Leading Change-continual learning, creativity and innovation, external awareness, flexibility, resilience, service motivation, strategic thinking, and vision
? This core qualification encompasses the ability to develop and implement an organizational vision that integrates key national and program goals, priorities, values, and other factors. Inherent to this ECQ is the ability to balance change and continuity; to continually strive to improve customer service and program performance within the basic government framework; to create a work environment that encourages creative thinking; and to maintain focus, intensity and persistence, even under adversity.
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Although a cabinet level organization since 1989, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) did not have an effort focused on protocol services. The organization needed an effort that directly advised, assisted, and supported development activities for the Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and the Chief of Staff on official matters of national and international protocol, and in the planning, hosting, and officiating of related events and activities for visiting heads of state, members of Congress, senior Veteran Service Organizations (VSO?s), and diplomats. This was a challenge during the first year of the 2001-2004 administration when the department received visits from senior U.S. and foreign dignitaries to include the Vice President of the United States and Minister of Veterans Affairs for The Republic of Korea.
After learning of several challenges with VA events with high-level emissaries, I conceived, developed, and submitted a proposal to establish the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Protocol. This was an opportunity for me to demonstrate my skills in leading change (continual learning, creativity and innovation, external awareness, flexibility, resilience, service motivation, strategic thinking, and vision)
The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and Chief of Staff reviewed my proposal, interviewed me (with 10 members of the SECVA staff), and approved my proposal and directed the creation of a centralized office responsible for planning, leading, organizing, and controlling of national and international events befitting of a cabinet-level organization. In October 2001, I was selected to establish the Office of Protocol. The purpose of my position was to lead the protocol services for the department (260,000 employees). At this level of the Department, projects or problems assigned are not clear cut and solutions are often nebulous. Getting buy-in from staff is a crucial piece in finding answers to difficult problems. I have a track record of taking on the hard tasks in my organization and developing a plan, getting buy-in from experienced staff, and producing results. I stood up the first Office of Protocol and opened a new territory in managing events and programs from a ?Systems Thinking? perspective. Immediately upon my appointment, I met with senior leaders and managers, which included senate confirm personnel (offices of the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Under Secretary for Health, Under Secretary for Benefits, Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, Chief of Staff, Inspector General, Chairman, Board of Veterans Appeals, General Counsel, Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental, Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology, Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning, Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs, Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration, Assistant Secretary for Management, Chairman, Board of Contract Appeals Director, Center for Women Veterans, Director, Center for Minority Veterans, Director, CARES Commission, Counselor to the Secretary, Special Assistant to the Secretary, Special Assistant, CARES, Deputy Chief of Staff, Special Assistant to the Deputy Secretary, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary, Executive Secretary, and the Special Assistant) to determine their perspectives on VA?s protocol needs and to discuss how the program could be structured to best meet their needs and organizational requirements as customers. I was the person responsible for researching, benchmarking and developing an implementation plan for the new structure. Next I had the challenge to motivate and build relationships with program officials (100+), to devote significant resources to projects to ensure success. To do this I instituted weekly meetings, which I invited program officials to discuss various elements of the project, their concerns regarding the project, specific challenges their programs are facing, ideas for meeting challenges and how the office of protocol could help them meet requirements. This candid exchange of ideas gave key players in the process some control over their early commitment. I directed all aspects of the Office of Protocol, to include program administration, resource management, human resource management, communications, customer service, and work plan accomplishment.
This office is on the cutting edge of activities throughout the department (at the highest level). I created a vision: ?To provide premier protocol services throughout the department?; mission: ?To provide worldclass protocol via special events, read aheads, gift program, foreign visits, and meeting management? for the Office of Protocol, set high goals, developed performance measurements and positioned the office to be the focal point for movement toward excellence throughout the organization. I recognize and maximize individual strengths creating a synergy for personal and office accomplishments. I strengthen the skills of my staff and subordinates through concrete learning experiences, performance coaching and counseling, and by involving them and their ideas in my decision-making process. This small office clearly outstrips normal output for an office of its size. Each member of my staff has received promotions for 3 consecutive fiscal years (FY02, FY03, and FY04) and special contribution awards, of significant amounts directly from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in recognition of their outstanding performance and their ability to meet the challenges of increased levels of responsibility and complexity of work. I have personally received from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Chief of Staff a promotion, several Special Contribution Awards and a Quality Step Increase (QSI) from 2001 until present.
As leader of this office, I am called on constantly as a Go To person and I am asked to take on the ?impossible? tasks. In the last year alone, incredibly short suspensed taskings directly from the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Deputy Secretary, and Chief of Staff Offices were very common place and all were successfully accomplished. My office is recognized for its agility and hard charging character and has been singled out by a myriad of senior leaders. My proactive leadership in the Office of Protocol contributes immeasurably to the overall success of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Daily, the office of protocol provides viable services, which had not previously been available, and prevents embarrassing situations on a national and international level. My office is an indispensable tool for developing relationships with the VA?s stakeholders, preparing and executing events appropriate for high-ranking officials while maintaining a positive impact on the organization?s image and working environment are all part of my less-than-average day. The Office of protocol has grown to provide major services to include: ceremonies and special events; daybooks for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (SECVA) (dictating his movements for an entire day), gift and presentations program, and meetings management.
