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Today’s Vision, Tomorrow’s Future: BIG NTI Conference Recap

Posted by on Sep 26, 2017 in Leadership | 0 comments

Today’s Vision, Tomorrow’s Future: BIG NTI Conference Recap

At the 39th Annual Blacks In Government National Training Institute (BIG NTI), approximately 2,000 attendees filled the exhibit hall and ballrooms at Harrah’s in Atlantic City, New Jersey, from August 21st through the 24th. Management Concepts was a proud gold sponsor, and presented and hosted a pair of workshops in addition to a Munch & Mingle networking event in conjunction with the BIG NOW Generation. The theme for this year’s BIG NTI was “Today’s Vision, Tomorrow’s Future”—and that theme was clearly reflected by the passion and...

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Building an Organization’s Performance Culture

Posted by on Sep 22, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Building an Organization’s Performance Culture

For leaders tasked with developing a performance culture in response to the Human Capital Framework (HCF) released by The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in April, I suspect agencies are seeking answers to the questions like: Where do we start and how do we interpret the framework? If you are uncertain with where to start, how to make it relevant to your agency, or how to execute let’s explore possible immediate steps to support your existing performance culture or begin to shift your existing culture to one of performance. The purpose...

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Time to Thrive: Empowering Millennials in the Workforce

Posted by on Sep 15, 2017 in Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Time to Thrive: Empowering Millennials in the Workforce

Every day there are countless articles and studies casting aspersions on millennials. This cohort of young adults has been blamed for the declining viability of chain restaurants, gyms, diamonds, and even the National Football League. Millennials are frequently stereotyped as selfish, entitled, and disloyal to their organizations. For this reason, HR specialists, leadership, and managers alike may find it difficult to cater to this growing segment of the global workforce. Let’s face it, Millennials have been in the workforce for over a decade...

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Federal Spotlight: Chad Sheridan

Posted by on Sep 14, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Chad Sheridan

Chad Sheridan serves as Chief Information Officer for the Risk Management Agency (RMA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service, and what is your main responsibility in your role today? CS: I’ve been in Federal service for just over 24 years, including six years of active duty. I’m responsible for all the IT systems and services for the Risk Management Agency here at USDA, which supports the Federal Crop Insurance program, which is really a...

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When You Manage Resilience, Your Best Self Shows Up

Posted by on Aug 1, 2017 in Leadership | 2 comments

When You Manage Resilience, Your Best Self Shows Up

Resilience is something of a hot-button skill in 2017, especially for folks with careers in public service. It carries a theme of overcoming chaotic, uncertain environments, but it also connects to opportunity and the (re)discovery of vital strengths for yourself, your team, or your organization. In chaotic times like these, frustration and exhaustion creep up like a ninja if you don’t check in with yourself and revisit how you’re managing your resilience. While it’s often easier to focus on what drags you down (people seem to like saying...

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Your Words Matter: Have Conversations that Make Things Happen

Posted by on Jun 26, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Your Words Matter: Have Conversations that Make Things Happen

Words matter. A short but very powerful statement, this old saying feels especially timely right now in Washington. So, let’s talk about how we can be more intentional and get better results when communicating with others. It doesn’t matter if you are having a face-to-face, phone, or email conversation—or if you are trading quips over Twitter—how you approach a conversation directly impacts the outcome. You probably think about your approach before giving a presentation or holding a project meeting. But what about those small, quick...

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Now that I’m the Leader, How Will My Team Change?

Posted by on Apr 24, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Now that I’m the Leader, How Will My Team Change?

All people fear change, whether they admit it or not. Your people (please don’t say “subordinates” – that language is SO outdated) don’t know what to expect of you as a leader, and you don’t know what it’s going to be like to lead them. Many new leaders think they should walk in with all the answers; great leaders walk in with the right questions. Then, they lead their teams to a co-crafted solution. Not only does this get buy-in from your team, it gives you a pulse on what every team member is thinking, and what they’re willing to...

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So I’m Officially a Leader… Now What?

Posted by on Apr 10, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

So I’m Officially a Leader… Now What?

Well, you did it. After all your hard work, your contributions, and your tenacity, you got it. That promotion. That next step. You had the celebratory party (hopefully with cake), shook hands, hugged your loved ones, and eagerly awaited the moment when you could check your paystub to see if it were true. Yes! The money’s there! You’ve made it! You’ve been promoted to a supervisor/leadership role! Then, a week passes. You’re headed home, and it hits you. “What’ve I gotten myself into now? I think I’ve got ‘what it takes,’ but what if I don’t?”...

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Federal Spotlight: Soraya Correa

Posted by on Mar 30, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 6 comments

Federal Spotlight: Soraya Correa

Soraya Correa serves as Chief Procurement Officer for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service, and what is your main responsibility in your role today? Soraya Correa: I’ve been in Federal service 36 years. I’m the Chief Procurement Officer at the Department of Homeland Security—what that means is that I’m responsible for providing leadership, policy oversight, and support to the acquisition for the procurement workforce, which consists...

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Agency Experts and Leaders Convene to Address Challenges Facing Federal Workforce Management

Posted by on Mar 29, 2017 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Agency Experts and Leaders Convene to Address Challenges Facing Federal Workforce Management

On the morning of March 28, at the University Club in Washington, D.C., Management Concepts joined forces with the National Academy for Public Administration (NAPA) to produce a spirited, critical event called “Exploring and Addressing Talent Gaps in Federal Workforce Management.” Speakers and panelists from Federal agencies included experts in workforce planning and organizational development from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), FBI, Government Accountability Office (GAO), and Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They joined...

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Federal Spotlight: Georgia A. Thomas

Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Federal Spotlight: Georgia A. Thomas

Georgia A. Thomas serves at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as the organization’s Southeast and Southwest Area Manager, Communication and Stakeholder Outreach (CSO), Field Operations. Here is our Federal Spotlight interview: MC: How long have you been in Federal service and what is your main responsibility in your role today? Georgia A. Thomas: I have been with the IRS since 1979. In my current position, I serve as an Area Manager in Stakeholder Liaison—Field Operations. I manage two Areas of the country, (1) the Southwest Area which...

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Resilience: The Word of the Year

Posted by on Feb 17, 2017 in Leadership | 0 comments

Resilience: The Word of the Year

Each year, the Pantone Color Institute names a color of the year. “Greenery”, the choice for 2017, feels especially symbolic: “Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another, and a larger purpose.” – Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute Interesting, yes, but I know what you’re thinking: How will...

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How to Navigate an Uncertain Political Landscape

Posted by on Jan 31, 2017 in Leadership | 0 comments

How to Navigate an Uncertain Political Landscape

We are nearly two weeks into the Trump administration and one thing seems clear: change is happening. Since the transfer of power took place on January 20th, senior-level management officials at the State department have resigned, and President Trump has signed executive orders implementing a hiring freeze across the Federal government and reducing the number of regulations Federal agencies are allowed to impose on U.S. businesses. Depending on your political orientation, you may find these changes to be necessary course corrections,...

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Leaders: Hold onto Your Wigs and Keys in 2017

Posted by on Dec 9, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

Leaders: Hold onto Your Wigs and Keys in 2017

I have no idea if David Letterman or another quick-witted individual is to thank for that hilarious yet odd phrase, but it feels timely as we look toward the coming year. Seasoned Federal employees, especially those based in the DC area, are no strangers to Presidential turnover and the organizational dancing that signals a new administration is coming to Washington. However, that doesn’t mean the process gets any easier to live through or lead others through. And, if you’re new to the government, I’m sure you’re sensing the uncertainty in...

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Quit Moving the Target: How to Set Clear Expectations and Not Drive Your Employees Crazy

Posted by on Sep 20, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

Quit Moving the Target: How to Set Clear Expectations and Not Drive Your Employees Crazy

Have you ever felt like you are chasing a moving target?  My first supervisor had me feeling like that constantly.  I had to commiserate with my teammates and turn it in to a joke so we wouldn’t go crazy.  We called it the “Gwen Guessing Game”*, or the “G3″ for short.  I don’t know if it was the type of job it was, the fact that many of us we’re right out of college, or maybe it was just the way she had learned to manage her team, but we found it very hard to understand her expectations. Gwen made a lot of requests; the problem was they...

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Speaking the Same Generational Language

Posted by on Aug 24, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

Speaking the Same Generational Language

I have mixed emotions. The Olympics are over (sigh) but a new school year is around the corner and pre-season football is in full swing (hooray!). That’s three tell-tale signs that fall is on the way. It also means Performance review season is here for most Federal employees. While performance reviews add another significant task to your ‘to do’ list as supervisors and managers, the hours that go into them are time well spent for you, your direct reports, and the organization as a whole. As you step back and assess how well each individual...

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Building Your Own Olympic “Dream Team”

Posted by on Aug 5, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

Building Your Own Olympic “Dream Team”

The opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games takes place this evening, kicking off more than two weeks of exciting competition involving the world’s best athletes. As an avid basketball fan, I am most interested in seeing if the U.S. Men’s basketball team can win a third consecutive gold medal. With NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving on the team, the United States enters the Olympics as one of the most heavily-favored teams in any sport. It is easy to take this level of success for granted. In the 2004 Olympic...

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Juno to Jupiter: Navigating the Creative Space

Posted by on Jun 29, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

Juno to Jupiter: Navigating the Creative Space

In this fast paced environment creative thinking and innovation are vital to individual, team, and organizational success.  Through information overload, expectations to multi-task, and pure exhaustion, many people struggle to find and utilize their creative capacity.  Some people may resign to the idea that there are creative people and there are those without the talent.  I don’t buy it.  I think it’s a skill, like many others we work to grow in the workplace.  Even the most creative people have to work at being creative. What sets a...

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How Does Critical Thinking Inform Our Problem Solving?

Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

How Does Critical Thinking Inform Our Problem Solving?

In an increasingly complex world, the ability to think rationally and solve problems effectively is even more critical. In the modern workplace, we need to work effectively with others to solve problems. This requires working together to navigate different perspectives and collaborating to choose and implement the best, systematic solutions. This becomes particularly challenging with complex, and seemingly ambiguous, problems. Problem: Design the Perfect Team Take for example, designing the perfect team – one that works together cohesively to...

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Millennials in the Public Sector: We Want You!

Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Millennials in the Public Sector: We Want You!

If you Google “millennials and public service,” the search results paint an interesting picture. You will see clear references to a widening millennial talent gap alongside articles about how millennials actually love their government jobs and want a career in the public sector. Where is the truth, you ask? As always, it is probably somewhere in the middle. However, the important takeaway from this far from scientific observation is this: The Federal Government Needs Millennials. As we celebrate Public Service Recognition Week (PSRW), it is a...

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International Leadership Lessons from Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau

Posted by on Apr 6, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

International Leadership Lessons from Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau

The newly elected Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau is bringing Canadian politics to the spotlight. The news is flooded with images of this young, charismatic, athletic (you have to admit that is an impressive yoga pose!) politician spreading a message of hope, change, and “sunny ways.” Trudeau brings with him the belief that politics can be a positive and powerful force for change. Canadians endorsed that message with a resounding “yes!” when they elected him to office with a “win of historic magnitude” according to the BBC. Trudeau’s liberal...

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Finding the Right Solution for Your Learning Need

Posted by on Mar 14, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

Finding the Right Solution for Your Learning Need

What is the best way to improve a skill or competency? Take a training class, right? It sounds easy. Sign up for a class, learn from a facilitator, meet some new people, and take home some great reading material. While training is very effective for developing some skills, it may not be the best solution for other areas in which you are trying to cultivate. The right learning solution depends on the skill or competency. For example, is it new or are you trying to hone an existing skill? Do your direct reports have the skills but lack the...

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Want a Smarter Workplace? Focus on Diversity

Posted by on Feb 26, 2016 in Leadership, Uncategorized, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Want a Smarter Workplace? Focus on Diversity

Diversity efforts are often perceived as solely focusing on compliance with Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws or enforcing political correctness. Yet in reality, there are scientific and business reasons for leaders to take action to create more diverse and inclusive working environments. For today’s organizations, diversity and inclusion are crucial for organizational success, creativity, innovation, and talent maximization. This is Your Brain on Diversity Creating diverse environments is not only important for building stronger...

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Why Organizational Improvement Programs Don’t Work

Posted by on Feb 11, 2016 in Leadership, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Why Organizational Improvement Programs Don’t Work

Organizations are continually looking for ways to be more effective. Organizational improvement programs go by many different names—workforce improvement, productivity enhancement, and organizational effectiveness, to name a few. For government organizations, improving effectiveness usually means finding more efficient and cost-effective ways to meet the mission. Programs like this typically don’t “stick.” Sometimes new ways of doing things result in short-term improvements. Other times, the changes are piecemeal; some people embrace the...

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Employee Wellness

Posted by on Jan 25, 2016 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Employee Wellness

Last week I lost my house key. And then a replacement house key. And then my wallet. Yesterday I dashed out to do an errand and upon returning to my car, realized I had left my phone in the car. In the computer bag with my laptop. Next to the car keys. With the car running. I was equally angry and amused by this complete and utter flake out. Amused by my almost cinematic absent-mindedness, and angry because I had recently made significant changes in my professional and personal life to be more healthy and well-balanced. Here I was, having...

