FEI Handbook and Leadership for a Democratic Society Information

LDS Participant Comments

Executives who have attended the LDS program describe the impact of their experience in the LDS Program. 

It has been over eight months since that snowy day in March when I arrived at the FEI campus in Charlottesville.  Little did I know how much that month would change my life.  I learned so much and continue to make use of that knowledge that I feel it is past due and highly appropriate to thank you for the opportunity to experience the transformative Leadership for a Democratic Society (LDS) Program 453.   I am also especially grateful for extending my learning experience through coaching sessions with the awesome Dr. Janet Postier.

I must say, I was hesitant about a month-long training, requiring me to be away from home, family and my job.  What could they possibly teach me that I haven’t had training in already I asked myself.  Ah, but unlike past training, LDS taught me to reach inside myself and be willing to open up to others.  All my life, I questioned my ability to be a leader, even though my career included progressive leadership positions.  Through the sessions with my team and our coach, I realized that a negative experience early on planted a seed that led me to believe I was not a leader.  But, more importantly, I could finally see myself as others saw me – as a leader.  I can’t really put into words how the encouragement from my team members and coach helped me to believe in myself and see me through their eyes.  I emerged from the experience a more confident leader with a positive perspective that I have brought back to my office and my team.

I often reach into my virtual box of knowledge I took with me when I left the LDS program.  I’ve taught my team about the ladder of inference and I’ve utilized adaptive leadership to help my peers solve issues.  I take better care of myself, and when I catch myself leaning toward old habits, I study my plan which is always within my sight.  And these are just a few of the tools I continue to use.

The coaching I received after the program, I feel, was absolutely essential to drive home all I gained during my month on campus.  My coach was always able to guide me in asking myself the right questions that steered me back on my course of improvement.  Without giving me specific advice, other than some great reads, my coach evoked in me the ability to be confident and make some tough decisions.  Through her coaching, I was able to have a difficult conversation with my supervisor that has since improved our relationship.  I miss these coaching sessions, but I will continue to ask myself the right questions as I work through issues in both my professional and personal lives.    

Several folks have asked me about my experience in the LDS program. In looking back, and responding to the question about what could it teach me that I didn’t already know – the answer was it taught me about me.  It also provided me with new friendships that have continued to grow and an expanded network that benefits my agency.  It has set me on a solid course for improvement, making me a more resilient leader that will help guide our agency into the future.  So, I can’t thank you enough for that month away from home where I learned so much. 

You run a fantastic program and if there is ever anything I can do to help you, please let me know. 

M.R. LDS 453 March 2019

When I look back at the past year, undoubtedly the one experience that stood out from the rest, was my time in the LDS program.  I have such warmest of memories from that incredible, transformative experience, and I want to thank you for all your amazing work and dedication to ensure a rich, rewarding learning environment.

The impact of the LDS program since August has been profound, at work and personal level.  I have remained committed to staying true to my five bold steps and incorporating lessons learned from the LDS program in various domains.  As an example, a few months ago, I planned and  implemented a leadership development workshop for all my staff based on the LDS program titled “Telling Our Stories”. I shared with everyone my leadership development plan and organized a team building activity for the participants to identify their core values.  I recruited and worked with three of my project officers to plan and implement the workshop together.  Thanks Janie, my LDS facilitator and coach, for helping me to think through the workshop.  It went extremely well.  Even though it was optional, 40 out of 60 of my staff attended. 

Here is a comment from a participant that captures the sentiments of others:  “My experience with the 'Telling Our Stories' was very enlightening!  Seeing our division leader share his 'journey' - in a place of vulnerability for the good of his overall team was truly humbling for me.  The message I took home was that leadership has nothing to do with titles, positions, or pay grades (power).  It’s more about what you claim for yourself, where you are.  Additionally, it’s not only motivating yourself to do the right things but others as well in order to reach a common goal.”   

This would not have been possible without the LDS program and specifically without Janie’s coaching.

Mahyar Mofidi, DMD, Ph.D., LDS Program 458

Leadership and Wellness

I would like to share a couple achievements with you as a result of attending Leadership for A Democratic Society 452.

1- I’ve lost 60 pounds since I arrived at LDS program in February 2019.  The LDS program helped me get my wellness in order, focusing on diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management.  I’ve since helped many peers, staff, and even a boss or two improve in these areas using the principles learned at LDS.  I’m a better leader as a result of improving my wellness. 

My lifestyle changed as a result of FEI also helped my wife with her wellness—we’re much happier and healthier together.

2- I was successful in bringing Federal Occupational Health (FOH) to my location, to lead our employee assistance program (EAP) and employee wellness program.  I didn’t know FOH existed before attending LDS program— it’s truly a great benefit to federal employees. 

