Advice to New Appointees

The Presidential Appointee's Handbook

The Presidential Appointee's Handbook

I went to a book signing party last night for Ed DeSeve’s new book, “The Presidential Appointee’s Handbook,” published by the Brookings Institution. DeSeve served in local, state, and federal government in a variety of capacities – including the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget — and is now at the University of Pennsylvania.

Invitees were all given a book and asked to mail in $12 to DeSeve’s university, but only if we liked the book. I’ve mailed my check!

The book is brief – about 100 pages – but it is a high level survey of current management literature. It organized around six competencies DeSeve thinks former presidential appointees “have found to be essential for effective performance.” These include:
• Leading for results
• Managing change and innovation
• Providing technical knowledge and ability
• Leading others
• Leading yourself
• Maintaining global awareness

The book’s chapters are organized around these six competencies and summarize useful tools such as the use of Balanced Scorecards, the Burns Academy’s 5-star framework, John Kotter’s 8-stage process for leading change, and the Myers-Briggs personality indicators. He also draws on the inspirations of key management gurus on topics such as Dan Goleman’s emotional intelligence framework, Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s observations on team building, Steven Covey’s “seven habits,” and Don Kettl’s insights on the next government of the United States.

Probably the strongest part of his book, though, is when he draws on his own experience and that of fellow federal leaders such as the Coast Guard’s Thad Allen, CDC’s Julie Gerberding, and GAO’s David Walker. DeSeve also includes topics less common in management tomes, such as the criticality of ensuring equity and diversity. For example, he points to the crash of the space ship Columbia and how the lack of diversity in thinking contributed to the disaster. He also has a section on the importance of public service motivation, quoting former Comptroller General Elmer Staats: “Public service is a concept, an attitude, a sense of duty – yes, even a sense of public morality.” Clearly a high standard!

His book includes a handy summary of federal ethics rules, the U.S. Constitution, and how Congress makes laws.

This book, along with the two books the IBM Center has published, of course, will serve new appointees well as they prepare themselves to serve in the new Administration.

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