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A Quick Refresher on Giving Feedback

Posted by on Jan 12, 2016 in Leadership | 0 comments

A Quick Refresher on Giving Feedback

As a supervisor during the recent review cycle, were you uncomfortable addressing your employees’ poor performance? Did you cringe when you needed to have a conversation with someone about his or her ineffective or unproductive work practices? Did you try to avoid dealing with others’ negative work behaviors? Did it feel forced to give honest, yet constructive feedback? If you answered yes to one or more of those questions, you are not alone! We surveyed more than 850 supervisors and aspiring supervisors and found that many people, regardless...

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Scientific Team Collaboration

Posted by on Nov 23, 2015 in Leadership | 2 comments

Scientific Team Collaboration

Early in my career, I realized that succeeding as a researcher involved more than technical skills. As a new assistant professor who was focused on research and teaching, I thought my strengths were coming up with innovative yet rigorous methodologies and ensuring that students knew how to apply theory to their jobs. Although those did turn out to be strengths, I soon realized additional strengths that I was not previously aware of – the ability to get along with strong personalities and write clearly. Here’s what happened: An eminent, senior...

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Building an Emotionally Intelligent Team

Posted by on Oct 26, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 1 comment

Building an Emotionally Intelligent Team

Why is emotional intelligence so important for teams? Quite frankly, organizations need teams to get the work done. Historically, the most consistent and effective efforts come from groups of people who over time developed trust, group identity, and efficacy to become teams. Who has the responsibility of building the emotionally intelligent team? One might argue the responsibility rests with individuals with the positional authority and influence to translate the organizational vision into goals and objectives for the team to achieve. Why...

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Ask the CHCO: DoD’s Paige Hinkle-Bowles

Posted by on Aug 16, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ask the CHCO: DoD’s Paige Hinkle-Bowles

In her interview with Federal News Radio for our Ask the CHCO series, Ms. Hinkle-Bowles shared some key areas of focus for the civilian workforce that support the DoD “Future Force” Initiative. Described as opportunities to build, shape, and improve workforce performance to meet changing DoD mission needs, Ms. Hinkle-Bowles discussed how many of the challenges facing the department’s 900,000 civilians in recent years are currently or will be addressed in the near future. As the interview concluded, I found myself wondering – how will DoD...

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Building Resilience

Posted by on Aug 7, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Building Resilience

Imagine you are in the water at the beach on a stormy day. The surf is high, and each time a wave comes it knocks you over. You stand back up, and another wave comes and knocks you down again. You may sustain this for a little while, even get a thrill from the waves crashing and getting back up, but eventually you will start to lose your ability to face the oncoming breakers. Even the strongest physique can’t withstand being hit by those waves time after time. At some point, we all get fatigued by trying to withstand the impact of wave after...

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Survey Fatigue: Do You Have It??

Posted by on Jul 14, 2015 in Leadership | 2 comments

Survey Fatigue: Do You Have It??

Survey fatigue is a common occurrence in agencies. I often work with them to collect information from their employees in an automated way, whether it is a training needs assessment, a training evaluation survey, or some other type of survey. Clients usually tell me that although they need input from employees to make resource-conscious decisions, their agency’s employees are over-surveyed. On the occasions that I talk directly with those employees, I hear them echo the same thing: “We get so many surveys we can’t possibly fill them all out.”...

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Diversity and Inclusion

Posted by on Jun 8, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 1 comment

Diversity and Inclusion

Government agencies serve the American public, and thus should not only be representative of the population they serve, but demonstrate the value of that diversity in their workforce. However, a recent survey put out by the Government Business Council and Monster Government Solutions identified some concerning data about how Federal employees experience diversity and inclusion efforts. The study found that 75% of government employees feel misunderstood because of some aspect of their identity, and only 28% believe their organization is...

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Recruiting the Next Generation of Feds

Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Recruiting the Next Generation of Feds

Over the past several weeks, we’ve heard from a number of Federal leaders through our sponsored “Ask the CHCO” series on Federal News Radio about the work going on to recruit, retain, and engage Federal workers. CHCOs from USAID, FLRA, and HHS have shared best practices and initiatives to improve the Federal employment experience. Much attention is being paid to retaining and engaging Federal workers, as shortages in mission critical skills suggest that a renewed focus on attracting high performing, highly skilled individual to Federal...

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Is Your Ecosystem Thriving or Collapsing?

Posted by on Apr 27, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Is Your Ecosystem Thriving or Collapsing?

Imagine a thriving ecosystem, and you may envision a lush landscape with great diversity, energy, and balance. Now imagine an ecosystem that is suffering and you probably see a barren landscape, where life forms are dying off and there is bloodthirsty competition for limited resources. Now think of some of the organizations or teams within which you have worked. Notice any similarities? When you think about it, organizations have a lot in common with some of the most complex biological ecosystems: Individuals at all levels matter Ecosystems...

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5 Steps to Take to Escape Old Employee Engagement Ideas

Posted by on Apr 15, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

5 Steps to Take to Escape Old Employee Engagement Ideas

Last week I was having a conversation with some colleagues about the renewed focus on employee engagement in the Federal government and how Federal agencies can meet the goal of reaching 67% engagement by 2016. Moving the engagement index up by 3 percentage points over a two year period is an ambitious goal that will require thinking differently about employee engagement. Of course, as John Maynard Keynes wrote, “The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones.” So, with that in mind, here are a few steps you can...

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No More Generation Bashing

Posted by on Apr 1, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 2 comments

No More Generation Bashing

“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today… When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint.” – Hesiod, Greek poet and philosopher, 700 BC We’ve been hearing the same complaints about generational differences for, literally, millennia. The old lament the youth of today, while the young believe themselves to be the future and that the generation before them – although living in...

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Inside the Minds of Chief Learning Officers

Posted by on Mar 24, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Inside the Minds of Chief Learning Officers

On March 10 Steve Maier, President of Management Concepts moderated a thought-provoking panel discussion at a recent Training Officers Consortium (TOC) luncheon that included the following esteemed Federal Chief Learning Officers (CLOs):   Sheila Wright, Housing and Urban Development Michael Casey, General Services Administration Jeffrey Vargas, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Susan Camarena, Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration We’ve all heard the phrase “do more with less” – especially in government – but...

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Considerations for Building a Strong Coaching Culture

Posted by on Mar 12, 2015 in Coaching & Mentoring, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Considerations for Building a Strong Coaching Culture

So you’re thinking about bringing coaching into your organization, but not sure where to start. How do you know what kind of coaching is right? What are you willing to do to make it work? Three coaching modalities are most prominent within organizations, including: External coaches Internal coaches Managers/leaders using coaching skills According to a recent joint report by the International Coach Federation and the Human Capital Institute, Building a Coaching Culture, organizations with strong coaching cultures seek to develop a combination...

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Building Leadership Capability: A Roadmap for Improving Employee Engagement

Posted by on Feb 23, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Building Leadership Capability: A Roadmap for Improving Employee Engagement

Just a couple short months ago, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released the results of the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), measuring whether or not the characteristics of successful organizations can be found in agencies across the Federal government.  The FEVS results, and in particular the employee engagement index, are used increasingly by agencies to identify areas for improvement and compare their agency to other agencies and the private sector. Reinforcing the need to focus on engagement in the Federal...

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Telework: The “Just Right” Solution to New Types of Workspaces

Posted by on Feb 13, 2015 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Telework: The “Just Right” Solution to New Types of Workspaces

When it comes to office space these days, a lot of people are feeling like Goldilocks. For some moving to an open concept environment, all that space to collaborate is just a little too open and too distracting, but others feel like the walls of their cubicles are receding inch by inch in traditional spaces that are too small and too isolating. You may not have much influence when it comes to your workplace design, but many have access to what can be a “just right” solution to balance your need to be productive and collaborative: Telework....

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How Leaders Can Bridge the Gap Between Where They Are Now and Where They Want to Be – It’s All in the Mind

Posted by on Feb 11, 2015 in Leadership, Project Management, Workforce Management | 0 comments

How Leaders Can Bridge the Gap Between Where They Are Now and Where They Want to Be – It’s All in the Mind

In a previous post I presented a basic approach to goal setting that could be used to help leaders acquire new skills as they set goals to make the required behavior changes necessary to close the gap between where they currently are and where they want to be in their careers. The steps to closing the gap include several elements that should be considered when setting behavior-change goals. Goal setting for closing any skill gap is a process. The same process can be applied to any goal, whether professional, organizational, or personal. The...

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Managing the Diverse Needs of Expecting and New Parents in the Workplace

Posted by on Feb 3, 2015 in Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 1 comment

Managing the Diverse Needs of Expecting and New Parents in the Workplace

A few weeks ago, the President issued a memorandum “Modernizing Federal Leave Policies for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care to Recruit and Retain Talent and Improve Productivity.”  These policy changes provide greater flexibility for and support of new parents – both mothers and fathers. Such policies alone, however, cannot create a family-friendly workplace. Leaders and supervisors must take action to imbed a family-friendly culture, especially for expecting and new parents. I was visibly pregnant with my first and then second child when...

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How Leaders Can Bridge the Gap Between Where They Are Now and Where They Want to Be

Posted by on Jan 27, 2015 in Leadership, Project Management | 2 comments

How Leaders Can Bridge the Gap Between Where They Are Now and Where They Want to Be

All leaders and managers are motivated to improve their skillset for many reasons; however, they are generally motivated by the opportunity to accomplish challenging goals and objects (Achievement), influence and control others (Power), and being able to work with others (Affiliation).  Successful leaders and managers are never satisfied with the status quo, especially when it comes to their own skills and abilities. As a result, they take personal responsibility and strive to continually improve their technical, leadership, and business...

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Keep Up the Work with Federal Telework

Posted by on Jan 26, 2015 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

This month’s GSA Inspector General Report on telework does hit GSA on a previously well-served program.  But, while GSA may not be able to report on exactly how many teleworkers it has, we should not discount what is still a viable and helpful program.  Keep in mind, the Telework Enhancement Act was only enacted in 2010, so this is still a new program.  We as a Federal workforce should view this as a learning experience, make necessary changes, and move forward.  Telework is still a beneficial program for agencies and their employees. Read...

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Career Resolutions for You and Your Staff

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Acquisition, Coaching & Mentoring, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Career Resolutions for You and Your Staff

Each January, we all make resolutions with varying degrees of sincerity and dedication. As we get further and further from New Year celebrations, life has a way of creeping in. Achieving lifestyle changes is not solely about exercise or dieting; it should also be about improving your professional competence and positioning yourself and/or your staff for future success. This year, why not try a different resolution? Are you an individual trying to manage your career? Resolve to focus on your career. Ask for the stretch assignment. Explore...

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What to Consider When Starting a Federal Workforce Plan

Posted by on Jan 16, 2015 in Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

What to Consider When Starting a Federal Workforce Plan

To the Federal Human Capital professional: Workforce planning is must-have skill in advancing your human resources career. Even if you aren’t driving creation of your agency-level workforce planning, understanding the process and how to effectively contribute to it is critical. Even at the division level, however, the workforce planning process can appear to be a huge undertaking. To make it both manageable and effective – as well as headache free – you need to plan out your individual process before you begin. The first step is to really...

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An Organization Knitted Together – by a Mustache

Posted by on Dec 17, 2014 in Leadership | 0 comments

Federal agencies are by their very nature complex organizations with a wide variety of highly specialized functions that often do not interact with each other as part of day to day work. This creates the perfect environment for unintended silos and a workforce that doesn’t feel connected with others working somewhere else in their agency.  My organization has found a way to remedy this type of situation by building stronger, broader networks through community awareness activities. Our #Movember team recently completed our month of unabated...

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Want to Make Better Decisions? Ask Better Questions.

Posted by on Dec 12, 2014 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 1 comment

We’ve all heard the adage, “There’s no such thing as a bad question”… but let’s be honest – we have all been subjected to a question at some point that prompted a mental response of “Are you kidding me?!” This reaction is usually accompanied by rolling of the eyes, shaking of the head, feelings of disgust, and so on. On the other hand, masterfully worded and perfectly timed questions have the ability to provoke deep thought, challenge previously held beliefs, reveal new unimagined solutions to problems, or even alter the mission of an entire...

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Sherpa 101: Mentoring Tips for Guiding the Next Organizational Generation

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership | 0 comments

When many people think of Sherpas, they think of rugged tour guides. The value of a Sherpa, however, is not just their ability to lead you to the summit making sure you have the right gear and make the right turns on the trail. It is their ability to read the mountain, adjusting to cues you cannot see, as well as their relationships with others on the trail who can provide information and assistance that makes the journey with them so different than if you went with just another Bear Grylls. It is not Sherpas’ general skills as mountaineers...

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What do Senior Leaders in the Federal Government, Members of Congress and Carp Have in Common?

Posted by on Nov 18, 2014 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

In my role supporting Federal Government agencies trying to build leadership at all levels I often find myself discussing the differences between effective and ineffective leaders. Of course, there are many different opinions about the traits and qualities that separate the good from the bad when it comes to leaders in the Federal Government, and there is probably no single set of competencies and behaviors that completely discriminate between the two. Personally, I believe an often-overlooked element of effective leadership is external...

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Leadership Lessons from the Battlefield: What We All Can Learn from Veterans

Posted by on Nov 14, 2014 in Leadership | 1 comment

As I searched my on demand library for a movie to watch last weekend, I knew Veteran’s Day was just around the corner. I had dozens of war-related movies at my disposal and had to make a choice: classic or modern war story? That’s not an easy question for me. I am not a veteran but both of my parents served proudly for more than 20 years, and military service runs generations beyond them in my family. Getting lost in a war movie or listening to their stories is the closest understanding I will ever have to knowing what it means to wear a...

