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

How I Lead: Addressing the Root Cause of Problems, Not Just the Symptoms

Laura Herrin oversees the teams that provide virtually every tool and safety equipment for ship repair at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia and Kings Bay in Georgia. As a resource manager, she is responsible for hiring, promotions and performance appraisals, along with determining where in the organization each employee is best suited.

What is the best leadership lesson you've learned?

To delegate jobs to the correct level and stop doing my people’s work for them.

How did you get to where you are today?

By addressing issues head on and making sure problems are corrected at the root cause, and not just addressing the symptoms.

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

Every person in our organization has a role to play in the success or failure of our shipyard’s mission. What my team does is vital to our mission of fixing ships; without them we would not achieve that goal.

What do you look for in potential employees when making hiring decisions?

I feel a positive attitude and willingness to learn is far more important than getting someone who knows everything. My processes and tools can be taught, but attitude, work ...

Will the New Manager Be a Bully Too?

I am a fairly new second-level supervisor at a small office (20-30 people). The supervisor of the largest branch I oversee just left. The sigh of relief was palpable. She hid it well from me, but I'm now discovering (and employees are finally telling me) about bullying tactics, moodiness and generally poor leadership. How do I stay engaged and ensure that her replacement treats employees well while not micromanaging or breathing down her neck?--Anonymous

Knowing whether a new hire is going to fit your requirements for the position and the organization’s culture is not easy. The situation surely becomes more difficult when the prior leader had more weaknesses than were visible. It is all too easy to become gun-shy and fearful that the new leader will fail, which may lead to micromanaging that creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. What can you do?

Allow me share my SECRET for increasing the likelihood of success for new supervisors:

Selection. First and foremost, hire a supervisor that fits the leadership culture you are trying to support or develop. Figure out, write down and make concrete the culture you desire for your organization. Post the cultural expectations as part of the job ...

The Complete Guide to Flexible Work That Doesn’t Kill Your Career

Many people work happily and effectively from home. Research suggests that these “flexible” workers can be more productive, and that they have higher levels of well being, and much less depleting conflict between work and family.

But these types of schedules come rarely and at a cost: There’s significant evidence that there are career disadvantages, including a “flexibility stigma” on advancement. And there’s a significant gap  (paywall) between the promise of flexibility and the reality.

It takes extra effort, planning, and thoughtfulness to overcome these career penalties. Looking at research, successful people and companies, we’ve come up with a few tips for those trying to make “flexible” work.

Pitch it as productive, not personal

Managers tend to think that using a flexible schedule to be more productive is good—a sign of commitment to the organization—according to a study (pdf) from Lisa Leslie at the University of Minnesota. But when employees seek such schedules to accommodate aspects of their personal life, they see it as a sign of low commitment and dedication.

Those assumptions shape managers’ perceptions of their employees’ commitment, and have a significant effect on career success, affecting pay raises, job evaluations, and promotions ...

How McKinsey Does Work-life Balance

Leading management consultancy McKinsey joined with a number of other prominent companies to announce an effort to improve employee health this week. But McKinsey is unusual because its employees join and leave the firm young. The average age is 35, and over 80% of the staff are under 40.

The firm has much lower rates of chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease than other companies. So its wellness efforts as described in the report, released by Bipartisan Policy Center’s CEO Council on Health and Innovation, don’t focus on biometric data or fitness, but on the notoriously poor work-life balance of its consultants.

McKinsey charges extraordinary rates and demands a great deal from its employees. They work long hours, and travel constantly. It’s one of the reasons that the company is so young: People tend to burn out and leave for more stable corporate jobs.

The firm isn’t likely to change that entirely, but is attempting to improve the situation, according to the report, which gives a fascinating view into the definition of work-life balance for a firm defined in some ways by its absence.

The company launched in 2012 its “Take Time” policy, which ...

Technology on a Diet: 5 Reasons to Embrace Open Source

Sharing information in the name of innovation isn’t anything new. Collaborative intelligence helped publish the Oxford English Dictionary, spur advances in 19th century science and powered the world’s first automobile. Even Ben Franklin insisted on donating his bifocals and lightning rod to the public domain, likely dubbing him America’s first open-source advocate. The notion of “open source” predates software and the Internet by centuries, yet many of today’s largest government IT shops are still reluctant to turn to open alternatives from proprietary software, even in the face of shrinking budgets, overworked staff and heightened citizen expectations.

In my experience, open innovation fails to take hold in government organizations for three reasons:

  • The perceived lack of technical support available from open source communities.
  • A long history of “legacy thinking,” or the organization’s sustained reliance on enterprisewide proprietary systems.
  • Limited brand awareness among potential government customers. Granted, it’s pretty tough to compete with the marketing efforts of Silicon Valley.

For these reasons, open innovation relies primarily on peer-to-peer networking (i.e., word of mouth endorsements testifying to successful experiences) or individual curiosity (i.e., an adventuresome IT manager plugging into GitHub repositories and engaging with ...