Archive for category Succession Planning

Filling the gap between today’s talent and tomorrow’s leaders

Succession PuzzleLike it or not, leadership will turn over as a function of retirement or resignation.

In fact, according to OPM data, from 2011 to 2013 total federal government retirements increased by 40 percent.

As today’s GS 7, 8 and 9s move toward 10, 11 and 12s and beyond, there must be an identification of the talent pipeline—those high potential individuals with the skills, capabilities, and desire to take on more responsibility.

A talent pipeline is essential because:

  • A feeder pool to GS 10 through SES positions needs to be established to determine the set of people to develop. With constraints of time and budget, investments must be made in an actionable set of individuals.
  • Once the pipeline is identified, there is retentive value in sharing that one is included in the planning of future leadership roles. Of course, there are no guarantees; however, when aware of future potential and the investment in development, there is a greater likelihood of retention with the government and enhanced engagement.
  • Further, the pipeline should and can be stratified to understand where critical talent exists. Critical talent consists of those individuals who can perform and contribute in more than one way. For example, critical talent should be able to work across multiple agencies and in a variety of roles or functions. Their value and contributions represent horizontal possibilities rather than vertical limitations.

How to invest in future leaders?

  • Identification: Chief human capital officers would organize a government-wide effort to establish criteria for high potential candidates. With the identification of common criteria, a framework for evaluation would be developed by chief learning officers. The evaluation framework would consist of common tools, processes, and templates to evaluate, nominate, and build an inventory of candidates to consider. The final selection of pipeline candidates would occur in a discussion among senior agency leadership (a small group who ensures confidentiality and maximum opportunity for healthy debate). The final product would be a targeted and manageable list of individuals that would become part of a high potential watch list. This exercise would be repeated once every two years to ensure the vitality of the process and identify additional future leaders. It would be critical to conduct a semi-annual review of progress.
  • Development: Given the 70/20/10 approach to development, several low cost, highly effective techniques are available for investing in the development of high potential talent. For instance, experiential development can consist of job rotations: challenging assignments monitored by a mentor and assigned reading with follow-up discussion groups. Moreover, in the spirit of public service, participation with and contributions to community and civic organizations can focus on and improve teamwork and presentation skills. In addition, we should not forget about the core, basic, and critical leadership skills that can only be acquired in the classroom. It is critical for high potential future leaders to learn and work with a common leadership language. Because these individuals will likely rotate throughout government, they should use a common leadership language and framework to ensure consistency among agencies. It is also helpful to refer and relate back to a common framework when these future leaders meet as a group to discuss the current and future state of the government.
  • Self Awareness: Any development needs to be accompanied by a focus on self awareness. Self awareness is of utmost importance for future leaders—it is the critical ingredient to ensuring blind spots are identified and avoided. In this context, blind spots result in a lack of appreciation for conflict, organization distraction, the political process, and ineffective communication. For instance, 360-degree feedback is an excellent tool to help individuals improve their awareness of how others perceive and react to them.

Opportunity Cost 

Of course, talent pipelines and succession planning take time and some level of investment. It is always easy to ignore this initiative given lack of time, budget constraints, or time away from the job. The question is not: Should we engage in identifying and developing our future leaders? The question is: What happens if we avoid this critical step toward continuing our progress as a leader among nations?

 

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Passing the Torch to the Next Generation of Government Workers

Torch

Just before my 24th birthday, I landed what I thought would be a great government job. My boss was a long time public servant. She had worked hard for the government for her entire career and was proud of her service. I quickly learned that she believed in traditions, in doing things by the book, and that I should always take notes. I thought she was a dinosaur who would never hear my exciting new ideas.

On my first day, she had me begin printing out the Federal Acquisitions Regulation or FAR. The FAR is a document that spells out the rules for government purchasing and payment. It is more than 2,000 pages long and filled about twenty, four inch binders that I stored in two large file cabinet drawers. My next task was to look up specific regulations that would be important to my work. I quickly logged onto Google, found the correct parts and read all about them. I never cracked open those binders again in the nearly three years I worked there.

