We at CMF know that managing a congressional office is challenging. Senior managers in Congress have a lot to do in a short amount of time with a large staff to oversee. But CMF research and experience suggests that enhancing management skills is possible, IF the manager makes a commitment to improvement.
On May 7, CMF held a training on “Assessing and Improving Your Management Skills,” for House senior managers of 1st and 2nd term offices. CMF President and CEO, Bradford Fitch, coached new Chiefs of Staff and Legislative Directors on improving their management by assessing their thinking, administrative, leadership, and communication skills. Using an interactive rating tool, participants were able to rate their personal management skills on a scale of 1-5.
The following tips were conveyed to congressional managers during our session and might be helpful to your congressional office:
- Ensure Staff Accountability. Congressional staff must be able to hold their managers accountable on issues that relate to their office. This means it is important to have a clear plan on how to follow up with staffers after an assignment is designated, as well as an effective method for staff members to discuss completed or in progress tasks back to their Chief of Staff or Legislative Director.
- Conduct After Action Reviews. After Action Reviews (AARs) are a great, formal way for a congressional staff to come together as a group after a major event, and ask themselves what happened, what went well, what didn’t go well, and how things can be improved in the future. AARs allow staffers to address areas of improvement and assess how to prevent problems in the future.
- Practice Sound Judgment. One of the biggest challenges of running a congressional office is making good judgment calls. An effective Chief of Staff or Legislative Director is able to make tough, final decisions with the office’s best interest in mind. This means making good hires, appropriate promotions, and at times making important (and unfortunate) firing decisions.
If you're interested in learning more about this program, or conducting your own self-assessment of your management skills, please contact us for the slides and handouts.