Friday, December 6, 2013

What reality will we choose in the coming year?

Portal to new growth in 2014.  Let's go together!
Welcome, All!  As you can see, the blog has become a bit of a junk drawer.  Although the events continued this year, guest posts were on hiatus.  Coming changes include:
  • Routine inclusion, at a distance, of a few participants who can't be in DC for SFF events
  • Development of a more useful web site
  • Resumption of guest posts by thoughtful colleagues who have something to say. (Does that include you?)
You who are attracted by the events, please email me at kittywooley5 [at] gmail [dot] com.  The events involve breaking bread together, are smallish, and are invitation-only -- they depend on mutual trust, positive intention, collegial open-mindedness, and wholehearted participation.  And if you would like to contribute a guest post, then let's talk about that. 

In the meantime, please consider the following.  Take care.

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
― Dalai Lama XIV    

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Gail Williams, Leadership Innovator at NASA

Gail Williams enjoyed a 36+-year career at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.  She retired in September 2010 and is now an Emeritus at Goddard.  We'll convene with Gail for dinner and discussion on October 29th, 2012.

Gail started a 21-year acquisition management career in 1974, beginning as a GS-5 entry-level contract specialist.  She rose through the ranks to middle management after serving as the Chief of the Procurement Support Division, as well as Acting Procurement Officer.  In 1995, she began a 14-month detail at the Executive Office of the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), returning to Goddard in 1996 as the Special Assistant to the Goddard’s Chief Financial Officer managing the Center’s Workforce Refocusing Program.

As part of her Workforce Refocusing Program responsibilities, in 1997 Gail was tasked with organizing “Focus on Our Future Day” at two NASA Goddard locations.  All Goddard employees were encouraged to learn about Goddard’s future direction and how to effectively support large scale change.  An outgrowth of this activity was the establishment of the Center Director’s Colloquia Series – now award winning and 15 years old.  The series is currently known as the Exploring Leadership Colloquia Series.

While supporting Goddard’s Office of the CFO, Gail was asked to lead an Agency-wide activity to develop competency based career development guidelines for the almost 1,000 financial and budget people at NASA.  This resulted in a several-year commitment and the development of guidance that was labeled a Federal Best Practice by the U.S. CFO Council.

In 2001, the Goddard CFO asked Gail lead an effort and to design a leadership development program for the financial and resources management community of ~350 people at Goddard.  This resulted in a 7-year stint as Program Manager for Goddard’s award winning Leadership Alchemy Program.  Leadership Alchemy was a transformational, state-of-the-art program that earned national and international recognition for the benefits derived by both the participants and the organization.  When speaking at the first national Followership Conference at Claremont-McKenna University on the impact of Leadership Alchemy, Gail was asked to write an article that was subsequently published in the book The Art of Followership.  The article is titled “The Hero’s Journey to Effective Followership and Leadership:  A Practitioner’s Focus.”  Gail was a guest contributor to The Washington Post's "On Leadership Column."

Over time, Gail’s job in the OCFO morphed into supporting strategic and cultural change and leadership development.  She served as an internal consultant to the CFO and the entire CFO management team. In the spring of 2009, Gail joined the Office of Human Capital Management as the Special Assistant to the Director of Human Capital.  She served as Program Manager for the newly awarded Leadership Development and Excellence in Management Program.

Gail’s undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of Connecticut and a Masters in Public Administration from the Maxwell School.  In October 2000, Gail earned a certificate in organizational learning from George Mason University and is certified as a coach by The Newfield Network. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Business of Community

What do the Bank of America, Susan G. Komen Foundation and the government of Egypt have in common? For each of them, online conversations extended and ignited activism that forced them to alter decisions about products, policies and leadership. Networked communication environments are creating unprecedented opportunities for individuals and groups to be heard and every organization should be paying attention.

The speed of information access and distribution, fueled by cheap and pervasive technology, is driving a profound need to change our organizations and management approaches. Social business is an effort to make organizations more human, adaptive and resilient in order to mitigate risks and address new opportunities. At its core, social business is about optimizing our human resources, which are now the most critical and expensive asset for all organizations.  On September 18th, Rachel will share lessons learned and stories to connect these macro issues to the changes organizations are making at the operational level, including the critical role of community structures.

