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Building Performance Culture

Implementing FCAT-M Performance Management Competencies:
Building Performance Culture

Competency... "An underlying characteristic of an employee (i.e., a trait, skill, ability, or a body of knowledge) which results in effective and/or superior performance" (Boyatzis, 1982)

The Federal Competency Assessment Tool - Management (FCAT- M) assesses whether, and to what degree, supervisors have specific competencies. One of these competencies is Building Performance Culture. As part of our Federal civilian workforce, managers are held accountable for accomplishing work-unit goals and objectives and effectively contributing to the agency's mission. Today's Federal manager must possess the skills and competencies necessary to create a work environment that fosters and rewards teamwork, promotes diversity, encourages employees to share knowledge and resources, and promotes results-focused accomplishments. In a performance-focused organization, the manager also deals effectively with poor performers and rewards high-performing employees. For a manager to facilitate such a work environment and workforce, he/she must possess these highly specialized skills and abilities -

  • Team Builder and Coach - A cohesive team produces more. An effective manager understands the importance of building a strong, effective and productive team. To accomplish this, a manager should treat all employees equally and fairly, be an articulate communicator and actively listen and encourage employees to share their concerns and suggestions for improving processes and procedures. Whenever possible, utilize those suggestions to improve productivity. A manager should take steps to correct and handle poor-performers, as well as timely recognize and reward employees who perform well and are constructive contributors. An effective manager is a team builder who coaches, counsels, and develops employees to improve their capacity to perform and assume greater responsibilities. A manager actively plans for the future of the team, identifies its staffing needs and actively participates in succession planning. Finally, a manager recognizes the importance of diversity in a highly productive team. Employees with diverse backgrounds, cultures, experiences, talents, and education can help make a team more cohesive and productive. A manager who is an effective team builder and coach can successfully cultivate his employees into a highly productive team in order to reach achievable goals and objectives.
  • Communicator and Negotiator - It is the manager's responsibility to effectively communicate to employees how their work directly impacts the agency's mission. This means setting work unit goals and objectives and explaining how they link to the agency's strategic plan. The manager should also communicate to his employees whether or not they are meeting those goals and objectives and provide his employees with continuous feedback on how well they are performing. To be effective, the manager must respond quickly to slippage in employee performance and explain what is expected in order for the employee to meet the fully successful level of performance. A good manager must mentor, coach, and supervise employees in such a way as to aid them in their efforts to get their performance back on track. As a negotiator, the manager must be able to work cooperatively with other work units, organizations, customers, stakeholders, and agencies to accomplish agency goals and objectives and to be flexible enough to effectively handle and resolve any problems that may arise.
  • Goal Setter and Results-Focused - Today's manager is held accountable for the outcomes and results of the work unit. To this end, the manager should set achievable goals within reasonable deadlines. The manager should review the agency or work unit's annual work plan and understand how the efforts and products of the work unit fit in with agency goals and objectives. Managers who are skilled goal setters plan out what steps are necessary in order to achieve specific goals. This work plan becomes a blueprint of how the goals will be achieved, which employees are involved, what the deadlines are, and what financial or material resources are necessary. They break the goals up into achievable milestones, and inform their employees when they have achieved or surpassed each milestone. Additionally, managers write their employee's individual performance plans so they are results-focused. A results-focused performance plan describes the expected outcome in terms of measurable results. Measures using quality, quantity, timeliness, cost-effectiveness, or observable products or outcomes are used to describe the desired results. Employees who clearly understand what outcomes or results they are expected to achieve can effectively and efficiently meet the objectives and goals of the work unit.
  • Strategist and Change-Agent - As the agency evolves and redefines itself to meet the changing needs of the country and new initiatives, the manager must become a champion of any of those new agency goals and objectives. As a champion and change agent, the manager must fully understand the new objectives and how his/her work unit's performance will impact on meeting those objectives and goals. The manager must be able to effectively communicate to his/her employees what the changes mean in terms of meeting or changing the work unit's efforts to meet the new objectives.

As the agency changes, adjusts or redefines its goals and objectives, the manager must be flexible to be able to affect those changes. Whether it is working to meet organizational objectives or adjusting to workforce changes, managers must continuously analyze and scrutinize their material and human capital resources and make appropriate use of them. This requires the manager to be flexible in his thinking, able to plan for the future and able to make necessary adjustments to handle workload crises as they arise. An effective manager has contingency plans in place and his/her employees are cross-trained so they can assume another employee's responsibilities, when needed. A good manager makes the best use of his/her resources.

Simply put, the skills and abilities a manager needs to possess in order to become an effective manager who can build and sustain a highly-productive performance culture include, but are not limited to, strong oral and written communication skills; negotiation and conflict resolution skills; the ability to inspire, motivate, encourage, and effectively challenge employees; and the ability to be flexible and open to new ideas and processes.

This ability to build a performance-focused work environment or culture where employees are held accountable is a complex skill often acquired through training and experience from a number of managerial and academic platforms, such as:

  • Course work at an academic facility, government-sponsored training facility, or other contactor operated facility
  • Detail assignments at another agency or within the current agency
  • Participation on working groups and committees
  • Assumption of additional duties and or responsibilities

This list is not intended to be an all encompassing list - merely a starting point. Managers should seek the opportunity to develop, enhance, and acquire additional skills whenever possible. The Federal workforce is charged with the responsibility to be effective, efficient, productive, and accountable to its citizen stakeholders. By possessing the necessary skills to build a work environment that promotes a performance-focused culture, Federal managers can ensure their work units are a productive, effective, and efficient part of the civilian workforce.

Implementing FCAT-M Performance Management Competencies:

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