Navigating Government Hiring

On September, 24, 2016 and October 1, 2016, I presented workshops on the Federal hiring process for, a non-profit that provides job search skills education for people in the Washington D.C. area.

I have posted my slides for the two sessions below. They reflect my own experience applying for Federal jobs, and my experience as a government hiring manager. Different agencies, HR professionals, and hiring managers approach the process differently, so follow any guidelines given to you for specific positions.

Finally, these slides reflect my experience and beliefs only, and do not reflect the opinions of the USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service and/or the National Organic Program.

Navigating Government Hiring – Part 1: This session focused on walking through the job announcement process and provided an overview of Federal resume tips.

Navigating Government Hiring – Part 2: This session focused on the Federal interview process, and what to expect in a panel interview session.

Best of luck in your government job search!

Matching Messages with Motives

In August 2011, I presented “Matching Messages with Motives: The Reversal Theory Toolkit” to about 200 health communication specialists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media. The feedback about Reversal Theory and its application to health communication was really positive, and exciting to see. The research that the Reversal Theory community does is so important – and to see the ideas click with professionals who want to translate the new theories they find into practice, was tremendously exciting.

Access the slides from my presentation below:

8 Reasons to Vote

Election Day has arrived in the U.S., so this post provides eight reasons to vote, with each reason drawing from a different motivational state.*  Given that most candidates seem to be focusing on the “vote or dire consequences will occur” card (covered by the first bullet below), I thought a little motivational diversity might do us all some good.

So, here are eight reasons you should vote:

  • Serious (motivated by goals and outcomes): This election is the most important election since the last one.  Our futures are riding on the decisions made at the ballot box – our choices will impact us for years to come.
  • Playful (motivated by process and fun): It’s fun to look for dangling chads.  And to admire children’s art on the walls if you vote at an elementary school.  Or to flip through new books if you vote at a library.  Or to say Hi to God if you vote at a religious center. And to just enjoy the moment of participating in a democracy.
  • Conforming (motivated by rules and belonging): It’s the right thing to do, so you should do it.  Be a good citizen; be a part of what makes this country work.
  • Rebellious (motivated by freedom and independence): Not happy with the way things are going? Do something about it!  Express your views! Stand apart from the others! Express your independence!
  • Mastery (motivated by power and competence):  Use your knowledge of the candidates to make smart decisions and to express your power and competence.  Debate your views with others so we can all become smarter.
  • Sympathy (motivated by care and compassion): Voting is a wonderful way to connect with your neighbors. Say hello to the person in line near you, say thank you to the volunteers, and care about other citizens, regardless of their political views.
  • Self (motivated to full one’s own needs): Your one vote counts.  Only you can pull that lever. You get a cool sticker to prove it, too.
  • Other (motivated to fill the needs of others): Your country counts.  Be part of a democracy that is bigger than you.

Whatever State you are in – get out and vote!

* These eight motivational states are core ideas from Reversal Theory, a unique theory about motivation and emotion.  New to Reversal Theory?  Read Reversal Theory in Tweets or visit OKA’s Reversal Theory Training Site.

Reversal Theory: In Tweets

Lots of my work involves applying personality models and social theories to better understand and navigate real world problems. One of my favorites is Reversal Theory, a model that helps people both systematically understand and better control their motives and emotions. While awareness of Reversal Theory is growing, it is a model that deserves even more attention out in the world.

Quickly communicating the benefits and use of a new tool is a vital step toward its adoption and use.  Along these lines, a few months ago I wrote MBTI Refresh: The Twitter Way as a tool to help communicate the theory of psychological type in a fast and simple way.

Now, I’m applying that same approach to summarize Reversal Theory. Consistent with the Twitter format, the following bullets are each 140 characters long or less (one tweet per bullet), and summarize the core ideas behind Reversal Theory.

