Kennedy/Mighell Podcast Series on Presentation Skills

Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell are leading lawyers who have shared their knowledge for a number of years with the  Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast on the Legal Talk Network. Their newest project? A series of three podcasts on presentation skills for lawyers:

  1. Presentation Tips for Legal Professionals
  2. Panel Presentation Pointers for Legal Professionals
  3. Webinar Presentation Pointers for Legal Professionals

Of course, this type of instruction is just as relevant to ethics trainers. Check it out.

Finding Practical Examples: Hatch Act

Real examples make training lively and convincing. Reciting abstract rules until you are blue in the face won’t make as much of an impact as one relevant example. An Office of Special Counsel press release demonstrates exactly how and why employees violated the Hatch Act, and the consequences:

  • A civilian Army employee ran in a partisan election despite numerous warnings from both OSC and his agency that doing so was in violation of the Hatch Act. OSC also offered not to seek disciplinary action if the employee withdrew from the election. An OSC investigation further found that he solicited contributions for his campaign, also in violation of the Hatch Act. As a result, the employee served a 180-day unpaid suspension.
  • A police officer with an Arizona VA medical center ran in a partisan campaign for constable, even though he acknowledged that he knew doing so was a violation of the Hatch Act. As a penalty for this violation, he was suspended without pay for 20 consecutive calendar days.
  • A civilian employee with the U.S. Navy in Rhode Island sent seven emails directed at the failure of President Obama’s 2012 campaign to fellow federal employees. She sent the partisan emails while on duty and in a federal workplace even though her agency had previously notified her that doing so was a violation of the Hatch Act. She was suspended for five days without pay.
  • A contracting officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent a highly partisan email to dozens of people. She sent this email, which urged everyone to vote Democrat in the upcoming election, while on duty and in the federal workplace. She acknowledged that she should have known about the Hatch Act and that sending the email was a violation of it. As a penalty, she was suspended without pay for one day.

How can you find more examples? The OSC website has a Press Release page. You can even save labor by using a page monitoring service like Watch That Page that will report to you by e-mail when the page is changed. The Ombud Forum website has more information.

OGE Instructor Certification

The Office of Government Ethics offers a worthy Instructor Development  program:

The IEG will offer a semi-annual instructor development program for experienced agency ethics officials. Successful completion of the program will qualify attendees to teach IEG-created courses to Executive Branch ethics officials for IEG credit. Applicants may select among several available courses, including: the New Ethics Official Certificate Program; Introduction to Conflicts of Interest; Public Financial Disclosure Review; Gifts from Outside Sources; and Conflict-Free Post-Employment Activities.

Successful applicants must commit to attending all required sessions for each course selected, must have significant substantive ethics experience, and considerable demand for ethics official training within their agencies. Details about the IEG instructor development program and application information can be found on the IEG MAX site.

Ethical Foundation of Leadership

Do you ever segregate senior officials for ethics training targeted toward their special needs and interests? A Government Executive Article, What Is a Leader Without Character? – Promising Practices could be useful in developing a rapport with this type of audience. Here’s the lead:

Character is a concept that can be difficult to understand, but leading business executive J. Phillip “Jack” London says it’s the most important trait for leaders of organizations. “Good leaders aim to do the right thing,” London says in his book, Character: The Ultimate Success Factor. “They respect and trust the people they lead, empowering them to achieve their best.”

In his book, London says character is “a complex aggregate of mental and ethical traits that form the nature of a person” and the most important indicator of an individual’s success. He says people with strong character also tend to be fulfilled in their life.

Institute for Ethics in Government MAX Community

OGE has moved to the cloud–at least its educational programs. The Institute for Ethics in Government MAX Community is a secure, interactive private website (“intranet”) that as of May, 2013 is:

[The] new home for all of OGE’s education offerings, making learning opportunities available to all Executive Branch ethics officials, regardless of geography, experience, or grade. This platform will provide high quality continuing education, both live and on-demand, to government ethics practitioners at all levels. It also will provide useful tools and products to support ethics officials in advising employees at their agencies. OGE has designed these educational products to support both large and small ethics programs in meeting the internal professional development needs of their staffs.

Developed and operated by OMB, the MAX intranet is a formidable technical platform, with high security and relatively user friendly, as these things go. Registration is required, and for the most part, membership is restricted to federal employees.

One of the biggest potential MAX benefits is facilitating not just one-way communications from OGE to its minions, but making it easy for user with something to say to contribute.  An active, effective MAX website would be a giant benefit for ethics practitioners throughout the government, and we’ll discuss in future posts what needs to be done to make that happen. One observation in the meantime: No intranet can completely replace live meetings. OGE should try to find a way to add live meetings, including worldwide conferences, to its schedule.

Answering Audience Questions

I usually like answering audience questions, partly, because I feel like when I’m answering a question, I’m directly addressing an issue at least one person in the audience feels is important. Not everybody shares my enthusiasm for answering questions, though. Here are four essays I drafted for IEC Journal about answering audience questions:

Learn From Oscar Winner Jared Leto’s Acceptance Speech

The Washington Post got Hollywood speech-writer Jeff Nussbaum to critique Oscar winner Jared Leto’s acceptance speech. The best nugget:

Nussbaum says Leto started off oh-so-right, with a lovely little anecdote about his mother. “He began by doing what I advise speakers to do all the time — start with a story to capture the audience’s attention,” Nussbaum says.

Narrative is one of the best tools in the trainer’s tool chest. Pick stories that are relevant and tell them in an engaging way. Don’t be afraid to borrow Jared Leto’s technique.

Resources for Counseling Employees With Debt Issues

Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch section 5 C.F.R. § 2635.101(b)(12) makes employee private debt a matter of government concern:

(12) Employees shall satisfy in good faith their obligations as citizens, including all just financial obligations, especially those—such as Federal, State, or local taxes—that are imposed by law.

Failure to pay a court-ordered obligation can be a basis for disciplinary action: OGE advisory opinion 94×9: Executive Branch Employee’s Obligation to Satisfy Just Debts.

A USA.gov post on credit counselor resources might be useful for managers or DAEOs counseling an employee with debt issues.