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  • Intelligent Partnerships

Get Feedback (Getting Back to Work 7/17)


Many of you are aware that I spent time in senior program roles in both the current and previous White House Administrations. In these roles I led teams with multiple responsibilities—both in terms of work output as well as resource management. As you can imagine, process management inside Federal agencies can be somewhat tedious and, often, the process itself becomes the focus. So how did we, as leaders, transform a good performing team with high quality people into one of the most desired places to work, with a reputation for having responsive, high-output offices and employees who became evangelist for the work they do? By listening to them.

We created a “market expansion plan” and shared that vision across the organization. We provided multiple forums to hear from teams about what would work and what wouldn’t, including every level of team member to ensure we heard from those who actually perform the work. We also invited team members to volunteer for components of new work to help inform the process, shared results, and gave them credit when one of their ideas was used. Further, we encouraged team leaders to ensure every employee had an opportunity to lead a portion of work and asked them to coordinate multiple tasks across teams to foster collaboration as an internal value. This allowed for every employee to touch the decision-making process and, more importantly, own a piece of it.

This highly-coordinated effort could not be accomplished alone. The leadership team had to be organized, understanding that each division was relying on components of work from each other and were counting on timely delivery that they did not control. It requires leadership to also demonstrate confidence in their subordinates, trusting them to own portions of work, and knowing that other leaders were also relying on those outcomes. Finally, we ensured our leaders understood the power of “full delegation”, meaning that what they assign for others to deliver has to be allowed the space to generate that employees’ success. By:

  1. Creating accountability for the delegated work that includes acknowledgement of the assignment, guidance on the needed outcome, and how it fits into the broader plan and giving the team member autonomy over the delivery of the outcome.

  2. Avoiding interventions unless asked for decision support along the way or until the results are given as a final product.

  3. Assigning work as a collaborative open process that is fully supported rather than as challenges that are meant to point to capacity gaps.

Leaders can develop significant confidence in their down-line team’s ability and create environments that begin to transform organizations. So, getting buy-in starts with getting feedback. Your ability in any level project is limited by the confidence those who will use the final outcome have in it meeting their need. The clients condition improving is the ultimate measure in every instance, regardless of if that client is internal or external. Internal communication and engagement then drive quality outcomes and as expressed earlier should:

  1. Have a clearly identified outcome or purpose.

  2. Provide opportunities to capture and consider input from every tier of the organization.

  3. Generate opportunities for team members to stretch their capacity and demonstrate their ability to contribute.

  4. Create accountability and support structures at every engagement level

  5. Give credit for contributions, document outcomes and learn from those processes

  6. Position organizational decision making towards problem solving

This purposeful execution ensures small teams are talking to each other, leaders are actively guiding work, and it also allows the cream to rise to the top, as people step into the work to ensure success and the organization gets the best out of every contributor. I am very proud of the teams I have worked with and those I have led, without exception. Over the years I have discovered that if people are supported and allowed to own the process, they will deliver on expectations as long as those expectations have been made clear.

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