10 Tips for Creating a Public Sector Leadership Development Program: Changing Demographics an Impending "Brain Drain," and a Need to Enhance Retention Levels Are Driving Public Organizations of All Sizes to Explore Tools for Ensuring the Stability of Their Workforce

By Green, Marnie | Government Finance Review, June 2005 | Go to article overview

10 Tips for Creating a Public Sector Leadership Development Program: Changing Demographics an Impending "Brain Drain," and a Need to Enhance Retention Levels Are Driving Public Organizations of All Sizes to Explore Tools for Ensuring the Stability of Their Workforce


Green, Marnie, Government Finance Review


The Winter 2004 issue of Public Personnel Management focused on one of the hottest issues facing today's public sector human resources professionals: workforce and succession planning. Numerous agencies are incorporating leadership development as an element of their workforce planning efforts. In my observation, many of the best practice elements in public sector leadership development are consistent among agencies. The purpose of this article is to share 10 practices that appear to be common threads among agencies that are developing leaders internally to fill anticipated vacancies in the future. The following tips are provided as guidance to public sector organizations that may be interested in developing their own leadership development programs.

TIP 1: BASE THE PROGRAM ON A COMPETENCY MODEL

Before any training or development activities can take place, it is critical to identify the skills and competencies that will be developed as a result of the effort. As discussed in the Public Personnel Management article, Henrico County has developed 20 core leadership competencies, including communication, critical thinking and decision making, organizational astuteness, and personal integrity. These competencies provided the framework for the county's development efforts. Other agencies, including San Diego County, base their leadership academies on the same model as Henrico County's multi-rater, 360-degree feedback tool.

TIP 2: ALLOW PARTICIPANTS TO SELF-SELECT

Each agency must determine for itself the best method for selecting leadership development program participants. Factors including collective bargaining influences, time, and the intended target audience may impact the process you use to identify participants. Some organizations target potential future executives only, while others offer leadership development opportunities organization-wide.

In my experience, the highest levels of success in terms of participant commitment result from a competitive process where interested participants apply to be involved. By self-selecting, rather than by being appointed, participants are more likely to clarify their purpose for wanting to take part in the program. When participants are mandated to attend a leadership development program, they are often reluctant to commit the time and energy into their development, and oftentimes, they do not fully understand why they are being asked to participate.

TIP 3: INVOLVE EXECUTIVES AND ELECTED OFFICIALS

It has been said in numerous articles about employee and leadership development that without the full support and involvement from the executive leadership team, the program will fail. Top management must be involved in the development of the curriculum, the selection of the attendees, and in the presentation of the program. Their support is critical for the success and long-term viability of any leadership development program.

TIP 4: BUILD THE PROGRAM ON 360-DEGREE FEEDBACK, INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT PLANNING, AND COACHING

360-degree survey tools provide feedback enabling leaders to realize strengths and areas for development based on their own and other's perceptions. Typically such feedback comes from the participant's direct supervisor, direct reports, and peers. Today, such processes can easily be facilitated online, and feedback reports are comprehensive and detailed. Numerous vendors can now customize survey tools to reflect your organization's competency model (see Tip 1 above).

The feedback process, however, is only the start of the development process. It is recommended that the feedback be delivered in conjunction with opportunities for one-on-one coaching, as many participants find the feedback difficult to translate into everyday behaviors. A trained coach can help participants make sense of the data. In addition, participants should be expected to develop their own individual development plans that address competencies highlighted in the feedback report. …

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10 Tips for Creating a Public Sector Leadership Development Program: Changing Demographics an Impending "Brain Drain," and a Need to Enhance Retention Levels Are Driving Public Organizations of All Sizes to Explore Tools for Ensuring the Stability of Their Workforce
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