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

Managing Government as a Talent Driven Organization

Two books published this month directly relate to the goal of improving performance. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey co-authored with Ori Brafman, Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership. Three prominent consultants drafted the second, Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First. The books focus on very different but complementary subjects central to raising workforce performance levels.

Maybe it’s a coincidence, but also this month the Office of Personnel Management finally got its new director, Jeff Tien Han Pon, the first director in decades with solid HR credentials. The authors of Talent Wins argue the reinvention of HR should be a critical priority. That is now more important in government than in any other sector.

These are not HR books, however. Talent Wins was written “for CEOs and leaders across the organization.” The authors, Dominic Barton, Dennis Carey, and Ram Charan “have a combined 90 years of advising CEOs and their boards.” General Dempsey’s book was selected by the Washington Post as one of the 11 leadership books to read in 2018. In combination, the books present an argument that would make federal agencies far...

The Liberating Power of Accountability

Liberating is an odd word to associate with the idea of accountability in the workplace. At least it is until you’ve worked in an environment where accountability is enforced like patronage jobs in Chicago are dispensed—unfairly, unevenly, and directly related to the powerful people you know.

The absence of consistent enforcement of accountability creates a toxic environment filled with distrust and disgust, the latter emotion felt by those who take their commitments seriously, while others cavalierly shirk theirs without repercussion.

Some managers are easy marks for manipulative employees who create a seemingly never-ending list of plausible-sounding excuses as to why they aren’t living up to their commitments.

This well-intentioned but naïve manager provides regular latitude to the excuse-making employee, while everyone else looks on with annoyance at this obvious ploy.

In other circumstances, a dual set of rules emerges, where everyone but one or two manager’s favorites work diligently to live up to commitments and meet deadlines, while the favorites seem to have perpetual hall passes.

And in perhaps the most annoying of all scenarios, the manager preaches and enforces accountability for everyone except the person staring back in the mirror.

The manager who violates...

A Former Google Engineer Explains How Creative Freedom Can Turn People Into Entitled Jerks

For a certain type of worker, Google sounds like paradise. The company offers on-site gyms, generous 401(k) matches, cafeteria trolleys stocked with chai tea and mango lassis, and even high-tech Japanese toilets. But its most attractive benefit may be the gift of personal autonomy.

As one former Google employee tells it in an email posted on the economics blog Marginal Revolution, during the 10 years that he worked at the Silicon Valley giant, Google granted engineers nearly unlimited creative freedom. He writes:

The official mantra was, “hire the smartest people and they’ll figure out the right thing to do.” People were generally allowed to sign up for any project that interested them (there was a database where engineers could literally add your name to a project that interested you) … Almost anything would be considered as a new project unless it was considered to be “not ambitious enough.”

This freedom made Google a deeply attractive—and inspiring—place to work, according to the anonymous author. Recruiters lured potential hires with the promise that they could work on “anything they wanted to.” But this level of freedom had some surprising downsides for the company, too.

The appeal of autonomy


Why Are We So Sleep Deprived, and Why Does It Matter?

As we prepare to “spring forward” for daylight saving time on March 11, many of us dread the loss of the hour’s sleep we incur by moving our clocks forward. For millions, the loss will be an added insult to the inadequate sleep they experience on a daily basis.

Surveys show that 40 percent of American adults get less than the nightly minimum of seven hours of sleep recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the National Sleep Foundation. The National Institutes for Health estimate that between 50 million and 70 million people do not get enough sleep. These recommendations for minimal sleep are based on a review of many scientific studies evaluating the role of sleep in our bodies and the effects of sleep deprivation on our ability of our body to function at our peak performance level.

I am a neurologist at the University of Florida who has studied the effects of both traumatic brain injury and sleep impairment on the brain. I have seen the effects of sleep impairment and the significant effects it can have.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, American adults currently average 6.9 hours of sleep per night compared...

Closing The Pay Gap Means Women Are Going To Have To Start Bragging

You’d think that simply performing well at work and helping others would be enough to get you the recognition you deserve. But as a woman you might as well shoot yourself in the foot. Not only will you be less likely to get that pat on the back, you might as well kiss goodbye (or will at least struggle to get) that overdue pay raise or promotion.

If you want to move up the ladder, you need to be your own personal cheerleader because people are less likely to do it for you. You need to brag. You need to wave your arms and point to specific results you’ve produced or accolades you’ve earned.

There are probably several reasons this idea makes you nervous. For one, you may fear you’ll actually get penalized for bragging (in which case you wouldn’t be entirely off base; we’ll cover that in just a minute). More likely, you’re simply worried that it won’t feel right to brag. After all, “your work should speak for itself”—only it doesn’t if you’re a woman. You don’t have the luxury to fail upward like the average...