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

How to Identify Emerging Leaders

During a recent workshop, one of the participants asked me how they could do a better job identifying prospective (I prefer the term: emerging) leaders in their organization. It’s a great question and one that merits consideration by every leader in every organization.

In my executive management life, I struggled with the groupthink approaches I saw for identifying so-called high-potentials and emerging leaders. These were most often thinly veiled political discussions wrapped in the cloak of some noble calling: find those who will lead us in the future. Unarguably, the sessions identified some rising stars in our organization; however, when it came to uncovering emerging leaders, the results were weak.

An alternative and I believe much more effective approach emerged over time as I worked with my direct managers to find ways to strengthen our effectiveness identifying and developing emerging leaders. While there are many factors involved in this important work, our group developed a process and vocabulary around the three lenses of awareness: personal, people, and situational. We also created some key ground rules for navigating this process, with emphasis on observation and continuous coaching.

Additionally, we worked hard to challenge ourselves and invite others to challenge our...

Want To Be Happier? Little Changes Can Help

A new book explains some of the factors that contribute to happiness and offers practical tips on how to increase our own happiness.

That might mean more sleep, a more regular exercise schedule, or practicing meditation or mindfulness. It could also mean understanding concepts such as hedonic adaptation or mindsets. The book—When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness (Grand Central Life & Style, 2018), by Tim Bono, lecturer in psychology at Washington University in St. Louis—tackles these ideas while offering strategies on how to make small changes in our lives that can go a long way.

The book closely follows the structure of Bono’s undergraduate course, “Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness,” and includes nearly 100 testimonials from students chronicling their experiences incorporating Bono’s strategies.

Bono supplements the book with nearly 100 testimonials from students chronicling their experiences incorporating Bono’s strategies, which he’s based in empirical data from his field. His students’ honest commentary—which Bono collected over years from stories they have shared with him in person or through weekly “thought paper” exercises—confronts the struggles as well as payoffs an individual may face when experimenting with different...

Agencies Must Change Their Recruiting Strategies

President Trump recently released a management agenda that calls for developing a 21st century federal workforce—one more closely aligned with agency missions and with the specialized skills needed to meet the evolving demands of the American public.

It won’t be easy.

A recent Office of Personnel Management workforce report found that 83 percent of agencies believe that staffing shortages hamper their ability to meet mission requirements and that they are both unprepared to fill current vacancies and have not developed clear plans to recruit and retain top talent. In OPM’s 2017 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, only 42 percent of respondents said their agencies recruit people with the right skills.

At the same time, recruitment budgets in most agencies have remained steady or decreased. Limited resources means that achieving the White House’s workforce goals will require agencies to find innovative ways to recruit and hire top talent, especially in areas where the government has the greatest skill gaps. These include cybersecurity experts, economists, human resources specialists, auditors, acquisition specialists, and those with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

New Strategies

In response to and in anticipation of these ongoing challenges, a number of agencies are taking...

Elon Musk’s Advice For When You’re Dragged Into Useless Meetings

Were Elon Musk to write a guide to business etiquette, it would likely be a slim volume, though a lively read, if his recent email to employees is any guide.

Musk, co-founder and CEO of Tesla, is reportedly pushing to double production, beginning in June, of the company’s Model 3 compact car, an ambitious goal seen as a response to the money-losing company’s current struggle to hit production targets, and to the threat of a cash crunch.

But Musk has a vision of how it can be done, one he outlined to staff in a lengthy memo sent to staff and obtained by the news site Electrek.

Much of the note was devoted to Musk’s plans to cut costs and improve efficiency—“I have been disappointed to discover how many contractor companies are interwoven throughout Tesla. Often, it is like a Russian nesting doll of contractor, subcontractor, sub-subcontractor, etc. before you finally find someone doing actual work,” he wrote.

In addition to putting suppliers on notice, Musk offered up some productivity tips to help Tesla workers stay focused on their manufacturing goal, but really they could apply to managers and conscientious employees everywhere. For example: “Don’t...

The Resume Of The Future Will Tell Employers Who You Are, And Not Just What You’ve Done

Resumes are a poor proxy for a human being.

Whether on paper or LinkedIn, they may tell an employer about a job seeker’s experience and credentials, but they’re frustratingly silent about almost everything else. They have virtually nothing to say about a candidate’s personality, or their character, or their ability to persuade and communicate—all soft skills that employers consider essential ingredients for success.

“Resumes are terrible,” says Laszlo Bock, the former head of human resources at Google, where his team received 50,000 resumes a week. “It doesn’t capture the whole person. At best, they tell you what someone has done in the past and not what they’re capable of doing in the future.”

But even as a register of a job candidate’s professional history, a resume is horribly flawed. Its rigid format organizes a life’s experiences into bite-sized units designed for the consumption of hiring managers, or—increasingly—scanning software.

Resumes force job seekers to contort their work and life history into corporately acceptable versions of their actual selves, to better conform to the employer’s expectation of the ideal candidate. Unusual or idiosyncratic careers complicate resumes. Gaps between jobs need...