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

How Much Sleep Do Americans Trade for Work?

Among my Type A, career-minded friends, I've heard two opposing types of personal mantras for the amount of sleep a person should get. The first: 8 hours of sleep will help you be more awake and aware, and then you can work harder. The second: Sleep is for losers.

The American Time Use Survey(ATUS) reports that employed Americans spend on average one more hour working than they do sleeping on workdays. Worldwide, America lags behind Europe in OECD's work-life balance index—not to mention Americans are more likely to work late at night and on weekends than Europeans. And although the recommended amount of sleep is seven to eight hours a night, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 30 percent of employed Americans—or roughly 40 million workers—sleeps six hours or fewer each night.

new study in the journal Sleep looks at the activities that are most exchanged for slumber. Using data from the ATUS, researchers Mathias Basner, Andrea Spaeth, and David Dinges sorted sleepers into three groups and compared their waking habits: short sleepers (those who sleep fewer than six hours a night), normal sleepers (six to 11 hours), and long ...

The 10 Tell-Tale Signs Your Boss Doesn’t Like You

Does your boss really like you? While it’s true that you don’t have to be bosom buddies with your boss in order to do your job, it certainly makes things a lot more difficult if there’s some personal dislike between you and your superiors.

But how can you tell if you’re really disliked, or if you’re just being overly sensitive?

Here are some key signs to look out for that will tell you the answer:

  1. Excludes you from important meetings, discussions, decisions. Either she forgot to invite you (which means you’re forgettable in her eyes) or it was deliberate. Either way, it’s not good.
  2. Micromanages you. If your boss is micromanaging you, it’s because he doesn’t trust you—whether his reasoning is valid or not.
  3. Inaccessibility. The opposite of micromanagement, this can be just as bad if your boss is never available to answer questions or talk with you about important subjects.
  4. Publicly criticizes you. First, this is just bad management technique. But in addition, it may mean that he is trying to humiliate you or call you out.
  5. Skips you in the promotion round. If this happens more than once ...

Bringing Out the Best in the Executive Ranks

Last week, President Obama and several agency heads spoke at a meeting of senior executives in Washington. The event helped frame why executive leadership remains a critical core of federal workforce productivity and effectiveness, and the president introduced several initiatives intended to strengthen the executive core as well as the services they lead.

This event, the first of its kind under the current administration, brought together several thousand federal leaders joined by a cadre of supporters of good government. The grand ballroom at the Washington Hilton was full and the mood was positive. We hope meetings like this continue periodically, whether they include the Senior Executive Service as a whole or subsets of leaders across government.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta presented a video highlighting Presidential Rank Award winners. The director described federal leaders' impact in various fields that affect millions of Americans each day, including health care, disaster response, delivering loans to promote economic activity, and supporting small business. She reflected on the president’s priority on the importance of public service. Another video featured stories of some notable recipients of the Partnership for Public Service’s Service to America Medals.

View From Above

During the event a panel of ...

Avoid Getting Caught in the Quagmire of Key Performance Indicators

Does your organization need some key performance indicators? Do not worry. To your rescue come organizations and books. And do they have KPIs for you.

For example, the KPI gurus at Actuate Corp. have created—just for you—a free KPI library containing over 650 KPIs. What more could you ask for?

Well, if you weren’t satisfied, you could go to ServiceNow’s KPILibrary. It offers a database containing “6,500+ KPI templates and examples.” What more could you ask for?

If that isn’t enough, you could go to the KPI Mega Library, with its 17,000 KPIs.

If you don’t want to wade through 17,000 KPIs, or 6,500, or even a mere 650, you could choose to limit yourself to Actuate’s Top 75 KPIs.

Bernard Marr has a book on them: Key Performance Indicators: The 75 measures every manager needs to know.

And because reading these 376 pages will consume too much of your valuable time, you might want to check Marr’s two other books: 25 Need-To-Know Key Performance Indicators and Key Performance Indicators for Dummies.

If, however, you want to limit your KPI consumption even more, you look at Six Figure ...

Why Lefties Make Less

There’s a stereotype that left-handed people are clumsier, but that might have something to do with the fact that they live in a world of objects optimized for the right-handed: scissors, the computer mouse, surgical tools, and guns, to name a few. The discrimination against the 12 percent of the population who are lefties has disarming historical roots. In the Middle Ages, left-handed writers were said to be the devil’s voice boxes, and the Jewish scholar Maimonides included sinistrality in his list of 100 imperfections that should preclude someone from priesthood.

The roots go even deeper, into language. To be dexterous is to be adept, or to be right-handed; the meaning of the English word sinister can be traced back to the Latin sinistra, meaning “left.” The word carries ominous connotations in French, German, Italian, Russian, and Mandarin too.

Left-handed people, it turns out, aren’t just at a cultural disadvantage—they’re at a cognitive one. There’s an urban legend—probably based on the (ultimately quite spotty) findings of a 1995 study—that left-handed people are more inventive, and as proof people point to the fact that four of the last seven American presidents have been ...