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Reflections on the first year

So I hesitated to write this post for a lot of reasons. In the end I decided to try.

(If you are curious, I am worried that I will sound like a snotty know -it-all or maybe worse, like an incompetent fool.)

Here is what I learned from a year of trying my very best and making a lot of mistakes:

1. Nobody cares what you did before or who you are outside. All that matters is here.

2. You can never know enough or learn enough. Not for a single day.

3. Listening is not just something nice to do. It is a whole brain activity that is essential to do about 80 percent of the time. Even when you are talking you should be listening.

4. Find people willing to teach you. These people are everywhere. Don't be afraid to ask for advice, for five minutes, for help. Executives as well as success-minded people are generous.

5. The people at the hierarchical bottom of an organization know the most.

6. Don't be an ass. Interpret this as you see fit for your situation.

7. Don't get involved in gossip but you should know what it is.

8. You are getting paid to solve problems and you have no right to make excuses.

9. Have compassion for others but you can't let this cloud your judgment.

10. Make way in your life for the work responsibilities. The higher you go, the more they overtake your life and that is a fact. If you don't love that fact you can't stay.

11. The higher you go the more you represent your employer's brand personally and professionally.

12. The skills you need are not in a book.

13. Don't tell people what your real success secrets are.

14. Hire the best and promote them as much as you can.

15. Work closely with your boss. Trust their vision and make it real.

Data vs. Feelings (What Seems Irrational To You Seems Very Rational To Me)

"Shouting" via JacksonBrown.com, "Teaching Cultural Diffusion in Medieval China"

There are definitely two kinds of people in this world, "data people" and "feelings people" (Myers-Briggs: Thinkers and Feelers or Ts and Fs). 
  • "Data people" tend to do work aimed at maximizing efficiency on a mechanical level. Currency traders, policy analysts, surgeons, programmers.
  • "Feelings people" tend to do work aimed at enabling psychological & social adaptation. Parents, nurses, psychologists and counselors, customer service.
Most of the time each one has no idea what the other one is talking about.

In addition there are some people who take the existence of G-d for granted while others are vehemently agnostic or disagree. Each can be terribly offended by the other to the point where they will in effect stick their fingers in their ears going "la-la-la, I can't hear you" with the sentiment being that the other person is responsible for all the world's ills. (Singlehandedly.)

This is a sorry state of affairs because in the real world data and feelings not only go together but they overlap. And the spiritual realm - or how about this, let's call it the intangible - has a reality as well. Whether you believe in G-d or not, a room has a "vibe," people have "auras" and so on beyond what we can see and measure.

All of this matters more today than it did in the past. Because to get work done you have to be able to consider all factors related to efficiency at once. 
  • It's not enough for your hands to work so that you can sew a shirt. 
  • Remembering how to do the surgery, or what the case law is - only goes so far. 
  • It's nice, but often inadequate if all you can do is hold someone's hand while they cry. 
  • And talking hocus-pocus about good and bad vibes can get people laughing at you.
At the end of the day what data people are looking for - is the most output with the least use of resources. And what feelings people want is the highest level of adjustment in the most challenging set of circumstances.

It's not necessary to understand or master what other people do. You can't anyway, you were not built to know all things. But at least you can credit them for knowing something. When we acknowledge that all of us live on different planets, and that the scenery has some merits, we're in a better place to work together the way we need to. Rather than simply shout each other down.

You Can't Manipulate The Public's Emotions & 4 Other Lessons For Law Enforcement Public Affairs


Take a good look at your audience - any ordinary person. Here, the actor Michael Cera, via Wikimedia.
Having worked in a law enforcement environment I think it is fair to say that the culture features chain-of-command thinking, jockeying for power and general discomfort with managing emotion in a real way.

These factors have a direct impact on public affairs because in today's environment - where social media has a gargantuan influence - you will literally be shouted down from your post if you cannot engage the public.

The rule of the day is to treat the public with respect, as a peer group equivalent if not greater in influence and power, as an ally to be persuaded. To be humble. And most importantly to engage them equally emotionally and intellectually.

Therefore, 5 tips for law enforcement public affairs--

1. Tell people what is going on in a way that conveys expertise but also deep concern for them. If you don't know how to do that watch any movie with Morgan Freeman. In fact I would actually hire Morgan Freeman. I am not kidding here.

2. Never say anything confusing, vague, inaccurate or misleading. If you make a mistake say so. If you can't tell people what is going on, say so and shut up.

3. Don't manipulate the public's emotions, don't try to manipulate the public's emotions, don't appear to try to manipulate them. You can explain why your mission is difficult or challenging. But you cannot cross that line. Watch "The Hunger Games" - the first fifteen minutes.

4. Welcome citizen journalists. Nobody should ever feel scorned or afraid for engaging with public life or public narrative. Have them examine the data. Crowdsource, don't crowd them out.

5. The stagey looking press conferences look staged. There are about ten million better ways to get the public engaged with what's going on, including embedding reporters and/or citizens with the subject matter experts to the greatest extent possible.

*As always all opinions are my own.

Do Government Employees Have Freedom Of Speech?

It's a free country, everybody has freedom of speech, and it is statistically impossible that you will agree with every single thing your agency, another agency or the government does as a whole.
You want to make the government work better.
Every day people take to social media, face-to-face conversation and everything in between to say what they think.
And honest conversation promotes transparency and therefore credibility. To my mind it shows the public that we care.
However, there are times when speaking your mind may not be the best choice.
Here are five factors I use to guide and sometimes limit my public comments:
1--Focus on the general (rules and best practices) not the specific.
2--Remember that I am in a sense a representative of my Agency's brand (and the brand of government) whether I am speaking in a personal capacity or not. This is true of any employee of any organization.
3--Stick to designated roles and responsibilities - in my Agency only Public Affairs or designated experts on specific topics are authorized to explain or comment on what we do publicly, and to address controversy. 
4--Do not do anything that may interfere with mission performance. In some Agencies this is written into a code of conduct.
5--Confidentiality--don't talk about things that are nonpublic information.
From your experience, expertise, or just plain common sense what can you say, and not say, as a government employee writing in a public forum and signing your name? 
(Important note: Nothing here constitutes official advice, and I am not a lawyer. When in doubt, please seek the advice of a competent legal professional.)