On which topics do federal managers need the most training?

I could list a hundred ideas in five minutes flat, but instead of my taking a guess, I’d love to hear it from you. So, out of all the topics in the whole world, what are the top two or three (or more) that you wish you had the training resources to provide to federal managers?

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Here’s my 3:

Office productivity (tips on doing great email, conference calls, meetings)
Hiring and retaining great people

Understanding the budget cycle

What are you 5?

Josh Nankivel

Determining how value is defined, from the perspective of the end user and letting that understanding guide them.

Terrence (Terry) Hill

Here are some suggested leadership training topics, although I don’t think training is the whole answer. You need to have support systems and accountability to make these part of the culture:

  1. How to engage and motivate your employees to improve productivity.
  2. How to maximize workplace flexibilties to ensure work-life effectiveness.
  3. How to evaluate performance using effective measures and feedback.
Suzanne Heurtin-Roberts

But what about mid-career employees (like me) who aren’t managers or supervisors? I’m a mid-career scientist at the GS 14 level. All training is about new hires or early career people. It’s usually about grooming them for management. At the senior level training is all about executive leadership and supervision. I need work management skills, science and technology education to keep me current as well as guidance on team leadership and better understanding of federal processes. Mid-career professionals who are not business, management, or hr people are really left standing with nothing. I’m an accomplished worker, but too young to retire and enjoy my work. I don’t see OPM, my department or agency investing much in people like me. The discussions about running government “like a business” may have some merit, but not all of us are “business” workers. That seems to be the only model around however.

Bob Fritz

Instead of “taking a crack” at amateur guesses on good ideas, I recommend that any manager who wants to succeed at at high level, do what the top leaders in the world do and start reading John Maxwell’s books on Leadership. His stuff is tried, tested, and proven. It works. I’m in the middle of his latest, “Five Levels of Leadership”. Specific, targeted actions. His “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” should be mandatory reading for everyone. I wish I had read it 20 years ago.

And any manager who thinks a solution to moving up has anything to do with getting more classic “education” (e.g., Masters Degrees and such) or getting trained in more technical stuff will be the kind of manager everyone can’t stand. It’s people skills, baby.

Andrew Krzmarzick

@Suzanne – I completely agree. It’s not just mid-level managers, but everyone in that layer of GS-12 to GS-14. What’s the last training you were able to attend?

Rex Castle

After over two decades of attempting to do this HR stuff what I see are mostly issues of trust and trustworthiness. I recommend some works that at first glance appear to be somewhat odd science to answer my assertion of “trust” as the core, but I’d start with Daniel H. Pink’s works: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and A Whole New Mind. Although I think he probably could have made the following a much more effective and engaging 20-page white paper, Stephen M.R. Covey’s, The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, is exceptional once you get past all the fluff. Then, because managers so often have to be able to present their ideas (and because we’re, most of us, such incredibly poor presenters) I’d recommend anything by Garr Reynolds, and/or Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullet Points. Along those same lines to learn how to make ideas “stick,” check out Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. And for just basic management stuff there’s a book with a rather unfortunate title, but great content Managing for Dummies. Maybe some of that stuff will make a difference to someone.

Anita Arile

After 19 years in the same department in our government (I started as an Accounting Clerk and am now a Management Analyst), I see the following in our public agencies:

1) Too many 30+ year employees afraid to retire;

2) (near) Top heavy in the middle management level (too many chiefs not enough indians);

3) Low employee morale (After the workforce was reduced by an average of 1/4, more reduction is at the horizon)… so…

As I lay “stuck” on figuring what to do to progress further, I decided to SEEK the training NOT offered to me.. I applied for and completed the The Graduate School’s Executive Leadership Development Program, went back to school, got my Masters in Public Administration, and now I am pursuing a Certified Fraud Examiner certification…

So, yes, more focus on mid-career should be addressed (ELDP addresses this!!) to further groom our future leaders.

Dannielle Blumenthal

-Conflict management
-Influence without authority
-Emotional intelligence
-Mission of the agency-history, current issues, context
-Critical thinking
-Knowledge Management
-Bridging generational differences
-Diversity and inclusion beyond EEO

Alice Tsai

1) mentoring gen x/y (listening skills, etc.); 2) process streamlining; 3) tasking based on individual strengths/performance/merit and not restricted to their “position descriptions/title”

Erin Manor

I have been fortunate to be involved in the Mid-Level Leadership Program that the NIH Training Center developed. It is a really great program. We have completd many of the things mentioned in other’s posts:

-Emotional Intelligence


-360 Evaluation

-TKI (conflict mgmt)

I hope other agencies will take one of our best practices and use it in their own agency. The wheel has been created so why not use it?

The NIH Training Center also has taken those already in leadership positions (GS 14-15) into consideration and they have their own Leadership program.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Did everyone see this Forbes article from yesterday (“The Middle Management Crunch”)? Right on point for this conversation. A couple relevant excerpts:

  • According to a new report by the Ashridge Business School in the UK, middle managers are simply not getting their fair slice of the training and development pie. Apparently, while 73% of middle managers say they work in an environment that claims to support learning and development only around a half of them are actually experiencing it in practice and a quarter of them believe that in reality their companies actually see personal development as something of a luxury. “
  • A study by the leadership development institute, Mannaz, back in 2010 suggested that, not only are middle managers under-represented on formal training courses, many of them are consciously avoiding them. And the reasons seems to be a form of ‘training fatigue’ – a perception that conventional training programmes rarely serve their particular needs.
Steven R. Willhite

I think that there is a MUCH greater problem with upward mobility for thousands of excellent people who cannot break into management at all- a glass ceiling. They are equally as valuable as any manager across the board. But Human Resources continues to be a hinderance- like a boulder on our heads.

Adrienne V. Cropp

I wish there was Federal resources for training in Diversity and inclusion beyond EEO, Decision Making and Bullying in the Workplace.

Scott Primeau

Taking a slightly different view, I think we need better ways of rewarding AMD providing advancement for skilled workers. Suzanne touched on this. Not everyone is skilled or interested management, especially mid-level management with strong pressure coming down and up. Like Suzanne mentioned, instead of pushing people up into management roles, let’s help experts get the training they need to remain experts.