Intrapreneurship in Action: An interview with Nick Frate

This month’s blog features Nick Frate, the Assistant Director of the National Recognition Program and National Test Services with the Canada Revenue Agency. He also sits as a reverse mentor on the Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Policy Innovation.

Nick Frate, the Assistant Director of the National Recognition Program and National Test Services with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Nick Frate, Assistant Director of the National Recognition Program and National Test Services with the Canada Revenue Agency.

Here is a snapshot of Nick’s accomplishments:

Nick started his professional career in the private sector, where he spent five years as a manager in a financial institution. His career in the public service began in 2007 with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). In 2010, he joined the Quebec Federal Council first as Coordinator of the Federal Youth Network of Quebec and Official Languages, and then as Regional Coordinator for the National Managers’ Community – Quebec Region.

Nick has a Bachelor’s degree from McGill University in Political Science and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Université du Québec à Montréal. He is also the recipient of the 2014 Public Service Award of Excellence – Youth Category. Nick speaks four languages: English, French, Italian and Spanish.

I asked Nick what “thinking and acting like an intrapreneur” in government looks like to him and this was his response…

In my previous role as National Chair of the Federal Youth Network (FYN) and my current leadership role in the CRA, I understand the importance of intrapreneurship. Fundamentally, it’s all about the essence of leadership related to these two components:

  1. Social leadership and its defining characteristics; and
  2. Social branding – how you appropriately brand yourself.

For me, social leadership is about 5 elements:

  1. Authentic leadership: This style of leadership is not authoritative in nature because it’s focused on tapping into the whole team’s expertise. The authentic leader understands each team member’s strengths and weaknesses and enables them to lead a file at the appropriate time. It’s all about empowerment.
  1. Meaningful communication: Being an effective communicator in today’s noisy world is critical. To be effective, you need to seek out ways to take advantage of all forms of communication. That way, you can ensure that feedback and information is relevant, timely, adds value and is accurate.
  1. High-level of emotional intelligence: Self-awareness often facilitates good leadership. It allows for real connections to happen and trust to be built between you and your team. It also enables you to be vulnerable, open and transparent, and more in tune with people’s emotions and personal boundaries. Being self-aware is a fundamental ingredient when trying to build respectful relationships.
  1. Ongoing recognition: Giving real-time recognition while making sure you adapt your praise and feedback to the needs of the person being recognized helps build trust and strengthen relationships. This is particularly important when something fails because it presents a great opportunity to help everyone quickly learn from errors and improve.
  1. Real visibility, both physical and virtual: Visibility is another critical element of social leadership and it ties nicely with my second component of intrapreneurship – social branding. Your team needs to see and be inspired by you as a thought-leader. Social branding allows you to build your social media profile to showcase yourself as an expert in a particular area and promote your ideas through visibility. This helps you build credibility and take on exciting leadership roles in your areas of expertise and passion. All you need is a picture and profile, alongside social media tools. My preferred tools are Twitter, LinkedIn and Periscope.

Here I mentioned to Nick that I often hear leaders in the public service talk about the need for us to take thoughtful risks, to not be so afraid to try and fail, but I rarely hear them tell stories about “how” they create safe space to try and fail. So, I asked Nick to share how he gives permission and encourages people to try and fail. This was his response…

First, you need to create the conditions and climate for trust. This is why emotional intelligence is so important. You can only encourage trust when you are open, transparent and vulnerable, and when there is continuous communication so people feel like they can confide in you. I share with my team the times that I make mistakes more often than my successes because they represent opportunities to learn and grow. I need to lead by example and say “it’s okay that I got this wrong.” You also need to welcome negative feedback to set the example for the team.

Here Nick explains the difference between social leadership and traditional leadership…

Social leadership and social branding are key ways to demonstrate your leadership ability and have an impact. Ultimately, they are about how to be a leader without a title because I firmly believe you don’t need a title to be a leader.

I asked Nick what percentage of his team embodies social branding and he responded…

I believe that about 60% are embracing the idea. Some team members report directly to me and others report to a manager. Of those who report directly to me, it is 100%. When it comes to promoting social branding within my team, I stress that it’s not about doing it for me – the value is for them. What I want people to understand is that they are their own leaders. When I’m going to them for help to solve a problem, I need their expertise. They are the knowledge holders and I empower them to provide solutions. Social media tools enable their expertise to shine and it gives people the opportunity to sell and promote their talents.

I believe social media tools give you the power to do three things:

  1. Promote yourself.
  2. Take ownership of your career and personal development.
  1. Act as an ambassador for your organization through showcasing your expertise and preferred knowledge area to colleagues across government.

Having an intrapreneurial mindset helps me better lead, manage and inspire my team because I’m always focused on trying to find out what other people think and know. I don’t see employees in my organization. I see colleagues, who are equals, regardless of the title they may have in the hierarchy.

I asked Nick to share an example of intrapreneurship and he told me about a reverse mentorship initiative he has been involved in for the past three years in the federal government that nicely demonstrates the principles of intrapreneurship in practice…

This is not a program per se, but the reverse mentorship model is an extremely innovative initiative that has wowed Canada’s counterparts in Australia and the United Kingdom. Both countries are impressed with our leadership and intrigued by the executive support for this commitment.

Nick share’s the story of how the reverse mentorship model came to be…

Our previous Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Wayne Wouters, created a new Deputy Ministers’ Committee to examine social media tools and develop government policy around usage given its rise in popularity. This was a closed Deputy Minister table where policy, programs and service delivery were discussed at the highest levels. The appointed Committee thought it would be interesting and would likely to lead to better input if they brought internal people to the table that had vast knowledge of social media tools. The Deputies were keen to learn about how these tools could be applied in the public service even though none of them were using the tools. Furthermore, they thought it would be valuable to seek out people who were non-executives to share their expertise and perspectives, as well as participate as reverse mentors. This had never been done before so it was cutting-edge thinking.

First, the reverse mentors were asked to coach Deputies on a new social media tool and demonstrate how it functioned. Then they were asked to highlight the benefits and explain where and how the tool could be used in a policy area. In the second year, the Deputies realized the many advantages of having these non-executives around the table to bring forward unique perspectives and ramped up participation.

Andrew Treusch, the head of CRA, was placed on the Committee during the second year. He started looking for a reverse mentor to support him and I was the fortunate candidate selected. One of my first responsibilities as Andrew’s reverse mentor was working to help coordinate efforts on a report back to the Committee on a concept known as “nudging”. The nudge concept comes from behavioural sciencepolitical theory and economics – it argues that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions to try to achieve non-forced compliance can influence the motives, incentives and decision-making of groups and individuals, at least as effectively – if not more effectively – than direct instruction, legislation, or enforcement. The Committee had a great interest in learning how the CRA was applying nudge economics to further its mandate. This was largely due to the Committee’s desire to develop a Playbook of Best Practices in the federal government and they were seeking input on different ways organizations were doing things to drive innovation and improve efficiency.

