Posted in writing

EPP GRADUATION ~ 2012-0309

TAG: We’re It!

EPP 2012 Graduation Comments delivered in Towson Maryland on March 09, 2012

My name is Sheila, and I’m a EPPer!

Dr. Ice, Chief Hochman, Director Dorchorff, and other distinguished guests: Welcome!

Darlene, Sharon, Lew, and other members of Graduate School, USA, thank you for all of your guidance and patience this year.

Vas, my agency coordinator, thank you for your support with my EPP Journey.

When Sharon called me to tell me I’d been nominated to speak at today’s graduation, my mouth was all set to say in its best southern lilt, “Oh my, thank you so much, but no.” But then I heard Darlene’s voice in my head saying, “stretch goal,” and I remembered advice from the book, The Happiness Project, which I read last year that stated, always say yes unless you have a really good reason to say no.  So I said “yes”, and Darlene I expect another tick mark in my Blackboard account.

Last January, I had a discussion with my supervisor requesting to go back out into the field since I have been in headquarters the last 6 years. I wanted to see first hand the changes and how they are working now so that I can remain relevant in my current position. He recommended to me the Executive Potential Program and recommended me to them. This program was just what I needed.

It was great to blow off the headquarters ivory tower dust and get back into the field to observe their challenges and accomplishments. Knowing I wanted my developmental assignments to occur in the field, I chose the Field Operations Directorate Associate Director as my EPP mentor. He arranged my shadowing assignment, my two 60-day developmental assignments and briefing meetings with two relevant program managers. My assignments allowed me to observe and learn as well as manage, assist, and provide headquarters perspectives and knowledge. In fact, one field office had me provide trainings to all its employees, and then offered me to another field office to provide the same trainings to all its employees.

Along with my assignments, I enjoyed my Senior Executive Service interviews. I cast a wide net and although President Obama was too busy, President Ice made time to talk with me. Dr. Ice was my first interview and set a high bar for others to follow. He modeled great executive behavior that I’ve strived to emulate since I’ve observed it. He was outside the office waiting for me with an outstretched hand and a large smile. Inside his office, the table was set with a strategic plan, a leadership directory, and vision and mission statements. Having asked for a list of questions ahead of time, our interview was an easy narrative. All I had to do was sit back and take good notes.  He shared many good ideas, so I will distill just a few good thoughts here:

  • Bring in people with diverse thoughts
  • Be objective
  • Do not micro manage
  • Provide developmental assignments for your employees
  • Get excited about change
  • Carry your vision throughout all management decisions

and my personal favorite

  • Make your team members your associates while you manage the vision.  

Other interviews provided valuable guidance and wisdom as well. But it was Dr. Ice’s professional and personable behavior that has stayed with me throughout the year.

I cannot end without talking about my Action Learning Team. Though we are known to the Graduate School USA as Team 9, we are known among ourselves as the 3Ps – Purposeful Pinnacle Performers.  We met in Richmond a year ago where we learned that history still has things to teach us today. There we created a team charter, and a team strategy and roles definitions that carried us throughout the year.

In Denver, along with learning that Scholtzsky’s Deli makes great sandwiches  – thanks Jeremy, we continued working on our team project and toured a Japanese Buddhist Temple were I learned two great quotes and a theory that I agree with:

  • Freedom is fragile
  • Americanism is a matter of mind and heart (and)
  • We live in a universe of obligation

As we worked on the team project throughout the holiday season, the quote, “the days are long but the years are short, came to mind.” Many thanks to each of the 3Ps for their support in getting me across the finish line during a busy and stressful year.

In Atlanta, we temporarily switched teams. I worked with Team B9 to present the site visit findings from our Best Practices venue, Metro Chamber of Commerce. Thanks B9!

As I close, allow me to offer my own advice. If you are like me, you often think management should do something. Guess what? Tag – we’re it!

It is our time. We are the leaders that others are looking at with the same thoughts. So, as Dr. Percy has already espoused to us this week:

  • Throw your shoulders back
  • Hold your head up high (and)
  • Walk boldly into your leadership position

You not only have a seat at the table, you have a voice at the table.  Use it.

And remember, it isn’t about being perfect,but it is about continuing to learn and striving toward better.

Congratulations graduates! Thank you again to everyone here who played a part – large or small – in getting us here today!




Dr. Sheila Embry is a govie, author, pracademician, sister, aunt, cousin, and friend who loves to read, write, think, and laugh. Many of her blog postings are summaries or excerpts of books that she read and wants to share to encourage others. An author with more than 25 years experience within the legislative and executive branches of the U. S. federal government holding 3 accredited degrees: Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership, Master of Arts in Human Resources Development, and Baccalaureate of Business Administration, she believes in continuing learning both on and off the job. She has been recognized with multiple professional and writing awards for her peer-reviewed, publications. Click the bibliography page above for a listing of all the publications.

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