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CFIA leadership competency dictionary
Agency-wide EX competencies

Strategic thinking

Identifies the range of industry, government, policy, market, business and/or scientific opportunities, trends and issues likely to impact CFIA's ability to fulfill its role. Understands CFIA, industry and government context of food safety, animal health or plant protection and envisions possibilities of how these could impact how the Agency delivers on its mandate: develops a vision for CFIA and connects people to it. Translates CFIA's strategies into concrete actions that can be effectively executed. Identifies priorities for the organization, develops necessary business plans, and aligns daily work with long-range visions and directions of CFIA.

Illustrative behavioural indicators:

Level EX 4 and above - Shapes and embeds CFIA's strategy into the broader government context

  • Keeps current with trends and issues affecting the Agency, partner organizations and the government and contributes to adapting CFIA strategy accordingly.
  • Promotes an organizational-wide perspective to strategic planning and program implementation.
  • Leverages a government wide system's view to plan for and address complex food safety, animal health or plant protection issues and programs.
  • Fosters proactive thinking across the Agency, with partner organizations and other governments to address anticipated strategic scientific, policy, investigation, compliance, enforcement and or program issues that cut across multiple organizations, agencies and partner organizations and establishments.
  • Contributes to rethinking the Agency's mandate and the vision in light of current and emerging national and international political, food safety, animal health or plant protection, scientific and or policy realities.
  • Identifies government and key stakeholder's critical issues and assumptions about the future and ensures to consider these when developing organizational strategies.
  • Identifies, analyses, and interprets complex, emerging governance, regulatory, corporate, policy and or food safety, animal health or plant protection and policy issues and provides direction on how CFIA will address such issues over the long run.

Level EX 3 - Implements CFIA's long term direction and strategy

  • Implements Agency-wide priorities and programs through a deep understanding of Agency long term operational plans and priorities.
  • Conducts effective environmental scans (e.g., organizational readiness, external factors, food safety, animal health or plant protection trends, etc.) that inform potential problems with Agency long term direction or strategy.
  • Uses advanced cost-benefit thinking when implementing strategic priorities.
  • Establishes cross-functional plans and goals that positively impact the execution of CFIA's strategy.
  • Understands program interdependencies and the need to integrate activities across functions/areas related to operational planning, policy or program implementation and evaluation.
  • Recognizes opportunities and risks associated with emerging scientific, policy, inspection, and investigation and compliance issues.
  • Identifies strategic opportunities for enhancing the success of CFIA.

Level EX 2 - Anticipates emerging Agency needs and provides clear directions for executing CFIA's mandate

  • Broadens others' planning horizons by engaging them to think beyond Agency's current research, science, enforcement, compliance and investigation practices, and about their impact on current operations.
  • Applies or creates new models or frameworks that explain, inform, or give context / meaning to business, market, operational, scientific, policy problems, events, decisions or situations.
  • Understands what future factors (e.g., technological and scientific breakthroughs, government policy, demographics, and industry trends) could affect CFIA's operational priorities and programs.
  • Translates CFIA program objectives, mandate, vision and food safety, animal health or plant protection policy into concrete direction and plans that span multiple years.
  • Seeks out broad perspectives in order to find innovative solutions.
  • Develops detailed business plans that support the Agency priorities.
  • Provides input to the general long term directions and strategy of the Agency

Level EX 1 - Establishes short to medium term priorities for unit

  • Develops operational and policy objectives that are effective and valid for the short to medium-term.
  • Adapts plans and strategies to reflect changes in unit's operations, policies, business context, etc. as required.
  • Effectively evaluates the risks and benefits of different courses of action on operations over the medium term and acts on them.
  • Translates branch strategy into simple, meaningful explanations that others can grasp and implement in their quarterly and yearly plans.
  • Integrates branch needs into a short to medium term business plan that articulates and executes the strategies.
  • Identifies interdependencies in cross-functional projects and sets priorities that ensure coherent implementation of plans.