The role of this Committee continues to evolve. Now, in year three, it has officially become the Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Policy Innovation. Today, it’s known in government as the DMCPI – and the role of reverse mentorship has also increased to provide more than just coaching and teaching to Deputies on social media. The Committee invites ideas and input on other emerging policy initiatives and trends in government. This provides Deputies with great insight and adds to their ability to provide culturally relevant leadership. Currently, the Committee is looking into areas that don’t necessarily fit with any particular ministry or mandate. One area of focus is on the sharing economy.

A key factor driving success has been showcasing the value of the reverse mentorship model during the past three years. Promoting the benefits both the Deputies and the reverse mentors have experienced has led to the new Clerk, Janice Charette, supporting the model and showcasing it to her colleagues around the world. Many exciting opportunities lie ahead as we begin to connect the DMCPI to the new Government of Canada’s innovation hub.

I have shared an extreme example of mentorship – reverse mentorship – but this process of sharing expertise happens through any form of mentorship. I am a big supporter of providing a mentor connection site on the Government of Canada website to foster learning by exchanging knowledge across levels, functions and generations. Through these tools, we can help create a workplace that is more diverse and inclusive, and develop leaders by building on their strengths and showcasing their leadership skills. These networks are important for connecting gamechangers, intrapreneurs and social leaders.

Mentorship is always two ways – it benefits both parties. The Federal National Youth network advocated for the reverse mentorship model because of the relationship connection it facilitated between the junior and experienced employees. Enabling insights to flow both ways has led to great success.

Anyone from a junior analyst to middle management can be invited to participate in the DMCPI. Everyone is valued and treated like an equal. The role of the reverse mentor includes disseminating information so knowledge doesn’t stop with them and engaging colleagues across government to get involved in certain activities. These may include hosting seminars and workshops to collect feedback.

For any leader, I believe it is fundamental to have a reverse mentor. In these informal settings, you get to know people. It is worth your time and focus because you will get so much out of these relationships. As a leader, you just have to make the time. You, and your performance, will only be better.

I’m currently interested in working with colleagues from DMCPI and the CRA on the digital workplace and how it can be a tool that can facilitate real-time collaboration across government. These are areas of interest to the DMCPI – policy areas that are forward thinking. The items discussed are not yet under the purview of any department or ministry, and don’t yet fall under the responsibility of a Deputy Minister. That is what makes this an innovative model – its focus on thinking forward.

I asked Nick how many representatives sit on the Committee…

Nineteen reverse mentors sit on the DMCPI. What makes this role so special is your perspective matters. You don’t sit at the back of the table behind your Deputies. You sit at the table and you are frequently called upon to share your opinion. If you are interested in learning more or connecting in, they have a twitter account, which is @DMCPI.

I asked Nick to share the benefits he has experienced as a result of the DMCPI – and this is what he said…

I have learned a lot from this experience, but most importantly, I’ve gained a clear understanding of how the machine of government functions. I understand the importance of the institutional structure and how it relates to the foundational pillars of the public service. I have a much better understanding of the principles the public service has been built on.

I am stating this as a key lesson because, as much as I’m all about being a game-changer, I believe that being a guardian for all Canadians requires you to have a deep understanding of the pillars of the public service. Having this type of exposure to the complex challenges many Deputies are grappling with has allowed me to connect the dots and better understand the functions of government. I often find it hard to believe that I’m getting this opportunity to sit at the DMCPI table.

Being exposed to Deputies in this way has also “humanized” these leaders in my eyes. It has made them real, approachable, and easier to follow. When leaders seem far away it’s hard to connect with them, but when you are able to interact with them at a table like this, where you are colleagues, it’s amazing! It makes your dedication to your job, and to the organization, quite profound. I think it increases your engagement tremendously.

The last question I asked Nick was about an intriguing comment I heard from him in Ottawa at the Institute of Public Administration of Canada’s New Professional’s conference. He said “don’t talk to me about being overwhelmed and work/life balance, talk to me about life work integration.” I asked Nick to tell me more about that statement…

I don’t believe in life/work balance. You have one life. You are one person. You are who you are so you need to find personal balance when you are leading a team, especially the intergenerational teams we’re all a part of today. For me, I work all the time because I’m always thinking about challenges and solutions. We are human. I am one Nick and I come into work with my own world and concerns. When I need to do something on the personal front, I do it. I don’t feel guilty about it. By focusing on life/work integration, I think it allows you to better manage your needs. If you have something in the middle of the day, you address it, and get your work done at night. If you have a passion around a change effort, live it, and find a creative way to connect it to your work. This sometimes takes time and discipline but life/work integration is always possible. We are all adults and we know what we need to get done and how best to manage our life/career pressures.

I have never had a personal versus professional dilemma. For me, I portray I’m an expert in social media. I have learned that it’s important for me to not only showcase my professional side through social media, but also my human side. So I have shifted how I use Twitter. I stay focused on my professional interests, and also share more about who I am. I’m a dad. I love to cook and make homemade pasta – it allows me to connect with my creativity and my heritage. Showing who we are, more often, will help connect us.

And I believe everything is about connection.

Epilogue

These are the treasured examples of innovation I am on a quest to seek out. It’s why I write this blog – to showcase innovative practices and mind-sets in an effort to demystify what innovation looks like in government.

Innovation is not going to happen in isolated change labs or hubs. Often times, it doesn’t even come from innovation champions, conferences, public speakers or lean practices. Innovation comes from forward thinkers who create space for new dialogue. It also comes from creating the vehicles to harness the idle knowledge locked deep within our organizations.

Innovation stems from leaders like Clerk Wouters, who started the DMCPI. Innovation is driven by the Deputies on this Committee, who immediately saw the value of having reverse mentors and non-executives at their table – as equals. Finally, the conditions for innovation will only intensify given the leadership of Clerk Charette, who is now championing and expanding the mandate of the DMCPI.

This is a brilliant demonstration of public sector innovation and excellence. The public innovators who sit around this table set the leadership bar high. They illustrate the difference between leadership by position and leadership by action.

It begs the question – why don’t we have a Committee like this for each level of government across Canada given the great success of the reverse mentorship model?

I, like, many other public servants are struggling in the public service today to find genuine leadership and the space to bring new problem-solving strategies and policy ideas to the forefront. I continue to hear from executives that there are skills gaps. The only major skills gap I see is a leadership deficit. Leadership models such as the DMCPI stand as a beacon of hope for public innovators who want to showcase their skills in a different way.

