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Top 4 management tips for federal managers

With the impending wave of federal employees retiring from government, managers should start thinking now about how to cultivate the next generation of public-sector leaders. Although the federal government is facing harder times and shrinking budgets, “every challenge brings an opportunity,” said Sam Davis, vice president at AMA Enterprise Government Solutions. Here, he discusses four key areas that government managers should focus on in 2012.

Prioritize telework training for managers and employees:  Although telework has steadily gained traction in the federal government, challenges still remain, mainly on the management side. One way to deal with that issue is to encourage more training and education, Davis said. Managers and employees also need to work on the logistics of telework. Before a telework arrangement gets realized, managers should define the new working relationship and have a contract that clearly spells out new boundaries, including requirements, expectations and goals. And when interactions move to the virtual world, with IMs, emails and web meetings replacing traditional get-togethers, effective communication should always be at forefront of every manager-employee relationship. “Telework puts people in a place they’re not accustomed to so it’s critical for both sides to understand the new expectations,” Davis said. “Those expectations then need to be reviewed on a regular basis.”

Revitalize your leadership development training: With the forthcoming turnover expected to bring about what Davis described as an “astronomical” departure of retiring federal employees, managers need to step up their efforts to prepare and motivate the next crop of federal leaders. Whether getting outside coaching or in-house training, managers should work on enhancing their communication skills and gain better understanding how to convey themselves in best way possible. Also, part of developing leadership skills, the ability to motivate and promote a collaborative work environment also become important, as well as seeing yourself as a leader. “Leadership starts with people seeing themselves as role models and projecting a dynamic presence,” Davis said. “Also, what separates a manager from a leader is that the leader has the ability to influence others.”

Recognize the value of emotional intelligence: Some have argued that emotional intelligence has become even more important than having just “smarts.” In any managing role, the ability to identify and evaluate emotions is a key characteristic that can help build and strengthen relationships with employees. Also, if you know how to manage your own emotions, then understanding others and reading them more accurately gets easier, Davis said. Not sure how you come across to others? Simply ask peers, colleagues and employees and encourage them to share what aspects you need to work on. “This is an ongoing process, and it’s important to get the truth of how others perceive you. You need to be constantly aware of how you come across to others.”

Review succession plans: Any federal manager or senior-level executive will undoubtedly face challenges with recruiting and retention at some point in their career, Davis pointed out. “Managers need to look at succession planning from different angles,” he said. “Especially in the next five to seven years with the retirement wave, they need to figure out how to retain top staff.” Part of the effort also includes identifying key team members that can be trained as leaders and fill the top spots. But amid overall tougher fiscal times, that could be difficult but not impossible. “The federal government competes with top organizations and the commercial and private sectors, and the challenge is always how to attract high-quality staff,” Davis said. While it won’t be able to compete with the private sector in terms of compensation, the federal government should focus on marketing itself in a positive light and highlight what it can offer, for example, telework, Davis said.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Jan 24, 2012 at 12:19 PM

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Reader comments

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 Eagle Keeper Georgia, USA

Hello, I am going to retire Apr, 30, 2012. I have worked for the DOD for 30 years. Over that time period I have had a lot of managers and styles of managing. The best managers cane from the hanger floor. They were former mechanics who knew the aircraft they were managing. Then they, about 5 years or so ago, started hiring managers with college drgrees. That is when things started to go down hill. Its one thing to have a degree, but if you have no hip pocket experience to couple with it, what use is it? I, we are in a deadly business. Each of us who work for the warfighter have peoples lives in our hands. Starting with the men and women who fly and maintain the Air Force assets we are intrusted with. WE dont need a lot of people who think they know what to do, we need managers who know the aircraft as well as the mechanics who daily turn wrenches on them. THAT makes for good aircraft management. There is noyhing wrong with a colege degree- only how it is applied. One of the traits that make a good manager is to be a good listener. Take advice from yhe subject matter experts who do the work daily. Sadly the peter principal of management is alive and well within the DOD. Just hope our country continues to have a strong and free future. Remember we have only life, liberty and the persuit of happiness. Everything else is up to us, not some politician in Washington.

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 Mike

I can't stand hearing this one from the 'Emotional Intelligence' paragraph above: "Not sure how you come across to others? Simply ask peers, colleagues and employees and encourage them to share what aspects you need to work on. This is an ongoing process, and it’s important to get the truth of how others perceive you. You need to be constantly aware of how you come across to others.” Yes, there's something to be said for constructive criticism/feedback, but I believe it should come from your boss (tactfully and respectfully). Ongoing process? There's not even enough time in a 10 to 12 hour work day to stay on-pace with projects and daily operations (especially e-mail). Outlook color coding, conditional formatting, shifting priorities, putting-out fires constantly. I'm ready for less stress. Is any of this self-induced? (maybe). Is it a downward spiral? Or just the required path until retirement?

Wed, Jan 25, 2012

Sounds scary! Except, how many years, or should I say decades, we have been hearing this same story over and over again that there is going to be a mass exodus of retiring experienced federal employees creating a big experience vacuum in the government? Need I say more?

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 Paul

This is all well and good, but I can tell you none of that will help me stick around. One flaw I see is this assumption that all senior staff want to be managers - they don't. In my case, I'm a senior technical staffer. I'm basically topped out; already a 14, with a total of six GS-15 slots in my agency for my specialty. That's OK by itself, I really don't need a grade, just interesting work and a new challenge that suits my skills. Instead, I'm doing the same stuff. I've put in for other positions, but I suspect the selectors see my existing grade (and age) and aren't inclined to take a chance that I'll retire before the project is complete. So, nothing new to do, close to retirement, why stay?

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