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News | April 27, 2016

DSCC women attend workshop on “How to Become an SES”

By Mislin A. Hampton DLA Land and Maritime Public Affairs Office

The EEO Federal Women’s Program recently hosted a workshop for GS-12’s and above on “How to Become a Senior Executive Service (SES).”   It was conducted by Elizabeth B. Kolmstetter, PH.D, Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and a total of 40 employees from the federal community participated in this workshop.

Kolmstetter is currently on detail to the Executive Office of the President in the Office of Performance and Personnel Management of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) where she supports several government-wide talent management efforts including SES reform. She has pioneered numerous innovative talent management programs across six agencies: USAID, CIA, FBI, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and National Skill Standards Board/Department of Labor.
According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the members of the SES serve in the key positions just below the top presidential appointees.  SES includes most managerial, supervisors, and policy positions classified above GS-15 or equivalent positions in the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. They operate and oversee nearly every government activity in approximately 75 federal agencies.  

This workshop focused on three major topics:  1) Why the SES? 2) What does it take to be an SES? and 3) How do I become competitive for the SES?  As part of her introduction, Kolmstetter stated, “Leadership is not a destination; it is a journey.  You need to develop yourself.”

There are many reasons for aspiring to be an SES such as: the service, to build teams, influence others, power, prestige, money, technical, managerial, to make a difference, achieve potential and being a voice for the agency.  Kolmstetter explained to the audience that there is not only one right reason.  “Your reasons may well change along your career journey…..keep reflecting on this,” she said.

In order for entry into the SES, candidates must meet the following competencies/qualifications: 

a. Fundamental competencies- interpersonal skills, oral communication, integrity/honesty, written communication, continual learning and public service motivation.  These competencies are the foundation for all SES positions. 

b. Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) – OPM has identified five ECQs:  leading change, leading people, results driven, business acumen and building coalitions.  These qualifications are general for all SES positions.

c. Technical Qualifications (TQs) - These qualifications are specific to each position/Agency.

The ECQs are required to become an SES and are also used by many departments and agencies in the employment selection process and filling executive positions. ECQs are later used for performance management. During her presentation, Kolmstetter discussed in detail the five (5) ECQs and their underlying competencies: Leading Change; Leading People; Results Driven; Business Acumen; and Building Coalitions.

Kolmstetter asked the audience to rate each ECQ with regard to how much experience you have had to date in this qualification and how comfortable you are in the same qualification.  With this exercise, all the participants had the opportunity to create their own ECQ Development Grid to identify the ECQs with high/medium/low experience (consider time spent, scope and complexity) and comfort (consider the level of confidence, enjoyment and ease).  The results demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses for each ECQs.
To become competitive for an SES position, Kolmstetter recommended the audience to develop the ECQs through additive experience (i.e., take on the next level of scope, breadth, scale, size, and volume) and to stand up and acquire unique leadership opportunities by having breakthrough experiences (i.e., emergency, “first ever,” creation, closure, crisis, turnaround).  

“Government is looking for leaders who stand up,” she said.

For ECQs and interviews, Kolmstetter also recommended the CCAR Method: Challenge (What was the challenge?); Context (Describe briefly the situation and your role); Actions (What did you do?); and Results (How did it turn out, describe outcome). 
She shared the following tips with the audience: “Be your authentic self.  Have SES, Exec Resources, experts review your written ECQs and get feedback and start before you are even applying (TQs too).  For the ECQ interview, practice, practice, practice…Only you can and will define your leadership journey; seek lots of input, ideas, suggestions, advice- but make your decision for you.”