Leadership in government: steps to improve performance

Many government leaders need to ‘hack’ their approach to leadership to accomplish more in less time.

In government, now more than ever, the pressure is on to get more things done in less time. Gone are the days when a leader or manager had time to contemplate a range of scenarios or send tasks off to numerous departments and allow them lengthy time to provide a response.

It’s difficult to keep up with the speed at which information and decisions are moving in our technology-driven world, which creates new challenges for government leaders when trying to execute strategic plans. This has intensified the leadership dilemma of having too much to do in too little time — with many leaders feeling overwhelmed as they look for new ways of working.

A faster approach

A leadership “hack” is anything that helps you (or your people) accomplish more in less time. This can include:

  • shortcuts
  • simplified steps to make a task easier to do
  • fast-track processes that speed things up

To accomplish more government leaders need to hack their current approach with new ways of thinking and influencing that will enable them to do more with less.

Boosting performance

One individual hack that government leaders can improve is the amount of time spent on technology and email. A common pattern for many is to constantly check and recheck their inbox, which fragments focus and can interfere with decision making.  Resist this temptation.

Take the time to turn off notifications and if you need to focus on completing a task, put the mobile phone in the drawer until you’re finished.

Increase the speed of going through your inbox by using these steps:

  1. Quickly scan through your inbox to get an understanding of the emails
  2. Delete those that are not necessary
  3. Sort the remaining emails by importance
  4. Respond accordingly.

This can allow you to clear your inbox in less time and help you stay focused.

One-on-one steps

Many government leaders and managers hold onto tasks that, if they’re honest with themselves, they should delegate.

Many don’t delegate because they do not want to take that time or don’t trust the abilities of their subordinate.

A Harvard Business Review article, Why aren’t you delegating? found that almost 50 per cent of companies were concerned about the delegation abilities of their staff but most did not offer any training in this area.

A delegation hack could change this dynamic into one that empowers an individual and frees up time for the leader.

Invest 10 to 15 minutes to work with the individual to create a one-page plan. Rather than tell them what you want them to do, start by asking what they think the steps should be, and guide them. Capture what they share on an iPad or piece of paper to ensure understanding. Once the steps are identified, ask them what order should be taken in executing the steps and mentor them toward the most efficient method. To finalise the delegation hack, schedule a couple of check-ins where they will update you and show their progress.

Team hacks can boost performance

Another crucial area that needs to be hacked: team meetings.

Who hasn’t been to a meeting that was a waste of time? Add up all of these meetings, including the time and lost productivity, and this becomes a big opportunity.

Often the problem with team meetings is that their purpose gets lost. Ask staff about their next team meeting and they will often complain about the amount of time taken, people talking in circles or not being clear on the purpose or expected outcome.

There are four types of team meetings: reporting, problem solving, decision-making and strategy-development. When the wrong format is used, attendees switch off, frustration levels increase and the desired outcomes take longer. By selecting the right meeting for the right situation you increase the effectiveness of everyone involved and eliminate wasted time. A leader can maximise valuable time by ensuring that staff holding team meetings know which format to use and the most efficient processes that can be taken to reach the outcomes required.

By implementing a number of leadership hacks, government leaders can fast-track their performance as well as their peoples to accomplish more in less time.

Scott Stein is a leadership expert who works with government and is author of Leadership Hacks: Clever shortcuts to boost your impact and results.

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