterprises make it a "self-fulfilling prophesy" by not offering other rewards. The best rewards are meaningful work and genuine work relationships.

Now to some challenges facing government organizations.

They are always under public scrutiny. And since the "public" is so diverse, they very rarely get accolades for "doing things right" Some group is nearly always dissatisfied.

They are very vulnerable to the media with its power of public persuasion. Any accident, incident, unusual event, and even trends and patterns, are picked up, interpreted, criticized, sometimes misrepresented, and occasionally blown out of all proportion.

They can bloom and languish according to the governments in power.

You know all that. Still, here is an example of #3 from my past experience.

A colleague and I were working with a provincial Department of Northern Affairs in Canada, which had enacted public policy that greatly benefited the Native population. Implementation of the policy was in midstream as the next election approached. We asked the Deputy Minister what would happen if the opposition won. His response was, "First of all, they won't. But even if they did, with all we have in place we have virtually 'scrambled the egg', and you can't undo that."

Guess what?! The government did change and the policy implementation was halted by the incoming Minister. The former Deputy characterized it this way: "You wouldn't believe it. Not only did they unscramble the egg, but they killed the chicken and fired the farmer!"

You may feel like that at times at IDHS. In my view, based on the groups I have worked with, I see a Government Department with a complex mandate of human services; with a continuing dearth of resources and an equally continuing increase in needs to be met; and with many creative, intelligent, hard-working people who remain undaunted and keep finding new solutions. I also believe you have unusually inspiring leadership which deserves admiration, respect and support. In my work with IDHS I have been privileged and enriched.

Linda Wiens is executive director of the Prairie Crossing Institute, and the principal facilitator at The Advance.

"The secret of joy in work is contained in one word - excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it."

Pearl Buck

What is  "The Advance"?

 by Susan Rans

Other organizations might call it a staff development retreat, but Secretary Adams, ever a fan of the apt phrase, wants her staff to move forward - hence, "The Advance." It's a comprehensive training that enables participants to undertake a new way of planning, working and evaluating work at DHS. Constructed around an innovative approach to teamwork, The Advance is now changing and will continue to change the way we work.

All members of the DHS Executive Staff have been through the initial Advance 3-day training, plus three 2-day sessions. Executive Staff also participated in three one-day refresher/special topic sessions. In addition, about 80 DHS managers have been to the introductory 3-day session. The long-term goal is for all DHS staff to participate in some form of the training.

What is it about this new way of working that has us so engaged? This issue of Solutiion... will examine the Advance in detail, defining several of its key concepts and terms. Members of the DHS staff who have been through the training will recognize the material; those who have not yet had the training should recognize its reflection in the new ways things are being done here at DHS.

In short, The Advance asks participants to honestly examine their styles of leadership, identifying five basic categories and the benefits and limitations of those five styles. (See Pg. 19) It introduces a concept called critique, which provides new ways of learning from experience in order to improve performance and teamwork. (See Pg. 22). It reveals the components of good meetings and provides ways to consistently conduct them. (See Pg. 24) And it provides realistic, workable ways to manage conflict when it arises. (See. Pg. 20)

All of these components combine to create a new way of planning together, the Synergistic Planning Process (SPP). The SPP is a way to approach change so people respond with enthusiasm, hope and energy. SPP concentrates on the future and making things better, rather than dwelling on the problems of the past.

SPP takes place in three stages.

  • The first turns traditional planning on its head, as it asks participants to describe the outcome they envision. If planners have a clear, shared idea of what they hope to achieve, they can, in effect, work backwards from that vision as they plan.
  • The second stage seeks to establish what is needed to get from here to there. It calls for a gap analysis to describe the space between current reality and the envisioned outcome. Then participants provide details, setting out key result areas (KRAs) that will move the plan forward. Participants then set objectives for each KRA. This stage provides discipline in the same way the first stage provides visions of change.
  • Finally, the third stage of SPP outlines the action steps required to achieve the objectives. Key to this stage is the full participation of those who will be involved in taking these action steps. Often, the actions required aren't decided by those who must take them, causing a communication gap. SPP stresses participation and communication throughout the process.

Of course, this short overview sounds simple, but the real benefit of The Advance is the way in which it provides participants with the tools and concepts to really make SPP work for everyone involved. Developed by The Prairie Crossing Institute, The Advance is both detailed and collaborative, making it possible for all DHS staff to come away from this training empowered and engaged. We hope this issue of Solutions…will reflect the innovations contained in The Advance.

Susan Rans is a freelance writer.

Employee Quote: The Advance gave me links to other units from IDHS, and I remain in contact with them - networking is the key.

Daniel Fitzgerald, Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Employee Quote: The Advance has helped me with working one-on-one with employees - I now think about what tactics I use, and as a result I'm able to accomplish more.

Nancy Bennett, Legal

SPP in Action at DHS

The principles of the Synergistic Planning Process (SPP) guide the design and execution of projects large and small at DHS. All of the Smartpath DHS integration plans were mapped out using the SPP, and the articles in this section will introduce you to a few of the other activities here at DHS that owe their success to the teamwork fostered by the SPP.

You'll notice some common themes woven throughout these stories. No one is operating out of a hermetically sealed silo. All the parties who will be affected by the project have a hand in the planning. Diverse audiences and diverse opinions aren't just tolerated - they are solicited, welcomed, and used to enrich both the planning experience and the quality of the final product.

CHP SEED Process 

by Sarah Karp

Wiping out poverty is a lofty goal, but a New York psychiatrist and a ballerina-turned-activist believe it can be done through a training design they created. Part therapy and part action plan, founders Carlos Monteagudo and Melinda Lackey call it the SEED process.

The key, they say, is that governments, not-for-profits and social change leaders need to listen more effectively in order to move toward making social services, such as health care and education, more universally accessible - thus affording to all people the possibility of a life free of poverty. While the initial and ongoing focus of SEED is on eradicating poverty, the training on effective listening and communication can also be applied to almost any endeavor.

Last spring, senior staff from the Division of Community Health and Prevention (DCHP) spent six days in SEED training. While the division's focus is on fostering health and well-being, DCHP staff members say the training was a helpful experience that has improved communication within the division. "This should make division programs more effective in serving the community," says Kim Fornero, chief of the Bureau of Community and Primary Prevention.

Monteagudo says he and Lackey, both Kellogg Fellows, developed the process after traveling all over the world and selecting the best practices of other groups, including decision-making techniques used by Fortune 500 companies.

In the first stage of the SEED process, those in the training learn to avoid focusing on differences and trying to resolve them in favor of engaging in "deep listening." This exercise is aimed at helping the group to function better as a unit.