Level EX minus 1 - Identifies and corrects misalignment and gaps and targets actions to current organizational strategies

  • Actively monitors team's activities, plans and work progress and results to date to ascertain congruence with business plans and CFIA's strategic imperatives.
  • Realigns short term work activities and processes with changes in the Agency.
  • Links current programs to longer-term perspectives and business plans.
  • Tracks changing division and or Branch priorities, analyzes impact on unit work plans and adapt work plans.
  • Coordinates information from multiple projects to form a comprehensive perspective.

Level EX minus 2 - Considers Agency needs when setting own and team priorities

  • Understands the Agency's strategic goals and reviews own and work unit's actions against these goals when planning work activities.
  • Understands how changes in the immediate environment may impact unit's operations.
  • Develops project work plans with a thorough understanding of the functional area.
  • Links information across individual work to form a comprehensive perspective and cohesive work plans.
  • Tracks changing unit priorities and analyzes impact on staff activities.
  • Translates unit direction into concrete project activities.
  • Redesigns staff work activities to meet changing project needs.


Makes sound, courageous and timely decisions that consider available evidence, weighs information based on relevancy, and accurately identifies the consequences of decisions or actions against desired outcome based on available information. Knows what results are important and focuses efforts and/or resources to achieve them, in alignment with the objectives of the organization. Delivers on commitments through actions and decisions that reflect personal accountability, confidence and business acumen.

Illustrative behavioural indicators:

Level EX 4 and above - Makes innovative strategic decisions that redefine Agency goals

  • Makes and implements strategic decisions based on principles, values and sound scientific, policy and operational arguments.
  • Takes educated risks by being innovative and creative when making decisions.
  • Easily makes strategic decisions which can have significant consequences for the organization, consistent with CFIA values and that withstand public scrutiny.
  • Encourages, supports and defends subordinates and others in making operational, program, scientific or policy decisions during crisis despite ambiguity or potential risks.
  • Develops new policy and/or programs that redefine Agency directions that focus on enhancing CFIA-wide outcomes.
  • Creates, aligns, and integrates Agency structures, systems, programs and teams to better achieve objectives and inform decision.

Level EX 3 - Makes decisions to maximize Agency success despite uncertainty

  • Commits significant resources in the face of uncertainty to reach challenging work objectives while minimizing the risks associated to health of Canadians.
  • Creates a work environment that stimulates and motivates people to propose and implement broad reaching initiatives that enhance how CFIA operates.
  • Develops new policy and/or redefines program directions despite adversity.
  • Champions initiatives with significant potential paybacks, and possible adverse consequences, based on an assessment of the risks and benefits, overall business impact, and alignment with CFIA strategy objectives.
  • Promotes a mindset of focusing on high performance and achievement of results across the function.

Level EX 2 - Makes sound decisions despite conflicting priorities

  • Makes and implements bold and courageous yet sound decisions with confidence where required information is incomplete, contradictory and/or ambiguous.
  • Consistently realigns, reassesses and strategizes on ways to manage and resource complex projects that cut across multiple Agency functions, programs or operational areas.
  • Identifies and addresses opportunities, challenges, risks and roadblocks in multifaceted projects or programs, so that Agency objectives can be accomplished.
  • Proactively seeks and implements efficiencies in Agency operations, programs or services.
  • Focuses employees, stakeholders and partners on continuous improvement, efficiency and value for money.
  • Effectively manages and aligns resources under shifting priorities to meet expected results within time, budget and quality standards.
  • Initiates and manages a broad range of cross-divisional projects in order to achieve desired results.

Level EX 1 - Makes decisions in risky situations, under pressure or in a crisis

  • Makes difficult, time-sensitive decisions even when only limited information is available.
  • Makes the right call: stays true and is not influenced by undue interferences or threats.
  • Acknowledges personal responsibility for outcomes of decisions made during crisis.
  • Acts promptly and with confidence when a situation requires a quick decision.
  • Keeps composure during difficult times, in an emergency or under pressure; and acts decisively to resolves business issues.
  • Promptly decides what activities and projects need to be done even though they may not be easy or have popular support.
  • Selects an appropriate response by seeing beyond the obvious and superficial through steadied observation rather than emotion.
  • Anticipates delays and potential problems, plans for contingencies when scheduling work and adjusts time frames accordingly.
  • Shows a significant level of effort to achieve objectives and maintains commitment even in the face of adversity.
  • Sets priorities and makes timely decisions that address risks to the organization.

