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Federal Coach: Young federal leader development

(Fox's Federal Coach column was originally published on The Washington Post On Leadership site.)

What can young federal leaders do to continue developing their skills after completing a formal leadership training program? - Federal Manager (GS-14), Environmental Protection Agency

The most successful federal executives are exceptionally self-aware, confident in their ability to get things done, and constantly seeking feedback and learning opportunities to grow as leaders.

Formal leadership development programs are an essential foundation to help federal managers become more effective leaders. However, the conclusion of a program does not mean that you’re done learning. Here are a few strategies to support your continued professional development:

Phone a friend – Use the colleagues that you met in your formal leadership program as a source of peer coaching after the program is finished. While your program may have a formal alumni network, it’s often the informal network that proves most effective. Next time you need some expertise around a situation, think of your colleagues in that program and make a few calls. You’ll inevitably find the insight that you’re seeking even by simply talking through your problem with a friend.

Find a mentor – While formal training can provide an invaluable starting point to becoming a better federal leader, most of your long-term development will occur on the job. As a result, it’s worth identifying a mentor – or mentors – who can help you navigate the ins and outs of leadership in your agency. To develop the best mentoring relationships, identify the outstanding executives you admire, and invite them out to coffee. Don’t even call it mentoring. Instead, look for the most experienced, high-performing leaders you believe are willing and able to help.

Look for the learning opportunities all around you – Use every opportunity available to support your continued growth and development as a leader. Make time to read professional journals. Follow interesting leadership experts and resources on Twitter. Whenever you’re in a meeting with exceptional leaders, take note of their characteristics, style and approach. On the way to your next meeting, consider what you learned and how you can integrate that into your own leadership approach.

Posted by Tom Fox, VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service on Aug 05, 2011 at 12:12 PM


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