Direct from the D.G.

Strengthening the World’s Premiere Diplomatic Team: Initial Observations

Carol Z. Perez | Director General of the Foreign Service

In the two months since I assumed office as Director General, I have had the chance to meet with hundreds of employees both at home and abroad at posts from the Middle East to West Africa and the Western Hemisphere. Three things have struck me. The first is our people’s resilience in the face of challenges beyond their control, from the hiring freeze to the furlough. The second is the need for enhanced communication with our workforce. The third is a growing hunger for innovation. Taken together these issues get to the heart of one of the Department’s biggest challenges—our ability to adapt and respond agilely to a changing workforce and a more complicated global landscape. 

While our people’s resilience is impressive, we should not take it for granted. There is nothing more important, particularly for those of us in senior leadership positions, than the welfare of our people. Taking care of people—Foreign Service, Civil Service, Locally Employed staff, family members, appointees, contractors—requires showing up and listening. And it starts with respect: treating all our colleagues as we would want to be treated, ensuring everyone feels welcomed and valued and empowering everyone to contribute their best to the Department’s mission. Respect, in turn, is rooted in self-awareness and emotional intelligence—an understanding of our strengths and vulnerabilities and the empathy and curiosity to look at a situation from another’s perspective. Creating a culture of respect, inclusiveness and civility is a collective responsibility. We each play a part!

Taking care of our people is the foundation for everything else. The “everything else” has to start somewhere. And, as I see it, two things critical to the success of an organization are communication and innovation—and I have made them both a priority for my team from day one.

Communication: Nature hates a vacuum. If we do not listen, inform, and engage, we cannot lead. I have restarted a Strategic Communications Unit first created when I was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in HR to help ensure we offer you the information that you need when you need it and are able to connect with you across a variety of platforms. 

Innovation: Is not only the secret sauce of the U.S. economy but of most enduring and successful organizations. And this is no less true of the Department. That’s why I stood up an Innovation Unit, the first of its kind in the Office of the Director General, to look at what we can do to empower and take care of our people, streamline processes, and increase flexibility and agility—all critical to retain our first-class talent.

Ultimately, strengthening this premiere diplomatic team is in the service of advancing America’s security, prosperity, and values and on behalf of the American people. If we are successful, we will leave an institution that has been around since 1789 stronger than we found it. That’s something to which we can all aspire. 

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