Level EX minus 1 - Improves decision making in own area by infusing discipline and rigour

  • Uses cost-benefit analytics to ensure that the costs of business undertakings are quantified, monitored and controlled.
  • Follows through on the unit's decisions and actions from planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating to reporting.
  • Acts and implements sound decisions despites differing stakeholder perspectives.
  • Knows when to stop collecting data when sufficient information is obtained.
  • Accepts ownership and responsibility, takes accountability for own and unit's performance, and regularly conducts reviews or audits to find improvements.
  • Coaches others on how to weigh appropriately available information when choosing the best protocol.
  • Seeks feedback from stakeholders to improve decision making and makes adjustments to activities and/or processes.

Level EX minus 2 - Shows resolve and takes responsibility for team decisions

  • Promptly and efficiently leads others in making key decisions, accomplishing work assignments and duties.
  • Can be counted on and assumes responsibility for his or her team's decisions, actions and results.
  • Holds self and others accountable for decisions, actions and commitments.
  • Uses sound judgement in making decisions: is comfortable making "leaps of faith" when experience and data point to in logical direction.
  • Works tenaciously to attain objectives established in team's or own work plan.
  • Honours commitments made by him or herself or his or her unit to others; follows through on commitments and reports on progress diligently.
  • Meets established standards to deliver timely, consistent and quality results.

Stakeholder relationship building

Develops relationships with stakeholders by encouraging open discussion and regular exchange and sharing of ideas even when it is difficult to do so, or with individuals vying for same resources or with diverging agendas. Builds mutually beneficial relationships with traditional and non-traditional partners and stakeholders.

Illustrative behavioural indicators:

Level EX 4 and above - Develops strategic, senior-level relationships and networks with external stakeholders in support of government goals

  • Creates alliances with competing stakeholders within and outside CFIA to help promote mutually beneficial opportunities.
  • Develops high level strategic networks of senior individuals to help support Agency goals.
  • Seeks new strategic alliances by openly sharing information and offering help to other departments' ADMs, VPs and or DMs.
  • Coaches others on how to identify and develop impactful relationships with high ranking external stakeholders.
  • Provides strategic advice on the value and types of partnership arrangements that CFIA should be pursuing.
  • Mines information on food safety, animal health or plant protection trends and opportunities to inform the broader mandate and promotes CFIA as a collaborative agency.

Level EX 3 - Develops new networks with external stakeholders in support of Agency goals

  • Develops a rich/vast network of senior individuals that directly enhance CFIA's corporate reputation and visibility.
  • Seeks new alliances by openly sharing information and offering help to others.
  • Provides direction to others on how to develop relationships with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Creates alliances with competing stakeholders within and outside CFIA to help promote mutually beneficial opportunities.
  • Mines information on food safety, animal health or plant protection trends and opportunities to inform the broader mandate and promotes CFIA as a collaborative agency.

Level EX 2 - Cultivates a broad range of key contacts

  • Broadens number of internal and external contacts with stakeholders through traditional and new approaches, such as social media, associations, industry committees, etc.
  • Enthusiastically takes on accountability/participation for government horizontal initiatives.
  • Develops and uses network to obtain business intelligence.
  • Reaches out to partners outside CFIA to better position the Agency and creates new opportunities and networks.

Level EX 1 - Initiates new working relationships

  • Seeks new relationships outside own unit and identifies new partnerships that better position CFIA's programs and activities.
  • Identifies and creates opportunities to meet new individuals through networking, participating in cross-functional, multi-stakeholder groups, etc.
  • Identifies opportunities to make new relationships with CFIA and or government organizations.
  • Encourages the development of trust with stakeholders by promoting open, constructive discussions.

Level EX minus 1 - Maintains existing working relationships

  • Keeps contacts active by sharing information and communicating frequently and openly with stakeholders.
  • Actively maintains relationships to perform more effectively in regular duties.
  • Actively collaborates with stakeholders in professional and/or scientific or like associations.
  • Strives for outcomes that benefit all parties whenever possible.
  • Actively seeks the input of others and values different perspectives.
  • In the spirit of cooperation, shares resources and information readily and whenever possible.