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2014 NAPA Fall Meeting Focuses on the Future of Public Administration

Posted by on Nov 13, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Management Concepts will be participating in the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) 2014 Fall Meeting taking place November 13, 2014 in Crystal City, Va. Management Concepts is an Academy patron-level sponsor and the event’s focus is on “Public Administration 2025 – How will Government Adapt?” The event’s theme aligns with our view that the government in the next ten years will look drastically different than how it looks today. With technology, priorities, and the workforce changing considerably, the government must remain...

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Does Anyone Look at Those End-of-Course Evaluations Anyway?

Posted by on Nov 12, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 2 comments

Does Anyone Look at Those End-of-Course Evaluations Anyway?

When you complete an evaluation, do you ever wonder if anyone actually looks at your responses? Do companies take your feedback seriously and make changes based on what you have to say? If they are asking for your feedback, they should review it and take action when warranted. Anyone who has taken one of Management Concepts training courses knows there will be an end-of-course evaluation to complete. Why? It’s good practice to collect students’ feedback on courses they’ve just taken. We collect feedback about the learning experience including...

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Ethics and Engagement: Validate Ethical Values to Drive Productivity

Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 in Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Ethical Dilemmas in Daily Work Imagine an employee who has just completed a project. He tells his manager that although it meets the requirements, it could be top-notch if he had just one more day to work on it. The manager says no, brushes off the idea, says “Thanks for your work,” and issues the next assignment. A situation such as this presents an ethical dilemma for the manager. Quality is important, particularly for the client who receives the product. But deadlines are important, too; so which takes greater priority? For an...

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Effective Mentoring as Part of Phased Retirement: HR’s Role

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in Coaching & Mentoring, Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

Implementing OPM’s Phased Retirement program creates a powerful opportunity for HR to drive value and productivity through an agency mentoring program. Moreover, according to OPM, “the main purpose of Phased Retirement is to enhance the mentoring and training of the employees who will be filling the positions or taking on the duties of more experienced retiring employees.” Federal HR professionals can rise to the challenge through a structured process for implementing the mentoring program. Although OPM has yet to write implementation...

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Help Your Federal Team Hit More Home Runs

Posted by on Oct 23, 2014 in Analytics, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Help Your Federal Team Hit More Home Runs

According to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), performance information’s effect on Federal managers’ decision-making has remained largely unchanged in six years. Despite the increase in the amount, variety, and availability of performance data and analytics tools to drive decisions, performance data’s promise in the Federal Government has not yet been realized. There are many theories as to why this is the case, but I would argue that the shift to data-driven decisions in the Federal Government requires...

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Hedgehogs, Foxes, and the Future of Federal Workforce Planning

Posted by on Oct 17, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Workforce Management | 0 comments

As reported by the GAO in July 2014, the Federal Government has a pronounced need to create more agile talent management capabilities to address inflexibilities in current systems. How can the Federal Government accomplish this? It’s not about the systems themselves, but rather about the approach to Federal workforce planning. Most agencies plan like a hedgehog, but they need to plan like a fox.  Not following the animal references? Greek poet Archilochus of Paros wrote: “The fox knows many things; the hedgehog one big thing.” He was...

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Teamwork More Beautiful Than a Waikiki Sunrise

Posted by on Oct 15, 2014 in Leadership | 1 comment

My heart leapt with joy as the sun rose over the beautiful beach in Waikiki, Hawaii. But it didn’t leap because of the sunrise. It leapt because right at that moment I got a callback from my colleague Anna Mauldin. It takes a lot to trump a sunrise in Waikiki – songs have been written based on lesser things. So why write about a business callback? What kind of priorities are we talking about here? Think about a time when you really needed help. Something important was on the line for you, and you really, really needed support. That was my...

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Forget the Knowledge Management System: Mentoring as Knowledge Transfer

Posted by on Oct 14, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 1 comment

Ah, the perpetual threat of the Federal retirement wave. First, experts predicted it would come down on us like a “tsunami” in 2012.  Then it didn’t for reasons described by other experts (including myself). Now it’s expected to “skyrocket” in 2017. The good news is that the Federal Government has time to prepare for the brain-drain of boomer retirements. Sounds like a great reason for a large technology project resulting in a shiny new knowledge management system, right? The simple answer is NO. Workers would rather get information from...

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A New Role for Mentoring: Work-Life Integration Coaching

Posted by on Oct 9, 2014 in Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership | 0 comments

A New Role for Mentoring: Work-Life Integration Coaching

Be honest. When you hear the term work-life balance, what is your instant reaction? Personally, it makes me laugh (sarcastically) because it seems absolutely unachievable. Despite my daily effort year after year to balance the scale, as the life side of my equation grows more complex and the work side of my equation consistently intensifies, one side inevitably wins at the expense of the other. For most, the daily wins and losses for work and life likely average out over time, but the constant battle to achieve a zero sum game leaves us...

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The Value of Project Management Skills and Roles in Federal IT Projects

Posted by on Oct 7, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Despite the technical improvements made in many Federal IT programs, the Federal IT workforce often still lacks the foundational project management skills necessary for project and program success. Time and again, we see large-scale projects fail. However, with the right project management training, skills, and tools, IT projects can yield effective results. Leadership, communication, understanding of contracts, and the balance of schedule and cost are necessary for project participants to move beyond their assigned tasks and work to solve...

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Giving Up on People: When Negative Leadership Attitudes Cause Poor Performance

Posted by on Oct 2, 2014 in Leadership | 0 comments

At a recent leadership consulting engagement with a Federal client, I spoke with a leader who said “I’m done.” He talked at length about the incapability of much of the workforce, its lack of commitment and energy, and the fatalistic outlook he held for many on the team. As I heard this dismissal of so many in the organization, it somehow came to my mind that very few people go into marriage counseling thinking they are the problem. The fact is, in many agencies, there are leaders who have “given up” on the people. In their experience, you...

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It’s Time for Your Fiscal New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by on Sep 25, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions dates back more than 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians who made promises to earn favor of the gods and start the new year off right. Today, most New Year’s resolutions represent a chance for individuals to set goals, establish their focus for the coming year, and chart a course to self-improvement and success for the next 365 days. With the end of the Federal Government’s Fiscal Year upon us, I thought it might be a great time to think about another set of New Year’s resolutions —...

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Motivation: Using the Right “Carrots” to Reaffirm Valuable Contributions

Posted by on Sep 19, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

A Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) study released in 2013 revealed that a mere 21% of Federal employees feel their job has the potential to be highly motivating. In other words, 79% of employees feel little-to-no reason to be motivated based on their jobs. To be clear — this is not about whether employees want to do their jobs, it’s whether employees think their jobs present particularly motivating factors: “Does my job come with good ‘carrots’?” Motivation is critical for engagement, but with limited budgets and a shrinking workforce,...

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How to Manage a Low-Performing Employee

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Leadership | 0 comments

It’s many Federal supervisors’ worst nightmare, and yet if you are one of those supervisors, it’s likely to happen at some point in your career. It’s the under- or low-performing employee – one who can’t or won’t do the work well, or very much of it. For whatever reason – and stayed tuned on that point – work is just not getting done. A few years ago, our team at Management Concepts did a webinar on the topic and the switchboard blew up. About triple the number of people who usually listen in to these things showed up, anxious to know what to...

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New Year, New Routine to Be a Better Leader

Posted by on Sep 12, 2014 in Leadership | 0 comments

No matter how many years you’ve been out of school, it is hard to ignore the back-to-school frenzy. For some, it is nostalgic to think about buying brand new school supplies, retracing the long walks you made to class each Fall as the weather turned cool, or how your mind would race after learning something new and fascinating. For others, this time of year may make you slightly nervous. The carefree days of summer are really over and it is time to get back to routines and business so to speak. The Government Fiscal Year is coming to an end...

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How to Make Training “Stick”

Posted by on Sep 10, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

How to Make Training “Stick”

As summer is ending and kids are going back to school, I was thinking about ways to get the most out of learning. While there are many reasons for attending a training class, most of us take training to meet a certification requirement, or because we need to improve/expand our skills. Just like we tell our kids to do in school, we know that during training, it’s important to take good notes, interact positively with our instructor and classmates, and pay attention to the lessons that are covered. Doing these things will get you through the...

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Workforce Planning Is Key to a High-Performing Future Agency

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

The Federal Government’s most valued resource is its people. At a time when the Government faces what the GAO describes as a “period of profound transition,” management of human resources within the Government has become a key driver of not only achieving mission today but also of positioning agencies to be ready to achieve missions in the future. Despite advances in human capital management in the Federal Government, strategic human capital management has been designated by the GAO as government-wide high-risk area since 2001. Last year the...

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Feedback: Pay it Forward

Posted by on Aug 15, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

You’ve heard of the expression “pay it forward,” where instead of repaying a favor when a person helps you out, you pay the favor forward by helping someone else when they need it. Well, I couldn’t help but think of this idea as I was recently looking over survey data gathered by a team of my Management Concepts colleagues. Each year we work with many individuals who are either working towards or have recently moved into supervisory roles in their organization, and we were curious to see how prepared they felt to take on their new...

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Does It Make Any Difference?

Posted by on Aug 14, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Does It Make Any Difference?

From time to time it is important to take stock of why we invest our energy in the things that occupy us.   Birthdays, job changes, and retirements are points where we as individuals commonly reflect and ask “does what I do make any difference?” In early August my colleague, Cleve Pillifant, retired from Management Concepts.  He joins the cadre of senior “‘tweens” who work on occasion a few days or weeks here and there, ‘tween work habits compacted over a career and a complete leisure retirement.   Cleve proudly and irreverently (as is his...

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Is Trustworthiness a Professional Competency?

Posted by on Aug 8, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 2 comments

Trust as Essential for Engagement According to the 2010 Deloitte Ethics & Workplace Survey, 48% of employees cite loss of trust in the organization as a driving factor in the decision to look for a new job. In a recent Federal News Radio survey, 90% of respondents answered “yes” to the question, “Does the government need to rebuild trust with its employees?” and almost 68% of survey respondents believe lack of trust is causing employees to leave government service. “Trust is a symptom of whether or not employee...

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Levels, levels everywhere and not an ounce of clarity anywhere!

Posted by on Aug 4, 2014 in Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

About once or twice a year, I find myself sitting in a meeting with clients and colleagues, and I suddenly realize that confusion has ensued without people realizing it. I specifically remember one meeting where, despite that fact that we were all training and learning experts in our own right — we began to talk past each other. The discussion was on “levels.”  A few of us had confused looks on our faces. The discussion continued as each person tried to explain and re-explain the points they were trying to make. After several painful...

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Windshield or Bug? — How to Thrive During Change

Posted by on Aug 1, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

As both Mary Chapin Carpenter and Dire Straits have pointed out, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.” This isn’t exactly the case with change in organizations because there are inevitably fewer people leading the change than there are people impacted by a change they don’t control. Change management practitioners would emphasize that every individual has influence over whether change is accepted in their organization. From change champions to passive accepters to active resistors, everyone can affect change. In many...

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Start With Goals: Optimizing Talent in the Federal Workforce

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

With constantly changing technology to keep up with, demands for efficiency and a shortage of millenials entering their ranks, Federal leaders are under more pressure than ever to recruit and retain new talent, and get more from existing employees. The need to optimize talent in the workforce is evident. How do you begin to assess the critical skills gaps in your workforce, and align professional development and training to agency missions and goals? And once you have a vision of what your future workforce should look like, how can you make...

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Supervising a High-Potential Employee and a Lesson From Happy Gilmore

Posted by on Jul 30, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 1 comment

Leslie was a rock star on the rise . . . until she got fired. We’ve all seen someone with Superman or Superwoman potential, one with extraordinary talents. With eyes closed and one hand tied behind the back, this person can still, somehow, miraculously pull out great results. That’s what Leslie did in her promising career, going from strength to strength . . . until so many relationships internally were so damaged that her boss had to see her out the door. How do you supervise a high-potential employee? How do you help him or her avoid career...

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Having an “HMU” Instead of an Attack

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

A senior leader at a Federal agency I recently worked with was revered throughout the organization, known for his wisdom, excellent communication skills and approachability. When something went bad or wrong with anyone, he would sit down with the person and have an “HMU” conversation. Before explaining what an HMU is, it is important to remember how most conversations go in many organizations when something goes wrong. The conversation often goes badly, evokes negative emotions, defensiveness, hurt feelings, future avoidance and other damage....

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Instructional Games in Government and Industry

Posted by on Jul 23, 2014 in Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

A growing trend in today’s business learning environments has been moving toward simultaneously teaching and experiencing important ideas through verbal, tactile, and surrogate methods.   In other words, we don’t just describe, display, and observe — we simulate.   Game-based business simulations provide a means for students to perform tasks, demonstrate skills, and also exhibit attitudes in order to create or experience effective approaches in dealing with real or potential situations. The concept and practice of simulations are not...

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Affordable Care Act’s Butterfly Effect

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

In conversation, a friend often mentions the “Law of Unintended Consequences,” which refers to chain-event related outcomes that may not have been foreseen when an initiating action occurred. It is an extension of Chaos theory’s “Butterfly Effect” that suggests unforeseen linkages such as, “When a butterfly in California flaps its wings, weeks later, a typhoon hits Asia.” From a management perspective, this is “Systems Thinking,” the art and science of making reliable inferences about behavior by developing an increasingly deep understanding...

