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Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

What You Should Do Instead Of Sending Angry Emails To Your Enemies

High-stress situations can often cause people’s emotions to get the better of them. And if they’re not careful, the consequences can be dire.

But try telling that to the high-profile individuals who were seen raging left right and center this week. US president Donald Trump’s personal attorney Mark Kasowitz, for instance, didn’t think twice when a stranger sent him an email asking him to “Resign now.” He just blasted off a series of expletive-driven threats: “I’m on you now. You are fucking with me now. Let’s see who you are.”

Then there was the litany of abusive emails which writer and producer Frank Darabont wrote to his colleagues at AMC during the shooting of the zombie-hit TV series “Walking Dead.” One went so far as to threaten a killing spree with bodies being thrown out the door.

It’s bad enough if you’re a regular joe who lashes out against a friend or family member. That’s not cool. But there’s a good chance they’ll forgive and forget. Getting all heated in the workplace is a little more problematic, though. People there expect you to act professional at all times. Indeed...

When Potential Mentors Are Mostly White and Male

Stacy Blake-Beard was 29 years old when she was starting out as a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. Not only was she the youngest faculty member, but she was also younger than most of her students. One day, one of her doctoral students came into her office to discuss a research project. “[The student] looked over at me and asked, ‘How old are you, anyway?’” Blake-Beard recalls. “I think I did not fit her image of what a doctoral advisor would be.”

The idea that Blake-Beard’s age somehow prevented her from being an effective professor was a bias she often faced as an advisor, she said, even though she had the knowledge and experience necessary for the job. Since that first job, Blake-Beard has gone on to study the dynamics of such unconscious, or “implicit,” biases, and how they can affect diversity in the workplace. She’s focused on how unconscious biases can shape who mentors whom, recently publishing a book with the University of Pittsburgh business professor Audrey Murrell called Mentoring Diverse Leaders.

The idea that deep-seated biases can rule whom one gets close to in a corporate setting may help explain why typical...

How Organizations Fail to Prevent ‘Insider Threat’ Leaks

Although the probability is low that a company or government organization will have to cope with information being leaked by someone working inside, the probability rises over time that an “insider threat” event will occur, political scientist Scott Sagan argues in a new book.

An insider threat comes from within an organization—employees, former employees, contractors, or business associates—who have information that could compromise an organization’s security practices, data, and computer systems. Examples include Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and the sources of many of the Wikileaks revelations, among others, that have emerged in our internet-driven world.

For companies, an insider threat from an employee can be an economic disaster. For a government unit, an insider threat can quickly become a dangerous national security issue.

To better understand this rising phenomenon, Scott Sagan, professor of political science at Stanford University and senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, analyzes the challenges that high-security organizations face in protecting themselves from employees who might betray them.

Sagan recently coedited a new book on the topic, Insider Threats (Cornell University Press, 2017) with Matthew Bunn, a professor of practice at Harvard University. 

Here, he talks about these threats:


It’s Easy To Rail Against Big Government—Until There’s a Big Crisis

Amid all the uncertainties in President Trump’s tumultuous presidency, there is one subtle certainty. At some point—maybe next year, next month, next week, or in the next hour—the country will face a major crisis. It might be a hurricane, an earthquake, a devastating cyberattack, or a terrorist assault. But something big will happen. It will require a strong government response—big government, in what’s sure to be a big day. And it will pose one of the biggest challenges to the Trump presidency.

Trump might be shy of major legislative accomplishments, but he’s radically redefined the presidency, the White House’s relationships with the media, and the inescapable power of Twitter. They all have one thing in common. So far, the Trump presidency has been uncommonly focused on slashing and attacking, cutting away at the things the president does not like, especially if it has the Obama brand on it.

It’s been a presidency of assault—an assault on fake news, failing media companies, traditional press briefings, the deep state, the administrative state, job-killing regulations, the swamp, and the very core of the last 50 years of American government. There’s been an absolute...

The Three Words That Make Brainstorming Sessions At Google, Facebook, and IDEO More Productive

Brainstorming can be a tricky business. There’s the awkward silence when your boss asks a far-fetched question and no one knows how to respond. The fear that you’ll toss out an idea only to draw blank stares. The collective sense of disappointment when the whole team wants to help, but can’t come up with anything new.

To avoid these pitfalls, the design firm IDEO has developed a brainstorming strategy that relies on three simple words: the phrase “How might we.”

At a recent creative leadership class at the firm’s office in New York City, nearly every question was framed as a “How might we,” or HMW: How might we make our teams more engaged? How might we foster deeper relationships between employees? How might we inspire more frequent knowledge-sharing? The same approach is popular at Google and Facebook, according to the Harvard Business Review.

While the phrase “How might we” seems pretty basic, each word is intended to serve a specific purpose. “How” asks employees to be descriptive, “might” suggests there are good answers, but not a single correct answer, and “we” evokes inclusivity and teamwork, says Duane Bray, IDEO’s global head of talent.