Avoiding federal manager burnout
This week's questions come from federal managers at the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Please continue sharing your ideas and questions by leaving a comment or emailing me at email@example.com.
What are some effective ways to develop credibility as a leader?-Federal manager, U.S. Department of Defense
The most important thing you can do to have credibility as a leader is to genuinely care for and champion the people you lead. That authentic desire to help members of your team succeed and grow is the primary ingredient of successful leadership.
To develop your personal leadership skills, there are four essential elements that I've observed through my work with federal leaders. They are: effectively managing yourself, understanding organizational context, building a network and finding mentors.
To establish credibility as a leader, it's important that you develop some expertise about the discipline of leadership, the subject matter of your team and your own professional strengths and weaknesses. In my experience, the best leaders take great pride in continuous learning, completing regular 360-degree assessments, and spending time in training, coaching and mentoring as a means of learning the practical approach to leading a team.
Effective leaders also have great savvy about their agency's goals, operations and power centers. They not only understand, but can also effectively explain the unwritten rules--the code of conduct that dictates how work really gets done in their agency. They keep their ear to the ground to understand their senior leaders' priorities and don't operate in a stovepipe, but rather across agency boundaries.
Credible leaders also know who to call upon to answer a question or solve a problem. Moving around in your career every two to three years can help you establish a much broader network than those who remain in the same agency or office for an entire career.
Finally, consider finding a mentor, or mentors, who can help you with each of these areas. Find those folks within your agency who you admire, ask them out for coffee and let the relationship develop naturally over time. If you follow-through, I suspect that you will have a network of mentors in no time.
What tips do you have for avoiding burnout and surviving as a federal manager over the long-term? - Federal manager (GS-15), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Federal managers' workdays are often filled with essential meetings with internal teams and external stakeholders, solving the daily crises that emerge, finding solutions to serious problems and working on issues that directly affect the American public. With so many competing interests, it can be difficult for managers to sustain such heroic efforts indefinitely.
Based on my experience working with federal leaders, here are a few ideas to help you and other managers avoid being burned out by the demands of leadership.
First, it's important that you understand how you're wired. Do you find yourself satisfied--rather than exhausted--after a long day? Do you need to balance periods of intense work with periods of intense relaxation? Reflect on the days or weeks when you have felt on top of your game, and then work to recreate that experience as a starting point for avoiding burnout.
Next, work on drawing some boundaries between your work and personal life. To be an effective leader, you need to take time to recharge your batteries. This can be spending time with your family on the evenings and weekends, going out with friends or simply reading a good book. However you choose to recharge, you're the only one who can set aside that time and commit to fulfilling your personal as well as your professional goals.
And when you tend to your personal life, do so completely. For me, checking email on vacation equals no vacation at all. Whether it's a vacation, dinner with friends or working out, it's best to put the smart phone away and find another time to check your email.
Finally, don't forget to celebrate small successes with your team along with the way. This feeling of progress will help you as you strive towards your long-term goals.
I hope that these ideas may provide a helpful starting point, and I would welcome additional suggestions for how federal managers can avoid burnout.
February 25, 2011; 10:24 AM ET |
Ask the Federal Coach
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