Groom Your Successors

I’m often asked, “Do you know someone we could hire for our web team?” Of course, they want the full package – someone skilled in plain writing, customer analysis, strategic planning, usability, search engine optimization, design, social media, mobile apps, marketing…oh, and can they code? Do these super beings exist? Yes – they are you! But what happens when you move on? Will there be someone ready to pick up the reins? There will be if you groom your successors.

I know – you’re busy; and it takes time to train and nurture up-and-comers. Digital Government University is a huge help. But classroom training is only part of the development process. Prospective digital leaders need more. They need routine access to role models so they can watch and learn and ask questions. They need opportunities to try new skills and challenges to cause them to think bigger.

So…a few tips:

  • Think about people in your agency who are potential digital leaders. Maybe they’re on your team. Maybe they’ve shown interest, but aren’t in a digital government job series. Maybe they’re people in unrelated jobs who show energy and passion and leadership potential. Maybe they’re Presidential Management Fellows or interns. Make a list. Then seek them out.
  • Look for potential leaders at other agencies. Look at all levels of government – the more we intermingle among federal, state, and local, the better for citizens. Pay attention to people who share ideas on Web Content Manager Forum conference calls or who volunteer for Sub-Councils. Reach out to them, and draw them into your network.
  • Invite your prospects to meetings. Let them see you in action. Ask them to take notes (give them a role), and then take time afterward to discuss what happened.
  • Work with your agency training officer to create opportunities for people who are not in digital government job series to gain those skills. Let them shadow you; or offer them short details to your team, if they can work it into their training plans.
  • Encourage promising leaders to find mentors. You may not be able to mentor everyone with potential, but there are other mentors around. Look in your own agency. Ask the Federal Web Managers Council. Govloop sponsors a mentoring program – check it out. Don’t forget retirees – there are a number of us who welcome the opportunity to coach emerging leaders.
  • Encourage reading. has a great blog. So does GovLoop. Gerry McGovern has a free weekly newsletter, and other digital experts offer similar writings. When you spot something good, let your prospects know about it.
  • Sponsor brown bag lunches open to anyone – you may be surprised who shows an interest in digital government issues. Invite your prospects personally. When appropriate, let them do presentations or lead discussions to get leadership experience.
  • Get them involved in the Government Web Content Managers Forum. Encourage them to volunteer for Sub-Council work. That’s a great way to get exposure and practical experience.
  • Suggest training options – DGU, conferences, GovLoop, and others. Follow up and talk with them about what they learned. A half hour over lunch with you can extend their learning.
  • Encourage them regularly. A quick email saying, “Well done!” or “Great question today” or “I’d like to talk to you more about that idea” can be great motivation.

One day, you will move on. You owe it to your customers, your agency, and your community to make sure there are qualified digital leaders to carry on.

It’s the right thing to do.

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