As a Leader, What Have You Done To Stand Up For Your Staff?

Talk to me, folks – you’ve seen me in the past here on GovLoop talking about college football and college basketball – you will see that again.

I was fortunate enough to have Steve Ressler ask me to blog here about college athletics from time time (and I’m extremely informal with my blogging) – I love what this site is all about.

Today, however, I want to talk to you about serious topic – an effective leader stands up to supports his or her staff – and in multiple ways.

In short, if you are an effective leader, you should be able to communicate effectively exactly what you are doing right now to standup for your staff.

So, here’s a question I have for you all – for the most part, there really there are no wrong answers – you can take the answer to this question anywhere you want to go.

Since January 1, 2014, what are the top five examples in which you have praised, elevated, rewarded, or otherwise stood up for your staff?  Remember, there are no boundaries on the answer to this question – the floor is absolutely wide open.

However, there is one qualification:  I do not want to hear things like I approve training, annual leave, sick leave, or other time-off.  These are basic administrative duties that are required of any supervisor – and I see any of those in the comments below, you are reaching for straws in a big way – and you might need to take some leadership courses.

If you have to think for more than five minutes, you are trouble.

Give me your comments below – have a great day!

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Megan Price

Great topic Matthew – though I do enjoy the sports posts too!

At our weekly meetings, we include time for kudos. Today, I heard my colleagues and supervisor point kudos in my direction and (until now) I don’t think they know how much that made my day! Giving time to let others know how much you think they rock makes them (at least me) feel really special! Standing up for your direct reports can be small or big – do it often and you can make their day too!

Hannah Moss

At a former job, my team was crazy overworked and starting to burn out. I secretly emailed the assistant to our CEO (it was a large company) and suggested she speak with him about the team’s excellent performance under pressure. The CEO personally emailed our team the next day to tell them they were doing a great job AND surprised them on a Friday with cupcakes and card of gratitude. It made a huge difference. My team really felt appreciated after having the top exec at our firm take the time to recognize them.


This article starts with a truism, “good leaders represent their subordinates” and ends there. I was hoping for some suggestions on what that looks like, not the question itself. Not helpful

Matthew Stephen Worner

Thanks Art – this is a discussion question – as such I am trying to find out what others are doing in the area – I’m sorry you didn’t find it helpful – what are you doing in this area? That’s my point here – in another blog post, I’m going to report on all these suggestions and my own.

Melynda Parsons

This topic is right on par with my thoughts lately. I have been telling my peers thank you (with a smile) and paying them sincere compliments all week on their efforts and support in putting together our training for FY15. My hopes is to make them feel appreciated. Yesterday I sensed the lead instructor was feeling overwhelmed from putting the training together…I went out of my way to personally tell her what an amazing job she is doing. Sometimes it’s just those few words that can make a person’s day.

Matthew Stephen Worner

Melynda, great input – you would be surprised how far some kind words can go – and would be equally surprised to know how few people are aware of that.

Margaret Hamers

Wow – when I really think about it, I can only come up with a few examples for the year – obviously I need to up my leadership abilities!

Since we are always tight budget-wise, I try to do things that give my team more time – flexible scheduling, etc. One thing I did this year was a team lunch on the lawn at work. There was no pressure to stay within the 30-60 minute lunch period – just fresh grilled food, snacks, and of course cookies and brownies! All they had to do was show up and enjoy – no work talk! For the minimal cost to me, it was worth it. Everyone appreciated the break and it gave me a chance to show them my appreciation for their hard work in more than just words.

Patti Wolverton

We have morning staff meetings where we I share team successes and the group shares best practices. Everyone shares in success. We have weekly all staff meetings on Wednesday afternoons and I always provide the goodies. They get to enjoy while we learn from each other or do team training on something that is changing with service delivery. Team brainstorming where nothing is off the table. This month we are coordinating some fun activities for the charitable fun drive, this also builds team spirit and team participation. Give Kudos when things are happening which promotes a positive team environment.

Matthew Stephen Worner

Margaret (sorry I’m late in responding to your comment) – giving your team flexibility with time – and a team lunch is a good thing – I’ve always thought that people care about personal efforts like that – this is one thing where you’d surprised how few people know about that.

Tamara Schaps

Traditionally I’ve supervised employees who love handwritten thank you notes with genuine appreciate for a job well done – they then can display the note on their desk or bulletin board for a daily reminder of how awesome they are and how much their boss appreciates their ideas and work. I think the key here is to ask your employees how they like to receive recognition and adjust accordingly. When we bring on new hires they complete a form that asks them such questions, as well as figuring out their favorite colors, foods, sports teams, books, etc so that a manager knows what makes an employee happy and can incorporate those items into recognition when appropriate. Why bring in donuts to thank your staff when you know the whole team really loves cupcakes?! Thanks for this post, I look forward to hearing new ideas from others.

Lisa Roepe

Great post Matthew!
Standing up for your staff means saying more than just “great job.” It is giving them meaningful, specific feedback on why it was a great job. And sometimes, it means giving them constructive feedback as to how they could have done a better job.

S. Atyia Martin

Thank you for the great question. This idea of standing up for employees is critical in the public sector since many people are underpaid and overworked. A few examples of somethings I have done are:

1. My team was deeply involved in the response and recovery efforts after the Boston bombings. They were going 1,000 miles per hour for over a year. However, we work in an area that is often behind the scenes and not in front of cameras. So there was little visible praise. We had one of the well-known survivors surprise the staff for a few hours. The survivor let them know that others understood the value of their work and appreciated all that they have had to endure.

2. During the Summer of 2014 I instituted Meeting Free Fridays to make the space available for people to take time off, take an extended lunch, etc. We have since added a Meeting Free Friday each month for Fall, Winter, and Spring.

3. Give all the credit and take all the blame. Anytime there are situations that make my Commissioner unhappy, it is my responsibility to take ownership and work with the staff to ensure there are processes or policies to prevent that situation from happening. Conversely, whenever that is praise, I direct it to the members of the staff who deserve credit or direct the praise to the whole team.

4. Act as a catalyst for action for your team when internal and/or external partners are impeding progress. Whenever there is someone or something in the way of a team member getting the work done, I step in to move those obstacles out of their way so they can get the job done with less stress.

5. Care about your employees well-being. As public employees who are overworked, it is important that we check on the well-being of our staff. Sometimes that means telling someone no on their behalf so they are not so overloaded; being tuned in to what is going on in their lives and make adjustments where possible; and kick them out of the office whenever possible if they have been working too hard.

Thank you again for the opportunity to share.

Mohsen Elsayed

1. Be positive and set a good example for the team.
2. Share information on projects and business openly with the team.
3. When possible, let team work through their conflicts, but be ready to resolve negative conflict and bad situations before team morale is damaged.

Travis R. Sitter, MPA

Today I publically recognized someone in our group for a contribution they made outside our team. Thank you for challenging us to have concrete examples.

Tim Johnson

I continually reevaluate my staff and their performances. Based upon their duties and they are many as we like all units have lost key personnel and have not been given the OK to hire. I have asked for desk audits and three of my staff have had their titles upgraded. Additionally, anything that comes out of my unit is my responsibility, I take the hit if it’s not correct. I have my employees backs no matter what and they know and appreciate that.

Kathy Blackman

I write personal notes to individuals who go above and beyond and give them a chocolate star candy. I was surprised to see these notes hung up and displayed for others to see. It made the recipient proud and willing to share their own success with others.