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What to Do When Your Team Is Struggling

One of the more powerful leadership learning moments in my career occurred when I was part of project team that was struggling to find traction around an important and complicated strategic initiative.

The team was flailing. The first leader, an autocratic, my-way-or-the-highway type, had been replaced with a committee of three senior executives as co-leaders. After all, this was important, and what could possibly go wrong with a group of senior executives leading the charge?

That failed. It turns out putting everyone in charge isn’t a great game-plan.

Following a contentious project review meeting the sponsor suggested a well-regarded mid-level manager as a solution to the project leadership challenge. While some voiced concern over her lack of title and senior-level heft, the sponsor suggested the core team members meet with her one-on-one before making a decision. It would be their choice.

Her reputation was great. She was respected for her ability to work with others and she had helped groups navigate some sticky topics on numerous occasions. After the “interviews,” the core team members agreed unanimously that she was the right person for the role.

The time for her first official meeting with the extended team arrived, and within...

15 Ways Successful People Approach Life Differently

In many ways successful people are just like unsuccessful people. They come from all sorts of backgrounds, all types of demographics, have all levels of education and experience and expertise.

In many ways successful people are the same as everyone else. Yet look closely and you'll see that in certain key ways, they are very, very different.

Here are the qualities that set exceptional people apart:

1. They hate playing politics.

Successful people can't stand playing politics -- and to some degree, people who play politics. They don't care about jockeying for promotions or trying to be "right" in a meeting.

A successful person's primary focus is on solving difficult problems and accomplishing cool things.

2. They love when others win.

Politically motivated people hate when other people earn praise or recognition; they instinctively feel that diminishes the light from their star.

Others aren't competitive, at least not in that way. They want to be recognized, but their accomplishments don't preclude others from doing great things, too. They want everyone else who does something awesome to get recognized, too.

3. They desperately want to see ideas come to fruition.

Maybe they love to dream up...

How to Build a Next Gen Program That Works

Next gen is a big buzzword in government right now. As with any buzzword, it’s been overused and misused, but fundamentally it signifies the pressures and changes that technology is creating for federal programs and agencies. The terms are familiar: cloud computing, ubiquitous mobility, big data, social media, open data, etc. These trends are reshaping industries, the way we live, and the way government programs and agencies plan and operate. Citizens and stakeholders expect more transparency, more data and better results.

A next gen strategy is a way to tell the story about where your program or agency is going and how it is keeping pace with technology and the times. Based on our work with federal leaders navigating this process, we have four recommendations as you undertake your effort:

Know your buzzwords and how they affect you. The rise of cloud computing, social media, big data and other technologies is reshaping the playing field for government. It’s critical that leaders understand those trends and drivers and adapt their strategies accordingly. Start by considering what those large global trends are. Next think about how those trends and drivers are affecting your stakeholders and customers, and finally how those...

6 Really Simple Ways to Boost Learning and Development

How do your employees secure the training they require to remain effective? Are needs identified, with content readily available, or do significant lags exist between skill gap identification and supportive training? Does your training directive align with the current path of your organization? Or does content support a vision of the past?

The world of work is ever-changing. This dynamic affects every aspect of how we train and support our team. It is frustrating for employees to seek methods to improve performance -- only to find that relevant offerings are unavailable.

A few things to consider:

Align with vision. Ultimately training should support the vision of your organization, address key industry shifts and help employees fulfill development goals. What skill sets are critical to prepare your team members going forward? Have these been addressed?

Watch for the evolution of required competencies. Roles have a way of evolving before our very eyes. This affects needed training in a variety of ways. For example, consider sales professionals. Customers clearly intersect with a sales team much later in the sales funnel than in the past, due to the changing sales ecosystem. Ensure that training supports this type of shift.

Think desk ready. Stop thinking...

Five Tips from Federal Innovation Entrepreneurs

Using “lightning round” presentations, nearly a dozen presenters shared their stories. Andy Feldman from the Department of Education, who coordinated the event, noted that the goal wasn’t innovation for innovation’s sake, but rather to use innovation as a tool to tackle mission-related performance challenges: “We’re here to focus innovation on our agencies’ biggest challenges and opportunities.” Delegated Deputy Secretary of Education John King also welcomed attendees, urging them to put ideas into action.

As if to reinforce these messages, the same morning at a meeting of the President’s Management Council, deputy secretaries discussed way to expand the use of evidence, evaluation, and innovation in their agencies.  Several White House policy councils participated in the meeting, asking agencies to “articulate their strategy to advance the use of evidence in decision making . . . as a part of their budget submissions, due to OMB on September 14, 2015.”

Some of the useful insights from the various presentations at the Innovation Exchange session reflected issues discussed by the deputy secretaries, as well:

Use behavioral insights. Recent studies from behavioral economics and psychology have found that people do not always make rational decisions regarding their well-being.  But making it easier for people...