How to succeed in the SES

Wednesday - 6/16/2010, 11:08am EDT

Daniel Weinberg, assistant director, American Community Survey and Decennial Census, Census Bureau

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

Reaching the Senior Executive Service level is one thing. Living it is another.

Federal News Radio talked with a panelist at the Executive Update 2010 conference of the Senior Executives Association about "The SES: How to Succeed Once You're There".

Daniel Weinberg, the assistant director of the American Community Survey and Decennial Census at the Census Bureau, said it might surprise those not in the SES that he spends at least half his time working with people on their problems.

"I'm not so much a manager," said Weinberg, "as I am a facilitator, a coach, a mentor." He said he tries to help people figure out "who to talk to, who to learn from, and getting people to work together is really the most important part of my job."

As far as advice for the new Senior Executive, Weinberg said to watch and learn.

The first thing I tell them is not to make any changes right away. Their predecessor hired some good people. You have to figure out how to work with them, how to form them into a team. I urge them to maybe go off on a retreat with the senior leadership for a day, facilitated retreat. Learn people's strengths and weaknesses, what their goals are. And then, when you've been there maybe a year, you can start thinking about moving people around or reorganizing.

And even then, said Weinberg, think about your approach.

"Authoritarianism doesn't seem to work," he said. "It certainly doesn't work for me. You want to be a role model. You want to teach. You want to lead them and not tell them 'you go there, do this.' It's not quite like a football team."

With more than thirty years experience, Weinberg said he's learned to accept that public opinion of federal employees will change. His advice is to stay the course.

"Only join government if you want to be a public servant," said Weinberg, if you "want to make things better, and whatever the environment is, if you keep that goal in mind, I think you can get through ups and downs."