Learning The Political Game

The Iraqi war, the tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina each took their toll on the federal budget. As a result, Darrell Williams, serving as chief program manager of the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Border Initiative, was worried about the impact on his program. “Securing resources is as much a part of a leader’s job as managing them,” he says.

Williams knew that his ability to influence members of Congress was critical to his program’s continued funding. To prepare him for the undertaking, Williams enrolled in a course at the Brookings Center for Executive Education entitled, Inside Congress: Understanding the Legislative Process. He says the five-day seminar gave him a close look into the workings of Congress and informed him on how best to engage policymakers. He was promoted to director of REAL ID, another leg of the department, just four months after completing his studies.

He shares his class notes for influencing those on Capitol Hill and beyond:
Build a support base before you need it. Williams began cultivating relationships with people who had the needed resources. He met with legislators to learn more about their interests, issues, and concerns.

Focus on their agendas. Discuss how your work aligns with their legislative efforts and helps them meet their goals. Williams focused on outlining how his program effectively managed federal dollars to increase security efforts, address safety concerns, and combat terrorist attacks.
Meet the needs of their constituency. Prove how your work will benefit a given congressperson’s constituency. Williams routinely reported to legislators that represented states along the U.S. border on how his program reduced cross-border crime, drug trafficking, and illegal migration in their jurisdictions.

For more information about Inside Congress: Understanding the Legislative Process or other executive education courses offered at Brookings, call 1-800-925-5730 or visit www.brookings.edu/execed.Negotiating Severance Pay
Few professionals today will spend their entire career at one company. Downsizings, reorganizations, mergers, and acquisitions will force many out of a job, maybe even two or three. And although many companies provide severance pay, a 2005 Lee Hecht Harrison survey reported that minimum severance amounts have remained about the same at all levels of employment, while averages have fluctuated only slightly. “With workforce conditions as they are, professionals would be wise to negotiate their severance pay [even before they start working],” says Joset Wright, vice president and managing director of The Hollins Group, an executive search firm with offices in Chicago, New York, and Atlanta.
Wright offers the following tips:

 

Ask up front. The best time to negotiate severance is before accepting the job. Severance, like salary and benefits, should be decided at the time of hire and included in the job offer letter.

Ask for more. Typical severance is one to two weeks’ salary for every year of service. Review what the employer offers and consider asking for additional compensation that could include accrued vacation pay, outplacement counseling, extended health and life benefits, or the opportunity to buy employee-discounted stock options.

Ask again before you accept. Even after receiving a pink slip and a severance offer, employees have one

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