And what I really appreciate about Nick’s social branding vision – is it’s a development opportunity that puts YOU in the driver’s seat of showcasing YOUR unique expertise. You don’t need to sit at the DMCPI table to do this; you just need to believe in your talents and be willing to share them with the world.


Colleen McCormickColleen McCormick is Director of Strategic Issues with the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training and former Director, Innovative Partnerships where she managed the social innovation file in the Ministry of Social Development. Colleen is also the founder of Social Innovators Network Foundation. Previously, she was a TEDxMileZero organizer and National Chair of the New Professionals for the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. She has an MBA from RRU and a Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation from the University of Waterloo. You can contact her on Twitter @SInnovatorsNet.

Peer-2-Peer Knowledge Network for Public Innovators: Learning and Development Crowd-Resourcing Program Proposal

In this month’s blog, I would like to test out an idea. I have been toying with this idea for some time now. As I share it around, some people seem to think it is interesting albeit disruptive, and others get excited about its potential. Today, I would like to make a pitch to you in the CGE community to ask for help in thinking this idea through with me.

The idea centres around introducing a new self-directed learning and development model for the public service based on knowledge sharing, and learning and development core principles. It is a model that is creatively driven by the individual yet sponsored by a network of peer supporters who wish to help each other access unique learning and development opportunities that may not otherwise be possible. If implemented well, this new model could reinvent how professional development happens in the public service.

What really excites me about this idea is it allows for purposeful collective action, where professional development is put in our own hands to access learning opportunities that our communities believe are important for today’s public service.

According to Deloitte’s 2015 Global Human Capital Trends report, Culture and Engagement was rated the most important issue facing organizations today. Furthermore, Learning and Development was identified as the third most important challenge.

The idea I’m about to propose is a response to these on-going work force issues. (It’s only a starting point and I invite you to participate in helping to think it through further.)
Here goes…

THE INSPIRATION
I am a big supporter of crowd-funding campaigns because they give people the opportunity to make a pitch and seek direct support from a targeted network of people who also believe in the cause being promoted. Crowdfunding, or collaborative funding via the web, is one of the standouts for growth in today’s evolving collaborative economy.

Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Crowdfunder, and Crowdera (a personal favourite that is a free platform geared towards non-profits or social innovators) are just a few of the ever-growing crowdfunding sites.

If you are a social innovator, these platforms make your dreams come true. They empower people to activate a global community to move ideas forward by putting them into action. These platforms are built around raising money for what matters to everyday people. They are fascinating social innovation tools because they put power and leadership back into the individual’s hands to make opportunities happen. An agent of change no longer needs to wait (and beg) for support from traditional sources of revenue.

As an example, let’s take the model of Crowdera and see how it works.

Step 1: You engage your community to make a difference. You start and share your campaign using social sharing tools to reach your supporters.

Step 2: You are encouraged to “be the change” by becoming a catalyst in your community by bringing people together to raise awareness and funds for individuals, non-profits and social innovators.

Step 3: You are expected to find creative ways to say thank you to your supporters. This is a great way to show your gratitude and celebrate the impact your crowd has made on the world.

Crowdera, like other crowdfunding sites, helps you discover projects that people are passionate about while offering you the opportunity to step-up and take direct action to help create more of what you believe in.

What if we were to apply a similar type of model to learning and professional development opportunities in the public service?

What if we were able to set-up a type of crowd-resourcing site internal (i.e. PSA) or external to government (i.e. Institute of Public Administration of Canada) to offer people the opportunity to make a pitch about a leadership learning development opportunity they see as important and supports their cause of improving the public service.

Succession planning, or lack of, continues to be identified as a critical issue facing all levels of government. There is a looming capability gap and this innovative response could address many HR issues head-on.

Here’s how I think it could work…

THE IDEA

Step 1: Make a pitch on what professional development opportunity you would like to access and why. For example: Pitches could be to attend leading edge local, national or global conferences, forums, debates, workshops and events that focus on public sector leadership, engagement, citizen services, big data, climate action, food systems, policy and innovation. You could also seek out a community to help test ideas through innovation jams or change labs. Maybe you want to host a forum or a speaker series and need some assistance to do it – any learning and development opportunity would be fair game. Whatever the need, this crowd-resourcing platform could be the solution; attracting a range of investments from across the public sector to help meet needs (i.e. policy expertise, network connections, case studies, etc.).

Step 2: Become a catalyst in your community by sharing the many benefits this particular learning and development opportunity would offer you, your peers and your organization. Strong articulation of the targeted benefits coupled with the creative avenues you would use to share your experiences would be expected in order to receive resources. Also, if you were asking for peer funding to access a particular learning opportunity, half of the investment would come from you to demonstrate your personal commitment to the endeavour.

For example: Key resources would be shared to help your community fully understand the benefits associated with the learning opportunity. Through promoting the innovative thinking, approaches and practices in your particular field of interest, you could help educate others and illustrate your knowledge by making recommendations on how to apply these elements in your work. You could also poll peers and potential supporters to find creative ways to meet their specific interests and needs (i.e. seek out collective issues and invite supporters to share how they would like to benefit as one of your professional development investors).

Step 3: Find creative ways to share your learning and transfer knowledge in the broader public service. For example: By leveraging social media, you could put your learning into direct practice by working with your community to find ways to do rapid knowledge transfer and test ideas in real time. As follow-up, you would also use webinars, blogs, podcasts, lunch and learns, and workshops to share your insights and ensure your peers needs were met.

Upon reflecting on my idea, Carla Johnson, a new professional and budding intrapreneur in the Government of Alberta, shared “continuous, life-long learning is the future of the public service. Public servants must learn new skills; new ways of being. Building the capacity of our work force to meet new expectations and new ways of doing business are key to public service renewal.”
Carla did her phD in education and has worked for a number of years with learners of all ages. Through this experience, she has developed an approach to building capacity called the Infinite Development Pathway (IDP). The IDP is an operating model intended to build organizational capacity by combining experience, best practice and evaluation. It is an approach to organizational learning that can be applied to any skill area.

Carla believes many organizations, including governments, have undertaken extensive projects to increase the capacity of their organizations. However, she feels the successful building of capacity is not always guaranteed. New learning is not always embraced; new behaviors are not embedded into professional practice. Building the internal capacity of an organization can prove ineffective if delivered without due consideration of some key principles.

In order for this crowd-resourcing model to have transformative impact, proper planning to ensure new learning can be put into immediate practice is fundamental. Carla suggests that one way to do this is through a Responsive Development Community (RDC), which is a mechanism that allows the exchange of ideas and expertise amongst all participants to be shared. She laments, “what we don’t need to be funding any more of is folks going off to partake in training that is, although exciting and potentially insightful, not to be applied.”
As for the model I’m proposing, Carla would like to see more structure and rigor around how knowledge can be shared, and more thinking done around expectations for what happens following the learning.

