Time to Expect More

Not all, but many in the public service have forgotten the larger mission, have become demoralized, and have adopted a behaviour of mediocrity.

How could they not? 

Politicians are stuck in ideological dogma. Leadership is based on polling, not principles. Open discussion and debate has been replaced by social media rants. Organizational strategy is developed among only the chosen few. The average front line employee is six levels removed from the decision-making table. Risk-taking has been abandoned because of the fear of making a mistake. Career advancement comes through internal politics and lateral moves. Unions have considered innovation to be a threat to membership. Professional development is rudimentary, underfunded and ineffective. And no coaching is provided to uplift and challenge the next generation of leaders.

No wonder high-performance isn’t talked about within the public service. No wonder employees are lulled into complacency. And no wonder we don’t talk about leadership in the public service.

Given we have over 5.6 million people employed in the high-purpose calling of the public service, over 30% of the employed population, this culture of complacency and mediocrity needs to be identified as a tragedy of the human spirit across our country.

  • As public service employees, we should demand so much more;
  • As public service leaders, we are capable of so much more; and
  • As citizens and taxpayers, we must expect so much more.

As a nation, we need a fundamental change of perspective and attitude in what we expect from our public service organizations. We need to embrace a new philosophy of leadership for our institutions. We have big topics to tackle, like how to educate our children, care for the elderly, house the homeless, treat our environment, strengthen our economy, narrow the income gap, reduce our debt levels, and so many others.

These topics are not new, but they are not being solved. We continually try to solve these complex issues by approaching them as the same situation with the same mindset and with the same leadership philosophy as before.

And it isn’t working.

We now need a new generation of leaders to step up and change the out-dated ways in which we operate our public service institutions. We need to unleash the talent within that wants to make a difference, wants to solve problems, and wants to change the world. We need to challenge the performance of our bureaucracies, and realize that our current approach is only self-perpetuating a culture of non-performance.

We deserve so much better.  No more excuses.  It is time to expect more.

Calling All Leaders!!

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Our system is broken, and we know it’s broken. Our public service – those bureaucracies, institutions, universities and healthcare systems – who once gave our country a massive advantage over others, are fast becoming the Achilles heel of our competitiveness.

We are not getting major projects approved. We are not reducing wait times for surgeries. We are not improving our education rankings. We are not helping the middle class. We are not improving workplace productivity. We are not attracting the smartest people to public service. And we are not building the next generation of public service leaders.

In fact, we are getting worse.

An intervention is needed. And I’m resurrecting this blog to start the conversation.

The root cause of the problem is that we have become complacent about our expectations of these institutions, our bureaucratic leaders are leading with antiquated management philosophies, and the good people that work in the public service are surrendering to a system that perpetuates and rewards mediocrity.

Most have given up on the topic, shake their heads and say that things will never change.

I disagree. It will change. Slowly. It may only change one ministry, institution or agency at a time, but it will change for three reasons:

  • The next generation of public service leaders – Gen Xs and Millennials – are far too altruistic, connected and impatient to settle for continued non-performance;
  • The next generation of public service employees – Millennials and Gen Zs – will not tolerate antediluvian leadership models, will not suffer in uninspiring work environments, and will not accept the eventual erosion of their aspirational goals and their human spirit; and
  • The next generation of the general public – the private sector and private citizens – can no longer afford the cost of government and will no longer sit quietly and politely when they see poor performance in exchange for their tax dollars.

Change requires leadership, and it is time for a new generation of leaders to be properly armed with the strategies and courage needed to make change in our public service.

I look forward to the discussion ahead.  I promise to be provocative, as it is too important of a topic to be left not discussed.

Talk to the Customer

When sales were down and anxiety was rising, my ol’ boss George Goeders at Procter & Gamble used to say to me, “You can’t solve it by sitting in here, get out there and go talk to the customer.”

Words to remember. Thank you, George.

That is why this past week was so refreshing. During continued decline of the stock market and energy prices, our two Edmonton Liberal MPs, Randy Boissonnault and Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, were busy out talking with customers – the right thing to do.

Eight roundtables held at the Shaw Conference Centre plus three others exposed the ideas and concerns of business owners, union employees, entrepreneurs, youth, academia, local government and local families. The MPs came well prepared, the attendees came well prepared, and the dialogue was rich, focused and on point for today’s realities.

And these weren’t the “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” kinda consultations. These were well prepared, well facilitated, well organized engagement sessions where there was an openness to new ideas and an understanding that no one knows all the answers.

What was interesting was that although our MPs desperately want to help and roll out some magical program that solves everyone’s economic problems, there was a greater understanding that the real role of government is really to create the environment where entrepreneurship and investment can best flourish.

Keeping taxes low, eliminating unnecessary regulation, opening new markets, promoting the Canadian brand, reducing the size of government and hiring entrepreneurial thinking people into the public service all create that environment where people want to invest and take risks … things that consistently employ people and create wealth.

It is a powerful motivator when government leaders are promoters of economic growth and prosperity, and powerfully concerning when they sit behind closed doors alone trying to figure out how to squeeze more tax from the system.

Getting out and taking to customers always results in better solutions.

Thank you, Randy and Amarjeet for kicking off your leadership with the right approach.

Why Are We Waiting?

There’s a nervousness growing on the streets and in the conversations happening in our coffee shops across Alberta. There is concern and angst among people who are typically risk-takers, adventurers and entrepreneurs.

And it’s becoming infectious. And it’s becoming concerning.

Alberta has a long history of an unusual economy – filled with highs and lows, droughts and floods, journeys and discoveries. It’s been a land of opportunity between periods of hardship, and our culture of camaraderie and cooperation has prevailed when times were most tough. And we’ve always fought through it, together.

Optimism is a key virtue of living here, as is hard work. There is no room for entitlement, and pointing fingers and complaining leaves you sitting very alone. If something needs fixing, we fix it. If something needs doing, we do it. And if someone needs help, we help them. It’s pretty simple.

So why has developing a budget and a policy framework become so difficult?

In today’s world of economic uncertainty, our individuals, families, businesses, farmers and non-profits all need some help, some guidance, some direction in terms of what they can expect … such that they can plan and make decisions that positively affect their future.

Instead, we’re playing politics and waiting for a federal election before taking care of our own?

That’s certainly not the culture that’s made us successful. That’s certainly not how we build our province. And that’s certainly not any form of leadership.

People expect more. And when you can taste fear hovering in the air … people need action.

Let’s see some leadership and some action … please.

PC Candidate: Rumour or Truth

If the rumours are true, this will be an exciting week ahead.

If rumours are true, then Chris Labossiere (@chrislabossiere) will be declaring his intention to run as the Edmonton-Rutherford candidate for the Alberta PC Party in the next provincial election, and this is great news for Edmonton.

Consistently inspired by public service, Chris has been a force for change in our province over the past decade, and has been an inter-generational, selfless leader for a hard-working, responsible and tolerant Alberta.

Over my past two years at EEDC, no one has come to me with more ideas, no one has been more willing to roll up their sleeves, and no has been more willing to challenge the status quo as Chris Labossiere.

If this is the caliber of candidate that Jim Prentice and the PCAA team is attracting to lead this province in the future, then I’m looking forward to what is to come.

I do not live in Edmonton-Rutherford and cannot cast a vote for Chris or anyone else running to make the necessary changes that are needed. But I encourage all Edmontonians to take the time to get to know him, as he will likely be a major player in the years ahead … and his heart and soul is firmly rooted in our fabulous city which will benefit profoundly from his service.

This is one rumour I hope is true.