Level EX minus 2 - Works cooperatively with others

  • Builds effective, collaborative work relationships through positive communications and outreach.
  • Role models for team members working collaboratively and none defensively with others.
  • Maintains relationships to perform more effectively in regular duties.
  • Deals proactively with interpersonal or personal matters that could affect performance.
  • Demonstrates an understanding of partners' roles and responsibilities and balances own needs with those of partners.
  • Assumes responsibility for agreements made in collaborative arrangements.

People development and management

Motivates and manages employee development, work activities and performance with the goal of optimizing efficient use of talent and resources. Inspires commitment to excellence by creating excitement about the work and demonstrates personal conviction, strength of character and belief in the team.

Illustrative behavioural indicators:

Level EX 4 and above - Creates a learning organization where employee efforts is optimized and talent is cultivated

  • Identifies high potential employees and cultivates corporate talent in support of Agency's direction and operations.
  • Ensure that the Agency's systems, processes and practices are aligned with its mandates and operational excellence targets.
  • Implements succession management and other strategies to recruit, retain and develop employees to meet current and future needs.
  • Implements broad-based people-management strategies for the future.
  • Implements HR strategy to ensure workforce capacity and diversity to meet current and future needs.
  • Seeks and heeds early warning signs around resourcing and succession planning, adapting HR plans and strategies as required.

Level EX 3 - Inspires commitment to mandate and enables employee growth and development in support of Agency operations

  • Creates momentum for the mandate of the Agency and employees' contribution and work.
  • Takes action to ensure that others endorse CFIA's mandate.
  • Creates an engaged and energized work climate to help support Agency goals.
  • Reminds employees of the Agency's "raison d'être" in a way that unites others and inspires a sense of common purpose and direction both within the group and beyond.
  • Understands and identifies a group training or developmental need and establishes new programs or materials to meet it.
  • Coordinates efforts and activities of multi-function teams effectively.

Level EX 2 - Models a passion for CFIA's corporate objectives and builds talents to sustain Agency activities

  • Demonstrates a genuine passion for CFIA's contribution to food safety, animal health or plant protection of Canada and advocates its value proposition to citizens, establishments, industry, partners, and other stakeholders.
  • Facilitates the group's process of discovery and learning by defining food safety, animal health or plant protection goals in a way that they can embrace as their "own."
  • Combines clarity of purpose with personal conviction, optimism and a sense of determination that the Agency can be the best.
  • Ensures that others clearly understand and endorse the group's mission, goals and direction and support them.
  • Coaches, challenges, and provides opportunities for growth by identifying new team assignments, or sharing expertise between teams (job shadowing, cross team assignments, etc.).
  • Develops HR strategy for division's replacement planning.
  • Coordinates work to maximize individual strengths and address areas for development.
  • Optimizes diversity among team members to build strong teams with complementary strengths.

Level EX 1 - Fosters group cohesion, shared purpose and development

  • Communicates a collective purpose and creates a clear line of sight to CFIA's mandate and agenda.
  • Fosters a climate of solidarity amongst employees by treating each person as a valued team member.
  • Involves others in planning for and implementing work plans, and in so doing gains their buy-in.
  • Rewards the contribution of team members; profiles individual and group accomplishments and talents across different functions, as appropriate.
  • Creates an engaged work climate where staff understand the goals and objectives of the group or of the change project.
  • Shares information and the broad context to enrich the teams' understanding of the mandate and how their work makes a difference.
  • Values diversity and recognizes the unique skills and contributions of all team members.
  • Evaluates individual performance fairly, taking account of diversity.
  • Identifies opportunities that challenge and encourage the development of people.
  • Provides regular feedback; acknowledges success and the need for improvement.
  • Develops and supports individual career plans and learning opportunities.
  • Ensures an appropriate cascade of corporate objectives into the performance objectives of employees.

