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Some Advice for Feds During the Presidential Transition: Expect Pushback

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Combining common sense with experienced insight, the Senior Executives Association’s Professional Development League has come out with tips for career managers to successfully navigate the presidential transition.

SEA’s first-ever “Handbook on Presidential Transition for Federal Career Executives” delivers 20 pages of orientation on such issues as the role of career executives during a transition and complying with the Vacancies Act. It also outlines new coordinating procedures at the Office of Management and Budget and General Services Administration required by the 2015 Presidential Transitions Improvement Act.

Some examples of the tips managers will find:

“Don’t cling to old ideas.”

“Accept confusion and uncertainty as the new team gets in place and develops its agenda and try to help your career staff and the new team operate through that.”

“Expect pushback until the new team develops trust in you.”

The handbook also contains suggestions for how to coordinate activity with the Government Accountability Office, which is required to give briefings to new officials.

The booklet, accompanied by webinars, also offers handy deadlines. By Sept. 15, for example, acting officers must be designated for vacant non-career positions, and by Nov. 1, agency briefing materials must be finalized.

“For many executives, this is their first presidential transition in an executive leadership position,” said Jason Briefel, SEA’s Interim President. “There are also those career executives without a specific role in their agencies’ transition process who may not recognize the need to prepare individually for this change. This handbook was devised with the objective of comprehensively compiling the tools and resources career leaders need to smoothly lead their organizations into the next administration.”

The handbook is SEA’s bid to cooperate with other nonprofits who have stepped up efforts to ensure a smooth transition. They include the Partnership for Public Service, the National Academy of Public Administration and the IBM Center for the Business of Government.

One final key insight from SEA’s handbook: “A large percentage of the incoming appointees will likely not have a background in government.”

Charles S. Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

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