20 Lessons Learned From Great Federal Managers

It occurs to me that I shouldn’t be giving away all my secrets.

But I am betting that a rising tide lifts all ships. So that my doing so will show I am a valuable asset by being selfless and helpful.

That’s lesson 1. Here are the rest:

2. Travel with a posse. It makes you look important.

3. Delegate. Repeat that a hundred times.

4. Help people – give them credit – promote them – and maintain good relationships for life.

5. Ask for help. This is not the same as delegating. Find resources.

6. Overcommunicate, and collaborate genuinely.

7. Work around red tape. Do not fight it.

8. Be quietly effective most of the time, but know when to be loud.

9. Don’t make enemies if you can help it.

10. Be nice to everyone, no matter what.

11. Don’t take it personally.

12. Understand when something is a lost cause. Walk away.

13. Remember what’s really important and go home on time.

14. Also remember it’s all a game.

15. Be passionate about excellence. That’s not just a line.

16. Have a clear competitor in mind. This is not the same thing as an enemy.

17. Learn one skill from everyone you meet.

18. Understand how truly ignorant you are.

19. Stay out of things that are not your business.

20. Be humble and grateful, but don’t pass up a chance to shine.

All opinions are my own and do not represent those of my agency or the federal government as a whole. Photo by Heng Fu Ming via Flickr.

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Jane Lassiter

Another great post, Dannielle! Because of #15 I’m considering #12. But firmly believe in leaving a place better than you found it… it’s important to know when that time has come… It is different for each of us.

Carry on!


These are all great! I especially agree with the red tape observation. It’s tempting to try to rise above the red tape that bound you when you were a staffer, now that you’re a supervisor. This has been the downfall of more than one manager in my personal observation. Sometimes the red tape is the only thing holding a fractured process or program together–fighting it yields worse results than working through the system to get what you want.