Level EX minus 1 - Empowers employees in their work and their development/career

  • Assigns decision-making authority to front line employees or by those most responsible for the outcome.
  • Enables employees to realize they can succeed in challenging situations.
  • Encourages employees to act autonomously and take calculated risks when appropriate.
  • Explains to staff on how they fit into the big picture at CFIA and why what they do matters to the organization.
  • Works in close collaboration with training unit to find training and learning solutions for staff of the unit or Branch.
  • Delegates full authority and responsibility with the latitude to do a task in their own way in order to develop specific characteristics, including the opportunity to make and learn from mistakes in a non-critical setting.
  • Helps employees prioritize work and ensures a manageable workload.
  • Understands the career aspirations of employees, helps them establish realistic career objectives and supports their related development plans.

Level EX minus 2 - Capitalizes on and grows individual talent

  • Works one-on-one with staff to better understand their strengths and contributions in their current role.
  • Solicits and listens to ideas and concerns of employees to implement co-operative and collaborative approaches.
  • Provides employees with the necessary authority and responsibility levels for delegated assignments.
  • Recognizes individuals' achievements, knowledge and capabilities.
  • Demonstrates an openness to others' ideas or to being influenced about another person (e.g., believing that others have something valuable to say or offer, no matter what position(s) they hold).
  • Gives within a developmental context, detailed instructions and/or on-the-job demonstrations e.g., volunteers to show how to do the task.
  • Ensures positive on-boarding experience to foster enhanced engagement and maximize new employee contribution.

Organizational awareness

Understands, learns and effectively uses the different factors that impact CFIA's performance, such as power relationships in one's own organization or in other organizations (clients, partners, etc.). Appreciates the roles, perspectives and agendas of others, as well as the relationship dynamics that play out and impact the broader objectives.

Illustrative behavioural indicators:

Level EX 4 and above - Understands and navigates effectively the implicit "ways of the government" and partner organizations

  • Recognizes and addresses the reasons for ongoing organizational behaviour; uses broad understanding of context to provide advice on CFIA future directions.
  • Understands the "psychology" of partner organizations, what guides their behaviours, mindsets and cultures, and uses this information to the benefit of Agency goals.
  • Recognises underlying problems, opportunities, or external political forces affecting CFIA's operations, such as strategic change initiatives, current policy, industry or scientific trends, food safety, animal health or plant protection changes, national or historical issues that affect the Agency's operations.
  • Seeks to change CFIA's culture and practices to improve the success of the organization.

Level EX 3 - Operates effectively in a broad spectrum of political, scientific and policy environments (is versatile and effective)

  • Demonstrates deep understanding of political, social, scientific context within which CFIA operates.
  • Operates with ease in a variety of social, political and other contexts.
  • Quickly adapts to varying cultures and circumstances within the organization.

Level EX 2 - Understands and uses organizational politics appropriately

  • Recognises, describes and effectively uses ongoing power and political relationships within the organization (alliances, rivalries) with a clear sense of positive organizational impact. Uses this understanding when implementing new initiatives, proposing new ways of doing things, etc.
  • Anticipates issues, challenges and outcomes and effectively operates to best position the Agency/branch/program.
  • Demonstrates a deep understanding of CFIA's past and future when providing advice on policy/program direction.
  • Uses relationships, partnerships and alliances within the organization to create a broad positive impact.

Level EX 1 - Understands and uses Agency culture

  • Recognizes unspoken organizational limitations, what is and is not possible at certain times, in certain Branches, or in certain situations.
  • Quickly recognizes and adapts to varying cultures and circumstances within CFIA or partner organizations.
  • Recognizes and uses elements of the corporate culture (language, etc.) that will produce the best response.
  • Works to create a "one CFIA" culture of excellence.

Level EX minus 1 - Understands and uses CFIA's informal structures

  • Demonstrates a good understanding of the unwritten and informal structure, culture and rules.
  • Recognizes key actors, decision-influencers, etc. and acts on them to advance his or her projects. Applies this knowledge when formal structure does not work as well as desired.
  • Uses the informal structures of an organization to advance his or her work.

