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

How to Nurture a Successful Mentor and Protégé Relationship

This question originally appeared on QuoraWhat are some of the biggest red flags in an interviewee? Answer by Ian McAllister.

I have several mentors at Amazon, and mentor a number of colleagues. I also mentor a number of startup founders. The most successful of those relationships share these attributes:

Mutually understood goals. Prior to entering into a relationship, the mentee, or the person matchmaking the mentor/mentee should be able to communicate the goals of the relationship. Goals might be to help the mentee get promoted, secure funding, resolve performance issues, improve communication skills, etc. It’s helpful if the mentor also has goals (e.g. gaining deeper understanding in a new space, getting first in line to invest), but the mentee’s goals should take precedence.

Mentee-driven. The mentee should be the person driving the schedule and the discussion topics. Each meeting, the mentee should bring a list of topics for discussion. For each, they should brief their mentor on the topic, present the problem/challenge/opportunity, outline their current thinking about strategy or next steps, and solicit their mentor’s advice. 

Bandwidth-appropriate. Mentors shouldn’t commit to a new mentoring relationship if they don’t have the...

To Be a Better Boss, Act Like a Witch

Misty Bell Stiers is a witch. But for her, practicing Wicca isn’t just about being at one with a universal, divine energy—it’s about becoming a better manager.

“The backbone of Wicca, to me, is making sure I’m present in the moment,” says Stiers, the creative director at Isobar, a global digital marketing agency. Wicca, which dates back to the mid-20th century, is centered around living in harmony with nature and seeking to tap into the creative power that practitioners believe permeates everyday life. “So everything I do, every decision I make, is done with awareness of the consequences of my actions, and confidence that I can live with those consequences, good or bad.”

Stiers’ path to Wiccanism began twenty years ago, when a friend recommended that she read Margot Adler’s Drawing Down The Moon—a sociological exploration of neo-paganism and ritual traditions in the US. She was skeptical, but then gave it a read. And then another.

Today, Stiers, who lives in New York City, is an active Wiccan practitioner. She’s raising her two children in the religion, and writing a book about how being a witch affects her daily life and work, too...

The Right and Wrong Ways to Fire Someone

President Donald Trump gained international fame for firing people on television. So why isn’t he better at it?

Trump’s very public termination of FBI director James Comey was notably maladroit. Here’s how a responsible manager fires an employee:

Do it in person

Instead of telling Comey the news in the Oval Office, Trump had an assistant deliver a letter to FBI headquarters, either not knowing, or not caring, that Comey was in Los Angeles at the time. Comey learned about his dismissal from televised reports.

Telling an employee they no longer have a job isn’t pleasant, but it’s a manager’s duty to tell them face to face. A manager should be able to defend their decision, and answer any questions. A face-to-face meeting also sends a message of accountability to the rest of the organization, that the manager stand by the decision. Telling someone via email or letter—or worse, via an emissary—looks like cowardice.

Show compassion and be sincere

Whatever the circumstances, firing someone will have a huge impact on their lives and those of their families. Managers should be aware of the consequences, and respect the gravity of the situation. If...

Warren Buffett Gives His Employees 'Principles of Behavior' and Trusts Them to Do the Right Thing

Warren Buffett, the 86-year-old investor, is a folk hero as much for his plain-spoken wisdom as for his business prowess. He conceded that with 367,000 workers at the many huge corporations owned by his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, some problems were inevitable. “As we sit here, somebody is doing something wrong at Berkshire,” he said at the Berkshire annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska on May 6.

But among his core employees at headquarters, Buffett said he’s been able to avoid scandal by emphasizing the importance of Berkshire’s reputation and his employees’ role in safeguarding it.

“We count very heavily on principles of behavior rather than loads of rules,” he said. Indeed, in Berkshire’s code of conduct (pdf), it quotes from the man himself:

When in doubt, remember Warren Buffett’s rule of thumb: “… I want employees to ask themselves whether they are willing to have any contemplated act appear the next day on the front page of their local paper—to be read by their spouses, children and friends—with the reporting done by an informed and critical reporter.”

The code includes reassurances such as that any employee may report ethical violations “in confidence without fear...

Happiness Research Shows the Biggest Obstacle to Creativity is Being Too Busy

From Vincent Van Gogh on through Kanye West, the figure of the broody, tortured artist looms large in the popular imagination. But research suggests that the key to creativity has little to do with angst. In researching my book The Happiness Track, I found that the biggest breakthrough ideas often come from relaxation.

History shows that many famous inventors have come up with novel ideas while letting their minds wander. In 1881, for example, famed inventor Nikola Tesla had fallen seriously ill on a trip to Budapest. There, a college friend, Anthony Szigeti, took him on walks to help him recover. As they were watching the sunset on one of these walks, Tesla suddenly had an insight about rotating magnetic fields—which would in turn lead to the development of modern day’s alternating current electrical mechanism.

Similarly, Friedrich August Kekulé, one of the most renowned organic chemists in 19th-century Europe, discovered the ring-shaped structure of the organic chemical compound benzene while daydreaming about the famous circular symbol of a snake eating its own tail. And Albert Einstein famously turned to music—Mozart in particular—when he was grappling with complex problems and needed inspiration.

Simply put, creativity happens when...