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Seven Ways to Play a Bigger Game This Year

In fifteen years of coaching high potential and senior leaders, I’ve conducted thousands of hours of colleague feedback interviews. One of the themes that I hear a lot from senior executives talking about high potential leaders is that the client needs to play a bigger game. What the executives mean by that is that the high potential needs to start making an impact beyond their immediate function and start acting as a leader of the entire organization and not just their function.

With the performance reviews and goal setting sessions that come at the beginning of the year, now is a great time to think about how you can play a bigger game this year – the kind of game that really changes things and makes a big difference.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve asked around three dozen high potential leaders to answer the question, “What’s the one thing you need to do to play a bigger game this year?”  I’ve boiled their answers down to seven ways to play a bigger game. If you’re ready to play a bigger game, you’ll want to take a look.

1. Take the risk:  My observation ...

When Disability Is in the Eye of the Beholder

“So often, the students you’re trying to inspire are the ones that end up inspiring you.” Educator Sean Junkins said that, and he was right.

As a teacher at the Federal Executive Institute, I am always inspired by my students—by their stories, commitment and passion. But I’ve never been inspired and taught more by any one student than I was by Jamie Kendall, director of special projects at the Health and Human Services Department's Center on Disability and Aging.

The evening before classes began, I joined the participants and facilitators for dinner. “I just want you to know that Jamie is in your class,” one of the facilitators told me, “but don’t worry, she will help you more than you will help her.”

Jamie is a very small woman who uses a wheelchair to navigate life due to brittle bones disease, or more officially known as osteogenesis imperfecta.  

I admit I was nervous about having her in my class. A lot of my teaching is about presence—using posture to show up fully on the platform. No slouching allowed. The purpose is to help students become totally present, displaying both confidence and openness. It requires ...

Empowering a New Wave of Government Innovation

Like millions of American families, ours went to the movies over the holidays. We saw The Imitation Game, a great picture that tells the story of computer scientist Alan Turing’s heroic battle to crack the Nazi’s secret coding machine, Enigma. It also reveals the British government’s deplorable handling of Turing and his homosexuality, highlighting a sad chapter in the treatment of human rights. I suspect few viewers will note the juxtaposition of the good government can do with the bad it often does.

I knew Turing’s story having just finished Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. Isaacson weaves together the tales of different innovations—the personal computer, the microchip, the Internet—and teases out lessons one might learn from the trial and error that produced these breakthroughs. It would be a fascinating tale without it, but Isaacson draws out and highlights these lessons in unambiguous relief. They’re lessons not just for the entrepreneur, inventor, or engineer. They’re also good ones for government.

The major conclusion Isaacson draws from his study of the digital age is that progress came not as the result of ...

One Way to Tackle Job Interview Jitters

When we lose ourselves in a stressful moment—a workplace situation can quickly escalate from challenging to completely overwhelming.

For many of us, job interviews are a common scenario that can trigger strong responses; anticipation, excitement, trepidation, anxiety. If you’ve sat in the interview chair, you are likely aware of the struggles we all face to remain calm and focused. As much as we might attempt to stay composed—our minds can race out of control—not unlike a runaway train. Managing ourselves through this stressful dynamic is key. Could the concept of mindfulness possibly help all of us through the challenge of an interview? Recent research tells us that it can.

Tough workplace scenarios can cause our “fight or flight” response to kick in—and job interviews qualify. 

Labeled “Amygdala Hijacks” by psychologist Daniel Goleman, these moments are characterized by a neurological process in which our “rational brain” (neocortex) becomes overpowered by our emotional brain. This renders us in a weakened position to deal with many situations effectively.

Mindfulness is defined as “the psychological state where you focus on the events of the present moment” and allows us to observe the events of our lives from a safer ...

Managing in the Era of ‘New Power’

In the 1990s, a new model of governance emerged: Reinventing government. This model was rooted in private sector entrepreneurial approaches and market-like incentives. A new trend, dubbed “new power,” has emerged in the 2010s.

Reinventing government was organized around 10 values, such as government being catalytic, community-owned, competitive, etc. Today, a new management reform trend is evolving, with its own models and values, again inspired by private sector and societal trends. A recent Harvard Business Review article by Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms examines this trend, at least as it has evolved in the private sector, and they call it “new power.” Not catchy, but their article does crystalize some powerful ideas.

What Is ‘New Power’?

Heimans and Timms write that “new power” actors differ from “old power” players along two dimensions: the models they use to exercise power and the values they embrace. They say the nature of power is shifting in today’s world—who has it, how it is distributed, where it is heading. Understanding these shifts will define the challenges facing businesses, nonprofits and government alike.

 “Old power works like currency. It is held by few,” Heimans and Timms say. “Once gained, it is jealously guarded ...