Etienne's now dormant blog on management in the public sector was an incredible source of inspiration and learning when I first broke into this business and his paper "An Inconvenient Renewal" was (and still is) one of the most well articulated arguments for public sector renewal I have ever read. While we can all benefit from the public nature of Etienne's work, I feel particularly privileged to have been able to have a number of private one on one conversations with the man.
In fact, the highlight of my week was dinner with Etienne here in Ottawa. He finally got to meet my wife and our children. We shared a bottle of wine and talked at length about life, change and the public service and even though he stepped back from the public sector right now, his passion for it (and life in general) is still as infectious as it was when we first spoke on the telephone almost 5 years ago.
One of the highlights of that conversation about the three bits of advice he would give a public servant looking to be successful in the current environment:
- Do what you are told
- Don't rock the boat
- Make your boss look good
What followed was a hilarious and telling conversation about whether he and I were capable of doing all three at the same time, or if we were more likely to search out opportunities to do combine them in some novel ways. My favorite combination by far was rocking the boat while doing what you are told and making your boss look good; after all, those are the types of opportunities I think many change makers are looking for. The icing on the cake was having my wife there to keep us both honest.
In the end, the meal, the wine and the conversation was exactly what I needed; and that's fitting because it sums up my relationship with Etienne. He's always been someone who has been there for me offering me exactly what I needed when I needed it.
Keep an eye out for these people as you advance in your career, because they are as rare as they are important.