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Managing Performance from a Place of Integrity

January and February is performance review season in many companies. (If you’re in the federal government, you’re off the hook until the fall!)

I can sense your excitement from here!

Let’s talk about how we lead and manage from a place of integrity.

The word integrity comes from the Latin integritas, meaning wholeness and soundness. Many define it as “doing the right thing when no one is looking.”


To me, integrity means always interacting and engaging with people ethically, respectfully, and honorably. Leaders who lead from a place of integrity hold themselves to a higher standard and conduct themselves honorably in all situations. In addition, they expect the same behavior of others. They strive to treat all individuals with both respect and fairness. They maintain their commitments, communicate from a place of respect, and engage with all around them authentically.

How does this manifest itself in performance management season? In actuality, it should be present throughout the entire year, not just when the higher-ups ask for it. Effective managers work with their team members managing their performance all year long. As I mention in my classes, if an employee gets to her review and learns she’s not performing to expected standards, that’s the fault of the manager. Successful managers engage with all employees throughout the year.

Those successful managers work with those who are meeting all expectations by connecting with them and deepening the relationship that they have already established. They discuss the employee’s long-term goals and how they can work toward those. They explore additional opportunities for the employee to grow and further develop their skills, both individually and with the team.

Leaders with integrity are always in contact with their struggling employees as well. They work with them throughout the year, discussing current situations and finding opportunities for the employee to experience success. They provide mentoring to the employee, either doing it themselves or identifying additional senior leaders in the organization who can be of assistance and support.

All of us will receive both positive and not-so-positive feedback at times within our careers. When leaders establish strong relationships with their employees, they can provide this type of ongoing, constructive feedback. Through the trust inherent within a strong connection, open discussions can take place.

No one truly wants to provide negative feedback to an employee or colleague. If there is trust already established, this dialogue can become the foundation for growth and forward movement.

Wise Ways Consulting

Are You a Manager Afraid of Your Team?

  • Do you find it hard to delegate tasks?
  • Do you believe or feel no one on your team has the skills to accomplish certain projects?
  • Do you feel like you don’t have time to teach new skills?
  • Do you have people on your team you find it hard to like or respect?

yes to any of those questions or similar ones means you have some work to do. Being a manager and a leader means learning to trust people who work for you while working with them to make them better at their jobs.

If you do all the work on every project because you’re afraid that no one can be trusted or has the skills, here are some management tactics to help you build effective, productive, and happier teams.

Play on each person’s strength.

I understand you may have inherited a few people from a team or a reorg whom you don’t like or whom you feel are not at the right skill level. That’s life. Move on from those negative thoughts and help each person to define their individual strengths. Considering putting two or three people together on a project where each person can fill in for the other.

Pre-empt mistakes. 

It can be hard to let go when you are worried projects will fall to pieces. Plan for mistakes with time on the work schedule. Always include instructions, even when you think they are not needed. Establish deadlines and set expectations for outcomes.

Become a teacher. 

I admit, sometimes it can take longer to teach someone to do something new to them than doing it yourself. Yet, the time you take to teach a new skill will be rewarded in the time you save in the future. When you invest in your team with training and mentoring, you let them know you value their skills. And, if you’re the teacher, the work will be done the way you want.

Embrace your team and their potential.

Wise Ways Consulting

This March, Make Your Own Luck

March – the Luck of the Irish! Is it a lucky month for you? What do you do to put the career odds more firmly in your favor?

I often hear people say, “I was so lucky to get this new role!” or “Landing this job was all about luck and being in the right spot at the right time!”

Yet achieving a new job isn’t about luck – it’s about working to position yourself for your dream (or just your next role) and then going after it! So how do we do that?

  • Consider the types of professional development programs that are available in your field – don’t wait for your workplace to offer training. What additional study topics would help add value to your work performance and better position you for a potential promotion? Look for those both online as well at any local institution. Graduate School USA offers professional training for public sector employees. Community Colleges across the country offer training and courses in hundreds of fields. Many employers will pay for classes. There is a plethora of possibilities!
  • Join professional organizations and learn the value of networking. Attend local chapter events as well as national conferences. Don’t be afraid to extend your hand to someone you don’t know and introduce yourself! You never know what might come of it.
  • Work with a professional writer and revamp your resume. Look for a coach who can support you as you further develop your interview skills. And don’t discount the value of a great haircut and professional dress for success advice offered at most high-end retailers. Make sure that you’re presenting your best self to the world!
  • If you’re interested in a new position, don’t wait until you have 100% of the skills listed on the position description. All new jobs have a certain learning curve. Don’t scare yourself off by thinking you have to know everything before you begin. To “get to yes”, you have to hear an occasional “no” first!