 Please accept my personal gratitude for your service to LDS program for helping me get my wellness in order and for showing me what FOH could do for federal employees to help strengthen our civil service.

LDS 452 Alum

Comments about the Leadership Development Team:

“I was amazed at how well our team bonded and how quickly we have formed strong relationships. Now the key is to apply these skills back at the office and home.” 

“LDT time helped our team gel into the group that we are today. I expect that we as a group have yet to realize the true benefits of week one of FEI. The presentation materials, teaching approach and content met my needs and generated a high-performing learning environment that exceeded my expectations and personal experience.”

What about this class was most useful to you?

“The experiential learning opportunities. In particular, the team-building in week 1, including the dynamics of team forming, storming, norming and performing was outstanding real-world simulation of work team-building. Opportunity for reflection and working on me in a safe, facilitative environment. The relationships I formed during the experience.” 

Please provide examples on how this program reinforced your commitment to public service:

“Our role as leaders, models and motivators to serving the people and the Constitution. Reinforcement that the Constitution of the United States was designed to grow with our nation and that I, as a federal employee, have an integral role in defending and executing the contracts of the Constitution. I have a renewed sense of pride in my service to the United States Government. The interaction that I experienced with other US govt. executives and the strong program focus on Constitutional values and Leadership inspired me to a renewed commitment.” 

“There is no question in my mind that I am forever changed as a result of the 4 weeks I spent at FEI. To learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the men that wrote the constitution, to understand they were highly educated and motivated mortals that made mistakes was a new perspective for me. I was personally and professionally dedicated and motivated before I came to FEI. I left FEI even more dedicated and motivated, and armed with tools, techniques, and ideas about how to be the best I can be and I am EXCITED about this.” 

Comments about the impact of the wellness program: 

It seems hard to believe that it’s been a full year since we finished our class (LDS 437), but you will be pleased to know that our group has been able to stick together and keep up our path to fitness. I’ve lost over 50 pounds since since starting the LDS program last year and am feeling great—it has helped me in so many ways. I remain very grateful to you and the fitness team for working with me and my classmates to help encourage healthy habits and for your continued encouragement. Chris Perry, LDS 437

Executives have also offered a number of suggestions or "tips" on how to derive the most benefit from that experience.  Here, in their own words, are suggestions you may want to consider:

Before the Program Begins

    • Read your pre-program material carefully.
    • Prepare well before coming. Thoroughly familiarize yourself with the (360 degree) assessment instrument and get a one-to-one interview with the sponsoring executive. Also, select the colleagues and direct reports carefully (for the instrument) so that you can get realistic feedback.
    • Make sure you get full cooperation in getting pre-program materials completed and submitted from your direct reports, peers, and especially your supervisor.
    • Be very prompt in getting (360 instrument) submitted. Otherwise, you may not have much input during the class sessions for your personal evaluation.
    • Contact previous attendees in your organization. Talk with someone who has been here.
    • Come prepared to learn and to enjoy yourself.
    • Identify leadership concerns within yourself and your organization that you need to address.
    • Come with your mind open and be willing to learn.
    • Plan to take advantage of the optional exercise classes. Bring work out clothes and proper footwear.
    • Think ahead about an leadership problem you would like to explore while here (before you attend).
    • Leave your work at home.

 Once in the LDS program:

    • It's a great opportunity to stretch your mind and body, so don't hesitate...Defer judgement and leap right into it!
    • Participate in all the activities...you'll never get a chance like this again!
    • Take advantage of the incredible network of federal executives in your LDS program by meeting and talk with as many people as you can.
    • Talk to other participants while you're in the LDS program and take advantage of their experiences and knowledge. Recognize that this is not just a point in time event but an opportunity to rethink where you're going and change direction and/or grow beyond where you are.
    • Make sure you make the most of your small group Leadership Development Team (LDT)...this can be one of the most useful and enriching aspects of the FEI experience.
    • Build relationships with your LDT members.
    • Share best practices from your leadership style and share them with others.
    • Suspend judgement - hold negative thoughts for a couple moments and/or balance with positive thoughts. Negative tone can feed on itself and ruin the experience for yourself and others.
    • In whatever choices you make - for courses, activities, forums - participate fully: do the readings, do the exercises, take part in the discussion. Fully engage in everything that is offered to you.
    • Make use of the supplementary books and videos available at FEI.
    • Take time to really think about the readings.
    • Think about improving your organization by applying what you learn.
    • Take advantage of the unique and comprehensive wellness program--it's fantastic!!
    • Determine what type of exercise program you will stick with after you go home (know yourself) don't push for something so far from it that you will immediately drop it.
    • Expect to change your lifestyle.