LEADERSHIP IN PRACTICE

I see leadership as practices that enable others to achieve purpose. This type of crowd-resourcing model demonstrates leadership capacity in many different ways. It creates shared purpose, builds collective capacity, and beautifully showcases the principles of collaboration and the power of communities.

One of the key benefits is it helps us break free from the constraints of the lack of professional development funds and resources available today in the public service.

This model can give a community of like-minded change agents the power to use its own resources, in creative ways, to purposefully create the collective capacity needed to redefine, reinvent and redesign the public service of the 21st Century.

Let’s champion career development to be employee-owned, manager facilitated and organization supported. I believe that a necessary part of the learning organization is involving co-workers in knowledge construction and diffusion within the organization.

If put into thoughtful action, this idea could evoke a new cultural model for the public service, one that is based on collective encouragement, collective learning, and collective knowledge sharing. It would boldly demonstrate that a new era is being ushered in – one that exemplifies a strong commitment to support each other’s self-directed learning and developmental pathways for the betterment of all.

If you are interested in thinking this idea through, please reach out to Colleen at socialinnovatorsnetwork@gmail.com or on twitter @SInnovatorsNet.


Colleen McCormickColleen McCormick is Director of Strategic Issues with the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training and former Director, Innovative Partnerships where she managed the social innovation file in the Ministry of Social Development. Colleen is also the founder of Social Innovators Network Foundation. Previously, she was a TEDxMileZero organizer and National Chair of the New Professionals for the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. She has an MBA from RRU and a Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation from the University of Waterloo. You can contact her on Twitter @SInnovatorsNet.

None of Us Have it All Together

Ducks look like they have it All Together. Above the water, all is calm. They glide, expressionless and serene.

Below the water, they’re paddling madly trying to stay afloat and to avoid getting eaten. It’s like they’re in an endless, hidden panic.

We’re not so different from the ducks.

If the world discovered that we didn’t have it All Together, we’d be exposed as frauds. Like ducks, we want to be seen as calm, controlled, and at peace. Not to be seen with it All Together would be to show vulnerability to those whom we lead.

So, what do we do? We control the message. We limit exposure and discourse – it limits the angles of attack. We choose our words, particularly those in writing, carefully – lest they come back to bite us.

We often think that other people have it All Together, since what we see of them is the serenity of a duck floating on water. Inner turmoil is hidden – well – inside. Under the water, each of us is mired in our own flavour of crap. Unfortunately, trying to mimic the duck-like image we see in others sets us up for stress and exhaustion. Thus the epidemic of mental health issues plaguing the working world. We delude ourselves.

It’s all a ruse, though. We’re imperfect, stressed, and self-doubting creatures. We think everybody else has it All Together, so we hold ourselves up to impossible standards and feel alone in our fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Recently two friends, Kent and Nick, published articles displaying true vulnerability. They admitted, honestly and bravely, that they don’t have it All Together. Like all of us, they occasionally screw up at work, have self-doubts, and deal with a lack of mental wellness from the stress of it all.

If anything, my respect for these individuals has gone up. It takes an advanced level of introspection to recognize your own failures and to admit to them. If anything, it shows your humanity.

So, what to take from this?

Anybody can show a mask of perfection to the world. It takes a Really Brave Person – a Really Brave Leader – to show vulnerability.

So, let me admit to the world: I Do Not Have It All Together. I don’t know if I have made good career choices or bad. I’m wonder whether I speak up too much or too little. I flounder. I worry that I’ll be exposed for how little I really know about anything at all.

That said, I am okay with my imperfections. They’re what make me normal.

True leaders don’t need to have it All Together all the time. It’s okay to admit that you don’t have perfect foresight or total confidence. Make the best decisions you can, with what information you have, right now. Showing a bit of vulnerability to your employees helps build trust and common cause. It’s not a weakness, it’s a strength.

Some questions to ask yourself: In what areas do I feel confident? Is it legitimate confidence, or self-deception? Where do I feel less confident – where do I have it Less Together? How do I, as a leader, show my humanity? How do I balance showing vulnerability with my responsibility to be the face and voice of the employer?

(Hat-tip to Jacques Mailloux for the duck analogy idea, taken from his comment on Nick’s blog post. Also thanks to my wife, who suggested this excellent documentary video on duck behaviour.)


George Wenzel George Wenzel is a journeyman public servant. He has worked delivering programs and in internal services, most recently in Human Resources. His mission has been to improve service to Canadians by improving frontline management. You can find him online at about.me/georgewenzel, govlife.ca, and on Twitter @georgewenzel.

Impossible Dreams

I blogged in November 2012 about seeing Dr. Bernard Meyerson, VP Global Innovation, IBM, at that year’s GTEC. Dr. Meyerson spoke to why innovation matters and how it is linked to growth and growth happens when good people pursue grand challenges to accomplish the seemingly impossible. Last week while watching an episode of Second regard on tou.tv, a similar comment came up in an interview with young Canadian Rhodes Scholar, Simon-Pierre Chevarie-Cossette. He mentioned the how grand visions can serve as a guide post to orient people and allow alignment with other fellow travellers.

I have been thinking lately about some of the older papers I have read, specifically one that I blogged about last June (Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear, Pt. 3), “Blueprint for Renewing Government Services Using Information Technology, 1994.” There are some grand visions in the document, and ones we have clearly not yet achieved. There are also a lot of similarities to recent work, most notably, Blueprint 2020. One could get discouraged that 20 years has passed and we have not yet reached the vision, but I believe these grand visions are simply guideposts, and good sense should form a lasting direction which, while we may need to adjust it from time to time, it is not going to dramatically change. We just have to follow that star.

“To dream the impossible dream, To fight the unbeatable foe, To bear with unbearable sorrow, To run where the brave dare not go, To right the unrightable wrong, To love pure and chaste from afar, To try when your arms are too weary, To reach the unreachable star, This is my quest, To follow that star.”

~lyrics by Joe Darion (Man of La Mancha 1972)

Thank you for reading.

Disclaimer: Note that while I work as a public servant, this is entirely my own initiative and what I post here does not necessarily reflect the view of the government, my office or my position there in.


Craig Sellars
Craig Sellars is a passionate Canadian public servant and biologist. Connect with Craig on Twitter @CraigSellars.

Text Messages and Government Records

Today’s newspapers are once again reading that bureaucrats, this time in CRA, possibly deleted text messages that may be “government records.” A spokesperson for Treasury Board President, Tony Clement, is quoted as saying: “If the (messages) were of business value and deleted, then the rules were broken. If the CRA can prove that they were transitory in nature I – if it was ‘meet you at the coffee shop in fifteen minutes’ – …but that is up to the CRA to prove”.