The famous Irish Blessing begins, “May the road rise to meet you…” Well, sometimes you must seek the road and it may not be the one you expected. But the time you spend will be worth its weight in a Leprechaun’s treasure.

Wise Ways Consulting

A Conversation with the Future

I took a meeting yesterday from a college senior graduating this May. She was looking for my take on the job market for early career professionals.

Senior: I’m graduating from a Virginia school with a degree in marketing. I’ve earned good grades, had a summer internship with a not-for-profit, and now I’m looking for a job. Any idea where to start?

Melissa: Have you considered a job with the federal government.

Senior: (Laughs) Wait six months for my application to magically appear on some desk, worry about being furloughed because of a debt ceiling crisis, wish-washy back to office policies, and never see a raise?

Melissa: I understand your concerns. National politics aside, hear me out. Historically, the federal government has been a stable place to build a career. I know hundreds of federal workers in dozens of offices. They mainly like their jobs, enjoy supporting their missions, have decent co-workers, a path to promotion, and solid benefits and pay. Think healthcare, retirement, vacation.  I realize healthcare and retirement may not be high on your list at 22, but in a few years, you may be married with a child.

Senior: (Nods) I don’t know if I can wait for a job to come through. My student loans won’t wait.

Melissa: Not all jobs take months to go through the system. Consider a paid internship to build some more skills while you wait. Put in your applications and look for job in the private sector. That may take some time too, get the ball rolling. Or find a job but consider something with the government in a year or two.

Senior: You can’t deny the pay isn’t the same as with a private company.

Melissa: Not in all cases. Each GS level has step grades you can progress through. Consider your choices: NASA, the CDC, FBI, Smithsonian, State Department. The federal government offers a lot of interesting agencies, supporting important work all over the world.

Check out usajobs.gov and start looking for your next great career.  This is not a paid message for the feds. I just work with a lot of great people.

Wise Ways Consulting

What’s Your Q?

What’s Your Q?

Q is my short-hand for IQ and the even more powerful Q, EQ – Emotional intelligence. One way we make predictions about potential success is through IQ, intelligence testing. First developed in the early 1900s, these tests have become standard tools for the military, school placement, and human resource departments. But what do these tests measure or really predict? If you took the SAT as part of your college entrance application, and didn’t do well, but still graduated with top honors from a university, you’ve experienced first-hand that human intelligence cannot and should not be bound by a number.

What is EQ?

There are three major models of Emotional Intelligence; within my work, I utilize that of Reuven Bar-On and his EQ-I 2.0 model. The Bar-On model describes EQ as an array of interrelated emotional and social competencies, skills and behaviors that impact intelligent behavior.  There are five composites of Emotional Intelligence that make up Bar-On’s EQ-I 2.0 model.

  • Self-perception
  • Self-expression
  • Interpersonal
  • Decision making
  • Stress management.


Arguably, the most important for successful leadership (and life) is interpersonal skills. Healthy engagement with these proficiencies allows you to understand, connect, and relate better with others and become more successful in positions that require social connection and esprit de corps.

We’ve seen in the workplace, in school settings, and even out for walks in our community, that as a society, we’re struggling with social connections. Two years of isolation, lack of face-to-face communication, and the need to negotiate “others” from merging onto I-66 and waiting in line at Wegmans have left us short-tempered, fearful, and confused. Students have lost the ability to take turns and tie their shoes. Adults have lost the art of chit-chat. How are you? I’m doing pretty well, thanks for asking. Even the split-second decision to shake someone’s hand or elbow bump in greeting has left us perplexed.

