Snapshot of the Next Level Director

Senior Executives in a variety of federal departments are making significant changes in response to new demands for their businesses and services. They are aware of the gap that exists between their current and future state, and recognize that their success will be defined by both the achievement of their goals, and by the effectiveness of the journey. In order to be successful, their leaders must possess certain strengths to deliver on both accounts.

Metaphorically speaking, their leaders must be striving to perfect their golf swing.

We’ve observed that the leaders most relied upon for moving an organization from its current to future state are Directors. They are the backbone of their organization, and as such, they are the individuals most heavily tasked with the conversion of the ‘what’ into the ‘how’.

Yet surprisingly, this level can be one of the least defined and non-standardized within any organization. In many cases, Directors are left to determine their own role and develop their own tools to meet their own needs. Each Director’s approach may be different, and there have been few attempts to standardize them.  In other words, their golf swing is often ad-hoc and imperfect. When perfecting a golf swing, how do you get a number of key techniques and attributes working in harmony?

Let’s define some standard characteristics that Directors who are seeking to take their teams to next level performances should possess. Perhaps the answers are all hanging in the balance.

1. The ability to describe a vision and sell the dream.

They should recognize the importance of a high level vision and act as champions for its attainment.  They should respect the time and commitment required to achieve next level performances and not dilute or minimize the effort required. They should strive to find that balance between acting with urgency and respecting the inevitable complexity of all things.

2. The ability to prioritize their many priorities.

They should require on-going strategic alignment with their boss. They should ask lots of questions about priorities and focus their energy on delivering strategically focused outputs. They should strive to find that balance between supporting the overall work of their team while challenging (or eliminating) the aspects that are less strategically aligned.

3. The ability to leverage their chain of command.

They should build a strong functional management team that places appropriate accountability in the hands of the managers. They should be a masterful delegator who shares the departmental workload across their entire team. They should strive to find that balance between respecting individual subject matter expertise while still holding team members accountable for the greater team’s performance.

4. The ability to effectively collaborate with all levels of the organization.

They should plan their communications and determine the most effective means of collaborating and sharing information. They should ask lots of questions and continually seek to engage others in forward thinking discussions. They should strive for the balance achieved when a leader is working for a Senior Management Team, and also for those people who report to them.

5. The ability to hold people accountable in a positive and constructive manner.

They should see accountability as a means of building their team. They should communicate positively about expectations and deliverables. They should provide constructive feedback in an open and transparent manner.  They should strive to find that balance between engaging people in the process while still challenging them to achieve outstanding results. 

6. The ability to embrace structure and standardized management tools.

They should seek to achieve next levels of performance through consistency in their commitment and actions. This consistency should require discipline and compliance to both a structure and its standardized management tools.  They should strive to find that balance between embracing standardization while still respecting the human factor in all that we are and all that we do.

The Next Level Director should strive to possess these standard characteristics. They should embrace the challenges associated with their role and recognize that finding that perfect balance is a key ingredient to perfecting their golf swing.

By doing so, they would increase the contribution of every member of their team and successfully lead their organization to achieve any future challenges that will inevitably arise during the next major golf event.


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