The second stage focuses on re-framing opportunities. Participants are taught to listen to someone else and then repeat back to him/her what they heard, to make sure they understood it correctly. This part of the process is about appreciating the diversity in perspectives among people in the group. It is hoped that this opens up group members to seeing obstacles as opportunities rather than problems.

Next, the group is taught to "design seed patterns," that is, figuring out what problems (or opportunities) they want to tackle and how to do so. An example might be how to better welcome or include new staff into the division, or how to enhance relations with community providers. In stage four, they develop prototypes and implement them, after which they move to the last stage - replicating the procedures they have laid out.

While SEED focuses on group exercises, Monteagudo notes that when people are really listened to, each individual's "brilliance" is tapped. SEED is in the business of "touching souls." If individuals feel listened to, they will be more creative and their effectiveness will be increased.

In addition, Monteagudo says, through deep listening, the SEED process is designed to change the relationship between government and the people it serves. He points out that the DCHP touches millions of people, so that the training has the potential of very wide-reaching effects.

DCHP Director Steven Guerra says that SEED fit into his vision of having his division and its programs work more collaboratively together. He notes, "We were like ships all moving in different directions."

The division also suffered from a common issue: even though people would be sitting at the same table in the same meeting, they wouldn't always hear what the others were saying. "We would think that we agreed upon something, and we would all nod and walk away, but we all had different understandings," he says. "People only hear about 40 percent of what is said in a meeting."

Guerra says that techniques such as re-framing are already making communication more effective. Dan Blair, Manager, DCHP Fiscal Support Services, agrees. "Trying this led to some interesting insights," he says. "When you are listening, it forces you to attend carefully to everything that is said instead of thinking about how you are going to respond. In some cases, what the listener repeated back was not what the speaker had intended to communicate - and may even have been the opposite!"

The DCHP has also implemented "e-mail-less Fridays," an idea developed at the SEED training. By decreasing the number of e-mails sent on Friday, staff have to leave their computers and communicate face to face, or pick up a phone and have a personal conversation in order to conduct business. Fornero says this interaction fosters a deeper level of conversation. Fornero also noted that as she and a new staff member went through the training together, they discovered they had similar ideas and approaches, which has allowed them to work well together.

Following the training, each bureau chief and program manager adopted a new goal of working more collaboratively with another program. Blair says he thinks the Department has benefited from the change in mindset about how staff work with each other and with the public. "Some of the steps in the SEED process involve developing a sense of 'we,' rather than 'us' or 'them,' removing a major barrier to effective communication."

Monteagudo adds that this is an important realization: "We will never win if we work as individuals; we will only win if we work as a group."

Sarah Karp is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Chicago Reporter.

Employee Quote: The advance opened the door for me to have a better understanding of the other bureaus and the people who run them. Now it's easier to understand their expectations and needs.

Dallas Wright, Data System Management

New Strategic Plan for the Division of Developmental Disabilities

by Marie Havens and Max Chmura

The Division of Developmental Disabilities embarked on a new, more inclusive planning process to ensure that their new strategic plan draws inspiration from the experiences, insights and ideas of people with developmental disabilities. The commitment to building a new plan in full partnership with the people who are touched directly by the system fostered the creation of an inspiring, responsive, and powerful strategic plan.

With help from the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, we sought ideas from families, friends, advocates, advisory councils, trade associations, community providers, managers of state-operated developmental centers and our division staff. Statewide, over 330 people, many of them with developmental disabilities, participated in these discussions.

Participants clearly felt able to voice their concerns and ideas - they were eloquent about improving their own lives and supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and expressed deep concern about quality and outcomes. There was considerable agreement on key issues, and the wide array of ideas, viewpoints, and concerns contributed to a stronger strategic plan focused squarely on the quality of people's lives, rather than the delivery of services.

These basic themes - putting people with developmental disabilities at the center of the plan, supporting individual decisions and choices, and unifying the system so that where people live does not drive service availability - emerged as a result of this new, more inclusive process. Our vision for the future now reflects these themes: People who have developmental disabilities are able to enjoy meaningful relationships with family, friends and others in their lives; to experience personal growth and development; and to fully participate in activities of their choice in their communities. This vision should capture the imagination of all and stretch the capabilities of the entire system.

The division faces a new and challenging role. As services are increasingly provided in homes and community settings, strong leadership and cooperative working partnerships become paramount. The Division's Mission statement is refocused to reflect its new role in supporting the Vision: The Division of Developmental Disabilities provides leadership for and effective management of the design and delivery of quality outcome-based, person-centered services and supports for individuals who have developmental disabilities. These services and supports will be appropriate to their need, accessible, life-spanning, based on informed choice, and monitored to ensure individual progress, quality of life and safety.

The strategic plan commits the division and its partners to agreed-upon goals, strategic initiatives and the basic approaches to be used but does not include specific objectives and action steps. Annual work plans will address those as an integral part of budget development, allowing the division to manage its implementation activity with a flexibility that recognizes the external forces that often dictate priorities and pace.

This synergistic planning process has exceeded our expectations, developing a clearer vision for the future for people with developmental disabilities, and identifying the actions necessary to achieve that vision.

Marie Havens is supervisor of the Medicaid Waiver Unit and Max Chmura is the president of PNP Associates.

Start the Revolution!

"You say you want a revolution…well, you know, we'd all love to see the plan." quote John Lennon/Paul McCartney

The intent of the legislation creating DHS was to provide a system of one-stop, seamlessly integrated service delivery while achieving economies by streamlining administrative functions and eliminating redundant processes. Yet many years later, DHS is still working to achieve that vision.

Now comes the latest iteration in that process, bearing the deceptively modest moniker - Integrated Service Delivery Framework Project. Doesn't sound like it could rock your world, right?

Don't be deceived. This may be the most ambitious undertaking DHS has tackled so far. It's intended to foment radical changes in the way all of us do our work and make it possible to implement a "No Wrong Door" system for service access that will cut across our division boundaries and eventually include the other state agencies responsible for social and health services. We're talking about a revolution.

The concept is simple - use the power of digital technology to create a virtual office that's always open for business and accessible from anywhere and everywhere. Make the process as easy and efficient as we can for our customers and staff.

That means using an application for services that captures all of the data commonly collected across all of the state's programs and providers, and storing that data centrally. Eliminate redundant activity, paperwork and storage.

It requires looking at each step in the process for providing services, from the first inquiry to delivery, to see if there is a better, more efficient way to do it. Tasks that can be automated, will be. Information about an individual's or family's history will be shared whenever that is possible and appropriate, enabling providers to approach their work with a more comprehensive picture of the family's needs, based upon the family's own evaluation of what will help them move toward independence and self-sufficiency.

Providers will have claiming and monitoring systems consolidated across programs and divisions, saving them the expense and time of managing multiple, sometimes redundant systems.

