Hello PPMA Members and friends,
Yesterday I had the privilege of hearing presentations from 5 managers at Norfolk County Council, each with an inspiring story to tell about innovation. Each was impressive. To give you a flavour, one was about the use of a lottery grant to support community development through our library service, supporting people in one community in Great Yarmouth to make decisions that help them in their daily lives and to cope with change. Just one outcome from a wide ranging piece of work involving many local partnerships was to improve numeracy, literacy and IT skills in the community, with over 1500 people so far reporting increased skills and confidence.
This got me thinking about leadership and the demands that are now made of leaders in the public sector. Here are just a few:
· Working across boundaries/partnership working
· Leading and embedding change
· Working effectively with ambiguity
· Leading beyond their authority
· Matrix working
Quite a list! So how hard are we all thinking about leadership in the modern workplace and in the context of the profound changes facing the public sector? How clearly do we understand the shift that is taking place? Are we good enough at selecting and developing leadership? And do we audit for leadership behaviour and skills?
Once we have an understanding about requirements, we then need to know about how to change behaviour. To effectively change and influence management behaviour we need to think about the whole system.
Leadership development programmes are all very well, but too often we see managers giving good feedback about a about these then forgetting most of it as they get sucked back into the demands of their role.
These days we need to be much more targeted. Here’s an example. In my own organisation we pay a lot of attention to employee engagement, but we recognised that we need to do more in order to support leading and embedding change. So we have introduced an organisation wide regular dialogue, “core conversation”, about topics relating to change and new ways of working. Alongside this we have:
· Set out explicit expectations of our managers about “core conversation “and our wider engagement framework
· Recognised potential skills and confidence gaps for our managers
· Provided support for managers via master class sessions
· Continued support through coaching
· Set up monitoring through employee feedback
· Built these expectations into performance appraisal of managers
This approach of defining the mangers role, setting clear expectations and providing practical support is getting the thumbs up from our mangers. They are clear what is expected of them, the master class sessions provide expert input and enable them to share ideas and concerns with each other. The “core conversation” itself provides a starting point for more ongoing dialogue and helps us pay attention to our employee voice.
Leadership in the public sector has never been more under the spotlight, never been more demanding, and never been more subject to criticism. It needs our close attention!