Category: Service

Public Servant Resolutions for 2015

I first published a set of possible public servant resolutions in 2011. Heading into 2015, these resolutions are as relevant today as they were in 2011. I have tweaked them and added a few new ones.

As you read through this collection of possible resolutions, it is not about taking on board everything but rather, finding the few that resonate with you. I hope you have a fantastic 2015.

Possible public servant resolutions for 2015

  1. Participate. Get involved. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Share your ideas; help develop the ideas of your colleagues. No matter what you do, make a contribution. You can get a lot of satisfaction from developing and implementing ideas to improve the way you work, the way we deliver services to the community, whether the ideas are your own or that of a colleague.
  2. Respect*. The pace and complexity of the modern public service means we are all busy and under pressure. Be mindful of others and resolve to treat each other well. Listen to your colleagues and try to engage in a conversation instead of a competition. Accept constructive criticism with grace. Be grateful and thank your colleagues for their contributions.
  3. Solutions focused*. The public service is charged with delivering a complex range of services, policies, and projects. To meet these challenges we need to be solution focused, to be constructive, and brave. We need to offer sound, informed advice. We need to implement policy and deliver services effectively. We need to create and embrace new ideas. The public service environment can be highly risk adverse. It is all to easy to pull-apart an idea for its potential faults and that is a useful skill, but it can be counter-productive if it occurs before an idea has been fully tested for its potential. Let the idea run first, before letting the ‘black-hats’ de-construct it. It’s only then that the strengths get a full airing, before the weaknesses emerge.
  4. Grow. Continuing to learn and grow your capacity can enhance your contribution as a public servant. Whether it is learning new ways to create policy or engage with the community or new skills such as project management, learning helps you improve your capacity as a public servant. Improving your capacity means you may be given other opportunities. Think about how you want to contribute as a public servant and what you need to learn to position yourself to give you the best chance of getting that opportunity. Remember, it may be that the best way to grow is to take up an opportunity to work in another part the public service.
  5. Balance*. To give your best, to grow and to innovate requires time. Most of us are so busy just getting through our day to day tasks that it is very easy for us all to focus our time on just what is in front of us, on the work we are doing right now. This focus can mean that we are not giving enough attention to the bigger picture or connecting with people in our divisions, agencies, across government or in our communities (for more on this check out the Take 10 Challenge). Getting our balance right and having the courage to delegate to someone who wants to have a go can help you get a better balance. Remember that giving someone else the opportunity to grow and develop while being challenged with a new role or task is possibly the best opportunity for them to develop and grow (Resolution #4). And by helping them take on the new challenge, you will inevitably grow and develop too. Everybody wins!
  6. Do the right things*. Where to you spend your time? Every job involves a multitude of tasks, some with obvious value and some a lot more questionable. Find the time to ask whether the bottom 5% of those tasks really are necessary. Can they be stopped to free up resources. If they are outside your control, is there an effective alternative you can suggest? The key to spending your time on broader issues and objectives, to spending your time on the right things, is to consistently free up time and resources (for more on this check out the 100:0:0 challenge).
  7. Embrace technology*. The world is changing fast. Services are changing rapidly and the expectations of the public are growing. The delivery of public services needs to keep pace — technology is driving the future of public service delivery. Don’t resist it, embrace it, play with it and actively work to make sure it improves service delivery. It’s not about technology for technology’s sake, but about improved service delivery — services people want, when they want them, and how they want to access or receive them.
  8. Live your public service values. Your Department, and possibly your public service, has gone to a lot of trouble to identify values that support the objectives of the Department. Do you know what they are? Do you live them? Resolve to live the values of your Department. If you have an issue with the current set of values, then talk to others about your ideas and make sure you get involved in any planning process.
  9. Collaborate. There is a lot of talk about collaborating with other parts of your Department, with other Departments, with NGOs and the private sector. Are you collaborating? We produce better work and can achieve better outcomes when we leverage the knowledge and support of our colleagues. Who can help you improve your work? What information do you need and who has it? What information do you have that you can share with colleagues in your Department of even another Department? How can you work with another Department to better your own and their objectives? Take an interest in what other Departments are doing and I guarantee you will find ways where you can collaborate to deliver better outcomes. Equally important, share what you are doing with your colleagues and you will find they are able to give you new insights and ideas to improve the work you are doing.
  10. Support, Mentor and Guide*. Take a look around your division or Department. How can you support or assist a colleague in their job? What can you do to help give a colleagues what they need to excel at their work? Resolve to work with your colleagues, to help your colleagues become better at what they do. Identify a younger colleagues who shows promise and take an interest in what they are working on and what advice or past learning might assist them grow in their role.
  11. Serve*. Think about this idea of service. No seriously, think about it. You are a public servant. There is no greater work to be done than the work in service to your community. So take pride in the opportunity you have to serve. Respect individuals and the community. As you go about your work, think of the greater good and the interests of your community. Make a commitment to be a better servant of the people, a better public servant.

