As a member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and founder of the ICF Metro DC Government Coaching Community of Practice, Stein enjoys helping professional coaches both inside and outside the government improve their skills. She also serves as a strategic thinking and leadership coach for students in the University of Tampa MBA program, a life coach for the University of South Florida's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and the training officer for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) in the state of Florida.
Government employees and coaches may email Sue using the subject line "Coaching."
As a former academics manager and leadership coach at the Department of Defense, Sue Stein has built her career around unlocking others' potential. She continues to practice as a coach for government leaders and employees in the areas of leadership, career, life transition, stress reduction, and retirement preparation.
How has government coaching changed over the years?
When I started working with the government in the 1980s, professional coaching was not as widespread as it is today. Government coaches were trained on techniques for debriefing leadership assessment tools. Later, the government focused on purchasing external coach training, which is how I was trained. Today, the government is growing its number of internal coaches with in-house training, but high demand causes it to supplement them with more experienced external coaches like me.
How do you feel coaching federal leaders differs from coaching leaders in the private sector?
First, most organizations have a core set of leadership competencies. At the government, these are the Office of Personnel Management's Executive Core Qualifications. A government coach needs to know the framework, assessments aligned to those areas, and how to coach someone based on their strengths, weaknesses, and leadership gaps.
Second, coaches must support government leaders in the context of our democratic society. OPM has an intensive training program for senior leaders called "Leading in a Democratic Society" that government coaches should understand.
Some of your work entails helping current federal coaches and other federal leaders prepare for retirement. What are some common challenges that they face?
Most of my clients are passionate about their country and their careers. They have sacrificed to serve. They hate to think about leaving. It's scary.
Some of their challenges are financial: Retiring feds must calculate when their retirement income will become sufficient to cover living expenses, and they need a backup plan. Others deal with self-fulfillment: They must relearn how to fill their time in a meaningful way and how to describe themselves to others. Finally, retiring workers need to ask whether they're healthy and what they can do to maintain their health.
What advice would you offer retiring government workers?
Prepare. As a trained retirement coach, I recommend completing a preretirement course or borrowing the materials from a colleague. Most agencies offer preretirement classes to employees who are older than 50 or self-identify as fewer than five years from retirement. People can inventory the considerations most important to their retirements, read current books on retirement, or participate in a Life Reimagined workshop. Many materials are available free or online.
People should also request a coach at work or hire their own through the national directory of certified retirement coaches.
What tips would you give new government employees?
Take notes in orientation, learn about government culture, and network with peers at all levels. Never promise more than you can deliver, but deliver more than you promise. Ask powerful questions to bring out the best in others. Recruit experienced employees as mentors. Request a coach as soon as your agency offers one. Use training to build technical expertise and soft skills.
Finally, don't let little things at work become the focus of your life. Enjoy your career in government, but the decades can go fast, so make sure you plan before you leave.