Rachel Happe (@rhappe) is a co-founder and principal at The Community Roundtable, a company dedicated to advancing the business of community. The Community Roundtable provides education, training, and advisory services to community and social business leaders. Rachel has over fifteen years of experience working with emerging technologies including enterprise social networking, eCommerce, and enterprise software applications. Rachel has served as a product executive at Mzinga, Bitpass, & IDe, and as IDC’s first analyst covering social technologies. She started her business career as an analyst at PRTM, after a stint working in the office of the Deputy Chief of Navel Operations the Pentagon. Rachel serves on the Enterprise 2.0 Conference Advisory Board and as an Isis Parenting Fellow. She writes at and

Sunday, July 22, 2012

SES or "Manager of One" - Federal Leadership Opportunities Abound

Do you aspire to a formal leadership position within your organization?  You know - leading people and managing work, whether as a supervisor, manager or executive.  If the answer is yes, is your aspiration rooted in a genuine desire and feeling that this is your path?  Or, does it spring from a feeling that only the formal organizational leaders get respect and top pay, can make change, and are offered interesting opportunities? 

There is a way for you to craft a satisfying career as a nonsupervisory “Manager of One,” no matter where you are in the organization, that also preserves your options.  As Fried & Hansson (37 Signals), suggest in their New York Times Bestseller, Rework:
Managers of one are people who come up with their own goals and execute them. They don’t need heavy direction. They don’t need daily check-ins. They do what a manager would do – set the tone, assign items, determine what needs to get done, etc. – but they do it by themselves and for themselves.
Does this mean you can cowboy off into the sunset and do your own thing?  Absolutely not.  You must be in close alignment with organizational goals and objectives in order to understand how your actions can lead to results that will matter to the 314 million people we serve.  Some people resemble the Fried & Hansson description coming into the organization, whereas others develop over time the ability to make things happen from any position that plays to their strengths.  Effective preparation for either path (Senior Executive Service or Manager of One) begins with a willingness to push beyond one's comfort zone, the development of competence and confidence based on small wins, and a permanent shift into continuous learning mode.

Keep an eye on the 2012 Next Generation of Government Training Summit site, where all sorts of resources that can support your path toward either goal - SES or "Manager of One" - will be posted in the days following the July 26-27 conference.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Retooling and Refreshing to Set Yourself Apart

The following is an excerpt of a story I wrote for a new book called The Insider’s Guide to Supervising Government Employees, edited by Kathryn M. Johnson (Management Concepts Press 2011). The book is a collection of stories from many supervisors whose purpose is to help government supervisors (new and seasoned alike) navigate their responsibilities and challenges more successfully. It covers several key areas including understanding yourself, getting the best work from others, and supervising in a changing work landscape. In this particular story, I illustrate the importance of ongoing self-development to help supervisors continue to achieve success in their role. In my upcoming book, Employee Development on a Shoestring (ASTD Press, expected pub. date April 2012), I describe in much greater detail both the value and suggested approaches for many development methods that happen outside the classroom.

Chris’ excitement was through the roof when he learned that he had been promoted. Finally! He was now officially a supervisor of a newly formed team in his agency. Chris felt a quiet confidence in his ability to excel as he emailed his mentor, Soo-Lin, to share the good news with her. After they scheduled their next monthly “coffee talk” meeting, Chris sat at his desk making lists of ideas and action items.

A few weeks later, Soo-Lin relaxed into her chair as she congratulated Chris once again on his accomplishment and listened to his tales of his first month as a supervisor. Sipping her coffee, she listened to his stories of excitement and frustration from her perspective of having been in supervisory roles in the federal government for the past 20 years.

“What are you doing to ramp up your supervisory skills, Chris?” Soo-Lin inquired.
“What do you mean?” asked Chris.
“Well, you have a whole new skill set you need to acquire, and fast. You will certainly learn on the job, but what are you doing to proactively enhance your skills?”
“I’m not sure I have any ideas. What do you suggest?” said Chris, looking at Soo-Lin quizzically.

Over the next hour, Soo-Lin shared with Chris some of the resources that she found helpful, including books, seminars, and training classes. But it was the story she told him that really got Chris thinking about how to keep his skills and knowledge fresh now and into the next stages of his career development.

