How the Partnership’s Service to America Medals and leadership programs have helped one fed improve his office

October 16, 2018

When the Partnership contacted Josh Silverman, the director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Protection and Environmental, Safety and Health Reporting, to inform him he was in contention for a Service to America Medal, the recognition “largely came out of the blue,” he says.

Silverman was honored as 2013 finalist for his efforts to halt the release of a potent greenhouse gas from Energy Department facilities. The recognition increased awareness of Silverman’s work.  

“This was a big deal,” Silverman says. “While I already had great support from my management, the positive publicity really helped to strengthen our emissions reduction efforts.” The recognition that came with being named a Sammies finalist opened doors as more people within his own agency, across government and in the private sector learned of the work he led. He started sharing best practices with the Department of Defense and other federal agencies, and engaging with chemical manufacturers to identify potential substitute materials to further reduce dangerous emissions. He was also asked, by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, to join an interagency effort to reduce fluorinated gases. 

Another door that opened more easily because of the increased attention?  The one that led to the Department’s then-Secretary Ernest Moniz.  

“The extra attention that came from being a Sammies finalist helped me get a briefing with the secretary, which enabled me to advance the work further,” Silverman says. The secretary’s interest led other senior leaders at the department, who were previously unfamiliar with his initial project, to engage more directly in the efforts to reduce emissions. 

Sharing leadership lessons organization-wide

Two years after the Sammies recognition, Silverman graduated from the Excellence in Government Fellows program, a leadership development program for senior-level federal managers.  

“It was a great experience,” he says. The program helped him improve “the people skills, the coordination skills, the team-building skills [needed] to get good things done.” 

And yet, he recognized that for his EIG experience to have the greatest effect in his office, he couldn’t be the only one with these capabilities.  

“I wound up teaching many seminars to my organization on some of those leadership competencies.”  

Improving employee engagement

Silverman is also leading his office’s newly created employee engagement work group. He uses information he gleaned from the Partnership’s three-part webinar series, Building a Culture of Engagement, which teaches government leaders how to address workplace challenges. 

“I took notes and shared all my materials,” Silverman says.  

As Silverman moves into the senior executive ranks, he is leveraging the leadership skills he’s learned to motivate his colleagues to effectively advance the mission of the organization. 

That’s why he’s devoted to sharing the lessons he’s learned about recognition, leadership and employee engagement.  

“[Leaders are] in the people business,” Silverman says. “Even if I have the perfect technical understanding, all the actual work happens through coordination, collaboration, partnership. There’s nothing worth doing that I can accomplish on my own.”