Are You a Good Gov Leader?

The Partnership for Public Service knows a thing or two about how to foster a positive work environment. They recently released their Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings and every year they host the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals awards. The Partnership’s work highlights best practices across the government workforce to help federal employees recognize excellence and foster innovation.

One of the best ways to ensure a satisfied, engaged, and productive workforce is to make sure there is a good leader at the helm of it. In order to learn a little bit more about what it takes to be a good leader in the federal government, Christopher Dorobek sat down with Tom Fox, Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service, on this week’s DorobekINSIDER.

Fox highlighted four ways to excel as a government leader:

Recognize your employees. One of the main findings of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey is that only a minority of federal employees believe federal leadership does a good job of recognizing employees. According to Fox, this is a flaw that must be fixed. “Under any circumstance I think employee recognition is important, but it is all the more important in the current environment where there is so much ambiguity and so much volatility around what is coming next,” he said.

In order to keep your employees focused on getting the job done, it is critical to give employees recognition for jobs they have already done well. Fox explained, “it is easy to get distracted by other work and massive to do lists but this absolutely has to be one of those items on that to do list. I think it is wise to schedule some time every week where you dedicate the time to follow up with folks and say thank you.”

Know your employees. While everyone enjoys a little recognition for their work, some employees may prefer private praise over public acknowledgment. This is especially prevalent in the federal government, where employees job is to selflessly serve the public. Fox recommended, “a simple thank you note, either a handwritten notecard or email, or even just stopping by someone’s desk to give them the sort of proverbial pat on the back.” As a leader, it is your job to get a feel for the individuals you are working with and make sure you know how they need to and want to be encouraged and lifted up.

Take the time to show you care. Beyond recognition, federal leadership can take additional steps to show their employees that they care about them and their wellbeing. Fox emphasized that during the transition there are a lot of things that leaders cannot control. Rather than letting that ambiguity create a culture of uncertainty or fear, effective leaders focus on the things they can control in the workplace.

“Whether it is weekly one-on-ones with your employees or something more broad based via team meetings, taking that time is essential,” Fox said. Keeping lines of communication open and being available for employees is an easy way for leaders to bring some calm to the transition storm.

Focus on the mission. Making sure employees are focusing on the mission is also particularly relevant in the presidential transition period. While processes and leaders may change as the transition moves forward, your agency’s mission will not. “I encourage leaders to help employees separate fact from fiction and speculation. Remind employees to not worry about what they can’t control and to focus on what they can control,” Fox explained. Essentially, this means focus on the work that needs to be done to continually drive the agency’s mission. By keeping employees focused and giving them the recognition they need, it is easier to mitigate worry about the unknown and things that leaders and employees can’t control.

Got some more ideas on how federal employees can be better leaders? Be sure to leave a note in the comments!

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Michael Steinberg

Nice post! These tips will be particularly helpful during the transition when new political appointees, many not familiar with public sector management, will be entering agencies and getting to know and trust the career staff!