Dr. Harvey Davis on the Value of Teaching, Hiring and Developing Talent

10 mins read

ExecutiveGov: What are you passionate about and how are you able to employ those passions in the workplace?

Dr. Harvey Davis: What I’m really passionate about is that I really feel good when people around me succeed. I’m not big on taking credit. I want credit for the organization. I mentor quite a few students and employees and I’m going down to University of Maryland next week to talk to classes there.

I’ve been around the country to talk to classes. I am open to a lot of the young people that have come to work here. I mentor them. I try and push them to their limits to do things that they never thought they were capable of doing. And every one ‑‑ every time that they succeed, I go home feeling satisfied. I’ve brought people that other people said could never succeed in other parts of the agency, and I brought them here, and they’ve become superstars. I like to challenge people and have realized that if I put them in an uncomfortable environment, they’ll rise to the expectation and achieve amazing things.

This uncomfortable environment forces them to work on their strengths while also encourages them to work with a diverse set of people. Interpersonal skills, at the end of the day, is what business is all about. If you can’t communicate with others, you won’t get far in business. I weave people throughout the organization, place them in these situations, where they have to develop this skill. Ultimately, they are better off for it as is the organization. It’s a life skill.


ExecutiveGov: How important is a strong sense of self‑awareness to being able to be successful in the workplace?

Dr. Harvey Davis: I think a strong sense of realistic self‑awareness is critical. And what I tell the people who work with me is every decision that we make in life has a consequence. There are people that are striving and working around the clock and want to be leaders and they sacrifice other pieces of their life.

There are people that want to balance differently, and that works too. My response to most everybody is you have to give 100 percent to what you focus on. And then you’ve got to recognize that not everybody brings the same thing to the table. If you expect exactly the same from everybody, we’ll all be disappointed. What we need to do is, we need to expect the best out of people, within the context of their capabilities, and use their strengths to drive them forward, rather than beat them on their weaknesses.


ExecutiveGov: I understand that one of your passions is recruiting people with disabilities. Can you share a little bit about that?

Dr. Harvey Davis: One of the things that I have been very, very involved in over the years is hiring people with disabilities. You might not know that people with disabilities, over the years, has been very, very underrepresented in the employment population. One of the things that make people valued is that they can care for themselves and achieve employment.

I’m not looking at people to do something charitable. What I’m looking to do is to create a match between people with disabilities who have a skill set and our required skill set. Over the past few years, I have hired countless numbers of hearing‑impaired engineers and they’re performing very, very well. I have paraplegics working for me. I have people who have various different disabilities.

And these people come with the attitude. They want to work. They want to work hard. They’re grateful that somebody gave them the chance. And we’re not giving anybody anything that they wouldn’t have earned otherwise, other than the opportunity. One of the interesting discussions that I had about a year ago is, I had one employee who was on a probation period. He was a hearing‑impaired engineer. And we moved him to two or three jobs, and he still was not performing.

As I’m an advocate for disability hiring, the people who work for me, they were kind of worried. They came and said, ‘he’s not performing, what should we do with him?’ I said, ‘well, we should fire him.’ I said, ‘would you fire somebody without a disability?’ He said, ‘yes.’ Okay. I said, ‘so go ahead and fire him, and take him through the process,’ which is what we did.

And I actually told this story down at the AAPD, the Association for People with Disabilities, and they said, ‘yes, that’s exactly what we want, to be treated the same, to be hired and fired.’ And I have not had any difficulty with any of the accommodations, anything that had to be made for our disabled employees. And it’s throughout our agency. In fact, in 2011 we were recognized with an award for disability hiring.

Note: Dr. Davis addressed the 2011 Disability Mentoring Day National Launch at Malcolm X College on the importance of disability hiring.

Click here to read some of his remarks and here to learn more about NSA’s 2010 recognition at the Defense Department’s 30th annual Disability Awards Ceremony.


ExecutiveGov: What additional value have you gotten from your role of teaching?

Dr. Harvey Davis: I teach leadership, business communications and basic management at Anne Arundel Community College. I enjoy the evenings, because I teach people in mid‑career who bring real‑life, real‑world problems to the table that we tend to work through.

The course that I enjoy teaching the most is business communications. One of the problems that I find, both inside the government and outside the government, is the ability to communicate succinctly and to the point. I find that especially prevalent in young students that come out that only know how to speak texting on their iPhone. And they actually lose the concept that a sentence should have a noun and a verb. And so they just don’t know how to communicate.

I think face‑to‑face communications and negotiations are the essence of any ultimate success. Those skills are sorely lacking. So, I take real‑world business practices to the classroom and I take classroom techniques and I try and practice them in the real‑world business to make sure and test them out.

So, I have a foot in both sides. I think teaching helps me focus more on understanding how people work within the organization and the work helps me provide examples to teach.


ExecutiveGov: Who’s your typical student?

Dr. Harvey Davis: My typical student is probably in their late 20s, early 30s, has been working for five-to-ten years and is trying to get ahead in their job. They’ve reached a brick wall where they can’t go forward without a degree. And they come back at night, and they’re focusing in order to move forward. Most of them are in business management and those degree curricula.

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1 Comment

  1. This interview was well worth the time it took to read; great subject, great job.

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