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Just When We Thought It Could Never Happen

A great deal of my work is with political and government leaders and their executive committees.  Over the past two years at least, the intense environment, high levels of stress and numbers of executives burning out has at least doubled.  Many of these clients are doing double and triple duty as they lack the staff to implement the ever growing priorities of the government.  There is little in the way of succession planning which is a whole other concer

A great deal of my work is with political and government leaders and their executive committees.  Over the past two years at least, the intense environment, high levels of stress and numbers of executives burning out has at least doubled.  Many of these clients are doing double and triple duty as they lack the staff to implement the ever growing priorities of the government.  There is little in the way of succession planning which is a whole other concern and one that spans the public and private sectors, but that’s a whole other conversation.  Just when we thought things would never change, one of the Canadian government leaders decided not only to do something about it but to verbalize it, make it a department priority and to look at other ways forward to bring some kind of balance back into his department’s world.  

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As an Executive Leadership Coach I can tell you that showing your staff you value them as human beings and not just the work they can generate goes a long way in attracting new talent, keeping present staff engaged and loyal to the organization.  I commend Deputy Minister Fadden for this move and hope his peers adopt and promote this for their departments as well.  With his permission I would like to share his memo with you as it’s a starting point, one that many might want to adopt for their organizations. 

 

Subject:  Supporting an Enabling Organization

In the last 18 months as Deputy Minister, I have been struck by the professionalism and dedication of CIC employees, and their desire to serve clients well.  I also realize that senior managers have a responsibility to model healthy leadership practices in order to support you so that we can collectively deliver on the important mandate of the Department.  Therefore, I challenged the Executive Committee to come up with ideas and practices that support work/life quality as a means of ensuring that CIC is, and is seen to be, a leader in this area.

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Work/life quality is the creation of a healthy, supportive work environment that helps us better manage our work and personal responsibilities.  Work/life quality is a priority for me and this organization because achieving it benefits us both as individuals and as a department.  When we can “balance” our work and personal responsibilities, we, as a team, stand to not only serve and perform more effectively, but also to attract and keep employees to help us build a stronger Canada.

In order to help achieve work/life quality here at CIC, I would ask you to implement and respect the following measures:

  • Blackberry blackout between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. and on weekends and holidays;
  • Meetings should not be held during the lunch hour;
  • Blackberries should not be used during meetings;
  • Meetings should start and finish on time as a means of managing workloads.

I expect that some of you will consider the above a bit artificial.  They may be a little, but I believe we have to start somewhere and since reducing the quantity of work is unlikely to yield short-term results, we are “attacking” some of the stresses around work.  I entirely understand that there will be times when implementing the above will not be possible, but I would ask everyone in the Department to do their utmost to respect the above new “operating rules”.  I would especially ask those in supervisory roles – at whatever level – to assist in their implementation.

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In the coming months, you will be actively engaged, and asked to consider how you can better achieve work/life quality and what innovative ideas you can contribute.  For example, at the upcoming Middle Managers Conference in February, there will be several workshops on work/life quality, and I am hopeful that practical ideas will be suggested that can be adopted to create a department that models healthy organizational behaviours.

This is not a simple challenge, but one that we all need to pursue together to create a truly exemplary organization.

Richard B. Fadden

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Deputy Minister

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About the author

Donna Karlin CEC, Diplomate IABMCP and founder and principal of A Better Perspective® & The School of Shadow Coaching, has pioneered the specialized practice of Shadow Coaching® with global political, government, business and senior organizational leaders in the public and private sectors. Donna capitalizes on almost 30 years of experience in coaching, consulting and training to help clients and their organizations evolve into their level of excellence

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