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The Federal Coach

Making the case for new technology

Thank you for your very thoughtful - and in one case incredibly funny - emails on repairing relationships at work. Please continue sharing your ideas and questions by emailing me at fedcoach@ourpublicservice.org.

One email was from Peter Daly, who along with Michael Watkins, co-authored The First 90 Days in Government: Critical Success Strategies for New Public Managers at All Levels. Peter offers five critical topics that employees should discuss with their manager to help build a solid, productive relationship that never needs repairing:

Situation - How does your immediate supervisor see the state of your organization? Are you expected to try to turnaround, realign, start-up or sustain an organization?
Expectations - What does your supervisor expect you to accomplish? How can you negotiate a reasonable set of expectations?
Style - How will you and your supervisor interact with one another (e.g., face-to-face, email, memos)? When do you have authority to act and when do you need sign-off?
Resources - What do you need to be successful - people, funding, and leadership support?
Personal - Where do you need to strengthen your skills? What assignments or training can help you?

As a general rule of thumb, managers should also be having these conversations with their direct reports. Thanks Peter for the helpful advice!

Next, here is a question from a federal manager (GS-14) at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security:

What is the best way to get your supervisors on board with utilizing Web 2.0 resources when they're either technophobic or reluctant to hold a serious conversation about its applicability and usefulness to effective operations?-Federal manager (GS-14) at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Reactions to Gov 2.0 fall into one of two extreme perspectives: it's the wave of the future or it's the beginning of the end. The fact is, the future is here.

Of course, you already know that. You just need some help making the case.

To start, consider the advice in the Heath brothers' book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. They recommend developing a plan that appeals to your supervisor's logical and emotional sides so it's easy for them to react.

Once you develop the plan, request a 30 minute meeting to discuss how using Gov 2.0 technology will help your team achieve its goals. Understandably, some leaders are skeptical that new technology is just the latest flavor-of-the-month. In the discussion, recognize that skepticism but quickly reframe expectations by providing examples of other federal agencies that have used 2.0 technologies successfully. For instance, the HHS program text4baby, which provides expectant mothers with pre-natal health information on mobile phones or the State Department's use of Twitter on @StateDept.

Next, share your ideas for using Web 2.0 resources to improve your team's operations. Paint a picture of the results your team will achieve by expanding its use of technology. Making a connection between the technology and your mission is paramount - otherwise, it's just technology for the sake of technology.

Finally, outline a plan of action that allows you supervisor to see how the team would get from point "A" to point "B." Your ideas for implementation should include steps for prototyping and testing new ideas, starting small and then growing over time. Show your supervisor how little it would require in the way of new funding, but be honest about the time required to staff these new operations.

A short, compelling presentation will require a great deal of preliminary work, but it will be well worth it if you use the 30 minutes effectively. Good luck!

Government leaders, mark your calendars for September 1st! In just two weeks the Partnership for Public Service will be releasing its highly-anticipated 2010 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings. An important tool for federal leaders, the rankings are the most comprehensive and authoritative rating and analysis of employee satisfaction and commitment in the federal government. Agency leaders use the BPTW rankings in their recruitment and retention efforts, as well as to provide managers and leaders with a road-map for boosting employee engagement. To learn more, visit bestplacestowork.org.

By Tom Fox

 |  August 19, 2010; 11:47 AM ET |  Category:  Ask the Federal Coach Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: 'Capitalizing on your aces' | Next: Three schoolyard lessons in peer leadership

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