Why now? Given the unrelenting pressures of increasing caseloads and shrinking resources, it will take dramatic changes to allow us to maintain service levels.

With the increasing use of digital technology (half of America's 13 to16 year-olds own cell phones!) and the public's expanding comfort level, the timing is right.

The cost/benefit analysis on incorporating new technology is positive - ultimately, it's less expensive than trying to retool our collection of antiquated 30-year-old systems.

Finally, given that our mission is providing human services, delegating the quotidian tasks to technology and thereby freeing our staff to perform the irreplaceable human interactions - complicated, nuanced, intelligent, intuitive - will allow for better outcomes.

Because this is a complicated project affecting vital service areas, each element will be approached in phases, after extensive collaboration with all the interested parties and thorough examination of best practices.

The Food Stamp Participation Project is our first attempt to realize some of the framework goals. HCD will inaugurate an online process to initiate food stamp applications, an automated phone system for recertifications, and an expedited food stamp intake process that can be completed at the offices community providers like Catholic Charities.

Lessons learned from the development and execution of these new modes of access will inform the work that follows. In addition, many states have initiated similar projects; learning from their experiences will be an essential part of our advance planning.

Overall, building and executing a new human services framework could take up to five years - with a year of intensive planning, followed by stages of phased-in implementation.

Leveling the Playing Field at DHS

by Robert F. Kilbury, Rh.D.

Over the past three years, the Department of Human Services has tackled many tough challenges to continually enhance services to hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents. DHS is, once again, taking a leadership role by spearheading efforts to create a state government workforce that mirrors our society. Last Spring, DHS was the driving force behind the creation of the Disability Hiring Initiative which focuses on increasing the number of qualified applicants with disabilities hired by the state, with a long-term plan to hire 500 individuals with disabilities at DHS.

Secretary Adams and I are all very excited that numerous other state agencies have joined DHS to support this vital initiative, reflecting an extraordinary collaborative effort. The workgroup involved includes representatives from: the DHS Divisions of Developmental Disabilities, Mental Health, Rehabilitation Services, and Community Health and Prevention; the DHS Office of Human Resources (OHR), Bureau of Training and Development, and Compliance Access and Workplace Safety; Central Management Services, the Illinois Department of Human Rights, and the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission.

We created an Executive II position, reporting directly to Elizabeth Gil, our Human Resources director, and have been lucky enough to find a highly qualified, energetic person to fill this post.

Dan Dickerson joined DHS this August as the manager of the Disability Recruitment Program. He comes to us after five years of experience working on employment and training issues for people with disabilities under US Department of Labor federal grants programs.

Dan sees his mission as spanning two areas of responsibility: helping people with disabilities find appropriate employment that sets them on a suitable career path, and helping personnel managers connect with qualified candidates - who happen to be persons with disabilities. His slate of responsibilities include:

  • Convening the workgroup periodically to gain ideas and reporting on the progress of disability hiring at DHS.
  • Recruiting qualified applicants with disabilities and helping them negotiate the hiring system within state government;
  • Explaining to internal stakeholders about the Successful Disability Opportunities program, formerly known as Severely Disabled Option;
  • Keeping in touch with qualified applicants and urging personnel officers at other agencies to affirmatively hire people with disabilities;
  • Explaining the reasonable accommodation process and the interactive nature of working with individuals with disabilities, and
  • Dispelling myths concerning employees with disabilities.

Establishing this position dramatically enhances the long-term prospects for helping applicants with disabilities obtain the types of jobs and benefits that will allow them to leave Social Security benefits and become truly self-sufficient.

Rob Kilbury is director of the Division of Rehabilitation Services.

A Self-Inventory of Leadership Styles

This instrument explores four major aspects of work life:

  1. Leadership Value
  2. Planning and Creativity 
  3. Implementation 
  4. Learning from Experience.

Each section has three parts. Each topic begins with a statement followed by five choices. Read all five alternatives before answering. Then select them from most like you to least like you, in sequence.

There are no right or wrong answers. The best answers are the most accurate descriptions of what you believe (Section 1) or do (Sections 2, 3, 4).

It is helpful to complete this questionnaire at a time when you feel you are your "best self" (i.e., when you feel energized and positive). Answer as honestly as you can, to get useful information about yourself. If there are some descriptions that you think you have not encountered before, answer as you believe you would act.

  • Step 1: From the five choices, select the one that is most like you: give it a rating of 10.
  • Step 2: Then select the statement that is least like you and give it a 1.
  • Step 3: Then enter the numbers for the other choices within the range, according to the frequency with which you act in those ways. Do not use ties. Below are three different examples of how a completed assessment might look on the summary page at the end of this questionnaire.

Ensure that your answers for each topic include a 10, a 1, and that no number is used twice for any topic.



  1. How do you view the importance of the goals, wants and needs of individuals and those of the organization?
    1. ____ I believe that the wants of people who report to me should be attended to first. If I make certain that morale is high, the organization runs more smoothly.
    2. ____ I believe that a reasonable balance should be maintained between satisfying the wants of those who report to me, and striving for organization results.
    3. ____ I believe that getting organization results comes first. When necessary, people must set aside their individual wants to get the work done.
    4. ____ I believe that the needs of those who report to me are as important as getting results. It is essential to manage so that the two are integrated. Neither can be sacrificed.
    5. ____ I believe that top management mainly determines the goals and work of the organization. As a result, individual employees have to go along to protect their job and future.
  2. At work, what do you believe the most effective relationships are between a manager or supervisor and the people who report to him or her?
    1. ____ I believe that the supervisor should plan the work; let people know what is expected of them; and make certain that the work gets done according to plan.
    2. ____ I believe that the supervisor and those who report to her/him should work as a team to set goals and objectives for their unit. Joint planning and implementation of actions should ensure maximum attention to the individuals' job satisfaction and equally to organization results.
    3. ____ I believe a person should have the freedom to do what s/he thinks best in the work situation, with the minimum contact that is needed between the manager and those who report to him or her.
    4. ____ I believe that both the supervisor and his or her reports have to be reasonable and meet each other half way when necessary to get the job done.
    5. ____ I believe that if a supervisor places the emphasis on the morale and well-being of those who report to him/her, people will do what is necessary to get the job done.
  3. What are the standards you hold for yourself and your organization or unit?
    1. ____ People should be informed clearly of the results expected of them, and required to meet those results. We should "run a tight ship" to get high efficiency. People should be able to be proud of doing things right.
    2. ____ Given our organization, the needs and concerns of our staff are of prime importance. We should adjust expectations to maintain positive relationships at work, allow people to express themselves creatively, and provide a decent and friendly work environment.
    3. ____ People should set their own standards for their work achievements. Since people's tasks are quite different, it would be artificial and inappropriate to hold people to a specific kind or level of result.
    4. ____ Excellence should be the work standard. We should deliberately keep in mind what that is and constantly evaluate activities and results against whether they are fully effective, and face up when they are not.
    5. ____ It is unreasonable to expect everyone to achieve excellence at all times. We should consider circumstances, available resources and skills, and generally strive to improve on the past