EQ is important in life. Many leaders bristle at the use of the term empathy. Some find it difficult to care about things outside of the production of work.  Pre-COVID, I was working with a mid-level manager as his executive coach.  He had been identified in the organization as someone who had all the technical knowledge in the world as well as much potential for advancement.  He was struggling to work well with his current team.  We were speaking about his team one day and he said, “I’m just tired of it!  Don’t bother bringing your hormones and emotions to the office!  We’re here to work and get things done and not pander to your ‘stuff’.”  When I asked him what he thought the impact was on his team, he was silent.  “I never thought about that.  Does it matter?”  After a few deeper questions, he was able to identify ways that it hindered both individual performance as well as the team’s ability to accomplish the organization’s mission.

Why is Emotional Intelligence Important?

You hear the term company culture thrown around frequently in modern organizations. And lately the breakdown of culture and struggles of the post-pandemic workforce. This is the environment our graduates are entering.

The greatest gift we can give anyone this year is our attention, our patience, and some kindness. And at the same time, don’t forget to model positive behavior. How we show up everyday matters. How we help our newly minted graduates learn to tie their shoes and learn to navigate the complex social structures of their first jobs matters for the future of our society.

That sounds like a tall order, and it is. We all must care – and that’s EQ.

Wise Ways Consulting

What’s Love Got to do with it?

It’s the season of love, at least it’s supposed to be. No doubt you’re thinking, “this is work, Melissa – what’s love got to do with it?”

Understandable reaction because this is a blog that talks about leadership and communication in the work environment. However, let’s consider the different types of love and how it may be demonstrated – in the workplace.

Love doesn’t have to be the romantic type, i.e., the office romance; it can be one of showing compassion and empathy to those with whom you come in contact. As a leader, it’s critical that you show empathy to people. It’s actually part of your job and leaders who feel empathy and model it, are proven to be more successful.

I’m a firm believer that leadership is demonstrated at all levels. Just because your paystub doesn’t indicate that you’re a manager or member of your company’s C-suite, doesn’t mean you don’t lead at some level. Every time you walk into a tough situation with your team, those around you are watching how you engage. Do you throw yourself into the mire and muck with some of the others? Or do you choose the more professional and, as some would say, the high road?

Do you jump all over that junior employee who is exhausted from driving up and down 95 and still struggling to figure out the organizational culture? Or do you cut him/her some slack for their comments or ‘doe in the headlight’ look because you remember what it was like when you were new and didn’t know the ropes?

If you are a member of the leadership team, how do you show empathy to others?

  • If you see someone struggling with a task or situation, have a sincere conversation with them. “I can see that you’re struggling with something this morning. What can I do to support you?” Don’t just walk by and tell them to “suck it up and get on with it.” And yes, I HAVE heard people say that to their colleagues.
  • Get out of your office, circulate, and talk with the people on your team. Ask how things are going. Ask them for specific and targeted feedback. “What are two things that I’m doing that you find supportive and helpful? What is one thing I could do differently that would provide benefit?”
  • Send handwritten notes to employees thanking them for their contributions to the team. Don’t just say “thanks for a great job.” Instead, identify the individual actions about which you’re commenting. “Thank you for all that you bring to the team. I appreciate knowing that you’re the first one here each morning as I know I can count on you if I’m in a bind and the rest haven’t made it here yet.”


It’s not that difficult to bring a sense of empathy to your organization. According to a recent Gallup poll, disengaged employees cost the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year. Those feeling undervalued will take their talents and move elsewhere within the Beltway. Hiring new staff and losing old ones are an expensive proposition for all establishments. Consider the return on investment with your own organization if you use a little more care and concern with your team. You’ll make Tina Turner proud too!

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The 2023 No Resolution List

The 2023 No Resolution List

Welcome to January and welcome to a new year!

Sometime after the new year begins, and the first day of work, many people create a list of resolutions – a list of personal and professional desires often encompassing habits, health, or wants. Then, sometime in the first week of February or sooner, all that positive energy fades along with the resolutions.

People consistently fail to see their resolutions to the end of the year. So, I ask, why are you setting yourself up for failure? This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to stop smoking, eat more vegetables, land a new job, or any of the thousands of resolutions people make. You should try to be healthier and happier, but making a resolution is not the way to make it happen.

This issue of Wise Words provides articles and resources to reframe the idea of resolutions toward setting goals, intentions, and the power of small changes for big payoffs.