While I am an ardent proponent of government transparency, I am concerned that we have lost sight of what is and is not included in “the public’s right to know.”

At my former municipal government, we decided that text messages would not be logged, considering that such messages (like voice mails) were transitory. Where a text (or voice) message did contain something that could be classified as a corporate record, it was the responsibility of those involved to document the decision/record separately – e.g. a follow-up “as we discussed” memo or email – just as would be required if the exchange had taken place in a hallway conversation.

It seems that today’s prevailing political and media approach to text messages is to put the shoe on the other foot – assuming that they are corporate records (of business value) unless we can prove otherwise. This may simply result in bureaucrats reverting back to hallway or phone conversations on sensitive issues, since these are not (yet) being logged for posterity.

While this may seem cynical, I believe it is important to allow a certain amount of bureaucratic discretion and privacy. In the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry of a few years ago, much time was spent reviewing different versions of Council reports to determine who had made certain changes or deletions, as the reports went through various drafts. It was my, perhaps old fashioned, view that only the final report was a corporate record; all previous drafts could (and should) have been deleted. Similarly, an inquiry into a contract award for Toronto’s Union Station renovations sought disclosure of how individuals on an evaluation team had voted. Again, my view was that the record was the recommendation made by the team collectively. The discussion/individual votes leading up to that recommendation should remain private.

In general, the public is entitled to know what has been decided or recommended – but not “who said what” in the process of arriving at a decision. Pushing government transparency too far into the boardrooms is ultimately unhealthy for our democracy. Bureaucrats should be entitled and encouraged to have healthy debates and disagreements without fear that these will become public. It is the decisions or recommendations that arise out of such debates which are legitimately public records.

Much of this confusion relates back to technology. Text messages are now generally logged, so we assume a right of access and an expectation that they not be deleted unless we can “prove” that they are not “of business value.” Telephone and hallway conversations are generally not logged, so the same expectations do not apply. To be consistent, does this mean that all “conversations” should be recorded and logged, until we can prove that they were not of business value? If not, why are we separating out a specific form of conversation?


Roy Wiseman
Roy Wiseman is currently Executive Director and was a founding member of MISA/ASIM Canada. He is a Board Member and Past President of the Institute for Citizen Centred Service, Past President of MISA Ontario, former municipal Co-Chair of the Service Mapping Subcommittee and Project Director for the Municipal Reference Model (MRMv2) project.

Leader as Hero: The Power of Commitment

When times get tough, we turn to leaders for courage. Yet rarely is courage found in the competency profile of any leadership position. Selection systems cannot abide responding to queries from rejected candidates with “You were not found to be courageous enough for the job.”

No one wants to be rejected on the basis of something they cannot easily change or control. Right or not, courage is perceived as inborn rather than learned. Competency frameworks dance around attributes like courage.

A retired British ODA advisor recently shared a career moment: “I was in a traditional Zimbabwean village explaining leadership development to the local chief. Why we got onto this subject I cannot remember. He replied that this had always been the way with chiefs, otherwise you end up with a spear in your back.”

What this story illustrates with humour is the idea of the leader as hero – called to action by a serious, urgent, or growing threat. Heroic leaders respond in times of need or crisis through the power of commitment. Their resolve is unshakeable and superordinate to other causes. We admire and celebrate these leaders, despite their human foibles and fears.

The heroine of The Book of Negroes is Aminata Diallo, a West African girl of eleven sold into slavery in the American colonies in 1756. Canadian novelist Lawrence Hill tells a people’s story of oppression, loss, and emancipation. As one of the Nova Scotians, Aminata is repatriated to Sierra Leone in 1787. She gives testimony in London for passage of the Bill to end the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in 1807.

Aminata is courageous and a survivor. Her commitment comes from an enduring belief in a higher purpose for her life as a storyteller for her people. Her resilience is grounded in faith and love of family. She manages to bridge the chasms between antagonists, making them better for knowing her.

Public service leaders need to face challenges head-on to be effective policy advisors and crisis managers. They must have the courage to provide fearless advice, push for change, and stand behind decisions. They must navigate accountability labyrinths with political savvy, enacting tough decisions in an era of fiscal restraint. Risk aversion is not a viable option.

Martin Luther King understood both the dream and the risks of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. He led three marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965 to secure voting rights for Black Americans. It was a dramatic act of collective courage that still inspires human rights advocates worldwide. The heroism of Selma was not so far removed from the commitment of the Nova Scotians 178 years earlier.


John Wilkins
John Wilkins was a Commonwealth diplomat and a career public servant in Canada. He is Associate Director with the Public Management Program in the Schulich School of Business at York University (jwilkins@schulich.yorku.ca or johnkwilkins@gmail.com).

Lessons from the Field: Intrapreneurship in Action series

In this month’s blog, I’m featuring Dylan Sherlock, Policy Analyst for the Natural Resource Sector Transformation Secretariat. I have had the great pleasure of working with Dylan to establish our intrapreneurship network in the BC Public Service.

Dylan beautifully exemplifies the mindset of the next generation of public servant. He is a talented policy analyst, masterful collaborator, clever strategist, and respected community change agent. Dylan demonstrates what audacious and promising leadership looks like in the up and coming ranks of the BC public service.

Here is a snapshot of Dylan’s experience and accomplishments:

Dylan SherlockDylan Sherlock is a Policy Analyst in the BC Natural Resource Sector Transformation Secretariat where he provides cross-sector strategic policy advice to support the BC government’s Natural Resources Permitting Project. Previously, he entered government through contract and auxiliary position work in the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

Dylan holds an Honours B.A. in Pacific and Asian Studies from the University of Victoria and is working on completing his final project of the Masters of Public Administration program at the University of Victoria. Before joining government, Dylan worked in the not-for-profit sector, where he maintains strong ties, including volunteering as the Treasurer of the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria.

I asked Dylan what brought him into the public service and here is his story…

“I lived in China for two years during my undergraduate degree, learning Mandarin and at the very end of my time in China, I was interning in Beijing with an international environmental NGO that aims to foster environmental values with university students who were being groomed for positions in the public service of the Chinese state. It was particularly interesting, because I was meeting (hopefully) a future generation of leaders who were determined to confront the serious environmental challenges that China and the world faces.

Getting a window into the challenges of another country, especially China, was an incredible experience for someone of my age. I had a powerful realization that I was deeply engaged with people doing inspiring work but I still felt like an outsider. I realized that I didn’t want to just be an observer or academic studying change; I wanted to be hands-on making change happen.

