Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

The Reality New Managers Can’t Avoid

One of the common reactions to the content I present in my online workshops “Succeeding as a First-Time Manager,” is: “This is hard work.”

I agree.

Kind of.

In a recent article, “Leadership is Common Sense in Action,” I make the case that we over complicate it a great deal.

I stand behind this perspective as well.

I suppose a bit of clarification is in order before you reasonably conclude I cannot make up my mind.

The ingredients of successful leadership are not locked away in a vault with a combination known only to two people.

They are out there for all of us to use and apply and experiment with as we navigate our days and challenges.

However, learning to lead effectively is indeed deliberate, hard, relentless work.

Too many managers are lazy and skip the daily hard work.

Those who succeed and change lives and firms for the better don’t take shortcuts.

Nonetheless, if you are fresh in the role of manager or thinking about it, you should understand the reality of this job.

It’s hard work.

It’s mostly common sense.

It’s darned hard work.

Consider these Challenges:

Pulling together a group to focus...

How to Improve Government Customer Experience

The private sector sets a high bar for customer experience as companies continue to innovate and exceed expectations in many realms, leaving federal organizations in catch-up mode.

According to Forrester’s 2017 Federal Customer Experience Index, 80 percent of federal agencies measured have overall scores that fall into the “mostly poor” or “very poor” categories, compared with 22 percent of private sector companies.

Agencies are trying to up their game. Many have conducted customer surveys and made more services and information available online. These are good first steps toward improving customer experience, but federal leaders need to do more. They must innovate and adopt more advanced customer experience strategies if they are to keep up with citizens’ raised expectations.

In a new issue brief, “Beyond the Basics: Leading Practices for Improving Customer Experience in Government,” the Partnership for Public Service and Accenture Federal Services examine three strategies well-established in the private sector that government organizations should consider adopting to improve citizen services.

Understand Customers’ Needs

While many agencies are using surveys to gather feedback and seek citizens’ perspectives, surveys do not always provide enough insight to fully understand customer experience. Agencies should also draw on more advanced research methods to...

The Benefits of Small Talk Outweigh Your Fear of Being Awkward

At an early age, you’re taught not to talk to strangers. Originally meant to protect us from childhood harm, this rule follows most of us into adulthood.

We keep to ourselves in public places. We avert our eyes on public transport. We stand frozen in the corners of cocktail parties and extended family gatherings, preferring to chat to the few folk we know rather than risk a conversation with an unknown entity. When you’re greeted with a rogue “Good morning!” as you pass the neighborhood fruit seller, you might jump, wondering what they want, or if you’ve spilled coffee down your front.

These chats are usually quick—a comment about the weather, a long line, a delayed bus. Others turn into much longer conversations about houses and hometowns, current and previous jobs, and family and friends. And is that moment of spontaneous human connection really such a horrible thing?

When we think of small talk, we see it as awkward and painful. There’s a fear of rejection that comes with attempting to start a conversation, or a feeling of having nothing in common with a stranger. We may have no interest in talking to people we...

'Ask For What You Want and Then Zip It:' Advice For Women Returning To Work After a Career Break

More than 200 people gathered in London this week to talk about strategies for getting back to work after a career break. “You have so much to offer,” Julianne Miles, co-founder of Women Returners, told the crowd. Her UK-based group is dedicated to helping employers structure “returnships,” or paid internships that train people coming back to work after time away, often to raise children.

There is an obvious gap to fill. Companies, facing a dearth of female leadership, a stubborn gender pay gap, and imperative to embrace more diverse thinking, need to attract experienced women. In the UK, there are 550,000 professional women on career breaks; about three-quarters of them say they want to go back to work at some point. Among the attendees at the conference, nearly 70% had professional or postgrad qualifications and a similar share had over 10 years of work experience.

“It’s a market failure we need to sort out,” said Sharmini Selvarajah, head of the returners policy team inside the Government Equalities Office.

In 2014, formal returnships in the UK were offered at three institutions: today there are 37. These programs started in finance, where the absence of senior women is notable, and...

Make #GivingTuesday a Day to Remember

It’s that time of year again—the holidays are upon us and the Combined Federal Campaign is in full swing. Last year, #GivingTuesday—celebrated the Tuesday following Thanksgiving—was the biggest donation day of the campaign. In the Washington area, it raised approximately $1.8 million in a single day. This year, #GivingTuesday is Nov. 28, and we are looking to top that amount with the generous support of federal employees.

For a number of years now, I have had the honor and privilege of leading the local federal coordinating committee that oversees the CFC’s National Capital Area. During this time, and indeed throughout my career in federal service, I have seen the workforce’s dedication to public service and the communities in which we live.

Being in public service is about giving back.

As the largest CFC in the country, we pledged more than $47 million to support thousands of local, national, and international charities through the 2016 CFCNCA.

But the generosity of our workforce doesn’t stop there. Each year, feds donate thousands of hours of volunteer time to many charitable causes. Whether helping disadvantaged children learn to read, volunteering in soup kitchens, or building houses...