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Learning From Mistakes Can Catapult Your Career

Ray Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater Associates, one of the largest hedge funds in the world. He has been considered one of the most influential people in the world by various lists, and, with a net worth of $15.2 billion in October 2014, he is the 30th richest person in America. By any standards, Dalio is extraordinarily successful.

The secret to Dalio’s success? The ability to acknowledge and systematically learn from his mistakes.

”I’ve learned that everyone makes mistakes and has weaknesses,” Dalio says in an 123 page document outlining his management and life principles, “and that one of the most important things that differentiates people is their approach to handling them. I learned that there is an incredible beauty to mistakes, because each mistake was probably a reflection of something that I was doing wrong, so if I could figure out what that was, I could learn how to be more successful.”

Learning from mistakes—easier said than done?

In Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), social psychologist Elliot Aronson argues that our brains are constantly working hard to maintain a positive self-image, to believe that we’re doing the right thing. These “ego-preserving ...

What is a Stakeholder? 6 Things You Should Know

The word stakeholder is used to mean many different things in government, the nonprofit sector and in business. It’s a broad and confusing term that takes in everyone who has any interest in what an organization does. They have a “stake” or interest in the decisions and fate of your organization. Is that broad enough for you? Although the term is loose, it still has meaning. It’s important to understand some key concepts about this term and the people it describes. Understand that:

  • They aren’t necessarily customers. Customers are a subset of your stakeholders but many people use the terms interchangeably. Some people with an interest in your organization and its mission will never do business with you or be served by you. The term has a much broader meaning than simply a customer.

  • They aren’t all created equal. Some stakeholders (like the ones who control your budget) are more important than others. You need to understand the influence, resources and power each stakeholder or stakeholder group has in order to navigate your environment successfully.

  • They have different interests. For example in a publicly traded company, investors may favor paying out profits to stockholders while employees ...

Building Inclusive Diversity: More Than Numbers

My passion for building a federal workforce that looks like the America we serve is not just about numbers. It is about the American people benefiting from the talent, the wisdom, the experience, and the insights of people from every community in this great country. We need that diversity at every level and at every decision table.

In August 2011, the president issued an executive order that called for a governmentwide coordinated effort to promote diversity and inclusion within the federal workforce. The President’s Management Agenda builds on that commitment.

At the Office of Personnel Management, we work every day to help agencies build a workforce that reflects the bright mosaic of the American people. We know we must work equally hard to be sure that once hired, employees feel included and engaged at all levels of government. Although we know there’s still much work to do, the data shows us that we are making progress on the president’s vision.

For example, four years ago, the president set a goal of hiring 100,000 people with disabilities. I am proud to say that we are more than half way toward reaching that milestone. In fact, OPM’s ...

You Are Almost Certainly Starting Salary Negotiations Wrong

Asking for a raise is one of the most fraught parts of a working life, a process maniacally Googled and agonized over with friends. Advice is often conflicting. Don’t give your number first, or always do. Start with a number you don’t really expect to get, or ask for nothing at all.

A frequent piece of advice, enshrined in one of the standard business school texts (pdf) on negotiation, is to avoid giving a salary range, because an opponent or manager will seize on the low end.

Not only is that advice dead wrong, but done right a range actually leads to better results than going with one number, according to a new study from researchers at Columbia University, first covered at The Wall Street Journal (paywall).

It’s not that people don’t know to throw out a range. More than half of people reported using one at some point in their most recent negotiation, a separate study (pdf) recently found. But there’s scant advice on how to figure out the correct range to use, or at what point in the negotiation to deploy it.

The Columbia researchers had a hunch, and their study bore it ...

​Five Ways to Avoid GAO’s High-Risk List

In February, the Government Accountability Office welcomed the incoming Congress with its 2015 high-risk list of poor performing federal programs—an unlimited gift card for some, a messy glitter bomb for others.

I read the report. Well, OK, I skimmed it and focused on the sections of most interest. Federal real property is at the top if the list for me. The trend I noticed over and over again were the low scores on demonstrating progress. Immediately I wondered—are agencies not making actual progress or is it a communication issue?

There is no objective, observable way to know. So, I suspect it’s somewhere in the middle—performance measure purgatory.

Performance measures are incredibly fragile and yet they endure year after year—even when they’re not precisely what we want to measure. They are almost always confusing or misleading and ripe for manipulation.

Despite the challenges we all have in working with performance measures, they are what we have right now to quantify our impact. Unfortunately, we never get as much accomplished as we’d like. We have to explain ourselves at every turn, justify the budget, make up for delays, motivate staff, and on top of it ...