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Be Prepared for IT Leaders Retiring: Start Training Your High Potential Staff Now

Posted by on Jul 17, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

The aging demographics of the Federal workforce has been apparent for years, and the latest set of data (March 2014) released by OPM show no improvement in the outlook.  In the short term, the government has the benefit of the long years of service and experience of a seasoned workforce. Almost half of the IT workforce is now age 50 and above. Most of these workers are retirement eligible at age 55 or 56, so within a few years, as older workers retire and leave Federal service, so leaves that experience. Funding in the Federal budget for...

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Lesson from the VA: The Role of Culture in Optimizing Talent in the Federal Workforce

Posted by on Jul 17, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Recently, failures of service at the Department of Veterans Affairs have been in the news.  Investigators have found that the problems at VA are not occasional occurrences but to quote the Washington Post, the VA suffers from “corrosive culture of employee discontent and management retaliation. “   Unfortunately, organizational culture and workforce development continue to be particularly challenging for many Federal agencies. Federal agencies have always faced unique challenges in workforce development including competition in attracting and...

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I’ll take Cognitive Analytics for $1000, Alex

Posted by on Jul 16, 2014 in Analytics, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

I’ll take Cognitive Analytics for $1000, Alex

One of my fondest memories from my childhood is my family’s nightly ritual of gathering around the TV to watch Jeopardy! with Alex Trebek. I’m still a big fan of the show and when, in 2011, IBM”s Watson took on two Jeopardy champions I was captivated. Having worked on some early efforts to use Natural Language Parsing (NLP) and Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA), it was great to see how the technologies had advanced to allow querying of large sets of unstructured data using plain language queries. Watson is just one, impressive, example of the...

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Don’t Forget the Sammies This 4th of July!

Posted by on Jul 3, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Don’t Forget the Sammies This 4th of July!

I’m not referring to the “sammies” you may be planning for a July 4th picnic celebration, but you can get back to perusing tasty recipes for your holiday menu in just a minute. I’ll be brief. I’m talking about what are referred to as the “Oscars” of government service awards: The Service to America Medals awarded each year by the DC-based Partnership for Public Service. The Sammies recognize “outstanding Federal employees who are making high-impact contributions to the health, safety and welfare of countless Americans and others around the...

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Rock Your Next Federal Job Interview

Posted by on Jun 27, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

You’ve completed the self-assessment, submitted your resume via USAjobs.gov, and have been selected for an interview. Now what?  Interviewing can be quite nerve-wracking in general, but can be even more so for a Federal job, which is quite different from interviewing with a private firm. Successful planning and preparing in advance will be the key to success… and hopefully an offer for employment. Below are some tips on preparing for a Federal job interview. Before the interview… Prepare Using the Job Announcement: You applied and tailored...

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4 Generation Workforce: Instructional Challenges for Human Resources & Management Leaders

Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

“They’ve been called Generation Y. They’ve been called Echo Boomers. They may go by different names, but there’s no debate about their effect on business. They are the fastest growing segment of your employee population. They’ve been trained to use their heads more than their hands to solve problems.  It will take a new set of leadership skills to understand their perspective and motivate them to succeed.”  –  Donald D. Shandler, Ph.D., Assistant Vice President, Graduate and Adult Education, Marymount University, and author of...

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Pop Quiz: How Do You Evaluate Training?

Posted by on Jun 24, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Recently, I’ve encountered several instances where agencies want to make sure they get what they pay for when training their employees. One method that I’ve observed is giving students a test at the beginning and end of a class. At first glance, this makes sense: Let’s make sure the employees are learning something when we spend our scarce training dollars. To understand the limitations of the before and after test, let’s look at Laura, a GS-9 analyst with ambitions to move up to deputy program manager and eventually to program manager. Laura...

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How Coaching Really Worked – At Least in This Case

Posted by on Jun 13, 2014 in Coaching & Mentoring, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Man, was I ever stuck. I had struggled with this problem, literally, for years, tearing my hair out, frustrated, and increasingly pessimistic about a solution. It was a chance encounter at a coaches’ conference (of all places) when I sat down for lunch with the amazing coach Karen Gravenstine. In less than five minutes, everything shifted. The door opened, and I had cracked the case. Before explaining just what happened, it’s important to focus on one incredibly important aspect of coaching, a feature that, among others, helps give the...

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Walk into Better Management

Posted by on Jun 11, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

While many are focused on better using technology to achieve mission goals, Federal managers shouldn’t forget that sometimes the best way to know what’s really going on is to get out of the corner office and talk to people. In my upcoming book, 98 Opportunities to Improve Management in Government, I recommend management by walking around:   I highly recommend that you manage by walking around. Such an approach will increase your visibility and give the employees greater confidence in you—if for no other reason than if they see you every...

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When Customer Service is the Lemon

Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 in Leadership | 4 comments

Although the Federal Government doesn’t often talk of “customers” the way the private sector does, customer service is a key competency of every government employee. Your “customer” may be survivors if you’re at FEMA, internal leaders if you’re in HR, veterans and their families at the VA, foreign governments if you’re at the State Department, other government agencies if you’re at OPM, or taxpayers if you’re at the IRS. Providing good customer service, however, goes well beyond the competency of the people in the Federal Government....

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Stop Feeling Overwhelmed! Three Questions You Should Ask When Weighing Leadership Development Options

Posted by on Jun 4, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

The most successful leaders know that you can never stop learning and should continually invest in your professional development. That’s easier said than done these days because there are more options than ever for leadership development and professional services like leadership coaching. While the leadership development landscape was once dominated by commercial providers (ahem, Management Concepts), both public and private universities are furiously entering the leadership development market. The good news is you have a lot of high-quality...

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How to Create a Federal Résumé That Gets Noticed

Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Leadership | 0 comments

Not getting any responses when you apply on USAJobs.gov? It could be your presentation of your qualifications, not your qualification themselves, that is keeping you from consideration for the position you want. In the Federal Government, you need to have a tailored résumé for each position to which you apply. You aren’t being assessed on the “impression” your résumé gives, but rather your exact match to the job qualifications. And that starts not with your résumé, but with the self-assessment on USAJobs.gov in which you demonstrate how you...

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Assuring Successful Adoption of Business Innovations

Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 2 comments

It’s common practice for the government and commercial entities to periodically modify their organization’s reporting structure, business processes, and day-to-day procedures to adapt to the changing needs of the agency or company.  And … it’s human nature to be resistant or hesitant to the accepting the changes, or confused by the new ideas that result from those actions.   Senior leadership tends to introduce the “new ways of doing things” through policies, memos, all-hands meetings, and the all too frequent “word of mouth.”  Although these...

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Employee Performance: Do You See the Big Picture?

Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Linda, a supervisor of an eight-person analysis team, went home every night for a week frustrated that her team wasn’t getting the job done. She shared her frustrations with her husband over dinners, “Maybe this team just doesn’t have what it takes. Charles and Kelly don’t seem to understand some of the analyses we do. And, Jose and Pat just seem apathetic most of the time.” Linda’s husband asks, “Wait, didn’t you invest a lot in training those four last year? Remember how many dinners I ate alone because you were doing their work while they...

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Take It Personnelly: Crisis Communications in HR

Posted by on May 22, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

On the day Mary Bara was promoted to CEO of GM, I happily tweeted a congratulatory message and spent some time fantasizing about being the first female Motor City CEO. I admit a large part of that may be my fantasy about having a 1967 Chevrolet Impala just like Dean Winchester’s, but there also exists a desire to see women in the driver’s seat of a Detroit car company (insert groan for the horrible pun.) I was not, however, thinking about running a company that was hiding a product defect that resulted in the deaths of 13 people and the...

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Bounce Up When You Can’t Bump Up: Strategies for Getting Ahead in the Federal Government

Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 1 comment

Are you ready for a promotion, but know there won’t be an opening for you until Hilary’s grandchild is old enough to run for President? Given the shrinking size of the Federal workforce, the budget constraints on filling open positions, and lack of retirements from baby boomers, opportunities for promotion in your current division or even your current agency may appear non-existent. As discussed in an earlier blog, this results in the need for members of the Federal workforce to view a career as a lattice rather than a ladder. In plain...

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Use the Active Voice for More Impactful Writing

Posted by on May 8, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

We often lessen the impact of our writing by using the passive voice. In The Government Manager’s Guide to Plain Language, I offer some very practical guidance and examples that illustrate how government managers can add directness and impact to their communications, both with their staff and with the public. Give it a try with something you’ve written recently. See the difference? PREFER THE ACTIVE VOICE In an active sentence, the person or agency performing an action is the subject of the sentence. In a passive sentence, the person or item...

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Not Just Phoning It In: HR’s Role in Supporting Agency Telework

Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 3 comments

I attended the Federal Workplace Training and Expo recently. There were many great presentations, but my favorite by far was by Mika Cross from OPM on the topic of telework. I was not surprised to hear that 32% of teleworkers participate in telework three or more days a week. I was surprised, however, to learn that 12% of Federal workers have not been notified of their telework eligibility and 24% of Federal Agencies still do not have a telework policy in place to meet the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. (You can learn more about the act...

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Can You Handle the Truth?

Posted by on Apr 25, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

There is an infamous scene in the movie “A Few Good Men” where Jack Nicholson’s character responds to constant questioning about the truth with a legendary outburst. “You can’t handle the truth!” he shouts to Tom Cruise’s character. This scene reminds me of coaching, but not in the way you might think. As coaches, it is not our job to goad our clients into acknowledging their situation the way Tom Cruise’s character does in the courtroom. In fact, as coaches, we do not necessarily even know what the truth of a particular client’s situation...

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Assess Before You Diagnose

Posted by on Apr 22, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

I opened my copy of Performance Improvement recently and was excited to read “An Ounce of Good Assessment is Worth A Pound of Analysis and A Ton of Cure” by Roger Kaufman. It is only natural for managers and executives to diagnose their organizations. They want quick answers. The sooner they can figure out what is causing a problem, the sooner they can focus on getting “real work” done. When I go to the doctor, I am the same way. I’ve already Googled my symptoms and think I know what’s wrong. I don’t want to spend time talking about the...

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Is It Time for a Training Line of Business?

Posted by on Apr 17, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Reducing budgets and increasing efficiency is standard fodder these days in all discussions about Federal Government operations. Whether discussions focus on government civilian pay and pay systems, retirement contributions, veterans’ benefits, redundant and overlapping programs, or Federal real estate, the need to improve return on investment and reduce spending is a pervasive theme. For more than a decade, the Federal Government has been introducing line of business (LOB) initiatives to reduce redundancy and increase process and system...

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Bar Rescue – Turnaround Management

Posted by on Apr 9, 2014 in Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

I have recently discovered a TV reality show called Bar Rescue, which is now in its third season on Spike. The premise of the show is that the fantasy of being in the bar business attracts owners with little experience into this highly competitive world, where businesses fail early, and often. Because of the mismatch between fantasy and reality, many bars fail due to mismanagement and poor market strategy. Often, the owners’ intentions are good, but they simply make uninformed decisions or abdicate responsibility when the situation gets...

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Is ILT Dying?

Posted by on Apr 8, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Yes, ILT (instructor-led training) is dying, but we need not mourn its loss. Instead, we should realize we are standing on the brink of something exhilarating: the reincarnation of instructor-led training as virtual instructor-led training (VILT). The traditional brick-and-mortar ILT classroom has been smoldering for a while now. As federal travel budgets shrink and training dollars dry up (although the future of training is looking up), organizations are seeking alternatives to fill their training needs. Organizations are continually looking...

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GSA Uses the Cloud to Smash Barriers

Posted by on Apr 4, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

The term road block is synonymous with barrier for a reason. Perhaps that’s what inspired the General Services Administration (GSA) to look to the cloud to overcome communication barriers as they move toward a hoteling model for their office workspaces. As discussed in The 77 Deadly Sins of Project Management, if your project hits a barrier—anything that restrains or obstructs progress or access—that means there is something coming in between you and the success of your project. As project managers, it is our duty to remove barriers to keep...

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Tips for Government Managers to Overcome Writer’s Block

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Whether writing a business plan, memo, or report, one of the hardest tasks government managers face in writing is getting started. In my recent book, The Government Manager’s Guide to Plain Language, I offer some  tips to help you break through the writer’s block we all experience—and also to help you make an initial assessment of what you have written before passing it along for editing and review.   TIPS FOR WRITING DRAFTS To make the draft stage easier and more productive, consider the following steps: • Once you have a complete...

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What is the Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring?

Posted by on Mar 28, 2014 in Acquisition, Coaching & Mentoring, Leadership | 0 comments

One of the most frequent sources of confusion about coaching is what it is in relation to mentoring. There are some distinct differences, and then some practices that can overlap. The distinction is important, as most groups in leadership development activities typically reverse the true definitions. The key difference is that a mentor usually has some superior knowledge, wisdom or experience, and is able to give helpful, specific information to a mentee. A mentor might understand the politics of the organization, know who’s who or how to get...

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Are You Leading in a Hostile Workplace?

Posted by on Mar 13, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 4 comments

The recent controversy over hostile workplaces in the National Football League (NFL) should have each franchise owner taking a hard look at his or her organization, and serves as a great leadership fishbowl from which the rest of us can learn. For those not following the situation, rookie hazing has had tacit approval in the NFL since its inception. Earning the right to interact with teammates as a peer comes at a price in the NFL. Rookies are expected to entertain veteran players, run errands for them, and as we learned from the Miami...

