Former GSA CIO discusses crisis leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic

This week on Leaders and Legends Casey Coleman joins Aileen Black to discuss leadership during a crisis. Coleman is currently the senior vice president for Digital Transformation Global Public Sector at Salesforce, leading and driving the global enterprise positioning and solution strategy for the public sector. She has a successful track record building, leading, and developing go-to-market strategies in both the government and in private industry.

Highlights:

  • When asked about leadership examples during the Covid-19 crisis, Coleman shared that there are so many heart warming stories about public servants that have done amazing things to make a difference in our lives. “The Covid-19 outbreak poses a significant world crisis in our lives. Government workers are at the forefront of responding to all these stresses. They build confidence, care for the vulnerable, and enable communities to heal and rebuild,” Coleman said.
  • She shared some amazing stories of public sector organizations rising to the occasion and delivering excellence. According to Coleman, New Mexico experienced 100% in unemployment benefits, but quickly established a cloud based support center to meet the surge and support constituents to get the benefits while allowing the state employees to transition to working remotely. This was accomplished in days, not weeks.
  • Coleman pointed out that a crisis can provide an opportunity as a platform for change. She said the Rhode Island saw the need for change to provide faster tracking for exposure to Covid. The state acted fast and quickly developed a system to track exposures to get in front of the outbreak to slow the spread.
  • When asked what is the best way leaders can be effective in times of crisis like we are facing today, Coleman suggested that leaders create an environment where you can come together quickly.  She said, “One thing that I have seen work well in the past is creating a nerve center.  This will give you the ability to cut across lines and be able to take action to resolved issues that are faced.”
  • Coleman’s core principals are to have ethics and integrity as the foundation in everything she does. She reminds her team to always remember to assume good intent. These basic core principals will allow your organization to move quickly because you have established the rules of the road.
  • When asked about what inspired her to go into public service, she shared the motivational catalyst was 9/11. The events and tragedy of that day really motivated her to give back and move to Washington to help contribute and to be part of the team to rebuild. She felt that it was a great time of a national sense of purpose and unity.
  • When asked about an article in Harvard Business review that stated “countries with women in leadership have suffered six times fewer confirmed deaths from Covid-19 than countries with governments led by men,” Coleman shared that diversity in general brings better outcomes. Lone leaders rarely bring out good outcomes. Women have a tendency to be more collaborative, she said. Today’s best leaders are intentional and work to have a diverse leadership team around them. This will bring a diverse set of competency to the decision process.
  • In closing Coleman gave some advice to the next generation of leaders. She said, “You need to be a lifetime learner. Always have a beginners mind. Don’t be afraid to take a chance. Many times the default position you feel is that you are not ready. You need to take chances; you will learn along the way and you will be surprised how well that will serve you.”

Casey Coleman is senior vice president for Digital Transformation, Salesforce Global Public Sector. She is responsible for enterprise positioning and solutions strategies for government customers worldwide.

Before joining Salesforce, Coleman served as chief information officer at the General Services Administration. There she led several modernization initiatives, including the first agency-wide move to cloud-based email and collaboration platforms. She also chaired the federal CIO Council’s Cloud First committee that developed the FedRAMP standard for cloud cybersecurity.

Coleman holds several honors and awards from various organizations, including the Computerworld Premier 100 Award and the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium Award for Leadership in Innovation. She is a three-time winner of the Federal Computer Week Federal 100 Award. Coleman holds an MBA in Finance and International Business from the University of Texas at Arlington, as well as a B.S. in Computer Science from Texas A&M University.