Special Edition: I admit it, I care.

Monday, June 15, 2009
One of my recurring jokes with my peers is that I don't actually have a great deal of public service motivation (PSM): The desire to serve Canadians for the greater good.

I doubt I am alone in this, although I’d hazard a guess that the subject is somewhat taboo. After all, who wants to be considered a public servant lacking the motivation to serve the public?

But somehow, I don't think where you draw your motivation matters so much as the fact that you are actually motivated. The most important thing is finding and using that motivation to do your job effectively. This is actually a topic that Etienne has blogged about before.

Think about it.

Who would you rather have working next to you, for you, or managing you? Someone who is highly motivated by their desire to serve the public, but can't deliver results based on that desire? or someone who simply loves to solve problems, and goes about doing it based on its own merits (e.g. a passionate communicator who loves to deliver the message, or a financial officer who loves crunching numbers, etc)?

Don’t take this the wrong way. I am by no means trying to say that those motivated by their desire to serve are in some way inferior or poor performers. The point I am trying to make is that it cuts both ways, namely that high PSM is not necessarily a determinant of performance, poor or otherwise.

But, does the degree to which I draw my motivation from serving the public make my contribution any less real or valuable?

I think I know the answer.

I often joke with people and tell them tongue in cheekily that I just don't care about the bigger picture. I am intrinsically motivated and always have been. Given the role I play in the renewal discourse, that joke often provokes an interesting exchange.

Colloquially, I make the argument that it is highly unlikely that a Canadian would approach me in order to thank me for my work (let alone give me a hug). Public recognition isn’t necessarily a deterrent from being PSM, but it may have implications on how we draw our motivation. I often undersell my PSM because it isn’t the thing that comes to mind immediately when people ask me why I am a public servant, and I purposely dismiss it in conversation with others because I find that it gets them thinking about why they are doing what they do.

But the truth of the matter is that I care (there, I admit it).

I care about Canadians. I cry every time a fallen soldier comes home (now that is public service), I tear up when I hear the national anthem - hell my wife and I sing it to our kids as a lullaby. I care about the future of our government and I care about our citizens.

But when I am at work, I can’t draw the inspiration I need from those larger-than-life connections. I draw my inspiration from my friends, my colleagues, and from you. So when I say I care, in the context of my work the thing I care about most is the apparent lack of introspection on the part of the disengaged public servant.

When was the last time you asked yourself the tough question?

"Why am I here?" may not be a question you need to ask yourself every day, but you sure as hell better know the answer to it every minute of every day. Regardless of what it is, if it motivates you – if it drives you – it should be the on the tip of your tongue in everything you do. I want to you to tap into it, show it to and celebrate it with others, and make it contagious.

So, what motivates you? What better time to find out than National Public Service Week? After all, It starts with you!

PS - If you didn't read the post I put up on Saturday, you should, pretty cool stuff. Scroll down, or click here.

PPS - I photoshop'd the care bear myself =)