* Updated or new.

I encourage you to share any resolutions you have made about your role as a public servant.

Thanks to Alastair, Janet, Terri, Jeff, and Dave for reading drafts of this article.

regards, Jason
A public servant since 28 June 1999.

A gift of service: lend a hand where it is needed

Given the response in 2011, ‘A Give of Service’ is back.  As we approach Christmas there are many community organisations that need help in delivering their services.

We would like to encourage you to give a gift of service this Christmas and volunteer at least 4 hours of your time before Christmas to lend a hand where it is needed.

It is our wish that by sharing with you the jobs, activities and tasks that community organisations have identified they need help with, that we make the choice of giving a gift of service a little easier to make.

You can do more than just send a seasons greeting or a merry Christmas.  You can do something meaningful, something that will make somebody’s day.  For more information about the ‘A Gift of Service’ challenge, read this post from last year.

Through Volunteers SA/NT we have identified jobs, activities and tasks accessible and you can find them here.

The volunteering has already started, including a few members of the NT Department of the Chief Minister and the NT Department of the Attorney-General and Justice,  joining with some Rotarians to help wrap presents for the Salvation Army’s Flying Padre (pictures below).

We also want to give a special thank you to John McNeur (Volunteers SA/NT) and Anne Coleman (NT Department of the Chief Minister) for their support of the ‘A Gift of Service’ initiative.

If you want to know where help is needed click here.  If you are part of an NGO that needs help, then email me.

Please feel free to email or post a comment and share what you did for your 4 hours.

 

 

A Gift of Service: Just 4 hours

Christmas Cards. Most of us this time of year are either sending or receiving them or both.  They come and go in different forms, from the traditional card to more modern mediums like email.  But not all emails are equal as many are a conduit to an online Christmas message with animation and sound – I have already received some of these.

I have been active in the Christmas Card, or rather the Christmas Message, space for a few years.  Since 2005 I have been encouraging my colleauges to be creative with our seasons greeting.  Some examples have resulted in videos such as these: 20052006 and 2009.  Other years we have created eCards.

This year I want to do something different, I want to do more than just send a seasons greeting or a merry Christmas.  I want to encourage people, you, to do something, to act.

One morning after talking with my walking partner, Alastair, about the idea of encouraging people to act and then again that same morning over breakfast with my wife, Caryn, the beginnings of “A Gift of Service” started to take shape.

The idea is simple: Give the gift of service this Christmas.  Specifically, undertake 4 hours of volunteer work before 25 December 2011.

I took the “a gift of service”, or AGOS, idea to a colleague, Janet, and we developed a simple action plan:

  1. Contact NGOs and ask them what jobs, activities or tasks they need done as we approach Christmas and the New Year.
  2. Share these jobs, activities or tasks with our colleagues in our Department and with others, depending on the response from NGOs.

The thought is that by identifying actual jobs, activities or tasks that need doing we can make it easy for people to find something they feel comfortable volunteering to do. And so we did it.  We contacted NGOs and shared the jobs, activities and tasks they sent in.  We have only just started AGOS, but we already have the first reported AGOS assisted activity: helping to wrap presents for the Salvation Army’s Flying Padre & Outback Services (Gifts for remote communities & Stations).

Volunteer Gift Wrappers

For people that like numbers. The table below shows that 4 hours of volunteer work by 100 people is equivalent to one person working for 50 days.  It only takes 730 people doing 4 hours of volunteer work to be equivalent to one person working for an entire year.