“You know, when I first got promoted, there were no supervisory training classes offered and no resources given to me to prepare me for my new role. I had to learn as I went, the hard way. Things went very well for the first couple of years and my hard work was rewarded and rewarding.

“But then, things began to shift. I was no longer getting the results I wanted from my staff. They seemed unmotivated and deflated, and I felt frustrated with my job. I applied the same techniques that had worked before, but they were just not working in the same way. I felt really stuck and unhappy. Word got around that there might be a reorganization in our department and I started to worry that I might lose my job.

“That’s when I began to realize that I had become stale; my skills and knowledge were not sufficient to produce the performance results I wanted to see. I felt baffled and lost, so I started reading every management book in the library, searching for answers. I also started looking for role models to talk with, both inside and outside my office and agency. I was amazed how happy these successful supervisors were to share their ‘best practices’ and ‘lessons learned’ with me, and it was great to learn from them about things I could do or avoid doing—and not have to learn them the hard way! One told me that he attends the monthly meetings of our field’s professional association to learn new techniques and connect and network with other professionals with whom he collaborates and shares ideas. So I started attending these meetings also—what an eye-opening experience!

“What I learned, slowly but surely, is that your skills and knowledge need to be constantly upgraded and challenged. You can never rest on your laurels just because you have reached a certain rung on the career ladder; you need to keep working or you’ll find yourself falling off—or getting pushed off. And there are so many different ways available to help you retool, refresh, and learn.”

This is an exciting time to be a supervisor. You have the opportunity to influence others in a changing landscape. You will be challenged to handle day-to-day issues effectively in the context of an ever-evolving work environment. The best way to create a balance that serves both your employees and your organization well is to keep strengthening your personal capabilities as a supervisor. Only then will you be ready and able to help others envision and prepare to meet the demands of the 21st century government work environment.

More to Think About and Try
  • What are some books, training, and other resources you could access to upgrade your supervisory skills? Are there resources that would help you on an ongoing, continuous basis?
  • Who are some key people who could help you learn and develop your supervisory skills? Are there any groups you could join or people in your current network you could tap to become your mentors or “master-mind” group?
  • Can you branch out and increase your network to include role models and kindred spirits?
  • Can you find opportunities to bring supervisors together? Who can—and is willing to—share their lessons learned?
Excerpted with permission from The Insider’s Guide to Supervising Government Employees, edited by Kathryn M. Johnson. © 2011 by Management Concepts, Inc. All rights reserved.

Halelly Azulay is president of TalentGrow, a consulting company focused on developing leaders and teams to improve the human side of work through training, teambuilding, and coaching. She is the author of the upcoming book, Employee Development on a Shoestring, to be published in April 2012.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A solution to "not enough time"

Rachael Happe, groundbreaking co-founder of The Community Roundtable, has just written an incredibly important post entitled, Communities - The New Strategic Imperative.   I urge you to read and consider it.

Some managers and executives I know have expressed what I'll characterize as desperation at the speed at which things are running, and the fact that an end to the acceleration is nowhere in sight.  A few are trying to understand this problem and devise solutions.  Others seem to hover near the point of exhaustion.  Meanwhile, brain research studies on multi-tasking's lack of efficacy have begun appearing.  None of this bodes well for high quality decision-making.  

The leadership development experts have begun socializing the "new" competencies that governing in an increasingly complex 21st century will require - but is the task just skills acquisition, or are people in the most technologically advanced cultures approaching some sort of inner limit?  Happe's post puts a much needed and very credible context around this issue of "not enough time."  I think her vision is attractive because it focuses on quality, is sustainable, and in the long run will deliver more value.  What do you think?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Civil Protection 2.0 - More from Elena Rapisardi in Tuscany

Some of you will remember an earlier blog post about the webconference that Elena Rapisardi and I convened, in January, 2010, between Virginia, New Orleans, Boston, Italy (University of Ferrara campus) and in Dublin, with the generous assistance of Management Concepts staff.  Elena continues her groundbreaking efforts to harness social media for emergency preparedness and emergency response purposes in Italy.  The technical aspect of those efforts is the simplest one; as we all know, introducing a constructive vision for the future that can change mindsets and motivate different behavior is much harder and requires leadership.  Elena is doing both.  A quick video that gives us a peek at the latest project is available at  Take a look.