Home Case Studies Public & Government Sector Developing Leadership in U.S. Government: Financial Institutions During Times of Crisis

Developing Leadership in U.S. Government: Financial Institutions During Times of Crisis

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In this article the author describes how executive coaching supported leaders in
several U.S. government financial institutions from 2005 to the present.
Individual and organizational impacts on leadership are discussed during the
aftermath of 9/11 and the recent economic crisis, and approaches coaches used to
help leaders build resiliency in adapting to change.

The full article is available as a download below.

Here are a few excerpts:

Over the past two years the United States has faced an economic crisis of historic proportion not seen since the stock market collapse in 1929. Bank failures and bailouts have led to criticism and review of existing bank regulations, policies and regulatory structure. Combined, these forces create a stressful environment for people working in the financial oversight community, particularly those in leadership roles at the various regulatory agencies such as the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the Department of Treasury, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Federal Depositors Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Organizational performance, cohesion, and morale at all of these regulatory agencies often rely on the ability of leaders to manage stress, maintain their own health, sustain a psychologically healthy workplace for the people they supervise, and have a balanced family life outside of their job demands. Achieving this resiliency is an ongoing leadership challenge.

To help leaders develop resiliency and other leadership competencies, most of these organizations have used executive coaching programs over the past five years. The executive coaches help their clients with the leadership challenges of stress management, adaptability, agility, and flexibility in managing change. This article explores how independent executive coaches and those within the Department of Interior’s Federal Consulting Group work with financial institution executives during times of crises and help build their clients’ resiliency in adapting to change.

As noted in an earlier  article I wrote on the evolution of coaching in the federal government, coaches have successfully worked with their executive clients over the years to help strengthen and develop leadership capability (Salmon, 2008). Most of this work in government has unfortunately been poorly documented, due to fear and reluctance on the part of some agencies to expose themselves to political criticism. To even suggest that executives don’t have all the answers and may need to learn new skills as their job requirements and agency missions change is a common, but unfounded, perception of weakness. Human and leadership development professionals can cite research demonstrating that a failure of leaders to learn and grow is one of the factors leading to executive derailment (Hughes & Terrell, 2008).

In the last two years during the economic collapse of the U.S. economy and attendant bank failures, there has been increased scrutiny placed on government financial institutions, pressure for regulatory reform, and controversy over the role of bank regulators to ensure a stable economy. In this political climate of blame and criticism, especially over the past year, the normal reticence of government agencies to be open about their leadership development programs has grown. There appears to be a reluctance to disclose any information, no matter how benign or even laudatory, that could be used to question agency competency. This becomes very important when the role of agencies, as well as related discussions of mergers and restrictions on authority, is questioned. It is for this reason that I have chosen to protect the identity of agencies whose coaching programs I discuss in this article. Likewise, I have chosen to make the contributions of fellow coaches anonymous to protect them from possible reprisal, given the highly contentious environment that now exists in Congress.

In my research on how coaching has supported leaders in government financial institutions, coaches I have spoken with all agree that the issues and competencies we address in support of leaders are, in most cases, independent of agency. They include the real challenges of strengthening and developing managers’ emotional and social effectiveness skills necessary for clear communication and delegation, the courage to make tough decisions with limited information, and the ability to adapt to and help people manage rapid change. I will discuss one coaching program within a government financial institution that is illustrative of how coaching has supported leadership development efforts.

In 2005, the Federal Consulting Group launched a pilot coaching program with a government agency customer for their high-performing executives and managers. The program’s announcement stated:

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