By Dan Gephart, December 18, 2018

When my son decided to move from South Florida (a place he’d lived his whole life) to the Northeast last winter, the wife and I bought him everything he would need for the ice, snow, and bitter temperatures that he was sure to face. That included two essential tools that he had never touched in his life — an ice scraper and a snow shovel.

A year later, it was the wife and I, and dog, who made our way back to the North. And it wasn’t long, thanks to the rare pre-Thanksgiving first snow, that we had our own taste of wintry weather. I was thrilled to witness the falling white fluff slowly accumulate on our South Jersey sidewalk. Why not? It was beautiful. And I was inside, warmed by the cup of hot coffee in my hand. But as the snow started to pile up, I came to a sudden and terrifying realization: I never bought a snow shovel for myself.

There was no way I was going to send my son into a situation without the proper tools. Yet, I failed to stock my own toolbox.

When we think of training, we tend to think of our staff, our charges, our teammates. When is the last time you thought about training for yourself? When’s the last time you filled your toolbox with the new strategies and knowledge that could make a difference at your agency? You may be a supervisor. You may be a manager. But are you a leader?

We have all had the unpleasant experience of working for a manager who was not fit to lead. If you haven’t, consider yourself blessed. “Unfit managers” climb the ladder due to skills that have nothing to do with leadership. Their poor leadership takes its toll on the workplace. I need not remind you that the majority of non-supervisory federal employees feel that their managers fail to deal with poor performers and fail to recognize positive performance in a meaningful way. That’s what the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey tells us every year.

A leader will improve employee engagement, boost morale, and help an agency meet its mission. A leader will find a way to keep his or her best employees. And a leader will act swiftly to rid its agency of poor-performing and misbehaving workers.

My soon-to-be-retired friend Bill Wiley often tells federal managers: You are doing important work. I agree. And there’s absolutely no reason to not show up at your job with every single possible tool at your disposal.

Am I a little biased here? Absolutely. After all, my job title is Training Director. But I will also tell you with no hesitation and with utmost confidence that you’re not going to find better federal employment law training than what you will get from my talented colleagues here at the FELTG. The new year is always a great time to take stock of your personal goals. It’s one of the times when we all are more likely to consider what we need to do for self-improvement. Think of how important training is in your development as a leader and to your agency’s mission.

Back to that snowy day a few weeks ago. I went down to the basement and looked for the closest thing to a snow shovel. What I found was great for digging holes in the backyard, but not necessarily for shoveling snow, particularly when it’s grown past three inches and transformed into a hard icy mix.

I tackled the job as best I could. It didn’t look pretty. It didn’t sound pretty (unless you love the sound of metal scraping against cement). And it left me with a sore back. But I survived. Without the right management tools, you may survive, but it definitely won’t be pretty for your agency or your team. Gephart@FELTG.com

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