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A Noteworthy Example of Authenticity

Friday, June 14, 2013
by Nick Charney RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Nick Charneytwitter / nickcharneygovloop / nickcharneyGoogle+ / nickcharney

Last week I leaned heavily on a speech made by Allan Gregg to try to position authenticity as the antidote to the problem of facelessness (see: The Solution to Facelessness is Authenticity); a problem that I argued the week before that was not some abstract thing out there but rather one that is entre nous (see: The Real Problem of Facelessness). In so doing I pointed back a previous post where I encouraged people to make the most of opportunities for fearless advice in your day to day interactions with peers, because quite frankly given the nature of our organizations, very few of us actually have opportunities to give fearless advice to those who hold the balance of power (see:On Fearless Advice and Loyal Implementation).

Essentially what I was arguing for was - as one commenter pointed out - "getting real instead of relying mechanically on machine-like institutional protocols to achieve things" and by extension define our relationships, shape our work, and the public perception there of. A recent article in Canadian Government Executive written by George Wenzel is a perfect example of this. It takes the narrative of the wasteful, bloated and ineffective civil service and stands it on its head:
I proudly work for the National Managers' Community (NMC), a group with only 22 paid staff in the federal government. During my two-year term in this job, I've been given responsibility to build a community of managers in Alberta. My assigned goal is to improve the quality of public sector management across the province.
My inexperience in event planning and communications didn't stop the NMC from exploiting my potential. I learned fast. In one year, I offered 33 leadership events to over 800 participants. Total cost: $20,000 (30 percent under budget). Fantastic value for tax dollars. On quality, 90 percent of participants said they’d recommend the sessions to colleagues. High quality and low cost. Not what you hear in the news, is it?
I started a weekly email newsletter to connect leaders across the 40-plus departments with staff in Alberta. It grew from 250 to 1600 subscribers in 18 months. By word of mouth. Total cost to keep managers informed? Zero. I write it mostly outside of work time. Why? Because I'm committed to making a difference.
To summarize: I'm a proud public servant. I'm frugal with the public purse. I strive to be excellent in all that I do. And I'm not alone.
I have long argued for purposeful story telling and that stories - especially those that show the vulnerability of the story teller - can go a long way in shaping a larger narrative  (see: Scheming Virtuously: A Handbook for Public Servants & Purposeful Story Telling). George does this perfectly, showing his face literally and figuratively. Messily blending a complex set of interrelated story elements: substance, passion, reason, and attribution in a potentially hostile online environment.

Re-read the excerpt above, George's remarks speak to directly to the substantive nature of his work and are rooted in the fact that his passion, not protocol, drives his work. If you click through to the link, you will also find a picture of George and his coordinates in the byline. At the risk of sensationalizing his modest act of courage, the article as a whole could be considered as a reclamation of "face" and the re-humanization of George's work in the public sphere.

I for one, think he's onto something, maybe its time more of us told our stories.