Recipient of the 2022 NASA Robert H. Goddard Award in Mentoring, Lori D. Coombs is an experienced leader with over 20 years of working on Capitol Hill, the federal government, private and public sectors, she continues to serve in the capacity of a state-of-the-art leader on, and in, mission-critical Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber-Defense and Combative Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C6ISR) programs.
What teams in the organization do you feel are most engaged? And why?
Onsite and off-site teams at WWCM are engaged because the organizational culture is Human-Centered Employee Value Propositioned versus Employee-Centered Value Propositioned. The difference is, at WWCM, leadership is encouraged to support employees to have a positive, supportive work experience that fosters their advancement needs that considers pay, benefits, and growth standards while meeting mission-critical requirements set by customers. This leadership style aims to treat employees as people, not workers. This makes a difference when considering work-life balance. Many of our positions offer hybrid remote options to accommodate the needs of our employees. This approach ensures productivity while providing flexibility that supports their individual needs for organizational advancement and individual growth and training.
How important are employees’ energy levels to the success of the organization?
Energy levels and mental health are correlated. Energy levels in employees directly and indirectly affect the success of organizations. The importance of mental health has most recently been examined in great detail by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. A global study by Qualtrics found that 42% of employees have experienced a decline in mental health. Specifically, 67% are experiencing increases in stress, 57% experience increased anxiety, and 54% are emotionally exhausted. Direct metrics that correlate to energy include 53% being sad, 50% being irritable, 28% having trouble concentrating, 20% taking longer to finish tasks, 15% having trouble thinking and 12% experiencing challenges with managing responsibilities (Brower, T., 2021). In the long run, low as well as too high energy levels affect productivity. Routine kills energy. Leadership teams should regularly check in with employees to determine where they fall weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly depending on what best suits the organizational culture.
How do you listen to your employees?
According to research, empathy is an important skill to demonstrate in leadership. Empathy and listening go hand in hand. My leadership style incorporates empathy to inspire innovation, and engagement and to increase employee retention. When it comes to work-life balance, 86% of employees reported they are able to manage personal, family, and work obligations as opposed to 60% of those who perceived their leaders to have less empathy (Brower, T., 2021).
What keeps employees happy in your opinion?
Happy employees are focused, motivated, and productive. In my opinion, leadership style should incorporate implementing strategic and actionable steps to keep employees motivated and focused. I agree with results obtained from a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study that yields 5 main metrics that employees rank as important to contributing to happiness. These rankings adapted from SHRM, differ per individual. (SHRM, 2021)
(1) Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels
(3) Trust between employees and senior management
(4) Job security
(5) Opportunities to use innovative skills and abilities at work
How do you motivate people to go the extra mile?
Employee engagement strategies should be flexible in approach to best drive performance.