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The Federal Coach

How do you measure up as a federal leader?

We're often not very good at judging our own abilities. Think about the actors taking to the ice on Skating with the Stars who benefit from Johnny Weir's candid opinion, or even the chefs on Top Chef needing Tom Colicchio's feedback. More often than not, the feedback helps them improve their performance the following week.

As a federal manager, you also need feedback to help you know whether you're leading your team successfully. Thankfully, your feedback doesn't have to come from a panel of reality TV judges. Instead, I suggest looking at two indicators: your self-perceptions and feedback from those whose opinions matter most--your agency leaders, peers and employees.


As a starting point, create a scorecard outlining what matters most to your team and your agency and take a good, hard look at your results. I suggest setting aside an hour of your time early one morning to answer the following questions: Did we achieve our stated goals for the year? How did we measure our results? Are my employees motivated and performing well? Are we working together as a team to solve problems? Are they growing professionally? What could we have done better?

If you can answer these questions positively more often than not, I guarantee that you are doing something right.

Others' perceptions

It's also important to ask for feedback. You can gather views through a 360-degree assessment: a survey evaluating your job performance based on confidential response from your supervisors, coworkers and subordinates. You can also get input more informally by having one-on-one conversations.

A 360 assessment can be a great tool, particularly if paired with effective executive coaching. Typically, this assessment is aligned with a set of core skills needed to be an effective leader, and the results provide insights into your strengths and areas for improvement. A good executive coach will help you digest your results, focus on your strong points and establish goals for becoming a better leader.

If your agency is short of funds for such assessments and training, consider using a no- or low-cost survey tool to directly (but anonymously) collect feedback from your colleagues. Rypple is one example of a free, online tool that allows managers to solicit anonymous feedback from colleagues. It even has the backing of Marshall Goldsmith, who sits on Rypple's advisory board and who is the executive coach to some of the world's most effective leaders such as Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally.

Informal, one-on-one conversations with your colleagues also are generally a great and effective option. However, it sometimes can be difficult for your colleagues to be open and honest.

Whether you decide to speak with folks directly or get the feedback anonymously, remember to keep it simple, and concentrate on some basic themes: How can I help our team be more effective? What should I stop doing? What should I continue doing?

Next Steps

After you've reviewed your own performance and collected feedback from others, your next step is responding to this feedback.

While it can be difficult, I suggest sharing the feedback with your team, outlining your ideas for addressing their feedback, and finally soliciting additional ideas for improvement. Your team will then become a part of the process of providing you regular, direct input on your efforts to become a better leader. And they will know you are taking your leadership responsibilities seriously.

As always, I'm interested in ideas that you may have to help leaders assess their performance. Please share them by posting your comments online or sending an email to fedcoach@ourpublicservice.org.

And please check back on Wednesday, when I speak with Congressional Budget Office
Director Douglas W. Elmendorf. You can also receive a reminder by following us on Twitter @RPublicService.

By Tom Fox

 |  December 13, 2010; 10:17 AM ET |  Category:  Getting Ahead Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: "Servant leadership" within federal agencies | Next: Leading the Congressional Budget Office: An interview with Douglas Elmendorf


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Tom, thanks for mentioning Rypple. One slight correction: We are delighted to have Dr. Marshall Goldsmith on our advisory board and we collaborate with him in many ways. Rypple itself is a venture-backed company based in Toronto and San Francisco, founded and headed by coCEOs David Stein and Daniel Debow.

We offer a free version of Rypple and invite your readers to come try out our product! We also offer a paid version if an organization finds they need more capabilities.

Posted by: tterwilliger | December 13, 2010 12:54 PM

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