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Trying Times: Leading With Emotionally Intelligent Communication

Posted by on Mar 7, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Emotional intelligence matters almost all the time, but one time it really matters is when any doctor, including a vet, is giving really bad news. After 11 great years, our beloved Corgi dog, Lily, was dying. Her fatal condition came on very suddenly. As my wife and I sat in the vet’s office processing this news, I could not help but notice the compassionate communication and emotional mastery the vet and her assistant practiced in helping us understand and deal with this sad news. When at work we teach emotional intelligence, we talk about...

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How Do You Know When You’ve Closed the Gap Between Strategic Goals and Workforce Capabilities?

Posted by on Feb 27, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

One of the recurring questions I hear from clients on a regular basis is: “How can we measure the success of our learning and performance improvement solutions?” For years, training and learning professionals have wrestled with evaluations of training effectiveness, return on investment, and impact on the business. Frameworks like Kirkpatrick’s four-level model and Phillips’s five-level evaluation provide an established structure for gathering metrics to evaluate training success. But, with the increasing digitization of training and growth...

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Contract Negotiation: The Ambiguous Authority Tactic

Posted by on Feb 20, 2014 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management, Uncategorized | 0 comments

In The Government Manager’s Guide to Contract Negotiation, author LeGette McIntyre offers federal negotiators a host of tactics they can use to get a solid, fair deal for their agency. One of these tactics is the “ambiguous authority” tactic—which we’ve all been subjected to when we’ve bought a car! How do you employ the tactic to get the best deal for the government? Share some experiences with your colleagues and we’ll all be better prepared for the next negotiation!   THE AMBIGUOUS AUTHORITY TACTIC You can use the ambiguous authority...

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What Can You Learn About Mentoring From the Game of Tennis?

Posted by on Feb 12, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Here’s a mentoring tip, borrowed from the world of tennis. In tennis, the mantra is that if you want to get better, you should play against people a little better than you. (Not a lot better, because you get smoked 6-0 and that’s just demotivating.) The reason playing against people a little better than you is so important is that in doing so you start to notice moves you would not have made. The other person is playing a different, better game. It has been said that all the best moves are stolen.At work, I recommend identifying people who...

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A Collision at the Library

Posted by on Feb 5, 2014 in Leadership | 0 comments

It seemed synchronous, or maybe asynchronous, that the lead story in the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review was “A Great Place to Work,” which I noticed while returning my library book, 30 Reasons Employees Hate Their Managers. Let’s start simple, and then ask two important questions. The simple part is an assumption: It’s quite a stretch to think employees will consider their organizations great places to work if they hate their bosses. Ergo, there must be some kind of decent relationship there. If you buy that assumption, then the...

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Mentoring: Something to Celebrate

Posted by on Jan 27, 2014 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Did you know that, in addition to being National Blood Donor Month, January is also National Mentoring Month? For those of you already in the know, that’s awesome. For everyone else, consider yourself warned. Mentoring is making a comeback in leadership development, and for good reason. Jumping on the bandwagon could change your professional life or the trajectory of your organization. And, there is no needle involved. Promise. Mentoring has been around forever if you think about it. The term “Mentor” comes from Greek mythology and has been...

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Sometimes Smaller is Better: Starting an HR Analytics Program

Posted by on Jan 16, 2014 in Analytics, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Sometimes Smaller is Better: Starting an HR Analytics Program

Last week, I blogged about the emerging skillsets required in the HR function for introducing analytics and data driven decision making to the HR practice. Even with the right team in place, it can be daunting to launch your first analytic study. Much has been said about the importance of data driven decision making for HR. The early results suggest that organizations who are adopting data analytics to support HR decisions are reaping the benefits. However, as the resources available to government agencies continue to be stretched thin,...

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Go Ahead, Make My Year

Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in Financial Management, Leadership, Project Management | 1 comment

There is a small, weekly column in the Washington Post titled Animal Watch that chronicles the various adventures of animals of all kinds – dogs, cats, raccoons, eagles and more. The Animal Control Department is often called. This column is very cleverly written and headlined. It always brings a chuckle in my household. And with the New Year underway, I decided to do something about it. What does this have to do with leadership and why should you care about this? In working with leaders, managers and supervisors, we always emphasize the...

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Are You Ready for Data-Driven Decision Making in HR?

Posted by on Jan 9, 2014 in Analytics, Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Are You Ready for Data-Driven Decision Making in HR?

A few weeks back, Management Concepts released the white paper Federal HR Trends in FY14, our take on the five trends we believe will shape the Federal human resources and human capital space this year.  In this blog, we’ll explore the third item on our list: Data Analysts in HR. It’s not news that the rise of big data is a leading story in the field of human resources or that the push for HR departments to embrace data driven decision making strategies is a major focus across the industry. Much has been said about the importance of analytics...

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Make Peace with Change and Focus on Building Resilience

Posted by on Jan 3, 2014 in Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Management Concepts recently identified 5 Essential NEW Leadership Habits for Federal Leaders. The second item on that list is “Make peace with change and focus on building resilience.” It was not so very long ago that many people in organizations sought to minimize risk, preserve the status quo and even get by until retirement. That strategy worked, in a sense, so long as the going was good. Today, it is a very different story. Beset with change, disruption, technological and social transformation, and rising demands for results, practically...

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An Impossible Situation, and Yet …

Posted by on Dec 31, 2013 in Leadership | 2 comments

Most people reflect at year’s end. In thinking about 2013 — and realizing this is the last day of it — I realized I had to write about something extraordinary that happened during the autumn, which I will never forget. If you are interested in what it takes to elicit full-out commitment and dedication from employees, read on. Loretta is a supervisor of blue-collar employees. Their jobs are monotonous, boring and low-paid. The career itself is pretty dead-end.Upon taking her position, Loretta saw all the signs of dispiritedness, and it...

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Play Dumb to Get What You Want: The Question Tactic in Negotiation

Posted by on Dec 27, 2013 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Grants & Assistance, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

Play Dumb to Get What You Want: The Question Tactic in Negotiation

Negotiation skills aren’t just for entrepreneurs on Shark Tank. Federal managers can also benefit from mastering these valuable skills. In The Government Manager’s Guide to Contract Negotiation, LeGette McIntyre offers some very specific tactics that could help any fed facing a tough negotiation. Here’s a great example from the book that McIntyre calls “The Question Tactic.” Try this in your next meeting and let us know your results. THE QUESTION TACTIC In any negotiation, knowledge is power. You increase your power relative to the other side...

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An Amazing and Dangerous Year

Posted by on Dec 20, 2013 in Leadership | 0 comments

What an amazing year 2013 was. I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with Federal leaders, working directly with them on real organizational problems. Along the way, I heard hundreds of stories, from many perspectives, all around what I call “what happens when work needs to be done and human beings show up to do it.” But there was a serious downside, and it created a personal threat. You may have heard of or known people in law enforcement who, because of some of the things they witnessed, got cynical, suspicious or fatalistic. It’s...

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Don’t Forget Your Kids…or Necessary Training! OFPP Updates FAC-P/PM

Posted by on Dec 19, 2013 in Acquisition, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

You know what else will help avoid Healthcare.gov repeats in the future?  Better equipped Federal project and program managers. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) has just released updated guidance (new since 2007) on the Federal Acquisition Certification for Program and Project Managers (FAC-P/PM) requirements. As Jason Miller, at FederalNewsRadio.com reported, “Under new requirements from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, agency Chief Acquisition Officers (CAOs) no longer have the option to waive all or part of the...

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Armchair Quarterbacking and a Killer Idea for a TV Show

Posted by on Dec 12, 2013 in Leadership | 0 comments

Well, here we are again at the special time of the year. It’s gotten chilly, people are getting excited about rounds of upcoming parties, the kids are coming home from college, and great food is on the way. Yes, it’s time for the football playoffs. There are other celebrations going on, like Christmas and Kwanzaa, but back to the football. Everyone knows what an armchair quarterback is – the passive spectator who, especially with the wonders of slow-motion replay, can so clearly see what the better option would have been. Beat-up leaders have...

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How Communication Will Save Your Job, the Holidays…and Avoid Squirrels, the FBI, and Cousin Eddie

Posted by on Dec 12, 2013 in Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

On Monday I blogged about the pitfalls to written communications – especially within the Federal-Contractor relationship.  Now we’re looking at a similar topic – the top pitfalls in face-to-face communications.  Whether it’s your upcoming family-filled holidays, or a meeting at work, you’d be surprised how the rise of the smartphone has decreased our basic ability to communicate with one another. I was at dinner last night and the family next to me – all five of them – were lost in their devices.  No one was talking, just five heads down,...

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The Workplace Wisdom of Christopher Robin

Posted by on Dec 9, 2013 in Financial Management, Human Resources, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were finally getting around to cleaning out the coat closet when we stumbled on our kids’ baby books. As we leafed through the pages of memories, I ran across a snapshot of my son carrying a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal.  I was reminded of how central Winnie, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and the rest of the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood were for several years of our lives.  Thinking back on that time, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes when Christopher Robin said to Pooh, “Promise me you’ll...

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You’ve Got the “Write” Stuff – Top 10 Pitfalls of Effective Fed-Contractor Communication

Posted by on Dec 9, 2013 in Acquisition, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

OK, So the New Kids on the Block song may be a bit out of date.  (I wouldn’t necessarily still call them “new”).  But having the right stuff in collaborative work environments is still vitally important – specifically with the Fed-Contractor relationship, as it relates to these large-scale (and high profile) projects and programs. But what do I mean by the “write” stuff?  Well, in an era of practically only written communication, if you think about it, (email, text, etc.) everyone – regardless of career – should be effective written...

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Do You Want to Innovate More? Don’t

Posted by on Dec 6, 2013 in Leadership | 1 comment

Management Concepts recently identified 5 Essential NEW Leadership Habits for Federal Leaders. The second item on that list is “Seek new ways to experiment and ‘fail small’ to drive change and innovation.” Having worked as a leadership consultant and coach with dozens of Federal leaders, I’ve observed a few things about how leaders can drive innovation in an organization. As a leader, do you want to innovate more? Don’t. A more effective alternative is to give the opportunity for innovation to your employees. This will lighten your load, help...

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99 Problems But a Communications Plan Ain’t One

Posted by on Dec 5, 2013 in Acquisition, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

As we near the end of 2013 and (hopefully) the end of “Obamacare-gate,” Feds and contractors alike need to get a jump on improving the management and collaborative work of these large-scale IT projects we’re expecting more of in 2014 and the years to come.  A good place to start? Let’s communicate better. In a previous blog, I noted the New York Times wrote about communication issues between the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and its prime contractor, which failed at effectively communicating all requirements of the...

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Stop, Collaborate, and Listen – Fixing Federal Project Management

Posted by on Dec 2, 2013 in Acquisition, Leadership, Project Management | 1 comment

We’ve seen a lot in the news about the issues (and failures) of large-scale projects coming to successful completion – and specifically, IT projects are at the forefront of high-profile Federal programs.  Obama’s focus on open government to citizens will only require more major IT initiatives throughout agencies.  So, we need to be looking at how to avoid Healthcare.gov repeats.  Our recommendation?  Invest more in the beginning of the project lifecycle. In the Project Management Answer Book, we include the Top Ten Pitfalls to Avoid When...

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Speak Up! Better Requirements Management at the Heart of Federal IT Project Success

Posted by on Nov 25, 2013 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

In a recent article, Roger Waldron, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, highlights the ongoing issue of government clearly defining what it needs in IT projects, and ensuring the contractor understands exactly what is needed.  Otherwise known as?  A better discussion on requirements – to avoid the Healthcare.gov or SBInets of the future. Particularly difficult are coming to agreements on the large-scale IT project requirements.  Due to the government acquisition process, more often than not the technology itself moves...

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Essential New Leadership Habit: Develop Cross-Functional Skills and Build Personal Networks

Posted by on Nov 25, 2013 in Leadership | 1 comment

Federal leaders are dealing with uncertainty and change. To thrive, leaders must adapt quickly to the “new normal.” To share our take on how to do this; Management Concepts recently compiled 5 Essential NEW Leadership Habits for Federal Leaders. In case you missed it, download the complete list here.  The first item is “Develop cross-functional skills and build personal networks.”  So, what do we mean by that? Develop Cross-Functional Skills In “the good ol’ days,” employees climbed one organizational ladder vertically, rung by rung. They...

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An Agile Approach Will Help the Fed Acquisition Workforce Successfully Chart Their Course

Posted by on Nov 21, 2013 in Acquisition, Leadership, Project Management | 0 comments

In a recent news article, both Feds and industry weighed in on the importance of a strong Federal acquisition workforce to better equip for large-scale IT project success – but that their historical hesitancy to avoid change and risk pits them in a waterfall environment, rather than an agile approach, that has better secured project success.  Moving to agile will enable fewer Federal projects that are running aground. Is your agency ready for an agile approach?  Well the government thinks so.  GAO ran a report in July, 2012 recommending that...

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Just Remember. People Are No Damned Good.

Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in Leadership | 0 comments

Once in a while, someone in a leadership development workshop says something that seems to reveal a fundamental truth, a perspective that greatly illuminates the topic at hand and greatly raises awareness. This happened recently when I was working with a group of leaders in the Midwest. We were talking about the admittedly somewhat abstract topic of worldview. This term means the way a leader interprets reality – how he or she sees things. Examples of worldview might include, “If I really want something to be done, I have to do it myself,” or...

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A First (Quick) Look at the 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Results

Posted by on Nov 14, 2013 in Human Resources, Leadership, Uncategorized | 2 comments

The 2013 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results are out. There are thousands of ways you can slice and dice the data, but for instant analysis, let’s look at a few key points. First, the results overall are showing the toll of pay freezes, sequestration and furlough concerns, reduced training and everyone having to do more with less. Positive responses to a majority of the questions declined; a phenomenon that started last year. There was a significant drop in employee satisfaction. Second, in what I call the 80% club – critical mass in...

