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

5 Ideas to Help You Adjust Your Attitude and Improve Performance

While Woody Allen offered, “80 percent of success is just showing up,” I might politely suggest the phrase is missing a key ingredient: attitude.

There’s a profound difference between showing up and showing up with the right attitude.

Our attitude is visible on our faces, discernible in our words and palpable in our body language. If you’re having a bad attitude day, month or lifetime, you can be certain that everybody you come in contact with knows it and feels it. When you walk into a room with a lousy attitude, it’s like a storm front approaching. Everyone sees it and wonders how bad it’s going to get.

The impact of a lousy attitude extends quietly outward, systematically poisoning the working environment.

Think of managers you’ve worked for that projected a “pissed-off, mad at being born, and madder at having to deal with you and your colleagues” demeanor. What did that feel like?  How did people react to this person? How effective was this leader?   (And while you would like to believe that these characters don’t end up in leadership roles, inexplicably, they do.)

Alternatively, think of managers and leaders you’ve encountered that ...

Where In The World People Want To Work Abroad

As the world’s labor force becomes increasingly mobile in a global economy, more workers are willing to consider going abroad for a job. But people’s motivation to move—and their favored destinations—vary widely and are not easy to predict based solely on economics, according to a new survey of more than 200,000 job seekers from the Boston Consulting Group and recruiting website The Network.

Of course, many people in unstable or economically floundering countries look outside their homelands for more opportunity; and those in countries with a high standard of living often want to stay put. But there are plenty of exceptions, the survey found.

Spanish workers, for example, are more likely than not to stay in place, despite a weak economy. (Spain is, after all, a pretty nice place to live, even with its economic woes.) And what explains the relatively high level of wanderlust in Switzerland? The Swiss apparently don’t want to move for a better job or standard of living (which would be tough to find): When asked why they want to move, those factors are at the bottom of their priorities. Broadening experience and living in a different culture are at ...

Federal Student Aid: Pioneers Managing Risk

The Office of Federal Student Aid put in place the first formalized risk management framework in the federal government, starting its efforts in 2004. What does it look like? How did they do it?

One former federal leader, Todd Grams, says agencies that ignore risk are actually creating risk. Not surprisingly, there has been increasing interest among agencies in developing a risk management function. So what does that look like? The Education Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid began a decade ago to create a risk management function, which may serve as inspiration for other agencies considering the same.

In a recent book and presentations around town, Cynthia Jasper Vitters and Fred Anderson, risk management executives at FSA, describe their efforts and the evolution of an enterprisewide risk management function. They observe: “ERM implementation at FSA is not viewed as a compliance function.”

FSA has made or guaranteed more than $1.2 trillion in student loans, with 40 million borrowers. The office has a budget of $1 billion and a staff of about 1,200, serving 6,200 universities around the country. In 1998, FSA was legislatively designated a performance-based organization, which allowed it a certain degree of autonomy ...

Clocks Make Workers Less Creative

I love the phrase "It's 5 o'clock somewhere." For most people, the saying conjures up an image of an over-eager happy-hour partaker, but it's always made me think of someone, somewhere, leaving their office after a hard day's work. The length of the workday, for many workers, is defined by time; they leave when the clock tells them they're done.

These days, the time is everywhere: not just on clocks or watches, but on phones, computers, stamped on every email. And that may be a bad thing, particularly at work. New research shows that clock-based work schedules hinder morale and creativity.

The research of Tamar Avnet and Anne-Laure Sellier focuses on the differences between organizing one's time by "clock time" vs. "task time." Clock-timers organize their day by blocks of minutes and hours. For example: a meeting from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., research from 10 a.m. to noon, etc. On the other hand, task-timers have a list of things they want the accomplish. They work down the list, each task starts when the previous task is completed. The researchers say that all of us employ a mix of both these ...

The 8 Worst Behavioral Archetypes on Executive Teams

A negative influence on your executive team can be disastrous—especially when it’s time to hold strategic planning meetings. Learn how to spot the eight worst behavioral archetypes who appear on executive teams—the Absentee, the Chief Executive Omniscience, the Consultant, the Frog, the Politician, the Provocateur, the Sectarian and the Theorist—how to keep them from sinking your strategy.

At the first two-day strategic planning meeting I facilitated for Bill’s federal agency, all eight of these negative behavioral archetypes showed up. Let’s look more closely at each one.

The Absentee is present physically but “somewhere else” mentally, whether reading emails or half-listening to the discussions. Manuel seemed to be mentally focused on things happening outside the meeting, staring into space and asking us to repeat the question whenever we asked his opinion.

He was an excellent tactical thinker, but Manuel was not invited to the next strategic planning meeting. You need strategic thinkers for these meetings.

The CEO is the leader acting in his “Chief Executive Omniscience” mode. Many agency heads can anticipate where a discussion is heading and tend to supply a conclusion to save everyone the time of figuring it out themselves. Bill acted ...