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How I Lead: Read the Sign on Their Backs That Says 'Make Me Feel Important'

Lori Aquilino, former manager of the Federal Aviation Administration's San Francisco International Field Office, spent 20 years leading a virtual team of aircraft safety inspectors worldwide. She and her team at FAA created an award winning telework program to manage a global workforce. Aquilino, now retired, works as an aviation consultant.

What is the best leadership lesson you've learned? 

Everybody walks around with a sign on their back that says "Make me feel important!" If you treat people as if you see this sign on their back, you will always remember that people respond well to being treated as a valuable member of the team and not so well when they are considered just a tool to accomplish management’s plan. 

How did you get to where you are today?

Persistence. I came into aviation at a time when it was not a common field for women. I learned that with persistence you will always get where you want to go -- it just may take a little time. 

What leadership lessons did you try to convey to your team? 

To work as a team. We can do so much as a team and so little as individuals. If ...

Working From Home Seems More Legitimate If You Have a Kid

"How can you become a telecommuter?" asks one of a profusion of online guides on this topic. "You can start by doing your homework, creating an action plan, and being flexible." 

You can add "don't be female" to that list.

For women, there are major drawbacks to requesting to work remotely, according to a new study by Christin Munsch, a sociologist at Furman University.

Munsch had 646 people read a transcript of a fake phone conversation between an employee and a human-resources representative. The employees asked to alter their schedules for a period of six months, requesting either to work from home two days per week or to come in early and leave early three days per week. Perhaps unsurprisingly—given what we know about women and likability—this went over better when the worker was a man.

From the study release:

Among those who read the scenario in which a man requested to work from home for childcare related reasons, 69.7 percent said they would be "likely" or "very likely" to approve the request, compared to 56.7 percent of those who read the scenario in which a woman made the request. Almost a quarter—24.3 ...

3 Tips for Adapting Programs to Rapidly Changing Technology

­­Many federal managers are confronted with managing programs in a rapidly changing technology climate without a set of rapidly changing capabilities. Staffing, contracting, regulations, etc. all move slowly regardless of how quickly the outside world and technology in particular iterates. Agencies are sprinting to keep up. Federal leaders need to know where to put their resources and how to adapt their programs to recognize these realities.

One way to try to stay ahead of that curve is to engage in technology road mapping. A structured road mapping process is a way to make informed guesses about where to invest based on what the future may hold. It’s an attempt to make a little order out of chaos. Obviously no one can predict the next disruptive innovation or disaster that reshuffles the deck, but you can get a sense of the context in which you operate and what your priorities are. We recommend doing at least three things:

  1. Use Scenarios: No one knows what the future holds, and by looking at several different scenarios that are relevant to your world you improve your ability to visualize the landscape in which you are operating. Think about how you and others would ...

41 Percent of American Workers Let Paid Vacation Days Go to Waste

A friend recently told me about an automatic email reply she had received from a colleague. It began innocuously enough—“I will be out of the office next Monday and Tuesday"—but it grew more alarming as it went on. “Because I have accumulated too many days of paid vacation," it said, "I have scheduled a trip to Chicago for the weekend in order to use some of them.” (I’ve changed some details here to protect identities.)

As an anecdote, this autoreply stands as a tidy illustration of one man’s work ethic. When stretched, it might color a picture of what the work culture at my friend’s company is like. 

That’s why I was surprised to read a report this week that suggested that an indifference to—or perhaps even fear of—taking vacation isn't just limited to that one employee at that one company. According to the report, put out by the U.S. Travel Association, four in 10 American workers allow some of their paid vacation days to go unused and expire—even though 96 percent of workers claim to see the virtue in taking time off. Another report, from 2013, found that ...

Study: Nobody Is Paying Attention on Your Conference Call

It's 3:15 p.m. on a Wednesday, and I am deep, deep inside the guts of BaseballReference.com, the statistical mecca for MLB fanatics, conducting an exhaustive investigation on an issue of national importance: What was the greatest pitching season of all time? Was it Bob Gibson in '68? Pedro Martinez in 2000? Clayton Kershaw in 2014? Browser tabs and Excel charts extend across my two computer screens like the dashboard of a junior analyst. The answer is coming into focus when, suddenly, a voice from the phone shocks me back into reality...

... "Derek, what do you think? Derek. Derek!"

Oh, that's right. I'm on a conference call.

"Sorry, I was on mute," I say.

I wasn't on mute. What were they talking about? From my shallow working memory, I can make out a few words spoken while I was looking up Martinez's strikeout numbers—headlines? narrative structure? something about never again using personal anecdotes as ledes?—and I take a deep breath.

"Well, I guess I'd like to begin by piggy-backing on that last point about anecdotal ledes..."

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The best studies are the ones that tell us we are not alone. A ...