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Top Story:  Leading Initiative...Assuring a Solid Pipeline of Leaders at All Levels


By Sandra Tarpinian
Public Affairs Operations

This is the fourth in a series of articles on the OCC’s strategic initiatives and how they support the OCC’s “One vision.”

Initiative: Leading

This month the spotlight is on the Leading initiative. The strategic intent of this initiative is twofold: to implement a systematic and sustainable process for the OCC to evaluate and develop its leadership pipeline and to create an environment where leadership development is an institutionalized practice.

Marty Pfinsgraff, Senior Deputy Comptroller for Large Bank Supervision and Executive Committee sponsor for the Leading initiative, says that leading often begins with listening, identifying needs, and developing solutions that resonate. “Good leaders demonstrate integrity, being consistently true in interactions with different constituents. Exceptional leaders are decisive, able to make tough calls that are necessary but not always popular. The OCC’s 150 years of success is underscored by strong leaders who have exemplified these qualities over many decades. The Leadership initiative is about sustaining this continuity of leadership, a challenge we look forward to taking on.”

The Leading team began work in the fall of 2012 to accomplish the four goals and supporting objectives endorsed by the Executive Committee to ensure that the OCC meets these strategic intentions.

Leading initiative goals and objectives


Formalize succession planning across the agency to ensure a continuous pipeline of leadership talent.

  • Educate OCC Leadership on succession planning in the federal context.
  • Assess and identify executive leadership talent pool and bench strength.
  • Create SDC ownership for ensuring ongoing succession planning and the continuous development of current and future leaders.

Ensure training and development opportunities are in place to support a culture of leadership.

  • Ensure OCC leadership competencies align to agency strategies.
  • Provide developmental training consistent with agency succession plans.
  • Provide continuing learning experiences such as mentoring and coaching.

Strengthen strategic thinking and external awareness.

  • Provide ongoing opportunities to develop networks and strengthen intra- and inter-agency partnerships and expand awareness.

Strengthen OCC's leadership development.

  • Establish an OCC-wide leadership development framework and strategy.
  • Create an integrated system to support leadership development to all levels and aligned to other human capital policies/practices.
  • Create an organizational culture where the development of leaders becomes institutionalized and a focus on talent permeates every level of the organization.

To date the team has made measurable progress on each goal. According to Deputy Comptroller for Human Resources and Leading initiative team leader Pat Pointer, “Working in collaboration with Continuing Education, Human Resources, the Executive Committee, and our new advisory board has allowed the team to make the strides it has in accomplishing many of our objectives.”

A culture of leadership development

The most strategic and long-term of the four goals is to build an organizational culture that fosters leadership at all levels of the organization. “Foundational to developing a culture of leadership, is identifying the leadership values that are important to the OCC and translating those values into actions—through our training and development programs, how we select our managers and the behaviors we reward and recognize,” says Pointer. The team is working with the Executive Committee to articulate those values in a Leadership Vision, which will provide foundation and direction for the agency’s longer-term leadership strategy as well as the daily activities and interaction of staff.

To provide structure and governance of this overall effort, the Leading team established a Leadership Development Advisory Board (LDAB), which is co-chaired by Pointer and Deputy Comptroller for the Northeast District Toney Bland and includes a deputy comptroller from each business line. The board meets monthly to address leadership development across the OCC. The board plays an important role for the Leading initiative team because, as Pointer says, “The LDAB members serve as catalysts, liaisons, and advocates for the agency’s leadership development. They are thought leaders who use creativity to set direction and champion leadership development in the agency.” Additionally, the board members are expected to be continual learners and models of best leadership principles and practices in their own leadership positions.

Succession planning

The team began the process of succession planning by researching and benchmarking best practices for succession planning used by other federal and private-sector organizations. Guided by these benchmarks, it created a five-step framework for succession planning at the OCC. This framework takes management through a process of first identifying the most essential technical and leadership positions in the agency and projecting the vacancy risk of those positions. The next two steps are assessing future needs and analyzing any gaps in the existing talent pool. The fourth step is to establish training, development, and recruitment strategies to close any gaps. And the final step is to evaluate and update the process regularly.

“The idea is that this is an ongoing process, not just a one-time project. It needs to be incorporated into our existing performance management processes and career development discussions. Managers need to discuss career goals and development needs with employees and identify opportunities and strategies to close any gaps to assure that there is a strong pool of eligible candidates in the pipeline,” explains Pointer.

The team developed a primer and tools for succession management to educate and prepare OCC leadership to navigate and test the new framework the team had designed. Some of these tools already existed but were brought together and aligned in a way that made them more accessible and useful to managers.

Between fall 2012 and spring 2013, the team briefed all senior deputy comptrollers (SDC) and deputy comptrollers (DC) on the new process for succession planning and introduced them to the tools available to accomplish the task. Managers were briefed on the process at the Managers’ Conference in March 2013.

Next, it was time to pilot the first round of succession planning with OCC senior executives.  Using the first three steps in the five-step framework, SDCs and DCs assessed the OCC “bench strength” for all band VIII and IX positions and determined any preliminary skill gaps across the agency.  The team is in the process of briefing the SDCs and their leadership on the results of the first succession pilot.

The team is also collecting feedback from pilot participants on the efficacy of the process and any recommendations to improve the process. The next round of the pilot is targeted for January 2014.

Leadership development and training

The Leading team worked closely with Continuing Education (CE) to ensure that sufficient developmental training was available to prepare OCC leaders at all levels. The team developed a leadership framework to align the OCC’s leadership development to its existing talent management processes. The framework helps determine that the OCC is developing in its current and future leaders the knowledge and competencies needed for the OCC to meet its mission. And the framework also ensures that the way the agency recruits, retains, rewards, and develops employees is consistent with these competency development efforts.

Using a Leadership Journey Roadmap that the OCC had developed previously and which defined the competencies required for various levels of leadership, CE conducted a review of current internal training opportunities and mapped those to OCC managerial competencies to see if they addressed the competencies. CE revamped the Leadership Development page on the OCCnet to provide information and links to help OCC leaders and aspiring leaders navigate their careers. Now, for each of four levels (employee, group leader, manager, and executive), the page includes a list of competencies required for that level, definitions and resources available for each competency, developmental opportunities for each level of leadership, and links to internal and external training and development resources.

Leadership with a world-view

Strong strategic thinking and an ability to take a broader world-view on issues is a competency the OCC values in its leadership. Finding external assignment opportunities to help leaders develop a broader perspective has been one of the tactical goals of the team. Such opportunities could be outside of the agency or in another line of business or business unit. The team, senior leadership, and the LDAB created a process for collecting and promoting external assignment opportunities. The process includes a live catalog of opportunities that are mapped to key competencies for strengthening strategic thinking and developing external awareness in OCC leaders. The team will continue to work on this goal over the next year.

Leading initiative Executive Sponsor:
Marty Pfinsgraff

Team members: Pat Pointer (Team Leader), Toney Bland, David Nebhut, Karen Solomon

Frameworks are built, journeys mapped out, and a vision is in place to propel the OCC into an agency where leadership development and a robust pipeline of future leaders at all levels is part of its DNA and a hallmark of its reputation.

Last Updated: 07/24/2015