Gratitude, Mattering, and Lessons Learned

So, now that it’s over and we begin the process of rebuilding for the future, it’s important to tackle restart tasks effectively and conduct a retrospective that will help us build resilience for years to come.

Gratitude

First and foremost, I want to thank our Federal employees and the US Coast Guard for their unwavering commitment to their respective missions during these trying times. I want to thank the unsung heroes and heroines from our Federal contractor community who the media has not mentioned nearly enough – those who served with pride, went without pay, or even lost their jobs. Your million plus hearts and voices have not been lost. I promise you.

I also want to thank the thousands of community volunteers and contributors who helped a neighbor, friend, or complete stranger with food, rent money, free babysitting, shoulders to cry on, fund raising, and prayers during this time of unanticipated financial crisis. I want to thank the business owners and leaders who made the tough choices and personal sacrifices to keep 100% of their staff on the payroll, receiving their full paycheck, in order to shoulder the burden of their own responsibilities in creating a stronger, more vibrant, Federal contracting community… ready to re-engage in mission-critical support on Day 1 after the shutdown.

Mattering

If you have dedicated your life and career to public service, as I have, I just want to remind you that what you do matters! Despite the events of recent weeks and the callousness with which our lives and livelihoods have been needlessly sacrificed, the work we do to support vital missions and programs absolutely matters. We are part of something much bigger than ourselves and we choose to do this important work for the benefit of all Americans. We understand the impact of the work we do – and we accept that others may not. In many ways, that’s what makes our work so important!

Remember:  YOU matter. What YOU DO matters. And no one can take that away from you without your permission.

Top 3 Lessons Learned

  1. I need a 6-week Shutdown Survival Plan. A robust 4-week shutdown survival strategy (which is what I was prepared for after surviving 2013) is simply insufficient in today’s political climate. I, for one, am updating my shutdown survival plans, rebuilding corporate reserves, and building a shutdown survival “wall” able to survive most 6-week shutdowns. I intend to continue to serve and make it possible for those who care about the vital work of government, to continue to do so alongside me and my team. Although I do not support the cruel and unconscionable behaviors of our elected representatives these past few months, our passion for service and commitment to vital government missions are fortified. I intend to build a plan that allows me to protect my team regardless of what happens on opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
  2. It’s not about where you work, it’s about WHO you work with and the VALUES you share. In the midst of a crisis, we must make difficult decisions, communicate unpopular news, help others stay calm while you yourself are fraught with worry, and devise strategies that allow our employees to have maximum control over their own lives. All of this is best done when you are surrounded by leaders who share your values. Crisis is a perfect time to test your values and the alignment of your leadership team and workforce. I definitely tested mine and they all passed with flying colors! Half of Citizant’s workforce donated more than 2,000 hours of personal leave. Our team completed hundreds of hours of training and certifications. They wrote thousands of social media posts, articles, shares, and letters to elected representatives. And dozens of them volunteered at food banks, fund-raisers, and as helping hands to neighbors living without pay. Human beings have endless giving power if their leaders set the right example, model responsible behavior, communicate the power of compassion, and make the biggest sacrifices first before asking them to give or go without.
  3. Airports make for better levers in political negotiations than human suffering. As sad as it is to face reality, there is no doubt that the endless stories about Federal workers and contractors struggling to afford their medication, unable to pay their rent, or lining up at food shelters had little to no impact on the collective conscience of our elected representatives. We live in a political climate where human suffering became food at a middle-school food fight. My favorite phrase from this entire experience came from Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants, on the morning of Day 35… “Do I have your attention now?” We all choose to make our own reality and my reality tells me that air traffic controllers at LaGuardia Airport single handedly re-opened the government that very afternoon. It seems that shutting down airports sends a powerful message that those who serve Federal missions are not disposable or willing to serve as collateral damage in a senseless war of words between elected representatives. Who knew? (Feel free to check out my Letter of Appreciation to TSA Agents posted Jan. 16… and enjoy a fun read.)

Be well. Do good. Keep mattering!