I knew that if I wanted to have real impact, I would have to go back to my own country. This commitment to focus on change within my own community was life-altering. I left China and shifted my studies to public administration. I also became involved in student politics and became the Director of Finance of the student union, which gave me a taste of responsibility in a medium-sized non-profit and a chance to contribute to the sustainability of the campus and broader community.”

Dylan laughed, shaking his head, “it sounds kind of crazy, but I really just wanted to learn how to be the most effective public administrator I could be.

The UVic Masters of Public Administration program led me into the public service, though just barely! At the time, it was nearly impossible to find work in BC Government at the time due to the hiring freeze and a lack of coop opportunities. The last week I was going to be in Victoria before heading off to another province, I received an offer to do a research contract on natural resource policy. I am still so grateful to my boss for wanting to give opportunities to graduate students. From there, I moved into an auxiliary and finally a permanent position.”

I asked Dylan to describe what an intrapreneur in action looks like to him…

“Anyone can be an intrapreneur. The meaning of the word entrepreneur comes from French, meaning someone who someone who undertakes, but also literally a “between taker”. I think this is a great way to also look at the meaning of an intrapreneur. As I’m trying to be entrepreneurial in government doing inter-agency work, I do feel like a between taker. Most of my time is spent seeking input and ideas from different sources. The exercise of pulling all of these different pieces of information together to see new possibilities is what intrapreneurship means to me. And it’s not just about seeing the connections and opportunities, it is also the act of weaving possibilities together to create something new and exciting.

I also think I have a somewhat higher tolerance for risk and acceptance of making mistakes than most which helps me try different approaches in my work. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have direct supervisors who allow me to try and fail – a process that enables fast learning. You need that support to help you grow. This is what makes work worth getting up for in the morning.

Lately, I have been thinking about the importance of the ability to speak truth to power. If you recognize problems as they emerge, it is so important to have the confidence to push these problems up the organizational hierarchy. As long as the advice is given honestly and non-judgementally, as analysis of the issue, it is critical that decision makers hear it, even if it isn’t what they want to hear. There is a perception among many young public servants that senior public servants aren’t willing to listen to inconvenient truths, but fortunately I have found that my supervisors and executive team demand this kind of honesty. I suspect and hope that this is mostly the case across government, but I think the missing piece is giving lower ranked staff the confidence and ability to know how to succeed in speaking truth to power. Without that missing piece, a lot of insight and innovation stays untapped.”

Dylan describes an example of executive creating the right conditions for entrepreneurship…

“One of the most powerful examples of executive creating the right conditions was our Assistant Deputy Minister making a speech the first major meeting of our new secretariat where he highlighted that NRPP is a flat organization in which employees are expected to take initiative, make decisions and take responsibility for their activities. What people often don’t understand is how important that type leadership is in encouraging people to innovate. I raise this example because I know I am having a very positive experience in government and this is not always common for most people at my level and age. Leaders play a critical enabling role for those of us at the analyst level.”

Dylan shares his principles and practices when it comes to addressing challenges innovatively in his day-to-day work…

“I believe you have to collaborate to innovate. Trying to get things done without the explicit authority to do it takes creativity! It also takes lots of patience.

If you are missing the authority – collaboration is the best end run you can do – it’s through good collaboration that you find the authority.

Some changes come from on high as political or corporate direction, but most of what the public service does originates at the lower and mid-levels. The real rich opportunity space for innovation that hasn’t been mined enough is in-between ministries. There is so much we can do if we work together. Once we step out of the silo world, just by virtue of collaborating, we will solve problems – often by accident. This is what makes this space so exciting.

Magic happens when people who don’t normally talk to each other start talking.”

Here Dylan shares how he thinks about solving problems in a cross-sector context:

“I think about the people who I am trying to serve. I look for the clear line of authority within the hierarchy. Often, that clarity is not there. This means you can’t just drive forward unless you can do everything inside one agency, which is rarely the case in my work.

As soon as you have to do things across ministries, you are going to face major challenges because we have so many sub-cultures and capacity challenges within government. This is where you need to develop a good plan on how to best engage other ministries.

Many different factors drive people and inviting them to work together can be very hard. Some questions to be taken into consideration are: What is the other ministry’s workload? What are they going to get taken to task on by their Minister? What do their stakeholders want?

One of my defining moments as a public servant was when I was up in Fort St. John facilitating an inter-agency workshop. I saw two groups come together when they themselves weren’t sure collaboration was possible – there was a perception of a huge cultural gulf that in the end mostly disappeared. In large part, it came down to creating the conditions for them to reveal the similar challenges that they face in their work and realize that they had more that was similar than different in how they operated. The end result of the meeting was front-line staff from the two agencies proposing solutions that went beyond anything what we had originally proposed.”

Dylan shares some of his key insights, success factors and lessons from the field…

On learning from social movement-building and civil society: “II’m a big believer in the Marshall Ganz method of movement building. You can learn a lot from this when it comes to public policy and human behaviour. One of his key ideas is one-on-one coaching – the coaching developmental method. I like this idea because my position is not one of perceived power – it’s a position of building towards common goals of creating public value and fulfilling our role as public servants.

This one-on-one concept is applied well when it comes to policy development. You need to have a lot of conversations with your team, stakeholders and key advisors. These meetings are so important, particularly if you have four or five agencies you’re working with. You need to work with each individually in order to understand where an issue falls in their priority list. You need to find out how much people care about the issue that you are addressing and work from there.”

On giving credit to his supervisor and his leadership team for providing him opportunity to grow: “My director, Stewart Guy, has been a fantastic coach and mentor. He constantly encourages me to understand the organizational and human context of issues and he also takes the attitude of throwing me into the deep end to learn to swim. I am both grateful and frustrated to see friends and colleagues at the same level who aren’t provided the same opportunities to grow.

And the rest of the leadership team is no different – my executive director loves to engage us in open discussion about big policy ideas, which is amazing. My manager involves me in decision-making. When doing analysis work I feel like I’m an equal member of the team. Sometimes I’ll say the wrong thing because I don’t have the experience to provide the right advice, but that’s okay because I get the advice and the support I need to succeed in the end.”

On the challenges with problem solving in government today: “When I talk to my peers in government, many are frustrated and concerned that proper policy development processes are not being followed. People are feeling that they are not able to do careful analysis of a policy issue and its implications, or even to question if there could be more than one way to solve a problem.

There is a tendency that someone who has a lot of experience and expertise will say, ‘I know the solution, let’s just go and do it’, sometimes without even a clear problem definition. The ‘analysis’ work is relegated to justifying the intuition. While this is problematic, I would note that often the intuition approach actually works. Intuition of experienced leaders can be completely solid – and on the flipside, structured policy process can be time consuming and expensive. Nonetheless, we still need to try harder to be more thoughtful about how we solve problems.”

