Wanted: 21st century manager

Do federal managers have the right stuff to do their jobs well in the 21st century? In some cases, yes. But several new reports say they need to work on their people skills.

All five reports in the series are based on a study directed by the National Academy of Public Administration, a nonpartisan organization that makes recommendations on public policy.

The academy found federal managers lacking in many leadership and business skills. Deficiencies can be corrected, the academy concluded, but only if agencies spend the time and money needed to prepare current and next-generation managers.

The study reveals a growing consensus among public- and private-

sector executives and scholars that old competencies are out, or not as important as they once were.

Academy researchers, who held

focus groups and interviewed dozens of experts, concluded that 21st-

century managers cannot simply

be supervisors. They must be leaders who can "make sound judgments in an environment of ambiguity and uncertainty," said the study's director, Frank Cipolla, former director of the academy's Center for Human Resources Management and now a consultant. They must be "resilient enough to roll with the punches."

Some experts familiar with the academy's report questioned the practicality of requiring all federal managers to be leaders. The military services have a longer tradition of developing leaders than civilian agencies, but even military departments have had growing pains in trying to develop effective leadership programs, said Darryl Perkinson, a supervisory training specialist at the Norfolk, Va., Naval Shipyard.

Perkinson said that federal managers are often unable to communicate clear goals to their employees because the federal budget process prevents departments from anticipating how much money they will have to spend on projects from year to year, or even month to month.

If private-sector managers had to deal with the type of budgeting process that exists in the federal government, he said, "they would have the same problems that they've described for our

managers."

However, the academy's recommendation that leadership be a qualification for all federal managers did not surprise Patrick Wright, professor of human resources studies at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

The issue has gained importance

in both the private and public sectors, he said, largely because other sources

of managerial control have weakened. Because of information technology, for example, access to information necessary for satisfactory job performance

is now widely available, and managers are no longer the principal conduit for that.

Federal managers also have less

control over employees through rewards and punishments, Wright said, because employees have civil service protections and pay is determined by salary schedules. "You don't have significant rewards you can offer, and you don't have significant punishment available," he said.

To be sure, Wright added, the ability to get others to do their work takes more than rewards and reprimands. Managers can become better leaders given the right opportunities and training. "There is clearly a limit that people have based on their own personality, but anybody can improve from where they are," he said.

Cipolla said federal managers must take on new leadership roles and acquire business skills because the nature of their jobs is changing, a conclusion supported by the academy's study and by other research.

The academy's published reports mention the increasing complexity of the work for which agencies are responsible, its accelerating pace and the ever-expanding use of IT to accomplish it. For incumbent federal managers, those changes have been challenging and frustrating, Cipolla said.

Indeed, according to the academy study, many federal managers are unprepared for being the people-oriented, business-minded leaders that academy researchers say are needed in the 21st century.

Other characteristics attributed to federal managers are noted in the reports, and one is that most current managers are insiders. Of the more than 60,000 supervisory positions filled at the midcareer levels in fiscal 2000, only 13 percent were hires from outside the federal government.

Federal managers are not getting any younger either. Typically, they are middle-aged. If nothing changes, in six years, 76 percent of federal managers will be 55 and older, and 27 percent will be 65 and older. The academy has recommended reforms to ensure that younger managers are prepared to step in when the current group retires.

Although the government has made significant management reforms at higher levels, Cipolla said, it has largely overlooked first-line supervisors. They constitute the majority of managers, totaling about 125,000 of the federal government's 200,000 managers.

Their sheer numbers and critical role in fostering good morale and productivity entitle first-line supervisors to much greater attention and leadership-training opportunities than they have received, Cipolla said.

Among federal IT managers in particular, the increasing emphasis on leadership skills and business savvy, confirmed by the academy study, has caused some anxiety. A decade ago, managers were graded mostly on their IT skills, said Howard Ady, a program manager at BearingPoint Inc., which provides IT consulting services.

In performance reviews, technical expertise was weighted at about 80 percent and management at 20 percent, Ady said. Now, the ratio has flipped, and IT managers are expected to be more businesslike in their thinking.

For some managers, he said, getting away from talking bits and bytes is difficult. But, he added, "increasing attention on management skills, communication skills and leadership skills, and trying to inspire hope and confidence in the workforce, are allowing the technical folks to overcome what may have been a limitation for some of them."

***

Management how-to

Based on the results of a recent study, the National Academy of Public Administration made the following recommendations for enhancing

federal managers' skills:

All federal managers should be experienced and competent in handling agencies' mission-specific programs. They should also be as experienced and competent, if not more so, in leadership and business skills.

Traditional manager evaluation interviews and performance ratings are no longer sufficient and should be supplemented with surveys of nonsupervisory employees. Such measures — sometimes called climate surveys — provide a useful assessment of managers' leadership from those they oversee.

Every federal agency should establish a continuous program for identifying and training future managers, including first-line supervisors, so that well-prepared new managers are ready to step in when current managers leave. The government should provide and pay for such programs by making them part of every agency's strategic business plan.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.