  1. How do you and your people generally plan work projects?
    1. ____ After getting people's views, I interpret what is required to meet organization goals and policies. Then I set the objectives, plan the actions and discuss them so people understand them and find them reasonable.
    2. ____ I invite people to contribute to setting objectives, interpreting policy, and planning actions. I try to ensure that people will feel good about work relationships and activities.
    3. ____ I take the lead in setting objectives, planning and interpreting policies jointly with my people. We work toward a common understanding of what we are trying to achieve and how we will go about it.
    4. ____ I set objectives, make plans, interpret the organization policies, and ensure that my people fully understand what is required of them so they can carry it out.
    5. ____ I rely primarily on those whose job it is to make the overall plans, interpret the policies and set the objectives. I meet my own specific responsibilities and pass instructions and information along as clearly as possible to those who report to me.
  2. What arrangements do you make for developing the people who report to you?
    1. ____ I let people know about our work unit's directions and the training budget and any particular initiatives. I send information around about available training and approve developmental requests within reason.
    2. ____ I share information and ideas with people about the organization's projects and initiatives, and I encourage them to get training and experiences that they find satisfying, interesting and helpful.
    3. ____ I tell people about the organization's situation and needs, and I ensure that they take the training provided and/or needed to become proficient at their job.
    4. ____ I discuss the organization's goals with my people so they understand and agree with them. We set objectives jointly for our team, and plan training and other experiences to ensure that each of us gets the learning and support to contribute our best.
    5. ____ I inform people about our procedures and practices, and I make available on-the-job and other required training. People are welcome to pursue additional opportunities on their own.
  3. How do you generate creativity and make use of subordinates' ideas?
    1. ____ I encourage and reward ideas that improve productivity and efficiency. I evaluate the ideas put forth and decide how to implement those that will increase results and productivity.
    2. ____ I am very willing to pass on good ideas from my people. Given the work pressures and demands, employees in my work unit do not show a very high degree of creativity.
    3. ____ I encourage my subordinates to contribute their ideas. I often express appreciation for their suggestions and support as many as possible so that people will feel they have a say and are valued.
    4. ____ I bring my people together often to discuss what we are trying to achieve; to generate ideas for doing new things and using better methods; and to evaluate ideas against goals and objectives.
    5. ____ I show interest in people's ideas and invite suggestions. I make sure that far-out proposals are tempered with reason and that improvements in efficiency as well as in working conditions are considered.


  1. How do you provide direction during the action steps?
    1. ____ I remain flexible during the action stages so we can make adjustments for all the unforeseen issues that usually arise. Most plans need to be scaled back a little in light of current realities.
    2. ____ I make sure that planning and day-to-day action remain integrated so that all who are involved continue to plan and implement concurrently. We take unexpected events into account and try to overcome barriers in the process.
    3. ____ I am sensitive to the effects that plans and decisions from above might have on my people. I check periodically to see if they are satisfied and if there is enough leeway so they can be comfortable with new directives. I offer support if it seems needed.
    4. ____ I pass the plans along to my people and make sure they know their responsibilities. I leave the supervision of tasks and projects with those who are assigned to do it.
    5. ____ I actively direct the work so I can be sure it is going according to plan. I regularly check the progress of the work and take corrective actions where necessary.
  2. How do you decide who will do what to implement plans?
    1. ____ I assess the competencies of the people who report to me. Based on that and on their job responsibilities, I decide who is to do what. I make certain that they have the authority needed to do the job, and I track projects and plans.
    2. ____ I propose who should do what. I sometimes make changes based on suggestions or circumstances. I also discuss the reasons for my decisions and give the responsible people the authority to do the job.
    3. ____ I lead the planning and make sure we keep the goals and objectives clearly in mind. Together we decide who is most suited to do what, and how to coordinate our efforts. I ensure that each person has the organizational power needed to implement actions.
    4. ____ I assign responsibility and delegate power to people on the basis of job description, seniority, and the chain of command where applicable. I allow considerable latitude since most people know their part in the plans.
    5. ____ I find out who is most interested and feels qualified for the projects and tasks coming out of the planning cycle. I encourage and sometimes persuade people. I let them know they have my support.
  3. How do you deal with your own and others' reservations, differences in viewpoint and disagreements?
    1. ____ I try to be sure of my facts and argue clearly for my position. I listen to reservations or concerns and make changes if they are valid. I cut off conflicts which inhibit progress or persist too long.
    2. ____ I rely on company policies and rules to decide between conflicting views. When disagreement arises, I try to stay out of it or remain as neutral as possible. I generally don't argue or show active resistance.
    3. ____ When differences become apparent, I try to evaluate each viewpoint, sometimes talking separately to the disagreeing parties. I try to get a reasonable and fair solution to which everyone should be able to accommodate.
    4. ____ I work at understanding each point of view clearly and make sure everyone gets a good hearing. I try to clarify the causes of the difference even when it makes me uncomfortable, and work to get a sound and lasting resolution. Sometimes I deliberately encourage conflict to get more creativity.
    5. ____ I can generally see the good in another's point of view as well as in my own. I don't ruffle feathers often, and am willing to give in sometimes. When disagreement does arise, I try to reduce tensions and soothe feelings so people can get along.


