I attended the AGA’s 2017 National
Leadership Training (NLT) in Washington,
DC a few weeks ago. If you ever have the
chance to attend NLT, I encourage you to
do so. It is where you can meet many
federal agency chief financial officers,
inspectors general and other senior
members of federal agencies.
The final speaker of the session was Chip Fulghum, Deputy
Undersecretary of Management of the Department of
Homeland Security. If you ever have the chance to meet Chip
or hear him speak, do not hesitate to run to his session! He
spoke about the keys to successful leadership.
In Chip’s session, he spoke of four key attributes of success:
Attitude, Communication, Mentoring, and Service.
Notice that money is not in Chip’s list. Survey after survey
shows that salary is not nearly as important as enjoying what
we do. Of course, it doesn’t hurt! But let’s think about each of
those attributes. Do we have a good attitude? Do we come to
our careers with a fresh outlook every day? If we simply enjoy
what we do and profess that attitude toward others, it becomes
organic. Our organizations work better as a team. If we are a
‘Debbie Downer,’ (from an old Saturday Night Live sketch,) that
also pervades. It’s all too easy to be negative. All of us face
adversity daily in some way, shape or form. Chip’s message
was to try to see the positive in things.
He also emphasized communication. If there can be better
communication in our organizations, perhaps there wouldn’t be
as many squabbles in the world. In any issue, there’s going to
be polarization – you may have your side and there is always
likely someone on an opposite side. If we can find common
ground, we can solve any issue in our organizations,
neighborhoods and the country as a whole. Let’s put down our
cell phones, stop with inflammatory tweets and start breaking
bread with our neighbors and communicating with them in more
than 140 characters. I’m a fan of Anthony Bourdain’s show on
CNN and that is his central message. We can solve the world’s
problems over dinner.
Chip was a big fan of mentoring. In my last message to you, I
emphasized that mentoring is about helping someone achieve
by not giving up. I find every opportunity to mentor someone
as it gives me hope for the future. Chip mentioned that
mentoring ‘the farm team’ is key to success. Look at what the
Red Sox do continuously. The older and retired players are
constantly working with the young kids to help them succeed.
You always see Dwight Evans, Pedro and Luis Tiant working
with players to make them better at what they do.
And then there’s service. We all work for the public, our
neighbors, friends and people who we have never met. Public
service is the most honorable profession as we help each other
in our own special ways.
My great uncle had an Army-Navy store in Johnstown,
Pennsylvania. When I was young, he allowed me to work in
the store. He used to say – “You are successful if you come
home at night with $1 in your pocket.” He fit all of Chip’s
attributes even though he was not a public servant, other than
serving in World War II. He was not a rich man – he made
enough to be successful. And he loved hiring teenagers or
veterans in town to work in his store.
Let’s take those attributes of Chip’s and apply them to what we
do as public servants or serving the public sector from now on.
As my uncle and Chip were in effect saying – it is easy to be
successful with the right attitude, effective communication,
being a mentor and through giving just a little bit back.
Eric Berman, CPA