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

A Therapist’s Guide to Staying Productive When You’re Depressed or Heartbroken

“We entrepreneurs can’t afford to date,” I half-joked to a friend the other day. “We can’t take sick days when we get our hearts smashed.”

I’m a therapist who helps people learn to be resilient in the face of life’s uncertainties. But even I catch myself feeling anxious about how to stay motivated when I’m feeling down.

All of us will experience grief and sadness—whether due to heartbreak, bereavement, or some other loss—over the course of our professional lives. And roughly 300 million people worldwide deal with depression, the most common cause of disability. Both grief and depression are no joke when it comes to affecting our productivity. While some people may dive into their work as a much-needed distraction, most experience a nosedive in basic functioning. Our motivation gets shot; we lose focus and concentration; our sleep and appetite get totally messed. On good days, we might be able to meet a deadline despite feeling like a shell of a human being. On bad days, just getting dressed is daunting.

Though it’s been a few years since I experienced crippling heartbreak, depression likes to make me a biannual visit. Inconvenient as...

The Case for Evidence in Government

Although the U.S. government presides over what collectively must be one of the world’s largest data repositories, its capacity to use that data to build citizen trust and make informed, evidence-based decisions is severely constrained. As explained in an enlightening report recently issued by the bipartisan Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP), the mere existence of data is a necessary but not sufficient condition for creating empirical evidence to inform decisions throughout the full lifecycle of public programs—enactment, funding, operation, reform, termination.   

The digitization of many facets of various activities the government funds through its $4 trillion annual budget has resulted in a data explosion at federal agencies. But that data needs to be synthesized into actionable information to satisfy taxpayers’ demands for better results and greater transparency. The CEP report makes clear that much remains to be done to achieve that goal and provides a comprehensive plan to improve access to federal data, strengthen privacy protections and expand the public, private and academic research communities’ capacity to analyze data.

CEP provides an insightful list of recommendations such as establishing a National Secure Data Service to enable and leverage capabilities across government, addressing statutory impediments that obstruct smart...

Making Trump's Government Reforms Stick

Under President Trump’s Executive Order on a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch, all agencies are to submit reform plans by the end of this week. The administration’s aim is to make agencies more efficient, effective and accountable. Unfortunately, many government employees have little experience with the level of reform the president mandated.

In early August, The Center for Organizational Excellence held a reform summit designed to help agencies prepare for the initiative. Three of the panelists — Bridgette Garchek Stone, deputy director of program analysis and evaluation in Office of the Chief Financial Officer at Homeland Security; David Eagles, chief operating officer at Housing and Urban Development; and Joseph Loddo, chief operating officer at the  Small Business Administration — commented on a key concern for reform: Now is the time for agencies to think about long-term systemic reform, and to accomplish this, agencies must consider how plans will be enforced and sustained.

Sustainability of reform will encompass a variety of factors, they  noted: clarity of vision, execution skills, and support from employees and lawmakers, among others. According to Stone, agency leaders are taking the long view with comprehensive plans, and the panelists agreed that leaders appear committed and...

Knocking the Negativity Out of Your Career and Life

“Research suggests that the human mind has a propensity to pay greater attention to and process the bad compared to the good, a phenomenon often called the negativity bias. Bad feedback has greater impact; bad impressions are quicker to form; bad information is processed more thoroughly…and negative stereotypes are easier to form.”

From Dr. Amit Sood, Chair, Mayo Mind Body Initiative, writing in: Train Your Brain, Engage Your Heart, Transform Your Life


“Your little lights aren’t twinkling.”

“I know, Art, and thanks for noticing. ”

From: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

We all know people who thrive on the negatives in life.

Some of us work for them.

Some of us are or were married to them.

You know this individual. They look at a picture that others describe as beautiful and immediately single out the flaws. They’re watchdogs against the possibility of perfection.

These nattering nabobs of negativity are capable of sucking the joy and beauty out of every situation if you let them.

And while the negative people around us are demoralizing, the real demon is that loud, negative voice filling the space between our ears.

We get down and stay down after receiving negative...

Meetings Create a Commodity No Organization Can Function Without

You might laugh at the notion that the UN general assembly has anything to teach the business world. The “world’s biggest meeting” can also, with its fetish for arcane procedures, interminable declarations, and impenetrable jargon, seem like the world’s most dysfunctional one.

But what businesses sometimes miss about meetings is that they are not just tools for getting things done. Meetings signal status (who gets to go, who doesn’t). They create shared language and culture. They let people feel heard, so they can then go along with decisions they disagree with. They create shared responsibility—if you were at the meeting, you can’t claim you didn’t know.

Most of all, though, meetings create a commodity no organization can function without: trust.

It’s a modern paradox that, while we can now transmit megabytes of information in an eyeblink, our brains still absorb it at the glacial baud rate set by evolution. Unless (or until) we invent the neurological equivalent of broadband, you’ll still need other people to do much of the knowing for you, and so you must be able to trust them to get it right.

Trust relies, ironically, on the one type...