governmentI had just finished a leadership seminar with a group of government supervisors and managers. It was a great session with good interaction. I was reviewing the 20 Feedback Sheets and there it was. Among the 8’s, 9’s and 10’s, there was a SIX! What do they mean? How dare they? Who do they think they are? I couldn’t wait to read their anonymous comments.

Here are their comments: “This was good information for a “For Profit” industry but we are government. We are different. This will not work for us. You need to learn more about your customer before you train government supervisors.”

Wow! I thought “what is the best thing I can do for this organization?” My initial though was to hand over the form to the leader of this organization for handwriting analysis. Once they identify the culprit, immediate termination was the best answer. This attitude is a cancer in this organization. This was an entitlement attitude at its worst.

I quickly squelched those thoughts. This was not the normal mindset but this person actually believes this.

How can:

  • Educating each team member to do their job,
  • Regularly communicating expectations, progress, praise, need for improvement
  • Holding ALL team members accountable with performance improvement plans, levels of discipline or terminations if necessary NOT apply to ANY organization?

I don’t care whether you are private or public sector. I don’t care if your revenue comes from selling widgets, services, taxes, donations or grants. Not applying the basics of leadership skills leads to cutbacks, layoffs and closures.

Show me your team member training records. Show me documentation of discussions of expectations, progress and/or praise. Show me the number of team members placed on performance improvement plans, levels of discipline or terminated. Show me these things and I can tell how efficient and profitable you are. I can see your commitment to customer service. I can tell you what your morale is like. All of this by your level of Education, Engagement and Accountability.

My dilemma was how can I learn from this comment sheet and share something in the future that could change this attitude?

This is what I decided to do. In my next seminar with government supervisors and managers, I shared that feedback sheet. I then asked the group this question; what are you currently doing that could not be contracted out or outsourced? The attorneys taught me well. Never ask a question if you don’t already know the answer. I waited on a response. After nearly a minute of silence and looking at each other, one person finally spoke up and gave the correct answer; which was “nothing.”

I explained that is the attitude we must have. Years ago, when I finally had my feet on the ground in my HR position, I met with my team and we discussed that possibility. We had to make ourselves so valuable, so easy to do business with, that no one ever considered outsourcing or contracting out our services. Every leader should do the same.

We should never use outsourcing or contracting as a threat or keep team members in fear of the possibility. The flip side is no organization should operate in a manner where team members believe they can perform at a mediocre level and retain employment. Customers can not be retained through mediocrity so neither should employment.  That is a Lack Of Leadership and is NOT LOL. I don’t care what sector you come from or if your revenue comes from cash, credit cards, donations or taxes.

FYI: The term “good enough for government work” came about in the 1940’s during WWII. Every plane, vehicle or tank that came off the line had to be of the best quality because it was going to war. A brother, father or loved one may be depending on the quality. I’ve asked every seminar if that statement still means the same today? Normally there is laughter. It didn’t change overnight. It changed with every day that passed where there is a lack of accountability. The lack of accountability also applies to the private sector. That’s what closes more doors than the economy.

What are your thoughts on what could have made a manager feel that government is different than the for-profit sector?

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