  1. How do you assess the performance of those who report to you?
    1. ____ Periodically I meet individually with my people and give them my evaluation of their performance. I point out strengths and weaknesses and let them know what changes they need to make. I don't mince words but I give praise for high performance when that is due.
    2. ____ I stress positive aspects of the work of my people, and show appreciation for special strengths or extra effort. I invite their suggestions for ways to do better and for ways to improve the work setting. I offer help and let them know they have my support.
    3. ____ I evaluate the performance of people who report to me based on organization policy, or if I am asked to do so by my supervisor. I use the procedures provided and make sure that the assessment is properly documented.
    4. ____ I meet individually with the people who report to me at review time. In evaluating their performance I try to balance positives with negatives. I encourage them to ask clarifying questions and I make suggestions for improvement.
    5. ____ I address performance issues as soon as they arise. I also meet periodically with each person, to review both our performance and to agree on action steps for growth. At times I call a group meeting where we assess our overall performance in achieving our goals.
  2. When someone who reports to you makes an error, how do you react?
    1. ____ On the basis of my knowledge of the facts, I correct the person who has made the error and point out what s/he should do to fix it. I am fair in allowing for exceptions or explanations.
    2. ____ When errors are made, those of us who were involved try to correct them. We analyze what happened, and together we develop ways to prevent similar mistakes in the future.
    3. ____ When managing errors, I do it gently and emphasize the positive. I am understanding of people and try to prevent damaging the confidence and morale of the person involved.
    4. ____ I investigate the circumstances surrounding the error and, after careful evaluation, I decide on corrective or disciplinary action. I hold people accountable for what they do.
    5. ____ Making errors is part of life. I avoid focusing on those that do occur unless they are likely to have major repercussions which will get my people and me into trouble.
  3. Evaluation & critique: How do you ensure improvement in ongoing work and projects?
    1. ____ I use discussion of special projects to stimulate interest, develop morale and provide for individual growth. I emphasize the positive to encourage my people, and I let them do their own evaluations.
    2. ____ I assess work routines and make changes if needed. I meet regularly with the people involved in projects to critique the work while it is in progress and we can make adjustments. Together we review positives and negatives, and plan the actions needed to achieve high effectiveness.
    3. ____ I evaluate my unit's performance during or after projects to determine where improvements are needed and what to do to get them. I change instructions as needed. Sometimes I tell people what to do differently at the end of one project or at the start of another.
    4. ____ I try to give clear instructions about assignments and responsibilities. My unit usually completes work as required. When something unusual or untoward happens, I look into it. I pass evaluative comments and suggestions from higher levels on to my people.
    5. ____ I generally check in with my people to see how things are going or after they work on projects. I emphasize steady progress and may make suggestions or changes in the process. I allow for contingencies and encourage my people to work at improvements.

Check your answers to each topic to make sure that you've entered a number on each line, including a 10 (most like you), a 1 (least like you) and three other numbers, with no number used twice. Turn to the next page and transfer your numbers to the Answer Sheet to determine your primary and secondary leadership styles (your highest and second-highest scores under totals).

"Leadership has a harder job to do than just choose sides. It must bring sides together.", Jesse Jackson

Add the numbers in each column and enter the totals in the boxes at the bottom of the page. Then add all the numbers across for your grand total. Divide each total in the five style boxes by the grand total to determine the percentage, which will help you interpret your results. (See pages 18-19 for information on the characteristics, use and outcomes for these five leadership styles. )

Answer Sheet for adding values

Section 1 - Leadership Values

1 - Goals, wants, needs d ____ c ____ b ____ a ____ e ____

2 - Relationships b ____ a ____ d ____ e ____ c ____

3 - Standards d ____ a ____ e ____ b ____ c ____

Section 2 - Planning & Creativity

1 - Planning responsibilities c ____ d ____ a ____ b ____ e ____

2 - Developing subordinates d ____ c ____ a ____ b ____ e ____

3 - Creativity d ____ a ____ e ____ c ____ b ____

Section 3 - Implementation

1 - Direction during the action stage b ____ e ____ a ____ c ____ d ____

2 - Deciding who does what c ____ a ____ b ____ e ____ d ____

3 - Managing disagreement d ____ a ____ c ____ e ____ b ____

Section 4 - Learning from Experience

1 - Evaluating Performance e ____ a ____ d ____ b ____ c ____

2 - Reaction to errors b ____ a ____ d ____ c ____ e ____

3 - Evaluation & critique b ____ c ____ e ____ a ____ d ____



Percent of Total

People, Product and Leadership

by Susan Rans

In a perfect world, all activities undertaken by groups of people would be successful, more successful than if undertaken by one person alone. If every person brings her individual gifts and capacities to a common undertaking, then this combination of talents would always produce something greater than the sum of its parts.

In the real world of the workplace, however, the ideal state described above sometimes proves elusive. Ask anyone, and they'll probably tell you they value this kind of teamwork, but they'll admit it can be hard to achieve.

In order to get a clearer idea of the obstacles to quality teamwork, it helps to ask a few questions about individual styles and values. DHS Executive Staff all began their training in the Advance by completing a Self Inventory of Leadership Styles, and a significant part of the Advance workshops is dedicated to examining the information provided by this questionnaire. The Inventory is printed here because the process is useful for all members of all work-related teams (see Page 13).

The Inventory focuses on the interaction of two fundamental issues that are always present in organization life. Leadership styles can be assessed on the basis of how a person typically expresses and relates to both. The central issues are those of production and people. Production issues involve things like achieving the purpose and getting results, while people issues include relationships between team members and communication. If you express the interaction of these issues visually, you would get a matrix that looks like this.

A quick look at this matrix provides a crystal clear understanding of why some teams work and others flounder. All people/little product (1/10) produces happy people but little gets done. All product/no people (10/1) gets the work done with little regard for individual contributions, depending instead on authority. Somewhere in the middle (5/5) is just OK, but not much changes. (Nothing much needs to be said about attention to neither (1/1); it generally produces just enough to get by.

Clearly preferable is a process that maximizes benefits for both the product and the people (10/10). Achieving a 10/10 result requires leadership that considers it possible and necessary for people to meet their own needs through working toward organization goals. It requires the inspiration for people to keep contributing their best energies in order to achieve success in the endeavor. This style makes people happy and successful.

There are, of course, times in which the other styles are necessary. There are times when a 1/1 response is appropriate, even best. There are times when unconditional emotional support (1/10) is needed. Compromise and accommodation require 5/5 tacticians. And in an emergency a 10/1 decision maker can be valuable.

But a 10/10 style of leadership provides the best opportunity for collegiality and competence. It may take more time and more people involvement than other styles, and it requires more and better information resources. 10/10 is not easy to do, but with practice, achieving a 10/10 result can be within your reach!

Susan Rans is a freelance writer.

5/5 with 10/1 Tendancies Seeks 10/10 Leasder Object: Synergy

"Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.", Gen. H. Norman Schwartzkopf

"People, Product and Leadership" explains the theory behind the Self Inventory and the five categories of behavior it tests for. "But what," you may ask, "does that mean when I'm looking at my own score, and how can I use that information at work - or anywhere else?"

First, some basics. Most people use all five leadership styles, depending upon circumstances. The category with the highest score is your primary style. The second-highest score reflects the approach you're likely to take in situations where there's great pressure, or when your primary style isn't yielding the results you want.

It's important to remember that we're talking about learned behavior patterns in a work setting - not personality. Behavior is learned over time and if it's not successful, we can learn new approaches. Examining our own assumptions and practicing different approaches can create new habits.

Here's a snapshot of the five categories:

1/1: This is the path of least resistance. The assumption is that the people/product is always in conflict, and that the conflict is irreconcilable, so it's not worth the struggle. Results are likely to be just enough to get by, and a person using a 1/1 style most of the time may be discouraged, in the wrong job, or suffering burn out. Still - there are times when this is appropriate, and using it 4-10 percent of the time is considered effective.

