This month has been meaningful and memorable for OCSE. For the first time in over ten years, we held an all-staff training conference. We brought central and regional office staff and managers together for two days of workshops on technology, policy, cost allocation, communication skills, leadership, and more. I chose to make this investment for the benefit of OCSE’s dedicated employees, as well as for our customers — the states and tribes we serve.
The resources required to offer a staff training conference are prohibitive for most state, tribal, county, and local governments, including OCSE. It will be a while before we do that again. We appreciate the child support professional associations, both national and local, that provide annual training and professional development opportunities around the country. And still, only a portion of child support professionals have the chance to attend.
Professional growth doesn’t always require formal training, and developing into a leader can be done at any level. The execution of excellence has been my challenge to OCSE since I became commissioner. I offer the same challenge to each of you. Traits of leadership are not reserved for those with titles of supervisor or manager. With supporting quotes from one of my favorite leadership experts, consider my advice for being a star right where you are.
“The first person I need to lead is me. The first person that I should try to change is me.” – John C. Maxwell
Embrace your role as a public servant. Remember that you are not ‘just’ your title, be it clerical, caseworker, administrative, or other staff. You are much more and are able to make an impact through the work you do. I challenge you to commit to doing your job to the best of your ability, every day, delivering to your agency and its customers a solid return on their investment in you. Think of yourself as an innovator — look for ways to improve the way things have always been done. Think creatively about solutions and always bring one when raising issues and concerns. Be prepared to offer suggestions and ideas when asked.
Take the time to ask questions, clarify expectations, and understand what is being asked of you. Meet deadlines, and deliver quality. Take initiative to exceed expectations. And take responsibility without excuses. Remain open and accepting of improvement feedback. Develop your passion and commitment into efficiency and expertise. Determine to continuously identify one new process improvement you can form in your own work habits.
If you don’t believe attitude is everything, you will limit your potential. Lead yourself by always keeping a positive attitude.
“Every person has a longing to be significant; to make a contribution; to be a part of something noble and purposeful.” – John C. Maxwell
Child support is a noble profession. I encourage you to know your agency’s vision and mission, and how your daily work contributes to achieving it. Drive your team’s success by knowing your job inside and out, being an expert, and helping others learn. Stretch and grow by offering to learn new responsibilities. Volunteer to take on tasks no one else wants. Develop a proactive approach and anticipate the next question, request, or action that you will need to address. Look for opportunities to be cooperative and collaborative.
Take a moment to thank or applaud teammates for their work — even the ordinary, daily tasks. Offer to help out when needed. Share the credit when you receive recognition. Cultivate a healthy workplace environment. Maintain professionalism in your words, actions, and even your appearance. Don’t disparage colleagues, supervisors, or your employer. Deal only in facts, and refrain from participating in office gossip. Treat everyone with dignity and respect. If disagreements occur, think before you speak. Listen and deal with the issue without demeaning the person.
Teams are strongest when every member feels they have something to contribute. Lead at your level by engaging with all teammates, inviting their input and ideas, and projecting enthusiasm about meeting challenges and reaching goals.
“If you are a leader, never forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it — young or old, successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous — is changed by it.” – John C. Maxwell
As a formal leader, in a supervisory or management role, encourage and empower your team members to lead from any role. When resources are limited, it may be the most you can give them. Elevating staff doesn’t take anything away from your authority. In fact, it improves their performance, their morale, and their respect for you as a leader.
Ask for new ideas and suggestions from those who are doing the work. Identify processes that can be improved with staff-led re-engineering. Implement cross-training, job shadowing, train the trainer, and other knowledge transfer approaches. Examine practices where a supervisory review could be replaced with quality assurance completed independently within the team. Cultivate creativity and self- confidence.
People respond with higher performance and enjoy greater job satisfaction when leaders support and inspire them to develop, to lead, and to succeed at their career.
The work you do every day is challenging. It can also be very rewarding. Commit to enhancing your service to families and increasing your value to the agency. See yourself as a leader in your current role, and endeavor to develop those traits. Remember, anything you devote to your personal or professional growth is an investment in your own future.