What To “Do” and “Not Do” When Managing Remotely

From Zoom “fatigue” to trying to onboard new employees from a distance, the challenges of leading offsite employees can feel vast and complicated. Just when you think you get one area figured out, another issue pops up and needs attention. We touched on a few common struggles in our previous article, but how do you start to address them? Ignoring the issues or telling yourself that “things will get better with time” can ultimately lead to higher employee turnover, especially in today’s tight labor market. A proactive approach and implementing improvements not only keep your organization moving forward, but also shows your remote team members that you’re engaged in their well being.

Let’s start with a few of the basics. We’ve outlined a few “dos and don’ts” below. Maybe you’re already using some of them or perhaps they’re a good reminder of where you need to improve:

  • DO set immediate and clear expectations. And make sure everyone knows what they are!
  • DO schedule regular team meetings and make them a priority (no regular cancellations, please).
  • DO engage directly with employees as often as possible.
  • DON’T just have a communication strategy in place. Document it and share it. Everyone needs to be on the same page.
  • DON’T just encourage feedback, make it possible. And listen to it!
  • DON’T micromanage and make employees feel like they’re not trusted.
  • DO have an open-door policy and set aside time for one-on-one conversations.

It’s easy to say “communicate more with your employees” or “set clear expectations”, but how do you get started when you’re already feeling overwhelmed? That’s where working with a coaching team like Leah M Joppy and Associates can help. Maybe you’ve established a routine that your team is comfortable with, but you’re struggling to improve your company culture. Or perhaps your regular team meetings are running like clockwork, but you’re having difficulty with one-on-one communication. We can help you figure out your primary challenges and work with you and your team to make remote working a less stressful and more productive experience for all!

Ready to get started for 2022? Call us at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com.


shifting prioritiesWhat a long, strange ride it has been in the last few years! If the last few years have taught us one major lesson, it’s that plans can get derailed and we must be willing to adapt. They’ve also given us an opportunity to assess our way of doing business within a new framework. For example, what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned this past year? What are some of the biggest challenges facing your organization over the next year and beyond? What are your strengths and weaknesses to meet those challenges?

You may have already developed a strategic plan for the year, but if we’ve learned anything, it’s that plans can change quickly. That’s why it’s important to consider the following when drafting a plan for the next year:

  • Embrace Reality: While we’re all ready for the pandemic to be over, we’re still going to be doing business differently for a while. You may want to keep some of the changes you made over the past year. Or based on what you’ve learned over the past several months, you may need to make additional plans based on existing conditions.
  • Be Adaptable: Organizations that were able to pivot quickly when the pandemic began experienced less impact than those who struggled through the process. Flexible processes and adaptable strategies are your best course of action if things worsen before they improve.
  • Make Your People A Top Priority: People are the core of your department and now, more than ever, you need to take care of them. This includes physical and mental health, as well as work-life balance. With so many people working from home, communication should be a priority. What’s worked well over the past several months? What areas could use improvement?
  • Plan For The Unusual: A long-term strategy that includes various scenarios helps you navigate challenges. For example, additional equipment and tools for remote workers, plans for employees who may be out due to the coronavirus and workers who need flexibility due to school closures are all issues to consider.

Planning in advance is one way effective leaders avoid the stress of falling behind, particularly during times of uncertainty. Leah M. Joppy and Associates has worked with numerous firms to draft annual plans that align and inspire teams to reach their goals for the coming year – and beyond. Then we help you put it all into action. For more information, contact us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com.

What Makes A Leader Effective?

There are so many differences between being a boss and being a leader. Bosses command, while leaders influence. Bosses discipline, but leaders act as a mentor. That’s just the beginning. Strong leadership matters and it’s the backbone to every successful department. Leaders are responsible for more than just delegating tasks and monitoring employees’ progress. To be effective in this role, true leaders must understand each staff member’s overall goals, strengths and weaknesses and then use this information to build a strong team.

Our last article looked at why leadership is important and what can happen when strong leadership is lacking. But have you ever stepped back and thought about all the components that comprise an effective leader? There are many lists out there outlining what it takes, but when it comes down to it, they all focus on these 6 core strengths:

  • Communication
  • Cultural Competence (the ability to work with people from other countries and cultures)
  • Flexibility
  • Vision
  • Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
  • Personal Skills (areas such as authenticity and trustworthiness)

When you look at the leadership style within your department, how would you rate the level of strength in these areas? It’s important to take a step back and look at leadership strengths and weaknesses. Frequent changes in focus and conflicting priorities can leave staff feeling stressed and anxious. That’s certainly not the environment you want. Working with a coach can help you identify areas that need improvement, develop skills that leaders can begin using immediately and learn techniques to develop a stronger, more cohesive team. The benefits are numerous: happier, more loyal employees, increased efficiency and greater productivity and reduced turnover. And who doesn’t want that?

