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Federal Leaders Fail to Connect — Advice on how to correct the problem

Feds give government executives low marks when it comes to leadership. That’s the top finding from a new assessment of the Parternership for Public Service Best Places to Work in Government rankings.

Tom Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at PPS. He gave Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER a breakdown of the results.


Tom Fox talks leadership by cdorobek

Key Perspectives: Empowerment and Communication

  • Employees want to have some ability to impact their work. They want to feel like they can make a difference.
  • Employees want to feel like they can openly talk to their bosses and they want their bosses to openly communicate with them.

Fox says, “If leaders can take action, then leadership will improve at agencies.”

Few ideas for leaders looking to gain greater respect from their employees:

  • Seek input and explain decisions. Improving communications doesn’t simply mean that you need to talk more. It means you need to provide employees with an outlet for sharing their views and ideas about decisions affecting them and their work environment. Senior leaders might do this in a town hall meeting or through an online collaboration tool. Managers and supervisors might solicit thoughts through smaller team meetings where employees can engage in a real dialogue. Most importantly, once you make a decision, explain the processes and reasons behind that decision.
  • Share decision-making, and clear the path for employee action.Generally speaking, senior leaders engage in far too many reviews of employee decisions. Senior leaders should spend some time reviewing issues of consequence — items that represent a budget risk or might embarrass the agency — and trust employees on routine matters. You might also review and jettison unnecessary processes or reports. You know, the ones everybody performs but no one ever uses. The FDIC challenged each manager and supervisor to eliminate three to five low-value activities that could reduce workload and improve efficiency.
  • Focus on the mission. I was surprised the Best Places analysis found that private-sector leaders were far more effective at motivating their employees than federal executives. Most federal leaders have an advantage over private-sector leaders when trying to motivate employees — mission. Most people who are drawn to public service are seeking to make a difference or to do something meaningful. Federal leaders at all levels need to align their work and that of their employees with their agencies’ mission and goals. They should also make sure that every employee clearly sees and understands the connection between what they do and the ability of the organization to accomplish its mission. Virtually every process, including hiring, training, performance reviews and communication, should reinforce the agencies’ ultimate outcome: serving the American people.

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Profile Photo Mark Sullivan

One thing I might add to Tom’s point about shared decision-making, is the value of making room in employee performance managent for employees to negotiate authority and resources. If leaders want to truly build a sense of shared ownership and responsibility, it is I important to not just define work in terms of outcomes, but also to make space for employees to provide real input on the means and methods by which to achieve them.

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Profile Photo John Evans

Stop using the budget as an all-purpose excuse for not doing anything for your employees. It is completely ridiculous to approve hardship transfers and then turn around and claim nobody is allowed to actually transfer due to a hiring freeze. You advertised an identical position to my current one where I need to go but now claim there are no openings. Stop lying about being under a hiring freeze when you’re advertising for new hires. Stop doing “no selects” for open positions because management’s Chosen One can’t compete with other applicants.

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