  • 1/10: This style is rooted in the belief that people take precedence over tasks. A 1/10 leader is likely to be regarded as a nice person - kind, caring and tolerant. The workplace is pleasant, disagreements are suppressed and people feel comfortable. Unfortunately, the results of a 10/1 style are similar to those for 1/1, with very little accomplished. Use of this style 4-12 percent of the time is considered effective in most organizations.
  • 5/5: Knowing when to back off, tread cautiously or compromise can be an essential, even career-saving, skill. A 5/5 approach may offer an opportunity to regroup after a period of intense effort or high-pressure demands. However, if overused (more than 15-25 percent of the time), the results tend to be lackluster, enthusiasm is dimmed and creative solutions are unlikely.
  • 10/1: Using this style 15-25 percent of the time is considered sound. A 10/1 leader believes that she/he is responsible for making decisions and setting the course of action, and if this leader is perceived as intelligent, knowledgeable, competent, and a person of integrity their autocratic style may be tolerated, even admired. Results are likely to reflect the leader's capabilities. However, this approach, if used by a person not as well respected, can lead to resentment - even sabotage.
  • 10/10: 35 percent and above is considered very effective. A 10/10 leader sees people and product needs as complementary, not conflicting. Indeed, this person believes that the best results can only be achieved when both are properly addressed. Still, 10/10 is hard to achieve and for most of us, making this approach our primary style will demand persistent effort.

Elements of SPP

Moving through Conflict to Creativity

Your team has been working hard to complete an important project, but you've run into an unexpected glitch that could keep you from meeting your deadline, and the pressure is mounting. Part of the team wants to go for broke - work around the clock if necessary to meet the deadline. Another faction thinks that moving into crisis mode is a bad idea - people make mistakes when they rush. They want to renegotiate the deadline and complete the project at a more deliberate pace.

Pretty soon tempers flare, the rhetoric becomes heated, and you find yourself embroiled in a full-fledged verbal donnybrook. Your team leaves the meeting angry and frustrated, but worst of all - you still have to decide what to do about the deadline!

Most of us would be upset after an experience like the one described here, and conventional management theory often equates team effectiveness with group harmony. Brainstorming - a group problem-solving technique used extensively in the last 50 years - instructs participants to avoid evaluating suggestions or solutions as they are offered. The theory is that removing the fear of judgment opens the door to more creative thinking.

However, new research on group creativity suggests that just the opposite is true. Teams that engaged in brainstorming with instructions that encouraged evaluation and even criticism found that debating different views had a positive effect, stimulating divergent and creative thought.

Why? Diversity offers multiple perspectives, including the minority view. Entertaining different viewpoints and examining the benefits and drawbacks of each can lead to an expanded understanding of the problem and possible solutions. New perspectives give rise to creative thinking. People exposed to such dissent search for information on all sides of the issue, use a wider array of strategies, and detect solutions they otherwise would have overlooked.

There is one important caveat - improved results occurred in groups where the conflict centered on the task, and not on the person. Working effectively in this evaluative style requires significant interpersonal trust and respect.

Mastering conflict management is not easy; it takes skill, self-discipline and practice. Here are some of the basic elements of good conflict resolution.

First, Stay Calm. Take a couple deep breaths, or, if you must, take a short break to master your emotions, so that you can keep your participation focused on issues, and not personalities. Commit yourself to listening carefully and respectfully. Keep reminding yourself that this is an opportunity.

Check Your Mindset. Be aware of your attitudes and assumptions. Try to avoid locking into any one position. Remember, you're looking for a solution that works for everyone, which will probably require flexibility from all parties.

Ask yourself: How important is this decision? If you really believe the outcome won't affect the quality of the product, don't spend energy and effort on it.

Understand the Source. Determining the root cause of the conflict is important: Are you dealing with a clash of goals, expectations, values, methods, or priorities? Do you share a common understanding of the facts? Are expectations unclear or unrealistic?

Don't Wait. If you know there's a problem, deal with it. Avoiding it won't make it go away - and ignoring an issue may give the impression that you don't think it's important.

Agree on Outcomes. Before you begin negotiating a resolution of your differences, come to an agreement on the criteria that a solution satisfactory to all should meet. You may need a solution that fits the existing budget or timeframe, operates within regulations, doesn't involve overtime, and so on.

Record Things Openly. Use a whiteboard or newsprint to record each person's points. That will help keep the group focused on the issue, rather than each other. It also lets people know that their points are heard and considered.

Address and Manage Feelings. Ask people how they feel, and acknowledge that as real. Work through the feelings as well as the facts.

Decisions and Actions. When you think you're approaching agreement, propose specific decisions and actions. Before adjourning, everyone must agree on what needs to be done. Follow through!

Adapted from materials developed by the Prairie Crossing Institute and used in The Advance.

"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 DePree

Leadershp in Practice - what YOU can do

by Linda Wiens

The word "leadership" sometimes seems grand and nebulous. It need not be. In turbulent times and in a democracy, leadership is needed everywhere.

There is more to leadership than what follows. But for sound results, here are ten practical actions you can take. They will increase your success!

  1. Manage yourself so you can lead others. Guard your temper. Keep cool. Express feelings in words rather than in threatening gestures or confusing paralanguage. Downplay your own negative reactions.
  2. Use "search thinking." Explore, brainstorm, look for new ideas and solutions. Invite others to join you, and be slow to judge contributions negatively.
  3. Ask questions. This is more important than giving answers or instructions! Consider three different types of questions:
    • You want or need information.
    • You want or need others' opinions and ideas.
    • You want another person to reflect on an issue, problem or mistake.
  4. Pay attention. "You get what you inspect, not what you expect." Other people react to what you demonstrate as important to you. Whatever you don't notice, won't get them praise or rebuke. So they may not attend to that, either.
  5. Raise standards. "What would be excellent?" - " What would be our highest achievement in this project?" - " Is this your very best work?" These and similar questions asked honestly, not manipulatively, will help everyone. Remind yourself and others that last year's excellence is often today's average.
  6. Focus on constructive futures. Get away from blaming, complaining, punishing (even yourself) and wallowing in the past. Instead ask, "What can we learn from this?" Talk about what can be better.
  7. Tell the truth. This seems simple and obvious. It is what we remind our children to do, but sometimes find hard ourselves. This includes sharing uncomfortable topics you'd rather hold back. It also means refraining from gossip. Being truthful is extremely important to generate and maintain trust.
  8. Take responsibility. If you goofed, admit it. If one of your people did, don't tell that to the customer but put it right. If it's your task and undesirable, do it - don't delegate. This, too, builds trust.
  9. Cooperate. Go the extra mile. Help when there is a need, even if you're not asked. Make special efforts to be supportive. This fosters teamwork more than training does.
  10. Move to closure. When you think there has been enough discussion, summarize key points and propose a decision. Check for doubts and concerns before you move to action. Then clarify who will do what, by when. Move to closure on your own work, too; don't leave things partly done.

