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

The Key to High Performance

Research has confirmed that managers have more impact on an organization’s performance than any other factor. Actually it’s their effectiveness in the supervisory role that influences an employee’s performance. A great analogy is the coach of a winning football team. The supervisory role is of course important at all levels of management. 

The role in other sectors is evolving rapidly. Employers increasingly are turning away from the traditional make-employees-do-as-they-are-told approach to focusing on getting the best out of everyone. 

The Spring issue of the Merit Systems Protection Board’s Issues of Merit defines the traditional role well:

“Supervisors and managers play a critical role in ensuring that agencies accomplish their missions and meet the needs of the constituents they serve.  . . .a supervisor’s primary responsibility is to accomplish work through others.  Therefore, leadership skills are critical to a supervisor’s ability to plan work, communicate organizational goals and policies, guide performance, and make difficult decisions about employee recruitment, retention, development and appraisal.”

There is nothing wrong with their description; it fits a traditional organization well. I had a graduate course in organization planning in the 1970s. In class we discussed the importance of job descriptions, span of...

Even Presidential Candidates Need Sleep

The demands of being a presidential candidate take a toll on sleep. And the demands are not likely to lessen for whomever is elected.

President Obama says he schedules six hours of sleep a night but that is not always possible, and Bill Clinton reported getting five to six hours. How much sleep is needed for senior executives such as our president to have optimal function?

This is also an important question to ask as the candidates for president move into full campaign mode. Does sleep affect their functioning? And just how do they keep up their grueling schedules? Can sleep deprivation contribute to some of the mistakes and gaffes?

As a neurologist who has studied sleep for many years, I know that sleep affects our functioning and health. While a very small percentage of people can function with four or five hours of sleep a night, most of us need much more.

Scientific research has yet to lead to a “grand unified theory” for the evolutionary purpose and function of sleep, but studies have shown several important functions sleep has on our body and brain. Based on a meta-analysis of medical research literature, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine...

Politicians and Security Clearances

Think your vote doesn’t matter? In addition to exercising your civic responsibility, you’re also carrying out a security responsibility, as well.

Members of Congress don’t go through the same background investigation process as you or me. The process of election is considered a public seal of access. When you elect a candidate into office – be it Congress or the Presidency – you in some sense grant them access to the classified information required for the position.

According to the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence: “There are no written rules, agreed to by both branches, governing what intelligence will be shared with the Hill or how it will be handled. The current system is entirely the product of experience, shaped by the needs and concerns of both branches over the last 20 years.”

What that means is that if a member of Congress or individual appointed to a government office needs access to classified information, they’re likely to get it.

What About Congressional Staff?

House and Senate staff members do undergo a security clearance background investigation process, as well as signing a non-disclosure agreement. Clearances are only granted to staff requiring access to classified information...

Always Stay For the After Party: Tips from the Negotiation Bible For World Leaders

Negotiating is hard enough when your livelihood is on the line, imagine how difficult it is to negotiate when the future of the world is at stake.

Even top diplomats need guidance. To ensure that agendas are addressed and conflicts resolved, the United Nations has created its own primer for the art of negotiation, called “Intergovernmental Negotiations and Decision Making at the United Nations: A Guide.”

Written in 2003, the official guide offers wisdom on how countries and NGOs can get what they want. Much of the book offers insight into UN bureaucracy, but there is also a more strategic section on how to playdiplomatic power games (pdf, p.47).

The UN is a very big bureaucratic machine, and even the sharpest political acumen at times fails to make it move efficiently. But the UN-approved tactics below—devised to move entire countries—are pointed enough to ensure victory in smaller battlefields: the office, social negotiations, sometimes family.

Here are some of the best, diplomatic tricks for getting what you want from others:

Over-preparedness is a myth:

From a strategic perspective, it is important to determine not only how many representatives can attend the meeting, but who is the best...

To Be a Better Negotiator, Talk to Your Colleagues Like You Talk to Your Kids

As kids, we’re taught the fundamentals of dealmaking: Listen, understand the other person’s point of view, be willing to compromise. The rules don’t change. But when those lessons aren’t properly absorbed in childhood—or when stress strips away our higher-level reasoning—even C-suite discussions can devolve into unproductive standoffs.

Fortunately, the same tactics that parents and preschool teachers use when brokering bitter playtime fights can be successfully applied to negotiations between adults. For an edge in your next challenging negotiation, don’t think like a child—think like an adult talking to a child.

Heads I win, tails you lose

“It would be hard for me to think of anything you could learn in childhood through negotiation that wouldn’t transfer to adulthood,” said William Ury, author of Getting to Yes and co-founder of the Harvard Program on Negotiation.

In 2012, Google embarked on a five-year, multi-million dollar effort to identify the traits of a productive working team. It found exactly one constant among the divergent groups they studied: The most effective teams had high levels of “psychological safety,” which means that members felt mutual respect, trust, and comfort voicing their opinions, the New York Times...

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