As wasteful and time consuming as the exercise was, I did learn a few things from it:

  • There are a lot of rules for spending government money.
  • Google makes it easy to look up any part, subpart, or subchapter of the FAR, if you know what to look for.
  • Printing, hole punching, and filing a 2,000 page document by hand takes a very long time.
  • Most importantly, I learned that some bosses are more focused on keeping things from changing than they are on helping their people learn, grow, and succeed but even they have valuable knowledge to share.

I had heard jokes about government employees and the paperwork involved in government work. I expected some of it but was shocked by the deeply ingrained need for adherence to tradition and unwillingness to change that I saw. Though not universal, this reluctance to encourage or even accept growth and change is particularly damaging to the public sector because if the next generation cannot pick out the useful wisdom, it will be discarded with the outdated traditions.

In order for an organization to maintain knowledge gathered over the course of a career, it is necessary to pass it on to the next generation of government leaders. If the current leaders fear the change, new ideas and ways of the next generation, that knowledge will get lost in translation. Likewise, if the new generation of leaders is unable to see past the old and outdated traditions of the outgoing leaders, they will not have the benefit of those lessons already learned.

If you have a boss who seems like a dinosaur, try to ignore the outdated ways and look for the meaning behind them. My boss insisted that I always bring a notebook when I met with her. I knew I could remember the majority of what she told me and figure out the rest. But showing up with that notebook was what she needed to trust that I was listening to her. By playing the game I was able to learn a lot from her in the end. Had I made the choice to dig in my heals and refuse to go along, I would have missed out on wisdom that I still use in my career today.

If you are a boss who struggles with the new generation, be careful to remember that the new ideas and ways of doing things that they are so excited about will be the foundation of your organization’s future. Try to encourage and direct those ideas to give them the best chance for success. The new generation may not have your experience but their enthusiasm is valuable. Along with your accumulated knowledge that enthusiasm might just make a critical difference you could never have seen and the impact of your encouragement could be felt for generations.

What advice do you have for passing down or receiving wisdom and traditions?

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3 Challenges for First-Year Supervisors

“With more federal workers nearing retirement, training current and future supervisors is a matter of national urgency.”

— Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, saying he is pleased House lawmakers have introduced a companion to a Senate measure requiring more training for federal managers.

The senator from Hawaii is not alone. For years the issue of succession planning has been a hot topic for the US Federal Government. Last week The 2010 Federal Supervisor Training Act was introduced requiring supervisors to receive initial training within one year of being promoted and once every three years after.

With an influx of new supervisors entering in the Federal government, training and mentoring new supervisors will be key elements for success. Madeleine Homan, cofounder of Coaching Services for The Ken Blanchard Companies® says that the biggest challenge for new supervisors is making the shift from a self-oriented focus, to one that is more focused on others. As Homan explains, “The biggest challenge is going from a mono-focused work life where all you had to think about was yourself and your daily task list and moving to a world view that is so much broader.”

Homan feels new managers need to identify the challenges they’ll face during an often difficult first year.

1. Getting comfortable with being a beginner again – Know that it is ok to feel overwhelmed. The key is how you respond. Do you work through it and take time to learn new skills or do you fall back into your comfort zone?

2. Scoring some early wins – Finding something early in the first six or eight weeks will boost a new manager’s confidence and earn some credibility and respect from their people.

3. Learning how to ask for help – Homan’s final recommendation is “to get a mentor—someone who is either a peer and has been a manager for a reasonable amount of time, or someone who is at your boss’ level that you might have a relationship with or you might have something in common with.”

Understanding these three elements can make for a smoother transition for any first-year supervisors. To learn more about what it takes to be a successful first-year supervisor I’d recommend reading First-Time Manager: It’s not just about you anymore.

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