Monday, May 25, 2009

A Coach's Feedback for Supervisors

I recently participated in 13L’s FedPitch 2009 practice session in the role of coach. Basically, FedPitch is an opportunity to propose ideas about how to recruit and retain federal government workers. After hearing all the great proposals both at the practice session and at the official event, I realized just how important it is to implement ideas, not only from senior-level staff but from all levels within an organization. I also realized that everyone has something valuable to contribute.

From my experience with FedPitch, my previous work experience, and my work with my coaching clients, I’ve compiled a list of some steps that organizations can take to retain employees, improve communication and build effective leadership.

1. Consistent Communication. Giving feedback to employees should not be reserved only for performance appraisal time. Constructive feedback, whether positive or negative, is most valuable when given on a consistent basis throughout the year. This not only speaks to a manager's leadership ability, but even more importantly helps employees stay informed, plan ahead and make any necessary adjustments. It's all about setting up employees for success, not failure.

2. Forget the micro-management. One of my best bosses told her employees, "I'll give you enough rope to either climb up or hang yourself." In other words, she believed in a hands-off approach and essentially left it up to the employees to make many of their own decisions regarding their careers. When I ask clients what kind of boss they want, they invariably say one that gives them autonomy and decision-making power, but at the same time offers guidance, leadership and direction.

3. Implement employee ideas. As mentioned earlier, it's important to not only ask employees for ideas, but also to implement them too (assuming they're good ideas of course.) Giving workers a sense of involvement and ownership in the process (vs. just being told what to do) helps to increase job satisfaction as well as employee engagement and retention, and in turn encourage higher productivity.

4. A little goes a long way. One of the biggest oversights from managers is the lack of positive reinforcement given to employees. Many managers are focused only on pointing out when something isn't done right. But simply acknowledging their employees' good work goes a long way in making them feel appreciated and valued, and is a great source of motivation to do more good work in the future.

5. Encourage education. Being a valuable employee can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Some managers have been known to actually withhold resources and opportunities from valuable employees in order to try to prevent them from moving into a new department or new organization altogether. Again, managers should give their employees every chance to succeed. And providing the necessary resources and encouraging them to grow and advance their careers through further training and education is a perfect way to accomplish this.

These are just a few of the strategies that organizations in all sectors – government, non-profit and for-profit, can implement to ensure not only the success of the organization itself, but also the success of its employees.

Joe Rosenlicht founded InMotion Career & Wellness to help clients rethink career and work/life balance choices. Naturally, that means he hears a lot about what's happening in the workplace. Joe really lives his tag line, "Envision, Invention, InMotion," as shown by his willingness to donate evening time in 2008 and 2009 to coach 13L FedPitch finalists. Thank you for your service, Joe!