Linda Wiens is executive director of the Prairie Crossing Institute, and the principal facilitator at The Advance.

Employee Quote: I have taken part in many workshops but Linda's style, her mastery of the materials, the way she was able to listen very well, and the way she taught without really teaching… she did all of this almost effortlessly.", Mike Woods, Human Resources

Learning from Experience

by Susan Rans

Everybody's busy. There is too much to do and no time to do it. We never seem to reach the bottom of the To Do list. So, why does the Advance extol the virtues of taking time to reflect on what we are doing, while we are doing it?

Simple. Because we might learn something from such an activity, if it is conducted in a constructive manner by the people who are actually involved in the project. The word used by the Advance workshops to describe this process is critique, but another way to talk about it is learning from experience.

Educators have long known that experience can be the best teacher, but only if students are encouraged to reflect on experience in a controlled and constructive way. In a workplace, as in a classroom, taking the time to reflect on experience in order to make for a better work product creates more cooperation, better understanding of individual capacities and limitations, and a more effective team ready for the next challenge.

Learning from experience is not a form of evaluation, nor does it consist of criticism of individual performances. The purpose of the activity is to bring together everyone involved, to look at what works, what doesn't and what can be changed to make it work better. Doing this while a project is ongoing can lead to mid-course corrections that improve the final outcome. Examining both the quality of the work product and the contribution of those working on it maximizes the learning that can come from the experience.

The process is unique in several ways:

  • It examines both positive and negative aspects of an event, project, or activity.
  • It focuses on the future: "What can we learn?" much more than analyzing the past.
  • It is done by those involved in the activity to be examined, rather than others.
  • It judges results and actions, not people or their traits.
  • The focus is on planning and building, not on blaming and tearing down.

Of course, it's not always easy to keep this learning process on track. It requires a certain amount of trust and mutual support, with careful and constructive leadership, or it can easily turn into criticism. When people let go of faultfinding and concentrate instead on opportunities for the future, some real learning can take place. And that means some quality work will get done in the future.

The community organizer Saul Alinsky believed that ordinary people could gain the power to make change in their communities if they took time to reflect before acting. Otherwise, he said, "you'll just be a pile of undigested actions." For Alinsky, learning from experience makes better citizens. Today, in community organizations around the world, neighbors meet to reflect on their actions and plan for the future using Alinsky's blueprint.

The same blueprint is central to the Advance. Critique, or learning from experience, makes for better results, smarter workers and more effective teams.

Susan Rans is a freelance writer.

"The world is moved not only by the mighty shoves of the heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker."

Helen Keller

What is critique?

  • Deliberate review
  • Purpose is learning and improvement
  • Looks at recent and current experiences, projects, events
  • Both successes and failures are examined
  • Understanding of what happened is thorough, based on diagnosis
  • All who are or were involved in the project, are involved in the examination
  • People accept responsibility for what they have or have not done
  • People face up to their own part in problems or errors
  • People face the consequences and help each other cope well with them
  • Main focus is on opportunity and future
  • Clear decisions are made on who will do what
  • Records are kept, and referred to, on decisions and action steps
  • Messages that support learning, raise motivation

What is not critique?

  • Casual inquiry; "chewing out"; checking up
  • Purpose may be evaluation or grading; sometimes unclear
  • Looks at past and current problems; sandwiches or balances faultfinding with praise
  • Failures are noted and evaluated depending on seriousness
  • "Circumstances beyond our control" are seen as main reasons for what happened; or individual incompetence is assumed
  • One or some review the results of others; one tells others what to do
  • People hold others responsible for what happened
  • People point out the problems and errors of others to others
  • People are punished or reprimanded for bad behavior
  • Main focus is on the past and on problems
  • Suggestions are made; follow-up is uncertain
  • No record or too detailed a record for reference; or file record only
  • Messages that hinder learning, reduce motivation

Stratagies for Effective Meetings

An MCI study found that most professionals believe that more than 50 percent of meeting time is wasted. A significant number also acknowledge "multi-tasking," i.e., daydreaming (90%), doing other work (73%) or, when things get unbearably dull, falling asleep (39%). US workers spend over 5 1/2 hours a week in meetings (more than 12% of their total work time), yet 71% feel meetings aren't productive.

Meeting time is also expensive: if you have a weekly 1.5. hour meeting attended by 8 people, who are compensated at an average hourly rate of $75, the meeting cost is $1200 a week (assuming 30 minutes of preparation) - or $62,500 a year! Are your weekly meetings productive enough to justify a $60,000 expenditure? If not - read on.

Making meetings worthwhile - Procedure and Process

The good news about conducting excellent meetings is that relatively simple procedural changes can make a huge difference. Start with a clearly stated desired outcome so that all the participants are pointed toward the same goal.

For example: "By the end of this meeting we will all have a thorough understanding of the hazards in Project A, and we will have sound action plans to eliminate/minimize each of those hazards," offers focus and direction. "Meeting to "discuss Project A," does not.

  • Include the right people. The objective is to bring all the right people to the table for your meeting - but only the right people. The right people include those with responsibility for the issue and decision-making power, those who have a high stake in the outcome, those who have the right expertise to contribute, and those who will have to carry out the project.
  • Articulate and implement ground rules about how people will act. Your first ground rule can be a shared commitment to start on time. Team members might also commit to being prepared, pithy, positive, and active participants.
  • Order the agenda from the most important items to the least important, and indicate an estimate of the time needed to resolve each.
  • Use effective information display techniques to illustrate relevant information and support a common focus. Whether you employ a whiz-bang powerpoint or handwritten notes on newsprint, make sure all information is clear, accurate, and easy to read.
  • Keep the meeting on track and on time. The chair must make a concerted effort to keep participants focused. A designated timekeeper may help, and the duties of the chairperson may rotate among the members - once participants face the challenges of running a meeting, they are more likely to monitor their own behavior.
  • Appoint a good note taker, who will distribute the notes soon after the meeting. Good notes include key background information for decisions, the decisions themselves, and actions - the who, what and when of what will be done.

Implementing these procedures virtually ensures a higher level of productivity, but there is still more that you can do to enhance the effectiveness of meetings. Once you've provided the procedural framework, you and your colleagues can turn your attention to process issues - a shared commitment to working collaboratively.