  • Many personality theories focus on traits, preferences. Reversal Theory focuses on how our motives and emotions CHANGE, and can be changed.
  • Don’t like a situation? Change your state of mind, and your feelings change. There are 8 states: trigger new states, and you feel a change.
  • The 8 states are grouped in 4 pairs: each pair reflects flip sides of the same coin. You REVERSE between states in a pair.
  • Motivated by goals and future impacts? You’re in Serious state. Motivated by the fun of the process and moment? You’re in Playful state.
  • Motivated by rules and knowing what’s expected? You’re in Conforming state. Motivated by freedom, pushing back? That’s Rebellious state.
  • Motivated by power and ability – for yourself or another? You’re in Mastery state. Motivated by care and compassion? That’s Sympathy state.
  • Motivated by your own needs? You’re in Self state. Motivated by someone else’s needs? You’re in Other state.
  • Each state has positive emotions if motives are met; negative emotions if they are not. Feeling bad emotion? Try changing your state.
  • How do you change states? Learn your state triggers: Change situation or reframe its meaning, use mental imagery or props, places, songs.
  • Example: Not achieving my goals leads to anxiety (bad emotion in Serious state). Reverse to Playful by taking break, make project a game.
  • Example: Feeling sorry for self? (bad emotion in Sympathy Self). Get to Other state by helping friend, or challenge self with task (Mastery)
  • SO WHAT? Reversal Theory teaches you to control your states, so you control your feelings. Don’t let your emotions just “happen to you!”
  • Learn more! or read free article on using Reversal Theory: Motivation and Emotion in Technology Teams.

What’s the point of this exercise? I want Reversal Theory and many other personality tools to be accessible to everyone, because: Powerful tools are learned one step at a time. Self-awareness comes one day at a time. Change begins with each of us – one state, one choice, and one emotion at a time.


Jenny’s “Top 10” OD Tools

For those outside (OK, even for those INSIDE) the Organization Development (OD) field, it might seem somewhat nebulously defined. (In fact, the first time I was introduced as an OD speaker, I thought they mixed up my bio with someone else.) I have become more comfortable with the term, and I thought I’d use this blog post to list the top OD tools most helpful in my work.

First, let’s start with a working definition of OD itself, drawing from the definitive source of all knowledge, Wikipedia:  “Organization development (OD) is a planned, organization-wide effort to increase an organization’s effectiveness and viability.” I like this definition because it is both broad and pragmatic, leaving room to do good and substantive work, without limiting the diversity of disciplines and perspectives through which that work is done. In fact, much of the work of Information Technology and systems development could neatly fit as sub-fields within OD given this definition. Talk about culture wars!

Second, a word about selection criteria, as – late night comedy shows as exceptions – I dislike Top 10 lists that fail to make overt the criteria against which the 10 were selected, so let’s quickly cover that. I am a pragmatist at heart, so the tools, models, and ideas that follow are practical, pretty easy to apply, and quickly learnable. Most can be used to understand and address problems at multiple levels, from individual to team to organization and system. (OD purists would argue that by definition, OD is not about the individual person, and that those tools are psychological tools, not OD Tools.) OK, fair point. I’ll go with the position that it is people that actually take action, so tools for individual self-awareness are fair game in my list.