On using visualization to improve policy discussions: “Shifting from outputs to outcomes is so important. People are driven by what they are being measured on and if we’re driving towards the goals, we’ll get the wrong results. Logic models are an underused, but powerful tool to help flesh out our thinking of cause and effect in public policy development. In general, visualizing policy issues in different ways in a powerful level for shifting thinking. Even just using the smart art function on Microsoft programs can completely change a conversation. When you get a logic model or other visualization right, you can feel the impact that it has on people in the room.”

I asked Dylan what he thinks the next generation of the public service will look like…

“At a high-level, we will have a lot more internal capacity to solve problems. We will have greater knowledge, distributed (or “matrixed”) lines of accountability, network-based teams and a much bigger policy tool box to work with.

We have such a high volume of people leaving the public service with so much expertise and experience that entire business areas are going to need to be redesigned. This is daunting for government, and a common challenge facing many sectors today.

We are going to have to do government differently. We are going to have redesign and redefine our roles as public servants. To deliver better outcomes, we will need to become more audacious in every way.”


Colleen McCormickColleen McCormick is Director of Strategic Issues with the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training and former Director, Innovative Partnerships where she managed the social innovation file in the Ministry of Social Development. Colleen is also the founder of Social Innovators Network Foundation. Previously, she was a TEDxMileZero organizer and National Chair of the New Professionals for the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. She has an MBA from RRU and a Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation from the University of Waterloo. You can contact her on Twitter @SInnovatorsNet.

A Blank Page

A cryptic title, which may lead you to think this blog post is about new beginnings for 2015. I first thought about doing a piece on that topic, and then decided against it. The truth is, I have been struggling with writer’s block since November, and wanted to share my story of finally overcoming it.

I’m not truly sure what happened, but after 6 years of writing freely and easily, it all just went away. I sat down to write an article and I couldn’t muster a word. I stared at the blank page on my laptop for over an hour. Then two hours. I could feel a sense of panic wash over me.

I left it for a few days and then tried again. Nothing. I couldn’t figure it out – I love writing, and it has always been my release. A month went by, still nothing. I decided to jump in with both feet and force myself out of this rut as best I could. I blogged #MyDowntownWishList for 24 days and wrote an article for G! Magazine over the Christmas holidays but it just didn’t quite feel the same – it took effort.

Recently, I was having tea with a good friend and I mentioned to her my loss of focus. She asked me what had changed in my life since this had happened. Well for one, I have been juggling four roles at work since October. I have always been proactive in my approach to things and very organized but with the size of my current workload I have become reactive in order to meet all my deadlines. Thriving on adrenaline the past few months, my mind never felt at rest.

She shared with me her success with a tool called Trello. She was able to keep track of absolutely everything she had on her plate and she no longer had to manage separate to-do-lists for different areas of her life. She said that she immediately felt more organized and was able to think clearly again. Once she got in the habit of using Trello effectively, she stopped worrying whether or not there was something she was forgetting to do. Everything was accounted for in one place.

After she left, I did some research on Trello and stumbled across this Forbes article “7 Steps To Creating The Best Personal Task Management System With Trello” by Tim Maurer. Maurer incorporated principles he learned from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits and David Allen’s Getting Things Done to create “the only task management system that’s ever really worked for him”. His article has great tips and I spent a whole evening inputting all of my action items from my email accounts, calendars, and task lists. I started using Trello in combination with other productivity principles that have worked for me in the past. I finally feel like I have full control of my day again and have my clarity and focus back. The best part is that blank page is gone, I couldn’t be happier.

Do you have productivity tips or time management tools that you can’t live without? I’d love to hear from you!


Jodi LeBlanc
Jodi LeBlanc is a Values and Ethics Advisor with Veterans Affairs Canada in Prince Edward Island. She is a collaborator/innovator for numerous public service initiatives and national networks and is a member of CGE’s editorial advisory board. You can connect with her via @jodilynne3 or http://ca.linkedin.com/in/jodileblanc

Defining Your Creativity

In starting the new year, my thoughts go to goals and resolutions, as I am sure they do for many of you. This year, as with every other year, finding and nurturing creative pursuits is high on my list. Early in January this year, however, my mind turned to how I define creativity.

As I understand it, creativity is bringing together things that have not been brought together before or bringing together things in a new way. This is not restricted to end result and cannot be; in fact, I define that as a separate entity. Being creative and using your hands to express that creativity are both important, but can destroy each other if always linked.

Despite the creative results of something like “Ikea hacking” on a building project, sometimes I just need a table with four (4) chairs, not four (4) low tables with one (1) really high chair.

One may feel the need to be creative while painting on a canvas, another while building a new deck, while yet another while reading and thinking about what they read. Bringing thoughts together on divergent subjects is a creative process as you can create new thoughts and expand on what you had previously understood. I see creativity as the thought process which may or may not result in something concrete whether on a canvas, in my backyard or on a piece of paper.

This year I will continue to seek my creativity and continue to explore the diversity of life.

Beware the perilous rapture of shrinking your world to the tribe of the saved, the cheerleading good guys who brandish the same slogans, curse the same enemies, thrill to the same saints” ~Todd Gitlin

Thank you for reading.


Craig Sellars
Craig Sellars is a passionate Canadian public servant and biologist. Connect with Craig on Twitter @CraigSellarsWhile he works as a public servant, this is entirely his own initiative and what is post here does not necessarily reflect the view of the government, his office or his position therein.

Lessons from the Field: Intrapreneurship in Action

In this month’s blog, I’m featuring Bette-Jo Hughes, Associate Deputy Minister and Government Chief Information Officer, who I had the great pleasure of working for directly, while on a temporary assignment three years ago.

 Bette-Jo HughesBette-Jo’s reputation precedes her. As well as being one of the most respected leaders in the public service, she is also caring, sincere and willing to take on any challenge. A big believer in collaboration and people, Bette-Jo artfully demonstrates what good leadership looks like in today’s Public Service.

With her 25 years of service-oriented experience, we can learn a lot from Bette-Jo’s lessons from the field on how to get things done in government.

Here is a snapshot of Bette-Jo’s experience and accomplishments:

Bette-Jo has been the Chief Information Officer for the Province of British Columbia since October 2012. The Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) plays a leadership role in promoting and guiding the management of government information as a strategic business asset, and supporting technology infrastructure as a key enabler of business transformation.

Before her current appointment, Bette-Jo was Assistant Deputy Minister of Service BC where she led cross-government service delivery initiatives to improve services to the public. These initiatives included online, telephone and in-person channels, as well as business registry and statistical services. She was also involved in the development of service delivery agreements with the private sector, including the negotiation of the Service BC – IBM Alternative Service Delivery Agreement for the provision of web channel and contact centre services.