The beginning of a new year is a powerful time to assess areas of your life that you want to improve. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the only time. Pick any Sunday, any first day of a month, or milestone. Every day is a new opportunity to start fresh.

The dictionary defines resolution as the act of determining. A goal is defined as the end toward which effort is directed.

Resolutions are ideas and goals are actions.

Consider a goal like a commute to work. You don’t wake up in the and then arrive at work, even if you’re working from home. You have a morning routine that may include pets and family members. You have a route to work that may need to change for meeting times or weather. As you complete one small task in your morning, you move to the next, and the next until you arrive at work. Because you’ve been walking through a morning routine and commute, whether it was to school or work for most of your life, you don’t think of the individual steps until something changes, like your car breaks down or you get a new job.

Why is it then, that we make lofty resolutions and rely on willpower and not small thoughtful steps and measurable results?

Reframe your resolutions as goals and treat those goals like a commute through the year. What one or two steps can you take to make slow and steady progress. Complete those and start again. Make sure to allow for unexpected changes. Forgive yourself if you miss a step, pick a new moment, and begin again. In this scenario, any day can be the start of your new year.

I wish you a healthy 2023 full of success however you define it.

P.S. Coaching is an excellent way to set measurable and meanings goals. Email Melissa today! [email protected]

Wise Ways Consulting

This is an Election Year and a Census year

You Have to Participate to Lead: Vote!


I was speaking with a colleague the other day about the importance of voting in a democratic society. He mentioned that his eldest had chosen not to vote in the last federal election. As a result, he and his wife told her that she was not allowed to complain about the current administration around them – and if she didn’t vote in the upcoming mid-terms, she wasn’t allowed to complain about that either. Needless to say, she has registered and has already taken part in early voting.

What does this have to do with leadership, you’re wondering. Plenty! In order to lead in your organization or your community, you have to participate throughout the process. That means looking at future direction, considering your ideas and where you think the organization/team should go, discussing possibilities with others, and eventually making up your mind before taking action.

People can be overheard saying, “Well, my vote doesn’t count. Why should I bother?”

All politics is local. Get involved with your own community. Participate in your local HOA. Be a part of the school board or the county board of supervisors. Support a candidate. And if you don’t want to show which party you support, participate in a local Get Out the Vote campaign.

Before you decide upon the candidate you’re going to support, turn down the news and negative campaign ads and consider the following:

  • What are the issues that are important to you?
  • What are the views from the candidates who are running?
    • Make an appointment to speak with them and learn about their platforms.
    • Attend an all-candidates forum if one exists.
    • Read their website and the information that is listed.
  • What do others around me think?
    • Engage in civil discourse with your friends and others. Ask them what is important to them.
    • “Help me understand what platforms are important to you. What is it that candidate X says that really connects with you? What do you want to see them do?”
    • “In what kind of a community do you want to live?”
    • “How do you want people to treat one another? Engage with one other? How do we work together to create that type of community?”
    • How does this fit for me?
  • Weigh all of the information you’ve gathered, balance this against your own values, views, and goals… and make an educated decision.

I heard someone saying today that if people can stand in a line to buy a Power Ball ticket, surely, they can stand in line to vote and engage in the democratic process.

As my mother always says, “You give up complaining rights if you don’t vote!” Make sure you exercise your right to vote, every time you have the opportunity – people have died for you to have that. And many around the world are still dying to be able to have that right in their own country. Never take it for granted.

This article first appeared in Prince William Living Magazine.

Melissa Davies is an executive leadership coach and facilitator as well as the author of How Not to Act Like a BLEEP at Work. She resides in Prince William County and runs Wise Ways Consulting, which specializes in leadership, management and team development, executive coaching, group facilitation and high-engagement training. She can be reached at [email protected] or through wisewaysconsulting.com

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A Review of Performance Reviews

To paraphrase a well-known Biblical verse, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven….” And to every employer and employee there is a time for an annual performance review.

If you think my pulling in the Bible is a bit heavy handed, it’s not. To many, this annual ritual is fraught with the same emotional up swells, wrath, judgement, and indignation as any powerful religious parable. And like the reading of any religious text (the Bible isn’t exclusive to this metaphor) it is followed with faith, awe, and confusion.

