By Dan Gephart, March 29, 2021

As the former Senior Executive Advisor for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, Marcus Hill (pictured at right) knows a lot about training. When it comes to determining whether training is going to be effective, he recalls something one of his mentors Dr. Phil Callicutt once told him: “Marcus, you have to believe in the song and the singer.”

“I believe the same is true related to determining if so-called leadership training will be effective, hence ‘the song.’ I believe you have to start by assessing the credentials, credibility and reputation of the developer and the delivery of the training, hence ‘the singer.’”

FELTG Nation, we’re pleased to introduce you to our newest singer.

Marcus Hill retired earlier this year, ending a distinguished 37-year federal career that included stints with FLETC, the United States Air Force, the Department of the Navy, and the Transportation Security Administration, where he was instrumental in establishing the TSA infrastructure and screening operations at Jacksonville International and Gainesville Regional airports.

Marcus served an active-duty tour with the US Air Force, and retired from the USAF Reserves in 2007. His honors include a 2017 Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service, the 2014 Department of Homeland Secretary’s Under Secretary for Management Partnership Award, DON Civilian Meritorious Service Medal, and USAF Meritorious Service and Commendation Medals.

He is currently the Principal of Hill Management Consultancy LLC, a minority, veteran-owned small business. And he serves on the Senior Executives Association Board of Directors.

You’ll have the opportunity to see Marcus during FELTG’s upcoming Emerging Issues in Federal Employment Law virtual event. Marcus will co-present with FELTG President Deb Hopkins the session “When Employees Go Insubordinate: Don’t Mess With the Wrong Elements” on Tuesday, April 27 from 3:15-4:30 pm.

Recently, Marcus and I had a chance to discuss some of FELTG’s favorite topics — leadership, accountability, and labor relations.

DG: What is a key component of effective leadership that is often overlooked?

MH: Empathy; good leaders must exhibit the capacity for empathy. Effective leaders must have the ability to understand others’ thoughts and feelings from their points of view (insead of) the leader automatically overlaying hers/his. My former boss and good friend, Paul Hackenberry, emphasized this with me. He often says, “You don’t get to decide how others feel.”

DG: What lessons, advice or experiences from your Air Force career had the most impact on your federal civilian career?

MH: I credit the Air Force for developing my teaming skills and providing great opportunities to demonstrate them, in both follower and leader roles. Secondly, the Air Force provided my first significant exposure to strategic planning. It emphasized the importance and value of inculcating this process into your organizational DNA to ensure its long-term sustainability and continued relevance. These two experiences/attributes carried over into my civilian career and positioned the organizations in which I served to enjoy many successes.

DG: The pendulum has swung back to a pro-union Administration. What’s the best way for agency labor relations professionals to carve out a positive working relationship with unions? 

MH: Pro-union administrations really allow and expect labor relations professionals to actively engage and include union officials, representing bargaining units, in the planning and execution of their agencies missions. The belief is promoting and leveraging a partnering relationship will result in less labor-management turmoil, and more opportunities to achieve organizational wins through unity of efforts. The best way to carve out a positive working relationship with unions is “to seek to understand before being understood.” Create expectations to share appropriate pre-decisional information, exploit opportunities to dialogue in advance of making unilateral decisions and collaborating to achieve mutually desirable results which satisfy the mission and lion share of people that perform it.

DG: What do you suggest for supervisors and/or leaders who are having a difficult time navigating change?

MH: Actively engage change, don’t run from it. Change is consistent and here to stay. I view change as a process consisting of various phases – shock, denial, acceptance, plan, execute and overcome. The easier you can get through the first two phases, the quicker you can get to identifying and achieving the opportunities presented in the change. There are always opportunities in the change.

DG: What do you think is stopping supervisors from holding their employees accountable for performance and conduct?

MH: Two reasons. The first is supervisors not having a good understanding of the governance related to poor performance and misconduct, and their authorities within laws, regulations and policies. The second is supervisors not feeling comfortable that the institution will support them in holding employees accountable. Therefore, they take on the mindset it’s too hard and risky to pursue. That is why it is critically important to ensure all institutional managers and supervisors are knowledgeable and properly trained to carry out their duties in this space.

DG: What’s your favorite part of teaching/presenting?

MH:  My favorite part of teaching/presenting is hearing from former students/participants on how they were able to apply the learning objectives to achieve desired results. I also like to observe the facial expressions when they “get it” during the training session.

Mr. Hill teaches on numerous FELTG topics, including Leadership, Labor Relations, Employee Relations, and EEO. If you’d like to bring Mr. Hill to your agency (onsite or virtually) for training, contact me at [email protected].

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