People 100 730
Volunteer hours 4 4
Total Hours 400 2920
Total Days (8 hour day) 50 365

 

So, as we approach Christmas and the new year, I challenge you to undertake 4 hours of volunteering in your community.  If you want to know where help is needed or you are part of an NGO that needs help, then email me.  Please feel free to email or post a comment and share what you did for your 4 hours.

Note: For NGOs wishing to share what jobs, activities or taks they need doing, please provide the following details:

  • A description of the job, activity or task;
  • Whether there are any special skills required;
  • The estimated time for the job, activity or task;
  • Whether the job, activity or task requires an individual or group or both;
  • Any specific dates or times for the job, activity or task;
  • The location for the activity; and
  • A contact person (name, contact number and email).

What do you do for work?

How many conversations start with the simple question: What do you do for work?  You meet someone new and it’s an almost automatic response, a reflex.

It seems harmless enough but after reading a post by Scott Dinsmore I think we need to think not only about the value in asking that simple question but how we answer that question ourselves when asked.

As Scott puts it, opening a conversation with a new person by asking what they do for work says that you care more about their title and position than you do about them as a person.  It also says that you may not really be invested in this conversation and could not be bothered to think of something better to say.  Is that really what you are saying?  Scott offers an alternative approach, but I will let you read more about that.

What I want to talk about is how we, as public servants, answer the question about what we do for work.  Who were the last three new people you met and talked about your work with.  Now that you have them in your mind, consider these questions:

  • Do you think you made a good impression?
  • Do you think they understood what you do?
  • Did you leave them feeling positive that you were working to make our community better?
  • Did your passion and enthusiasm about your work shine through your conversation?
  • Did you show an interest in them?

It is so important that we as individual public servants are able to answer those questions, more often than not, with a YES.  It can seem daunting but everyone we meet is our customer or client. Remember, we are also “our” customers and clients. We consume public services, so how did the last public servant you met rate against these questions?

We work to make our community a better place. It is why we have a public service. I believe this should be the fundamental motivation at the core of every public servant. But to achieve this objective, we need our customers and clients, the public, to trust us.  How can you trust someone to make your community a better place if when you meet them, you are left thinking that they had no interest in you or your interests or they didn’t show any passion or enthusiasm for their work.  Simple, you can’t.

Here are some things to think about when you are answer the question about what you do for work:

  • Your job title is difficult for other public servants to understand, never mind anyone else in the community.  Humanise your job.  Find a way to explain what you do that actually means something to people.
  • What do you really enjoy about your job? Share it.  Of course you can’t share confidential information, but you can talk about your job in general terms.
  • People get frustrated with the public service, particularly when, from their perspective, they are not getting a good service.  You don’t have to agree with them.  You don’t have to trash talk the public service to be liked.  How we talk about each other and ourselves matters.  Instead, think empathy not sympathy.

So the challenge to you (and to me), as a public servant, is to find a way to share with the people you meet your passion and enthusiasm for the work you do.  Engage with them, take an interest and understand their perspective.  I am confident that a public service that takes an interest in and engages with the public it serves can’t help but create a positive impression and earn trust.

regards, Jason
A public servant since 28 June 1999.

What are the Brown M&Ms for the Public Service?

Dan Heath and Chip Heath have drawn inspiration from some interesting sources in their article “Business advice from Van Halen” published in Fast Company .  The story talks about early warning signs and eventually explains that Val Halen had a no brown M&Ms clause in their contract. In addition to requiring a bowl of M&Ms backstage, the contract contained Article 126 which read:

“There will be no brown M&Ms in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

This simple requirement buried deep in the contract, a contract spelling out detailed technical requirements, allowed Van Halen to quickly determine if the production crew had read the contract and whether or not a technical error was likely.

So what are the brown M&Ms for the public service?  Here are some ideas:

  • No thought of the citizen / the public in service delivery, policy development and implementation
  • Little or no focus on the future just dealing with immediate problems
  • Absence of alternative view points being presented in discussions
  • Lack of a bias for action, just lots of planning
  • No mistakes
  • People who use the sentence – ‘we can’t raise expectations’
  • Units with an over-representation of 50+ year old men
  • Strong hierarchies
  • People uncomfortable with even a little brainstorming, who divert conversations to frameworks, processes and resources
  • Units that never describe the ‘outcomes’ from their work.

