The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced April 15, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually May 27.
Next is Chief Operating Officer Award finalist Michael Dallara, who’s COO at Evoke Consulting, LLC. Here, he talks proud career moments, career advice, shaping the next generation of leaders and more.
What has made you successful in your current role?
Simply put: a positive attitude and diligent work ethic instilled by my parents, and enhanced by mentors, which ultimately led me to diverse career experiences at both large and small companies.
As COO, I rely on the breadth of those experiences to make strategic decisions and provide operational direction across the functions of our organization. At Evoke, I have focused on incremental continuous improvement to advance the agility and scale of our organization, and our clients are benefiting from our increased efficiencies.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
Over the past 15 months, Evoke demonstrated tremendous resiliency as a small business to our clients, colleagues and community. Customer satisfaction and recompete win rates were at all-time highs and we enhanced our operational effectiveness with additional quality certifications.
We launched innovative virtual employee engagement initiatives each quarter to better support our dispersed team. Concurrently, our Evokers also provided support to multiple organizations that helped others experiencing difficult times.
I am very proud of our Evokers for staying focused and finding new ways to make a difference for our constituencies.
How do you help shape the next generation of industry leaders?
You must explain the “why” and find a balance between allowing someone to struggle through challenges while still helping them across the finish line, even if the task is accomplished differently than how you would have wanted it performed. At the outset, I ensure my team understands both their individual expectations and how those contributions impact various strategic objectives.
It is critical they learn to anticipate the unintended consequences of their decisions and understand I won’t make every decision for the team. As obstacles arise, I ask questions to provoke independent thinking toward a positive outcome rather than giving them the quick answer.
This process, while an investment of time, ultimately helps differentiate next-generation leaders from the rest by influencing the way they think, evaluate alternative courses of action and make independent decisions more soundly.
Looking back at your career, what are you most proud of?
The most rewarding aspect of my professional life has been helping advance the careers of others, as my mentors have done for me. Early in my career, as a part of winning proposal teams, I knew I was helping to create future opportunities for my colleagues, which by itself, was gratifying. Then, in my various leadership roles, I have more directly invested in the development of colleagues as they transition to their next level of leadership.
Sometimes, it begins organically as an individual expresses interest in an informal mentorship relationship. Other times, I will work shoulder to shoulder with an individual through particularly hard challenges explaining both the “why” and the “how” along the way to develop their personal abilities.
The relationships formed during these journeys create life-long bonds, and the joy from seeing someone earn career advancement and realize the benefits of reaching their goals intrinsically provides tremendous personal satisfaction.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Find a way to be part of growth. Proposals are the lifeblood of the federal industry, and they are great for character and skills development. Proposals stretch your comfort zone through exposure to new people, processes, technologies and styles. I have participated in and led proposals since the first week of my career. Every one of them has added something to my repertoire and I still utilize knowledge and techniques I learned over 20 years ago to excel in my job today.
The experience itself notwithstanding, winning is outright sublime, and many of my career advancements followed quickly on the heels of being part of a winning proposal team.