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The Federal Coach

Sen. Voinovich's parting thoughts

Voinovich
Sen. George V. Voinovich is the senior senator from Ohio. During his 12 years in the Senate, Voinovich has introduced a steady stream of bills to repair, reform and empower the federal workforce. Prior to joining the U.S. Senate, Voinovich served as the mayor of Cleveland and then governor of Ohio. Voinovich will retire from the Senate in 2011 when his current term expires.

How can federal leaders empower and learn from the people that you call "the A Team"--the men and women on the front lines doing the work?

I'm very concerned about the infrastructure of good human relations. In Cleveland, for example, there was a backlog of veterans' disability claims. The VA formed a Tiger Team, and basically it was total quality management. They went to their people who were doing the work and said to them, "Customers are not happy, you are not happy; so how we can we make a difference for these veterans?" And the employees came back with a streamlined system that moved the cases along. As a result, the employees were happier than they had ever been, because they had all gotten together and streamlined the system so they had less people calling and complaining about it. They felt good about themselves and the customers felt good. It's that kind of thing that empowers, that should be encouraged in more places in the federal government.

How can government leaders enlist the support of private-sector partners in accomplishing their goals?

I've always said that government is one thread in the fabric of a community and that to be successful we need to galvanize all the assets in a community, state or nation. I've had more help from the private sector than anyone in the U.S. Senate, and I've been around a long time. I love the concept of recognizing a successful partnership each year, because it generates interest and good old-fashioned American competition. When I was the mayor, shooting for those All American City Awards each year was a real motivator. And it never would have happened without the private sector and urban pioneers helping us rebuild a city where Cleveland used to be. I said on many occasions as mayor, "Will we be talking about the good old days and the past, or will we be talking about the good new days and the future?" The answer to that lies in creating a shared vision to motivate the public-private partnership.

How are you going to be involved with public-private partnerships after you leave the Senate?

I'm going to be very involved with public-private partnerships at the Ohio University Voinovich School for Leadership and Public Affairs when I get home. We are still brainstorming on how to create a curriculum program that will encourage public-private partnerships throughout Ohio. My initial thought would be one-week seminars where we would bring in governmental officials and the business community to share case studies on the variety of partnerships, their ingredients and the public value that has resulted from them.

What do you think are the obstacles to attracting a new generation to public service? How can federal leaders help overcome these obstacles and inspire young talent to serve?

Little things make a difference. Mark McClellan, who ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told me that if we hadn't given him the flexibility to go out and hire the actuaries and nurses needed to implement Medicare Part B, he could not have done it. The flexibilities that are out there for the private sector are things that we brought to the federal sector through changes and legislation. We created a better environment in the public sector, so great minds say, "You know something? [Government's] not a bad place to go to work."

There are a lot of people out there with skills that we need in the federal government to really improve our operations. We need to zero in on those people right now, with the thought that any of them available now may not be available in five years. If we get them into the federal system, they find out that in addition to making a living, they can also make a real difference in the lives of their fellow citizens. I think that has to be a part of the conversation when working for the government. If you're in the government just because of the money, I don't think you would be in it for long.

By Tom Fox

 |  December 8, 2010; 10:15 AM ET |  Category:  View from the Top Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Senator, thank you for your service, but if you want to change the hyperpartisanship that has gripped our nation and D.C. in particular, then please go to www.nolabels.org and join many of your present and former colleagues, as well as everday citizens across Ohio and the nation to do something about it.

An Ohio citizen

Posted by: Lbokman | December 10, 2010 9:43 AM

Ohio has changed so many times over the years you have been in Washington. Our differences on federal directions aside, I want to thank you for making your ombudsman role a priority in your public service. I hope that this would be the characteristic of Ohioans from all political parties, inspired by what is good, decent, just and inspiring.

Dr. Donald Persons

Posted by: DonOhio | December 9, 2010 6:54 PM

Ohio has changed so many times over the years you have been in Washington. Our differences on federal directions aside, I want to thank you for making your ombudsman role a priority in your public service. I hope that this would be the characteristic of Ohioans from all political parties, inspired by what is good, decent, just and inspiring.

