Improve your leadership: work like a civil servant!

A wealth of initiatives, programs and projects are continuously engaged by most companies with the ambition of becoming more effective.

➡️ A key topic of focus is related to leadership and talent management.

➡️ Another area relates to resilience, and any method that can help companies face everchanging business environments with greater success.

Sources for this can be internal or external. They often start with assessing what the best-in-class, per given industry, does, and what third-parties can propose to deliver to dedicated programs.

➡️ It is, however, safe to state that seeking inspiration for improved performance and leadership behavior hardly leans towards government bodies such as ministries or towards civil servants as a reference.

👉 By not doing so, they miss valuable input and inspiration. I propose to fill in some gaps here.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to interview an expert working for a Ministry in the Netherlands, and collecting an array of (public) information related to initiatives that could very well inspire corporations.

The following is well-spread management practice within Dutch ministries. Let’s put the spotlight on two key topics:


The key drivers in this section show some of the steps taken to attract, develop and keep talent.

It starts with successful onboarding

First of all, new hires run through a strong onboarding program.

In addition to a structured onboarding program; formal feedback from these new hires, is expected after 30 days and 90 days of their presence in the company.

The purpose is to leverage fresh perspectives by asking newcomers to relate what went well, what went less well and to gather suggestions for improvement.

✅ Applying to a senior leadership position: prerequisites

Before entering a specific management function, the new hire must have worked in at least two different ministries before. This ensures a certain degree of maturity for the position.

✅ How long are you supposed to stay in the same management position? The “3-5-7 model”

Managers cannot stay more than 7 years in the same position; and the 3-5-7 model is structured as follows:

⏩0 to 3 years: grow within your role

⏩3 years deadline: think about your next plans

⏩5 years: actively search for another assignment

⏩7 years: you are gone.

On average, managers leave after 5 years.

As a result, this creates a great incentive to “leave the place in a better state than when you received it”.

Also, it limits any initiative designed to provide a longer-life expectancy in the position, which is beneficial for the manager in place, but not always for the team and the business.

✅ Proactive talent management

Everyone goes through 3 performance reflections per year:

⏩At the start of the year


⏩End of year evaluation.

As a new hire though, no performance review is given in the first 6 months, as this time is considered to be a “ramping up” period.

In addition, as a widely spread practice, Managers go through an annual 360-degree assessments feedback.


The items below demonstrate willingness to increase the sharpness of their teams as well as a broader ambition to increase employee satisfaction.

✅ Develop stronger management skills

It is mandatory for all managers who wish to apply later to more senior positions to attend an 18-month management training.

✅ A pool of internal project specialists

To address complex projects and manage complex programs, teams involve a pool of specialists dedicated to specific projects, which can span across several departments.

Their intervention is timebound and results-bound. Once the project has been successfully completed, evaluation is provided and the pool forms again for other needs and teams.

✅ Intensive use of thinktanks

A thinktank is a set of diverse creative thinkers gathered to discuss complex topics, with high impact, when full buy-in (internal or external) is mandatory.

Their mandate is to think out of the box and avoid the most obvious paths.

The gathering of people depends on the nature of the challenge and their objective is to bring structural improvements.

It is important to note that those constituting the think tank are partly made of external resources.

✅ Monthly intervention of an outside speaker

During a 90mn lunch, an outside speaker is invited to discuss topics that range from personal development to technical content, or societal challenges.

This brings a fresh, external perspective while feeding staff not only with a meal, but with continuous opportunities to extend their knowledge.

In conclusion,

it is wise for any company to figure out what the best-in-class, in your own industry, implements to perform better.

However, it can be even wiser to enlarge the scope far beyond your own industry, if not beyond your business model.

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