And now, to Jenny’s “Top 10” OD Tools List

  1. Psychological Type and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Assessment – A cognitive model, psychological type (the theory underlying the MBTI) is a great tool for multiple levels of awareness. In addition to providing great insights for leadership, communication and teamwork, I also use it regularly to diagnose and intervene with troubled projects. Want to better balance vision and practicality; top-down governance with bottom-up community? Psychological type offers great insights across the board.  Visit Type and Project Management.
  2. Reversal Theory – The best model I have seen for understanding and getting to action with respect to motivation, emotion, and change. Reversal Theory focuses on our changeability, and how we can create motivational shifts in ourselves in others. Organizations struggling with fear, risk aversion, difficulty with innovation, and problems with customer service can all benefit from this theory and tool.
  3. Technology, in all its forms – Many OD professionals selected into the field because of its connection to people not technology. Sometimes, this can lead to a bit of a resistance to learning about the technology that is now center stage in many organizations. From webcasting software to social media to websites to other virtual team tools, how an organization engages with technology and people (and how it values each) reveals a lot about its culture. Even a look at an organization’s website will often tell you a lot about what it values, where some of its blind spots are likely to be, and how it thinks about its own structure and processes.
  4. Polarity Management – Too often, organizations struggle with “either-or” choices that are really tensions to be managed rather than decisions to be made. Top-down or bottom-up? Integration or differentiation? Centralization or decentralization? All of these are poles to be balanced, rather than directions to choose from. Polarity management offers a great framework for complexity and risk management, as well as a nice process for identifying “triggers” indicating that one pole of being overemphasized at the cost of the other, and actions that can be taken to rebalance when that trigger is met.
  5. The Cable Model – Created by Hile Rutledge at OKA, the Cable Model is a complete and scalable tool for assessing and interpreting the challenges facing organizations, projects, and teams. The model consists of seven core elements – mission, structure, leadership, processes, people, money, and environment – contained within a defining shell, representing the eighth element of culture. There are lots of great models out there – I encountered the Cable Model before I came to OKA, and it was part of what brought me there. It is an essential framework for all my consulting and assessment work.
  6. Work Environment Scales (WES) – While not particularly well known, the WES is my tool of choice for gathering quantitative data in an organizational assessment quickly, easily, and at a low price point. It is ideal for organizations that rely on “data-driven” approaches (and when they say “data,” they mean numbers), and want to do an organizational snapshot, but don’t want to invest in a full scale culture survey. Ten scales assess a variety of workplace dynamics, looking at both what people perceive as the “Real Environment” (As Is), and what they would like in an “Ideal Environment” (To Be). (Organizations consistently agree more on what the Ideal should be than what the Real is, making this tool a GREAT way to both define and kick start a change effort – helps to agree on where we are going!)
  7. Tops-Middles-Bottoms – Lots of writing these days about better collaboration and integration across organizations – up and down and side to side. It’s good work, and, the realities – and even the benefits – of hierarchies are not going away anytime soon. The differences in perspectives between those leading at the top of an organization, those leading at the bottom, and those connecting the two make Barry Oshry’s classic “Seeing Systems” better than ever.
  8. Metaphor – The imagery and metaphors used in organizations often point to the unspoken assumptions and deep seated values that both help support success and hold the organization back. Is the organization described as a dysfunctional family or a firefighting troop? Are we running from tsunamis or playing in the kiddie pool? The objects, subjects, and scales of the metaphors used in an organization can quickly reveal the cultural dynamics that are at the heart of the organization.
  9. Leadership Spectrum Profile (LSP) – Another instrument that is less well known than it should be, the LSP is a tool I use in many strategic planning efforts because of its link between personal preferences and organizational life cycles. What are the most important priorities at different stages of an organization’s or product’s/project’s life cycle? Developed by Dr. Mary Lippitt, the LSP is a terrific bridge to connect leadership development and business realities.
  10. Livescribe Pulse Smartpen – This is a great piece of technology worth knowing about if you do a lot of interviews or focus groups as part of organization assessments. It’s a pen with a built in camera right above the ink and a microphone – when you record, the camera maps the audio to where your pen is physically writing on the special paper. When you synch the pen to the computer, you get digital copies of your printed page. Click anywhere on the page (or press the pen on the paper in Play mode), and you can hear what was being said when you were taking those notes. With the right permissions, this tool can save hours of analysis and keep things fresh for you over a longer project.

What are YOUR favorite OD tools?

From Proposal to Dissertation

As a recent PhD, I created this page as a resource for graduate students at the early stage of their thesis or dissertation research. It was motivated specifically to support a presentation at Virginia Tech in February 2010, but I decided to post as a reference for others as well.

I successfully completed my doctorate from Virginia Tech in 2009 after a six year journey of classes, a preliminary exam, and my dissertation research. Visit my Data Sharing Research webpage (left menu) to see the results of this work.