The Annual Performance Review As A Tool

The human resources community has been examining the role of the annual performance review as a tool for, well…employee performance. The results shouldn’t surprise anyone who has given or received an evaluation. It can be a miserable experience that people on both side of the desk feel is a waste of time. Many companies have done away with the formal review, opting instead for real-time evaluations. However, that isn’t yet the norm. There still needs to be a formal vehicle for tracking how employees are, or are not doing their jobs, as well as disciplinary actions, and accolades that lead to promotions.

Global advising firm, Willis Towers Watson in a 2016 study on employee evaluations, formally referred to in the report as employee value proposition (EVP), revealed some interesting results.

Employees want employers to connect with them the same way they connect and value their customers. Employees who are unhappy with performance reviews cite that their managers lack the skills or the time to make it effective. Only 51% of employers say that performance management is effective at creating a positive employee experience.

Employees who do find reviews helpful are often the most engaged employees. This means their managers have done an effective job in placing their role within the overall organization, provided positive coaching and feedback, and attended to employees’ concerns for security, pay equity, and a clear career path.  You can find the complete study here and it’s a worthwhile read: https://www.willistowerswatson.com/en/insights/2016/09/employers-look-to-modernize-the-employee-value-proposition

But here’s the spoiler alert. Effective employee reviews come down to effective communication skills. The same hold true on the other side of the desk. Employees need to listen and ask the right questions to elicit the most helpful feedback.

Anyone who has worked with Wise Ways Consulting has hopefully walked away with an appreciation for the power of communication in the workplace and a belief that there is always room for improvement.

Leadership Training Personal Development Professional Development Wise Ways Consulting

The Value of Getting Out of Town

In an earlier post, I advised readers to plan for their summer vacations.  There is a tremendous value both physical and mental for taking time off.

Now that summer is here, and I hope you have scheduled your time off, I want to push you out of the Northern Virginia nest. It’s easy to want to plan a “stay-cation.” Northern Virginia has many regional treasures and monuments, historic battlefields, great nature trails, and fabulous panoramic views of the Potomac.

However, getting away from work should mean getting away from the stressors of life in this region!

Every day we deal with it – the constant political and economic chatter. We get it from the person sitting next to us at work, on the news, at the PX, at our kids’ soccer games even!  “Is the government going to shut down?”  “I’m a contractor.  Is my employer going to win that recompete?”  Some work on the Hill – that comes with its own set of headaches!

Because of where we live, we hear more and know more than we probably want to! As Dr. Seuss’ Grinch says, “all of the noise, noise, noise, NOISE!”

Many advocate the value of a ‘stay-cation’.  It’s easy and cost-effective. But this year, if you are able, get out of town and away from the chatter.

The Benefits Of Vacation And Travel

According to a 2016 report from Project: Time Off, an initiative of the U.S. Travel Association, estimates that an incredible 659 million vacation days went unused in 2015.  That’s 1.8 million years. I won’t even begin to calculate the salaries.

  • Travel keeps you healthier. Another study showed that women who vacation at least twice a year have a much lower risk of having a heart attack as compared to those who only travel every six years or so. For men who don’t take a vacation, the study showed a 20 percent higher risk of death and a 30 percent greater risk of heart disease.
  • Vacation helps with your mood. When vacationing at least twice a year, women are less likely to suffer from depression and chronic stress than those who take time away less than once every two years.
  • Escaping town helps with our relationships. Spending time away from this area will allow us to have time away from work, the smart phone, and the work-obsession environment that we inhabit.  It’ll give us time to truly reconnect with those closest to us.
  • Dedicating time to a vacation helps improve our self-esteem. By putting our mental health first and committing to our vacation days, it tells us that we are important and worthy of that time away!
  • Vacations boost creativity. New stimuli including faces, places, tastes, smells, experiences, can help bring about new creative ideas!  Being able to develop new avenues to tap into your creativity can help as you work through challenges back at the office or at home.

Leaving the region will help you leave the chatter behind.  Set your email and voice mail to an away message and leave the noise behind.  Save the stay-cation spots for when friends and relatives come into town, for when they are escaping their own chatter-filled regions.

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