01/04/2013 06:06 pm ET Updated Mar 06, 2013

New Year's Resolutions for Federal Leaders in 2013

It's that time of year when we all start thinking about our New Year's resolutions. You probably already have a few on your list, from getting fit to spending more time with family. As part of my 2013 resolutions, I plan to set some management goals, and I encourage you to do the same. Here are five professional goals to help you get the new year started off right:

  • Focus on what you can do. It's a tough time to be a federal manager given all the uncertainty around budget cuts. As a leader, you must confront the very real challenges facing your agency and make sure that you don't fall prey to thinking every problem affects your team or requires a solution. If you do, you and your team will feel overwhelmed quickly. Keep focused on solving the problems you can address, and when you hear folks taking a negative turn, redirect their conversations to emphasize what can be done.
  • Recognize your employees. In these times of growing anti-government sentiment, it's important to recognize the achievements and innovations of your top performers. Regularly let your employees know that they are appreciated for their performance and contributions to your agency's mission. Recognition doesn't have to be in the form of a cash reward, a simple "thank you" for a job well done in a hand-written note can go a long way.
  • Spend time every day thinking strategically about your team. In the new year, regularly examine the composition of your team -- considering each person's strengths and weaknesses, assessing whether you're supporting their continued growth effectively, and planning succession strategies if teammates leave. The best federal leaders put in the hard work 24/7/365 and engage their team in ongoing conversations about performance and professional development.
  • Communicate more. Key to federal leaders' effectiveness is how well they communicate with their employees. There are a few simple things that you can do to be more transparent with your team in 2013. Hold weekly team meetings, send out a weekly email update and schedule regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. Whatever you do, finding more ways of sharing information with your team will help improve their engagement.
  • Ask your team for help. Leaders too often feel they have to carry the burden of solving every problem their team encounters. Engage your team about their insights, thoughts and solutions. Involve them in a dialogue around a problem that needs to be solved. There's probably a great deal you can learn from your employees' expertise, and you never know where the conversation might lead.

What professional New Year's resolutions do you hope to pursue in 2013? Please share your resolutions -- or, if you're not yet a leader, your suggestions -- for improving federal leadership in the comment section below. You can also email me at

This post was originally featured on The Washington Post's website.