Leadership Corner

Living Our Values – This Is Who We Are

March 15th, 2019 at 3:00PM

This is WHo We Are - booklet coverGreetings from the Northern Region Ranger meeting in beautiful Butte, America! Over the past few weeks I have made it a priority to get out as much as I can, reconnecting with employees and with the people you serve in the communities where you live and work. Those local connections are key to how people experience us as an organization. We want people to see our agency core values of service, conservation, interdependence, diversity and safety come through in how we work with each other and our communities, tribes and partners.

On Thursday, I also had the opportunity to reconnect with a group of Forest Service leaders through the Leadership Forum. The Leadership Forum, an online forum that occurs on a quarterly basis, was established to create deeper understanding and agreement on critical issues facing the agency, as well as to help generate shared responsibility for delivering new results. Living our values is what this week’s Leadership Forum was all about. Together, we reflected on what it meant to live our agency values during the furlough. We chose the furlough as a framework for dialogue because it was a common experience—and a difficult one—for all of us in the Forest Service.

We leaned into our values and I am proud of how we came together as an organization. Our core value of safety shined through in the choices we made about if and how to continue critical and time sensitive projects. Psychological safety was also prominent in our daily Executive Leadership and National Leadership discussions. I heard time and again how much people appreciated the direct outreach from supervisors who checked in on their well-being.

Photo: Portrait of Vicki Christiansen in front of American & Forest Service flags.
Chief Vicki Christiansen, USDA Forest Service

The furlough showed the importance of interdependence. It made clear how much we need all the interconnected parts. We received crucial support from our CFO and CIO staffs to keep critical systems up and running—fire hires, for example, or our contractual work on the ground. Our law enforcement staff showed an incredible service ethic in protecting the public, our own employees, and the assets we manage. Our HRM staff also made a tremendous effort to make sure everyone got paid as soon as they went back to work. I also know that our value of interdependence was challenged. Without our full workforce engaged together, we weren’t able to utilize the full strength of that value.

In short, the furlough put us all through a difficult time together. It interrupted the momentum of our work, and I see us working hard each day to recover that momentum. After seeing how well we leaned into our values, I am proud of this agency. I am proud of every one of you for helping us get through these troubled waters, and I am confident that we will rise to the challenges ahead by living our values on behalf of the people we serve.

Living our core values takes work. It is as important as the work we do every day to improve the conditions of America’s forests and grasslands. In fact, our mission success is only strengthened by anchoring to conservation, service, diversity, safety and interdependence.

Yesterday we introduced the Leadership Forum to a new tool that I personally use every day as the Chief of the Forest Service. It’s called This Is Who We Are, and it compiles insights made and milestones passed, such as our Leader Stance and our Code and Commitments, along with our mission, purpose, core values and more. It’s a tool every one of us can use in reflecting on who we are and how to live our core values every day.

This Is Who We Are is an accessible, online booklet, the result of more than 10 years of work we have done as an agency in examining our culture and our identity at the Forest Service. I am happy to introduce it now to all employees. You will be hearing more about it over the coming months, including an interactive website and other tools to help us engage with and use this work. Take a look at This Is Who We Are and share your first impressions through the Leadership Corner Forum. I look forward to reading your feedback.

Chief Christiansen