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How to Weather the Storms Ahead

Weather is an unpredictable force. Yes, we have weather forecasts, but even the best technology cannot always predict future weather patterns as they are constantly changing. Career federal employees need to be prepared to weather any storm. Tom Fox, Vice President of Leadership and Innovation for the Partnership for Public Service, believes that preparing leaders today will help them face any major change(s) they may encounter.

Fox sat down with Christopher Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program to discuss the Partnership’s Excellence in Government Fellows program and how the lessons learned from that experience could be useful for any change during a leader’s tenure.

“A crisis brings out the best and worst in people. The transition may or may not become a crisis, but it certainly puts people under duress. So, you have the opportunity to either step up or to recede,” Fox said.

Being Prepared for Turbulence

The career federal workforce must remember that they are the continuity of government. Fox shared that they need to view themselves as a calming force. They should think of themselves as the calm in the center of a hurricane. In other words, not only is it their “responsibility to be the ones who are both prepared and ready to respond to whatever circumstance may arise,” but they need to lead the way.

Leading in a crisis was the focal point of the Excellence in Government fellowship. Fox explained that the yearlong program allows current leaders in government (those with GS-14s and GS-15s) to develop the necessary skills to either enhance their leadership responsibilities in their existing roles or for the Senior Executive Service. The lessons track directly with the executive core qualifications of the Federal Government and insures that they have the ability to help government operate as effectively and efficiently as possible.

The Four Themes

  • Become a Servant Leader: Learn to operate at your best by actually helping others operate at theirs. The graduation keynote speaker for the program was Carolyn Colvin, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Colvin said, “If serving people is below you, then leadership is beyond you.” This concept leads to better management because you can pick up the intelligence you need to solve issues-quickly.
  • The Power of People: Build and maintain a network of support. “You cannot go through a transition without a broad network of support,” Fox stated. The bigger and broader your network is, the more likely you are to find solutions to problems as they arise. When push comes to shove, you can call on those people for assistance (and vice versa).
  • Know your True North: You need to know what direction your compass is pointing. “Know your leadership philosophy,” Fox highlighted. Figure out how you want to be seen.
  • Plan for the Transition: To avoid turbulence in the future, leaders need to focus on making transitions as smooth as possible-now. Plan how you will brace yourself for the unknown.

No need to be fearful of the turbulence ahead. You now have the tools to protect you. You are ready to brace yourself for the journey ahead.



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Kitty Wooley

Mariah, I think this is an outstanding post – kudos.

Tom’s statement about “being the calming force” is no joke. And, if we think about the articles about our VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) environment that have begun appearing, the turbulence is becoming the new normal.

If anyone wants to read up on VUCA, there are 12 other useful items saved at https://www.diigo.com/user/kwooleyy/VUCA.