Better management starts at home

FCW's DotGov Thursday column offers ways for every federal Webmaster to work on improving management skills

It is difficult to talk about the quality of federal management because the issues get so quickly and directly to our own personal performance.

But even though having an open dialogue is difficult, everyone should at least begin an internal assessment. We should start by conducting an honest self-examination. And rather than worry about whether we measure up, it is better to focus on improving.

Becoming a better manager is a concern for every Webmaster. Whether you supervise employees or lead committee members, management is an essential skill.

A first step to improving the way you manage others is improving the way you manage your own activities. Improving your management skills means not whining about what other people should be doing or what might have happened: It is about what you are doing and no one else.

For example, if I am parked illegally and get a ticket, the last person I should get upset at is the police officer for giving me a ticket. I am the one who parked in the wrong spot or forgot to feed the meter.

In an earlier article, I mentioned that compassion and caring are essential components of leadership. One does not turn these traits on or off simply based on a clock. We are the same person at home as we are at work, but we often feel that we must act differently in the two environments. But organizations are very much like families, with all the function and dysfunction that implies.

As a manager, you must make significant investments in building relationships and in creating organizational structures. Technology can take relationship building only so far. Management is about working with people and interacting with people. We are fortunate that by becoming better managers, we become better people in the workplace and at home.

In your self-assessment, be honest with what you like to do and what you don't like to do. Try to gravitate toward what you like to do, but understand that gravitating away from improving your management skills is not an option. Management is about people, assets, processes and communications. This is the stuff of the living. Even your home life has these same aspects.

Develop a management methodology of your own. I think of my role as having seven dimensions in the IT context: Architectures, business, management, leadership and culture, policy, relationship management and technology. More on this can be found in "Taxonomy for Conducting Business Over the Web in the Federal Context."

One of the toughest areas when dealing with people is handling our own emotions and other people's emotions. I recommend the following book on emotional intelligence: "Working with Emotional Intelligence," written by Daniel Goleman and published by Bantam Books.

In developing your own management principles, realize that there are significant differences in the complexity of management skills for supervisors, operations or business. They are not the same skill set, and there is no one model that defines management in all three of these areas. Part of the adventure is understanding the differences here.

For an opening presentation on the range of activities that managers may find themselves involved in, see the following overview from the CIO Council Web site: "Balancing the Two Paradigms."

I also recommend frequently reading self-help books on leadership, business, management and personal development issues. This is life-long work.

In the personal self-help area, I recommend starting with the "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" books by Richard Carlson. When I was in the military, the same concept was known as "finding your ditch to die in." Not all issues are so important that you should put all your personal capital into them. Pick and choose; this too is about being a good manager.

Some factors in being a good federal manager do require formal training. The top ones are listed in an article on the CIO Council Web site: "Top Skill Areas for Federal Business Managers."

The external discussions about federal management are going to be difficult ones for all of us. Starting with your personal self-analysis and working through many of these issues first will make you better prepared for a governmentwide debate.

I would like to thank my own management — Joan Steyaert, John Sindelar and Marty Wagner — for the learning opportunities, guidance and advice they have provided me in this area.

Kellett is founder of the federal Web Business Council, co-chairman of the Federal WebMasters Forum and director of GSA's Emerging IT Policies Division.

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