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Dispelling the Retirement Wave Myth: It’s an Undercurrent, Not a Wave

Posted by on Oct 31, 2013 in Human Resources, Leadership | 1 comment

For years now Federal human capital  and human resources practitioners have been told human resources horror stories about the retirement wave: “Nobody go into the barn, the boomers are all in there retiring!” In most Federal organizations, however, it’s just not happening. We know it’s coming, but more like a herd of “walkers” way off in the distance in “The Walking Dead” that is out there but never seems to approach us. (It’s Halloween, thus the scary movie references.) Of course, organizations with mandatory retirements face challenges as...

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Now What? Returning from Furlough: Three Steps to Re-Engage Your Team

Posted by on Oct 17, 2013 in Leadership | 1 comment

The furlough is over and our Federal Government is back at work. This should be great, right? Everyone should be happy – even psyched to be returning to work?  Well, not so much in many cases. Remember when civil servants were admired for service to our country? Even if you do, most of them don’t. Our Federal workforce has been under the cloud of increased scrutiny, public condemnation, and inquest from a Congress that used to extol the selfless act of service. Over the last few weeks, debates on the news about the shutdown have included...

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5 Ways to Lead in Turbulent Times

Posted by on Sep 27, 2013 in Leadership | 0 comments

  Federal managers face numerous challenges in the current environment. You may not have control over the changes that are taking place, but you do have control over how you react. As a manager, you can choose to see change as a threat or an opportunity. Think for a second what could happen if you seized the opportunities created by change to innovate, increase efficiencies and learn. Just like a worn out pair of shoes or tattered briefcase, some old leadership habits need to be thrown out to make way for new possibilities. My team at...

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Have You Reached a Negotiation Deadlock? Break Through with the Set-Aside Tactic.

Posted by on Jul 30, 2013 in Acquisition, Financial Management, Leadership | 1 comment

What if you’re representing your agency in the middle of a negotiation with a contractor and you reach a deadlock? What can you do to keep the negotiation moving forward—and to gain the competitive advantage? In his book, The Government Manager’s Guide to Contract Negotiation, author LeGette McIntyre offers the “set-aside” tactic as an effective way to keep things moving in your favor. Has this tactic ever worked for you? Is there a chance it could backfire? THE SET-ASIDE TACTIC Deadlocks happen in negotiations, and the set-aside tactic is...

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EKG Part Three: Gratitude As A Leadership Practice

Posted by on Jun 3, 2012 in Leadership | 0 comments

This is the third and final installment in a blog series that I have been writing about positive practices that leaders can use to improve the well-being as well as the performance of their teams. You can catch up on this series by clicking through the posts about empathy and kindness. Last but not least, this final post is about gratitude. Many leaders do a fairly decent job of saying thank you to someone who has performed a much-needed task, or achieved a noteworthy outcome on a project. The basics of social skills and common courtesy will...

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Thought Bubble: “Blah, Blah, Blah”

Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

As leaders and HR professionals, we frequently have the amazing opportunity to work with our clients on their improving their leadership skills. Maintaining a strategic focus, treating the people well, and meeting or exceeding business results are leadership indicators that most leaders would agree are vital to their success. I’ve had the opportunity to hear Pat Donahoe, Postmaster General for the United States Postal Service, speak on several different occasions. Whenever he opens the floor for questions, people inevitably ask him the same...

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5 Steps to Spring Cleaning Your Psyche

Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Human Resources, Leadership | 0 comments

Spring has sprung early this year. From the rescheduling of the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC, to the record setting pollen counts in Atlanta, no one can argue that Mother Nature decided to exit her Winter hibernation a bit sooner than usual this time around. And with Spring comes a few rituals that we’ve come to embrace over the years: the Easter Egg hunt on the White House grounds, the Spring practices of college and pro football teams, longer days and shorter nights, and all the other outdoor activities that we associate with warmer...

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Part Two: A Different Kind of EKG

Posted by on Mar 2, 2012 in Leadership | 0 comments

In my last blog post, A Different Kind of EKG, I offered a leadership move I call EKG that combines three key practices – empathy, kindness and gratitude – as a way to devote more attention to the human side of change in your organization. These practices are effective at any time, but they have the potential for even greater impact when an organization, and the people in it, experience change. I appreciated the emails that readers sent me offering examples of how they had demonstrated the first practice, empathy, with great success. See?...

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A Different Kind of EKG

Posted by on Feb 9, 2012 in Human Resources, Leadership | 2 comments

There are scores of helpful courses, articles and books by multiple firms on how to lead during times of change. (Full disclosure: the company I work for is one of those firms.) Many of these resources focus on strategy and tactics, while others focus more on the human emotions that leaders must also pay attention to. Thankfully, that human side of leadership and change seems to be gaining more attention. This is good news for the workplace, and quite possibly, the world as we know it. Change seems to be the rule more than the exception,...

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What the Director Knew about the Brain

Posted by on Feb 2, 2012 in Leadership | 0 comments

This week, I had the pleasure of participating in a video shoot Management Concepts organized as part of the Professional Government Supervisor Program. It was a lot of fun (apart from the mortifying aspect of seeing yourself on screen), but what I really noticed was how the director worked with people who had speaking roles. Time after time, he would encourage the on-air “talent” through expressions such as “That’s great,” or “Yes!” or “That’s it!” Let me tell you, it is no easy thing to stand in front of lights that look like they could be...

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The Program is Loading

Posted by on Jan 26, 2012 in Leadership | 0 comments

I often compare the emerging, new story of supervision and leadership to the loading of a huge new program on your computer. You know — the blue status bar creeps slowly across the screen, so you go get a cup of coffee rather than staring at it for a long time. This new story loading onto the computers we call ourselves and our organizations is contrasted thus: • Commitment versus compliance • Initiative versus status quo • Communication versus need-to-know • Engagement versus apathy • Listening versus just telling • Connectedness versus...

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Agile, or Fragile?

Posted by on Jan 24, 2012 in Leadership | 0 comments

Ed Frauenheim has written a tremendous blog on workforce.com that everyone who feels busy should read. http://www.workforce.com/article/20120113/BLOGS05/120119976/when-agility-adopts-the-symptoms-of-a-d-d# To be fair, he is actually summarizing work done by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, who wrote in the January issue of the McKinsey Quarterly. But he does a nice job, and here is what he (and they) are saying: Organizational life, work, pace and culture have stumbled into a condition that they call Strategic Attention Deficit Disorder...

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Fancy Pants Language

Posted by on Jan 24, 2012 in Leadership | 0 comments

As I listened to a coaching session recently, an insight suddenly hit me. I realized that in the many hours of coaching I’ve done and listened to for observation purposes, I have never heard anyone speak in what I call “fancy pants” language. Fancy pants means convoluted, long-winded, and jargon- and abstraction-laden language. It is the opposite of plain language, where the goal is to get to the meaning of what is being said as quickly and accurately as possible. (Full disclosure: I’m from Independence, MO, home of Harry “Plain Speaking”...

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Type, being who you are, and the dinner party

Posted by on Jan 22, 2012 in Leadership | 0 comments

One of the marks of great art is that it stands up to repeated exposures, and in fact becomes more meaningful with each encounter. Psychological Type – the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – is like that. It is ironic that some people take the indicator in a compressed session, then forget much of what they learned, including their own Type. (A sports fan once told me he thought he was an ESPN.) The reality is that since Type is essentially about learning about yourself, and others, the learning is never over, and in teaching a class in Type last...

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You Done Hired the Hit-Maker

Posted by on Dec 28, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

There is a great old story about a great old drummer named Bernard Purdie, who, if you’ve not heard of him, played on records by James Brown, Frank Sinatra, BB King, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis and Steely Dan. Bernard has a beautiful sense of time. When you hear him playing a simple beat, you want to move. (For an example of that, click on the following link.) The story goes that when Bernard was hired for a session, he would come in, set up his drums, and then before beginning to play, would also put up two signs, one on each side of his...

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A Must-Read Book on Work and Organizations

Posted by on Dec 22, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

I have never recommended a book in a blog posting before, but that’s about to change, and for a very good reason. Sometimes in a good life, you come across a theory, model, idea, course, book or conversation that fundamentally changes the way you see the world. You may have a sense that the scales have fallen from your eyes, that you understand reality in an entirely new and profoundly more accurate and powerful way, that this new way of thinking explains a whole lot more than anything else to-date. And you may feel that knowing what you now...

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11 New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by on Dec 22, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

Many people like to make New Year’s resolutions. That’s fine, and sometimes they actually keep them. There are two things that are good to know about these things. First is that courtesy of neuroscience, we now understand much more about why it is better to gradually, progressively and steadily move toward change than to engage in a big bang on day one. *(It has to do with brain rewiring.) Second, you can make a resolution on any day of the year, particularly when you have learned something new. Don’t have to wait until the 31st. So why only...

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Dump the Analysts!

Posted by on Nov 8, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

I’ve figured out how to have never-ending growth in the stock market—get rid of the analysts! Have you noticed how every description of downward-spiraling stock values concludes with the simple comment, “… but it was lower than analysts’ predictions”? “XYZ Corp’s stock dropped two percent today. Although they made $27M more last quarter than the same quarter a year ago, it was lower than analyst predictions.” Clearly, the analysts don’t know anything. Why else would they be so far off in their estimates for the past three years? Okay, it...

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When it Rains, it Pours

Posted by on Nov 8, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

You have probably felt at some points in your life that you were in a pattern, with the same things happening over and over. They may have been good or bad, but you felt the recurring theme. This has been my life over the last two months. I’d like to identify what I’ve experienced, mainly because I believe it’s a sign of the times. I’ll explain at the end what leaders can do about this phenomenon – if they have the will. I am accustomed to hearing the following story – we hear it at many client sites – but the consistency of it this autumn...

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Lies, D^%&*^ Lies and Statistics

Posted by on Oct 16, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

Recently, I was in two separate meetings where the discussion was about the leadership of organizations receiving statistical, hard-data evidence of problems in leadership, or another path to take to get work done. One of the organizations had done multiple studies. The leadership’s response was very interesting. In one case, the leaders decided to get very scientific about the stats that represented major red flags about the organization’s leadership. They looked at the data from multiple angle, tried to correlate messages across the...

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Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

Posted by on Oct 5, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

It’s the end of an era. Tonight, the death of Steve Jobs was announced. Much has already been written about the man, so no need to go over all that. From my seat, Apple was a company unwavering in its commitment to excellence. This is in opposition to just plain bad – but not quite bad enough to get you to cancel the contract or switch providers. The new model of customer service for many corporations is “Drive the cost of customer service down as far as possible until customers start bailing.” Just yesterday I had a conversation with a...

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Change Can Be Fantastic

Posted by on Aug 18, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

Change can be fantastic. Really. Late summer tends to bring on a time of change in people’s lives, and this summer is no exception in my neck of the woods. Some of my friends are about to send their kids off to school for the first time. They are studying bus schedules and working up the courage to ask their boss for a more flexible work day so they can be with their kids at the beginning and the end of the school day. It is a natural request, yet one that feels hard for some people to make if they work in an office with a culture that seems...

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Leadership Lessons from Bacchus Part 1: Keeping Your Eye on the Goal

Posted by on Aug 16, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

Being a leader is tough business. You have to set direction for your team; ensure every team member is on board; decide how to allocate resources; reward positive behavior when you see it; reshape negative behavior when it becomes apparent, and create and maintain a healthy workplace. A leader also must help the team support each other; ensure that the business at hand is getting completed, and intentionally include everyone so that they all feel a part of the team, and that they want to contribute. I’ve been very privileged in my career to...

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Clerk of Course, or What I Learned in Type Development

Posted by on Aug 10, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

One dismaying fact — and I would argue a growing trend with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator — is the series of misconceptions that regularly arise in its interpretation. This is mainly due to increasingly compressed timeframes in which the theory is taught. I would like to do my part to lay to rest one of the myths, and I want to do that with a story, in order to help others understand what the MBTI really is. You have probably heard someone complain that the MBTI “puts people in boxes.” The hypothesis of a preference is somehow seen as...

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Two things that happen really fast

Posted by on Jul 8, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

The subjective perception of time is fascinating. After all, it objectively ticks away one reliable second at a time. There is no deviation. The atomic clock rules. Yet, there are times when time seems to slow down. We sit at a long traffic light, ensure a boring speech, clean out a basement – we might feel like, “How long has this been going on?” and be surprised it was just a few minutes. On the other hand, it is good to know there are at least two things that happen really fast — shockingly fast — so you can be prepared. The first is brief...

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“It Finally Hit Me — I Have to Learn All-New Skills”

Posted by on Jun 28, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

It was a pleasant lunch. As usual in this business, the conversation was around leadership, organizations and culture. The point was made for the umpteenth time in my life that the federal government often promotes people into supervisory positions who are very skilled technically, but not very good in managing people. I invoked one of my favorite expressions from Dan Goleman, who quoted one person in such a position who said: “It finally hit me – I have to learn all-new skills.” One of the diners said, “You know, in my life I’ve had to do...

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A Check-In on Check-Offs

Posted by on Jun 15, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

What’s not to like about a check-off? You know, that feeling you get when something is finished and with a satisfied stroke of the pen, you draw a checkmark through that empty box that you drew just so you could put the checkmark through it. The check-off is particularly satisfying for those whose last letter in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is “J” (Judger). This preference likes closure, completion, resolution and finality. What organization doesn’t like that?  I once worked with a group of coaches who insisted on whiteboarding the tasks...