We are having fantastic success with Gallup’s Strenthsfinder.  Teams are becoming stronger because members discover how and where to maximize their strengths to accomplish the organization’s mission. If you want to improve leadership skills within your department and cultivate new leaders who will inspire and motivate, Leah M. Joppy and Associates is ready to help. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com.

Leadership Continuity

When it comes to workplace satisfaction, employees continually rate “strong leadership” among one of the most important factors. However, according to the “Top Management and Performance Challenges Facing Multiple Federal Agencies” report released by the Council of the Inspectors General, providing leadership continuity is a key area of concern in the coming years. The report states that, “High turnover of leadership positions, a large number of vacant key leadership positions, and an abundance of executive and senior management employees eligible to retire in the next 5 years can affect Federal agencies’ ability to meet mission-critical objectives and statutory responsibilities.”

The FDIC is a stark example: 60% of FDIC executives and managers are eligible to retire within the next 5 years. That’s a lot of experience and knowledge that could potentially be leaving. And so many other agencies are facing an immediate crisis of leadership. The Treasure Department has cited immediate concerns over leadership positions in its Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence that have remained unfilled. These are just a few examples of why identifying and developing future leaders through effective and robust training programs is so important.

Why Is Strong Leadership Important? It’s such an important question, but when we get bogged down by the day to day of just trying to get everything done, it often goes unanswered. After all, if projects are being accomplished on time, that’s all that really matters, right? Leadership is more than just making sure employees are churning out work. Strong, effective leadership is needed to attract, inspire, and ultimately retain team members.

Leadership can come naturally for some, but it’s not necessarily innate. Like most roles, it takes development and training to bring out the best in current and future leaders. One of the most effective ways to implement leadership development is through coaching. Coaches can help individuals hone in on their distinct leadership style, learn how to best manage different personalities, deal with conflict and become more confident in their role. And that’s just the start.

Does your organization have a plan in place to develop your future leaders?  Leah M Joppy and Associates can work with you to cultivate strong, consistent leadership within your agency. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.

The Value in Training Employees

When the batteries die in your remote control, do you just throw it in the garbage and buy a new one? No, of course not! You replace the batteries, which enables you to save money and enjoy better and faster service from your remote. The same can be said for providing training for existing workers. It’s so much more cost efficient to consistently train the employees you already have than having to find new workers.

When it comes to training existing team members, many agencies come up with every excuse in the book not to move forward. And it’s one of the costliest mistakes they can make. Here are just some of the top reasons why so many agencies don’t take the time to train workers:

  • Training takes a lot of time
  • Training is expensive
  • Fear of ineffective training or lack of a standardized training program
  • Fear of workers leaving after they’ve received training

So many agencies are ignoring the real question: what is the cost of not training employees? It’s easy to see training as an expense and not as an investment. Failing to continually train workers leads to a host of issues, including increased security risks, decreased efficiency, more mistakes and a lack of motivation. Untrained and unhappy employees who feel like they’re not building their skills are more apt to become frustrated and may start looking for employment elsewhere. And we all know how costly turnover can be!

On the flipside, training and development programs include a host of benefits, including enhancing employee performance, boosting employee productivity and improving department culture. But getting started is the first (and most challenging!) step. Don’t let the old excuses hold you back. Leah M Joppy and Associates can work with you to create consistent training programs or improve the ones you may already have in place. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.

Providing Adequate Training

When was the last time you provided training to your existing team members? Some of you may be able to answer this question quickly – “oh, we did some training and development about six months ago.” But if you’re like most, you’re probably scratching your head trying to remember the last time any training took place. It’s a common issue. According to the “Top Management and Performance Challenges Facing Multiple Federal Agencies” report released by the Council of the Inspectors General, providing adequate training is a key area of concern.