Posted by: DonOhio | December 9, 2010 6:53 PM

If it was so so horrible and dishonorable, then maybe he should give up his taxpayer supported huge, life long senatorial pension?

Or is the joke really on us?

Posted by: sufi66 | December 9, 2010 5:19 PM

Senator Voinovich, I worked with you as Mayor and Governor when I was in Cleveland. I am proud of your ability to be a Republican who could be pragmatic over ideological. You kept the neighbors and working poor in Collinwood more in mind than the special interests and your more ideological colleagues. Thanks for always advocating for the partnership between government, business, labor, and community based organizations. Thanks for recognizing the vocation to public service. I only wish you could have had more influence on the Republican Party.

Posted by: rollie2 | December 9, 2010 3:21 PM

Sen. Voinovich,
Thank you for your service to the people of Ohio and the U.S. You HAVE made a difference.

You say, "There are a lot of people out there with skills that we need in the federal government to really improve our operations. We need to zero in on those people right now, with the thought that any of them available now may not be available in five years. If we get them into the federal system, they find out that in addition to making a living, they can also make a real difference in the lives of their fellow citizens."

I agree. But you should know there are also people who are current fed employees who have skills that could make a contribution to improving government if only the people heading agencies were not so afraid of thinking outside the bureaucracy. I joined federal government two years ago with the hopes of bring 25 years of private sector experiences in process improvement and customer service to my job, only to find that my ideas are not welcome because "that's not how we do things." I've taken to calling the absurdities I see as the equivalent of 'Alice in Wonderland' and referring to my daily commute as 'falling down the rabbit hole.'

I have colleagues (both inside this agency and in other agencies) who have the same experiences.

Until there is a change in culture, there will be no improvements in this government agency.

As you point out, it is the people who interact with the customers who see how things can be improved. However, it is the people who interact with those in leadership who decide if any improvements will be made.

I would like to see every single government program charged with a "Tiger Team" to reduce bureaucracy in 2011. And make that the report card to the people in 2012.

From an Ohio constituent, voter, and federal employee.

Posted by: squarepegfed | December 9, 2010 1:13 PM

Thank you, Sen. Voinovich, for your leadership and pluck. You had the right idea: cancel the Bush-era tax cuts for everyone and get the country pulling together to pay down the deficit. On top of that I think we need a 5-cent per gallon additional federal gas tax to go entirely for deficit reduction. We would feel s o o o much better about ourselves if we sensed that everyone was working together to restore our country to fiscal sanity.
All best wishes for the Leadership Center at Ohio U. Will that have resonance in the Ohio U branch campuses as well? Ohio U Southern in Ironton impacts the Huntington area where I live.
We have published two outstanding texts on leadership and I will send them along to you & hope to hear your reaction:

SUPRACONSCIOUS LEADERSHIP
New Thinking for a New World
James A. Farr, Ph.D. (the late)
the original creative director of The Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro.

FLYING SPIRIT
A Leader's Guide to Creating Great Organizations
(Col.) Hal Shook (U.S.A.F., ret)
Col. Shook was a squandron commander in WWII, Atlantic theater, and flew cover over Normandy on D-Day. Though approaching 90 years old, Col. Shook is still out speaking and doing workshops.
I cannot recommend him to you too highly.
This book is, in my estimation, bar none, the best book on teambuilding on the U.S. market. It deserves much wider acknowledgement than we as a small publisher have been able to give it.

With every good wish for Christmas and a wonderful New Year in 2012.

John Patrick Grace
Publisher
Publishers Place, Inc.
821 4th Avenue - Suite 201
Huntington, West Virginia
304-697-3236 (ofc)
304-617-1292 (cell)

Posted by: publishersplace | December 9, 2010 11:22 AM

When everyone is debating whether government employees are making too much or not enough, the Senator says "If you're in the government just because of the money, I don't think you would be in it for long." Thank you Mr. Senator for supporting the fact that many Federal employees are not here just to get a paycheck but to make a difference. And like you said, if it was about the money we could go somewhere else.

Posted by: beachgirlDC | December 9, 2010 10:57 AM

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