2013 was a historically rough year for federal employees, but 2014 is off to a positive start. First a budget deal is close to being signed, the budget deal would eliminate the threat of shutdown, furloughs and reduce the impacts of sequestration. So how should federal managers prepare for the year ahead? Tom Fox is the Vice President for Leadership and Innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. He has come up with six resolutions that every government leader should add to their New Year’s Resolution list.
Fox told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that the Best Places to Work rankings provide a starting point for any leader/manager who is interested in turning a new page in 2014 – a roadmap to engage and get the most out of their employees over the next year.
6 Resolutions for Managers
- Focus on the Positive
“As a starting point, it has been a tough couple of years for federal employees with pay freezes, hiring freezes, budget cuts, sequestration, but now enough is enough. It is time to focus on some of the positives. We are going to get some appropriations in place, the fear of furloughs and things of that nature will subside, therefore it would be wise for leaders and managers to really shift their focus not around what they can’t affect (pay, hiring, budget) but what they can affect. In particular what we have learned from agencies who made gains in the Best Places to Work Rankings leaders and agencies succeed when they make steady consistent progress around the things they can achieve. I would advocate for picking a problem – any problem – and fix it. Find one small thing that will make your people’s work life a little easier. Maybe a little happier,” said Fox.
- Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have no options
“A lot of times it wasn’t a big thing, it was a little thing that made people’s lives a little easier. Think about how nice it is when someone let’s you over in a lane of traffic, or the metro train conductor leaves the train doors open just a second longer as you are running to catch the train, that can have a positive impact on the rest of your day. The same is true in government. As a leader and manager you need to look at what you can do to speed your people’s path to productivity to make it feel as though they are progressing despite the craziness that still exists all around the city,” said Fox.
- Celebrate wins
“Find ways to celebrate success. Take the time to reflect on lessons learned. More than anything, people are looking for a simple thank you for a job well done. It can be stopping by their desk, it can be a handwritten note, maybe even an email. Some of the most admired leaders, one of the traits they possess is the ability to say thank you,” said Fox.
- Make the rounds
Another one of the fascinating findings around our Best Places to Work rankings is the fact that every year it is the same story employees believe their leaders don’t communicate often enough or clearly enough. Whether it is by walking the floors or holding team meetings, having one-on-one meetings with your direct reports, I think anything a leader can do to communicate with their folks more often is another great resolution to adopt in 2014. I know folks are busy and time can be hard to come by but two leaders I admire quite a bit and who I have had a chance to interview, Admiral Thad Allen and former CIA Director Michael Haden, these are two folks who used email or even social media to communicate with their folks directly,” said Fox.
- Listen and invest in others
“Realize you don’t need to go it alone. Especially in these tough times ask people for help. It is wise to engage your team to gather their insights, their thoughts, their solutions. Or even just engage them in a dialogue around the problems that need to be solved. You are going to find something you didn’t know before. Either a problem that had remained hidden. Or a solution that you hadn’t thought of before. If people are afraid to step up, go ahead and recruit folks,” said Fox.
- Fix the simple things first
“More often than not the things that create the most headaches are usually the things that are easiest to fix. Sometimes we get sidetracked by things like pay and budget those sort of things. Legitimate frustrations that most leaders can not affect, but if you get into the day to day it is usually things that are easily attainable and are within the control of most leaders,” said Fox.