Communications Is Key: Five Lessons Learned About Supporting Federal Government Leaders During Uncertain Times

Criterion| Leadership

Communications Is Key: Five Lessons Learned About Supporting Federal Government Leaders During Uncertain Times


By Promod Sharma, CEO

Over the past few difficult months, I have spent hours on the phone with our Federal customer leaders as they have struggled to answer the challenges presented by the pandemic and the resulting shutdowns. The move to telework is perhaps the most obvious example. Even with video conferences, it is easy to lose the nuances of body language. I miss being able to walk into someone’s office to have a quick conversation. That being said, I am honestly not sure that telework produces very many other challenges. In fact, we have seen our productivity increase significantly! This has driven home to me the need to be truly open minded and flexible as we seek solutions to support the evolving needs of our Federal customers. We have found that clear, consistent communications is key to success in this rapidly evolving environment.

I wanted to share with you some of the lessons we have learned over the past few months in supporting Federal government leaders.

Lesson 1: Listen and Assess
More than ever before, we need to closely listen to Federal government leaders as they try to articulate their needs, while they themselves are uncertain as to needed outcomes. After listening, assess what you’ve heard and, based on your own knowledge of their department or agency, attempt to forecast the priorities. Identify what is critical and what can wait. Then, document everything in writing. Such a requirements document is crucial, given the asynchronous nature of much of our communications today. Finally, get agreement on the document.

Lesson 2: Support Decision Making
Our Federal government leaders must make many decisions with limited information. To most effectively support their decision-making needs, begin with identifying the lead person on the government side, and then link them with an individual on your company’s side to provide a consistent channel of communications. Make sure your company’s team lead is fully educated in how you are operating NOW and remains educated as the situation evolves. Always provide the maximum amount of detail possible to support the requirements identified in Lesson 1.

Lesson 3: Offer Innovative Solutions
One might think that sticking with the familiar is the best approach right now, but you’d be wrong. As a government contractor, we are, of course, always working towards contract requirements. Today’s circumstances, however, create an opening to be more innovative, to offer new products and services. Provide two to three options with the pros and cons of each clearly identified and recommend the one you feel would be the best solution. Then, adjust it according to what the customer wants.

Lesson 4: Empower your Employees
Empower your employees to engage and deliver what our Federal government leaders need. Your program managers know what needs to be done. Give them the support they need and keep communications channels open so they can bounce ideas and wrangle resources to keep up with their promise to support decision making (Lesson 2) and provide innovative solutions (Lesson 3).

Lesson 5: Look for Opportunities to Help
As we move through the coming months, look for opportunities to help Federal government leaders improve their programs or projects. Perhaps now is the time to launch that project you have been thinking about for applying artificial intelligence to data sets to come up with new and better services! Remember, you are not just working for your customers, you are supporting them in making decisions that will impact the American people.

Challenge and Opportunity
It doesn’t take a crystal ball to know that the next six months are going to be challenging for government contractors. However, every challenge brings with it an opportunity to innovate. By focusing on communications and providing a strong foundation of support via data-driven advice, contractors will prove their worth to their Federal customers while helping the country move forward.