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

Politicians and Security Clearances

Think your vote doesn’t matter? In addition to exercising your civic responsibility, you’re also carrying out a security responsibility, as well.

Members of Congress don’t go through the same background investigation process as you or me. The process of election is considered a public seal of access. When you elect a candidate into office – be it Congress or the Presidency – you in some sense grant them access to the classified information required for the position.

According to the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence: “There are no written rules, agreed to by both branches, governing what intelligence will be shared with the Hill or how it will be handled. The current system is entirely the product of experience, shaped by the needs and concerns of both branches over the last 20 years.”

What that means is that if a member of Congress or individual appointed to a government office needs access to classified information, they’re likely to get it.

What About Congressional Staff?

House and Senate staff members do undergo a security clearance background investigation process, as well as signing a non-disclosure agreement. Clearances are only granted to staff requiring access to classified information...

Always Stay For the After Party: Tips from the Negotiation Bible For World Leaders

Negotiating is hard enough when your livelihood is on the line, imagine how difficult it is to negotiate when the future of the world is at stake.

Even top diplomats need guidance. To ensure that agendas are addressed and conflicts resolved, the United Nations has created its own primer for the art of negotiation, called “Intergovernmental Negotiations and Decision Making at the United Nations: A Guide.”

Written in 2003, the official guide offers wisdom on how countries and NGOs can get what they want. Much of the book offers insight into UN bureaucracy, but there is also a more strategic section on how to playdiplomatic power games (pdf, p.47).

The UN is a very big bureaucratic machine, and even the sharpest political acumen at times fails to make it move efficiently. But the UN-approved tactics below—devised to move entire countries—are pointed enough to ensure victory in smaller battlefields: the office, social negotiations, sometimes family.

Here are some of the best, diplomatic tricks for getting what you want from others:

Over-preparedness is a myth:

From a strategic perspective, it is important to determine not only how many representatives can attend the meeting, but who is the best...

To Be a Better Negotiator, Talk to Your Colleagues Like You Talk to Your Kids

As kids, we’re taught the fundamentals of dealmaking: Listen, understand the other person’s point of view, be willing to compromise. The rules don’t change. But when those lessons aren’t properly absorbed in childhood—or when stress strips away our higher-level reasoning—even C-suite discussions can devolve into unproductive standoffs.

Fortunately, the same tactics that parents and preschool teachers use when brokering bitter playtime fights can be successfully applied to negotiations between adults. For an edge in your next challenging negotiation, don’t think like a child—think like an adult talking to a child.

Heads I win, tails you lose

“It would be hard for me to think of anything you could learn in childhood through negotiation that wouldn’t transfer to adulthood,” said William Ury, author of Getting to Yes and co-founder of the Harvard Program on Negotiation.

In 2012, Google embarked on a five-year, multi-million dollar effort to identify the traits of a productive working team. It found exactly one constant among the divergent groups they studied: The most effective teams had high levels of “psychological safety,” which means that members felt mutual respect, trust, and comfort voicing their opinions, the New York Times...

It’s Past Time to Address Government’s Workforce Problems

Government at all levels is experiencing workforce problems that are contributing to deteriorating performance. That was the No. 1 management challenge for state and local government in two independent surveys. It’s confirmed almost every day by stories on Government Executive.

The political candidates are exacerbating the problem: It’s now hunting season, metaphorically, to criticize workers. There is no evidence the candidates are interested in developing real solutions.

As every parent learns, rewards are far more effective than punishment. In the work context, public criticism that is not directed at a specific employee sends an unfortunate message that is felt by everyone; it undermines employees commitment and adversely affects both performance and the employer’s brand, a vital factor in recruiting high-quality applicants. 

Government’s performance will inexorably be affected by three trends: People age and eventually everyone retires. New graduates have options and need to be convinced their career choice will be satisfying. Finally, with the economic recovery, businesses are experiencing skill shortages that will push up pay levels. In combination, they portend deteriorating performance for government agencies.

A related problem is the cost of “disengaged” workers. Gallup estimates the cost to state and local government is up...

Infographic: The 8 Types of Toxic Managers

Everyone has a bad manager story. Even if you haven't experienced a lousy boss yourself, you surely know someone who has. 

Toxic managers come in many varieties. Some are allergic to the truth. Some want to micromanage every aspect of every project. Some are dinosaurs afraid to try new things (or maybe just incapable of developing new skills).

Reuben Yonatan of produced the infographic below with the eight main types of toxic managers. As Yonatan writes, you may feel helpless working for a toxic manager, but the situation may also provide an opening:

Toxic managers make work environments more difficult, but they can also provide opportunities for you to take initiative and “manage up.” Instead of being discouraged by your boss, think about what you can do to improve your skills and take charge of your career.

See if your boss falls in line with these archetypes and tell your stories in the comments. Click on the image to enlarge it.

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