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What are your Favorite SES ECQs?

If you are going to consider an SES position within the next 5 years, you should begin to think about the ECQS and your experience. What’s your favorite or best ECQ?

Consider the these basic tips for thinking about your leadership qualifications and preparing to write the five ECQs.

ECQ #1 – Leading Change: This competency is about leading change, not just implementing it. It looks for creativity and strategic thinking. “Ask yourself, ‘When did I lead change? Why was change needed? What was my role in the change?’” we recommend. “This is not about what your department did, but what you did to lead change.”

ECQ #2 – Leading People: The second ECQ centers on the ability to lead people toward meeting the organization’s vision. “Your example might address conflict management, leveraging diversity, or implementing career development,” the authors say. “Ask yourself, ‘Who did I lead? What was going on with them? What were the challenges of their jobs?’”

ECQ #3 – Results Driven: “This is a Type A competency.” “The third ECQ relates to action, staying on task, following up, and being driven by the desired results. Top leaders are very results driven, like Giuliani was as New York’s mayor.”

ECQ #4 – Business Acumen: To tackle this qualification, you need three “heads” – oriented to finance, human capital and technology. “This can be the toughest ECQ,” the authors note. “Government people tend to think about programs and policies, rather than business. But think of contracts, procurements and budgets for finance, restructuring, recruitment and training for people, and security, IT security and automation for technology.”

ECQ #5 – Building Coalitions: The fifth ECQ is about partnering, political savvy, influencing and negotiating. The authors prompt with this question, “Ask yourself, ‘How well do I partner with other organizations to achieve goals? How well do I communicate with them? How well do I work with others?” Lack of partnering was behind the failure to respond quickly to the Katrina disaster, the SES consultants noted. Now emergency management has tremendous partnerships between different government levels.

Which ECQ/s are your favorite? I like Change and Results and Building Coalitions. But owning a business means that I have to be good in all of them.

Written by Kathryn Troutman, Co-Author and Publisher, The New SES Application and Program Director of Mastering the SES Application Workshop.

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David Dejewski

I frankly liked them all. I had a great time writing my ECQ’s and was thrilled that they really drew on what I felt were my natural tendencies.
My biggest challenge with these was with selecting the “best” example from my experience for each area. I found I had many to chose from and would have enjoyed talking to any of them, but we all have to chose. In the end, I felt it presented a limited picture, but it got me to the interview tables, so I suppose that was the point.
The next challenge in the series was selecting an SES position (and environment) that I felt was a good match. No matter how great the individual, it takes a team to do anything worth doing. No matter how great the team, it takes the right mix of politics, support and timing to make the team’s success count.

Andrew Krzmarzick

I think #2 is the most important. If you are able to successfully lead people and leverage the talent of your team, it’s a force multiplier.


My favorite is “Leading People” which I think is the heart of it all (leading coalitions to me is related). The key is how do you lead people to accomplish a task together that is important.

John Younkin

As a hiring manager for all levels of technical people it is very challenging to determine a persons role in a particular activity. It is important to be specific as possible – Did you lead the effort, did you lead a small team as part of the effort or were you an individual contributor. This is the big discriminator between leaders and individual contributors. I am in the process of re-writing my resume around these ECQ’s – Believe they are an excellent method for advertising your skills and evaluating others on thier leadership abilities.

Dave Bell

I agree with Ms. Troutman, ECQ4, Business Acumen, is the toughest ECQ. I believe the reason ECQ4 is the toughest, however, lies not in how government people think of the business but rather, how selecting officials think of the business. Too often, it seems as if selecting officials are looking for individual knowledge of the programs and policies with which they are familiar in lieu of overall competency or a record of accomplishments. This not only severely limits the potential candidate pool, it tends to move ‘super specialists’ into the upper echelons of senior management, promotes and encourages an incestuous organization, and leaves well qualified and well deserving leaders on the sidelines peering through the closed windows of opportunity.

My personal favorite is ECQ2, Leading People. If you can lead people you also, virtually by definition, lead change (ECQ1), achieve favorable results (ECQ3), and build fulfilling coalitions (ECQ5). Of course that assumes you lead people by taking the and being not the person on the sled with the whip. 🙂


The ECQ that has a big impact on moving a federal agency forward is having the ability to lead change. Federal managers are often risk adverse and thus organizational improvement is not achieved. The axiom of ” If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten” rings true for many managers. It takes someone with the courage and ability to change a process (not for change sake) to move the ball down the field. Leading Change is not easy when so many individuals like it just the way things are currently being done. Finding leaders who can lead change is a challenge for federal managers.

Diane Hudson Burns

My favorite ECQ is Building Coalitions. Our world is interconnected via government, industry, and academia – it is joint, interagency, and global. This ECQ allows executives to describe how they are capable of pulling together groups from across the globe, in some cases, to reach critical operational and organizational results. All of the ECQs, however, are excellent opportunities for senior leaders to express their leadership competencies and, as I say, Lead Change, by Leading People, Driving Results, Managing Resources, and Building Coalitions.

Michael B Fraser

While they are all clearly important, in this governing climate, I give greater weight to the Building Coalitions ECQ since most complex problems cross organizational boundaries. To me, that means effective partnering and on-going negotiation and collaboration will be essential winning strategies to achieve the desired outcomes. For the longer term success of an organization, a close second ECQ is Leading People. In particular, I believe that a critical role of the Executive is selecting, growing and retaining the talented employees and that role can not be just delegated to HR. Mid-career talent is too often neglected and may need to be “recruited” with the same enthusiasm and energy that we invest in new hires.

Nicole Schultheis

My favorite is #2 – Leading People. I am constantly inspired by the success stories of those who take a damaged dynamic and turn it around, transforming dysfunctional groups into teams that work together well and are newly proud to be part of something bigger than themselves. There’s a kind of magic that happens. It’s about active listening, empowerment, and engagement. Different leaders get it done in different ways, but it always starts with being present, and giving attention. You can recite Henry V all you want, but if you haven’t paved the road with your eyes and your ears, the folks who work for you aren’t going to follow you down it.

Kathryn Troutman

Thanks everyone for your ECQ inspiration. This is great. Please share with your colleagues.

As an SES ECQ Coach, I discuss and inspire each ECQ to prompt the executive to remember their best accomplishment for each of the five ECQs. It’s really a GREAT executive exercise.

And good news if you are hired as an SES. You will continue to update your ECQs while you are an SESer. That will make writing the annual performance evaluation easier, if it’s the same format! CONSISTENCY ! What a concept!

I hope that all of government will accept the new SES Performance Measures – THE ECQS ! What a Great Idea to continue “thinking ECQs All Day” as an SESer.

I look forward to reading the Performance Accomplishments in the ECQ format! Read more about the White House Plan for SES ECQs as Performance Measures: http://gov.aol.com/2012/01/06/white-house-to-issue-new-performance-measures-for-senior-executi/