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

Leaders Rarely Do What It Takes to Develop Others

There are some myths about what it means for leaders to develop the people they’re responsible for leading. Here's the reality behind a few of them:

  • Developing others doesn’t belong to human resources, talent management, organizational development, or whatever other helpful organization you may have access to, although they can help. Let’s be clear that developing others is your job.
  • Developing people doesn’t have to cost oodles of money. In fact, it doesn’t have to cost anything but your time and your effort; and you might just find a great deal of satisfaction helping others to grow and learn.
  • Meaningful development isn’t only about delegating work to others. Delegating is important, but it’s what you delegate and how you do it that can make it a growth opportunity.
  • Don’t wait for someone to come to you and ask to be developed. Don’t tell them to think about what they’d like to do as a development opportunity; that’s pretty scary and they may not be comfortable throwing out ideas that will get shot down because of cost or fit within the organization.

Be intentional about your efforts to find ...

Visualizing the Global Gender Gap

Measuring the expressions, and impact, of gender inequality, isn't always cut-and-dry. Last week, current interim Reddit CEO Ellen Pao lost a gender discrimination suit against her former employer, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers. There, she maintained, she'd been subjected to subtle, even unconscious biases from her male colleagues.

The lawsuit wasn't a total loss for gender-equality advocates, though; as Slate'sAmanda Marcotte pointed out, it started an important conversation about how discrimination needn't be blatant in order to exist. Yet it's clear that we need subtler ways of understanding the impacts of gender inequality—not just in the tech industry, but on the global stage.  

Ri Liu, a Melbourne-based data visualization artist and web developer, has developed a striking new way to process different measures of gender inequality worldwide. "Close the Gap" charts how different countries compare when it comes to male and female participation in the labor force, in secondary education, in national parliament, and in income levels, using data mostly from the Gender Inequality Index from the U.N.'s 2014 Human Development Report.

"When I first found the dataset, I decided not to go down the obvious route of plotting out ...

Emulating High Performance Companies Comes Down to One Thing

The track record of efforts to improve agency performance does not include many successes.  When the 2010 GPRA Modernization Act was passed, one columnist referred to the new law “as the latest chapter in a history of U.S. federal performance reforms that have largely failed to meet expectations.”  Three years after its passage, the Government Accountability Office published the report, “Executive Branch Should More Fully Implement the GPRA Modernization Act to Address Pressing Governance Challenges.”  GAO concluded “OMB and agencies have made some progress . . . but are missing additional opportunities.”  Continuing performance problems suggest there has not been much progress.

For years government’s focus was on installing management systems and technology—answers that were developed and installed under contract.  Now with “modernization,” new products have been introduced and new positions created that make individuals responsible for leading performance initiatives.  The new answers reflect an intent to emulate the way performance is managed in industry. 

But there are three fundamental differences in industry. First, in industry people are truly accountable for achieving performance goals.  It’s effectively a psychological contract. Second, accountability is always linked to consequences for achieving or failing to achieve goals.  The consequences take the form of ...

Meeting the Needs of Women in the Workplace

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I want to highlight the Office of Personnel Management’s commitment to ensuring that all women—and men—are offered the flexibilities they need to be productive, satisfied members of the Federal workforce. OPM encourages agencies to help their employees balance the needs of their lives inside and outside of work.

In January, President Obama signed a memorandum titled, Modernizing Federal Leave Policies for Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care to Recruit and Retain Talent and Improve Productivity.  It directs agencies to advance federal workers up to six weeks’ paid sick leave to care for a new child or ill family member. In his State of the Union address, the president also called on Congress to enact legislation to provide federal workers with up to six weeks of paid parental leave.

The president’s memorandum builds on this past June’s White House Summit on Working Families, an event that explored a variety of issues important to working families, including workplace flexibility. OPM is contributing to these efforts by developing a handbook on Leave for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care. I believe it is important for federal employees and their managers to fully ...

Science Has Found the Emotion You Need to Stay Healthy

A link has long been proven between negative moods and ill health. But how do positive moods affect us physiologically?

Researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, set out to discover exactly that when they tracked emotions such as compassion, joy, love, and so on versus the levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6)—a secretion which causes inflammation in the body—in the saliva of 119 university students. The researchers found that those who regularly have positive emotions have less IL-6—and they noticed the strongest correlation with one particular emotion.


“There seems to be something about awe,” Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor and the senior author of the study, told the New York Times. “It seems to have a pronounced impact on markers related to inflammation.” Most of us think of awe as something felt rarely—but we may experience it more than we think. The students reported feeling awe three or more times a week. “How great is that?” Keltner said. “Some people feel awe listening to music, others watching a sunset or attending a political rally or seeing kids play.”

But what is awe, exactly? Unusually for an academic, Keltner’s definition was less than rigorous but perfect ...