Level EX minus 2 - Understands and uses CFIA's formal structures

  • Recognizes and/or uses the formal structure or hierarchy of the organization.
  • Understands chain of command, positional power, rules and regulations, policies and procedures, Standard Operating Procedure etc.
  • Demonstrates understanding of the general environment within with the institute, branch or program operates.
  • Understands how one's own area relates to CFIA's broader goals, policy issues, etc.

Change leadership

Sells, energizes and alerts groups to the need for changes in the way things are done, in new directions, new strategies and new approaches, and leads them forward in a manner that is consistent with business objectives. Creates a culture where flexibility and openness to new ideas and new methods are encouraged; leads transformation with courage and conviction.

Illustrative behavioural indicators:

Level EX 4 and above - Creates an environment that fosters a culture of transformation, innovation and change across the Agency and partner organizations

  • Spearheads the development and implementation of broad change strategies, developing or adjusting Agency systems and processes to facilitate the change across the Agency and employee transition.
  • Promotes a climate of continuous transformation that will keep the Agency agile and "best in class" in relation to all facets of food safety, animal health or plant protection.
  • Encourages and leads innovation and change amongst others to achieve greater results through creative action.
  • Role models behaviours in support of innovation and provides a safe environment for creativity and responsible risk-taking.

Level EX 3 - Champions transformation and change across the Agency

  • Champions new change initiatives across functional Agency boundaries even where there is significant resistance/limited support.
  • Encourages and personally sponsors the exploration of new ideas and creative thinking in self and others.
  • Draws on new ideas or solutions from across government, not just from one's own area, to solve problems.
  • Acts in a way that helps others generate breakthrough ideas, fresh perspectives and new opportunities.
  • Provides the necessary tools and support to enable innovation.
  • Ensures ongoing communication strategies are in place to facilitate understanding and commitment to change.

Level EX 2 - Manages large change initiatives by anticipating and adapting overall transformation goals and strategy

  • Develops and implements effective strategies to transition from the current to future situation.
  • Develops comprehensive plans to implement change in operations and monitors adherence to milestones.
  • Translates Agency change strategies into specific and practical goals, processes and time frames.
  • Develops contingency plans for major resistance and/or unforeseen issues in implementing change.
  • Encourages adaptability to change and exploration into new ways of doing things.
  • Engages and supports employees and stakeholders through periods of change.
  • Perseveres in the face of resistance and roadblocks to innovation.

Level EX 1 - Explains and sells changes; fosters acceptance of and commitment to change in others

  • Publicly describes the need for change in the organization as a positive outcome.
  • Personally exemplifies or embodies the desired change through strong, symbolic actions that are consistent with the change.
  • Repeats message for Agency transformation wherever possible to foster engagement and excitement.
  • Defines an explicit vision for change, defining the burning platform for change.
  • Is a true agent of change: wins the heart and mind of employee for the change initiative.
  • Addresses change and obstacles with a positive outlook, composure and resilience.
  • Celebrates the effort whether things go right or wrong and follows through with implementation of lessons learned.
  • Takes efforts to deliver the message or vision for change to everyone affected.
  • Involves others in planning for and implementing changes and in so doing gains buy-in for change.

Level EX minus 1 - Adapts operational plans to change agenda; applies rules, procedures and processes flexibly as appropriate, in support of change

  • Shifts unit's attention and priorities in response to needs in the business.
  • Easily adapts to changes in priorities, assigned responsibilities and management styles.
  • Suggests changes in work processes and procedures and is enthusiastic about changes.
  • Remains energized and motivated in a changing environment.
  • Deals well with setbacks - adapts approaches to surmount obstacles.

Level EX minus 2 - Accepts need for change and listens new ideas or responses to business issues

  • Proposes a non-traditional approach when there is evidence or sound thinking which substantiates the viability of this approach.
  • Actively contributes to brainstorming sessions in his/her work area to generate new ideas.
  • Demonstrates willingness to change ideas, procedures and processes when explained "why".
  • Adapts to others' styles and/or work habits.
  • Understands other people's points of view can be as good and as reasonable as one's own.
  • Questions and challenges current processes with the intent of continuously improving CFIA's scientific, policy, compliance, investigation or enforcement procedures.
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