In her nomination for a Causey Award, Lynn C. Simpson was called a “lead architect for a strategic human capital strategy that addresses the new fiscal reality” facing the National Defense University.
Simpson also leads NDU’s talent management process, which ensures the NDU workforce maintains the skills and talent necessary to support the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense’s initiatives in advancing and transforming joint education.
Federal News Radio asked each Causey Award Winner to answer 10 questions about him or herself so that we could learn a little bit more about them. Here’s what Lynn Simpson had to say:
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Treat all people with dignity and respect, encourage and develop others, and be a servant leader.
What is the worst piece of advice you have ever received?
In a strategy session to respond to a difficult superior, another leader in my chain of command suggested that I respond to him in a way that was contrary to my personality and my core methods of operating. I followed that advice and because it was not a reflection of my true self, it flopped and flopped badly! She later apologized to me for suggesting it as she saw that it was not the right approach. So moral of the story – always be true to yourself and do not try to be someone you are not, especially in difficult circumstances!
Who has been your biggest role model, and why?
I have been fortunate to have many exceptional role models beginning with my parents and family, as well as teachers and college professors who helped me establish a firm foundation of values, caring for others, working hard, and doing your best always. I carry each of these influential people with me every day, especially my mom and dad who are exceptional beyond words!
The one biggest role model I like to recognize for my work ethic in public service is former U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, the Honorable William Proxmire, who is now deceased. He was my first boss that I worked for coming to D.C., from Wisconsin for a four-month internship after my college graduation. His example made me want to stay in Washington after he retired and contribute to the nation and our public. He was sometimes referred to as a maverick as he did not “follow the crowd” — he studied the issues, discussed them with subject matter experts and constituents, consulted his staff, and in the end made up his own mind based on what he felt was best for the country. He was indeed the fiscal “protector of the taxpayer” that his reputation reflected and may be best known for his monthly Golden Fleece Award which he awarded to the organization that had the most outlandish or unreasonable expenditure of public funds.
My experience working for Senator Proxmire was positive — he was genuine, treated staff with respect and care, cared deeply for his constituents, was exceptionally bright, well-read, and deeply committed. He took his role as senator to be one of statesman in addition to representing the great state of Wisconsin. He honored the people who elected him to office by spending time with them, almost never missed a floor vote, was a health enthusiast before it was even known, and felt public servants were held to a higher standard to create value and be frugal with those hard earned tax dollars. I admired his discipline, dedication, passion for service, and devotion to, “his bosses”, as he referred to the people of Wisconsin, and his dedicated and selfless service to our nation.
If I could have one super power it would be …
I think it would be nice to be able to read people’s minds! Communication and ensuring shared understanding is critical to successful leadership and to most life interactions. Sometimes, being able to read someone’s mind could decrease the time it takes to ensure you are on the same page with someone!
In my opinion …
We all need purpose, meaning, and to be a part of something that contributes to the greater good in our families, places of worship, vocations, communities, homes, and schools.
If you didn’t work for the federal government, what would be your dream job?
Working to make government better, attract the best talent, earn and sustain the public’s trust, and deliver services to our citizens is a passion that I have internalized my whole career. Even if I did not work for the federal government, I would optimally still like to contribute in these areas through other organizations such as the Partnership for Public Service, or the National Academy of Public Administration, or a graduate school that tailors its programs to develop public sector leaders.
If I were ever to completely leave “work”, I would love to own a chocolate, coffee, and greeting card shop!
If resources were not an issue, I would motivate my staff with …
Kindness, sincerity, and appreciation for their work. Now more than ever, it is important to find non-monetary and creative ways to nominate them for recognition, like the Causey Awards! I think it is also a good idea to design unique recognition programs, with employee input and suggestions, to highlight and reward behavior and activities that support the mission and reflect the organizational values. For example, at NDU, we could design awards for the Teaching Innovation Idea of the Quarter, The Extra Mile Award for Enhancing the Student Experience, or The Teaching Research Collaborative Team of the Year. Investing in employees’ professional development (there are some creative ways to develop that do not cost a lot of money) is another way to motivate staff as well as ensuring they are involved in projects that directly reflect the mission. I also believe exposing staff to other senior leaders and empowering them to take on something new that matters to them can be motivating.
The greatest federal HR challenge is …
Finding ways to help people stay motivated and interested in serving during these challenging times and ensuring that the right leaders are in positions of influence to build collaborative teams that enable people to deliver the best quality and services to our nation.
What is the last book you read?
I tend to read several books at the same time and just recently completed these:
“My Beloved World” by Sonia Sotomayor
“Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation” by Martin Laird
“The Forgotten” by David Baldacci
“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett
I’d rather be …
Eating unlimited free samples at the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory!
Federal News Radio awarded five individuals with a 2013 Causey Award. Read more about each of the recipients.