About halfway along the way through my degree program, I got stuck. Very stuck! In fact, 18 months passed between my preliminary exam, and getting my dissertation proposal accepted. This really should have taken less than 6 months.

What happened?

In the following slide show, I outline why I got stuck, and my personal process for getting unstuck. The most important lesson for me? Getting your PhD is as much about psychology as intellect. You will learn a lot about your subject matter. You will also learn a lot about yourself. Find a way to enjoy the journey! Proposal-to-Dissertation-Tucker

An Inside Look: Dissertation Research Proposal. For those at the proposal stage of the thesis or dissertation, click on the link to see mine. It includes my one page proposed timeline for the dissertation project, which I stayed pretty close to. If you compare the proposal to my final product, here’s what changed.

  • Once I started writing my dissertation, it was clear that my original proposed Table of Contents was not going to work.  Finding a revised structure that worked was a key part of my writing process.
  • Having a set of theoretical foundations and models for my work in my proposal was important.  Only about half of these, though, proved to be central in my final work.  I was glad to have a really rich toolkit of theories from my coursework – it allowed me to play with a lot of different ideas to more fully understand my research subject.
  • I was able to stay pretty close to my original project timeline. In fact, I defended my dissertation only 24 days after the date I had projected in my proposal. While I lost a lot of time in the proposal phase, in the end, it meant that when I was both psychologically and practically ready to go, the path became far easier and a lot more fun!

Do you have tips that worked – or are working – for you? Share them in the comments below!


Presentation for April 23, 2014: Tucker-04232014

Interview Guide for April 23, 2014: Tucker-04232014

Snowmageddon 2010

Snowmageddon 2010

Jenny's Car: February 6, 2010

It is “Snowmaggedon 2010” in Washington DC, and I now have 21 inches on snow on my front porch.  This, of course, offers the perfect oportunity to write about global warming.

From an advocacy perspective, “global warming” is perhaps one of the worst labels ever chosen by science, for one primary reason: people generally do not make personal choices according to the law of averages. Is the average global temperature increasing over time? Depending on the timescale you choose, the math says yes. Do people buy that in any kind of tangible and actionable way after they’ve just dug out from 21-inches of snow? Not so much.

It’s hard to find melting icebergs compelling when you appear to have one in your front yard.

Climate change (now often included as an “also known as” phrase after global warming) is a far better term if you actually want to see belief and buy-in at a local level. We all go through sensemaking processes to extrapolate personal and local experience into understanding our world in terms of larger scales of time and space. In this sensemaking process, the term “climate change” is a far better bridge term than “global warming” when it comes to the weather. When people experience personal stories of violent hurricanes, droughts, snowfall records, or heat waves, they experience a real change from things that have happened in the past. The concept of “climate change” is a lot easier to get one’s arms around in forming a bridge between personal experience and earth-level happenings.

Global warming, or climate change? Semantics, some would dismissively say.

Yes, it is, in fact. Semantics is about meaning, and it is the meaning that we assign to something that ultimately makes us want to better understand and act on it, or not. Language matters, and when science blends with politics, the choice of scientific language matters even more. It’s time to do a global search and replace, to allow global warming (even in its truth) to fade as a background term in favor of a phrase that is equally accurate, but far easier to connect with in a tangible way.

Because, in the end, it’s change we will ALL be living with.

MBTI Refresh: The Twitter Way

Time is precious these days, with increasing pressure to digest the world in tweets, sound bites, and elevator speeches.  At the same time, my clients say the top competencies they need – and that are lacking in their teams – are interpersonal skills, communication skills, and critical thinking.  How do we meet these competency building needs when the first question is often, “Can you do it faster than that?”

Psychological type theory, often assessed using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), is a great tool for building competencies through self awareness.  Unfortunately, type theory is too often critiqued for being too complex, being hard to remember, or for taking too long.  This is too bad, because while there are many layers of depth to the theory and MBTI tool, and great richness in exploring these complexities, the core ideas of type are both simple and powerful. 

Simple enough, in fact, for Twitter.