But how do we get the same immediacy as Van Halen’s brown M&Ms?

Link: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/143/made-to-stick-the-telltale-brown-mampm.html

Resolutions for 2011

At the beginning of a new year many of us make resolutions: get fit; stop smoking; quit coke (and I will); lose weight (I am working on it); save more money; achieve goals; be more organised; and write a guest post for www.publicservicelive.com.

How many of your resolutions for 2011 relate to your role as a public servant?  Finance, health, relationships – these areas all get some attention. I encourage you to spare some thought for the kind of public servant you want to be.  I have set out below some ideas you might consider when thinking about your resolutions.

Possible public servant resolutions for 2011

1. Participate.  Get involved.  Don’t sit on the sidelines.  Share your ideas; help develop the ideas of your colleagues. No matter what you do, make a contribution.  You can get a lot of satisfaction from developing and implementing ideas to improve the way you work, the way we deliver services to the community, whether the ideas are your own or that of a colleague.

2. Grow. Continuing to learn and grow your capacity can enhance your contribution as a public servant. Whether it is learning new ways to create policy or engage with the community or new skills such as project management, learning helps you improve your capacity as a public servant.  Improving your capacity means you may be given other opportunities.  Think about how you want to contribute as a public servant and what you need to learn to position yourself to give you the best chance of getting that opportunity.  Remember, it may be that the best way to grow is to take up an opportunity to work in another part the public service.

3. Live your public service values.  Your Department, and possibly your public service, has gone to a lot of trouble to identify values that support the objectives of the Department.  Do you know what they are? Do you live them?  Resolve to live the values of your Department.  If you have an issue with the current set of values, then talk to others about your ideas and make sure you get involved in any planning process.

4. Collaborate.  There is a lot of talk about collaborating with other parts of your Department, with other Departments, with NGOs and the private sector.  Are you collaborating? We produce better work and can achieve better outcomes when we leverage the knowledge and support of our colleagues. Who can help you improve your work? What information do you need and who has it? What information do you have that you can share with colleagues in your Department of even another Department? How can you work with another Department to better your own and their objectives? Take an interest in what other Departments are doing and I guarantee you will find ways where you can collaborate to deliver better outcomes.  Equally important, share what you are doing with your colleagues and you will find they are able to give you new insights and ideas to improve the work you are doing.

5. Support. Take a look around your division or Department.  How can you support or assist a colleague in their job? What can you do to help give a colleague what they need to excel at their work?  Resolve to work with your colleagues, to help your colleagues become better at what they do.

6. Serve. Think about this idea of service.  No seriously, think about it.  You are a public servant. There is no greater work to be done than the work in service to your community.  So take pride in the opportunity you have to serve. As you go about your work, think of the greater good and the interests of your community.  Make a commitment to be a better servant of the people, a better public servant.

I encourage you to share any resolutions you have made about your role as a public servant.

regards, Jason
A public servant since 28 June 1999.

Meeting the needs of citizens and the community

I read a really interesting article on client service entitled “What happens when you really meet people’s needs” by Tony Schwartz on the Harvard Business Review blog. Takeaways for me:

  • employees understood the goal or what success looked like and could explain how their role/actions fits within that goal;

Do all public servants understand their role? How their actions contribute toward the priorities of their Division, Department or even the whole of government priorities?  Public servants are the instruments of implementation for government policy but it seems too often they don’t understand why they do what they are doing.

  • employees were trusted and given specific delegation to fix problems; and

Often is seems that the accountability of the public sector is paramount and delegations to fix things are set at to high a level.  The result? Poor client service and a front line with no delegation or ability to fix things that should just be fixed.

  • regular times to connect with each other and reconnect with the goal through examples.

Such a powerful and simple tool: taking time to reconnect with the goal and work through examples that team members have actually experienced provides a great opportunity to learn, to improve service delivery. The public service is all about serving the community and it should be leading the way in terms of what citizens expect from a government. regards, Jason A public servant since 28 June 1999.