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Kitchen (and Other) Nightmares

Posted by on Jun 14, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

In the embarrassing-admissions department, I have to confess I sometimes watch Kitchen Nightmares, that show in which the acerbic Gordon Ramsay (poster child for Thinking versus Feeling in the MBTI) shreds a failing restaurant along the way to rebuilding it into something successful. The predictable sequence is: Gordon enters the disaster zone, dissects what is going wrong, engages in a confrontation, makes a new move, turns the place around. Along the way many bad words are dropped, emotions run high and arguments ensue. It’s just like many...

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The Awards Night

Posted by on Jun 13, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

It was another rite of passage: Sitting in a high-school auditorium for the awards night before graduation. A parade of wonderful young people being honored for achievements and successes. It makes you optimistic for the future. But one thing really stood out – jumped out – as a counter-cultural, I would say practically subversive theme. To understand it, and what it means for leadership, we first have to step back and look at the terrain in which many of our organizations are operating. Increasingly, it appears to me that that ethos at work,...

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The Energizer Bunny of Leadership

Posted by on Jun 2, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

I don’t know if it’s running anymore, but there used to be a great ad campaign for Duracell batteries that featured the Energizer Bunny. This wind-up rabbit would parade through the scene, beating a drum and just kept going and going and going. That was the point. The bunny, fueled by the batteries, kept going and going and going. Starting to sound familiar? Maybe hit close to home? Here’s a contrast to consider. Today I was on a conference call hearing about a particularly fascinating leadership development topic (the stages of adult...

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How the Music Affects the Wood

Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

Readers of this blog know I like to play the electric guitar (I turn it up to 11), and I like Arlington Fretworks. http://arlingtonfretworks.com/home Proprietor and craftsman Daniel Carbone repairs and builds guitars there. I have written previously about his standards of excellence being off the charts. (One client wrote that he would trust him to work on his kids’ teeth.) http://blogs.managementconcepts.com/lm/leadership/2010/09/a-thousandth-of-an-inch-or-%e2%80%9cgood-enough-for-government-work%e2%80%9d/ Daniel’s website notes that an...

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Faster Is Not Always Better

Posted by on May 17, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

I recently served on a grand jury, which is definitely some experiential learning. It allows one to discover many facets of the community that may not be encountered so regularly in the course of everyday life. The way a grand jury works is that you hear many, many case summaries, each of which takes anywhere from less than a minute to just a few minutes. The grand jury only decides if there is sufficient evidence to warrant a trial, not guilt or innocence. With dozens of cases to hear, the question came up: Should we work through lunch and...

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What’s in your box?

Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

Part of my mid-life and daughter-going-to-college-soon plan involves building a recording studio in my basement. (There are worse ways to handle this phase of life.) I like to play the guitar and drums, and apart from occasional purchases that have to be carefully explained in advance of the credit card statement arriving, it’s all good. If you thought some of your friends were snobs about their stereo sound systems or home theatres, you ought to talk to musicians. They salivate and practically genuflect over the really good equipment, and go...

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Kindness

Posted by on Apr 12, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

I’ve adopted a new practice I want to share with you, because it’s making a real difference in my own life, and maybe it could in yours, too. You know the bumper sticker, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless beauty?” The one some people sneer at? Well, the people who made and display that bumper sticker have something going on. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks, and think I’ve hit it every day. (I was on the road and you know how blurry things get on the road.) I’ve been doing the acts of kindness part rather than senseless...

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Glue

Posted by on Mar 9, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

The team over here at 8230 Leesburg Pike has been through a lot lately, let me tell you. From a variety of sources, we have been buffeted by new demands, expectations, rapidly changing circumstances and other factors that all created what can safely be described as enormous stress. It started in the autumn, so it’s not like it’s been just a short-term thing. What helps you get through stress? One thing I learned, or maybe relearned, or maybe learned more experientially is that a tight team really counts. By tight team, I mean a group of...

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Where Eagles Dare

Posted by on Mar 4, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

I wrote a blog last year about the Eaglecam – an ingenious and beautiful streaming video site where fascinated observers can see the laying of eggs, hatching of eaglets and development of the furry young birds into flight-ready, majestic beauties. http://www.wvec.com/marketplace/microsite-content/eagle-cam.html I noted then that part of the birds’ flight readiness plan is “branching” — a hopping to and from different branches, accompanied by the first flapping of wings. This builds muscle and eventually leads to full-out flight. I compared...

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Who are You?

Posted by on Mar 4, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

Who are you? Are you an individual, who has made choices around career, relationships and where to live? Or are you your job, relationships and location? It sounds like a silly or trick question, but let me share with you a line I heard delivering a leadership development program at one government agency. We had shown a video that highlighted leaders’ ability to evoke possibility and outstanding performance from those they are leading. Much of the video stressed the emotional connections and deeper communication with people that helps unlock...

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Let’s Single-Task

Posted by on Mar 1, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

One problem with writing blogs is that you have to admit when you do things you wish you hadn’t. After all, how real is the post, if not? In this vein, I need to make an embarrassing confession: It started at home, then quickly spread to the office, and now I hardly notice it anymore. It was so innocent at first. Yes, I am now multi-tasking while in meetings. To those of you who were expecting something more shocking or salacious, or those of you who have been doing that a long time, hold on – we’re going to circle back to the damage done....

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Is Your Own House in Order?

Posted by on Feb 28, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

For better or worse – probably worse – I find myself sometimes so tired at home that I fall back to the television and an unreasonably comfortable chair. (The Leisure Commander.) It is not exactly a productive end to the day, but it is relaxing. In doing so, I have come across a television show titled “Holmes on Homes” that is pretty hard to turn off, and I think I’ve figured out why. The basic plot on Holmes on Homes is the same every time; a distressed homeowner calls up Mike Holmes with some problem – a leak, mold, flooring that is...

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Steve Jobs Gets It

Posted by on Jan 24, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

Like probably almost everyone else reading this blog, I have spent much of my adult life horsing around with software. By this, I mean trying to navigate user interfaces, trying to understand the architecture of forms, trying to understand responses in the FAQ or Help forums that ironically assume proficiency in the programs or at least a master’s degree in software engineering, encountering bugs, eliminating viruses, losing saved work, spending half an hour trying to figure out how to do something that seems like it should take half a...

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Yes, Miracles Really Do Happen, and I Have the Proof (and 5 Witnesses)

Posted by on Jan 20, 2011 in Leadership | 0 comments

Many people are skeptical of miracles. They think they know “how things are,” and that they have a good grip on reality. They have little truck with the possibility of an event that would defy all expectations. All I can say in response to this nonsense is that I saw a miracle yesterday, and I’d like to describe it to you. In order to understand this miracle, we first need a little background. To localize it, think of someone you know who is really stuck in his or her ways. This is a person who has been doing the same thing over and over for...

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Pay Freezes Present Leadership Opportunities

Posted by on Nov 30, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

If you’re a manager in the federal government, you’ve heard some big news this week: not only will your pay be frozen for the next two years, but so will the pay of those who report to you. If you’re new to supervision you may wonder whether it is best to proactively surface this issue with your team or just hope they won’t bring it up. Don’t let the water cooler conversation get ahead of your leadership. Now is a great time for government supervisors to step up, talk with their team members about what matters...

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Back to the Basics

Posted by on Nov 10, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

My colleagues and I are sometimes excited by the latest, leading-edge research or new theories on leadership. Whether it’s the huge waves the burgeoning field of neuroscience is making, or the growing recognition that many of our work practices are not sustainable, there is something intriguing and engaging about the latest insights. And then we are yanked back to “reality.” This happens when we get our noses out of a fascinating white paper and just listen to what many employees say about their workplaces, and in particular, their bosses. It...

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Empathy for the Devil

Posted by on Oct 28, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

There is a real problem with the word “empathy.” Many people confuse it with “sympathy.” If you look up the words, there is some literal connection between them, but the difference between them is huge for leadership and individual effectiveness generally. Everyone knows what sympathy is. It is a feeling, usually connected to another’s pain. It is literally feeling bad when another is feeling bad. You may feel sympathy for the victim of a crime, or some unfortunate event. Empathy is quite different, and it is not so connected to emotion. It...

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Thinking and Feeling in the Hospital

Posted by on Oct 26, 2010 in Leadership | 3 comments

My wife was recently hospitalized (she’s fine now) and during an emotionally wrenching 6-day saga I served as air-traffic controller for a lot of communication from outside the hospital with and about her. One problem with being the in leadership and professional development business is that you cannot avoid seeing situations through certain lenses, some of which I want to share here. What jumped out most for me was noticing how people tended to respond to the news that things were definitely not well in one of two ways. Some people...

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Call It Leadership If You Want To, But . . .

Posted by on Oct 15, 2010 in Leadership | 2 comments

The November, 2010 issue of Vanity Fair offers a fascinating and in-depth, if depressing, insight into the world of Merrill Lynch’s leadership before and during the financial crisis, when Stanley O’Neal was at the helm. The piece, “The Man Who Blew Merrill Lynch’s Billions,” by Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera truly reads like an archetypal fairy tale, or myth. Perhaps Greek drama is a better characterization. It’s all here in the story — all the elements of leadership that run an organization into the ground. (See the summary at the end...

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Reality Depends on Where You Sit

Posted by on Oct 4, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

For some, possibly synchronistic, reason lately I have been confronted with numerous examples of cases where the interpretation of what happened really depended on where you sat. For example, one employee was railing against managers who do not prioritize the organization’s interests over their own. Later on, he described as a victory his own manager’s success in getting a favorable budget allocation out of a shared pot of money. I think it’s pretty clear, but in case not, imagine how the people outside his department must have felt. Pure...

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In the Groove

Posted by on Oct 4, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

If you are, or have tried to be a golfer (the joke is that the first 20 years are the hardest), then you already know a lot about performance. The maddening aspect of golf, in all its unforgiveness, is the ball flight. It is perfect performance feedback, and because of the razor-sharp margins of error in the game, the ball often goes into the weeds instead of the hole. So you would think given how many people get frustrated with their results, that whatever is needed to get from Hank the Hacker to Phil Mickelson would be steadily,...

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The Long Run

Posted by on Oct 1, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

It is always fascinating to read the biographies of failed leaders. These are the folks who went to jail, lost many billions, resigned in accounting scandals or lost the confidence of employees. Bad Leadership by Barbara Kellerman and Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington are packed with examples of such leaders. We are talking Chainsaw Al, Dennis Kozlowski, Bernie Ebbers, John Rigas, Ken Lay et al. In the stories of these leaders, a familiar pattern emerges with uncanny consistency. It goes something like this: Person of humble means...

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“My Brain Doesn’t Work That Way”

Posted by on Sep 27, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

Michelle Rhee, the D.C. Schools Chancellor, has been one of the most controversial, polarizing figures in educational reform in years. She was pictured on the cover of Time magazine with a broom in hand, symbolizing the clean sweep she would make of the much-criticized D.C. school system. She has consistently forged a take-no-prisoners style in her decision making and communication, shrugging off growing criticism of her leadership style. This blog post is not about the politics or merits of what she has done, or not done. Instead, it is...

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“If I Don’t Tell People My Story They Will Make One Up For Me”

Posted by on Sep 27, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

Sometimes, clients are our best teachers. I experienced this a few years ago working with the director of a federal agency office in Wyoming. During a leadership development session, “Paul” (name changed to protect his identity) said something I’ll never forget, and which, when shared with others, tends to produce a lot of immediate agreement. We were talking about how rumors start, how information rushes in to fill any vacuums in organizations, and how people view leaders. That’s when Paul dropped the line: “One thing I’ve learned as a...

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I’m Interested in That

Posted by on Sep 23, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

Occasionally, a practice comes along that seems to cut through a lot of the normal confusion and noise at work, and genuinely helps people communicate and get work done. The practice described here is very simple, except when it gets hard. Why it might be hard is explored below. The practice is to simply say, “My interest in this is . . .” So what is an interest? An interest is why you want something. It’s the motivator behind action, the value or belief upon which you are saying or doing something. It greatly facilitates communication by...

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“It’s All a Priority”

Posted by on Sep 22, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

It is time to put something in writing that is at the very heart of an unbelievable amount of organizational angst, confusion and turmoil. I hear it in practically every group I work with, and it is extracting a huge toll on employees. Without question, it is worsening. To kick this off, let’s imagine the prototypical scene when you see an incoming on the work radar, are already juggling multiple priorities, and you ask your boss, “What’s the priority?” When I ask groups what they hear when they ask their bosses this, the room always answers...

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Progress

Posted by on Sep 21, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

Last spring, I attended a pre-college planning session at my daughter’s high school, and decried in a blog the counselor’s reference to “a little personality test” as essentially a throwaway adjunct to the real stuff of standardized academic testing. I’m pleased to report that in the latest of these pre-college sessions, the counselor this time – a different one — talked about the importance of the young adults creating a real plan for college, which is linked to their vision of their best-fit career, which is ultimately grounded in,...

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A Thousandth of an Inch, Or, “Good Enough For Government Work”?

Posted by on Sep 13, 2010 in Leadership | 1 comment

For my mid-life crisis I bought an electric guitar. (It was cheaper and more acceptable than some of the alternatives.) This weekend, I took it to a local repair shop I found on the web (http://www.arlingtonfretworks.com/) for some routine tune-ups and maintenance. I had been struck by the site itself. It sold me on the shop. The proprietor described in extensive, rich detail what he does and how. It was clear this is a guy who is really into what he does. He loves his work. This was confirmed when I handed over my beloved Line 6 Variax 300....

