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3 Ways Government Leaders Can Get Their Teams Excited About Work

As agility coaches specializing in state and local government organizations, one of the most common concerns that we hear from leaders is that their staff are disengaged. This shows up as absenteeism, negativity, a “that’s not my job” attitude and a perceived unwillingness to try new ideas or make changes.

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The root causes for disengagement run deep and the cultural and process changes needed to transform into a high-performing organization take time. Solving this problem calls for government agility and a new way of working. With that larger vision in mind, there are some immediate steps that government leaders can take to begin engaging staff and improving morale.

  1. Rethink how decisions are made
  2. Clarify and communicate vision and purpose
  3. Make a personal connection

Rethink How Decisions Are Made

Many leaders believe that their primary responsibility is to make decisions for their teams. While decisiveness and direction-setting are important aspects of leadership, many decisions are best made by those who are closest to the work. When staff are empowered to make choices and directly impact results, they feel more motivated and engaged in their work.

    • Review the decisions that you are making day-to-day and consider whether there are people on your teams who could make those decisions either independently, or with your guidance.

    • Have a conversation with your team about types of decisions and come to an agreement on how those decisions will be made. Share your intent to move more decisions to the team. We recommend using Delegation Poker from Management 3.0.

    • Coach your staff on the decision-making process to build their confidence and competence. Instead of providing answers, ask questions and guide them toward finding the answer and deciding for themselves.

    • Follow through with supporting staff in making decisions. If your staff have become accustomed to waiting for direction, you will need to intentionally step back and continue to reinforce the change until it becomes the new norm.

Clarify and Communicate Vision and Purpose

To feel motivated, people need to understand why their work matters and how they are contributing to a greater purpose. Very few leaders spend sufficient time communicating the vision and purpose for the work their teams are doing. This is one of the primary responsibilities you have as a leader and can make a big difference in the way people show up for work.

    • Consider this question, “How does the work my team is doing support our agency’s mission?” If you cannot provide a clear and compelling one-sentence response, then you need to spend time developing one. A clear and compelling response is both inspirational and practical, such as, “We make sure that children don’t go hungry” or, “We ensure that our programs have funding today and for the future.” Continually tie the team’s work back to this purpose.

    • Define the expected outcomes for the work in your area and how you will measure success. Think about the people that you serve and why it is important to them. Share and discuss this with your staff and create a plan for how you will measure the impact of your work.

Make a Personal Connection

People need to feel safe and valued in order to make their best contribution in the workplace. As a leader, you set the tone and have a big impact on whether people feel connected.

    • Connect on a personal level. Notice what people care about and show genuine interest. Remember the names of family members and pets, important milestones, hobbies and favorite sports teams.

    • Spend time with team members to work toward and support their goals. Show that you care about their growth and development, beyond immediate assignments and responsibilities.

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