Ask an EIG Fellow: Miguel Joey Avilés

Miguel Joey Avilés is the chief of the Office of Recruitment and Retention Programs in the Bureau of Land Management. Prior to this role, he was the deputy program manager for the Executive Leadership Development Program and the Defense Civilian Emerging Leaders Program at the Defense Department. Avilés also served as the president of Young Government Leaders from 2015-2017 and is now the chair of the YGL Advisory Panel.

Avilés is currently participating in the fall 2017 Excellence in Government Fellows program. He will attend the third of seven sessions in February. We recently spoke with Avilés to learn about what motivated him to participate in EIG and how his experience has been so far.

Why did you apply for the Excellence in Government Fellows program?

Avilés: I had the opportunity to manage leadership programs at the Department of Defense, so I’m very familiar with the exponential growth that some participants experience when going through leadership programs. For three years, I helped people catapult their careers to the next level. I truly understand the power behind leadership programs. And I was overdue for a leadership experience myself.

My boss mentioned the Excellence in Government Fellows program. She said, “Miguel, I think this could be a great opportunity for you.” I was fortunate to have a manager who cared about my personal and professional development. I also had peers who served as real-life examples of how good the program was. Some of my peers went through EIG and achieved promotions soon after graduating from the program.

What qualities of EIG were most appealing to you?

The number one factor was that the program is founded on the Executive Core Qualifications. To me that is crucial. The Partnership uses those to create and execute the program.

And there are so many other things. It’s cohort-based. You build and nurture a strong sense of community with the participants. It’s a year-long program, it’s immersive. But for me the number one appealing factor was the ECQs. It is very important for a leader in the federal government to have that foundational background.

What goals did you set for yourself as you go through the program?

Number one: I want to better apply and understand the Executive Core Qualifications. Number two: I want to evaluate my current standing as a leader and as a manager. I took my first supervisory position this past year. The skills and abilities that helped me get there are probably different from the skills I need to thrive as a manager and as a leader in a new organization. My goal is to use the training, the conversations, the exchanges that I will gather and gain through EIG to understand where am I as a leader. The Partnership has different mechanisms to do that. You have a 360 assessment. You have an MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®) to help you comprehend what’s your personality. Then you have an SDI (Strengths Deployment Inventory) that helps you discover and influence the motives that drive behaviors.

I want to start preparing myself to serve in more senior positions. EIG will help me determine where is it that I want to go as a leader in the federal government, how am I going to do it, why am I going to do it, and who do I need around me to help me get there.

What are some of the key lessons you’ve learned so far in EIG?

I had a couple of aha moments.

I was truly amazed with the principle of not managing your time, but managing your energy. I have been obsessed with time management for many years, perhaps ignoring the importance of managing my energy. That was powerful because it allowed me to stop and shift my thinking. What am I doing to rest my mind, my spirit and my soul? These things are helping me be more effective in my career.

Another aha moment I have had so far is with the principle of confronting your brutal facts. I am an optimist—sometimes I can be too positive. What I gained from the last session was to start with the brutal facts and face those directly. Rather than just use optimism as makeup to cover the truth, use optimism to address those brutal facts and make a plan to face that situation.

I’m just starting in EIG, and I already have a list with at least 15 things that I’m currently exploring.

How has EIG changed how you approach your work?

The principles and tools I acquired during the last session were so timely. Throughout the session we got different tools, different templates we can use, different questions we can ask. So I was able to take some of the resources and start applying them immediately.

We are creating several strategic action plans for the entire agency. Last session we discussed the difference between outcomes and outputs in a strategic plan. I was able to use that insight so we could really hone into the actions that we need to achieve a particular goal in our organization.

EIG not only gives you the networking, the aha moments, the introspection you need to achieve self-awareness, but it also provides you with strategies and models that you can take back to your organization and implement right away.

What have you enjoyed most about the program so far?

I am an extrovert. I enjoy being around people. But I have also really enjoyed the pre-session readings. I have read every single article, every single book. And deep diving into those has been tremendously powerful. It gets me thinking, it gets my creative juices up. I go to the classes energized because I have questions, I have opinions, and I want to get more information from the coach, the co-coaches and my peers.

What are you most looking forward to during the rest of your time in EIG?

I am passionate about finding those aha moments in every session. In my notebook I have a little area where I’m writing down the different aha moments I’m having and the different things I want to do as a leader. At the end of the program, I would like to create a bank of those moments. In a leadership journey I believe those aha moments can really help you hone and enhance your leadership capabilities and subsequently achieve breakthroughs in your life and career. When I finish this program, I am expecting to be a better leader, a better manager and an overall better human being.

Why do you believe leadership is important?

Leadership is the secret catalyst of any successful organization. Successful leaders, adaptive leaders, charismatic leaders, compassionate leaders are needed now more than ever. We hear all the time about bad examples of leadership. It’s time to start highlighting more examples of remarkable leaders who are able to create remarkable cultures in organizations that effectively achieve the mission they were created for.

In government, we have many people retiring, we have knowledge transfer challenges, and we have a new generation that is facing issues to enter government. Add to that the retention challenges we’re facing. We need leaders with the right technical skills and soft skills and capabilities to drive our workforce forward so we can thrive as a government. I strongly believe that leaders are the ones who create cultures and systems to achieve that.

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