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I never really meant to do this work

Posted by on Sep 2, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

My father, John, was a career counselor, and he told me something many years ago that I will never forget. It chilled me then, and whenever I tell this story to groups there is an immediate reaction. It’s a story, and it takes the form of someone about to retire coming in to talk to my Dad: “John, can we talk? “It’s a funny thing. I’m retiring next month, and it’s hard to believe. It seems kind of like a long time ago, and also like just yesterday, that I was in college and didn’t really know what to major in, so I majored in business (or...

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Just Do It

Posted by on Sep 2, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

This year’s results for the best and worst places to work in the federal government are out. Winners and losers. If an agency shows up on the Partnership for Public Service’s “worst” list there prima facie is a question around what to do about it. (Unless the leadership decides it doesn’t really matter. This then becomes a much deeper problem.) So virtually every agency wanting to make progress on this front naturally wants to know, “What should we do now? How do we ‘fix’ this?” The bad news, to quote an old slogan, is: “You can’t get there...

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Who’s Showing Up for Work Today?

Posted by on Aug 17, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

I’ll state the obvious: as long as people are involved, life’s not predictable. This platitude applies in all domains—social, spiritual, and business. It’s not just a matter of rationality or irrationality.  No, I remind you of this because even the most rational employees can behave irrationally at times.  That’s because they bring a different “self” to work every day.  This is what makes the art of leadership so challenging. I’m reminded of what my parents went through almost every day in getting ready for work.  Both of my parents worked,...

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The Best Quote in the Business

Posted by on Jul 2, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

Sometimes, just a few words can nail a concept so important to life and work that they border on poetry. That’s the case with the following quotation – the best I’ve ever heard in the business of leadership and management. It comes from the ancient philosopher from the West – not the East – (Santa Monica, to be specific) whose name is George Carlin (RIP). George Carlin once said, “Have you ever noticed that everyone driving faster than you is a maniac, and everyone driving slower than you is a moron?” Think about it. Whenever I share with a...

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Organizational Laryngitis

Posted by on Jul 1, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

Organizational laryngitis – a term I made up – is not a medical condition in which everyone at work suddenly loses his and her voice. Instead, it is a psychological and cultural condition. Organizational laryngitis is widespread, culturally entrenched, a sapper of new ideas and a demoralizer. It occurs when large groups of people feel they cannot safely speak up with their ideas, perspectives and points of view. When this condition sets in, the conversation does not stop. It goes underground. People need to express their ideas and...

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Failure Is An Option

Posted by on Jun 15, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

This time of year tends to be full of milestone events. Weddings, big vacations, and graduations are at the top of the to-do list. In the case of graduations, valedictorians, thought leaders and celebrities of all kinds tend to include a common thread about the importance of success in their commencement speeches. Those messages tend to go something like this: Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. (Nelson Mandela) Don’t live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable.  (Wendy...

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A very hard soft skill

Posted by on Jun 9, 2010 in Leadership | 6 comments

It is always interesting to hear people talk about the “soft skills.” One technician once described these as the “non-critical” competencies – things that are optional, not required. Things like communication, problem-solving, motivating others and engaging a team. The whole phrase “soft skills” sets up the domain of leadership and management competencies as frilly, puffy and frivolous. The not-so-subtle message is: Anybody can do them, but they’re really not that important. Other blogs will address whether they are important. This post asks...

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An amazing statistic

Posted by on Jun 7, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

If I told you that as a leader or manager you could do something relatively simple to increase loyalty, motivation, cooperation and buy-in, would you be interested? Probably so. And if I told you that I have discovered – somewhat accidentally – a statistic that is almost 100% correlated with perceptions of greatness as a manager or leader, would you want to know what the correlation is? Probably so. I have asked groups for about a decade to raise their hands if they have or have ever had what they consider to be a great boss. Some...

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Women Leaders: What’s Your Brand?

Posted by on May 29, 2010 in Leadership | 4 comments

“Whatever job you are asked to do, at whatever level, do it well because your reputation is your resume.” This statement by Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State and the first woman to hold that post, says a lot about perception and performance. This connection is likely to be made no matter what gender you are. But is stellar performance enough when it comes to establishing a leadership brand that adds conceptual context to your tangible performance record? If not, is the process of perception-building any different...

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The Importance of Certainty and Autonomy in Leadership

Posted by on May 20, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

If given a choice, research in the field of neuroscience shows that people are willing to bet on risky outcomes over ambiguous ones. The lack of uncertainty prevents people from stepping into situations that hold unclear outcomes; therefore, people demonstrate ‘away’ behavior such as retreat or withdrawal to move to a place of safety and security. The ‘knowing’ or awareness of some details in a risky situation is enough of a factor to influence ‘toward’ behavior. Given that leaders are responsible for leading change or working on a myriad of...

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Almost No One Ever Washed a Rental Car

Posted by on May 11, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

Why would you? It doesn’t belong to you. But imagine you’ve brought your own, brand-new car home. You will detail that thing if it starts to get dirty (or pay someone else quite a bit of money to do so). It is sometimes said that when an employee makes a suggestion in a meeting, that participant’s suggestion is the most powerful idea in the room, at least to its author. That’s a privately-owned idea, and there’s some serious investment in it. Contrast this with just telling someone to do something. That’s a rental car. No pride of ownership...

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Straight Off the 7th-Grade Playground

Posted by on May 4, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

If you learn much about how capital, technology and other “hard” assets are managed, it’s hard to not be impressed. Sophisticated, cutting edge formulae, research and precision are evident. Financiers chase the third digit in rate of return, and in our lifetimes we’ve all seen how fast, and sometimes breathtakingly, technology moves ahead. These assets are truly optimized, with best practices identified and implemented. However, if you think about where the next big productivity boost could come from – and if you’ve seen the contrast between...

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The EagleCam and Leadership Development

Posted by on Apr 30, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

Some of my colleagues and I spend more time watching an incredible internet EagleCam than we probably should. This is a weather-proof camcorder trained on an eagle’s nest, where we have been watching the mom and dad raise three Bald Eagle chicks. It is something like one of those wonderful nature shows, delivered through a browser. Someone asked about how the young eagles learn to fly. Do they just go for it and potentially fall? Get a lift from a parent? Start from the ground? In the bird world, there is a verb called “branching,” where the...

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Learning Right FROM Wrong

Posted by on Apr 27, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

Have you ever noticed that there are a lot of “How to…” books and manuals in existence? Take a stroll down the “Do It Yourself” aisle of your local bookstore and you’ll find everything from “How to Install a Kitchen Sink” to “How to Invest So That You Can Retire by 25″ (personal note: I don’t recommend the investing book). Conversely, have you ever noticed that there are not a lot of “How not to…” books and manuals in existence? It’s difficult trying to...

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It’s the Simple Things. Really.

Posted by on Apr 20, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

As leaders, it’s very easy to get caught up in our hectic day-to-day activities. Whether it’s a pressing budget deadline, a project that’s behind schedule, or a new initiative you’re implementing for your group, it sometimes seems like the work keeps coming even when we feel we’re completely tapped out. If you’ve ever felt this frustration, raise your hand. Now, everyone put your hands down. Truth is, we’ve all felt it. How do we sustain our relationships with our people while getting the work done? Well, it’s the simple things. Really. What...

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A “Little Personality Test”

Posted by on Apr 13, 2010 in Leadership | 3 comments

Last night I attended a pre-college seminar at my daughter’s high school, where a counselor described to a large group of overexcited, vicariously ambitious and excessively stressed parents some standardized tests of knowledge and reasoning skills to help their (also stressed) children get into college. There was a detailed presentation on the key test components, and then, almost as an afterthought, the counselor mentioned “there’s a little personality test in here, too.” Later in the session, she again mentioned the little personality test,...

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Development and the Dripping Faucet

Posted by on Apr 7, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

If you’ve been a homeowner for some time, you have probably experienced the following phenomenon: You see a faucet slowly dripping, think “big deal” and then get the surprise water bill at the end of the month. What does this have to do with development? Participants in leadership development often struggle with application. They “get” the content, see the possibilities for change . . . and then get stuck in application. They go back to old habits; fail to break new ground. There are powerful reinforcers for this. For one thing, the brain...

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The How of the What

Posted by on Apr 2, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

The How of the What A lot of management and even leadership thinking focuses on the “what” of work – deadlines, meetings, delegation, feedback, and so on. These are defined activities with a purpose, result and presumably some kind of measure. What is often missed in mechanistic models of workplace performance, however, is an understanding, let alone embracing of the “how.” The how is subjective, nuanced and very often the difference between success and failure. Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re giving feedback to an employee on a busted...

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Share It. Often.

Posted by on Mar 31, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

How many great leaders accomplished their visions on their own? Was Apple’s iPod envisioned, designed, built, managed, delivered, and serviced all by one person?  Obviously, the answer is, “no.”  It takes an entire team of individuals, each at their own level of the organization, to ensure the dream of the iPod is realized each and every day with customers across the planet.  It also takes a leader like Steve Jobs to paint the picture…to sell the vision…to ensure that individuals throughout the organization embody the very spirit of...

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A Radical Haven of Innovation

Posted by on Mar 16, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

Every organization has opportunities to innovate – either incrementally or via leaps and bounds – in order to better serve its customers.    What would happen if for one day you led a group of your colleagues to create a radical haven of innovation?  What would happen if you commandeered a conference room, posted a dozen large flip charts on the wall, and for two hours collectively asked: What would it look like to be amazing at what we do? What can we make incremental progress on today that moves us towards amazing? If we were operating at...

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When You Leave: Victim or Victor?

Posted by on Mar 10, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

When we’re out pounding the pavement looking for a new job, we do all we can to put our best foot forward. We prepare for the interview, and we do our absolute best to ensure that the product we’re presenting (us) is the product that our prospective company wants to buy. If we’re lucky, we get the job and are ready to begin. The first 90 days may greatly influence how your career progresses with the organization. Chances are we’ve all been there. But what happens when, at the soft drink machine or over lunch in the breakroom, we hear that...

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Leadership and the Olympics

Posted by on Mar 2, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

As someone who watched many hours of the Olympics, I noticed an underlying, yet present connection between my work in the field of leadership and those Olympians on television.  Leadership was being demonstrated everywhere! Individuals from all over the world demonstrated the self-perseverance and determination required to be a participant in their sport, yet practically every one was humble about their own accomplishments, gracious towards their fellow athletes, had a deep appreciation for others’ while still in competition, and carried on,...

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Let’s Go to the Data: What Really Works in Leadership?

Posted by on Feb 23, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

Go into your neighborhood bookstore and you will find countless titles on leadership. (350,000+ on Amazon.com.) Competency models can contain dozens of things a leader is expected to do, and we all relate to ideas of what effective leadership is really all about from our own experience – good and bad. It can be confusing, and overwhelming. Given this, an interesting question is: What does the empirical, data-driven work show us about truly effective leadership? What do we know from real research? Fortunately, there is exhaustive...

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Learn from Failure or Fail to Learn

Posted by on Feb 16, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

It may sound almost heretical in an achievement-driven culture to spend much time thinking or talking openly about failure. After all, the reality is that we’ve all seen many times how individuals, teams, departments and even entire organizations will go to extreme lengths to demonstrate that whatever happened wasn’t a failure, or at least their fault. Admitting failure is often viewed as something like the ultimate sign of weakness. This is unfortunate, and in the long run it is very costly. Problems and mistakes swept under the rug don’t...

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The Courage to Lead

Posted by on Feb 10, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

It takes a lot of courage to lead.  It takes courage to step up to the challenge.  It takes courage to stand in front of others and ask them to follow.  It takes courage to push or pull others along a path that is anything but familiar or comfortable at times.  The reason is takes courage to lead is that because leadership inherently involves risk.  There is a risk that your activities won’t lead to outcomes…that your ideas will fail in comparison to the promise you offered…and others won’t appreciate or even like you...

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Are you a producer, or a performer?

Posted by on Feb 2, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

We all know what a producer is: gets the job done, churns out product, is a volume operator. You can be sure there’s a check-mark next to the task. We may not be so sure about what a performer is. What exactly is performance, anyway? What does the term really mean? An example helps explain the difference. Let’s say you are in charge of developing new software for internal users. You can produce that software (and go ahead, check that box), but for many of us who have lived through software deployment or upgrades, the real question is: is the...

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What Unlocks Potential in People?

Posted by on Feb 2, 2010 in Leadership | 0 comments

This is an intuitively, inherently appealing topic. After all, who doesn’t want to see others (or himself or herself) fulfill individual potential? Unlocked potential is about people playing “full out,” swinging for the fences and working their best and hardest for the biggest results. It’s playing to win, which is a lot different than playing not to lose. The latter is playing safe, minimizing risk, not wanting to ever make waves, keeping your head down, or doing the minimum to get by (compliance). Sports coaches all take the concept for...

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Keep the Change

Posted by on Jan 29, 2010 in Leadership | 2 comments

Keep the change.  No, it’s not just what people say when they get your morning coffee from the local barista.  It’s something that’s said every day within organizations.  It is the all-too-common employee revolt against changing the status quo.  If you are a leader, then you need to understand change from the eyes of an employee.  To not try to understand change through others’ perspectives is like trying to give directions to someone to a restaurant that you’ve never actually been to.  Atticus Finch, a character...

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