Bette-Jo has held a number of other key leadership positions, including BC representative on the Canadian Public Sector Service Delivery Council, and President of the Board of Directors for the Institute for Citizen Centred Service. She is currently the BC representative for the Public Sector Chief Information Officers’ Council.

Here is what Bette-Jo had to say about becoming the Chief Information Officer – a role that came as a surprise…

“I became the government CIO two years ago. This was foreign to me, from what I was doing – at least I thought it was. But once there, I realized that the basic things I had always done – focusing on delivering great services to citizens – was not all that different from running Government’s Information Management and Information Technology office. This was just another way to enable work and support the transformation of government services.

“When I entered into the role permanently in June 2013, I had my list of things that needed to be done, and that list became my priority.

“As the new CIO, we undertook a transformation, to bring together three organizations which operated very separately – the Strategic Partnerships Office, the Government CIO, and Technology Solutions. We evaluated what was going on, determined that these organizations weren’t working well on their own, and decided to take a lifecycle approach to the modernization of government IM/IT services.

“Through this transformation, we also moved from a competitive environment, where people weren’t incentivized to work together – to a culture that encouraged collaboration and rewarded it.”

I asked Bette-Jo what “thinking like an intrapreneur” in government means to her and here was her response…

“It means encouraging people to surface their new ideas, providing them with direction and supporting them, as well as setting people free to pursue them.

“It also involves working collaboratively across the organization to bring ideas together and build on them – I believe you always end up with a better product when you expand the discussion and bring more voices into the conversation.

“I started out with a more command and control approach when I first became a Director because of my limited experiences. This really changed after I moved into areas where I was not the subject matter expert. I needed to adjust my management style and trust my team. The more experience I gained, the less I felt the need to be in control of everything. You bring together the best people you can to accomplish a goal and you let them blossom into their own leaders.”

When asked about her defining moment as a public servant, Bette-Jo she shared this…

“I’m not sure I have one defining moment as a public servant. A few highlights that do come to mind – the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Government Agents in the Province; becoming the Assistant Deputy Minister of Service BC; and, becoming the Associate Deputy Minister and Government CIO.

“I do remember suddenly realizing that what I said had weight behind it. People took my words to mean a lot which brought about a new level of responsibility for me. As a leader, this was an a-ha moment that forced me to really think about what I was saying and how I was saying it.”

Bette-Jo explains how she moves ideas forward…

“Always clarify the problem you are trying to solve; ask “why is this important?” and “how will the solution change things for the better?”

“Be clear on the strategic direction and the benefits for stakeholders. Focus on a few key action items, develop a plan and then work through that plan.”

I asked Bette-Jo what strategies she deploys when encountering areas of resistance while leading change. Here’s her advice …

1. Find allies; dance with the people who want to dance with you
2. Demonstrate success and build on it
3. Continue to focus on your vision, ensuring that every step you take leads you in that direction
4. Course correct as necessary
5. Don’t focus on placating the naysayers, let success speak for itself

Next, Bette-Jo shared some lessons learned throughout her career…

“Self-awareness is key – it’s important to know yourself, to understand other people, and seek out different points of view. Go to people you trust and ask often for good, honest feedback.

“Focus on your strengths and play to them. Pursue a job that brings out your best strengths – find that perfect fit between your work and your talents.

“Know when you’re in a good spot – it’s not always about getting to the next level. You can lead important change from where you are. Sometimes people feel pressured to take on new opportunities but we need strong people who love their work and their positions. Appreciate all the great things you can do and relish your successes!”

On having the courage to take on daunting roles…

“I trust when someone tells me they think I can fulfill a role. I’ve had the opportunity to work with incredible leaders throughout my career. This has given me the chance to observe some amazing women in the public service. From a junior manager, I had great female mentors and supervisors who were very supportive of me. This definitely shaped who I am. Now, I see the development of others through mentorship as a priority for me.”

On the art of collaboration…

“Collaboration is not always easy or pretty – people sometimes have very strong feelings and ideas about certain things. Collaborating is about working through divergent perspectives while keeping a focus on the common goal. It’s not about “you’re right and you’re wrong,” it’s about finding out how everyone can bring their unique gifts to the table.

“And it is not about trying to get to perfect. It’s about getting to a starting point and working from there.

“We all have something to contribute and a role to play in addressing our challenges. You have to involve all the right people in finding solutions. If you don’t, the solution you develop will likely not be sustainable or meaningful.

“If we try things out and learn as we go, then we will only get better.”

On personal growth and development…

“• Ask good questions
• Clearly translate the value and benefits of a business change – ask yourself “why should government care about this?”
• Find mentors you want to mirror, those who share the same values as you and who have a similar style – this will help you stay true to who you are as you grow.
• Plan and focus (if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there)
• There is always a lot going on, but it’s important to step back and look at the whole picture. What are the two most important things right now that you are passionate about? You can’t focus on 25 things but you can have a lasting impact on a couple of them.
• Know your numbers. As you become more senior, it comes down to math (budget and performance metrics). If you’re passionate about change, then build an evidence-based case for your initiatives.
• Continue to learn. Always be open to learning – perhaps through TED talks or reading articles.
• You have to let go of control. In the past, I was forced to let go because of time constraints. Now, this comes more naturally and I’m always amazed by the great things people make happen when you give them the opportunity.
• Stuff happens! Even with a beautiful plan, and all the information we need to take us where we want to go, other forces may have a different idea. Have a plan B – or a detour to your North Star.
• Be resilient. “We should look at the past, but not stare at it. Let’s learn from our experiences – not dwell on them.”
• Stay healthy, and fit for change. Take care of yourself.
• Have fun!”

Finally, I asked Bette-Jo about her legacy, which she found to be a difficult question. Given her deep dedication to the organization, she rarely thinks about her personal legacy – she feels it’s more about the organization than the individual. After highlighting all of the positive experiences that I, and many others have had working with her, here is what Bette-Jo shared…

“I would like to be seen as someone who has contributed to ensuring the sustainability of the organizations I worked in for the overall benefit of the BC Public Service.

This involves identifying change drivers, and realigning the organizational culture and strategies to remain relevant into the future. It also includes identifying leaders in the public service, and working with individuals and teams to grow and develop their leadership capacities.

I think our job as leaders is to grow more leaders, so that when we move on, the organization continues to thrive.”


Colleen McCormickColleen McCormick is Director of Strategic Issues with the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism, and Skills Training and former Director, Innovative Partnerships where she managed the social innovation file in the Ministry of Social Development. Colleen is also the founder of Social Innovators Network Foundation. Previously, she was a TEDxMileZero organizer and National Chair of the New Professionals for the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. She has an MBA from RRU and a Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation from the University of Waterloo. You can contact her on Twitter @SInnovatorsNet.