Where are we seeing this? It seems to run rampant. The Department of State (DOS) reported that under qualified staff developed, “deficient performance work statements that led to multiple poorly designed projects and millions of dollars in wasted funds.” The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) stated that sensitive information was put at risk because they had failed to provide employee training programs. Those are just a few sobering examples. Quality training is such an integral workplace component. Here are just a few ways reasons why:

  • Addresses Employee Weaknesses: Training programs enable you to strengthen employees’ existing skills and address areas that need improvement. Efficiency and productivity are increased. Employees can work better independently and in teams without constant supervision.
  • Improves Employee Job Satisfaction: No one likes to feel confused and out of the loop when they’re at work. Consistent training builds skills, knowledge and confidence. It also makes employees feel like they’re valued and supported. If an agency is willing to make an investment in their workers, those workers are probably less likely to jump ship for another job.
  • Eliminates Wasted Money and Addresses Security Concerns: As mentioned earlier, a few agencies reported poorly designed projects due to a lack of proper training, as well as sensitive information put at risk. The Defense Intelligence Agency specifically noted that providing a standardized training program could help them in “identifying, assessing and mitigating counterintelligence risks to mission-critical acquisitions.”

Don’t make the mistake of forgetting about training or putting it on the backburner. Agencies must ensure that workers are continually kept up to date with policies, processes and procedures. A structured training program ensures that employees have consistent learning opportunities and a chance to build knowledge and skills. Leah M Joppy and Associates can work with you to look at your current training programs, what’s working and what isn’t and address and fix any weaknesses. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.

Hiring In Today’s Market Requires Innovative Strategies

When it comes to hiring highly specialized workers, are you facing challenges finding strong candidates for open positions? If so, you’re not alone. According to the “Top Management and Performance Challenges Facing Multiple Federal Agencies” report released by the Council of the Inspectors General, recruiting and retaining highly skilled staff is a key area of concern. Several agencies reported that they’ve faced difficulties finding and retaining people with the right skills, abilities and knowledge to fill vacant positions. One of the main reasons cited is competition from the private sector and the higher salaries they can often offer sought-after candidates.

It can certainly seem like highly skilled workers are in the driver’s seat these days. When it comes time for an interview, these candidates are interviewing YOU as well as you interviewing them. Just like you want to know about their experience and background, they want to know what it’s like to work for your department. Here are a few areas they may be interested in and you should be prepared to answer:

  • Potential for growth: Highly skilled candidates want to know why they should change jobs and how making a change is going to benefit them, particularly in relation to the growth of their career.
  • Department culture: Candidates want to know that they’re going to be a good fit for the overall culture of the department and their work team.
  • Flexibility: In a post-COVID world, workers are more interested in ever in areas such as ability to work from home, work/life balance and other employee perks.

However, be careful not to oversell! Yes, it’s important to outline the perks, but it’s also essential for candidates to have an understanding of the challenges that may come with the position. This allows the candidate to make a fully informed decision and cuts down on the likelihood of high turnover.

In today’s competitive hiring market, it’s essential that agencies develop innovative strategies and take advantage of available employee incentives to attract and retain the highest level of talent. Leah M Joppy and Associates can work with you on ways to “sell” your open job opportunities, as well as outline and communicate the benefits of working for your department. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.

Recruiting and Retaining Highly Skilled Staff

As the nation continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, recruiting and hiring is a top concern over the next year, according to research from the online HR resource site XpertHR. The inability to attract highly skilled staff in key areas of IT, healthcare, national security and intelligence can cause skill gaps and greatly affect Federal agencies’ ability to meet their mission.

What do employers look for in a candidate? The answers vary. Some will say experience, skill and education. Others will look more closely at personality and interpersonal skills. What it comes down to is that employers want a complete package: a candidate who knows how to communicate effectively, is skilled, intelligent and educated and has a pleasant personality on top of it all. Sometimes, it can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Hiring someone is the most costly decision a department will make. Choosing the wrong employee can affect morale, culture and a well-established team dynamic. It can also cost tens of thousands of dollars to find and rehire a replacement. Before you start searching for highly skilled candidates for hard to fill positions, it’s important to outline the skills, attributes and experience of your ideal candidate. Creating this “candidate persona” can help tailor your recruitment strategy. Here are some areas to keep in mind when coming up with an “ideal candidate”:

  • Soft Skills: What are the main personality traits needed for the position? (strong communication skills; self-motivated; ability to work in a team setting; flexibility)
  • Hard Skills: What are their primary attributes? (education; professional experience; professional certifications)
  • Motivation: What are their primary motivators when choosing a new position? (reputation of department; workplace culture; professional development; mission and values; career advancement)
  • Job Search Channels: How do they search for jobs and where? (social media; referrals; career pages)
  • Possible Objections: What would cause them not to want to work for your department? (company culture; reputation; salary/benefits; flexibility)

Are you experiencing challenges when recruiting for highly skilled positions? Many agencies are reporting that competition from the private sector makes it even more difficult to find and retain talent. Leah M Joppy and Associates can work with you to outline your hiring strategy, define your department’s culture and unique attributes and help you attract and retain the best talent to enhance your team. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.

