Management Matters Management MattersManagement Matters
Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

Moments to Remember

ARCHIVES
When National Journal asked former staffers to Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to share memories of their iconic boss, they remembered exciting policy battles, big legislative victories and challenging political times. But their favorite recollections had little to do with the substance of their work. Instead, they relished small personal gestures of kindness and compassion.

What touched Kennedy's employees most? The senator's offer of help when a relative was diagnosed with cancer. His concern about junior staffers' ability to pay their rent during a government shutdown. The bottle of wine he sent to an aide and his parents at a Washington restaurant. The thank-you notes. The phone calls at tough times in staffers' lives. These things cost Kennedy little but some time and thought, and they are what people remember.

The same phenomenon often happens at federal workers' retirement parties. Good-bye ceremonies don't tend to dwell on the office issues that consumed civil servants' working hours. As they leave Uncle Sam's payroll, workers usually say what they'll miss the most is the people they worked with. They think of the times their bosses and co-workers helped them through personal difficulties. They remember the gratitude their managers showed them for a job well done. They recall funny jokes their co-workers greeted them with in the morning or kind words offered at the end of the day.

In Kennedy's case, it just so happens he attracted some of the hardest-working people on Capitol Hill to his office year after year. Many former aides cited his kindness as part of the reason they were so loyal and dedicated to him. He was so often there for them when it counted the most.

Being a leader does mean being there for your employees. But neither Kennedy nor any other good leader has done so to boost loyalty or productivity. Providing comfort to subordinates is a basic duty of leaders who choose to accept positions of responsibility in other people's lives. In times of personal crisis, people look to their leaders for assurance that things will turn out OK, they can take some time to deal with problems and at least their workplace remains a source of solid support.

Good leaders go one step further by acknowledging employees' humanity in the ordinary course of business. If workers put in late nights and weekends to help the office get through an onslaught of paperwork, a good leader will send notes thanking them -- and their families -- for sacrificing their personal time. Good leaders offer tokens of appreciation to their people, like that bottle of wine Kennedy sent to his aide.

Everyone who gets a paycheck -- from Uncle Sam or any employer -- is compensated to do a job. Every worker is there to work. Every manager is there to manage. But in the end, the work isn't the reason everyone is in each other's lives. The real reasons are found in the moments everyone remembers at the end of their careers. They're usually found not in a computer-generated office memorandum, but in a handwritten note.

Brian Friel covered management and human resources at Government Executive for six years and is now a National Journal staff correspondent.

 

Brian Friel is founder of One Nation Analytics, an independent research, analytics and consulting firm for the federal market.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.