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You Can Make Your Email Feedback Sound Less Critical With One Word

Without a warm smile, a reassuring tone, or other clues traditionally offered in live exchanges, a perfectly neutral statement sent via email can come across as cold or even cruel. To correct this “negativity bias,” be conscious of it and evaluate your messages carefully. And consider making use of the word “yet.” It’s a small word, but it packs a lot of power.

“Yet” serves a very specific purpose. It indicates that progress is still possible and that hope is alive, reflecting what Stanford University professor Carol Dweck calls “a growth mindset” as opposed to a “fixed mindset.”

Dweck, a developmental psychologist who studies motivation, says that putting the word “yet” at the end of a critique (i.e. “We are close but not there yet”) encourages engagement and error processing rather than emphasizing the tyranny of the now and its immediate failures. It “provides a pathway to the future,” Dweck says.

Keeping hope alive is particularly important in the age of electronic communication; it’s a helpful tool for softening any perceived blows that you never intended to deal anyway. And as the Harvard Business Review recently pointed out, using placating language, with other social cues that show...

Risk is Agencywide, But What About Risk Management?

Recent news that the Modernizing Government Technology Act has cleared the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee represents promise for federal transformation. But as agencies look to update their bloated stock of legacy infrastructure, their risk profiles will transform as well. All organizational levels, from the C suite to the mailroom, will be affected.

Among the areas most impacted by the digital evolution will be records and information management (RIM). Those who carry out the policies and practices of securing and managing information assets and their lifecycles will need to prepare for the risks.

The definition of a government record has evolved beyond paper records to encompass digital documents, emails, social media and even worker knowledge. However, the government has not yet adequately updated its overall risk framework to reflect this. The most telling evidence of this assertion is the 2015 data breach at the Office of Personnel Management.

In a recently released House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report on the OPM data breach, lawmakers stated that, “the longstanding failure of OPM’s leadership to implement basic cyber hygiene . . . represents a failure of culture and leadership, not technology.” So what can be done? Changing the entire culture of an...

Why People Fall for Charismatic Leaders

Why do people still believe Donald Trump when he says things like, "Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they've ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever"? (Even setting aside slavery and Jim Crow, “Nationally, the black poverty rate is 24.1 percent, which is much higher than the 9.1 percent percent it is for whites. But that’s still lower than it has been in the past,” Politifact points out.) Or that there could be anywhere from 3 to 30 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., but “the government has no idea.” (The number is 11.4 million, Politifact says, and the government is quite sure.)

It could be because Trump, like many charismatic leaders, casts his arguments in ways that tickle the emotional parts of our brains while telling the more rational lobes to shush. That’s the process explored by Sara E. Gorman, a public-health expert, and her father, Jack M. Gorman, a psychiatrist and CEO of Franklin Behavioral Health Consultants, in their new book, Denying to the Grave: Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save Us. “Persuaders might want to reduce the possibility of dissonance by constantly reassuring people that...

Why Big Data is a Big Deal for Government Leaders

Professor Alfred Ho, at the University of Kansas, recently surveyed 65 mid-size and large cities to learn what is going on, on the frontline, with the use of big data. He found that it has made it possible to “change the time span of a decision-making cycle by allowing real-time analysis of data to instantly inform decision-making.” This decision-making occurs in areas as diverse as program management, strategic planning, budgeting, performance reporting, and citizen engagement.

So just what is big data?  According to Ho: “Big data refers to the use of a massive amount of data to conduct analyses so that the data patterns and relationships can be used for classification, clustering, anomaly detection, prediction and other needs in decision making.”  Information sources increasingly include mobile devices, digital cameras, RFID tags, and embedded sensors.

Ho says that while the sources are important, the key is how these data are collected, organized, analyzed and used. He outlines a two-part framework detailing both the data cycle and the decision-making cycle. He writes: “The framework for big data initiatives challenges the departmental silos of data ownership and processing so that a more integrated and holistic perspective is used to gain new insights.” In...

How to Work With People You Don’t Like

Nearly 100 percent of the time, my coaching and consulting assignments bump up against the relationship issue as an obstacle. Not my relationship with the client, but rather somewhere in the client environment, an important relationship that is so dysfunctional and sometimes toxic it rises to the surface as an impediment to progress.

  • Functional executives square off in diametric opposition to each other.
  • Executives and senior managers refuse to collaborate with those they believe have slighted them.
  • A bit lower in the ranks, long-time squabbles over promotions, resources and power create embittered workplace foes who would rather walk across the street than share a sidewalk with each other.

Adding fuel to the fire, we have results from the recently announced Australian study suggesting that one in five senior executives displays psychopathic traits—approximately equivalent to that of a prison population.

Great, just great.

Work would be easy if it weren’t for the people. Unfortunately, or fortunately, there’s no getting around dealing with others. To succeed, you’ve got to work at creating productive relationships, even with individuals you find distasteful. The key is to have a strategy for navigating the situation when you cannot avoid working together on...

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