How I Lead: Building Trust and Communication Between Teams

A conversation with HHS executive Ken Sosne.

Ken Sosne is director of regional grant operations at the Health and Human Services Department’s Administration for Children and Families. He has more than 20 years of service as a budget analyst, grants officer, administrative officer and resource manager at agencies including the Federal Public Defender’s Office and Immigration and Border Protection.

What is the best leadership lesson you've learned?  

One needs to be patient and watch how others command a room.

How did you get to where you are today?

I always was willing to work hard and forget about the hours I was putting in, and I dealt fairly with others.

What leadership lessons do you try to convey to your team?   

Fairness, keep your eye on the mission and always remember your oath of public service.

What do you look for in potential employees when making hiring decisions?

I look for a strong educational background, a well-rounded portfolio and an individual with a sense of both self and leadership.

What do you do after work for fun or to relax?

I enjoy spending time with my wife, cooking and going out to our beach home that someday will be our retirement venue.

What is the best mistake you've ever made?

Being too forthright in a meeting and getting a strong rebuttal, thereby allowing me to learn to listen better.

Describe your average day in 10 words or less.

Overbooked, stressful, too many competing priorities, and rewarding at times.

What strengths do you bring your organization?

I have the ability to gain trust and bring my many years of experience to an organization to share a unique viewpoint and to enhance collaboration. I am able to facilitate communications between teams.

What career accomplishment are you most proud of and why?

I am most proud of utilizing my strong education background to support a public mission and the ability to hire the best and the brightest.

What is the most important thing you have learned in your career?

I have learned that a strong education is important. Also, to place an emphasis on risk-taking and maintaining a strong support network of colleagues and family as you move up the ladder.

What was the biggest career risk you took?

Bidding for my GS-15 manager’s position and finding out that being a federal manager is very difficult but can be rewarding. It turned out positively in that I perform well under trial-by-fire and was able to utilize the training I gained from previous work opportunities. I learned that not everything is what it seems and you need to be resilient.

What motivates you?

The mission of my current agency, HHS, motivates me. I support the Head Start and Technical Assistance to Needy Families programs. I have been lucky to have had a good federal career. I am now looking forward to the rewards in a retirement phase, when I plan to stay involved with a new career teaching or helping nonprofits and social justice organizations.