SO, here’s a quick refresh of the MBTI – the “Twitter in Ten” Way!  The following 10 bullets are each 140 characters long or less (one tweet per bullet), and summarize the core ideas behind the MBTI. 

  1. Type and MBTI: Better self-management through increased self-awareness. It’s about psychological preference – what you turn to first.
  2. Which do you prefer: Right or left hand?  4 MBTI scales have 2 sides each. Like your handwriting, you prefer one side over the other.
  3. Objection: I DO BOTH! Yes, you do! Me too! You have to do both – but which do you PREFER? Which is most natural?
  4. Extravert (E) or Introvert (I). What gives you energy? E=External world, action, people. I=Inner world, concepts, ideas.  
  5. Sensor (S) or Intuitive (N). What do you first notice? S=Here-Now details, concrete, practical. N=Patterns, meaning, big picture.  
  6. Thinker (T) or Feeler (F). How do you decide? T=Clarity thru objectivity, problem 1st. F=values based subjectivity, people 1st.
  7. Judger (J) or Perceiver (P). What do you show: data gathering or decision-making? J=Show decisions, closure. P=Show perceptions, openness.  
  8. Your MBTI Type: 4 letters, 1 from each pair. Extravert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiver=ENFP. Unique combination of letters, unique dynamics.
  9. SO WHAT? Know what you prefer, know your blind spots, ask good questions to help fill the gaps. Appreciate differences, ask for help!
  10. Learn more!  Thanks for reading!  All the best from Jenny (INFJ), author of Type and Project Management.

What’s the point of this exercise?  I want type theory and the MBTI to be accessible to everyone, because:  Powerful tools are learned one step at a time. Self-awareness comes one day at a time.  Competency building happens one conversation at a time. Try something new today!

Note: MBTI, Myers-Briggs, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator are registered trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc. in the United States and other countries.


Tackling Twitter

I joined Twitter about a week ago. Slow to the party by some social media standards, of course, but I sometimes take my time with these things.  Here’s some initial impressions for others considering tweeting in 2010. 

First and most surprising: I thought I would be annoyed by the limit of 140 characters, but I quite like it.  I’ve always struggled to be concise in my writing, and the strict limit is good practice in maximizing content value per character.  That said, I am NOT a fan of the apparent “Twitter dialect” of compressing all possible characters. “U r gr8t!” somehow loses the impact.  If I need a decoder ring, I’ve probably moved on. 

One factor delaying my Twitter debut was the deep-seated fear that no one would follow me, and that I would be all alone in a sea of tweets.  (The metaphor of social media sets up some serious ego issues…)  Not quite as bad as the dreaded slight of being “unfriended,” but still.  I needn’t have worried – a few friends and networking contacts soon jumped on board (whew).  Then to my surprise, I was suddenly followed by people I had never heard of.  The fundraisers, sure, I get that.  But the band in Chicago and the self-professed C++ hacker in California?  A little mystifying.

Like recommendations about blogging, a regular tweeting schedule seems a good idea.  So far, I have tweeted every day or two.  My guess is that I will continue this pattern, with perhaps a third of my tweets being headlines for commentary like this, about a third being pointers to other resources I like, and about a third being updates about what I am doing.  (I promise they will not be about my favorite cereal, or sitting in traffic, or the latest reflections on my toenails.)

Of course, all of this has ignored perhaps the most vital question before starting to engage with any new social media tool:  Why do it in the first place?  Frankly, for once in my overly goal-oriented existence, I really have no good reason.  I like technology, it’s fun, and it stretches me into new areas.  If it helps more people find me and my work and writing, that’s cool too. 

I was somewhat negative about Twitter before actually joining it.  It seemed like a superficial form of communication, and little more than a facilitator of the chaos filling more and more web servers.  I have since reframed my understanding what Twitter is, and what it can do.  With the increasing obsolescence of the structured and ordered library card catalogue, Twitter offers a tool for navigating and discovering content in a uniquely interpersonal way, serving as a useful filter through which to encounter a universe of emergent knowledge and resources.         

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