Preparing to Be a Supervisor? Get Away.

At this point in my career, I am contemplating what skills I need to best serve my program and prepare myself for a supervisory role in the future.  I knew that I needed to find an environment where I could connect with other professionals who had recently moved from non-supervisory to supervisory roles in the federal government, and to learn as much as possible about what I can cultivate that will help me do the same.  This year I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship by Young Government Leaders and their scholarship sponsor, GEICO, which supported my attendance at the 2018 NextGen Summit.

Since returning to my office I have taken action on many insights from NextGen presenters, but the two that have made the biggest difference in my work so far are: making time and calendar space for deep work and figuring out what my extroversion means for my communication style.

Making Time for Deep Work

In “Unlocking your Personal Productivity,” the presenters discussed the benefits of cultivating of deep work, or the ability to focus on a cognitively demanding task. They talked about carving out 90 minutes 2-3 times a week to dedicate to deep work without distractions, and strategies to communicating that to your team. Because improving customer service and the timeliness of responses to our constituents has been my key focus in overhauling my program, initially the idea of taking time away from my phone and email seemed too difficult. However, I’ve found that calling someone back within 2 hours still feels very prompt, and the work I’m getting done on larger, more taxing projects is more efficient.

Confronting my Extroversion

In “Managing Up,” the speaker gave actionable advice for managing relationships with different kinds of supervisors. It was crucial to think about how my personality impacts how I communicate with my colleagues. One of the main insights of her presentation is that introverted colleagues and extroverted colleagues often have different communication tendencies and preferences. It sounds like common sense, but like many extroverts, I had never stopped to think about the tendencies I saw as friendly might be draining for introverted colleagues. I also learned how to adapt with more introverted colleagues by scheduling meetings, communicating topics ahead of time, asking them their thoughts directly, using email or text more, and—my favorite—structuring my interactions with W.A.I.T. (“Why Am I Talking”). After the conference, I have started listening to her book Managing Up and heartily recommend it, not only for building a better relationship with your boss, but also thinking about how to help people manage up to you.

A conference like NextGen gave me the interagency perspective I needed to feel even more motivated to innovate, connect, and eliminate barriers to efficiency at my job. I walked away with a broader network of inspiring contacts, a headshot, and a lot of high fives. Take the time to get away and learn, and you might be surprised what you get out of it.

 Jamie Lee Marks is a federal program manager and former Presidential Management Fellow who hopes to become a supervisor.


Posted in Young Gov

Tags: Young Government Leaders



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