January 2017
Issue Map
The Public Manager

Cameron Cozzens

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

As the director of government practice for the Arbinger Institute, which delivers services to help organizations transform their culture, improve collaboration, and more, Cozzens oversees all of the institute's work within the federal government.


About Cameron Cozzens

Cameron Cozzens is a former Army colonel with more than two decades of leadership and operational experience in the intelligence and special operations communities. Cozzens is also a certified master facilitator, executive consultant, and public speaker.

What differences have you found working in the public and ­private sectors?

I find that maintaining competitive advantage in the private sector often demands a much shorter decision-making cycle than the bureaucracy of the public sector often allows. In the private sector, the market provides exceptional clarity and feedback in the form of quarterly and yearly profit and loss statements, where these numbers most often determine the long-term success or failure of an organization. However, in the public sector, organizational success is rarely directly tied to profit and loss statements and therefore requires absolute clarity around measurable key performance indicators for individuals, teams, and organizations.

How did your time in the Army affect your current approach to training and organizational transformation?

The Army's strong emphasis on training and leadership development instilled in me a deep appreciation that individuals, teams, and organizations must always strive to improve. It also gave me a clear understanding of how difficult it is to successfully lead transformation within an organization that is steeped in a long history of tradition. All of my experience has led me to understand that when organizational change efforts only focus on changing behaviors without addressing the underlying organizational mindset, they are doomed to fail.

What kind of mindset change is needed to transform ­organizations?


Most training and consulting solutions attempt to improve results by helping people adopt new behaviors without changing what drives behavior—­mindset. For example, you may tell me to collaborate, but if I'm operating from an inward mindset, where I am only accountable for what I do, efforts to get me to behave as if I'm also accountable for my impact on what others are able to do won't stick. You may tell me to communicate more fully with my colleagues, but if their success doesn't really matter to me, the communication protocols you try to get me to adopt will seem superfluous. I will resist them, adopt them half-heartedly, or simply not do them. You will be frustrated, and I will be annoyed. Without a change in mindset, newly adopted behaviors won't stick and results will suffer. The change that is most needed is a change from an inward to an outward mindset.

What advice would you give younger employees entering the federal workforce?

There are a lot of things I wish I had understood when I was just starting out as a young Army officer, husband, and father. It wasn't until much later in my life that I came across a transformational book by the Arbinger Institute called Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box. I highly recommend it to every employee beginning his or her career. It started me on a journey during which I began to more clearly understand how I was contributing to the very problems I complained about. The nature of working in a large bureaucracy means there will be many frustrations with the "system," and if we are not careful, these can be exacerbated by our inward mindsets.

About the Author

The Association for Talent Development (ATD) is a professional membership organization supporting those who develop the knowledge and skills of employees in organizations around the world. The ATD Staff, along with a worldwide network of volunteers work to empower professionals to develop talent in the workplace.

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