The Challenges of Reentry

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, what did you think of when you heard the word “reentry”? Perhaps a space shuttle returning to the Earth’s atmosphere came to mind. These days, “reentry” means something different. It’s all about bringing workers back into the office in an effective and safe manner. After the challenges we’ve faced over the last year and the lifestyle changes that workers have become accustomed to (and many are enjoying!), the issue of getting employees back in the workplace can be complicated and stressful.

Last month, we looked at why many workers are hesitant to return to workplace life post-pandemic and we also outlined steps employees can take to ease their “reentry anxiety”. But what can employers do to ease workers’ fears and hesitations, particularly in a tight labor market? With some planning and patience, there are a number of ways employers can make the back-to-office transition easier on everyone. Here are several suggestions:

  • Ask workers what they want and need to feel safe and listen carefully to the answers.
  • Work with employees who want to explore a hybrid working model and continue working from home in some capacity.
  • Examine ways to support employees’ needs issues, such as safe commuting and childcare.
  • Encourage and support managers to look for signs that workers need more support or different options to feel safe and productive.
  • Set up an employee advisory board to keep an eye on how people are doing once they’re back in the office.
  • Modify physical workspaces as needed to create more space between employees. Also, look for ways to boost collaboration between in-office and virtual workers.
  • Redesign office common areas to create a healthy environment.
  • Amend workspace policies and procedures (ie – implement staggered arrival and departure times for employees to reduce congestion in elevators, enforce new cleaning protocols for the office, make sure hand sanitizers and soap dispensers are kept full and accessible)

While we keep talking about “getting back to normal”, the workplace as we know it will probably never be the same in a post-COVID world. Moving forward, it’s vital to invest in the health of your employees and the future health of your business. Leah M Joppy and Associates can help with ways to transition your team members back to the office and make the process smoother and less stressful for everyone. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.


Anxieties in a Post-Pandemic World

In a post-pandemic world, does the following situation sounds familiar? Let’s say you’re fully vaccinated and so is your closest friend. Your community has low COVID numbers. Your friend invites you to dinner at an outdoor restaurant. Although you haven’t seen her in person in over a year and should feel excited, you just feel anxious and stressed. Your mind starts down a path of “what ifs”. You decide to decline your friend’s invitation and instantly feel better staying in the protection of your own home.

If this situation hits a chord, you’re probably experiencing some COVID “reentry anxiety”, aka anxiety about returning to your typical daily activities post-pandemic. We just spent the last year living in fear of doing things that could put us or our loved ones at risk of getting COVID-19. The length of time we lived through these changes, combined with fear, means it won’t be easy to just pivot and go back to “business as usual”. Here are a few ways you might be experiencing reentry anxiety after COVID quarantine:

  • Being unable to enjoy yourself while you’re in public places because you’re focused on your fears.
  • Avoiding invitations to do things you used to enjoy with friends and family.
  • Feeling like socializing isn’t worth it when you feel so much anxiety when you go out.
  • Experiencing symptoms of anxiety and panic, such as nausea and sweating, feeling short of breath, jittery or lightheaded

There are a number of options to help with your feelings of anxiety, such as: maintaining a lower daily stress level through exercise and meditation; connecting with one or two people in a quieter, more remote location; or exposing yourself incrementally to your fears and advancing to the next level of exposure once you experience improvement. Most of all, be kind and patient with yourself (keep moving in baby steps!) and don’t be afraid to seek outside help if you feel like your anxiety is getting worse.

There are so many reasons why people are dealing with reentry anxiety and everyone is acclimating to a return to normal life and activities differently. It’s going to take some time to undo the feelings of fear we’ve been experiencing. If you’ve been reevaluating your priorities over the past year and would like to work with a coach that can help you move forward, Leah M Joppy and Associates is ready to help. Call us at 301-670-0051 or email leah@lmja.com to learn more.