Celebrating 30 years of the Excellence in Government Fellows

August 8, 2019

At a 30th anniversary celebration of the Excellence in Government Fellows program last month, 115 alumni attended a professional development conference during which they reconnected with colleagues, developed new agency contacts and advanced their leadership skills.

During the day’s first session, Sean O’Keefe, former NASA administrator and Secretary of the Navy, spoke about his motivation for choosing a career in public service, and the unique influence federal employees have.

“Regardless of what you do or what your job is, you impact someone,” O’Keefe said during a discussion with Andrew Marshall, the Partnership’s director for leadership development. “Dedicate yourself to the idea that [this work] ‘is bigger than me.’ ”  

On leadership, O’Keefe emphasized the importance of getting to know employees and communicating with them early and often. He also underscored the advantages of continuous learning, including their conference attendance, as key to strong leadership.

Andrew Marshall, the Partnership’s director for leadership development, (left) speaking with Sean O’Keefe (right) during the first session of the conference.

Alumni participated in two of four breakout sessions led by EIG coaches and Partnership staff:

  • Resilience: How to bounce back better
  • Executive Presence
  • Change Management
  • Life in the SES

The resilience session focused on how alumni could model resilience for the people who report to them. Jeff O’Malley, the Partnership’s director for executive and team coaching, offered tools ranging from mindfulness micro-practices to checking that vision, values and mission are aligned. The information was directly applicable to the many attendees who are starting new roles or leading through change at their agencies.

The session on presence, led by EIG executive coaches Sheryl Phillips and Alison Miller, featured hands-on practice and feedback to strengthen alumni’s ability to command a room.

“The session was really useful for raising my own awareness of how I present myself and what I may be conveying to others through my posture or demeanor,” Stacy Alboher said. “It made me think critically about if the way I present myself is how I would like to present myself.”

In the change management session, led by Kevin Johnson, the Partnership’s senior manager for business functional programs, alumni discussed a framework to identify the types of tools and people needed to lead through change.

Kevin Johnson presenting to alumni during the Change Management breakout session.

The SES session featured a conversation between two former members of the Senior Executive Service—Solly Thomas, an EIG executive coach, and Tim McManus, the Partnership’s chief operating officer.

Thomas delved into his leadership journey and shared advice on joining the SES. He encouraged alumni to be the “first follower”—the courageous first person to follow a new movement or idea, and show others how to join in.

The day wrapped up with an overview of the Partnership’s new public service leadership model, which serves as a standard for effective federal leadership. Alumni were asked to reflect on examples of great government leadership and connect them to the model’s values and competencies.

The Partnership hopes to provide more alumni events like this one, particularly after learning through a post-event survey that 100% of attendees found the content useful and would attend again.