We exist in a unique industry and a bit of a “bubble” in many respects. Managing a workforce, with employees going to work in different states and for different customers, while maintaining a corporate identity and culture, creates many challenges. Various issues arise such as: customers are wed to employees; employees go “native”; influences of some counter-cultures creep into the organization; expectations to keep employees in the same position year after year while simultaneously delivering innovation and decreasing costs. This just scratches the surface of the conflicting priorities that we as leaders must navigate daily. So how do you differentiate your organization and create a real career track for your employees? It boils down to three essential elements to success: Purpose, Courage in Communication, and Simply Doing the Right Thing!
The gap in technology and business expectations between the public and private sectors is quickly closing. One of the best and most recent examples of this is the GovCon gasp over the Amazon announcement. Many companies know that they are mildly differentiated at best – so the threat of a large well-known “cool” commercial organization is scary. We need to catch up and run organizations that people want to be part of and stay with, and this starts with purpose. What is your purpose? Why do you and your organization exist? Why would people follow you and what are you poised to accomplish? What do you stand for? Generic phrases and winning contracts are not enough. Be something real!
Courage in Communication
There are a lot of different challenges, conflicting priorities, and uniqueness to GovCon and we are living through a shift. Have real discussions and transparency with your management team, customers, and employees. And, I’m not talking macro-view BS. Take the subjects head-on that effect people and the mission. Have the courage to take on the uncomfortable conversations and the tact to work through them calmly and to a mutually agreeable end. Make sure everyone around you feels safe to voice their real opinions. Show your own vulnerability to help others in expressing what impacts them. Oftentimes that means not everyone is 100% happy but everyone gets a little and gives a little – state that and address the trades. Be a real partner to your customers and genuine leader to your organization.
Do the Right Thing
Maybe I’m just optimistic about what people really know when they look in the mirror, but I truly believe we all know the right thing to do. Doing it is the hard part. Many of us might legitimize our way to a path of least resistance or avoid conflict if possible. That’s how we are wired. Be aware of it. You know the right thing to do in tough situations. Have the awareness and courage to do them. And, in referring back to communication, help others understand why. The respect and fidelity you will garner will take you far.