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

A Compelling Case for Bringing Back Private Offices at Work

The cushy private offices, complete with couch and bar, that Don Draper and his ilk enjoyed would be unthinkable in most companies today. The workplace has seen a years-long trend of shrinking personal space—driven, if you believe the companies doing it, by a desire for increased collaboration in an open office (and not at all by the cost-savings of packing more people into smaller spaces).

But there’s a growing backlash to the open-plan office, and the New York startup Stack Overflow lays out a compelling case for the resurrection of the private office.

That strategy seems to be working out just fine for Stack Overflow itself, which makes private offices available to all of its developers. The company, which primarily operates as a question and answer site for programmers, announced this week that it raised another $40 million in venture capital.

The benefits of giving people the option of working privately have been huge for Stack Overflow, the company’s VP of Engineering, David Fullerton, writes in a blog post. Here’s his reasoning:

It gives people control over their own productivity

The major benefit of the private office is that people can decide when they need to ...

Leaders, Don't Let Knowledge Walk Out the Door

I visit a local bakery every Friday afternoon to purchase Challa bread, a sweet egg bread that just seems to go well with just about every meal. I've been buying a loaf there, each week, for years. Unfortunately, of late, the quality just hasn't been there. We've noticed the bread is not as it should be—and oddly doughy at the center. It was such a surprise when this began to occur. We realized this was a sign that something was off track.

Of course, we let them know what we were experiencing. (It's wrong to leave without offering diplomatic feedback. As it turns out, many other customers voiced their concern, as well.) The root of the problem began with a personnel change in the bakery—as a highly experienced baker left quite suddenly. With her, left all of the subtleties of the trade that were so important to continued excellence. Sadly, her legacy was lost.

This is an issue that organizations both large and small, must address. How do we effectively capture all of what our valued employees know—all of the strategies and nuances that set them apart as contributors? How do we ensure ...

How Healthy Is Your Agency? It Could Be Time for a Checkup

Government departments and agencies are under increased pressure to perform effectively in the midst of budgetary and political uncertainty, but a high grade for performance doesn’t necessarily make for a clean bill of organizational health.

Over the decades, there have been initiatives (for example, National Partnership for Reinventing Government and the Government Performance and Results Act) aimed at pushing the federal government to deliver greater operational, mission-related, or financial results.

This focus on performance is understandable. The government is responsible for varied and crucial missions, and the public wants to know how well it is delivering. Department and agency leaders, employees, Congress and other stakeholders likewise want to understand where the government is performing well and where it is falling short. The government has improved its performance on a variety of indicators.

But with all the focus on performance, agencies may not be paying enough attention to their own organizational health—that is, their ability to sustain performance over the long term.

Worrying Symptoms

As individuals, we understand the importance of paying attention to our health as well as our performance: We learn to monitor our health outcomes (for example, weight and strength) and to follow certain healthy practices ...

How I Lead: Set Clear Goals and Ask Employees What They Need to Achieve Them

Cecilia Moore is a supervisory environmental scientist in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Division in Chicago. An EPA employee for the past 20 years, she is an aspiring Senior Executive Service candidate and takes pride in the agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment. 

What is the best leadership lesson you've learned?

Take a walk. Leaders understand the political savvy component of their career success and the necessity to take a walk to get to know the employees in their environment. It is not enough to do an exceptional job if senior managers do not know you exist. Be aggressive about your career and do not expect someone else to give you a promotion simply based on how hard you work in your own corner of the world. Also, show the world that your quality of work sets you apart from everyone else.  

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

I look for integrity, consistent work record, the ability to work independently and on a team, innovative thinking, eagerness to learn and honesty.

What is a good book you have read recently?

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

What do you ...

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 ...