How I Lead: Set Clear Goals and Ask Employees What They Need to Achieve Them

A conversation with EPA’s Cecilia Moore.

Cecilia Moore is a supervisory environmental scientist in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Division in Chicago. An EPA employee for the past 20 years, she is an aspiring Senior Executive Service candidate and takes pride in the agency’s mission to protect human health and the environment. 

What is the best leadership lesson you've learned?

Take a walk. Leaders understand the political savvy component of their career success and the necessity to take a walk to get to know the employees in their environment. It is not enough to do an exceptional job if senior managers do not know you exist. Be aggressive about your career and do not expect someone else to give you a promotion simply based on how hard you work in your own corner of the world. Also, show the world that your quality of work sets you apart from everyone else.  

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

I look for integrity, consistent work record, the ability to work independently and on a team, innovative thinking, eagerness to learn and honesty.

What is a good book you have read recently?

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

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

I exercise, spend time with my family, bake, and shop.

Describe your average day in 10 words or less.

Every day is an adventure that I want to explore.

What strengths do you bring your organization?

I bring the ability to remain calm in the midst of competing priorities, dedication, loyalty, commitment to accomplishing targets in a manner of excellence, and aptitude in fostering an inclusive work environment.

What is your weakness and how do you compensate for it?  

I have a tendency to become so focused on workplace fires that I have to remind myself to take a walk or come out of my workstation. Engaging staff and managers is equally important in ensuring the work products from my group align with the agency’s goals.

What is your strategy for interactions with your branch chief?

My strategy is to have open, honest and frequent communication with my branch chief to build a rapport of trust and loyalty. If I am not sure of the direction my branch chief or senior management want me to take, I ask. If I have competing priorities, I ask which goal is most important to the program, and then I proceed based on that direction. I want my branch chief to know I am dependable.

What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my group’s commitment to contract management excellence, particularly in the area of small business contracting. For the last five years, we have consistently exceeded agency SB goals. We are not only doing our part to protect human health and the environment, but we are supporting the SB community. 

How do you involve your employees to ensure everyone is on board with a new idea?

  • Set clear goals
  • Involve staff for buy-in and quality performance
  • Ask staff what training/resources they need to accomplish goals
  • Create an implementation plan with staff
  • Set up monitoring to ensure the desired results/goals are being achieved
  • Refine the process based on the monitoring of results

What is your latest goal or ambition?

In January 2015, I am graduating with my master's of business administration with a concentration in management. After several years of indecision and doubt regarding how I could return to school with a family and a full-time supervisory job, I decided to just do it. I enrolled in North Central University, an online university in October 2013 and will soon complete my degree. I am proud of my diligence and thoroughly enjoy the business aspect this degree allows me to apply to my daily work. 

What motivates you?

God, because he is the source of everything I need to succeed in every area of my life. My family, specifically my children, because I want to live my life in a manner that teaches them by example the principles of hard work and dedicated service.