The impact of my contribution established and defined the Office of Protocol for the Department of Veterans Affairs. My efforts and the efforts of my staff have ensured the stature of the Department of Veterans Affairs is functioning appropriately at the Cabinet level and is in the highest interest of the United States of America?s most precious jewels, its ?Veterans?..
In August 2004, I was selected to participate in my organization?s Senior Executive Service Candidate Development Program (SESCDP). In meeting the OPM criteria for the program, currently, and maintaining performance of my job, I am attending the Saturday courses, at Georgetown University Center for Professional Development. I am currently in the Senior Executive Leadership Certificate program. Completion of this certificate will support my SESCDP requirement of 80 hours of formal interagency executive development, addressing the full spectrum of Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs).
The Georgetown University Center for Professional Development Senior Executive Leadership certificate program is designed to prepare executives and managers to lead and motivate people to be results?driven, and to achieve favorable outcomes through teamwork, partnerships, and building coalitions. The program provides training for professionals seeking advancement to executive positions within their organizations. There are 5 courses within the program to include: Leadership, Vision and Strategy ; Leading and Executing Change; Managing Institutional Politics and Conflict; Leading and Motivating People; and Building an Effective Business Foundation
In February 2005, I began the course Leadership as Vision and Strategy. In this innovative course, I learned the skills to develop and execute my organization’s vision and mission, and align my organizational objectives with my personal goals. In addition I learned to improve my skills to maintain my forward approach as a visionary leader that moves beyond thinking out of the box to defining the box. This was a very timely course, as my organization the Department of Veterans Affairs was undergoing a leadership transition from the 4th Secretary of Veterans Affairs, The Honorable Anthony J. Principi to the 5th Secretary of Veterans Affairs, The Honorable Jim Nicholson (former Ambassador to the Holy See). As a member of the staff of the Office of the Secretary, I was able to have a front row seat and see the immediate leadership differences, to include the completion of Secretary Principi tenure and his legacy. Secretary Principi?s legacy included:
1. Veterans Health Administration (VHA)-CARES, Capital Realignment of Enhanced Services (20yr, 20 billion dollar realignment of medical facilities)
2. Veterans Health Administration (VHA)-Reduction in waiting times for medical services
3. Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA)-claims processing reduction, from 500,000 to 250,000 within 4 years
4. National Cemetery Administration (NCA)-greatest expansion of national cemeteries since the Civil War
5. Fought for and won increases in Budgets four consecutive years
The Georgetown University Center for Professional Development course Leadership, Vision, and Strategy, has helped me to observe the current Secretary, from a leadership perspective formulate and apply his vision, while learning the organization and with limited resources. Secretary Nicholson?s first vision is to assist with the employment of the myriad of veterans returning Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Currently I am attending the course Leading and Motivating People. In this course I will enhance my core leadership and management competencies in performance management, group dynamics, team building, workplace ethics, negotiation, and collaboration. Additionally, I will enhance my abilities to cultivate and foster team spirit, pride, and trust, while promoting good work ethics, moral values, high standards, and integrity.
In February 2005, while participating in the Georgetown University Center for Professional Development Senior Executive Leadership certificate program, I was also working on the Swearing-In Ceremony in honor of the 5th Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Upon analyzing the life of Secretary Nicholson (soldier, businessman, entrepreneur, politician, religion), I recommended the US Chamber of Commerce as the venue to conduct his ceremony. My recommendation was the result of 2 visions. The first vision was tactical solving the immediate need of an appropriate venue that could hold approx 500-700 guests, and fulfill the stature of the guest of honor. My second vision was to establish a relationship between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the US Chamber of Commerce to assist with the employment of the myriad of veterans returning Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a voice of more than 30 million businesses the US Chamber of Commerce would be a perfect partner to establish an avenue for employment of returning veterans. The ceremony was a success, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs thanked me for my work. I then shared my second vision, and today, a partnership with the US Chamber of Commerce is being developed along with a Task Force for Veterans Employment. The President of the US Chamber of Commerce is a member of the task Force.
I am scheduled to complete the entire program on June 17, 2005 and will receive the Georgetown University Center for Professional Development Senior Executive Leadership Certificate. The Senior Executive Leadership certificate is designed to help me develop core leadership and management skills and competencies related to the SES Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) in communication (ECQ 5), performance management (ECQ 3), group dynamics, team building (ECQ 2), workplace ethics, negotiation, and collaboration (ECQ 5); cultivate self-management and personal mastery that bring out the best in self and others (ECQ 2); understand organizational culture and dynamics in order to lead change and transform the organization (ECQ 1); develop healthy, effective organizations, units, and teams with compelling public identities (ECQ 1); master the foundation of business practice including planning, management, analysis, and budgeting (ECQ 4); and understand how to develop a power base and use that power to influence others, and achieve your agenda amidst the politics of organizational life (ECQ 5).
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