Federal Coach

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Federal Coach: Rocking the boat in federal agencies

(Fox's Federal Coach column was originally published on The Washington Post On Leadership site.)

Thank you for your all of your recent comments this past month. I wanted to share a few of those comments and encourage you to continue sharing your ideas and questions by commenting on these posts or emailing me at fedcoach@ourpublicservice.org.

One reader offered the following book recommendation to my summer reading list, which is also a personal favorite of mine:

“I would add Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by the Heath brothers. Some great, tangible examples of incredible changes in communities/companies/households etc.

“Switch asks the following question: Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives? The primary obstacle, say the Heaths, is a conflict that's built into our brains. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.” – Federal Coach reader

Next, a GS-14 federal employee emailed a comment in about my recent column on succession planning in government:

“I don't think it focused enough on the critical element of cultivating staff with leadership potential. I say this as a GS-14 with two decades in the government, who is liked and respected by my managers, but who is also regularly taken for granted.

Good staff leave and go elsewhere when they don't see the opportunities for advancement where they are. All the succession planning in the world won't help if you don't put your heart into the fight to retain the best people.” – Federal employee (GS-14)

Finally, I received a lot of interesting responses to my column on horrible bosses, and I wanted to share the following one from a former federal employee:

“There are situations without remedy. The greatest problem I noticed in my federal career was the hands-off management style of upper management. No one is willing to rock the boat and get rid of or move duds. The truth is no one cares that duds are in charge. After multiple OPM interventions and "management consultants" recommendations, no one will act and remove the duds. I was fortunate to qualify for retirement and was glad to depart. Some unfortunate souls cannot do likewise. –Federal Coach reader

Posted by Tom Fox, VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service on Jun 24, 2011 at 12:12 PM


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