This past week I ran a half day workshop for the Conference Board on Building a High Performance Climate and Culture in the Public Service. Over the two day conference, people in the highest levels of government spoke about leadership, talent management and performance measures and to me, the common thread in their messages was ‘engagement’. I work in the public and private sectors. One of my roles is bringing some of the private sector business practices into the public sector and no, I don’t do it the other way around as it’s not applicable.
When I looked at the definition of being engaged in the dictionary, what came up was “to attract and hold fast: Engaging attention and interest.” In an organizational environment, I look at engagement as ‘the translaation of organizational goals into personal goals.‘ When one joins and aligns with the other, you have true engagement; staff is inspired to do their best because it’s now personal and not someone else’s goals that might take precedence over theirs.
The thing is, how do organizational leaders do that? Part of it, (from a coaching perspective) is languaging. How do you, as a leader, articulate what those organizational goals are that attracts interest, buy in and, yes, engagement?
At the conference I asked departmental HR leaders to come up with an elevator speech to engage organizational leaders into supporting their action plan in transformation. I wanted them to come up with two to three sentences which would engage leadership to supporting and partnering with human resource leads to make this transformation a reality. They couldn’t do it. They are so used to being HR ‘police’, having to do the mechanics of staffing, that they were looked at as messengers of doom, always stating the “what can’t happen” rather than why it can happen and quickly.
So I helped them out a bit and showed them the languaging that would attract interest and buy in. As coaches are so good at asking questions, I turned their elevator speeches into questions rather than statements that started off with “What would it look like if we could get the right talent in the right positions, quickly and effectively, work with these talented individuals to accelerate their learning and leadership so they not only evolve into leadership positions (in a climate where succession planning is a huge issue) and retain them?” then continuing with “…and here are three steps we can put in place to make that happen. Will you support me in this?”
They all started frantically scribbling in their notebooks to come up with the perfect wording for their organization so they could jump in with both feet as soon as they got back to work. My goal had been reached. My role was to show them what they hadn’t thought of, what they weren’t currently doing as let’s face it…if you keep on doing what you’d already done and it doesn’t work, why keep doing it?
In many organizations, especially the public service, people in similar areas of expertise do not tap into the powerful resource available to them in sharing best practices across the board, across departments. They think from within. In a public service of 250,000 – 500,000(depending on the stats one uses and whether or not the military and government agencies are taken into consideration) how powerful would it be if an open source concept of collaboration, engagement and learning was put into place? Again this question applies to public and private sector organizations. How often are best business practices shared in health care, technology etc? I’m not talking about giving away state secrets; I am talking about problem solving in the mechanics and systemic problems of a sector or industry and sharing experienced views and knowledge that would help remove roadblocks and evolve everyone involved.
We often think we’re alone in our worlds and are up against a wall, but what aren’t you thinking of that would make that perception a myth?