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Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

Michelle Obama Has Imposter Syndrome, Too—And Some Advice For Dealing With It

Reports from Michelle Obama’s book tour promoting her new memoir Becoming (Crown, 2018) have been a salve for the spirit in a tumultuous year. Like the book, her talks in front of massive crowds have managed to be inspiring, without being overly optimistic, out of touch, or contrived. What the New York Times declared of her memoir is also true of her appearances: It’s not all unicorns and rainbows here.

The latest highly relatable subject she has touched on is imposter syndrome, the feeling of not being good enough and the fear of being found out for it. It’s something that many people experience, including acclaimed artists, scholars, and top corporate executives. “I still have a little [bit of] impostor syndrome, it never goes away, that you’re actually listening to me,” the US former first lady told an audience at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, an all-girls high school in North London, the BBC reported. “It never goes away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know?”

“I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is,” she said, a...

The Missing Piece in OMB’s Push for High-Value Government

It may feel like winter in Washington, but the White House Office of Management and Budget wants a spring cleaning within the executive branch. The target isn’t dirt or clutter, but rather unneeded rules and requirements imposed on agencies.

The push is one of OMB’s cross-agency priority goals, described as “shifting from low-value to high-value work.” It calls on central management offices such as OMB, the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration to remove “unnecessary and obsolete policies, guidance, and reporting requirements” so that agencies can better focus on accomplishing their missions. It also encourages agencies to reduce their own administrative requirements, regulations, and internal reporting obligations.

We believe this “high-value work” goal is very useful. Rules and regulations are often added to programs by Congress or agencies in an effort to fix problems or protect taxpayer dollars. But these well-intentioned requirements can build up like layers of sediment, making programs less flexible and innovative. Rarely do government officials look back and ask, “What requirements can we remove?” The “spring cleaning” envisioned by OMB is something the federal government should do every year.

There is, however, an important missing piece to the goal. As currently...

What the Country Needs: A Servant Leader

The late President George H.W. Bush epitomized what is known as the “servant leader.” Whatever anyone thought of his positions on various issues, one could never question his lifetime of commitment to service.

He was not alone in this commitment. Much has been written about Bush 41’s post-White House friendship and partnership with President Bill Clinton, under whose leadership Americorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service were born. President Jimmy Carter’s commitment to Habitat for Humanity embodies the ethos of service. And during Thanksgiving week, pictures of former President Obama chipping in at a Chicago food bank spread across the internet. There was nothing unusual about it; he and his family frequently have been seen doing volunteer service, while he was in office and since. Ditto for President George W. Bush.

But I have been struck over the last two years by the near absence of any similar images of, or messages from, President Trump or, for that matter, any members of his family or administration. Yes, there was the brief Thanksgiving visit to a military base near Mar-A-Lago. But unlike virtually every President in recent history, there has been no engagement of real meaning...

How to Build High Performing Teams

The growing role of teamwork in the modern world raises a question: What factors contribute to team performance?

A new study investigating the dynamics of teamwork suggests a major factor that predicts performance is connectedness.

Several studies have explored this issue, often focusing on individual personality traits that promote team performance. But team members’ proficiencies only establish the potential for their output. They constrain, rather than define, the actual performance.

Researchers decided to delve further into the dynamics of a successful team. What’s more, they’ve developed theories about how team managers might be able to leverage these factors to improve productivity and overall experience. Their findings appear in the journal PLOS ONE.


“Many of us are interested in team performance,” says co-author Young Ji Kim, an assistant professor of communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who studies group collaboration. “How to make teams perform better, more effectively, and understand some factors that contribute to improving team performance and processes.”

The researchers used data collected in 2014 on the interactions within four-person teams as they completed a series of tasks over the course of an hour. After each task, the researchers awarded the...

Help Tackle the Grand Challenges of Our Time

The last two decades have marked a period of near-constant change for the United States. As new challenges have arisen and demands on government have increased, however, the public sector has often been in a reactive mode. Government has been stuck in 20th century structures and processes while struggling to adapt to the international, economic, social, technological and cultural changes of the 21st century.

Things are likely to get worse before they get better. Over the next decade, our government at all levels will need to tackle new problems in new ways. Artificial intelligence, robotics, and the Internet of Things will fundamentally alter how we work, increasing productivity but also increasing the likelihood of additional economic dislocations. Data about the performance of public programs will continue to grow exponentially, even as public managers will struggle to use it to inform decisions and improve programs. Citizens will expect agencies to effectively respond to rapidly changing circumstances while ensuring transparency and accountability in an increasingly interconnected world.

Dealing with the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges will require difficult decisions amid an environment of public distrust in the government’s ability to effectively and efficiently use taxpayer dollars. What’s more, the bold...