  • Your mutual commitment to starting on time is a good beginning; now task yourself with asking good questions. Yes/no questions are appropriate if you are asking for information, or want to confirm a decision (So you've decided to purchase the new equipment next month?). Open-ended questions are useful when you are inviting people to expand their thinking and consider other options.
  • Once you've asked a good question, listen actively to the answer. Listening well involves more than attending to what is said. It also means considering the paralanguage (tone of voice, for example), and body language for additional signals to the meaning behind the words.
  • Discipline yourself to keep your contributions brief and concise. It may help to jot down your main points before you speak. If team members start to ramble on, the chair can tactfully intervene, by summarizing ("Your concern is that these meetings take too much time?").
  • Make sure to get input from everyone; invite participation from more quiet members, and especially by those who want to voice concerns, doubts or disagreements.
  • Do your homework! Assigning tasks prior to the meeting, so that everyone is familiar with the latest report, has done background research, or seen the first draft of document before you sit down can increase productivity and decrease meeting time.
  • Keep the meeting moving toward closure. The meeting leader has the responsibility for getting good resolutions and decisions in the time available. So keep your team focused, summarize the discussion and test for agreement to move the meeting forward.
  • Maintain an alert, attentive, focused and positive attitude.

Adapted from materials developed by the Prairie Crossing Institute and used in The Advance.

Employee Quote: What was most useful for me was the information on conducting an effective meeting. Now I put the time and length that a topic should be open for discussion on the meeting agenda, and it helps keep the meeting on track. Rebecca Wagner, Human Resources

"Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood... Make big plans, aim high in hope and work." Daniel H. Burnham

On Another Note

  • IDHS and the Illinois Arts Council hosted the 16th Anniversary Celebration of the Signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 20, 2006. The celebration entitled "ADA: Access to Independence," highlighted the talents and accomplishments of persons with disabilities.  Participants built assistive devices at the "Make and Take" Workshop led by Patrick Meckley from Fox Developmental Center.  Attendees show their creative talents at the hands-on art demonstration offered by Little City Foundation's Center for the Arts.
  • The Illinois School for the Deaf Basketball Cheerleaders signed the National Anthem before a sell out crowd at the Cardinal/Cub game on August 25, 2006. It was Deaf Awareness Day at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Squad members include: Domonique Wilson, Natalie Liles, Marci Brown, Krystal Starks, and Monica Frederick. The team is coached by Jill Whitmore and Carol Christensen.
  • Congratulations to the 2006 Graduating Classes of Illinois School for the Deaf and Illinois School for the Visually Impaired.
  • Secretary Adams and Rodger Hunter-Hall of the US Department of Health and Human Services, joined more than 100 partners statewide in the Illinois Rescue and Restore Human Trafficking Outreach Day to raise awareness of the problem of human trafficking. Approximately 250 volunteer teams from across the state canvassed neighborhoods and hung over 13,000 posters advertising the human trafficking hotline: 1-888-3737-888.
  • The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind marked one hundred years of service this year. As a part of celebration activities, the Lighthouse had a special centennial recognition medal cast. This medal was presented to those deemed "top-notch" in their support of access and services to people who are blind or visually impaired. The Lighthouse acknowledged two persons within the Department of Human Services: Bettye Odem-Davis, Deputy Director Blind Services and Audrey McCrimon (shown in photo), Assistant to the Secretary.
  • Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist Common kicked off Phase 2 of the "Closing the Gap on Infant Mortality" media campaign in February. The campaign was launched last year to help prevent premature births and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Closing the Gap targets the four community areas of Chicago with the highest numbers of pre-term births and SIDS deaths; Auburn-Gresham, Austin, Englewood and West Englewood.
  • On September 10, 2006, DHS participated for the first time in the 26th Street Mexican Independence Day Parade in Chicago. This parade is said to be the largest parade in the Midwest, drawing 500,000 attendees and over a million viewers watching on live television. The DHS slogan was Vida Independiente, which highlights our vision for Independent Living and our services to Latinos with disabilities and their families. Staff and their families marched in the parade and rode on the float.
  • Secretary Adams joined Brenda A. Russell, Director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security, Tom Weisner, Mayor of Aurora, and others for the grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting of the new Illinois Education and Training Center in East Aurora. This new satellite office is one of the projects resulting from Governor Blagojevich's TEAM Illinois initiative and provides Spanish-speaking staff to assist the community residents in preparing for successful job searches as well as to file unemployment claims.
  • DHS is Big Winner at the 77th Annual Bud Billiken Day Parade - placing 1st in the government category!
  • State of Hope: Where the soul of New Orleans meets the heart of Illinois! was this year's theme. The Department's presence in this year's parade was a tribute to the more than 7,000 evacuees who came to Illinois, offering a celebration in the traditional style of Mardi Gras - also known as carnivale.
  • After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Governor Blagojevich offered shelter and assistance to evacuees displaced by the disaster, pledging that Illinois would become the State of Hope to as many as 10,000 people forced to flee from the stricken region.
  • The 2nd Annual Fit 4 Life State Fair Hula Hoop Challenge was held during Youth Day on August 18th. Hundreds of youth from various programs across the state including the Summer Youth Works Project and Teen REACH participated in the various hula hoop categories.

State of Hope

State of Hope Maybe it's global warming, maybe it's a naturally occurring cycle, but over the last twelve months, Mother Nature has blown some significant challenges our way. After Hurricane Katrina scoured the Gulf Coast, Governor Blagojevich invited storm victims to come to Illinois for shelter and assistance, and over 7,000 of them accepted the invitation. Some of the services Illinois offered to Katrina evacuees included:

  • Providing emergency shelter, transitional housing support and crisis counseling to 5,450 Katrina evacuees
  • Conducting an intensive summer enrichment program for Katrina youth
  • Securing a federal grant to support ongoing counseling for evacuees experiencing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, and for evacuees with existing mental health or substance abuse problems
  • Conducting an outreach effort designed to engage the 2000 plus evacuees living in Illinois who have not yet accessed services

The next occurrence was closer to home: on March 12th a tornado hit Springfield traveling at over 120 mph, taking out power lines all over the city and leaving destruction in its wake. Then, in July, two storms whipped across the Greater St. Louis area.

In each instance, DHS staff worked in concert with other state agencies, local providers and community groups to meet the needs of people whose lives were disrupted by the storms.


Editorial Staff

  • Carol L. Adams, Ph.D., Publisher
  • Tracey Scruggs Yearwood, Editor-in-Chief
  • Susan Locke, Editor
  • Dru Fernandes, Graphic Designer

Solutions Contributors

  • Max Chmura
  • Nicole Cook
  • Marie Havens
  • Aurelio Huertas
  • Vicki Kamhi
  • Sam Koschmann
  • Sarah Karp
  • Rob Kilbury
  • Willeva D. Lindsey
  • Susan Rans
  • Gary Reynolds
  • Brandon Sanford
  • Laura Vance
  • Linda Wiens

Printed by Authority of the State of Illinois

Summer/Fall 2006 15,000 count P.O.# KP000000001